My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the tag “Healthy living”

My last day of On Ramp

I recently completed the On Ramp course at West London CrossFit. After a half-year break from CrossFit, I needed a way to ease back into training and I’m very glad I chose this way! I really feel ready to get back to regular classes. My skills are back up to par and I even corrected some mistakes I’d been making previously without even knowing it.

Everyone graduates from On Ramp by running the same WOD (workout of the day) that they completed day one. The trainers recorded both times so we could see how much we’d improved in On Ramp. I wasn’t sure if my time would drop because I had done this workout a number of times before this round of On Ramp. I was pleasantly surprised to see a drop of a little more than a minute.


On Ramp was designed to introduce people to all the essential movements and skills of CrossFit. However, it was also a great refresher for me. If you’ve taken a break too, don’t be afraid to come back. Don’t quit just because it’s easier. Talk to your coach about refresher options if you need a little help getting back to your best habits.


Ramping Up

So I’ve now completed half of the On-Ramp program at West London Crossfit. I’m really glad I arranged to retake this class as a way to return to Crossfit training. I’m trying to get back to my best habits and I know it’s better if I do it in small steps like the ones provided by On-Ramp. I’m getting a refresher in all the basics, (warm up, lifting, mobility, etc.) and now my form will be much better when I join the regular classes again. I’m sore from class but I feel good. I’m slowly starting to feel stronger and more confident.

I’ve gotten a pretty universal reaction from the coaches and Crossfit regulars. They look at me quizzically for a minute and then say something like, “You still train here?” I smile and tell them that I took a break but that I’m back now. Everyone is welcoming. Two more weeks of On-Ramp to go and then I’ll be back to CrossFit training. I’m looking forward to it.


On Ramp


I’ve been a member of West London Cross Fit since it opened several years ago. However, I stopped going last December. I had a bad bout of anxiety and I needed the time off to work on that before I could worry about building muscle.

Now that I’m feeling more stable, I’ve decided to go back. Today I attended my first On Ramp class. On Ramp is a program that West London Cross Fit runs to get people ready to start Cross Fit. During three classes a week for four weeks, On Rampers learn all the movements used in Cross Fit from stretches, to burpees, to proper bar bell lifts. Even though the classes are targeted for beginners, I asked the coaches if I could re-take the class to properly ease me back into my full workout routine.

My first class was really good. I like taking the time to review the basics and improve my overall form. I worked hard and I sweated. Beginner class or not, Cross Fit is a great burn. I’m looking forward to my second class already. This just goes to show that I am strong enough to go back to my best habits, even when I’ve taken a break.

Trying the Stop, Breathe & Think App

So I’ve been using the Stop, Breathe & Think app for a couple of weeks now and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a really simple app to use.

First I check in about how I feel mentally and physically. Then I can choose up to five emotions to add in. Based on that the app suggests a list of meditations that are suited to how I’m feeling. I do the meditation and then check in again to see if it changed my mood. Alternatively, I can just go to the full list of meditations and choose any track I like.

I like these meditations. They are straightforward and good for beginners as well as experienced folks. This app is really helping me make meditation a part of my weekly routine. It’s so easy to pop on my headphones and meditate for a few minutes. I especially like using this app when I’m trying to relax after a long day. My favourite meditation so far has to be “Falling Asleep”. It’s so calming and always helps me drift off. I really recommend this free app if you have any interest in learning how to meditate or in practicing meditation regularly.

Contentment, not joy

I think I can now safely say my recovery is going well. Like any good teacher, I’m going to give myself a bit of a report card on my mental health.

My process:

  • Taking my antidepressants every day.
  • Going to therapy bi-weekly or weekly as needed.
  • Working out more.
  • Eating less sugar and fewer grains, (both of which make my anxiety worse.)
  • Spending more time with friends and family.
  • Giving myself more downtime.
  • Meditating a few times a week.


  • I feel stronger each day. I feel anxious less often.
  • I feel more confident.
  • I’m sleeping better.
  • I’m laughing more.
  • I’m not fully joyful yet but I feel contented. I think I’m on my way to joy.

Stop, Breathe & Think

Recently at an educator’s conference, a colleague told me she’s been using an app called Stop, Breathe & Think in her class to help her students self-soothe and meditate. I thought this might work for me and for my students with anxiety so I downloaded it on my phone. Get your copy at Stop, Breathe & Think.

The app is made by a not-for-profit called Tools for Peace. According to the company’s mission statement, “TFP has partnered with over 20 organizations, universities and schools, and continues to strengthen and support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success,” (

The app itself is free and comes with a list of fifteen free meditations, as well as articles that teach the user how to meditate and a progress tracker. Extra meditations are available in packs of three for a few dollars each. The proceeds from the app are then used to foster more programs through Tools for Peace.

Well, this app looks like a great fit for me. I’m going to try it myself for a month and if I like it, I’ll try it with my students next. I’ll keep you updated as I work away at this. Feel free to grab the app and follow along. Happy meditating!

Back to the Gym


My gym bag has been taken over by kitty!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been taking it a bit easy in terms of my workout routine. My anxiety makes me more prone to injuries and my depression exhausts me. Now that I’m back in treatment and starting to heal, I need to practice healthier habits. Right now I’m mostly just going for walks with Nick, doing yoga and occasionally hitting the elliptical and bike at the gym, so I’m not totally inactive. However, when I think back to the times in my life when I’ve felt the happiest and the most stable, I’ve been working out more often and with more intensity. My workouts release positive chemicals in my body and make me feel I’ve accomplished something. So now it’s time to set some proper goals.

At my best times, I workout five to six times per week for an hour. My workouts consist of CrossFit, cardio at the gym, swimming, biking, hiking, and yoga, (it sounds like a lot, but if I don’t change it up, I get bored and stop working out.) So from now until my summer break starts, I’ve got four weeks to achieve five one hour workouts per week. I’m going to start with lower impact workouts and work my way up to a full variety of exercises.

Week one :

Monday – Yoga.

Tuesday – Cardio at the gym.

Wednesday – Yoga.

Thursday – Cardio at the gym.

Friday – Day off.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

Week two:

Monday – Cardio at the gym.

Tuesday – Yoga.

Wednesday – Swim.

Thursday – Yoga.

Friday – Cardio at the gym.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

Week three:

Monday – Bike ride.

Tuesday – Yoga.

Wednesday – Swim.

Thursday – Yoga.

Friday – Cardio at the gym.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

Week four:

Monday – Cardio at the gym.

Tuesday – Crossfit.

Wednesday – Swim.

Thursday – Yoga.

Friday – Bike ride.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

I think this is a reasonable plan and I feel confident I can accomplish it. I’ll update you as I work away at this. #dowahtworks

Moodscope Update

So I used Moodscope for a couple of weeks and I have to say, it’s a useful tool. Overall, I would recommend Moodscope. If you are concerned about your mental health or you’re seeking treatment for a mood disorder, this website might help you track how you’re feeling.

The Positives:

  • The daily email reminders kept me coming back and it is possible to turn them off once you’re in the habit to take the survey once a day.
  • It uses cards that you flip and rotate to rank your current emotions. Using these cards instead of a traditional ranking line means I wasn’t tempted to try to keep my results the same or force an improvement. The cards are randomized so you can’t memorize patterns. The idea is that this allows you to give more honest answers because it’s difficult to remember your past rankings.
  • The survey only takes about 5-10 minutes so it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule.


  • I wish there was a way to annotate my results with factors from my day, (e.g. if I have a migraine one day, my results will be more negative because I’m in pain.)
  • There are a set number (twenty) emotions. They cover most things but sometimes I feel like a strong emotion I’m experiencing isn’t on there.
  • After a while, the reports start sounding a bit repetitive. Although it didn’t stop me from coming back, it did make me feel like I was reading many of the same sentences over and over.

Below I have included some of my reports so you can get a sense of what they’re like. If you’re interested, head over to Moodscope and sign up for free.

Right Jennifer.


Right then Jennifer. Here’s how it looks. Today’s score for you is 41%, which is 28% below your all-time maximum of 69%. You are likely to feel that things have picked up a fair bit for you since the most recent time you took the test and scored 24%.

Whilst you probably wouldn’t claim to be feeling at your absolute best today, you are definitely doing better than you had been. You’re making great progress and if you can make even more, it won’t be long before you are back at full strength once again. See if you can identify the cause of this improvement and try to keep it coming.

Although you’ve scored below your average of 46.0% today, you’ve moved in the right direction since last time. Your score is a good bit higher than you all-time minimum of 24%. You have traveled quite a way since then.

Respectable work Jennifer.


Admirable achievement Jennifer. You have a score today of 71%, which is the best result you’ve ever had on Moodscope. You’ll be feeling that things have picked up a lot for you since the most recent time you took the test and scored 41%.

It is evident that matters are looking notably better, placing you in a much better position. You weren’t significantly down, but it’s clear that you’re feeling a lot more positive today. It is an ideal opportunity to pin down the cause of this improvement so you’ll be able to repeat it should things be not so great in the future.

Not only have you got a better score today than you had last time, you’re also flying higher than your average of 49.1%. Today’s score is above your lowest ever result of 24%. You’ve come a long way since then.

Pretty good Jennifer.


Very acceptable Jennifer. The score for you today is 59%, which is 12% less than your all-time high of 71%. You’re likely to feel that things aren’t as good as they seemed when you took the test last time and got 71%.

Your mood appears to be sound again, in spite of your score having dropped a little. There’s likely nothing to worry about, but remember that you’ve got the power to regulate your state of mind. Take good care of yourself and make sure there’s no further slippage.

Although your result today is not quite as good as the last time, you are doing well compared to your average of 50.2%. Your score is above your all-time minimum of 24%. You’ve come a long way since then.

Respectable work Jennifer.


Respectable work Jennifer. You have a score today of 75%, which is your highest ever result on Moodscope. It appears as though things have picked up for you a fair bit since you took the test last time and got 59%.

Life has got better for you. You had been feeling okay but you’re now in a stronger position. Pat yourself on the back and take a little time to see if you can identify exactly what’s been going right, so you carry on having a great time.

Not only has your score gone up today, you are also doing well compared to your average of 52.7%. You are higher than your lowest ever score of 24%. You’ve travelled a long way since then.

Being Truthful


This is an interaction I had with one of my close friends recently. I had made plans to go to a party at her house  but when the time came, I just couldn’t make myself go. I was too anxious to face all those people and the question about where I’ve been lately. I’m usually quite social so when my anxiety rears up and I start retreating to my house, it raises eyebrows in my social circle.

I’ve learned that sometimes with my anxiety, I do need to step back from my social life for short periods. I need that time to regroup and heal before I face groups of people. I’ve also learned that the best way to take that step back is be clear and honest. When I’m having trouble with my mental illness, I strip away all pretense and niceties and just tell my friends and family how I’m feeling. It’s uncomfortable certainly, but the benefits outweigh the temporary discomfort of being blatant about my anxiety.

First, my social circle gets an uncomplicated view of how I’m doing. They know where I’m at and they can be understanding because I’ve been honest. If I’m constantly making excuses, I run the risk of looking like a flake. Plus, people get tired of friends who constantly cancel plans. At least if they understand my reason and the fact that I can’t help or control my mental illness, they can cut me some slack, (and pretty much everyone does.) I’m pretty good at hiding my anxiety so I can’t assume they know something is wrong unless I tell them.

Also, being this honest allows me to forgo making excuses or lying about where I’ve been lately. I’m not a good fibber, even with little white lies. When I’m anxious, I’m already very uncomfortable. I don’t need to add the discomfort of keeping track of the white lies I’ve told people. It’s easier on my brain to be honest.

Although uncomfortable, there is also something liberating about being honest about my anxiety. I like treating it as a chemical imbalance I’m working to fix, rather than some sort of failure that prevents me from living my best life. It makes my mood disorder more manageable. Plus, by being this honest I can worry less about how people will react. I’ve told them the truth and either they’ll understand or they won’t.

I won’t lie; it has made my friend group smaller because some people don’t want to maintain a relationship with some they view as ‘unstable,’ but the friends who stick it out with me are dearer to me than ever. As for my friend from the text message, she offered her support and we made plans to have tea the next day, just the two of us. I kept those plans and it made me really happy.

Going out

I’m forcing myself to go out today. I’m writing this in the car as Nick drives.  I don’t want to go. I have comfy pants and the lulling boredom to keep me at home. Mostly I’m exhausted from running at such a high level of anxiety all week. The glare of the sun and noise of the morning traffic grates my nerves raw. But I’m going. First, breakfast with Nick at Billy’s, then grocery shopping.


Sometimes with anxiety I just have to decide to go out. Anywhere. Just not stay at home listening to my brain try to grind through my feelings. I can’t afford to sit alone too often.

So I’m going out despite how painful it feels, despite how tired I am, despite how much I’d rather be at home. Part of healing is going out and living, just doing normal stuff. Doing this won’t fix my mental illness but it almost always makes me feel better.


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