Author’s Note: This post is a few days late, as I’ve been trying to post every Thursday. But it’s been a rough week for me between fights with family and friends, and feeling the weight of what has been happening in the world the past few weeks. If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, start looking up these names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Robert Fuller, Riah Milton, Dominique “Rem’Mie” Mills, and more. I decided that if I were going to be an accomplice in this movement, I needed to get back on track with the things that help me stay mentally strong. None of this is easy, especially when you are an empath with depression and anxiety, but that’s not an excuse. So, I’m building up my habits again so I can take care of myself in order to take care of others and maintain integrity in all things.
People used to call me crazy. Well, they still might, but that’s the subject of another blog post. But people called me crazy because every day before work, I would wake up to my lovely sunlight alarm clock at 0440, put on my workout clothes, and hit the gym. I got into the habit of morning workouts as a rower. As the saying goes, “Rowers do more before 8 AM than most people do all day.” This is absolutely true. It’s especially true for someone like me who fails to workout 90 percent of the time if I don’t workout first thing in the morning.
My morning workouts were my jam. They helped me with my stress, my anxiety, my depression. They kept me cool on the road, since having to drive on roads with other people in their cars is apparently not something I enjoy. The workouts also meant I ate better (there’s plenty out there talking about why this is the case). And I managed to get these workouts done even with a packed work and social schedule!
So you must be wondering why I’m writing this post now. You would think that, with all my free time at home during the pandemic shutdown that I would be absolutely ripped, right? I mean, that’s what I expected! I thought I would perfect flavorful, healthy meals, and do full cardio and weight routines every morning. I thought wrong. Very wrong. I did perfect some cooking, like these bagels, and I did find some solid fitstagrammers to follow with creative at-home workout routines. But somehow, I got lazy as f*ck. I have never considered myself a particularly energetic person (being an empath, HSP, and an introvert will do that to you), but damn did I learn quick how lazy I was! Some of this I can definitely put down to the fact that my mental health, while solid in the first month, took a dive after my pharmacy decided to switch out my regular oral contraceptive for a generic (subject of a forthcoming post). But once my routine got thrown off, I found it nearly impossible to get back to the norm.
Fortunately, at the beginning of the pandemic shut down, I had time to read Atomic Habits by James Clear*. I might do a separate review of the book in its entirety, but for now, I’ll just saw that Clear laid out some simple ways to build new, better habits into your life. I actually meant to start building in some better habits months ago, but here we are now.
One thing I have really enjoyed during the pandemic is sleeping in to my natural wake up time, which is about 0500 if I’m stressed, and between 0630 and 0700 if I’m not. Since traffic has been minimal, I have been leaving for work around 0830. I’ll probably move this time up since we’re now in Phase Two of reopening (not for long, I’m sure, since cases are already picking up in other parts of the country), so I am trying to leave by 0800. It’s entirely possible for me to workout and get ready for work in 1 to 1.5 hours, especially since I’m intermittent fasting and don’t eat breakfast until 1100. However, getting up at 0630 doesn’t leave me time for my 30-minute cardio and a circuit routine and the stretching I have to do just to be able to function because of my old injuries. So I decided I should break up my routine a bit to two a workout twice a day, since I’m really not doing anything after work at the moment anyway. Hence, the habit goals I’ve outlined below.
In his book, Clear provides several suggestions about how to build habits into your life, but the two that immediately stuck out for me were Intention Implementation and Habit Stacking. Intention Tracking is fairly straightforward: Write down your plan, and be specific! The specificity of it really struck me. Below you’ll see my Intention Tracking, which follows a basic formula laid out in the book.
I will complete a 30-minute cycling workout at 0630 every day in my apartment.
I will complete a 30-minute circuit workout at 1700 every day in my apartment.
Habit Stacking was something that was new to me as a concept, but something we do regularly in our daily lives. Clear writes, “One of the best ways to build a new habit is to find a habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top of it.” Working out after work is nearly impossible for me. I’m always exhausted and stressed, and I just want to lay on the couch and watch mindless TV. I needed a way to get into the routine of working out after I get home, so I decided to try habit stacking. Clear again provides a basic formula we can use to state our intentions here: After [current habit,] I will [new habit]. Check out my habit stacking attempts below.
After I brush my teeth, I will lay out my workout clothes.
After I complete my foam rolling routine, I will choose my cycling workout, and write down my circuit workout.
After I get home from work [for me, this involves a routine of changing and putting things away], I will change into workout clothes. After I change into workout clothes, I will complete my circuit workout.
Now, I have no idea if this will work for me, so I will keep you all posted. While I know this routine will help my overall mental health, I’m going to focus only on these individual actions rather than the greater impact they may have. Sometimes that can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t see an immediate or direct impact. So every day, I’m just going to check off whether I followed these intentions or did not. I’m not going to pay attention to whether I felt better at the end of the days I achieved these intentions or whether I felt worse on the days I did not achieve these intentions. I’ll check back in with y’all in my next post (which will hopefully be Thursday).
*I support ordering from local bookstores, especially bookstores owned by women and BIPOC. The link above is to my local bookstore, but here is a list of other bookstores you can order from (or you can research for your own) that may be closer to you: https://lithub.com/you-can-order-today-from-these-black-owned-independent-bookstores/.