How to keep exercising outdoors in the drought

“How CAN you keep exercising outdoors in the drought????”

I’m writing this blog post because over the past year lots of people have said they just don’t know how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. We typically think of nature as nurturing and health-giving, a place of solace and retreat. Being confronted by a shockingly dry environment with frequent bushfires, brown landscapes that used to be green, National Park closures, and dry waterways, it’s clear that nature has a shadow side as well.

flowers before the drought

“It’s REALLY tough!”

To be completely open, I’ve also questioned how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. The whole climatic situation has been tough. Really tough! The ripple effect of the drought has swept up farmers, wildlife, local businesses, ‘town’ people, and those in the cities. We’re all affected in various ways either directly or indirectly. There’s a pervasive and damaging sense of hopelessness, and like any emotion, it’s contagious. Yet a sense of hope is exactly what we need to survive difficult or traumatic situations. Where there’s hope, there’s life. Without it, we spiral into a self-fulfilling doom and gloom mentality.

Exercising outdoors has been very confronting. I can’t walk on my home trails without seeing or smelling death. The brown dust colours my view as if I’m looking through a sepia filter. Ticks are in plague proportions. Swarms of good ole slow country flies are driving me nuts. The heat is unbearable. And there’s not enough water for washing your hair after a workout.

My stress tank is overflowing! How about you?

My connection with nature runs very deep, as does my yearning to be active. But in this tough time, I also came down with shingles. My stress tank began to overflow. I had to do something differently. Bushwalking and bike riding whilst constantly thinking about the drought and feeling unwell was contributing to the stress.

So what CAN you do when being in nature is SO stressful?

You have to put your creative thinking hat on to find a solution when things get tough. What worked before is no longer effective. The questions people keep asking me (and that I wanted solutions for too) are:

  • How can I reconnect with the side of nature that heals and nurtures and teaches?
  • How can I enjoy my time outdoors without feeling overwhelmed?
  • What mindset shift do I need?
  • What actions do I need to take?
  • How can I keep exercising everyday?
exercising in the drought
Exercising in the drought has it’s challenges

So I set you to explore this new territory and experiment with the possibilities!

Here are 6 solutions that I’ve discovered. I hope they work for you too!

1. Podcasts

If you haven’t got on the bandwagon yet, then you really need to! Podcasts are audio shows, a bit like a radio show, that you can either stream from the Internet or download onto a device to listen to later. I download episodes from my favourite shows onto my phone, plug my ear phones in, and listen to inspiring, energising interviews while I walk. Instead of focusing my attention on my surroundings, I lose myself in the show and arrive back home with excitement for life and new ideas to put into action. Watch out for a future blog post about my favourite podcasts suitable for Android or Apple.

2. Set an Intention

Before heading out on a walk or ride, I often choose an intention – something I want to focus on or get out of my experience. This is a personal choice, so it can be anything at all. Some of the intentions I’ve set for myself go like this:
“Today I will notice new growth”
“Today I will focus on the sensations in my legs”
“Today I will find fun”
“Today I will discover colour”
“Today I will notice sounds”

3. Mindful Walking

With mindful walks I like to focus on one sense at a time and when I notice my mind has wandered away from my body, I gently bring it back to rest on my senses. I’ve especially enjoyed focusing on my sense of hearing – noticing the many different bird calls, the sounds of the breeze in the trees, my footsteps on the ground, insects buzzing around, wallabies bounding along. I usually focus on one sense for a few minutes, then move onto another one. With my sense of touch, I focus on how it feels to have clothes on my skin, feet in my shoes as I take a step, muscle movement, sunscreen on my face, leaves brushing my skin. When I focus on my sense of sight, I challenge myself to find colours and light and patterns that I don’t normally notice. You can also use a meditation app with a guided practice for mindfulness of walking.

4. Photography

I’ve discovered that taking photos along the way really helps me to bring my attention to the beautiful things. Sometimes I combine photography with an intention or a mindful walk so that I can collect images that bring me joy, and at the same time it helps my brain to collect evidence that there is hope.

5. Make it Social

Walking or riding with other people can be really helpful because the focus is on that invisible connection between myself and someone else. Give me a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend any day, plenty of laughs, a chance to debrief the stuff of life that drives me crazy, and to celebrate the rest. Sometimes, too, there’s a sneaky competitive edge that sees me running or riding faster when I’m with others. Inevitably that ends up in a heap of laughs too, gasping for air, heart pounding out of my chest, and the satisfaction that I’ve done my weekly interval training.

6. Mix it up

I’ve always said “I’m not a gym person”. I’ve built a business and identity around my outdoor adventures. BUT, being unwell and being in the drought has helped me re-set my rigid thinking about exercise. Instead of going outdoors everyday, I went to an aqua class with a friend, did loops of the river walk in town where it’s a bit greener, and took up an irresistible offer to join a gym. I’ve extended the variety of exercise I get which is a fantastic thing! It will help me enjoy and have greater success with my outdoor adventuring which I’m still doing at least a couple of times a week. Going to the gym also gets me focusing on my sadly neglected strength training (one of those things I really ‘should’ be doing at my age!), all whilst staying out of the flies and heat. I get to make new friends and pace myself sensibly (sort of) as I recuperate. At home I’ve also begun a more regular yoga practice – something I’ve been wanting to do but it’s been a lower priority until now.

To Sum Up: Choose Your Focus!

It’s really all about CHOOSING WHAT YOU FOCUS ON. When we feel like we have What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?no control or influence over a situation (like the drought), it’s important to push the pause button, think about it creatively, and choose your focus. Like many people, I’ve struggled with exercising outdoors in the drought. The ideas I’ve shared in this article have made a huge difference to me, my mental state and my physical health. My hope is that they help you too.

Let me know what works for you! Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Planning My Time for a Highly Successful Day

Daisy Spoke Banner

Achieving goals means doing the work that brings success. This includes getting yourself organised on a daily basis by planning your time. When you consciously and intentionally choose how and where you spend your time, you minimise stress that otherwise builds up when you have to rush to get things done at the last minute. To help you plan your time for a highly successful day, I’ve created a beautiful daily planner that you can download and print from my website. And it’s free! Read on for some tips on how to use the planner to make the best investment of your time each day.

Photo of Time Planner
Click on the image to go to my website where you can download and print a PDF of my time planner

Plan Your Time for a Highly Successful Day

Your planner has been designed to be quick and easy to use. When you invest a couple of minutes each day into planning how you choose to spend your time, the payoffs can be enormous! A little bit of organisation goes a long way. Here are a few tips to get you started with your planner. 

Choose an attitude to take you through the day

It’s all well and good that you make an action plan, but it’s even more important to choose an attitude for the day. Visualise yourself selecting and clothing yourself in an attitude each morning, just as you choose which clothes to wear. Writing your attitude down on your planner, right at the very top, will keep it present in all that you do. Here are some examples of attitudes that you might like to choose from (but really, the sky is the limit with choice here!)

  • relaxedPatiently persist!
  • focused
  • intentional
  • mindful
  • gentle
  • assertive / firm
  • warrior
  • action-oriented
  • efficient
  • patient 

Choose a self-care focus for the day

Self-care makes you more resilient and gives you strength. But it can easily get tossed to the side when you’re busy. Don’t be a self-sacrificing martyr – the world needs you to stay strong – so make sure your self-care stays high on your list of priorities. Some examples of self-care that you can incorporate into your day include:

  • go to bed at …….. (write down the time you intend to go to bed)Say no so I can say yes
  • take my lunch break away from my work
  • say ‘no’ more often
  • go for a walk
  • chat with a friend
  • take the time to cook a nutritious meal
  • meditate
  • read a book for ½ hour

Choose 2 – 3 goals for the day

Don’t be overwhelmed by your to-do list. Be realistic. Choose just 2 or 3 tasks to prioritise for each day. When you achieve your short list of objectives, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and motivation. And that’s much better than feeling overwhelmed at the enormity of everything on your ever-expanding to-do list that you haven’t accomplished in the day. Some days my short list of goals or priorities looks like this:

1. go for a walkThe challenge with time management is to manage ourselves

2. be on time for school pick-up

3. have dinner ready by 7pm

Other days I choose goals that require more energy and focus, such as:

1. write and publish a blog post

2. update clinical records

3. research and write new privacy policy

Break the day up into sections

I often refer to this technique as “chunking it down”. When you break the day up intoBreak it down into pieces chunks, you’re better able to focus on that one period of time. You work more efficiently and effectively, gain a sense of achievement throughout the day, and feel less overwhelmed by the enormity of what’s on your plate. This type of scheduling can be applied to many different situations including school assignments, boring tasks, housework, meetings and so on. On your planner you can break up the activities you want (or need) to focus on in the morning, afternoon and evening. Here’s an example of what my planner sometimes looks like:

Activities for This Morning
  • go for walk
  • pay the bills online
  • clinical and administration tasks
Activities for This Afternoon
  • watch a training video
  • get the groceries while my son is at his speech lesson
Activities for This Evening
  • reheat leftovers for dinner
  • join my online video mentoring group

Keep a list of to-do’s to carry over to another day

At the bottom of your planner there is space for you to keep a list of tasks, activities andMake a list! other to-do’s that weren’t on your priority list for today. Having them handy here means that if your day has gone smoothly and you have time and energy up your sleeve, you can easily run your eye down this list and select additional tasks to work on. Or, perhaps things haven’t worked out today as expected and you need to reorganise your priorities. This space also enables you to make a record of tasks as you think of them so they don’t get lost in your hazy busy brain! My ‘to-do list for another day’ is quite extensive. I use it like a bank of tasks that I can select my priority goals from each day, and then cross them out as I achieve them!

So there you have it! A system to plan your time for a highly successful day. And a reminder to be gentle with yourself when it doesn’t all go to plan. This system is simply a plan – a flexible tool to guide your daily choices and actions. Experiment with the plan to see what works best for you.

Take a Minute for Your Mind

Take a Minute for Your Mind LogoHAVE YOU SIGNED UP FOR MY FREE 7 DAY CHALLENGE “TAKE A MINUTE FOR YOUR MIND”? Available for a limited time only! For more information and to register, go to the OFFERS tab on my website!

 

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

8 Strategies for Handling Unease During an Adventure

Daisy Spoke BannerHaving been on the road with my daughter now for over a week on my April Adventure road trip throughout central, northern and western Queensland, and heading north through the Northern Territory to Darwin, I’ve managed to settle in and really enjoy myself despite feeling unprepared and unorganised when we started. I’ve fairly easily challenged some of my underlying fears and assumptions about travel including leaving half my family behind, not researching details about the route and destinations, not planning my return flight home when I leave my daughter in the tropical north to start her new job, being female and camping in out-of-the-way places and driving on remote roads, and the list goes on. 

View from car windscreen

My latest challenge came only last night. Arriving at Elsey National Park near Mataranka I felt somewhat unsettled. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was about. The environment was not like any I’d spent time in before. It looked like a combination of wetlands and dry scrub with earth that appeared to be recently wet with rain but had since dried to a fine powder as silt does after a flood. There was a plethora of wildlife. The insects were very diverse, big and plentiful. I saw some grasshoppers that reminded me of the vivid yellow plastic toy grasshoppers you can buy in cheap toy packs from the dollar stores. The sounds of the bush here also seemed strange and haunting. I couldn’t tell the difference between bird and insect calls, or perhaps even other animals yet unseen. It was eerily quiet with only one other campsite inhabited by humans and the campgrounds extended well beyond sight in every direction. The facilities buildings were half fenced off and I was curious about this but couldn’t think of any rational reason why they would be fenced in this unusual way. 

We decided on a campsite with some shade, green grass and a picnic table, andCampsite at Elsey NP before we even set up camp we had a short walk around the area. A sudden loud rustle in the bushes next to us startled me. Turning around and expecting to see a wallaby, my daughter tells me I wouldn’t want to know what made that noise. On further enquiry she tells me it was a rather large snake, and I began to seriously wonder about moving our campsite further away from said snake. 

Roper River, Elsey NPMy uneasiness only increased as the evening rolled on and in particular when we came face to face with another snake only a few metres from our tents. Still, I wandered why the uneasiness was there in the first place. Was I sensing a spiritual presence? Was it simply that everything seemed strange and unfamiliar? Or perhaps the absence of other humans? Was I simply tired and misreading my intuition? Was it FEAR welling up and testing my inner strength? 

But how to handle this uneasiness? I decided to take some of my own advice and implemented these strategies:

  1. I chose to “be” with my uneasiness. I acknowledged how I truly felt instead of denying or avoiding it. 
  2. I shared my feelings and concerns with my daughter, getting them out into the open instead of hiding them away and pretending they didn’t exist as I would have in the past. 
  3. I listened and looked, tuning into my surroundings in the present time, focusing on grounding myself to the moment rather than flying off into a fantastical and irrational anxiety about what might happen. 
  4. I set an intention to be open to possibilities and new experiences. Instead of being closed-minded and putting up barriers to enjoying myself, I chose to embrace the experience and adopt an adventurous mindset. 
  5. I intentionally invoked a relaxation response when I noticed my anxiety rising. I brought my attention to my breath and let go of the physical tension that I felt. 
  6. I used rational and logical self-talk such as “Just because I’ve seen a snake (or two) close to camp doesn’t mean I’m in any greater danger than if I hadn’t seen them”; “Not all snakes are deadly”; “We have a snake bandage on us at all times and an emergency signalling system if we need to use it”; 
  7. I immersed myself in the sounds of the night as I went to sleep, setting an intention of getting to know them better; an intention of curiosity, wonder and awe. 
  8. I also created an action to take during the night that however irrational it was, it really helped! It may seem funny to anyone else, and in fact it does to me now too! Whenever I stirred during the night and noticed that I’d rolled off my camping mattress or that I was touching the sides of the tent, I rolled back onto the mattress telling myself I can go to sleep safely now because no snake can bite me through the mattress even if does manage to slither its way under my tent!

Kathryn at Elsey NPAnd so I survived. In fact I thrived and had possibly the best sleep so far on my April Adventure. I awoke before dawn, spent a couple of hours silently meditating, embracing my surroundings and feeling entirely captivated by what seemed so haunting and difficult the day before. I feel an immense sense of satisfaction that I didn’t allow my anxiety to rule and limit me. I chose to respect it but also to stand up to it. In doing so I’ve come to know an amazing spiritual aspect of this sacred land which I may not ever understand, but I can accept it and embrace it. And when I do that, I also accept and embrace myself. 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

 

 

 

6 Strategic Tips for Introverts to Survive Christmas

Do you gain energy by having time in solitude? Or with other people? This is the fundamental difference between introverted and extroverted personality types. Most of us are somewhere in the middle ground of this spectrum. Although this article focuses on introverted types during the busy silly season that’s ahead of us, it’s important to remember that everyone needs a bit of time out occasionally.

Many of us are familiar with the good old technique of retreating to the bathroom when overwhelmed or needing a bit of peace and quiet, especially if you’ve been privileged to parent young children who shadow you everywhere you go! Taking yourself off to the bathroom can be an effective measure against overwhelm, albeit it temporary. Yet the bathroom’s not the most desirable of places to spend Christmas Day. It’s handy to have a few other strategies up your sleeve so that you’re not relying on the one-and-only. Here are a few more strategic ideas to call into action when the social rules dictate that you socialise in a busy, noisy world, but in all honesty you’ve had quite enough.

1. Get yourself an ally

Before an expected big gathering, have a chat with your partner, a friend, your sister or someone else who’ll be there that you know will understand your predicament. Explain that if you feel overwhelmed you’ll leave the room for a few minutes. Having a support person to help you make your exit or to cover for you while you have a break can be just the buffer you need.

2. Plan solo time

If you’re holidaying with others, having a truck load of visitors, or heading out to a big family party, make your plan to have some down time or alone time to keep your energy levels well above ‘empty’. Having a regular exercise routine is a great way to recharge in solitude, or you could save a particular task for the moment you need an exit excuse:

“I’ll get this washing hung out while the sun’s out” or “I’ve just got to check something quickly in the garden / in the car / make a phone call.”

“No, I don’t need any help but thanks for offering. You stay here and relax. I’ll be back in a moment.”

3. Space yourself

Use boundaries with yourself and others. If being a part of the crowd feels stressful, consider exiting for a few minutes, or leaving. Alternatively you can navigate your way towards someone else whose personal space is similar to yours, and spend some time chatting or simply being with them.

4. Pace yourself

Many people feel overwhelmed at Christmas time with the added expectations of going to lots of events. Be choosy. Despite what your inner voice tells you, you don’t HAVE to go to everything and you don’t have to stay for the whole time. Be choosy!

5. Pick your venue

Family and work gatherings at public places like parks and pools can be less claustrophobic and less overwhelming for some people. You can more easily wander around, check things on the periphery and enter and exit conversations as your energy levels allow.

6. Set your intention

Begin the day with a mindful intention to stay connected to an inner place of stillness despite what’s going on around you. Your breath can anchor you to your place of stillness, and because you take your breath with you everywhere you go, you don’t need any special equipment or excuses. It’s simply there within you. You might like to visualise a retreat room in your heart.

So there you go! 6 strategic tips for surviving human overwhelm over Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

Against all Odds: Preparing for “Chicks in the Sticks”

Cool winter days with bright blue skies and a gentle breeze remind me that spring will make its arrival soon. There is excitement in the air as the MTB season continues its wave of races and events across the country.

“Chicks in the Sticks” is an all-female event designed to encourage participation in a friendly and festive atmosphere. I BRAVELY participated last year – it was my first ever MTB event and I surprised lots of people around me by actually having a go! I’m pretty much a scaredy cat on my bike and so this was a really big deal for me – I actually voluntarily registered, paid for and participated in an event with nearly a couple of hundred other people riding repeats of a 6.5 km loop for 3 hours. I actually did it! And although I didn’t get bitten by the “race bug”, I also didn’t want it to stop there. I wanted to learn from my experience by having another go this year and hopefully feel more at ease with the whole scenario.

You can read last year’s blog about my intention to overcome some of my fears about mountain bike events Having a Crack at Chicks in the Sticks

And my reflections on the preparation phase of entering an event Be Prepared to Learn Anything

So earlier this year I enthusiastically registered shortly after bookings opened up for Chicks in the Sticks. I had every intention of training even better than last year. However ….. life happened! In fact, a lot of life has happened over the past few months and I find myself now only 5 days away from the actual event with basically no preparation, less riding than normal, and still fighting off influenza. Cough, cough.

My family, work and community life over the past months has resembled a chaotic mix of medical diagnoses, surgeries, recoveries, visitors (these were the good bits!), sickness, more sickness, drought, broken bikes, short days, frosty mornings, unexpected work commitments, additional family commitments and now influenza! You name it, it seems to have happened in my family in the past few months and limited my capacity to train.

As this event has loomed closer and closer, I’ve definitely had those “couldn’t be bothered” and “I’m not good enough” thoughts that only serve to make me feel bad. They don’t change the reality, the things I don’t have control over. Giving in to those thoughts doesn’t change my sense of commitment or my intention.

The world hasn’t had a conspiracy against me giving my best shot at Chicks in the Sticks. At times I’ve believed it! But no, there is more to it than that. I’m not actually the centre of the universe. No body has pressured me to do this. The rules about training and preparation and participation are all my own invisible creations that only fit in the world of my inner thoughts, not in the real world where family, friends and health are the priority.

So I will bravely make my way round as many laps as I can on Sunday. Every pedal stroke will be a testament to living as true to my values as I’ve been able to in recent times – in the same way that my messy house reflects my attention has been directed towards my family members instead of the material side of life.

Against all odds, I’ll be at Chicks in the Sticks this weekend. My support team, including my own inner-compassionate-self, will be there too, reminding me of my intention to foster an element of fun and playfulness as I ride with up to a couple of hundred other chicks! What a blast!