Back to Basics: What I Learned From My Month Focused on Movement

Action shot: Ellie and I dancing in the kitchen

Action shot: Ellie and I dancing in the kitchen

The start of August (!!!) brings the end of my third month of the back to basics “challenge.”

At the beginning of May I mentioned that I’d be making an effort to focus on the things that make me feel like a whole person. You can read my initial post here. May was all about sleep, June was all about meditation, July was all about movement, and August (the last month) is all about nutrition.

How did movement go?

Ugh… not well.

I think maybe I set myself up for a challenge by starting off the month saying it was the “easiest” thing for me to work into my schedule. Fast forward to the end of the month and this one definitely has felt the hardest.

We’ve been way off our old routine, going to bed super late and glued to our screens in the evening.

Ellie has also been asserting her independence in every way possible (to put it nicely), which is awesome, and also exhausting, and I think Mike and I are both going through some parenting burnout. We also had a rough patch of sleep for most of July and my back has really been bothering me.

So… movement was hard.

I started off strong. We went on a 5 night camping trip at the beginning of the month, which involved hiking every day (plus a little bit of kayaking), it was wonderful!

Then we got home and things went downhill from there. My lower back and abdomen hurt a lot, and the majority of July was spent trying to figure out what was going on. It did turn out that I had a hemorrhagic cyst on my ovary, which is a pretty common thing, but also painful. So that at least explains some of the pain. Still trying to figure out what the deal with the sciatica-ish pain is. If it’s not Ellie that’s keeping me up at night, it’s my back.

All that to say, movement has been challenging and I’ve been holding off on doing anything too intense until I figure out more. I was, at a minimum, trying to do some stretching/yoga each day… which proved to be super difficult because stretching was painful. By the end of July I just wasn’t feeling it anymore.

Here’s how I did with my goals.

  • Move every day!

    • Every day did not happen. However, I did some sort of movement during the majority of days in July. I started off with a lot of yoga and hiking (with camping). I did one weightlifting session (with super light weights), a few bodyweight workouts, and walking. Out of the 31 days of July, I moved during 23 of those days (for at least 20 minutes).

  • When I’m working at the computer, change positions every 30 minutes

    • This didn’t happen either. There were 24 days out of the month where I was doing some kind of sustained work in front of my computer. During those 24 days I changed positions every 30 minutes (from sitting to standing or standing to sitting) on 16 of those days, so just over half the time. I had a week where I was working hard on the plan(it)* retreat and found myself glued to my screen, which really impacted this number. That’s not to say that I didn’t re-adjust and move, just that it often didn’t happen every 30 minutes. However, by the end of the month, sitting was really uncomfortable for my back, so I was often alternating between standing and laying down or kneeling. What did help was setting a timer on my phone (and then putting it across the room).

  • Foam roll for 10 minutes every other day

    • Finally, foam rolling… another thing I didn’t do every other day! There were 16 days that I said I’d be foam rolling, and I foam rolled for 10+ minutes on 9 of them. Again, about half of the time. There were additional days where I did foam roll, just not for 10 minutes, and those aren’t counted here.

My key takeaways from my month of movement are…

  • Your morning routine is key

    • I’m noticing a theme here… mornings matter. If the morning doesn’t start off great, then the rest of the day seems to follow a similar pattern. When I was doing really well with exercise, I’d wake up and do something first thing in the morning, no matter what was going on. It helped that I’d be waking up before Ellie was out of bed, which was not the case this month. Once she’s up it’s so much harder to get things (like working out) accomplished.

  • Everything is connected

    • My sleep routine hasn’t been great. I’m getting to bed late, Ellie or my back usually wakes me up in the middle of the night, and I’m waking up not feeling super rested… which then means I don’t feel like working out the next day. I also haven’t been meditating, which is making life feel more chaotic, which then makes me feel like I don’t have time to work out (even though I do). Each one of these pieces is impacting the other, and for me it all seems to stem from sleep… so perhaps I really need to focus on making that a priority and the other things will fall into place a little more easily.

  • Uncertainty really impacts motivation

    • I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on with my back for months and it’s been a slow process. The pain significantly increased this past month, and we’re still working on what exactly is causing it. Not knowing what is going on has definitely played a role in my desire to workout. I keep thinking, if I lift weights (or do x, y, or z), is that going to make things worse? I end up convincing myself to hold off, which then turns into, maybe I just won’t do anything at all. If I knew what was causing the pain and what to do/not to do, I’d be more okay with working through the pain, or choosing a different form of movement.

  • The desire to be “productive” can get in the way of being active

    • I found myself thinking that taking time away from whatever I was doing at that moment wasn’t worth it, or that I had too many things to get done and I couldn’t spare the time to workout or to foam roll (which is all totally untrue, but it’s a fun lie I like to tell myself when I’ve got too much going on). So… I’m thinking I need to dial things back a bit for the rest of the summer.

What will I keep and what will I toss?

Honestly, I’d really like to continue with everything on the list for this month… moving every day, switching up my position every 30 minutes, and foam rolling. I think I’ll just toss the rigidity of the every other day foam rolling and continue doing it during down time (e.g., when I’m watching TV or talking with Mike after Ellie goes to bed, etc.)

August’s Nutrition Plan

I purposefully ended with nutrition because, for me, it feels like the hardest area to make changes (and now that I’ve put that out there, it’ll be the easiest, right?!).

I wanted to wait until after the school year ended, we weren’t traveling, and it wasn’t my (and Mike’s) birthday month to focus on nutrition. So, August it is!

I’ve done Whole30 (and similar) “diets” in the past (if you read my year 2 goals you might have noticed that on there). I’m not up for anything that strict right now. Honestly, while I usually take away one or two new habits from those types of diets, there’s no way I could (or want) to stick to 100% “clean” eating all of the time (unless I had a personal chef and an unlimited food budget). Plus, the main meals I eat are decent, it’s alcohol and sweets where I run into trouble.

Where am I at right now with nutrition?

We rotate through the same meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Over time, we’ve figured out what we like to eat and what’s not too terribly difficult to cook.

For breakfast, that usually means eggs (scrambled, fried), some sort of potato (sweet or russet), a vegetable (usually steamed broccoli or cauliflower), some sort of fruit (whatever’s in season), and maybe a piece of toast.

For lunch it’s a broccoli slaw salad with chicken or rice with veggies and chicken.

For dinner, we rotate between multiple nights of tacos, quesadillas, peanut soup, lentil stew, and single nights of burgers, salmon, cod, and a sweet potato/hummus dish. We usually do take out 1 night a month as a treat, either pizza or Thai food.

I enjoy a good beer or glass of champagne (or 2 or 3 or…). When it’s just us at home, I do a decent job of keeping it to 1 drink, but find that harder to do when we’re socializing.

With sweets, we’ve gone a little overboard lately, having a “special treat” (as Ellie calls them) after every lunch and dinner.

My nutrition goals for August are:

  • Limit alcohol to 1 day a week

    • I’m not into depriving myself 100% of the time, so my plan for August is to limit alcohol to one day a week. If we’re at home, just 1 drink, if we’re out and about, then I’m upping it to 2.

  • Start off with 8 glasses of water a day and reassess once I see how this feels

    • I’ll be starting off with the generic recommendation for water and then readjusting depending on how it feels. Water (or fizzy water) is usually my drink of choice, so I don’t think this will be too big of a deal, we shall see.

  • Homemade special treats 3 nights a week

    • I’m having sweets after dinner, 3 nights out of the week, and they’ve got to be homemade so I know exactly what’s going in them. I had these delicious coconut lime popsicles a few months ago and I think I might try my hand at making them. And then I’ll also make some dark chocolate covered banana bites if I need a chocolate fix. Whatever I choose to make, I’m trying to stay away from anything that requires dumping cups of refined sugar into the mix!

Check back in September to see how it went!