Check In, Continued

August 11, 2021

First, thank you for your comments and discussion yesterday. I especially appreciated the gentle tough love about perhaps not needing to go back to doomscrollng CNN (it’s a choice I get to make!), as well as the reference to Oliver Burkeman’s recent interview with Gretchen Rubin that commenter Mrs. Candid referenced, which I have re-posted below:

“Q : Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful?

A: I love basically any quote that points to the way so much of our unhappiness arises, not from what’s happening, but from our insistence that it ought not to be happening, or our refusal to acknowledge that it actually is happening. Charlotte Joko Beck says “What makes it unbearable is your mistaken belief that it can be cured.” Mel Weitsman says “Our suffering is believing there’s a way out.” Sam Harris points out somewhere that the problems most of us have to deal with are bad enough without the internal demand we put on top of them – that we ought not to have any problems at all.

Life certainly brings plenty of sadness and difficulty. But it’s so much worse when you mistakenly believe you’re entitled to some other kind of life, one that would be entirely sadness- and difficulty-free – because then every ordinary setback becomes a kind of terrible insult and an outrage, something that shouldn’t be happening. There’s vast freedom and empowerment in accepting the truth that this life, with all its irritations and annoyances, is the only one we’re going to get a shot at.”

So, thank you. There is plenty to be anxious about. In fact, one could choose to spend the entire day being anxious. But one could also be accepting (and even grateful) for what we currently have. Will keep this in mind today.

Part 2: Body

So! I am planning on a 3-part series: Mind / Body / Soul.

Let’s cut to the chase: bad eating choices, fewer steps, and probably more running (vs strength work) plus the miraculous phenomenon that is aging have all come together in an undesirable way. I am wearing just a fraction of my wardrobe that fits comfortably. I own this, it is not mysterious.

Some of it (ice cream on vacation!) was totally worth it.

Some of it (crappy work lunches) was just poor planning and totally not.

I am ready to get my #($*@ back together. I did not have pandemic weight gain in 2020; instead, I channeled a lot of my angst into walks and the 80 Day Obsession (which was great!). I was mostly at home, which helped with my eating choices during the day.

I was doing more running over the spring and into summer but you know what? I may be over it (again). It’s SO HOT, it just makes me super-hungry, and I am not seeing amazing improvements in speed, either, despite reasonable efforts. I’d still love to train for a faster 5K but perhaps that can be my winter sport. Right now, with months of heat still ahead, I’m jumping off the running train and back into strength mixed with some HIIT, and hopefully some more walking again.

About to jump into this one; I do not actually know what Power Sculpt entails but I suspect it will not be easy

A reader recommended Sydney Cummings, and I really love her workouts! I started doing a few one-off ones randomly, but decided to start Fit and Strong at Home (one of her programs from last year – probably her easiest, or one of her easiest!). It’s entirely free (Playlist Here). Today is Day 3 and I’m into it. Once I am finished, I will skip ahead to one of her newer programs or jump onto what she is offering ‘live’ (they drop a new workout at 5 am daily). The benefit of doing older programs through is that you can see what is coming; in order to get calendar of the new releases you have to pay ($8 for the month’s calendar or $30/month for subscription to her “Sydney Squad” which offers additional resources + support).

Anyway, so there we are. Importantly, I also have been cleaning up my eating habits (ie, eliminating extra carb-y snacks, sadly waving daily ice cream goodbye). Feeling out of shape NEVER helps my mood so I think making an effort in these areas is worth it.

LINK: Short 10 minute podcast from The Indicator from Planet Money on Digital Dependency (ie, phone addiction). Interesting! And a preview for tomorrow’s post.


  • Reply Elisabeth August 11, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Oh the summer eating/exercise spiral.

    After exercising almost daily for months (years), I’m in the middle of a 1.5 month hibernation of sorts. My weight hasn’t actually gone up that much (likely because all the exercise definitely made my hungrier), but it just feels so weird to not have exercise as a regular part of my schedule. And I can tell I’m not as strong or athletic as I was a few months ago.


    Thankfully (for a HOST of reasons), the kids go back to school soon and we walk to school daily. For me this entails over 5 km of walking Mon-Fri, and I’m sure all my other habits will fall back in to place (long evening walks with friends, running etc).

    I’m actually headed out for a walk now, ironically enough, but so glad to follow along with your journey on this! All the best; and I’m going to check out Sydney Cummings.

  • Reply Amanda August 11, 2021 at 8:39 am

    One thing that I really appreciate learning from you is that exercise routines can be fluid. It doesn’t have to be running for 30 minutes and then 15 minutes of strength repeat X 4 for eternity. What works during one season is great and then you can pivot when it gets old or isn’t working anymore. This was truly a paradigm shift for me and has helped so much!

    • Reply Jen August 11, 2021 at 1:38 pm

      I totally agree! Learning about your fluid workout patterns gives me permission to let go of what’s not working for me..which leads to more consistent exercising (and less workout dread).

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns August 11, 2021 at 8:50 am

    I think it is wise to focus on strength training now and running more in the winter. I do the opposite since our running season is the summer. It’s too miserable to run during the winter, just as it’s too miserable for you to run now. We have had some Florida-like weather this summer and it makes running a total slog!! I am training for a 10 mile race so am running 3-4 x’s/week and strength training about once. That is less ST than I would like but all I can fit into this stage of life. I know more ST and less running is probably the ideal combo.

    That conversation from the Gretchen interview is really enlightening!!

    Hope today is a better day!!

  • Reply Chelsea August 11, 2021 at 9:39 am

    I didn’t read your post and the comments yesterday until this morning, but it left me with profound empathy for people who live in communities where they are sending kids back to school without any kind of precautions or reporting. I would be so stressed out if that was the case here. I truly do not know what I would do.

    I’m in Florida and so our public schools are subject to DoomSantis’s no-mask-mandate mandate, but I’m so thankful for our school board, which made mask wearing mandatory with an opt-out for parents. That way there’s no “mandate” and parents have “choice” but everyone was masked. I have the privilege of sending my masked kids (who have vaccinated parents) back to a school with largely vaccinated (masked) teachers to play with other (masked) children whose parents are largely vaccinated. And that feels… okay. Absolutely ideal, no, but certainly better than many other parents are struggling with right now.

    • Reply Lindsay August 11, 2021 at 9:21 pm

      I find it interesting that you call him DoomSantis … I personally do not agree with the mask-madates but I would never tell someone they can’t wear a mask BUT I don’t think that children should be required to wear them. It is hard enough for these kids who have been struggling to learn for the past two years to continue to struggle in the class room. My niece for example has ADHD, Autism, and has some hearing issues so when the other kids and teachers are wearing masks she cannot read their lips (which she does to help her understand people) and then of course with the social distancing it is making it harder to develop relationships which is already hard enough for her because of Autism. So is she supposed to continue to suffer? I think no. But that’s just my two cents. If I lived in Florida, I would definitely be sending my kids / niece to school mask free!

      • Reply Heather August 11, 2021 at 10:57 pm

        In some districts, your niece’s situation would allow her to be medically exempt from wearing a mask. I am fairly certain that all of the districts in Florida allow for exemptions. For the majority of students, though, they are perfectly fine wearing a mask. I am a teacher, trust me, they get used to it quickly.

  • Reply Sophie August 11, 2021 at 11:02 am

    Just catching up on yesterday and today’s post and thank you for sharing Burkeman’s quote. We have been back in lockdown in Sydney, Australia for 7 weeks so far due to a Delta outbreak and it has been VERY difficult psychologically to deal with, when I had high hopes for 2021. But acknowledging it is the reality and it is a bit s*%#, rather than thinking about how it should be or trying to be positive, actually helped me, as did limiting my news scrolling and doing a lot of meditation (on my headspace app). Anyway I guess what I’m saying is also be kind to yourself, your reaction to the situation is normal and I think a lot of us are having to work through difficult emotions in response to the ongoing pandemic (which kind of almost felt like it was over for a while!).

  • Reply YS August 11, 2021 at 11:20 am

    That reminds me of something the Dalai Lama said– that suffering is part of life, and people bring even more suffering into their lives by believing that it’s somehow an anomaly to living instead of part and parcel. I’m totally paraphrasing here. It’s true, non-acceptance seems to play a big part in feeling extra crappy while navigating an already crappy situation whatever that may be.

  • Reply YS August 11, 2021 at 11:25 am

    Oh yeah, the workouts! I think I was the one who suggested Sydney Cummings although I totally misspelled her name at the time! I’ve started doing more of her workouts lately instead of the less chatty ones (i.e., Carol Girvan, Heather Robertson). Usually, I don’t like chatter, but Sydney is such a likeable instructor. Not too perky, very encouraging, and most importantly, is not always talking about how we need to change our bodies in to something else/better. I really like her attitude!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 11, 2021 at 11:30 am

      Yes it was you!!! I agree, her chatter is very kind and encouraging! I am glad you sent me her way!

  • Reply RKK August 11, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I once read a quote by Kelly Corrigan that I loved: ‘Resistance is suffering on permanent repeat.’ It so rings true in these times.

    Thank you for sharing your exercise/eating challenges. I view you for some reason as a paragon of healthy eating and exercise, so knowing that you struggle has helped me not feel so down about myself and get back on the healthy eating train too. And I’m going to try Sydney Cummings until Amoila’s new program is out on BoD!

  • Reply Omdg August 11, 2021 at 12:53 pm

    This is why exercising to stay thin doesn’t work for me. One tiny slip and you’re set back 2 months. I wish I had a solution but I don’t. Maybe make it social? I enjoy working out so much more when I am able to do it with a buddy, it’s just impossible to find someone to go with. Exercise videos and zoom are just not the same.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 11, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      I used to run with a friend but I don’t mind doing weights solo. I never lack motivation to work out but running as primary exercise really doesn’t seem to serve me anymore.

      I think I am just trying to accept the ebbs and flows. It is what it is i guess. At least with strength training it can be satisfying to get stronger again when you recommit!

      • Reply Grateful Kae August 11, 2021 at 9:49 pm

        I think muscle memory is very real and once you have done consistent strength training (as you have), I think you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll regain your strength and more muscle tone again. I’ve been out of my serious strength regimens too lately and am hoping to dial it back in when school starts in a few weeks for us too. More running/cardio definitely makes me ravenous and backfires on me these days also.

  • Reply Irene August 11, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    That’s a fantastic quote and very timely. I think for me it’s also the momma bear culture of not that you have to make things perfect for your kids but that you have the ultimate responsibility to get them what ever they need no matter how hard things are. I’m better about accepting things for myself than for my kids. And during some points of the pandemic I could not get my daughter the mental health help she needed and that was what basically broke me. Thank god things have improved and she’s getting help now and I think will be ok long term but I think that’s what I’m most terrified of happening again.

    About exercise- I have been feeling in need of endorphins which I just don’t seem to get as much from strength training. I completely agree with what works best for my body being weights but my brain really needs the boost sometimes. Have you found that? Maybe I’m doing the wrong strength work outs- but upper body focused ones in particular really don’t boost my mood.

  • Reply coco August 11, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    fully get your point of running makes you more hungry and mentally be more indulgent with food choices. I was hiatus from running for 3 months and did strengthen training instead and in best tone shape ever. I did miss the feeling of running thought and my daughter just started running with a friend so now I’m running with her and I’m liking short distances (2-3 miles). it doesn’t take away too much energy so I can still do strength training but got the cardio in and the euphoria before 7am. not planning to do long distance yet, maybe this is the sweet spot for now. Again, agree with other readers that workout routine could be fluid and should work for our current life style and situation.

  • Reply Heather August 11, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    As women get older, strength straining is better for us than cardio centric exercise. In fact, the heavier the better!

  • Reply Brenda August 12, 2021 at 10:31 am

    I’m glad I found Sydney from you! Haven’t done any workouts yet but her TED Talk was great and I like her InstagramTV stories of meals and snacks. It’s sensible and simple!

  • Reply Alyce August 18, 2021 at 8:41 am

    My hormones have been totally whack and I’ve been feeling pretty low-level crummy over the last year. I’ve been getting back on track with better and more consistent sleeping and eating habits. Unsurprisingly, these lifestyle tweaks have made a huge difference in how I feel. At 36, I find myself to be more sensitive to bad habits than I was when I was younger. The most helpful thing I’ve learned about exercise is that I respond to different types of exercise in different ways, both mentally and physically, so I’m routinely rotating through short 2 mile runs, longer 2-4 mile walks, Bikram yoga, more traditional Hatha flow yoga, and strength training. What I do any given day depends on what I need. Walking and Bikram are the exercises I have the most joy doing so I do them most often. Walking with friends is particularly joyful. But I always run when I’m feeling anxious. Strength training I do for the part of my ego that loves feeling strong. When you’ve talk about running over the years that I’ve read your blog, I’ve always gotten the sense that it’s an exercise you love the way I love Bikram. But I can’t help but wonder if the speed goals or feeling like it doesn’t live up to your body composition goals actually serve to diminish the joy you get from running. And maybe your body composition goals aren’t realistic if they can only be maintained by perfect eating and exclusively strength training. I might not be as skinny as I would like to be, but if being skinner requires me to do less Bikram and less walking with friends in order to have more time for strength training, I don’t actually want to be skinnier.

    • Reply Alyce August 19, 2021 at 2:37 pm

      I think my comment was kinda unintentionally douchey at the end, and I’m sorry for that. You’re a grown ass woman and whatever exercise you want to do for whatever reason is totally fine. You don’t need my unsolicited advice about life. You’re doing just fine.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 19, 2021 at 3:02 pm

      I thought the comment was totally fine 🙂 I don’t want to be “skinny” per se but I don’t want to be squishy either or unable to do a long hike or bike ride. I’m sure it’s the patriarchy telling me this but I’m at peace with that 🙂

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