Challenging myself, gently.

I struggle with the illusion that there is only a fine line between pushing myself too hard, and being a complete and total slacker. As I mentioned, if I push myself too much and fall into my icky cycle of doom, I end up just crumbling and rebounding to the opposite end of the spectrum. The balance of challenging myself and being kind to myself is one I am still seeking out. So, each time I agree to a challenge, or new endeavor, I get a little bit of anxiety. It’s abuse in either direction. Either I’m physically abusing myself by pushing too hard, or mentally abusing myself if I’m not pushing too hard.

I have encountered this with different kinds of challenges in my life, but most often, with fitness or eating related things that I try. These are the areas where I feel most vulnerable, so I try to tread lightly. Even something simple like saying I’m going to practice yoga on my mat at home, for 5 minutes every day. At first it starts out great, and I think ‘Yeah! I’m rocking this challenge!!’. Then, one day I’m sick/work late/hate yoga or whatever it is I’m working on, etc., it doesn’t matter. Then I feel guilty, then I feel shame, then I give up. I don’t allow myself to have any room for anything other than strict adherence, or complete sloth. That’s crazy, right?? I feel like it’s crazy, but it seems like I’m powerless to this cycle time and time again.

I love riding my bike. Love. It. Michael and I try to to ride as often as we can once spring rolls around, and usually stick with that until it gets to be late fall. Winter weather for me is just a little too extreme. It sounds like something I could handle, but when the temps drop below 40, I’m usually more of a stay in and hibernate with restorative yoga and tea kinda gal.

So, when I saw a little mention the other day about 30 Days of Biking, it caught my eye. It’s pretty basic really, just get on your bike, every day, for 30 days. It seemed pretty doable, so I signed up. I figured that even on days when I’m tired, I can do a gentle ride for fresh air. Michael was hesitant though, he knows my cycle, and what signing up for a challenge usually ends up doing to me, but I did it any way, because that’s how I roll. So far so good, 6 days in, and I’ve gotten on my bike each day. I have done this because I want to, not because I feel I ‘should’. It’s spring, I feel like being outside, and it is what I feel like doing at that moment. I have not been getting on my bike out of guilt, or shame, or anything negative. That is why this feels different. Normally, I think the issue is that I set these stringent expectations for myself. “Self, you have signed up for challenge xx. Go forth and conquer.” It’s not that neat and simple, so I’m always disappointed in myself for ‘failing’ at things that I attempt like that. I’m trying to allow myself some room to breathe on this one. If I am sick or I work late, or I just don’t feel like taking a ride, fine! I’m not going to beat myself up, at all. I’ve been so happy with how it’s going, and how my perspective on this ‘challenge’ has been different, that I’m selling my bikes and buying myself a nicer one. Not as a bribe, or even a reward. Just because I love to ride my bike, and I deserve to do things that I love.

This is one of the bikes I’m looking at, from Trek. I am aware it’s a men’s version, but, the women’s one doesn’t come with disc brakes, because apparently those types of things don’t matter to us women-folk.  We have just started looking, but this one makes me drool, so, hopefully I can get something close to this awesome!

The truth is, I’m unsure of how I feel about ‘challenges’ in general. If I want to ride my bike more, I should just be able to just ride more without signing up for something to keep me accountable to strangers. If I want to meditate daily, why will agreeing to do it every day for a month make it more of an ingrained habit for me? Challenging myself to do it every day seems more like setting myself up for failure, because inevitably, I will not be perfect. No one can predict if they will get sick, or break a leg, or feel like riding their darn bike every day. It sounds nice to want to, but life gets in the way, there are days where I just wanna watch Glee and eat guacamole on my couch. I’m definitely not aiming for perfect with this, I’m just aiming for happy, on my bike or off of it!

I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a new outlook on goals/challenges/changes/habits for me. Taking it gently, with some compassion, and letting myself do it my way. Challenging myself, gently.

Do challenges help motivate you? Or do they set you up for disappointment? Do you have the ability to be kind to yourself while also pushing yourself?

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2 Responses to Challenging myself, gently.

  1. Eilis says:

    This sounds so much like me it’s scary! I seem to always set myself goals and approach them with serious gusto, but one bad day and it’s aaall over. I sit around punishing or feeling sorry for myself instead of just getting back into it.

    I think I’m of the same mindset that I strain myself by either pushing too hard or not enough! That said, I am trying hard to work on how I handle the aftermath of the “bad” days. I seem to be getting better at getting back on the bike or eating more fruit or whatever. Reading your blog is becoming a great help too!

    Yay, go team!

    • daynya says:

      Yes! It’s funny because I feel like I can see this stuff from an outside perspective, and I can try to tell myself to work towards a healthy balance all day long. But in the end, this cycle returns. So, the thing that has helped me most is just letting go of expectations. If I don’t expect to ride my bike every day, or eat in for every meal all week, then I don’t feel bad when it doesn’t happen. I just roll with whatever happens, and take it as it comes. It’s not easy for me, but it’s certainly more fulfilling than the abusive cycle of punishment! Thanks for the lovely comment 🙂

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