STEPtember (aka “What the hell have I got myself into?”)

Let’s get the most obvious fact to ever fact out of the way straight up: I loathe exercise.

It doesn’t matter what it is. If it is going to make me sweat or ache or move more than the absolute bare minimum, I have no time for it. There has only ever been one kind of physical activity I have enjoyed to any degree – for those playing at home, it was kayaking – and one of its key traits is that one tends to do it sitting down. I have never experienced, nor do I particularly believe I am personally capable of, any kind of post-exercise high beyond thanking the stars above that it is over and done and I will never have to endure that lost time ever again.

Thus, me signing up for a challenge that involves doing 10,000 steps a day is utterly farcical at best, the stuff of my personal nightmares at worst.

Yet, three weeks ago, I did just that. I put my name down for STEPtember, the annual fundraising event for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, an organisation that focuses on funding support services, equipment and research into the causes and treatment of the condition.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I did it. Maybe it was because I am quietly sick and tired of everyone saying that if I got more gentle, stress-reducing exercise, it could well be the miracle cure for my mysterious paralysis events, and I want to prove them wrong. Perhaps it was a subconscious desire to lose weight (yuck), or just to see what my body can do (cool). It might have just been a desire to do something nice for other people rather than wallow in my own self-pity for a change.

Whatever the reason, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve committed to a month of reaching 10,000 steps a day, even if I have to do so fuelled entirely by spite. And two days into my “warm up” phase, my regret is palpable. I’ve got my first blister, I’m utterly wrecked to the point of not being able to get out of bed after 5,000 steps yesterday (I worked up from 3,000 steps the day before), and the idea that the month hasn’t even started yet? Hoo boy.

In an extra feat of stupidity, I’ve also committed to adding an extra 500 steps to my daily target for every $500 raised. So that’s a terrifying thought. I guess I’ll soon be discovering how many of my friends are absolute sadists.

But despite all my misgivings and quiet despair at all the decisions that have brought me to this point, I do find myself recognising that despite the world falling to pieces and there being a literal pandemic on, there has been no better time for me to give this a crack. I don’t have any major commitments to take time away from hitting the targets, I’m not going to get any younger, and my previous experience with Love Your Sister has taught me that doing something good for others is the best thing I can do in terms of getting back on track to being a functioning member of society.

Though the next person who tells me “you’re going to feel so good at the end of it!” is going to be strangled with my Fitbit.

You know, once this is over. Because (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I’m using it right now.

If you want to chuck some dollars in for the cause, or because you want to see me suffer through an ever increasing daily step target, it’s all here.

An old grave in a green cemetery. Poorly photoshopped on are the words: "Here lyes [sic] the body of Noni Doll. DOB to 30-9-2020. Died of Steptember. Aged 30 years."
Above: Me at the end of this. Probably.

Little Decisions, Little Projects

Before I start this week’s blog, I want to treat you to a little (relevant) musical interlude.

Since the start of this year (and to be honest, since very late last year), I have been doing my best to commit myself to a handful of little things. So far, they include: a weekly-ish blog post, a photo a day, a few pages of a (secret) major project a week, organising a climate action protest, a nightly routine… It’s not a long list, but there’s certainly a few things on it.

While I was in Canberra, I found these things relatively easy to achieve. Despite sharing a one bedroom flat with my mate Sophie (who has a brilliant podcast you should listen to) for the better part of a week, I managed to develop a degree of routine to my days, ticking through things I wanted for myself, both in terms of being constructive on a personal and slightly more professional (is this blog professional? idk) level. I wrote. I remembered my meds. I started to organise a small scale protest against climate change. I even found myself waking up naturally at a reasonable hour. It was freakin’ great.

But the day after my return to Dubbo, I felt all my energy sapped. Wednesday, the day I’d set aside to write this blog post, was a write off: I started it with an “ice pick” headache – the kind where you feel like someone is ramming an ice pick into your temple – which was then followed with waves of bleakness that is the hallmark of my lighter depressive episodes. In the days since, I’ve struggled to get things back on track, which I was really hoping wouldn’t be the case – surely a week is enough to build the beginnings of good habits?

Nevertheless, I’m still doing my best to make attempts at following through on these little things, doing my best to make the little decisions required to get through the day without feeling like I’ve done nothing with it. It’s really fucking hard, and I don’t think that it’s visible from the outside just how difficult it is to have to consciously think through every step of being a functional human being, but I’m trying.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my face, brush my teeth, take my meds, write in my diary and get into bed, because that’s what real people do, and that’s what I’m (re)learning to be.