How to Prep for Your Workday Workou

Most of us are super busy these days, and it can be hard to fit exercise into that jam-packed schedule. I’ve posted before on the benefits of morning workouts, which have helped me establish a regular fitness routine. Mornings don’t work for everyone, though, so lunch breaks are the next best opportunity to get in some exercise. Plus, if your office has a gym inside or nearby, you can take advantage of those amenities with a workday workout.

But squeezing in a workout over lunch can be challenging. And I hate to say it, but the transition is even more difficult for ladies. Unlike most guys I know, I can’t have a full shower and be ready to get back to work in ten minutes flat! So when it comes to mid-day exercise, I can’t afford to waste time or effort in getting it done. Preparation is key to making your workday workout work for you. Here are some of my tips for doing just that!

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Staying Cool Outside Your Comfort Zone

The first time I went to a hot yoga class, I was sweating buckets… And that’s before the class even began! I’d just signed up for an intro class pass at my local studio, and decided to make the most of it. I didn’t have someone to come along with me to the class, let alone someone with hot yoga experience that could show me the ropes. In fact, I’d never even been to a new type of class without a friend there as a safety net. I read as much as I could about hot yoga online before the class, and it still sounded super intimidating. “Feeling like you might pass out is normal” isn’t the most reassuring thing to find out. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone!

Whether it’s in the realm of fitness, school, work, or even hobbies, I’ve always struggled with going beyond my comfort zone. I somehow developed the mentality that if I wasn’t good at something, there was no point in doing it. If I’d never done it before, of course I wasn’t good at it! This became a vicious cycle. It definitely made it easier to have friends or family lead the way. So for many years, I only tried new things if someone else was doing it too. This strategy worked pretty well… Until I graduated.

If you’re a student, I’ll let you in on a little secret: real life doesn’t have extracurricular fairs. And there’s no curriculum forcing you to try new things. If you let the pressure get to you — like I did for a while there — you will just stick with whatever routines you formed in school. Maybe that means you’ll party every weekend, or maybe you’ll just stay home and watch Netflix. (I’ll let you guess which one describes me!) But as that super-popular Pinterest quote says:

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone - Flinntrospection

Ah, the eternal wisdom of Pinterest quotes.

If you want to grow, you have to go beyond that comfort zone! 

That said, how do you stay cool once you step into the unknown and the heat is on? Thinking back to that first class last winter, the strategies I used in hot yoga are applicable to pretty much any uncomfortable situation.

  • Take deep breaths. Listen to the gentle music playing (or the ambient sounds around you), and focus on those simple sensations. It helps you tune out the endless chatter of self-doubt, and to calm the physical and emotional impacts of new and uncomfortable situations. Make yourself comfortable in the physical sense, whether that means rolling your shoulders, finding some comfy furniture, or choosing products that promote comfort and support from brands like Tommy John (check them out here). No matter what you’re tackling, give yourself permission to find your zen.
  • View others’ success as inspiration, not competition. I definitely struggle with comparison and the impostor syndrome that follows. But lately I’ve tried to be mindful of the times when I notice others that are better at something than I am, and to use the opportunity to set goals rather than to foster jealousy and embarrassment. A yoga example: crow pose isn’t in my practice at this point, but many other people in my classes seem to have it down pat. It’s been a conscious process to focus on my own journey and keep a level head (so to speak) when the pose comes up in yoga class.
  • Track and embrace your progress — then keep going. As you continue to work through a new challenge, you will grow… And so will your comfort zone. At that point it can become easy, once again, to stay in that space. But the more you try new things, the more you will be able to handle — and even avoid — the discomfort that comes with it. Feel free to think beyond the typical linear trajectory of growth, too. When it comes to yoga, it’s easy to think of the practice as a checklist of poses to master. But I know that my biggest hurdle is a mental one. It’s all about quieting the mind, focusing on the breath, going with the flow. Look for new ways to challenge yourself, and you’ll learn how to stay calm, cool, and collected in the process.

How do you stay cool when the pressure’s on?

How I Became a Morning Workout Person

You know those people you see out jogging every morning? Or those people who finish exercising at the gym before you’re even out of bed? Or worse, your friends that post gym selfies or yoga poses with the sunrise as their backdrop? They are what we call “morning workout people”. Maybe they drive you nuts, but you’re probably a little bit jealous of them too. Where the heck do they get the energy and motivation to be a morning workout person?

I used to totally envy those people. The thought of waking up and working out seemed totally out of reach. But now, a year later, I’m one of them. I wake up at 5:45 (and some days at 5:20) to start my day and sweat it out. If you’re familiar with Tone It Up, my favourite online fitness community, the morning workout is so important that it has a name: the “Bootycall”. And it’s a daily occurrence, not just a few times a week or only weekdays! So how did I go from never exercising in the morning (or at all, for that matter) to putting in a morning workout every damn day?Continue reading

Four Things I Wish I Learned in High School

School is back in session! Are you lamenting the end of summer vacation (or maybe celebrating it)? I’ve been out of school for a few years now, and it still feels strange not heading back to class after Labour Day. Looking back on high school, I definitely learned a lot, both inside the classroom and out. But there are a number of life lessons I wish we’d all learned in high school. If you’re a student, know a student, are a teacher, or know a teacher, let me know if you agree! Continue reading

Whether it’s a tight deadline or an unexpectedly massive workload, sometimes your 9-5 can turn into a “9-whenever”. Extended work hours can seriously drain you for days to come. Despite my best efforts, I tend to pull some long hours at work for a variety of reasons, so I’ve had to develop ways to make the schedule a bit more bearable. Try out these tips next time you need to stay late at the office! Continue reading

Tim Hortons Tips from an Insider

Happy #Canada150! For those of you not in the know, today is widely celebrated as Canada’s 150th anniversary. Today we celebrate all things Canadian: hockey, poutine, apologizing, and, of course, Tim Hortons. This coffee and donut chain is basically the hallmark of our Canadian identity. You might already know that I work at Tim Hortons Corporate, so it’s no surprise that I’m a Tims superfan. But even before I started at the company two years ago, I was already living that Timmies life. So today, in honour of Canada, I want to share with you some Tim Hortons tips to help you have the best experience next time you pick up your double double. Continue reading

Excel Bar Graphs

These days, everyone and their mother has “Microsoft Excel” listed as one of their skills on LinkedIn. So you probably already know that Excel is a powerful tool for data analysis, manipulation, and visualization. Working in Marketing Analytics, I literally use Excel every single day. (In fact, you might have noticed that I’ve been AWOL on the blog recently — I’ve been so busy with work that all I can even think about is Excel.) Some people are “Excel Wizards”, using tons of shortcuts and fancy formulae. If that’s you, more power to you! But in the end, it’s the output that matters: how will you communicate your work to an audience of colleagues or clients? Often you’ll present your findings in a series of charts or graphs. And when I see a professional slide deck full of ugly, unpolished, or even default-style Excel bar graphs (or any graphs), it drives me up the wall.

I want to help you. Continue reading

Life Lately: Cruise!

Long time no see, friends! I’ve had an extremely busy couple of weeks, so unfortunately, I haven’t had much time for the blog. That’s a hard thing for me to say, to be honest. I’ve never been one to claim that I’m “too busy” for a commitment. But when it comes to Flinntrospection, I see it as a personal development project more than anything. And if I feel the need to step back from a project to benefit my mind, body, and soul, then so be it. Continue reading

Blogiversary — A Look Back and Ahead

Hello readers! One year ago, Flinntrospection went live on the world wide web. So for our blogiversary, I’m taking a look back at some of the posts we’ve all enjoyed over the past year, and giving you a sneak peek into my plans for 2017. If you’re new to the blog, this post will also provide a nice little summary of what you’ll find here on Flinntrospection!

My First Post

This post, “hello and welcome“, went live on Boxing Day 2016. I was so nervous to release my writing into the world! We’ve come a long way since then, but it’s fun to look back and gain perspective on the journey.

Physics Studies & Academic Life

In case you missed it, I studied physics at university. (I know, I know, I’m nuts.) I’ve written a few posts on the topic:

Young Professional Thoughts & Tips

I’ve been in the working world for almost two years. I’m in no position to provide definitive advice yet, but here are some thoughts I’ve shared on the topic here on the blog.

My Fitness Journey

I hesitate to call it a “journey” at this point, but looking back a year ago, I’m surprised by how far I’ve come! This blogiversary is a great chance to reflect — especially since everything is documented! I’ll put these in chronological order:

Products & Apps I Love

At this point in my blogging journey, I’m not getting sponsored by companies to write posts or reviews. If I’ve told you great things about a product, program, or application, it’s because I’m genuinely a big fan!

Writing, Grammar, and the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

The whole point of this blog was to write. So naturally, it follows that I would write about writing, right? Uh…right.

(Don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? Click here.)

Goal-Setting and Check-Ins

Every so often, I publish my goals on the blog, in the hopes that I’ll be more likely to stick to them. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. For this overview, here’s a link to my Goal Check-In for 2016 from a few weeks ago, and my “30 Before 30” Twenty-Something Bucket List!

Other Stuff

If you browse around Flinntrospection, you’ll find all sorts of things that I haven’t mentioned here. There are discussions on astrology, motivationsblogging and budgeting challenges, my favourite teas and TV shows, and ramblings about my cat

I’m not yet at a point where I’m narrowing this blog to a particular area. Someday I might. But I’m enjoying the flexibility of a full-on geeky lifestyle blog, so that’s where I’m headed for now. Now that this blogiversary has come and gone, I want to let you all know that my blogging goals and focus for 2017 will be similar to 2016. Perhaps I won’t be averaging a post every 3 days like I did this year, but who knows?

If you’ve been following along for a year now, thanks so much for your support! And if you’re brand new, hello and welcome! I’m so glad you could make it.

Happy Blogiversary and Happy Holidays!

On Memory & Understanding

I have a terrible memory.

When I was a kid, I received lots of praise for my memory. But this was solely because I memorized “In Flanders Fields” and recited it to my church on Remembrance Day in the second grade. From then on, my family and family friends had it in their heads that my memory was spectacular. Whether or not it was true then, it definitely isn’t true now.

Sure, I can remember basic facts and concepts. I’ve memorized pretty much every intelligible song lyric on KiSS 92.5 (because they’re set to music and repeated fifty times a day). I’ve got close relatives’ birthdays and other important dates in my head. But my long-term memories are spotty at best, and they tend to be visual memories of “scenes” in my head, rather than facts and stories. And when it comes to recalling something I’ve seen, read, heard, or even experienced recently, I’m totally useless.

It takes a lot of effort to move random data from my working memory to my short-term memory. I’m often busy, tired, or indifferent, so many of the things I hear or see don’t make it into short-term. And if they don’t make it to short-term memory, they definitely won’t make it into the long-term. Numbers and equations are awful for this. (Even worse: remembering to remember something — hence my tendency to abandon or lose important items that I need to have with me.)

It’s much easier to store information that has a context or a meaning.

Knowing why something is true helps me to recall what is true in the first place. In my academic life, if I had an understanding of a physics concept, I would be much more likely to remember the equation that models it. Its components and structure would just make sense. And in the worst case scenario, if I forgot the equation altogether, I could use what I do know to figure out what the equation should be.

Between memorization and understanding, I am of the opinion that the latter is much more flexible, helpful, and indicative of intelligence and subject mastery. It’s why I went out of my way to avoid school subjects that required straight memorization, such as biology or history. And given my memory struggles, I believe that grinding doubly hard to memorize is nowhere near as useful for me as developing a thorough understanding of a subject, and working out the “memorizable” facts from there.

Maybe you’re a natural memorizer, and therefore you disagree. More power to you! But I maintain that it’s important for you to have context for the facts and figures you memorize.

The problem, in my opinion, is that a fact recalled is often more revered than a concept understood.

For example, why was it so impressive that I had memorized a poem? Did I understand the poem, its context, and its depth? I highly doubt it. (Though I don’t remember. Hah!) Perhaps people assume that in order to memorize something complex, you must also understand it. But most people who took biology in high school would disagree. There may be a correlation, but it’s definitely not consistent.

I hate when we judge expertise on memory, rather than on understanding. You may have both, but you may also have only one or the other. There are fields and areas of life in which both are mandatory, and that’s understandable. But I’m not likely to focus my time and energy in those fields. I acknowledge the benefits of strengthening and improving your memory, but I also don’t expect myself to be able to recite the Periodic Table (or something relevant to my life now) anytime soon. When it comes to expanding your expertise, I think it’s more important to understand the concepts, then go from there.

“I want to oppose the idea that the school has to teach directly that special knowledge and those accomplishments which one has to use later directly in life. The demands of life are much too manifold to let such a specialized training in school appear possible […] The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost.”
Albert Einstein

For some tips on managing a poor memory at work, check out this post!

How do you balance memory and understanding in your areas of expertise?