Hi Spring, here’s a ten-minute workout!

It’s been a long winter here in Canada. It’s been a long winter filled with depressing news from around the world and small joys in the little circle of my life. It’s been a long winter with many excuses to sit: on the couch watching Netflix, at my computer writing and working, and on the floor waiting for two little boys to come at me with running hugs.

But in the past week the sun has come back and with it my restless legs. So, in honour of spring, here’s a quick workout in case you find yourself with ten minutes to move … and in case you find yourself inundated with chocolate eggs one day soon.Picture of bunny ears in a sunny field

Warm-up
1. Run up and down the stairs 10x (switch starting leg each time)
2. Downward dog to runner’s lunge 10x (switch legs each time)

Workout – do all moves 3-4 times, no rest
1. 10 burpees
2. Walking lunges with weights (6 forward, 6 back = 3 per leg forward, 3 per leg back)
3. 10 biceps curls to overhead press

Optional Finisher
1. 30 bent-over triceps extension
2. 1-minute plank (or whatever challenges you!)

Optimism: Nihilism’s Best Friend

Eagle Nebula, Pillars of Creation

 

New Years can be a dsepressing time. There is pressure to change and there is the weight of all that needs to be changed. I read that the world will be without chocolate in thirty years, that the oceans are filling up with plastic, that glitter is killing fish. I see in my children all that they do not know, and feel complicit. When they are my age, will the lack of chocolate in the world be the least of their concerns? It’s no wonder that billions are spent to make movies about superheroes – we devour those movies, because we feel so helpless ourselves.

When I feel a spiral of ecoanxiety looming, there is one thread I reach for, which might be called optimistic nihilism. I’m no physicist and I’m no philosopher, but here is what makes sense to me.

We are far less than a millisecond on the universe’s timescale. We are a grain of sand on a beach vaster than we can imagine. We are one inhale in the life of an eternal beast.

We can take this knowledge and be depressed. If nothing means anything, then self-destruction, global destruction … they’re all the same thing. We could decide to live our lives eating Big Macs and launching nuclear warheads.

Or, we could see the potential for meaninglessness as a deep well of comfort. If we truly are just an inhale, then it’s up to us to create a world that has meaning. Optimistic nihilism is freedom and opportunity. It’s up to us to find and create as much kindness, compassion, joy, love, and meaning as we can wring out of this life.

The “things” that make up “Everything” are always changing, but there has always been an Everything, and Everything will go on whether we are here to bear witness or not.

Anyways, these guys can explain it much better than me:

The Twenty-Second Workout

We can do anything for twenty seconds, right?

American wartime propaganda poster with the words "We Can Do It" and an image of a female factory worker (Rosie the Riveter) flexing an arm

There’s lots of research out there showing that twenty seconds of maximum effort can have huge health benefits (e.g. this 2016 study from McMaster University, showing that workouts involving three twenty-second intervals of all-out effort had the same health benefits as “regular” fifty-minute workouts). But that’s maximum effort and how many of us can push ourselves to maximum effort at home?

For me, staying fit is more about fitting in movement where I can into my day and doing things I enjoy. So today, for example, my “exercise” included swinging my kids around, dancing to Daft Punk in my kitchen, and walking around the block. At the end of the day, I still had some energy though, so I decided to fit in a ten-minute workout before switching to pajamas.

When I’m working out at the end of the day (or any other un-motivating time), I aim for maximum variety. For times like these, a 20/20/20 design is perfect. Switching up the move every twenty seconds makes ten minutes fly by. I also designed this workout to focus on my form, so I sandwiched some isometric work in between bodyweight and plyometric exercises. So here it is, a workout that switches up every twenty seconds … for the most part.

  1. Jumping jacks, high knee run, butt kick run – 20 seconds each
  2. Body weight squats, isometric squat, jump squats – 20 seconds each
  3. Right leg lunge, isometric lunge, plyometric lunge – 20 seconds each
  4. Slow mountain climber, high plank, fast mountain climber – 20 seconds each
  5. 1 MINUTE BURPEES!
  6. Repeat 1-5, using left leg for lunges

Disclaimer: As always, consult a physician or other health professional before starting any workout program. This blog is solely for informational purposes. If you choose to do any of the exercises discussed here, you do so at your own risk.

Three ways to add core to your 10 minute yoga flow

A picture of side plank position

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (i.e. before I had kids, when I was cool and lived in the city), I could easily find ten minutes a day to do some yoga. I ended every workout with ten minutes of core and a luxurious ten minutes of stretching. Every week or two I’d go to a full 1.5 hour yoga class in an actual yoga studio and I would lie there afterwards in savasana, wondering why everyone was in such a rush to roll up their mat and get out the door. Those days are long gone, my friends.

Today, I get to a yoga class every couple of months. I’m lucky if I have time after a quick at-home workout to fit in two minutes of stretching before children are climbing on me, pressing all the buttons on my computer, or dumping my water on my yoga mat. So some days I set a reasonable goal: find ten minutes to do some yoga. I have to make the most out of that ten minutes, so I try to incorporate a whole body stretch and some strengthening moves. I’ve been practicing yoga for long enough that I can generally do my own thing and not follow a particular routine, but I thought I would offer a few of the moves I incorporate to add some extra core-activation.

  1. Downward dog to plank – inhale forward into a high plank and exhale back to downward dog. Repeat 10x.
  2. Knee hovers – from downward dog, lift your right leg. Shift forward on exhale into high plank, bringing your right knee to your right elbow. Inhale back to “three legged dog” and shift forward on exhale, bringing right knee to your nose. Inhale back to three legged dog and shift forward on exhale, bringing right knee to left elbow. Repeat as many time as you like using your right leg, then make sure you balance out with the left.
  3. Push-up/side plank – from high plank, do a push-up, then rotate into side plank (pictured above). Repeat the push-up and rotate to side plank on the other side. Repeat as many times as you like.

You can insert some or all of the above moves into a simple sun salutation or into whatever flow you are feeling. Now it’s time for me to get off the computer and do the same before the kid invasion begins!

Disclaimer: As always, consult a physician or other health professional before starting any workout program. This blog is solely for informational purposes. If you choose to do any of the exercises discussed here, you do so at your own risk.

The Labyrinth Story Prompt

A photo of The aMAZEing Labyrinth board game, now called Labyrinth

How many speculative fiction nerds out there played this game as a kid? I loved Labyrinth – it sparked my imagination in a way that few board games did, and I spent a lot of time imagining with board games. I have this distinct memory of lining up all the boards in my basement, from one end of the room to the other, then taking the pieces from all the games on a journey, from the first square of the first board to the end of the last board.

Usually, they would end up on the board for I.Q. 2000, which was an awesome space-themed trivia game for kids from the 80s. The pieces would all find their way back to their home planet (it was the 80s, so either E.T. was an influence or my future as a spec fiction writer was set from an early age).

Now that my oldest kid is 4, we are starting to introduce real board games to him. We played Labyrinth yesterday (formerly known as The aMAZEing Labyrinth) and it stood the test of time for sparking my imagination. Since he’s only four, we played a modified version (i.e. zero competition), which involved collecting four items, then telling a story to link them together.

A picture of gourds and four cards from The Labyrinth board game

My first four were a map, a sword a dragon and a lizard, so my story went something like this (again, remember my audience is four!). One day, my hero was walking through the forest, when he came across a folded paper, tucked within a hollow tree. He opened the paper and found an old, crumbling treasure map. The map led him into the depths of a labyrinth. Deep in the labyrinth, in a dark room, he found the treasure. It was a sword in a stone (again – four – I can get away with it for now!) and on the stone it was written that whoever could pull the sword from the stone could defeat the dragon. He pulled the sword from the stone and as it came free, he heard a roar from deeper in the labyrinth. It was the dragon! He followed the sound, and as he traveled deeper into the maze, the heat grew stronger. At last, he found the centre of the maze, and there stood the great dragon. He tried to creep closer, but the dragon spotted him. He could not get close enough to use the sword, and as the dragon opened his mouth to breathe fire on him, he squeezed his eyes shut and held the sword above his head. But then, instead of hearing the dragon’s roar or feeling the heat of its flames, he heard a tiny squeak. When he opened his eyes, he saw that the dragon had turned into a harmless lizard. He realized that the sword was a magic sword and had defeated the dragon using magic, not steel.

I’m not submitting that story anytime soon, but it was really easy to come up with on the spot. If you don’t have a copy of the game, you could use an illustrated deck of cards or a tarot set just as effectively (if not more so – see this blog for some great resources on using tarot cards for writing inspiration). On a non-writing day, it’s great to have some tools for inspiring quick stories or sparking your imagination.

Eight-Minute Workout

pay-2426850_1920The toddler is napping and I went to bed at 9:00 pm last night. I have no excuses about fitting a workout in, except for all the fun writing I’d rather be doing. Solution? An eight-minute workout! (Okay, it’s actually ten if you count the warmup, but I like alliteration, if number alliteration is even a thing).

Start by warming up for 1-2 minutes – dance, jog, sun salutations – whatever works for you!

  1. Eight squats.
  2. Eight jumping jacks.
  3. Eight alternating lunges.
  4. Eight jumping jacks.
  5. Eight push-ups.
  6. Eight plank jacks.
  7. Eight supermans.
  8. Eight plank jacks.

Repeat as many reps as possible (AMRAP) for eight minutes!

Disclaimer: As always, consult a physician or other health professional before starting any workout program. This blog is solely for informational purposes. If you choose to do any of the exercises discussed here, you do so at your own risk.

I go through phases

This is something I say all too often and it applies to both fitness and writing. I go through phases in which I write every day and phases in which I don’t write for months. I go through phases in which I’m teaching bootcamp classes regularly and phases in which a twenty minute walk is a decent workout.

Right now, the weather is (finally) getting colder and I have a kid in JK and a kid in daycare (i.e. every surface in my house has a virus on it). Blankets, tea, and couches are all conspiring to keep me from doing anything productive. It’s not exactly the most auspicious time to be starting a blog, but I’m currently on strike at my day job, so I’m working my way through my To Do list. Yes, somewhere deep on my To Do list for a few years now has been “start a blog”.

photo-montage-488177_1920

So what is this blog going to be about? The title is a bit misleading. It’s rare that I write and squat and then write again, and rarer still that I write while squatting. But, I’m trying to both write and exercise regularly, and I know many of you out there on the interwebs are too, so I’m here to share some of the things I’m trying to keep typing, scribbling, thinking, moving, and creating. I’ll post quick workouts, writing prompts, submission calls, and other such things. To kick things off, here’s a submission call I’ve just sent a story off to and here is a ten minute workout I did today:

  1. Run up and down the stairs 4x.
  2. Step up and down 10x each leg.
  3. 15 push-ups.
  4. 20 rows with band or weights.
  5. Knee roll-in with stability ball 10x (or plank if you don’t have a ball) – .

Repeat 3x total.

Do you go through phases too? What keeps you moving and creating?

Disclaimer: As always, consult a physician or other health professional before starting any workout program. This blog is solely for informational purposes. If you choose to do any of the exercises discussed here, you do so at your own risk.