The Exercise Pieces Project -- Second Quarter Update

Well the first quarter of 2019 has come and gone, and furthermore, April and nearly half of May have flown by. High time for an update on my multi-goaling project, The Exercise Pieces Project. If you haven’t been following along here or on Instagram, see my prior journal post, below, and if you suddenly get a bee in your bonnet, please join in and let me know what you’re up to. The more the merrier!

Although I devised this project to motivate myself to pursue a few fitness and artistic goals over the course of a year, my broader hope was that it might somehow motivate others to hop on board and get after something they’d been wanting to do, for whatever duration worked for them. I was pleased when two others signed on. My daughter, Catherine Freshley who is a contemporary landscape painter, committed to doing 30 small gouache paintings on paper, which was something new for her, And Sarah Roethle, a watercolorist who had taken a break from painting, picked up her brushes again and committed to finding time in her busy day to pursue her illustration goals. You can see their progress on their IG feeds or here: #theexecisepiecesproject. It’s pretty cool to consider that had they not made the decision to simply begin, none of the pieces they subsequently created would exist in the world now. I mean, really!

Halfway through the month of March, I realized I’d better start thinking about whether I wanted to modify any of my goals for the second “quarterly installment” of my project. I also realized I needed to think about the design concept for my second wall piece. But. . . . I also needed to complete my first wall piece, get ready for an April textile event and prepare for a 10-day April trip to Oklahoma and Kansas, among other things. Hmm. . . Guess which of those things slipped? (Hint: the ones related to The Exercise Pieces Project.) But the good news is, I managed to continue my walks and online workouts, though at a somewhat reduced frequency, and I did manage to think about and sketch an idea for my next wall piece while in Kansas.

  • Takeaways from the first quarter:

    • Following Catherine and Sarah’s progress on IG was much more interesting than following my progress of adding a single piece of fabric to my wall piece each day—which is why I only posted progress photos periodically.

    • I realized I definitely want to increase my painting practice over the next several months. (I basically haven’t painted for months.)

    • I want to continue to increase my physical activity, including spending more time gardening through the spring and summer months. (I used to be a fairly avid gardener.)

  • Modified multi-goals and format for the second quarter of the project. (I’m playing catch-up here, it being mid-May already)

    • In order to facilitate my new goal of painting more: Gardening, walking or doing an online workout on a given day will earn me a painting session the following morning. I.e., no physical activity = no painting the following morning. Painting progress photos will be posted on IG. Those same physical activities (or lack of them) will also earn me a piece on my next wall hanging. I.e., every day will be documented in this second wall piece, as was the case with the first piece.

    • Days/evenings with two types of physical activity will be cause for celebration and will somehow be documented on the wall piece—exactly how is still tbd.

    • Linear, decorative machine stitching will be incorporated into the design of the new piece, but perhaps differently than was done on the first piece.

    • Charcoal colored fabrics will not represent days with no activity in this new piece—just because.

That’s where things stand. Hope you’ll decide to join me! (The whole project concept is explained in my February post.)

The concept on the left is the one I’m pursuing (sort of).

The concept on the left is the one I’m pursuing (sort of).

Repurposed fabrics I’m currently considering using for my second wall piece.

Repurposed fabrics I’m currently considering using for my second wall piece.

The Exercise Pieces Project (Or, "How I Committed to a Year of Increased Physical Activity")

So, I thought I’d share a little about the year-long, personal project I’ve committed to. I’m calling it “The Exercise Pieces Project” which is a bit of a play on words. Maybe it will nudge you to begin a similar self-directed project, tailored to your own interests. It’s based on using “multi-goaling” as a means of changing behavior, but other than that, it’s really wide open. So here’s the scoop about what I’m up to and how it came about: 

If you’re anything like me, prioritizing exercise over other things doesn’t happen often, if ever. But in late November of 2018, I turned 64 and I decided I really did need to find a way to make myself increase my physical activity and spend more time outdoors. Thankfully, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, I had an epiphany: I could multi-goal my way to better fitness.

Here’s where the exercise pieces come in. Along with my need to exercise and my desire to spend more time outdoors (Goals 1 and 2), I had a real need to make use of some of the smaller scraps of fabrics that accumulate when I deconstruct worn garments to make new apparel accessories and home decor items (Goal 3). Additionally, I had a real desire to experiment with making larger textile pieces for wall display (Goal 4). 

So I devised a “game” to address all four goals: I would begin exercising and I would document my daily progress toward my first two goals by constructing a wall “quilt” that I would add a “coded” scrap piece to each day. (See future post for the design details.) The textile project would serve as a behavioral modification method in which the daily “carrot” motivating me to exercise would be the chance to add a piece to the quilt, and the grand carrot (reward) would be the completed piece. In the process, some of my scraps would be utilized, and when fully assembled, the large wall piece would become a lasting, tangible record of my physical activity (or lack thereof).  Bingo! All four goals would be met and I’d win the game!

Initially, my thought was to create a single piece over the course of a year. But my first sketched design of a 365-day wall piece quickly led me to alter my plan. My next couple of designs contemplated pieces that spanned 180 days. But in the end, I settled for dividing the project into quarterly installments. This solution seems perfect for multiple reasons: 1) it allows me to use somewhat larger scrap pieces and still end up with a finished wall piece that’s a manageable size, making it appropriate for displaying in various locations; 2) I have a relatively short attention span when it comes to longer term projects; 3) the quarterly format will allow me to shift my specific physical activity goals every three months, if desired, and to also totally shift design concept gears; and 4) the timeline roughly tracks the seasons, which might factor somehow into the design concept of one or more of the quarterly pieces.  

My plan is to document my progress through the year on Instagram fairly regularly, and to provide updates here, less frequently. My hope is that by doing so, others might be encouraged to join in, and begin something they’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t gotten around to. For instance, maybe you’ve been wanting to begin writing, but haven’t begun for whatever reason. And maybe you’re also a knitter (or weaver, or potter, or baker, or whatever) and you have an idea for a new direction to take that craft, or you just want to experiment but haven’t quite taken the leap. Well, maybe this is your year to multi-goal and treat yourself to a new body of writing AND one or more new pieces of your other craft.  If so, here’s how your self-directed project might go:  Fifteen to twenty minutes of writing per day earns you five (or more) rows of knitting per day. Or fifteen to twenty minutes of writing four times a week earns you two hours at the wheel exploring new directions in clay on Saturday. You get the idea. And notice that the emphasis is solely on doing the work; i.e., completing short sessions of activity related to the primary goal on a regular basis. In my case, that work happens to be exercising. And although I’m guessing I’ll be in better physical condition at the end of the year, I haven’t defined any specific outcome goals; merely process goals.

Although I started my personal project at the beginning of the year, you can jump in at any time and take it forward 365 days, or for a shorter duration if you want. If you do decide to take the leap, let me know here and/or on Instagram, and then post progress photos on IG to #theexercisepiecesproject, even if your project has absolutely nothing to do with exercise. (And please note that “pieces” is plural.)

Hope you’ll join me. It will be fun to see what transpires and what we bring forth collectively!

Cheers!

The first exercise piece, photographed when I was twelve days into the project.

The first exercise piece, photographed when I was twelve days into the project.

The nearly final pattern for this first piece.

The nearly final pattern for this first piece.

Three quarters of the way through my first piece. This stage documents approximately 70 days of exercising (or not exercising). The small gold/green bands mark the weeks gone by.

Three quarters of the way through my first piece. This stage documents approximately 70 days of exercising (or not exercising). The small gold/green bands mark the weeks gone by.

Current state of the first wall piece (pinned roughly to a yardstick). It now documents three months worth of my daily physical activity (or lack thereof). It’s actually missing the last several days of March since my original design assumed that all pieces would be the same height. At some point, I decided to make the charcoal pieces (denoting no exercise) half the height of the others and I also decided to vary the heights of various denim and linen pieces somewhat, too. Surprise, surprise — those changes affected the overall length of each of the four panels. My impreciseness also created some issues related to backing and binding the piece, and it seems to be much easier to “let the piece rest” than to address those pesky issues! Stay tuned!

Current state of the first wall piece (pinned roughly to a yardstick). It now documents three months worth of my daily physical activity (or lack thereof). It’s actually missing the last several days of March since my original design assumed that all pieces would be the same height. At some point, I decided to make the charcoal pieces (denoting no exercise) half the height of the others and I also decided to vary the heights of various denim and linen pieces somewhat, too. Surprise, surprise — those changes affected the overall length of each of the four panels. My impreciseness also created some issues related to backing and binding the piece, and it seems to be much easier to “let the piece rest” than to address those pesky issues! Stay tuned!

Autumn at the Bay

I never tire of the sights along this walk to the bay, and in fact, am surprised anew by the beauty of each season. On this particular autumn morning of dark and light skies, a bear and coyote had been here ahead of us, and an industrious spider had found a perfect place to build a web. (Photographed with my iPhone.)

Prismatic Light

I love the late afternoon sun, refracted here onto a portion of my painting "Catherine vs. Katrina" by my mother's faceted glass candle holders.  (Photographed with my iPhone in low light.)