Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Month One : Progress Report

It’s been just over a month since I began the Anti-Cancer Challenge. Here’s my first progress report.

(If you have recently joined the Challenge, you can consult my Fitness Plan here and my Sleep Plan here; there are also links to these pdf documents in the right-hand column. I plan to post my Diet Plan this week.)

1.    Exercise 

As planned, I have been exercising every day for about 30 minutes. On some days I have done shorter, more intense workouts, and have thrown in other additional activities such as lawn mowing (very tiring when you don’t know how your new lawnmower’s automatic traction works… My 12-year-old showed me after I had nearly finished mowing our rather expansive lawn!). The only interruption to my exercise routine (past two days) came from stepping on a rusty nail and driving it through my shoe and foot while lawn-mowing (ouch!).

I still struggle to make time for my workouts at the start of the day – I often get distracted by other seemingly important and urgent matters (work, housework, phone calls and other procrastination techniques) and don’t get around to exercising much later in the day, at which point I feel much less energetic. Over the next month, I aim to exercise first thing in the morning, no matter what my house or e-mail cue look like, so I can shower and move on to other things without a guilty exercise deficit hanging over my head.

What has come as a very pleasant surprise is discovering just how invigorating even short spurt of physical activity can be! Not only do I feel proud of myself whenever I have managed to overcome my resistance and moved my body. At a physical level, too, I feel more energetic, more bouncy and resilient. Instead of increasing my desire for food, as I had expected, I’ve noticed that my appetite seems to be curbed for at least 2-3 hours after exercising – quite unusual for a habitual snacker like myself. (Perhaps also because I feel good about myself and don’t need to boost my morale with the help of chocolate…)

Another positive surprise is the fact that little exercise can go a long way. A mere 20-30 minutes’ activity each day (indoor rowing, jogging, weights exercises – all done at moderate intensity) has made a palpable difference to my body shape: certain clothes that felt very snug no longer do so, and I feel stronger and less easily winded. My arms, especially, feel stronger, and the wobbly under-arms I was beginning to fret about as the t-shirt season approached (my son recently called them “Mama’s jelly-arms”) have firmed up. Phew!

2.    Sleep

Writing down all my good intentions was the easy part; now I have to actually put them into practice! I have found it very challenging to get seven hours’ sleep this last month for two reasons:  overwork (I have an exceptionally heavy workload and it will take at least another three months until this abates…) and my children’s two-week school vacation. With more work to do in less time, I have been playing catch-up at night.

I have, however, managed to push my bedtime forward slightly from 1 or 2 a.m. closer to midnight, and the extra 1-2 hours’ sleep have already made a noticeable difference. I have noticed, for instance, that I drink less coffee (1 cup a day instead of 2-3) and have fewer starch- and sugar-cravings. I have also felt a little more mentally organized which I attribute to the mind-soothing effects of sleep.

Alas, I have been waking up quite frequently in the early morning hours to do a spot of nocturnal pondering (mostly work-related). Over the next month, I will try to get a better handle on managing my thoughts and to-do lists during daytime hours to give my mind a break at night (see this post).

3.    Diet

As I haven’t yet published my Anti-Cancer Diet Plan there’s little to report on this front. However, I have been enjoying daily doses of delicious spring vegetables (crisp asparagus, squeaky spring onions, spicy young carrots, tender spinach, pungent garlic shoots) these last two weeks which has felt invigorating and cleansing. I love coming out of winter and eating fresh spring greens; to me, their emergence from the wintry soil symbolizes hope, vigor and resilience.

More details about anti-cancer eating will feature in my Anti-Cancer Challenge Diet Plan, which I will unveil later this week.


  1. You're doing great! Keep it up! And morning exercise is definitely the way to go.

  2. Conner,
    You have done very well the past month. If only the rest of us could keep up with you!
    I love your descriptions of fresh, spring vegetables and will go to the market and buy some right now.
    Best to you,