Self Behavior Modification

So as I work on getting in shape, I worry about maintaining motivation. There have been a number of failed attempts prior in my (not that long) life and I'd rather not fail again. So I am busting out behavior modification all over myself to make it work. There are some great tips here, and I've listed out some of my other methods of personal mind control.

(not necessarily in any order)
1) Visibility-I want to be reminded of my goals and what I know I should be doing. So everything stays visible. My box of exercise gear (yoga stuff, balance stuff, aerobics shoes) is right beside the TV, so I always see it. If there's an exercise DVD that I want to concentrate on, I'll prop the case up by the xbox so it's easily seen. We have no garage at the moment, so the bikes are sitting right beside the table. I bought anti-chlorine shampoo for post-swim workouts and put it in the front of my shampoo container so I see it every time I walk in the bathroom. You could also place motivational notes to yourself in various places.

2) Ease of access- Since most things are visible, they're easily accessed. I have Netflix streaming and leave all the workout routines in a block so they're easier to locate. The running shoes stay near the door and untied. I keep my water bottle filled and in the fridge. All the workout clothes are in the same drawer, and if I'm planning on going to the pool I'll put all that stuff in a bag together. Generally keeping necessary accessories (say that 3x fast) together makes life easier, for example, the bike helmet is on the handlebars. I'm a bum, the easier it is, the more likely it is to be done.

3) Guilt- Is this a healthy motivator? I don't know. But I use it. Thinking about the cost of items, and that I really should use them, is sometimes helpful. Thinking about how long it has been since doing an activity is also something I do. And in the part guilt/part competition factor, if my husband/workout buddy is doing something, I will try to go along and keep up.

4) Mental monitoring- A recent study showed that people who just mentally asked themselves "how often will I work out this week?" worked out more often than the control group. (sorry, no link) So I try to think about my exercise schedule, and try to think how I will fit things in for the following day. I also am trying to keep a journal with short entries about what I did and how I feel. Keeping a written record gives me something to look back at for motivation.

5) Rewards- I am all for cheap, easy thrills as rewards. I have a smart phone and use the free CardioTrainer app for my exercise recording. Every time I turn it on, I can see a little activity figure for each day that week I did any kind of exercise. I like the little stick figures and think that they're cute, and like to see a variety of them on that screen. It keeps a full history, so I can look back and see how many total miles I have gone since starting the app and the calories for each. I can also see the maps of my outdoor exercise, which I think is cool. Finally, there's a widget for my screen that turns different colors based on # calories burned/week. I see it frequently when using my phone and always try to keep it in the gold/silver/bronze range. I definitely get a little emotional boost when I see a good color.

So that's a few of the ways that I've been manipulating myself lately. Nice to see that I'm making use of my education. Any other good tricks that you use? Feel free to share in the comments.


Disability or Ability- TV's Alphas

I watch a fair amount of TV. Now that I'm home 2 extra days, I keep it on for noise during the day. One of the shows i have started watching is Alphas from the SyFy channel.

Alphas so far appears to be a fairly standard superheroes kind of show in the line of XMen, Heroes, etc mixed in with some espionage and spy work. I like those kind of shows, so I can tolerate some of the less-than-awesome dialogue and recycled plots. Of the 5 types of Alphas described, even mild comic book or superhero fans could list other characters that fit these types.

What spiked my interest in the show was the character who is a "transducer" and able to act as an antenna to intercept and decode messages. "Gary" is able to read all wavelengths- TV, cell phones, computer traffic on the internet, etc. This is an astounding amount of information to absorb, but he is able to help break codes and find information for the rest of his Alpha team. In daily life however, he appears to be on the autism spectrum (some episodes more severe than others), getting assist from his mom or team members for many daily tasks. In a follow up episode, a new character is introduced who is a human "Rosetta Stone," capable of understanding and translating any language, but also considered autistic by those not familiar with Alpha-skills, since she is unable to make eye contact or communicate except by making seemingly random scratches on her hairbrush and other materials.

I won't say that the depictions offered on TV of a person with autism are entirely realistic. I've only seen 2 episodes, but even within that time frame, Gary's eye contact, speech patterns, social skills, and repetitive motions have changed considerably. Some of this is likely due to the actor becoming comfortable with the character, and the changing demands for different episodes. But I particularly like the concept that a person considered disabled in the context of average humans is valued as a superhuman by those "in the know." Which makes labels like "disabled" or "dysfunctional" worthless, since the ability (especially in this case) is all in how the person is treated and enabled. A not too deep encouragement for us to look past labels and prognoses and focus on abilities.

PS- I believe that Modern Family features a character with autism as well, but despite some of my friends liking the show I have never seen it.


thoughts on starting exercise

So I've gotten on the exercise train for a first time in a long time. And I have boarded a new train heading somewhere quite outrageous...

This is my first announcement in a public forum, but here goes. I intend to compete in a (sprint distance) triathlon next year. I'm not particularly fit at the moment, and can't yet do any of the distances for the 3 disciplines on their own, let alone consecutively. It's a process. My husband has decided to join in the fun, so we are both engaged in these struggles that can be both harrowing and ridiculously funny. There would be plenty of material for a knee-slapping gut-busting book or stand alone blog, but I just don't have time for that (how can I, when I already neglect this blog too often?) so I may share some of these stories in this forum.

On our journey to becoming athletes, we have already had a bike push (definitely couldn't be considered a ride) up and down a rain soaked clay hillside; a 2 hour hike into a canyon that required fording a river and another 2.5 hours to get OUT of the canyon; and a realization on my husband's part that swimming after a long bike ride is puke worthy. He has a serious strength advantage on me, and much greater skills in biking by extension, but I have the advantage in swimming thanks to years of lessons at the YMCA (thanks mom & dad!). So I learned a lot of technique as a child that I am now trying to impart to him as an adult. It makes for an interesting take on the difference between learning styles based on age.

The biggest technique piece so far has been introducing rotary breathing. It's a difficult concept for a novice swimmer. Those words were like poison to me for the entirety of 1994. It took me what seemed like a lifetime of 1x/week screaming by unpleasant swim instructors to be able to put my face in the water and master this concept. So even as an adult, when I (prior to the past few weeks) swim only 1x/year, I still can pull that out easily, like riding a bike. Since my husband wants to be able to finish the triathlon too, it was a skill he needed to learn.

As a child, (obviously I wasn't paying the greatest attention to instructional detail at the time) the instructors specialized in breaking down the steps to the task and repeating the practice in various ways. Blocked practice. First, kicking on the side and blowing bubbles. Then, kicking with the kickboard and doing head turns to one side. Then putting it all together into the crawl stroke, which you now have to do since we've thrown you into the deep end of the pool. (I'm having terrible flashbacks trying to write this, even now). Ultimately, until I got a new teacher and went from weekly practices to daily practices, progress was minimal at best.

My husband doesn't really have the attention span to do nothing but work on breathing for an entire hour in the pool, and approaching this from that angle might mean that he would never master it. So I gave him a few tips about how to turn his head while taking a stroke. (In retrospect, this probably shouldn't have taken place in the ocean, but like I said, we are having quite the funny journey). Then I would either answer his questions ("am I supposed to breathe out at some point?") that I hadn't covered earlier or offer some technique feedback. More of a contemporary motor control theory for learning, letting him practice and try on his own. After a few sessions (<5) he feels like he has a rhythm, and even if it doesn't look perfect, he is still able to crank out lots of laps while taking in more air than water.

So what did we learn here? Obviously, having an OT for an instructor is terrific! :) Personally, I think that learning the skills as a child made them well ingrained into my muscle memory and expect that to be unforgettable. It took a lot longer time for me to be able to learn and integrate that skill though as a child than it took my husband as an adult. But I think that the longer time to learn will make it harder to forget. It was easier for me to teach refinements to an adult than for Ms Pam to teach basics to a scared child who could barely stand up in the shallow end. I could compare this to different motor learning theories, but my books are all in boxes anyway. :-/

Well that was a bit rambling.
Personally, I am trying to take a balanced approach in this fitness plan. I really don't want to get an injury or derail this plan in the first month. Trying to add in workouts for flexibility, core, and overall strengthening into this plan. It's really hard to find time and motivation for all of this (and I have no kids and a 3 day/week job) so the ultimate goal seems very daunting at this time. Hopefully I can pull this into line (along with the rest of my life... house shopping, OT presentations, new job, other endeavors etc). And if I come up with things that are potentially interesting or tangentially related to OT, I'll try to share.


In the throes of ... lots of non-OT stuff

Life goes marching on...

Since the move, we have been trying to focus on more family time, and that has transitioned into an increase in athletic endeavors, which has been also going along with work on healthier eating. So there have been a lot of changes that we are trying to turn into healthy habits... a personal "lifestyle redesign" project, if you will. I'm not being super smart about things though since I've made lots and lots of goals, too many to focus on all at once, and no time frames. Also trying to buy a house, which is an insanely-detailed process.

I've only worked 4 days at my new job (a 3 day week and a week long vacation does make it hard to accumulate time, haha) but I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of things. There are computer and written portions of the documentation. It's a new computer program for me, and it will be interesting to see how all the documentation moves to computer (I consider it only a matter of time for all sites... it is the 21st century after all). There have definitely been some great moments with the residents and I hope that things will go well.

Ultimately, I would like to start a Lifestyle Redesign styled program in the assisted living facility. I have gathered some research to use in marketing, but need to review how to do a needs analysis, decide whether to pursue grants, etc etc. I would REALLY LOVE FEEDBACK on getting this started.

I've been keeping busy on my "off" days, which is kind of bad since I have plenty of OT things to be doing during that time, but there is a lot of ebb and flow right now. things will likely get done, just a little off the ideal schedule.