A Habit Must Be Established Before It Can Be Improved

A Habit Must Be Established Before It Can Be Improved

This is my 100th blog post. It took one-month shy of seven years to get here.

Nobody knows what they’re doing when they start. I didn’t know when I started but I know more now. What might I know in ten years? I hope I find out.

The title quote is from James Clear. It helped me a lot. I was not doing things I “wanted” to do because I didn’t really want to do them. Or I “wanted” to do them at a high level, a level so high it was only possible to imagine doing it, not actually do it. I “wanted” to do yoga for an hour like I did at my yoga studio before the pandemic. But I never wanted to be in my living room with my yoga mat for an hour. Never. Never once did I want that in the past year. That’s why I went to a yoga studio in the first place. Because once you’re there, there is no escape. The social pressure is really important for me to overcome lethargy.

But in dwelling on the quote, I thought maybe I could start with something very very short. I could just do it for the length of one song. Just a few stretches. That’s it! One song Caren. You got this.

It worked! That was not too bad. I did not hate that.

Over time, I found that I was totally willing to do yoga for the length of a few songs. Sometimes I would do more than I intended. Isn’t that fun? That’s like a habit starting to form. Woah! I now exercise several mornings a week for ten minutes. Ten minutes is something I can manage. Ten minutes doesn’t freak me out. Ten minutes is happening. I don’t have to pressure myself into it. It’s something I actually like to do. I’ve built a habit.

Rather than make your hopes and goals bigger make them smaller. Make them so small you are doing them.

Are you by chance curious what little book I wrote this quote in? It’s last year’s pandemic little book. Here is a picture of the cover. I can’t get my fill of Danny Trejo in pink. His vegan donuts are off the hook. Try them if you are in Los Angeles.

I Just Invented This Round Thing. I’m Gonna Call It a Wheel.

I Just Invented This Round Thing. I’m Gonna Call It a Wheel.

What I am about to tell you is something you already know. Everybody knew it but me. Actually even I knew it but I forget. Ready?

If you listen to workout music while working out, you will work out harder. I worked out so hard yesterday, I was sore all day. And I only worked out for seven minutes.

Here’s the story. The pandemic gutted my old exercise routines. No more in person yoga class. I don’t have a laptop to move around the house for doing online classes. I did one in front of my office computer and frankly, I am in front of that thing enough as it is. My friend Mary told me about the YouTube channel Fitness Blender. We can play that on the tv in the living room so all three of us started together last fall. The group energy was great and overcame decades of home workout inertia. Alas, husband and kid injured themselves, back and ankle, so it was just me. As a group we were watching a variety of videos but for the last two months I’ve been doing only one, the same one every day.

The Scientific 7 Minute Workout Video – Bodyweight Only Total Body Workout

It’s only Seven minutes! Even I can manage seven minutes a day. I have no idea why I prefer the repetition to novelty but I do. For the first 6 weeks of this routine I listened to podcasts while exercising to trick myself into the desired behavior like giving a small child a lollypop after a shot. It worked, I kept showing up. But I was aware that I was not very aware. I knew I wasn’t fully in my body.

This week I was finally ready for music. I hit play on my evening playlist. The first song was happily upbeat and quite pleasant but then a morose slow jam came on. Ugh!!! No! Stop high stepping and swipe next. It went on like this as a new item was added to the running mental to do list, make workout playlist. Yesterday I start it and get one song added. But at 8 am I can’t recall ten move your ass songs. Let’s see what Spotify has put together. That’s when this song came on:

From the second it started I already couldn’t wait to hear it again. Best life coach ever in the form of music. I was immediately dancing my way through the workout. I was doing every set at four times my usual speed and intensity. And I was loving it! I can hardly type out this post because I am so psyched to get back to it! It’s not just the music, he is talking straight to you. If you are alive I know you ain’t reached your best yet. He is laying it down! You got more! You can do more! You can see more! You can be more! Yes! Yes! I am feeling you Disclosure! Thank you!

So, here’s the wheel – if you want to push yourself while exercising and love every minute of it, listen to this song! I’m just gonna add a little Rage Against the Machine to balance out the sweetness and we should be a whole lot stronger in a few weeks! Pushups, get ready to finally go into the double digits!

Not What I Expected Part 4. Who Here Thinks This is a Yoga Class?

Not What I Expected Part 4. Who Here Thinks This is a Yoga Class?
How I felt when it was over.

I am medium fit. Compared to people who don’t exercise at all I am in great shape. Compared to people who take it seriously, I am weak as Lipton tea (we prefer PG Tips). The bulk of my exercise comes from walking dogs. We average a mile and half a day and hike once on the weekends. This doesn’t make me buff or visually interesting but it does allow for beer drinking without too much mid section expansion. A good trade in my mind. I also do precisely one yoga class a week and have for several decades. This keeps neck and back tension at bay and sort of feels like having the correct amount of oil in car, just enough for base line maintenance. Twenty years in and I still can’t put my head on my knees with straight legs. Oh well. Cross that off the bucket list.

Before we get to what happened you need to know I take the easiest class. It’s only an hour and follows the same series of postures every time allowing me to track where we are in the routine and conserve energy so I know I can do it all. I keep a post-it note on my computer with the times of the classes I like. They change the schedule and teachers every week so I use the post-it note method regularly. Working freelance, I never know what day is going to be best.

My stupid post it note said there was a 1:30 class. I rode my bike to the studio, about a mile away. There are two class rooms, the name and time of the class is written on the door so you know which one to enter. I noticed the door said 1:30 but rather than Modo (my class) it said The Workout. I turned back to the young guy filling his water bottle behind me and asked him what kind of class that was. He said, “Their hardest”.


He said something about interval training.


My brain is calculating like crazy. Is this some cross fit level business? How sore and depleted will I be in an hour? Will I be able to ride my bike home?

The room was warm as always, it’s a hot yoga studio after all. There are words written on the mirror. I’ve never seen that. They say things like Death Lunges, Craptastic Curls and Adios Biceps. I don’t know what it said. I can’t remember but here’s what happened.

The teacher comes in and says “Who here thinks this is a yoga class?” I don’t raise my hand. We proceed to do 3 ten minute sets of exercise where you rotate from one awful thing to the next with out stopping for ten minutes. In between there is a tiny amount of slumping on the ground and a lot of one off exercises. The only reason any of this can work at all is because the speakers are loudly pumping out an analogous interval merry go round of Ozzy Osborne, Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden. Dear God Thank You for Hard Rock. Thank you for the unparalleled vocal righteous anger that is the voice of Zack de le Rocha. Without him I could not have done 5000 pushups.

I honestly don’t have much memory of the ordeal. It didn’t take long for me to pass into an altered state. The final exercise was abs. At first it felt so great just to be butt down not using my arms which had taken out a full ivy league tuition level of lactic acid debt. I feared we wouldn’t be using them again for decades. I proudly had knees bent and feet off the ground as we twisted left to right and right to left for 5 solid days. By the end my feet were embedded in the mat like rebar in cement reducing needed core strength by as much as possible, I had utterly disassociated from the concept of feet and I was swaying more than twisting. I am not sure I have ever really truly collapsed before this class but at the end of that final exercise I involuntarily relinquished all muscle control and flattened like spilled ice cream on hot pavement.

Several eons passed and we figured out global warming and tribalism.

Wait, no, that didn’t happen. It was probably only a few minutes and the world was mostly the same except that when I attempted to become vertical again, I was over taken with a light headedness which quickly morphed into a need to puke. I didn’t. That’s nice. I sat semi-catatonic in the changing room for a while. Slowly my sense of self came back and with it a giddy wad of happiness. What is a giddy wad you ask. Go do an interval training sesh and find out!

I rode my bike home in 1st gear, peddling so slow it’s amazing the bike didn’t topple over. It wasn’t even the muscle fatigue I had to worry about. I was riding while extremely high. Some Venice Italy level flooding of endorphins was turning me into a day tripper. And I liked it. I was having thoughts of doing it again. I can’t tell you how strange that is. It’s the opposite reaction I usually have to discomfort.

It took 4 whole days to get back to normal. I am not fit enough to do another class yet I am contemplating it. Not what I expected.

How I felt when I thought about doing it again.