Exploring exercise

(Life is a hectic beast – this was written last Monday but not completely finished and posted until today. )

Last year, I was in the position to be able to join a gym thanks to living on-res that gave me a discount to the uni gym. I’ve just recently joined a gym that’s local to our new place and having had my first BodyPump class in three months on Monday last got me thinking about what I’ve learnt about myself in this regard in the past twelve months.

Previously, I’d resisted doing such. I’m not a “gym junkie” or the type to “work out” a lot. I didn’t particularly like exercise or sports, to tell you the truth. Gyms and sports places were a bit intimidating to me. I had no idea of how to use equipment and no desire to spend hours of my time doing weights. (….I had some preconceived ideas of what gym would involve, let’s say.) I have thin privilege, so my diet and weight aren’t likely to be commented on or judged by random people. I am uncoordinated and lack spatial awareness though, and it takes me longer to learn motor skills (I need to do more reps, more often, to process and learn the skill). Sports were a challenge – I’m a bit better at individual sports, where I can go at my own pace (hello 2017 Clare, who tried out fencing), but it can still be a challenge.

Then I joined the gym. With the opportunity to have a fitness program created for me (they do that for everyone) and opportunities for regular reviews, I could go at my own pace and follow my own goals. I began to get a sense of what sort of exercises worked for me – and what didn’t. I developed my own routine and liked learning and tracking my exercises, seeing when I could progress to a higher weight for different ones.

After a few months of going one session a week, my uni timetable freed up slightly, so I decided to try some classes as well, free with the membership. The idea was to try a few then pick one or two and stick with them. Some I rejected almost immediately, others I liked and I found a rhythm with these as well. I like classes that are not too fast-paced, with enough oomph to make me work for the reps. Also, once I started with weights at the gym I discovered that I need my classes to have some form of a weight-bearing component or it feels wrong! Again, as with many things in my life, I found the “just right challenge” level for me and stuck with that.

Shortly after I began gym classes, uni began to grind on me. It was the middle of the project placement, and things were getting tough. I made sure to occupy my free time with gym and choir, so I had ways of getting all my pent up energy and frustrations out of my system. Here is where I discovered BodyPump and the gym benefits in earnest. When I arrived at a class, or in the gym room, I could stow my bag and either set up for class, or plug my headphones in and set up for a gym session. I’d leave my worries at the door and sweat it out to music (or a podcast, at the gym). My heart raced in time with the beat and I discovered how to move my muscles in ways I hadn’t thought possible for me before. Then, at the end of the class or gym session, I would leave – often with a smile on my face – more relaxed and more centred than when I came in. Having access to those facilities saved me from drowning under my work, I think, during that time. It released my emotions safely on days with deadlines, or when I’d had to have tricky conversations with project stakeholders. Everything looks better in the glow of endorphins after a class or session. 🙂

I didn’t realise it until later, but thinking about it, the types of exercises and class I chose were also helpful in other ways. While helping my mental wellbeing and increasing my physical strength, they also increased other physical capacities. They taught me – are still teaching me – how to know the position of my body in space and position it well to get the best out of it, for example. They also provide a regular source of what occupational therapists call “heavy work”, incorporating movement and weighted pressure (in the form of the weights) to help regulate the body. I need that in my life. Proprioception, deep pressure and vestibular input – my programs have them. Doing these exercises are good for me – and I plan on continuing. Here’s to trying new things and discovering benefits!

Life Update, number whatever…. :)


So I’ve survived my first two days of placement. It’s going well, I think… the plan appears to be to get me out on at least one home visit per day. Today there were two. So I am zonked. Because there’s a lot of write-up to do afterwards, especially if both home visits are with new clients rather than follow-up ones.

It’s rather intense. But fun. I admit, I was a little uncertain of how things would go when I started yesterday. When we’d done class- and assignment-based activities at uni that relate to what I’m doing on placement, it felt kinda boring? Soooo many measurements and so on. (Seriously, one of the things that saved me during the environmental modification assignment was that we could be creative with our query letters….) But out in the field, it’s actually quite fun, or at least interesting. After all, we’re helping real people and hearing their stories.

I got praised today for my clinical reasoning skills, so I must be doing something right!

I get very tired by the end of the day though. All I want to do is go home and “flop”. Well, I did think about and plan to go to fencing tonight, but only remembered at home that I don’t have my runners with me at the moment. Next week!

Now, I should get to what I’ve thought about doing since I got home… writing up posts about my trip, as well as food posts. Then I can get an early night after that.

Check back in later this week, hopefully tomorrow – there is one hell of a good #MIV2018 Update coming. (Six months to go!!!)


Thinking, Judging, Feeling

Recently I’ve been re-reading a few interesting blog posts that I rediscovered when looking through my inbox. They’re about self-criticism/self-care, judgement and emotions.

Milliemonday’s post about self-criticism got me thinking about how, while (as she says) it’s natural to be somewhat self-critical, if one isn’t careful it can become harmful. We do need to have some sort of self-check – with no self-monitoring we’d end up burning a lot of bridges very quickly and might also forget to take proper physical care of ourselves. However, there’s a line that can be crossed, after which our self-criticisms are no longer healthy but actually harm our mental and emotional health. Like Millie, I know I’m a “big” talker – “could talk underwater” and all that. Sometimes external criticism of my verbosity results, even if meant in a gentle/helpful way. So I start trying to monitor my own output more. Sometimes that works – but as soon as I become excited/ passionate about something, then I talk more again. Afterwards I can be self-critical and worry that I’ve talked too much or been too opinionated. Lately I’ve noticed this occurs now after seemingly mundane conversations. But that’s not really healthy, is it?

I’ve been given strategies to help monitor my rate of talking to the other person or persons in the conversation – like, “only reveal as much about yourself as the other person does about themselves” as part of a give-and-take conversational process. These are given because I tend to be a bit more self-expressive than some others around me – and so I’m told to monitor it, lest I wear out my welcome too much. Or at least, that’s what it seems to me. It does create another worry though – “have I said too much about myself?” … but “too much” is different for different people, really.

I think I need to break free of some of these “conversation scripts”. Though I should say, I understand that those scripts were given to try and help me – they weren’t meant in a nasty way or anything. The other day, my boyfriend gave me a new perspective on that, by reminding me that we all see life through our own experiences/personalities. When I do something that’s a bit “out there” (i.e. obviously extraverted), the people around me who are less inclined to be comfortable “cringe on my behalf” at how I’m exposing myself. This leads some of them to try and make me aware of how that seems so that I can “protect myself” from potential embarrassment. Often in the past I haven’t quite got that, because I’m comfortable being a little bit “out there” – so the message, while appreciated, can end up making me feel like I’m being asked to box myself up. I don’t really know how not to be extraverted – though as I’ve grown up I’ve become more aware of the appropriate times, shall we say.

I realised something when thinking about this the other day. No friends have ever told me I need to shut up and let others speak or anything. And since entering uni I haven’t really experienced the old “I’m going to pretend to listen but really just think you’re weird” reaction that used to occur at times in high school among peers. Even then, though, I still had a group of friends who didn’t seem to care if I occasionally got a bit long-winded.

We all want to be liked – that’s where a lot of the self-criticism can stem from, our fears of being liked causing us to feel awkward when we express ourselves. I saw this summarised in a really beautiful way when rereading another blog post (from the wishingwell): sometimes, we have to let other people judge us, or rather let the possibly of judgement not stop us from being true to ourselves. To quote directly:

“accepting that what other people think of you is none of your business. … Ultimately, if I’m living according to my values and the values of my chosen community, it shouldn’t matter if I’m “weird.” Whatever that means.”

This also means accepting our own emotions, which I’ve touched on in previous blog posts. Here’s a great blogpost from Brianna about the power of tears. Emotional tears can actually help reduce stress, due to the way they facilitate the release of certain hormones, did you know? Those effects are increased, too, if the crying person is given emotional/ social support rather than condemnation…

I think it’s just a matter of finding the right balance between talking and listening, being “out there” and stepping back. Like I talked about last week, I’m aware of that. We’re all works-in-progress…we just need to cut ourselves and each other some slack.

WT&TT: Impostor Syndrome, or Not (Reblogged)

Impostor Syndrome is an icky, stupid thing. In my opinion one thing that helps combat it is having the self-confidence to know that you want to keep writing, even when things are tough. (Like that post about ‘Absolute Zero’ from a month ago and Chuck’s insistence that as an author, you call the shots for your work.)

John Scalzi has more below.

Impostor Syndrome, or Not

by John Scalzi

At ConFusion last week, I had a great many conversations with a great many folks on a large number of topics, but there was one topic that seemed to pop up more than usual:Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome, briefly put, is the feeling that one’s achievements and status are a fluke, and that sooner or later one will be revealed as a fraud. Anecdotally speaking, it seems, Imposter Syndrome affects a lot of writers, editors and other folks in the publishing life. I think this is in part because the writing life is a precarious one, financially and otherwise, and also in part because people in publishing seem to be a generally neurotic lot anyway. Imposter Syndrome is just another log on that particular fire.

Imposter Syndrome is a real thing and it’s not something I’d want to make light of because I think it has harmful effects. I think it can make people cautious in the exercise of their art and their career when they could be (and want to be) taking chances, and I think it can make people vulnerable to being taken advantage of by people/organizations who intentionally or otherwise leverage those feelings for their own advantage.

It’s pernicious, basically, and it frustrates me that so many talented people who have earned their places in the field with their work battle with it. I think it’s good that people are talking about it, however. It means that they are aware that it’s a thing and that it’s a lie. Naming it and describing it and knowing of it goes a long way in fighting it.

Read more by clicking on the title above, as Scalzi says a lot of other good stuff.


REBLOGGED: Social Skills & Other Concerns

This resonates, a lot. Not just the advice but Myer’s journey. 😀 Being the lonely kid at the front of the class with glasses and other “Nerd!” aspects can be awkward, especially in primary school. However, the awkwardness does give more reading – and then writing time.
Though I did less “reading critically” and more “ooh, this series/book is awesome, Diary, here’s why!” (Cue paragraphs-long splurge.) I can track when I got into certain fandoms in my teens because of this. (Unfortunately for tracking purposes, I didn’t start journaling or diary-writing or whatever you want to call it until high school.)

Social skills is something I wonder about at times. I’m an extrovert, so you’d naturally think I’d thrive in environments that require a lot of talking and stuff (e.g. interviews or whatever, when it hopefully comes time for that). Truth is, that while I do like talking (*pauses and laughs at understatement*) ad-lib is not my thing. I take time getting to the point, I can repeat myself a bit and go on tangents and I can overshare without quite meaning to. I’m learning, but it’s still hard, as it means I have to be “on my guard” in conversations. I hate that.

Oh well. These things will come in time I suppose. Especially if I own my quirks whilst doing so.

Do check out Myer’s website and Chuck Wendig’s (who I got the post from).

Ilana C. Myer: What Do You Mean I Need Social Skills? (And Other Concerns)

by terribleminds

Ilana has a debut fantasy novel out — Last Song Before Night — but before that, she’s done a lot of work as an accomplished blogger and freelance writer, so I’m excited to have her here to speak a bit about one skill most writers don’t think, or know, that they need…

* * *

As an author whose first book just came out from Tor, you could say I’ve achieved exactly what I set out to do. And I’ll be real: I set out to do it a long time ago. This is not one of those instances when the author takes up writing on a lark and a novel comes out. If only. It’s more like, when I was a teenager I decided to start taking seriously this dream I’d always had. I was already thirteen, it was time to get moving.

Maybe it’s because I was living in Jerusalem in the mid-90s and fully convinced — not entirely without reason — that I wouldn’t survive high school. (Buffy was to have incredible resonance, years later.) Being a kid, doing things like having fun or whatever, was a waste of time when life was short. (Plus, being in a class of kids who don’t speak your language is not that conducive to having fun either.) So I did two things. I read a lot, and critically. Whatever I read, I picked apart. I looked at the things that worked and tried to figure out why they worked so well. Sometimes I couldn’t figure it out, so I just reread those glorious sections repeatedly, as if to absorb them into my bloodstream. (In retrospect, this means I can open my old notebooks at random and be like, “Right, that’s when I was reading Dune.”)

Because another thing I was doing was writing my own novel. And I worked incessantly. By the end of high school I had completed the first volume of a projected epic fantasy trilogy. I had written it longhand in a series of notebooks. Teachers knew to be suspicious of these notebooks and occasionally they were confiscated.

Eventually I was to give up on the high school novel, dismissing it as too juvenile. I started a new one while still in college. That novel, in the course of years, became Last Song Before Night.

So this is great, right? I did it. I put focused effort into achieving my goal, by developing the skills necessary for that goal, and succeeded.

Fast-forward to this past year at Book Expo America, when I and three other debut authors had the honor of being on a panel hosted by John Scalzi. Except this wasn’t really a panel. It was a game, for the general public, of “Would You Rather?” We would get questions and need to answer them, cleverly, on the fly.

This was a foretaste of what it means to launch a novel out into the world. My calendar for October has been a series of public appearances, readings, another game of “Would You Rather” with Scalzi at New York Comic Con, and — incredibly — a  New England book tour with Fran Wilde and Seth Dickinson where we’ll be visiting five bookstores in five states in five days or something like that. And answering questions, and being witty, and hopefully impressing the ever-loving hell out of everyone.

I did not do a single damn thing in my life to prepare for this. And it’s made me reflect on this dissonant quality to being a writer: what makes us excel at our work, what gets our books to the level of being publishable, involves being alone, a lot. No matter how many workshops you attend, ultimately the work only gets done when it’s just you and the page. Or just you and the necessary act of reading. All of it intensely alone.


Read more by clicking on the title.


Ilana C. Myer: Website | Twitter