How to Get Unstuck

One of my physical therapist’s favorite phrases is this: Motion is lotion. When I was post surgery and thinking about bending my knee this advice made me want to punch him in the face. After my foot surgery and I could not raise up on my toes no matter how hard I tried, hearing “Motion is lotion!” was super unhelpful. 

And yet, he is right. 

The more I spend time writing these weekly essays, podcasting, and reworking my book proposal, the more I see this advice applying to all three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity. Let me show you how.

Health & Fitness

Our bodies want to be good to us, they want to move and support and flex. As we age and gravity seems to be working against us sometimes this feels painful. That pain can trick us into thinking we need to move less to hurt less. Then our muscles atrophy more, the joints dry up, and connective tissue gets more brittle. It is a downward spiral. 

But motion is lotion! Synovial fluid is the liquid in our joints and its purpose is to help the joints move easily. It also naturally decreases as we age. Arthritis is another condition that decreases synovial fluid. Anyone who tries to hop out of bed and bebop into the bathroom after age 40 knows this. But you know what increases synovial fluid – MOVEMENT! Physical activity and exercise increases the circulation, which includes bringing nutrients and synovial fluids to the joints.

Potential adjustments

  • Light stretches before getting out of bed
  • Non-weight bearing exercise like cycling or swimming
  • Lower impact strength training to maintain / increase strength in a way that is easier on joints
  • Increasing physical activity even if formal exercise is not accessible or desirable right now

Mental Well-being

Decision fatigue is real. Recent research suggests that we make 35,000 decisions each day. If you are like me, sometimes you get paralyzed by needing to make the PERFECT decision. Does this sound familiar: I don’t have time to do this, let alone REDO it. Let’s make sure it is right the first time. 

So, friend… How’s that working for you?

I often find that I am less decisive when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired. The converse is true too – only when I am frozen with indecision do I realize I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired. The acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT) is used in recovery as well. Once I address my basic needs (eat, sleep, engage) decisions seem softer. 

But if I still am uncertain I have 2 choices – to act or not. While there is value in the pause ((link to article on when in doubt don’t), there is also truth to “motion is lotion” applying here. Action breeds clarity. Sitting around thinking about how to arrange a quilt top recently did nothing to getting the design done. I needed to putter around with the layout, run it by a quilting friend, make adjustments and repeat.

Potential adjustments

  • Remember rest is action – sit in a hammock, wait to get out of bed and just enjoy being cozy
  • Try smaller steps towards a decision – a trial membership, a small container of a new food, borrow equipment for a new hobby before buying
  • Use a notebook you already have before buying a fancy planner or journal
  • Track time before making any changes to your schedule – maybe time is being lost where you think it is

Environmental Surroundings

Our last kid moved to her new apartment last week. Although she is still in college and could boomerang back after graduation in May, this feels different than her moving to her dorm. More permanent. Probably because she took furniture with her this move. It certainly felt different on my body to move a full mattress and box spring up a flight of stairs than to unpack sheets and a comforter in a dorm. 

What it left us with is a literal empty nest. With her room empty Bixby and I had some decisions to make about where stuff went. He has lots of guitars, amps and cords for his band. I have lots of crafty treasures and need a space for podcasting. He was willing to do whatever I wanted, his only requirement was a dedicated space for his stuff that he could easily access. 

I have been thinking about the ideal ways to use the space and furniture we have. Nothing seemed like a hell yes. So it became a no. Which was not productive or sustainable because we shampooed carpets, unloading rooms as we went. PILES of stuff in hallways, on my work desk, on my bathroom sink. A cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind. I just needed to make some movement – motion is lotion. 

We started with the obvious. We moved the bed from one room to the other. The trundle bed was moved from my office to the empty bedroom. 

I moved to the next obvious – craft projects in progress needed to get out of the way of the band equipment. Easy choice once the decision wheels were lubricated.

Each small step led to another obvious next step over several days. The hallways are clear and so it my desk. I don’t know that we will be done for awhile – there are still a couple  pieces of furniture that would be nice when the budget allows. But I have a peaceful environment again. 

Potential adjustments

  • Start with low hanging fruit – we knew we wanted beds in bedrooms (not in my office)
  • Accept that changing your mind does not mean you were wrong – you just found a solution that might be better. I have moved pillows between three rooms all week. Seeing it in the room is better for me that seeing it in my mind. 
  • Trust your instincts – including when to stop for now
  • Set a timer to give yourself a window that you will fuss with stuff. If you need more time, add it to your calendar. 
This empty room caused me WAY more stress than it needed to.

This will get easier with time. The more practice you have noticing your pain points and identifying small movements forward, the less indecision you can potentially have. Motion is lotion in all aspects of life. 

Sustainable You Reflections

  1. Where do you feel stuck or have pain of movement?
  2. How can you refine what motion is in that component of a Sustainably Productive life?

Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that work for you. 

By |2023-07-26T12:11:57-04:00August 1st, 2023|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Episode 16: Fitness Without a Finish Line

It is one thing to make a Sustainable Productivity adjustment to your habits, but it is another thing to fully embrace that adjustment mentally and emotionally. Susan had to create a new normal around Fitness for herself in order to make it Sustainably Productive – something that worked for me long term. Fitness means so much more than who crosses the most finish lines or is the fastest or thinnest… despite what you may see in today’s culture and on social media. Here is what you can expect in today’s episode:

  1. The full story of Susan’s fitness background and why it lead to burnout
  2. The two areas where Susan made adjustments
  3. Practical, actionable adjustments and what that looks like today

Additionally, today’s episode launches a new segment you won’t want to miss! Listen at the link below or search for “Sustainable Productivity with Susan Sanders” everywhere podcasts are available.

Links mentioned in this episode of the Sustainable Productivity podcast:

We would love to hear from you. Send your feedback on the episode, suggestions for future show topics or guests, and anything else to or in a DM on Instagram.

By |2023-05-29T10:34:53-04:00May 22nd, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

Episode 12: Exercise as Treatment for Burnout

Everyone knows exercise is good for them, yet we don’t seem to be able to consistently start and continue a fitness program. At the same time we are (proverbially) running full out on an empty tank. What if I told you that you can use exercise as treatment for burnout? In this episode you will learn why exercise is important to our Health and Fitness, what the components of fitness are, and get a few tips to inspire you to start, return to, or keep going on your exercise routine. Don’t worry – this is more than just lace up your sneakers and get running!

Links mentioned in the Sustainable Productivity episode:

By |2023-05-01T06:15:39-04:00April 24th, 2023|Show Notes|0 Comments

The Birth of Fitness Without a Finish Line

Once upon a time, the only thing people knew to ask me about was what race I was training for. Between running and triathlon, there was always something on the calendar. No matter the weather or the state of my body and mind, I NEVER forfeited an entry fee. Even if it meant literally or proverbially limping across the finish line.

This was not sustainable, nor productive.

So in my early 40’s I set out to define Sustainably Productive fitness for myself. This is how the idea of Fitness without a Finish Line was born.

Step One – Identify What Isn’t Working

The first step was to identify what was not working for me. This fell into two main areas.

How I exercised. I was always trying to go faster or longer. When I finished an Olympic distance tri, I had to go for half Ironman distance. I knew I would never win so I had to try to impress people with the distances I was able to go. Even if “able” meant nerve pain sending streaks of pain through my foot or chronic headaches after every swim.

I also stuck to the schedule NO MATTER WHAT. I biked in storms, barely able to find old barns for shelter from lightning. I ran across icy roads barely able to keep from sliding. I swam in lakes in early morning dark hours when I could only hear (not see) the nearest person to me (I keep telling myself it was a person I was hearing).

I am lucky to have come out the other side of such poor choices as unscathed as I have.

Why I exercised. The short story is I needed approval (the long story is for my therapist). Whether it was wows over the distances or societal approval over my appearance, I exercised hard to bring in all the gold stars.

Running burns lots of calories quickly so I stuck to races that incorporated some kind of running. Even though I have exercised-induced asthma, I would run through colds, often pushing them over the edge into bronchitis – just so I could maximize the energy expenditure.

There were several tipping points to bring about my need for change. Once I identified that I needed to make some changes, I started with small adjustments.

Step Two – Make Small Adjustments

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. SusPro methodology identifies value in what you are doing and encourages doing more of what works while you make adjustments in what is not working. Here are a few adjustments that I made.

  1. Racing sabbatical – no race entries for 6 months to see how it felt. The weirdest thing was that I did not have any quick conversation topics. Needless to say, this felt like a whole different problem that what we are talking about today. By calling it a sabbatical, I did not have to dramatically declare that I was never going to race again. I was just trying on this non-racing identity to see how it felt. Spoiler: I have not entered a race in about 5 years.
  2. Increased emphasis on pre-hab. Instead of waiting for injury to strike and cause another round of physical therapy rehab, I now have a pre-hab PT routine that helps to prevent those injuries. I added in some body weight exercises to boost my bone density where I can. Over the course of about 6 months I have gradually increased my pushups and can now do 100 military pushups in a day’s worth of strength training / pre-hab.
  3. Challenging yoga. My yoga studio closed during COVID forcing me to find another hot home for yoga. Never in a million years did I think I would land in power yoga classes in a hot studio. This is power yoga in 95-100 degree rooms. And I love it. This is for sure a COVID silver lining.

Step Three – Evaluate Progress

I track various fitness components in a spreadsheet. Here is a sneak peek from yesteryear (2018 I had knee surgery so the whole year was a bit of an outlier). Some days it feels useless to mark that I walked 1 mile, but over several months, it sure adds up.

And to be able to look back over YEARS is also pretty cool! Don’t try to recreate the past – just start today. You can download the Sustainable You Habit Tracker here for free!

As you are evaluating this progress, you just return to step 1 and evaluate what is not working and make more adjustments. You might have different seasons where schedules, weather, and interests impact your exercise routine. That is ok as long as you keep going. Be heartened that there is no finish line. You are never last, you can never fail as long as you keep trying.

Your Turn

Tell me about your exercise routine, choices, fears, and habits!

By |2021-07-12T13:36:15-04:00July 13th, 2021|Health & Fitness|0 Comments
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