On Habits

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about working out daily, wherein I promised I would wake up early and work out before going to class. This may come as a surprise to you, but I totally failed to do that. I started waking up earlier, but instead of going to the gym, I used that extra time to work on homework. Yep. I chose homework over gym time. That says a lot about me, doesn’t it?

The thing is, it wasn’t a bad choice. I started getting to campus early enough to work on homework and projects before class. In fact, I finished a project five days early because I could work on it before and after class. The Max was less crowded earlier in the morning, so the commute was less stressful. Waking up earlier meant going to bed earlier, but I’ve been getting good amounts of sleep nearly every day and my sleep schedule better matches that of my fiancé. We now go to bed together somewhere around 10:30pm. He’s able to wake up at 6 to make coffee and mentally prepare himself for his workday, and I can wake up a little after him and see him before we go our separate ways.

Did I manage to keep my word and work out every day? No. But was I able to develop a good habit anyway? Heck yes! It’s nice to see my fiancé in the mornings and talk with him. On my old schedule, there were days where I wouldn’t speak at all until ten or later. Talking in the mornings with my fiancé helps me prepare for commenting in class. Some days I have a lot of social anxiety, which makes speaking up in class difficult because I flounder about or lose my train of thought or talk too quietly—or I just don’t make sense. But that doesn’t happen when I wake up early. Or, at least it doesn’t happen as much.

Now, if there’s one habit I want to have, it’s writing every day. I haven’t had a regular writing schedule since early high school. I wrote often enough in college, thanks to my writing classes, but I wasn’t ever able to write daily, or without someone imposing a due date on me.

Habits, apparently, take 21 days to form. If I could write 500 words a day for three weeks, I’ll be that much closer to being a good writer. Clearly, Elizabeth Bear writes every day—or at least, she did for a time. Brandon Sanderson and Jim Butcher write every day, I’m almost sure. Producing content is harder for me than editing it, but it wasn’t always that way. If I could find that part of me that can write with abandon, that can turn my editing mind off… Well, I’d feel a lot better about myself.

National Novel Writing Month is coming up, and while I seriously doubt my ability to write 50k words while also in grad school, I’ll try to write daily from now until December. I’ll check back in with you all in 21 days to let you know how I’m doing.

My Everything Hurts (or, a Discussion on Daily Workouts)

Row of dumbbells

Picture me last Friday evening, wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket and sporting my oh-so-fashionable alma mater t-shirt and pajama pants. Then I get a Facebook message from my friend, which says something to the effect of, Tomorrow is the 31-Day Challenge with Tone It Up! Are you going to do it with me?

It’s important to note that this is the same friend who convinced me to start working out with her in the summertime. Thanks to her, my lifestyle resembled a doctor’s definition of healthy for perhaps the first time of my life. Unfortunately, going to the gym wasn’t a habit I maintained after my friend’s vacation ended and she returned to California. A month or so passed and I started my graduate program, and I suddenly had the perfect excuse to stay at home. “I have homework,” I would tell myself before turning on the PS4 and queueing up the latest episode of The Voice. “Yeah, let me just watch this episode and then I’ll do homework.” You know how it is. I knew, too: my excuse was a poor one. But it was an easy one.

Consider also that this is my best friend asking me to commit to a month of daily work outs. We talk about everything. There were times when we actually did do everything together. Most importantly, we support each other endlessly and without question. So when this friend asks me to do something, it’s not a request I can take lightly. If anyone else had asked me to commit to daily hour-long workouts, I would have laughed in their face. “You want me to do what? I just started grad school, you know. I don’t exactly have a surplus of time on my hands.”

But this was my best friend. And she would only ask me to do something if she needed help. Or if she thought doing it would truly benefit me.

So I signed up for the 31-day challenge with Tone It Up. If it turned out to be a mistake, I figured, I could always stop or scale my workouts back a little.

I thought I was prepared. But boy, had my body fallen into disuse after just a month. The first planned workout was too much for me, so I scaled it back. The second day, too, was too much, so I scaled it back even more—“running” a mile on the treadmill instead of the 5k I was supposed to do. By the third day, my legs were leaden and felt sheathed in ice. But I went to the gym anyway, thinking working out would help ease the pain in my muscles.

It didn’t. So I took the next two days off, and here we are.

Look, this is going to sound really nuts, and I almost can’t believe I’m saying it. But I regret not working out today. I feel better right now, sure, but I know this isn’t the way to become fit—and who doesn’t want to be a fitter, healthier version of themselves? I’ve spent years in a sedentary lifestyle. I’ve seen the consequences of being lax with your body in your youth. I have a vision of myself in twenty years, and I can only fulfill that vision if I change my unhealthy lifestyle.

Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up early and hit the gym before going into the city for class. If I can, I’ll do this for the next week (or at least until my body needs a rest), and I’ll check back in with you all next Wednesday. And, thankfully, I know that whether I make it through the week or have to quit halfway through, my friend will support me no matter what. Everyone needs a friend like that.