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How having a hobby you suck at is essential for work-life balance

Suck at Your Hobby? 4 Reasons Why That’s Awesome

I have a talented friend who crafts with clay, and a few weeks ago she brought out her materials and showed me how she made things. Taking a few small pieces of clay, I spent several minutes crafting an animal that was supposed to be an owl, but came out resembling a dejected penguin that would have been cut from the cast of Pingu. (Don’t know who Pingu is? Get off my lawn!)

I knew my creation was terrible, but I didn’t care that his ear broke off, or that he looked more like a melting gummy bear than a bird; I created him and had fun doing it.

It got me to thinking that I need to do this kind of thing more often. In fact, I think having a hobby you suck at is essential to achieving work-life balance and maintaining your mental health.  

If you have a hobby you enjoy but lack any skill, I’ve found four empowering reasons why you should keep on sucking at it!:

You Enjoy Your Achievements More

After trying and failing so many times, when you finally get something right, the elation that follows is worth the struggle.

Another hobby of mine is knitting, and let me tell you, I sucked at that for a long, long time. I remember I wasted a whole skein of yarn trying to knit just one sock without a hole in it. When I finally finished a sock that actually resembled a garment that could don a human foot, it was a great feeling.

I never did knit the matching sock, but that’s beside the point. It was the journey and the overcoming of the challenge that mattered.

You’re Defying the Fallacy of Perfectionism

Especially if you have a lot of high-pressure responsibilities in your life, allowing yourself to be imperfect from time to time is really important to your mental health. The quest for perfectionism is an illusion that can cause a lot of mental distress. Allowing yourself to suck at something is a way to acknowledge to yourself that it’s perfectly okay to be imperfect.

You Laugh

When there’s no pressure to succeed, you can take a lighthearted approach to your hobby and give yourself permission to laugh at yourself when you fail. When I knit my first stuffed elephant, he ended up with a decidedly inappropriate bum crack due to my shoddy seaming job. Visualize that for a minute and tell me it isn’t funny. 

Life is serious enough as it is, and giving yourself an opportunity to laugh is perhaps one of the most important reasons you could have for doing something you suck at.

Bonus points if you’re with a friend and they laugh along with you. 🙂

You Allow Yourself to Live in the Moment

For me, this is what it’s really all about. So many of us get caught up in the day to day hustle and end up totally preoccupied by our responsibilities and worried about the future. Days, weeks, even months can slip by without us ever slowing down to savour things. Because your hobby’s only purpose is to bring you joy, you can fully focus on the fun you’re having without giving any thought to the outcome or consequences. 

Let the hobby you suck at be your conduit to reflection and gratitude.

 

Do you have a hobby you suck at? What do you love most about it? Share in the comments!

The fitbit at work

Desk Job? Meet Fitbit, Your New Best Friend

I didn’t give much thought to my health when I was younger.  I was a healthy weight for my height but had more than a few unhealthy habits, such as staying up late, drinking copious amounts of cherry coke, and consuming foods from 7/11 which I’m positive were about 90% plastic.

But after college when I entered the workforce, it was like flipping a switch. Suddenly those extra calories were registering on the bathroom scale. My weight crept up slowly over the years, and my energy levels flagged.

Losing that twenty-year-old metabolism and getting a sedentary desk job was like a one-two punch to my health and overall well-being. Over the past decade, I managed to implement some healthy habits like running and yoga which helped a ton, but at times it was difficult to stay motivated or know just how effective my endeavors were.

Enter the Fitbit Charge 2.

This handy device was gifted to me by my spouse last Christmas, and it’s been a total game changer. I managed to lose more than 10 pounds in just a few months! 

What Fitbit Taught Me

Yes, Walking IS Real Exercise!

I used to think that if it wasn’t hard, then it wasn’t really exercise. Walking seemed like way too lightweight an activity for me to invest my time in. Fitbit finally showed me the light! My daily calorie burn from a sedentary day at the office would be around 1600-1700, but add in a 40 minute power walk, it easily bumps it up to 2000-2100.

Not only is it great exercise, but it’s much gentler on the body than running is. I still love running, but walking is something I can commit to daily without worrying about hurting myself. (And you may remember how prone I am to that!)

Key Action: In addition to whatever other exercises you enjoy, walk, walk, walk!

Quality Sleep is Important

These days it’s common knowledge that sleep is critical to maintaining your health. Getting less than 6 hours can lead to increased stress hormones and food cravings, neither of which are good for the waistline. Although late nights had long since been a thing of the past for me, I still wasn’t getting enough quality sleep. The Charge 2 monitors your heart rate while you sleep and compiles the data into neat graph when you sync the next morning. Not only does it show you how long you slept, it shows you how long you spent in deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep. This data helps to identify patterns in your day to day that may have an effect on your sleep.

For example, if I had two extra large coffees in the morning instead of one (Yeah I know, I never said I kicked all my unhealthy habits) I would get much less deep sleep than on days when I had a more reasonable amount of caffeine.

Key Action: Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Study your sleep cycles and see where you can tweak your routine to get better ZZZs.

There’s Always Time for Exercise

Sometimes I have a “go big or go home” type attitude towards things. I used to think if I wasn’t logging a 5k run then there was no point in exercising at all. I’m not sure where this all-or-nothing attitude came from but I was dead wrong. Even a few minutes of walking can make a difference, and it all adds up! Fitbit makes it even easier for you to sneak steps in during the day by gently zapping your wrist once an hour, signalling you to get off your duff and go for a jaunt to the water cooler.

Key Action: Whether it’s 10 minutes of walking logged before work, at lunch, or after dinner, get in short spurts of activity to boost your daily calorie burn!

Calories Add Up Super Fast

For the first few weeks I used the food logging function religiously. The app has a daily suggested allowance for calories that fluctuates throughout the day depending on how many calories you’ve burned. Calorie consumption is prorated to discourage you from eating all your day’s worth of calories at breakfast.

At first I was discouraged at how often I was going over my daily budget, but it helped me identify what the big “calorie bombs” were. For me, the main culprits were the calories I clocked at happy hour. Even just one or two drinks a day can add hundreds of empty calories. So, I cut out the 5 pm martini and it made staying within the calorie budget infinitely easier. 

After a couple months, I stopped using the calorie logger because I got a lot better at gauging how many calories I was taking in every day and I didn’t really need it anymore.

Key Action: Don’t worry about every single morsel you’re eating. Instead, identify your “calorie bomb” and either remove or mitigate it.

Competition is a Strong Motivator

Early morning runs, lunch hour power-walks, and lengthy, post-dinner scuffles around the living room became commonplace whenever I was engaged in a Fitbit challenge instigated by fellow fitbit friends. Every time I checked the current standings, I’d exclaim things like “There’s no way I’m losing by 200 steps!” or “Gah, they passed me again!”, and I’d get off the couch and walk some more. It’s surprisingly fun no matter who ends up taking first place, and since in a close game everyone typically ends up hitting their step goal, everyone’s a winner in the end.

Key Action: Never back down from a challenge! Compete in a step-off with your friends as often as possible.

Knowledge is Power

There have been some studies that show the Fitbit isn’t 100% accurate, and I agree that this is completely true. The technology has come a long way in the past couple years but there are still times when it thinks I’ve logged 100 steps when I was simply blow-drying my hair. That being said, I would estimate that it’s still anywhere from 70-80% accurate. That is more than enough to gauge your habits and activity level to see where you can make improvements!

Key Action: Use the data as a guideline to help you make healthier decisions during your day-to-day.

It’s All About Balance, Balance, Balance

The biggest thing the Fitbit taught me is that being healthy doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to walk ten thousand steps every day or never eat cake again to be healthy. You don’t have to be perfect.

You just need a little bit of knowledge, motivation, and moderation.

 

PS –  If you’d like to pick up a Fitbit or learn more about them, you can check it out at the link below. (Affiliate link – rest assured I only promote products that I really love!)

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Plus Fitness Wristband, Black, Large

Caring about what others thing doesn't have to affect your confidence.

Why it’s Okay to Care What Other People Think

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”— Dr. Seuss

I will be the first to admit that I have a tendency to take things personally. Being judged by others has always been one of my worst fears and something I avoided at all costs.

It affected several aspects of my life, but I was particularly insecure about my writing.

Although I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, nothing made me feel more exposed than letting someone read something I wrote. 

The above quote from Dr. Seuss is a very wise one, and a theme many of my friends and family have been preaching for years, the message simply being: Stop caring about what other people think!

It’s not as though I didn’t understand the concept of this wisdom. The problem was execution. No matter how much I reminded myself that other people’s opinions shouldn’t matter, I still cared. It still stung when someone criticized me, or my work, or my choices.

So what’s changed? How is it I am suddenly posting my words and thoughts all over the internet?

It was partly the realization that fearing other people’s judgment is, in part, a symptom of low self-confidence. And if there is one thing I learned about confidence over the years, it’s that you won’t feel confident until you start acting confident. If I waited until I truly stopped caring what everyone thought before sharing my work, it would absolutely never happen.

So, I decided to act first, regardless of how I felt, and deal with the “consequences” of people’s reactions later. That was when my first blog – a knitting blog – was born. 

It’s been a couple years since then, and I’m still standing! That being said, I also still care what other people think. A lot. It still gets me down when a writing pitch gets rejected, or criticized, or someone passes judgment on something I said or did. 

But I also get over it. Better still, I can usually learn something from it. Sometimes listening to what others are saying can lend a new perspective or help refine my skills. 

The times I can’t learn from another person’s opinion is usually when it has nothing to do with me. The world is overflowing with the insecurities of others, and in some people, it manifests as an irrational criticism that is solely designed to try and take you down a peg.

Once you’re able to differentiate between constructive criticism and hot air, it becomes a lot easier to take things less personally.

But at the end of the day, I still care what other people’s opinions, and that’s okay. The problem wasn’t that I cared about the opinions of others, the problem was that I feared them and let it affect my confidence. 

Caring about what others think is pretty normal, and it can help us grow and learn. 

Just don’t let it stop you from being who you are and saying what you feel!

Advil becomes you buddy when yoga hurts!

Y-ow!-ga: When Yoga Hurts Instead of Heals

As I type this, my neck really hurts. I am laying on the couch with a heating pad on my neck and a bottle of Advil within arm’s reach. Why?

I pulled a muscle doing yoga.

Wait, what? Yoga is the panacea for all that ails you, isn’t it? Many yoga enthusiasts, including myself, are quick to tout an endless list of the health benefits yoga offers. In fact, the internet is chock full of personal stories about how yoga transforms people for the better.

But what happens when your yoga practice has the opposite effect?

The notion that an exercise like yoga can cause injury is far less appealing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I’m living proof. Yoga isn’t considered a high impact activity which is why I think many people don’t take the risk of injury seriously. I know I didn’t. But the grim reality is the risk of injury is present no matter what kind of exercise you engage in.

So this week I’ve been reading up on injury and prevention and thought I would share my findings. Maybe it will spare some poor soul out there a week of pain-killers and neck braces.  

Take it Slowly to Start

This is the one that got me last weekend, and to be totally honest, it’s not the first time. Whenever I have a new surge of motivation to exercise, I always jump in and give it 110% intensity and the next day I’m inevitably nursing some sort of injury. In this case, it had been a couple months since I’d been to a vigorous vinyasa class, and I hit the mat as though I’d been going every day for weeks. It’s a recipe for disaster – or a least a strained tendon.

If you’re just starting yoga or coming back from a hiatus, take it slow and skip more advanced variations of the poses if you haven’t done them in a long time.

“No Pain No Gain” is the Worst Motto Ever

I get that the concept behind this saying is that you won’t grow if you don’t push yourself. But the phrase needs a refresh because it sounds more like the goal of exercise should be agony, which is just wrong.

Especially where yoga is concerned, if it hurts, don’t do it! No pose should ever be rushed; the transition into and out of the pose is more important than the pose itself. Ease very carefully into stretches and back off the moment anything feels too intense.

You Don’t have to do Everything the Teacher Instructs

When your teacher tells you it’s time for scorpion pose, it’s an invitation, not a challenge. At no time during yoga class should you feel the need to do every pose the teacher instructs in it’s most advanced variation. This can be a difficult lesson for some people with a competitive nature. (I should know!)

You may look around in envy at your classmates who effortlessly pop into difficult postures, but it’s not worth risking your health if it hurts or your body is telling you no!

I stopped attempting headstand a couple years ago because every time I tried it, it just felt completely wrong. If this pose comes up in class, I always substitute it with a posture I’m comfortable with.

Funnily enough, a lot of the pitfalls that can lead to yoga injury are the same things you’re supposed to check at the door to a yoga class anyway; impatience, ego, and competitiveness are a one-way ticket to Ow-Town.

Once I’m all healed up I look forward to hitting the mat once again – this time with 110% mindfulness.

Rejuvenate

Easy Ways to Rejuvenate Yourself this Summer

If you’re someone with a challenging career that engages you for the majority of the week, finding time to unwind and rejuvenate can turn into the most difficult task of all.

Switching off your work brain at the end of the day can seem impossible. You may find yourself writing off weeknights and living for the weekend. Yet, once the weekend arrives, your time is often commandeered by chores or errands, and the next thing you know, you’ve forfeited any opportunity for R&R.

It’s a recipe for burnout and needs to be avoided at all costs!

So how does one recuperate from the daily grind when there are only a handful of hours during the week at your disposal? The key is to schedule time with yourself and practice mindfulness.

Here are a few simple ideas to help you rejuvenate yourself this summer. 

Sit in Your Backyard

On a sunny weekend, there are few things I enjoy more than grabbing a cold drink and sitting on the back deck. But you don’t need to wait until the weekend to get some time on deck. (Or on patio… Or on grass!)

Take advantage of the long summer days, particularly right now when it’s summer solstice! A couple days ago, I ventured outside just before 9:30, and it was the perfect time to sit outside and watch the sunset. The light made everything a gorgeous rose colour. I was only out for ten minutes, but by the time I came back inside, I’d forgotten all about work.

So as corny as it sounds, there’s something to be said for stopping to smell the roses. Watch the birds or squirrels that venture into your yard. Enjoy the colours in the garden or focus on the gentle flutter of the leaves.

I know you’re busy but trust me, you can afford to take ten minutes to just sit outside in your own yard!

Get to Yoga Class

If you’ve read anything else on my blog, you’d know I’m all about the yoga. If you can’t get out to a class, then roll out your mat at home and do your own thing, or download a yoga app. My favourite yoga app is Yoga Studio, which you can actually download for free today, June 22nd, in celebration of International Yoga Day! (I feel the need to mention that I’m not in any way affiliated with this app, but it’s my absolute favourite so when I heard they were giving it away for free, I had to mention it!)

If you’re not into yoga, a similar effect can be accomplished through any other form of physical activity that you enjoy. Even if it’s just a fifteen-minute stroll around the neighbourhood, it’s still exercise and a great way for you to spend time with yourself. Yoga is just my personal favourite activity for both exercise and cultivating mindfulness!!

Do Something that Does Not Involve Technology

If you’re like me, you’ll turn off your work computer at the end of the day, only to come home and turn on your home computer. Give your eyes and brain a break! Try something creative like writing or journaling. Or, try an activity that gets you outside, like gardening. 

If you’re not feeling creative or active, then sitting down with a book is the next best thing. And yes, e-readers like Kindles or Kobos are allowed in this instance because the display is more akin to a page than a screen!

Plan a time to engage in these activities and savour each moment you spend doing them for maximum benefits.

To Summarize…

Rejuvenate yourself in a short time by doing something that is just for you. Most importantly, use the time to practice gratefulness, and live in each moment!

Tree yoga pose

Why Yoga is My New Run

I used to be a real running enthusiast. There was nothing I loved more than a long run outside or the thrill of running in a race. In the past decade, I’ve run an assortment of races from half marathons to 5ks. Even when I wasn’t training for a race, I’d still get out for a run just because I enjoyed it.

Sadly, within the past three years, I developed a chronic soreness in my right hip that has barred me from continuing with long distance running. More recently, I’ve been getting painful headaches after even short runs.

I have yet to identify exactly what it is that’s causing these problems as the usual suspects like shoes and posture don’t seem to be the culprit. In the meantime, I’ve had to find something else to fill the exercise void.

Enter Yoga.

Although I started classes about six years ago, my practice was intermittent at best. I’d go a few months practicing several times a week and then suddenly forget about my mat for months on end. My practice mostly consisted of tagging on a few asanas after a run to stretch out my hamstrings and quads.

But for the past year and a half, I really started taking my practice more seriously and it’s gradually replaced running as my main source of exercise. I’m now one of those annoying people who’s always talking about how awesome yoga is and why everyone should be doing it! 

Aside from being a low-impact exercise, here are the main reasons why yoga is my new beat!

Minimal Space and Equipment Required

I always loved running but finding the time and place to go for a run would sometimes be a problem. In the winter months, running outside was less than ideal, and I didn’t want to keep a gym membership. With yoga, all you need is a  6’ by 2’ rectangle of space and you’re good to go!

No gym? No problem!  Raining outside? Downward dog inside! Only place to exercise in is a hallway? That’s ample space!

Like running, yoga requires minimal gear.  The one big purchase is a quality mat – instead of quality running shoes – then you’re good to go for years! Sure you can buy props like yoga blocks and straps, but I’ve found that household items like books or a belt work just as well if you’re on a budget.

Different Styles of Yoga Achieve Different Goals

The thing about running is it’s great for cardio but not a whole lot else. It was refreshing to discover that different styles of yoga can target different fitness goals. Vinyasa is by far my favourite style of yoga because it’s a cardio-style workout that gets me sweating. 

The fantastic part is there are many other yoga styles that can help you target different goals. Power yoga will count more towards strength training while rejuvenation-type classes focus more on stretching and recovery. No matter your mood or energy level, there’s a yoga style for it!

Great Stress Reliever

Don’t get me wrong, running is a great stress reliever (as is most exercise) and I always loved how I felt after a run.  But yoga just seems to lend a little extra serenity. Even after the most vigorous vinyasa class, by the time we’ve finished with a few supine twists and savasana, I’m as cool as a cucumber, and the feeling lingers for hours.

I find even a short, 15-minute session will result in a more relaxed outlook on life. 

It Benefits Other Areas of Life

It’s interesting how the things you learn in yoga start to infiltrate other areas of your life, for the better. Along with the physical benefits of the exercise, it trains you to not sweat the small stuff, and teaches you how to live in the moment.  For example, I recently had this article published about how yoga can help your career. The truth is, the same lessons can apply to almost any facet of life!

 

yoga; pyjamas

Why You Should Do Yoga in Your Pyjamas

When I first discovered yoga, I only practiced in a classroom environment where I had the guidance of my teacher. But with my work schedule, it was hard to make it to class more than once a week. In order to make more progress with my asanas, I began practicing on my own at home.

One evening after a long day at the office, I was too lazy to change into my lulus, but I wanted to work on my chaturangas. Thus, my pyjama practice was born. This turned out to be a valuable life-hack for me. If you like to practice yoga at home but haven’t tried it in your PJs, here’s a few reasons why you should:

It’s Comfortable

Yoga pants are my second-favorite article of clothing. They’re comfortable, they double as leggings, and they’re more or less acceptable to wear in public. But let’s face it, nothing’s quite as comfy as your jim-jams, especially those that are a looser cotton fabric with a bit of stretch.

You Practice More

I can be pretty lazy, and sometimes all it takes to discourage me from doing yoga is the effort it takes to change into my workout clothes. If you’re like me, fewer wardrobe changes equal a greater chance of a yoga session occurring. If It’s in the evening, you’re just going to change into your pajamas anyway, so why not take a vinyasa or two? Just keep the yoga session shorter and less vigorous so you don’t go to bed sweaty.

When you wake up in the morning, you’re already in your “yoga clothes”, so there’s no excuse not to hit the mat for some spirited sun salutations!

You Sleep Better

Practicing relaxation poses right before bedtime can promote a more restful sleep. Yes, bed yoga is a thing! Focus on easy stretching, and postures that use gravity to help you relax. My favorites are reclined cobbler pose and Shavasana. The latter is optimal for transitioning to sleep, as it helps you mindfully release thoughts from the day that might keep you awake.

 In Summary

As you can see, doing yoga in your pyjamas has many benefits. And really, how many other exercises do you ever get to do in your pyjamas? Swimming? No. Running? Not recommended. I rest my case!

Just save it for your home practice— Your yoga classmates probably don’t need you showing up to the studio in your Superman onesie.

 

Photo Credit: rachelakelso via Compfight cc

Sneak in More Runs This Week

 

I used to be a bit of a “weekend warrior”. I would cram in two, sometimes three long runs between Saturday morning and Sunday night.

Then the most exercise I would get between Monday to Friday was a brisk walk from my car to the office building.

It can be a challenge to ramp up or maintain your mileage when you have a full-time desk job, but it can be done! Here are some tips on when to fit in some weekday runs.

Get Up Early

Pros: You can count on a pretty consistent mood boost any time you get your run out of the way early. You get to have that feeling of accomplishment before most people have had their first sip of coffee!

Cons: Getting in a run before work may sound logical, but if you’re not a morning person and you have an 8 o’clock start time at your job, this can be a groan-worthy suggestion.

Make it Work: Hear me out, there’s way to make this option suck less! Get to sleep a little earlier, and I’m not talking about making a huge adjustment to your current sleep schedule. Even turning in half an hour earlier can make your alarm clock less cringe-inducing come morning. Getting up 40-60 minutes earlier should be sufficient to pound out a few kilometers and still have time to cool down before beginning your normal morning routine. You can also plan your morning runs to be short. It’s a lot easier to get up to run if you’ve only committed to a 15-20 minute lope, and there is no shame in short runs! 3k is better than no k, right? Although once you’re out there, you may find yourself busting out a couple extra kilometers anyway!

Get Out on Your Lunch

Pros: The biggest perk is that you get your runs in during the day so your morning and evening schedule can remain uncompromised. And with enough planning, you can pull it off without returning to the office looking like a soggy tomato.

Cons: This option has to be a carefully planned event since you only have 60 minutes to change, run, cool down, change again, and get back to the office. This also might not be a great idea if you can only run outside and it’s summer, when temperatures are soaring their highest at midday. You’ll be sweating buckets before you’re five minutes in, and no amount of towelettes or deodorant is going to be adequate for that long afternoon back at your desk. Trust me, just ask your co-worker.

Make it Work: If your only option is to run outside, I would save this option for cooler months between September and May. Shorter runs are key. You’ll need to be organized enough to bring along your workout clothes and running shoes. You’ll also do yourself (and your colleagues) a great service to pack some baby wipes, travel deodorant, and a change of undergarments. Make sure your lunch is prepacked or easily accessible so you can either eat at your desk, or wolf it down in the five minutes before you need to be back. Depending on the logistics, you can probably allot 30 minutes maximum for running and the other 30 minutes should be for cooling down, changing, and eating.

Get it In After Work

Pros: Depending on your schedule, this option may provide the most time and flexibility since your work for the day is done. You could get in a run either right after work or later in the evening. In the summer months, this may be a more attractive option for the outdoor runner because its stays lighter later, and it’s cooler than at lunchtime.

Cons: Personally, I find this time of day to be the hardest to commit to because depending on how stressful or busy your day was, you may not have the energy or willpower to carry through with your planned run by the time you clock out at work. Also, unless you have access to a treadmill or indoor track, this will most likely be a no-go in the colder months when its dark and snowy.

Make it Work: If you plan on running right after work, bring a snack to nosh on in the afternoon to give your energy levels a boost. This will help keep you from flaking out on your run plan. If you need to go home first, keep all your running stuff by the door to minimize your chances of succumbing to the couch. Take it from me, if your butt so much as touches that couch, you’re done. If you plan to run later in the evening, eat an early and light dinner. Make sure you finish up your run at least a couple hours before you need to turn in, as exercise too close to bedtime can result in less than optimal sleep.

In Summary

At the end of the day, the best option for logging miles during the work week is the option you can actually commit to. You may want to try every option before deciding what’s most effective for you!

 

Photo Credit: GrejGuide.dk via Compfight cc