Keeping exercise up in the dark months

I was just talking to my own coach about my frustration at not having exercised for 3 weeks and I realized I need to document my thoughts now so I have something to remind me!

Now, I have to qualify this by saying I do one or two dog walks every day for 2-4 km. When I say exercise, I mean an hour of weights, lunges, pushups, etc. You know, the stuff that gets results.

The backstory to this is that I had a couple of setbacks in my otherwise pretty good fitness commitment in the last two years. The first came when I was on top of my fitness and could clean and jerk 30 lbs in each hand, hold a plank position for over 2 minutes and do jacknives on the exercise ball. Then I got plantar fasciitis – I couldn’t put weight on my foot. I stopped exercising. I gained 20 lbs. I was very unhappy.

I slowly got better, got back into exercising, rebuilt my strength and felt better. Then the iron deficiency hit. I was exhausted all the time. Exercise no longer gave me an energy boost, it shut me right down.

Now that I’m on iron pills, I got back in the game again. I had a summer of gardening, hauling, digging, turning compost, rebuilding the veggie garden beds – all the heavy stuff. I swam in the lake regularly, climbed staging to paint the outside of the house, walked, dug a pond. I felt great.

But now that the days are short and cold, my enthusiasm for lifting weights is at a low ebb again. Maybe it’s SAD or maybe it’s fear of that overwhelming exhaustion again. But something has to be done. And I know my iron is back up.

So here’s what I have decided to do:

1. Recognize that my body has a cycle. By attending to my body and rating my energy on a scale of 1-10, I can sense when I’m prepared to kick butt, and when I need to curl up with a good blog. When my energy is high, instead of writing blogs and reading coaching books, I can use my high body energy to get in some good muscle-strengthening. When it’s low I can rest and read.

2. Since my energy ebbs and flows over the course of the day, I am going to get right into my exercise gear as soon as I’m up in the morning. That way there’s nothing standing between me and my workout when I’m feeling ready to rock.

3. I need a milestone every week, so I will put one workout in my calendar, set up a checklist of moves and make sure I get through it. That way, I’ll get my body going at least once a week regardless of my underlying sense of energy. The more I do it, the more I’ll want to do it.

4. Everything I ever needed to know I learned from my greyhounds. They are the ultimate couch potatoes. They sleep 23 hours a day, upside down like dead cockroaches on the sofa. But they have two distinct playtimes every day when they get up, shake themselves, have a big stretch, and start running, chasing, tossing toys in the air. If they get to go out in the meadow, they will run hard just for the fun of it. They seem so proud of themselves! I am going to use their get up time to signal me to get up too. When they play I will go play with them – run around outside, play tag, hide and seek, etc.

5. And finally, I will be accountable to myself by tweeting my success on Twitter.

Exercising in the dark months means structure and adaptability, the yin and yang of life.
Getting exercise in the dark months takes a little structure, and a little adaptability. I’ll report back and we’ll see how it goes.


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