fitness · food

NY Times 7-Day Sugar Challenge review: skip the print, look at the pictures

It’s January. Everyone’s on the behavior change bandwagon. Or, if not already on it, they’re waiting for the right bandwagon to come by.

Comic of one person waiting at a bus stop, and loads of folks waiting at a bandwagon stop. Literal, but still amusing.
Comic of one person waiting at a bus stop, and loads of folks waiting at a bandwagon stop. Literal, but still amusing.

Cate wrote about the Yoga with Adriene 30-day yoga journey (a kinder, gentler challenge which I really like), and we get to see many of the good features of challenges there.

Out of curiosity more than any actual desire for radical change, I signed up for the New York Times’ 7-day sugar challenge. Here’s what they promised:

Every day for the next 7 days, we’ll share a simple new strategy for cutting added sugar from your daily diet [and] …readings about how sugar affects your body.

The Sugar Challenge will show you, step by step, how to cut all that added sugar in your diet as well as tricks for satisfying your sweet tooth. Each day you will take on a new challenge while repeating the challenges from the previous days. By the end of the week, you will have adopted several new healthful habits and discovered that life really is sweeter without all that extra sugar!

Great! I will have a whole new relationship with sugar (that of total abandonment, I assume) in just seven days. Wow.

Color me skeptical.

You never know what images will come up from Googling; I really like this one. It's a hippo, and the print reads Skeptical hippo is skeptical.
You never know what will come up on Google images. “Skeptical hippo is skeptical” is my new favorite sentence.

So as not to waste your valuable blog-reading time, I’ll put all seven days in a list:

  • Eat breakfast foods with no sugar (no grains, sweetened dairy, doughnuts, etc)
  • Start jettisoning packaged foods from your diet, as lots of them contain added sugar (even those that don’t seem sweet)
  • Eat fruit (but the higher-fiber and lower-sugar fruit– no bananas or grapes)
  • Drink only water (or plain selzer– whew…)
  • Eat spicy food (and you can maybe have some berries or orange slices after)
  • Roast root vegetables, and enjoy their sweetness
  • Savor a small piece of dark chocolate sometimes (but not every day)

Now, I do give the NY Times credit for finding scientific research behind all of these suggestions (which you can find in the articles). But honestly, this is pretty much advice of the buy-low/sell-high variety. Who doesn’t know that most sodas, juices and sports drinks contain a lot of sugar?

What they don’t do is what (almost) everyone doesn’t do– they don’t tell you HOW to bring yourself to the point where you can make what may be big changes and maintain them over time. Like almost everyone, they just say, “decide to do this, and before you know it, it’ll be a habit”.

(Brief aside: even though I’m skeptical hippo, I think Nia Shanks really gets that we need to dig deeper into the narratives we place ourselves in that keep us in habits we wish we could change. Check out what we’re writing about Nia’s 100-day reclaim here. Now back to the current blog post…)

Lest you, dear readers, think I’m just writing another rant about how media gets nutrition advice wrong, let me say this: I come here not to bury the 7-day sugar challenge, but to praise it. Well, its illustrations anyway. Check these out:

And these:

Yep, there are more:

And then there’s the chocolate:

Yep, this chocolate is made of paper, too.
Yep, this chocolate is made of paper, too.

The artist responsible for these marvelous yummy creations is Reina Takahashi, a paper artist and photographer. She does magnificent creative renderings of food, ordinary objects, scenes, all sorts of things. Her illustrations made me much more interested in beets and water pitchers and chili peppers than all the articles the NY Times could throw at me. Here’s what she said about some of her work:

This paper beet is my favorite of the series for the way that it photographed. The green leaves have crisp edges against their shadows and a good bit of texture, while the rest of the beet has a clean range of light/dark.

The little green hats on these red chili friends were my favorite part to make!

I bought a bar of dark chocolate in order to use its silver wrapper in this illustration (the contents went to good use, I promise).

Reina’s paper food art reminds me of the whimsy and fun that we can have with our food. Food is about color and texture and depth and light and little green hats and silver linings and more. Seeing my food in a different way– MADE OF PAPER!– made me think about possibilities for preparing it, serving it, displaying it and eating it differently. And that, my friends, is a good way for us to open pathways to new ways of being, seeing, doing, and maybe even eating.

These illustrations tickled me pink. I hope you like them too.

Oh, and about the sugar challenge: I say go straight to day 8: Make or draw or construct or paint or prepare some food (out of paper or just out of food), and enjoy its beautiful qualities.

So, readers, are you as transported by these illustrations as I am? Did you go to Reina’s blog? Are you impressed or unimpressed by the sugar challenge? Do you want to meet skeptical hippo? Let me know if you have inquiries about any or all of these issues.


Root to Rise: Voices on YWA Home

We’re all about the yoga this January at FIFI.  Many of us (me, Sam, Tracy, Susan, Christine — who else?) are doing the Yoga with Adriene Home 30 day yoga journey, along with scores of people in our 220 in 2020 groups and elsewhere.  It feels like a community tipping point, so I asked people what draws them to it.

(And to be clear, this is not a sponsored post — we are just really fans, lol).

Adriene with benji

  1. People appreciate who Adriene is as a teacher and a person

People have a lot of experience with yoga teachers who take it too seriously or give lectures about How to Live.  Adriene hits the right note of caring, humorous, affirming and expert.  

I enjoy Adriene’s humour, that she doesn’t take herself too seriously (Margot)

And she feels very affirming of where I am in that she regularly makes comments about how the hardest part is showing up. (Jennifer)

I find Adriene charming. I find her amusing, genuine, and supportive, which are unusual things to say about a person I don’t know at all, but–for me–this is what she projects.  (Maryjean)

I like how friendly (and marvellously goofy) Adriene is. She clearly takes yoga seriously but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I like the foolish jokes she makes and the way she says ‘Hey-oh!’ If something she has said could have an off-colour interpretation.  (Christine)

I like her style – not so much yoga/spiritual/hippie stuff that I can’t manage, but just enough to help me buy in and learn more about myself. (Craig)

like YWA specifically because of the simple clean production of the videos and that she is not too too much into cultural appropriation. (Jason)

I also really appreciate her kind, calm, generous personality, as well as her unabashed goofiness. (Johanna)

For me, I cannot say enough about how positively I feel about Adriene. I have spent some time in every yoga studio in this town and I am invariably irritated by instructors. They are too advanced or they are too full of crap or they never stop talking when they should or they tell me how to solve all my problems and they are no older than my kids. Adriene triggers none of that for me. I relate to her even though she is about a decade or so younger. She is unserious, but totally serious. She has ease in her own self, even in her own self consciousness. It’s not perfect, nothing is, but it’s darn close, for me anyway.  (Susan)

2.  January is hard, and having a regular practice helps create resilience

January is resoundingly awful, at least for the last few years. For the second year in a row, the whole family is sick except for me. Which means, I am often the first one up and the last one to bed, making many meals and snacks, and cleaning up from all of those, and there is not enough time for any exercise outside of the house. But last year, I made space for YWA’s 30 days, and I felt like it was part of starting me on the right track for 219 in 2019, and it was also a huge part of keeping me healthy when everyone else was sick.  (Jennifer)

A victory of hope over experience? I do like a New Year’s resolution and the idea of having a goal is appealing to me. Without the goal, it’s easier for me to let things slide. (Maryjean)

3.  The practice is short and doable, but generates something real

It also makes me realize I have time in my life for exercise. I’m doing this on top of my running but don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything.  (Craig)

It is the yin to my weight lifting yang. The older I get the more I feel the need for a balance of soft and hard exercise. I (Jason)

Some days I’m torn between thinking it’s exactly what I needed and I could have used more – there are also some days where I’m like “okay enough talking Adriene – let’s go” and others where I’m like “Holy smokes this is moving”.  (Craig)

Since I often only have time to sleep 6 hours per night, and I am spending a lot of the in between time exposed to the germs of school/commute/public transit/kids, YWA is just small enough that I can reliably make space for it, and it feels great.  I definitely find the time and space, and the getting to my yoga mat to be the hardest part, and if I spend the duration of the video breathing and trying (though often failing) to shut out my to do list, then I have accomplished something huge. So, the feeling of accomplishment provided by the YWA 30 Day calendar- especially the regularity of the feeling of accomplishment – is such a gift. (Jennifer)

They’re all shorter than I’m used but if they were a full hour I don’t know that I’d be as able to maintain the daily commitment. In some ways, knowing it’s short has given me an attitude of “of course I can fit this in before dinner”.  (Tracy)

The classes are a little short for me, but that makes sense for 30 straight days of yoga as opposed to my typical schedule, which might include no yoga or a quick 15 minutes on some days and an hour or more on others. (Jennifer2)

I’m doing it, not necessarily every day but many days and still her format makes it feel that you are right in pace. I like how she gives various challenge level for the moves.
I have a hard time keeping my eye on her as I am using my laptop and don’t know all the moves which can be a challenge but I like that I can go back and redo it after watching.

4.  The dog!

OMG the dog !! (Alex)

I love that she makes her dog Benji a part of her practice that she shares with us. (Johanna)

And I love Benji and how she incorporates him into each episode. Like for the relaxing day she didn’t take the blanket away from him because he was sleeping. That was cute. (Tracy)

it’s fun that she has her dog snoozing away in most of the videos! (Christine)

5. Community

Doing it with others has also been great – I look forward to seeing others talk and share and have a community.  (Craig)

My daughters are both doing it too and we are encouraging each other, plus I enjoy reading people’s experiences here. and seeing Benji walk in and out of the frame is great 🙂  (Margot)

6.  It fosters self-reflection and growth

What I love about YWA is that she gets me to try new flows and new poses. I generally use yoga to keep my body functioning and tend to do the same familiar poses/practices week after week because I’m not trying to grow so much in my practice, but more, I guess, to maintain both physically and mentally? It keeps my together and sometimes puts me back together. (Jennifer2)

I also learned something about myself and the need to recognize that different people are at different places with their practice – despite what she says (and what I thought) sharing experiences here and seeing comments has made it clear this is not as accessible as I thought. Also made me realize I’m further ahead in my own practice than I thought.  (Craig)

I’ve done a few of her January yoga journeys (I love how she doesn’t call them challenges!) before and I find it super satisfying to be able to feel progress in myself (in terms of strength and flexibility) by the time I get to the end. (Johanna)

For me, she strikes the balance between neither treating yoga just like any other gym class nor being toooooo esoteric for my own personal tastes. I really appreciate the nudges to be mindful and to appreciate my own body!  (Johanna)

YWA helps me engage with yoga in a different way. After Dedicate last year I continued inserting a few internet videos, some YWA, some not, into my practice every month and some of it has stuck in my every day practice. So, YWA has definitely helped me expand my yogic horizons.  (Jennifer2)

She really makes it okay to do yoga at your own level. Lots of time online videos feel (to me) end up feeling like you are failing if you can’t replicated what they are doing. Adriene has regular reminders that you can modify the practice or just do what you can, and she somehow makes it truly okay.  (Christine)


There are challenges to YWA Home, mostly that it might not be easy to follow as a true beginner — even with the variations she offers, some people aren’t familiar enough with the poses to modify in a confident way.  She does build “vocabulary” over the 30 days — introducing new poses and concepts, and then referring back to them.

I’ve been doing yoga for 25 years, and my experience tends to be like Tracy’s — intellectually, it feels short, and I start out thinking “oh this is simple” — and then there is a moment of “oh my god that’s intense and challenging,” then “oh, it’s over.”  The practice is cementing daily reflection and presence to my body, and is the perfect adjunct to the more intense running, crossfit and spinning that dot my week.  Like others, I feel oddly supported and cared for by a person I have never met.  What more could I ask for?

What about you?  Have you tried YWA?  If you’re inspired,go to the link and click subscribe to home — you’ll get emails every day starting with Day 1.




Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and practices in Toronto.  This image is one of Christine’s daily yoga inspiration drawings.  It refers to the “ground” practice, and I love how it evokes my favourite of Adriene’s refrains — “root to rise.”


alcohol · beauty · body image · eating · fat · fitness · habits · health · injury · movies · running · self care · sex · stereotypes · weight loss · weight stigma

Sam watched Brittany Runs a Marathon and recommends that you don't

Catherine wrote a blog post about Brittany Runs a Marathon without watching it. That was definitely the wiser choice. See her commentary here.

She writes, “So why I am writing about a movie I haven’t seen? Because I think the movie/advertising/fashion/fitness industries have (sort of) taken in the message that it’s not okay to blatantly fat-shame people or overtly identify lower body weights with fitness, success and happiness in life. Notice, I said “overtly” and “blatantly”.”

Catherine goes on to identify “some strong fitspo messages buried (not too deeply) in this film:

  • Health problems should first be addressed by losing weight
  • Weight loss is possible to achieve through physical activity
  • Weight loss makes physical activity possible and easier and better and more fun
  • Some deep-seated emotional problems will resolve through weight loss and physical activity”

There’s a lot to dislike about the film that I knew before I hit play. It erases larger runners, it promotes weight loss fantasies, and it’s fat-shaming. All that I knew at the outset.

So why did I end up watching it? I sometimes watch “bad” TV or fluffy shows while cleaning. Easy to follow rom-coms? Sign me up! I hadn’t seen the floor of my room in weeks. There were Christmas gifts I still hadn’t put away, clean laundry, bags of gym clothes, yoga mats etc all over the floor, the bed needed making, the socks needed sorting and so on. I needed something longer than a regular half hour show to deal with all of the mess. I needed a movie length thing at least. I thought I could handle the fat shaming and enjoy BRAM for its redeeming features. The trailer looked, as a friend put it, cute. The Guardian called it a fluffy feel good flick. It is not that. By the end, I did not feel good at all.

Friends, it was not mostly cute with a side of fat shaming, which I expected. Instead it was a dumpster fire of stereotypes and it was also super sex shaming. All of this was lumped into criticism of Brittany’s self-destructive lifestyle. At one point in the movie someone opines–in a line that was supposed to save the movie, “Brittany, it was never about the weight.” Instead, “weight” is just a stand in for all of Brittany’s problems. Before fat-Brittany is taking drugs and giving men blow jobs in night clubs and by the end of the movie, thin Brittany isn’t just thin. She’s also turning down casual sex. The friends-with-benefits/boyfriend proposes. There was way too much moralizing about sex and drugs. And I say that as someone who is no fan of drugs or alcohol and is often accused of moralizing in this area.

This happens because Brittany isn’t just a fat girl. She’s a fat girl with low self -esteem. She could have just gotten some self-esteem. But no, she gets thin and then gets self-esteem. She could have gotten self-esteem and demanded equal pleasure in the casual sex. She could have started using drugs and alcohol in a responsible manner. Instead, no. She gets self-esteem, says no to drugs, and holds out for a real relationship.

Not surprisingly, it doesn’t manage the weight-loss plot line well at all.

The Guardian reviewer writes, “The film struggles to square its protagonist’s weight loss with the pressure to present a body-positive position and ensure it doesn’t alienate the very female audience it courts. One minute it’s wryly poking fun at the expense and inaccessibility of gyms, the next it’s fetishistically cataloguing the shrinking number on Brittany’s scales. Indeed, as her body transforms, so does her life. She finds a new job, and supportive friends in her running club; men begin to notice her. Yet Brittany still battles with her body issues, unable to shed her identity as “a fat girl”. There’s a note of truth in Bell’s finely tuned performance as a character whose insecurities have calcified over the years, hardening her to genuine goodwill, which she frequently misreads as pity.”

For the record, fat Brittany is smaller than me. She starts out weighing 197 pounds. Her goal weight is 167. And we can track it because never in movie history has a person stepped on a scale so often.

(A blog reader pointed out a more charitable interpretation of why we see her stepping on the scale so often: “She steps on the scale a lot because she trades in her addictions to drugs and alcohol for an addiction to scale weight loss, which the movie portrays as an unhealthy obsession. What starts out as a good “oh look, I lost this many pounds now!” thing quickly escalates into a dangerous “go for a run, jump on the scale, dislike the number displayed, so go back out to run in the mistaken belief that it will make the number change” cycle. That’s why she steps on a scale so often. Because it’s NOT good that she does it.)

Forget the weight loss and the sex, even the running themes aren’t handled well. Friends tease Brittany when she first starts running because she isn’t a real runner. The longest she’s run is 5 km. Rather than tackling the “real runner” thing head on instead the film has Brittany run a marathon and become a real runner by the friend’s standards. Even her triumphant marathon finish is marred by Brittany’s continuing to run on her (spoiler alert) injured and possibly still stress fractured leg. We don’t know that but we do know she’s holding her leg and crying, running and not able to put much weight on it, and her first attempt to run the marathon was derailed by a stress fracture.

There is nothing to love here. Nothing cute or funny or feel good or fluffy.

Friends, don’t watch it. Not even on an airplane.


Self-Awareness Through Drag

I’m always interested in ways that people bring a feeling of wellness into their lives. Especially if it is an area I am not familiar with. Not too long ago, my cousin Rachel started talking about her fun new hobby – participating in drag shows. I could see from the way she talked about it that this new passion was bringing happiness to her life. If you love someone you are happy when they are happy and you want to know more about it.

Rachel is 25. She is someone I have known from birth and who I have always loved and greatly admired. Rachel really liked the idea of being interviewed for this blog post, about what drag means to her and how it brings a sense of wellness into her life.

Nicole – How did you start participating in drag shows?

Rachel – Living close to the (gay) village, I saw drag queens on a regular basis. I started going out with friends to watch shows. I have always loved to dance. It wasn’t something I thought I wanted to do until my good friend wanted to try it and it was kind of like “If you do it, I’ll do it”. And then I went down a rabbit hole.

Nicole – How do you identify in this environment?

Rachel – I call myself a drag queer – in the community, this means “gender fuck” – I go both ways – I like dressing really sparkly – showing my hyper femininity – and I am also attracted to the attitude of a man and playing with the masculine parts of myself. Drag is playing with gender – gender is the butt of the joke.

Nicole – tell me about your stage name.

Rachel – my stage name is Jen Durex – when I was getting into it, coming up with a drag persona, I knew I wanted to do something in between male/female. Gender X – something in between – androgynous. Jen is the feminine side. Durex (yes, from the condoms), is my masculine side.

Nicole – Do you have thoughts on “women as drag queens”?

Rachel – I can see drag changing a lot. But there have always been women and drag kings in drag.

While I feel as though I have found my people in drag and I have a really supportive community, there are aspects to being a woman in drag that can be upsetting. Women are not able to compete in some established community competitions. But it is changing all the time. There are more places for people who identify in different ways to compete. There are people who have joined the community in the last year who are pioneers of reclaiming space. There is a monthly King show (where I can compete as a King – and where I have competed and have won!). There are also inclusive competitions, such as the Empire’s Ball where all sorts of gender performers and skill levels are allowed to compete.

Nicole – What does performing in drag give you from a wellness perspective?

Rachel – It’s another persona. An opportunity to explore my dominant side. I feel as Rachel, I am more passive. I love to serve others but it becomes a weakness when I let people walk over me. I am naturally non-confrontational. As Jen I am fearless. I’m macho. I can do whatever I want. It’s a mask. I love having an outlet for this expression.

From a physical perspective – when I am up on stage, I am dancing my heart out. For the week leading up to the performance, I am practicing, dancing all the time around my house.

It’s given me more self-confidence. I feel way more confident in my body. It helped me with loving my body. Being able to dance and being able to be in a room with a bra and little dance leggings and feel like the hottest thing ever. It’s a great mode for “not giving two shits” about what I or anyone else thinks.

Through drag I have learned about my queer identity, and I have met a special group of people – both of these things make me feel that I can do anything and this transfers to my day-to-day life.

In a bigger sense, in a world full of negativity and strife, the drag world that I am in provides a cocoon of positivity. For example, there are fundraisers where we raise money for the community and it’s kind of, made me more of an activist, going to protests. Being more involved. Drag is a form of activism for me.

Dear blog readers, I have learned so much about this topic. Do you have any unconventional pastimes that bring you joy, a sense of wellness and community?

Nicole Plotkin loves to exercise and looks forward to her morning Americano misto
Book Reviews

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 51-60, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Read about Days 31-40 here.

Read about Days 41-50 here.

Nia Shanks’ 100 Day Reclaim

Catherine: Nia opens up this section by urging us to take in the information that feeds us. As an academic and feminist fitness blogger, this is hard to do. I feel obliged to keep up with the latest fitness and diet fads. I want to be informed to help my students, my colleagues, my readers and myself in better understanding the science, pseudoscience, genuine wellness advice, and stealthy corrosive messaging that’s all over the internet.

Still, Nia is right. Exposure to unrealistic, photo-shopped images of bodies and fat-phobic messaging is demoralizing. Case in point: Jillian Michaels (celebrity trainer of sorts) continues to pummel us with fat-phobic, bogus-healthist screeds, this time against Lizzo. I mention it not to cause anyone to rush to Google, but to underscore Nia’s point that we would do well to be prudent about what we expose ourselves to. Of course, it’s a balancing act—those of us involved in health justice and advocacy need to be informed in order to do our work. But, it does come at some cost, and we should decide when we’ve paid enough.

I love day 52. Nia encourages us to be Adapters Extraordinaires. I admit that I like this because I secretly think this is one of my strengths. Life, for me, is at its most exhilarating when there’s a fair amount of change, spontaneity, and novelty. Solving problems on the fly and figuring out new ways through change feels good. However (there’s always a however, isn’t there; sigh…) this process is messy, leaving all sorts of things behind, like healthy-to-me eating, or important-to-me movement. But thoughtful adaptation feels different. Here’s an example: for the past two weeks, I have had a terrible cold and bronchitis (I even had that barking cough that babies sometimes get). Robust exercise has been completely off the table. Even yoga, which usually sustains me when I’m not feeling up to snuff, hasn’t been an option very often. What has? Sleep. I’ve had to sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. And then repeat the sleeping. Yes, I had to adapt, and I didn’t like the adapting. But it worked, and I’m mostly better now. I’m still in adaptation mode, walking and doing some gentle yoga. Hopefully by early next week, I’ll be able to get on the bike trainer. We will see. As Nia says, adapting to the current state of me is useful in supporting the long-term state of me.

Nia talks about paradox in this section, and paradoxes are one of my favorite things. As a philosopher, I’ve written about them and taught them and found them hugely stimulating. Why? Because a paradox is a sign that we’re missing something. Maybe it’s obvious, or maybe it’s something no one has ever thought of. Nia uses the language of paradox to talk about restraint in eating and also discomfort (okay, pain) in movement: how can we 1) eat and move in ways that fulfill us; and 2) meet goals that necessarily involve pushing through immediate desires to focus on long-term ones?

Yep, this is a full-blown paradox. We are presented with two imperatives: eat/do what feels good to us in the present, and eat/do what advances our longer-term wellness-to-us goals. For most of us, these orders conflict. Nia suggests that there’s a happy medium. I’m still looking for a different way to thread that needle. If I find it, you, dear readers, will be the first to hear about it.

Christine: The recurring theme in Days 51-60 is to stay conscious and aware.

If we want to have fitness success, we need to define that on our own, conscious, terms (Day 54) and then support it with our choices. In order to do that we need to be aware of the messages we receive from social media (Day 51) and from our past (Day 60.) We need to choose when we will say yes and when we will say no (Day 58.) We can find ways to enjoy life (and fitness) more by choosing when to indulge, when to work hard, and when to relax (Days, 53, 54, 56 & 57.) We can choose our mindset (Day 59) and we can choose to adapt to make choices that serve us best in any given circumstance (Day 52.)

I especially liked Shanks’ reminder on Day 52 about the importance of adapting to whatever your schedule happens to be like at the moment (if you don’t have time for your usual number of workouts, what do you have time for? How can you make the most of that time?) because my ADHD brain is especially adept at tossing out a whole plan if one part of it doesn’t work.

Day 57 (Paradox II) really struck home for me. In this section she reminds us of the long term value of challenging ourselves, and of learning to tolerate some types of discomfort. Again, my ADHD brain has particular trouble starting a task if it knows it will be boring or uncomfortable. Yet, another part of my brain has no trouble with practicing (most) self-defense activities in Taekwondo because it knows that working on them now will reduce my chances of freezing-up if I ever have to use these moves in real life. The discussion in this section helped me build a connection between the discomfort of the effort in fitness activities and my successful tolerance of a similar discomfort in TKD.

Finally, I think Shanks picked the perfect moment in the book (Day 59) to remind us that we can renew our purpose and our mindset at any point. Again, since I have that particular knack for tossing out a whole plan, I appreciated the reminder that I can start over again and again.

I am getting a lot of what I need out of this book. I am thinking a bit more effectively about my fitness activities and how I approach them. I appreciate how she keeps helping me to bring concepts I use for my coaching clients into my own plans for increasing my fitness. While I know to keep conscious of the things that influence the way I work in other areas of my life, I haven’t done as much to stay conscious about my influences in the area of fitness. The thought exercises in Shanks’ book are making a big difference for me.

Sam: Days 52 and 53 have some hard lessons. 52 is about flexibility and still finding your way when life throws you a curve ball. You might be all about plans and schedules but life doesn’t always work out that way. The key to success is sometimes knowing when to go with the flow and make a new plan. That was my evening yesterday. Sarah and I had planned to go to nap yoga after (for me) an afternoon of lifting weights and a long walk, after an emotionally tough weekend. But Sarah was running late and we weren’t going to make it to nap yoga. Instead we met at the Bike Shed and got a quick Zwift ride in. Flexibility FTW!

53 is about doing the hard thing. Nia says we need to choose, easy or rewarding? Around here we often counsel in favour of listening to your body or doing the thing that feels good and there is truth in that. But there is also truth in doing the hard thing anyway even if you don’t much feel like it. For me, it’s a balancing act between listening to what feels good and also being willing to push hard and do uncomfortable things. Thanks Nia.

Day 54 asks us to “be more” whatever that means in the context of our lives. Don’t be afraid of taking up space, not just physical space but also emotional space too.

I’m really enjoying the daily approach. I was worried the chunks would seem too small or that it would all be old hat, since I’ve been reading in this area (life coaching/fitness motivation) but it’s not. It would be terrific paired with Mina Samuel’s Run Like a Girl 365 Days a Year.

220 in 2020 · fitness · rest · yoga

Sam gives "nap yoga" a try

To start, it’s not actually called “nap yoga.” Its name is “restorative yoga.”

But still, there were pillows and blankets and there might have been some snoring. It was dark and warm and 8:30 at night.

“Restorative yoga is a practice that is all about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. … During the long holds of restorative yoga, however, your muscles are allowed to relax deeply. It’s a unique feeling because props, rather than your muscles, are used to support your body.” From An Introduction to Restorative Yoga.

You might think it looks like this:

But really it looks more like this:

After some hemming and hawing I posted restorative yoga in the 220 workouts in 2020 group. All the while I was wondering, does this count? Is it really a workout? Whenever I find myself asking that, I have two responses. One, I count 120 km bike rides as single workouts so it all balances out. Two, if the point of counting things is to motivate to me to do things I wouldn’t usually do then this counts. With my injured knee I’m trying to stretch and relax more. I’m going to massage therapy. And now I’m going to restorative yoga it seems. The minute I posted it, Tracy commented, “How did you like it?” She knows me well and knew it wasn’t my usual thing. There was nothing heavy to lift, no speed, and no throwing people around. Heck, except in winter when I love the warm, even regular yoga isn’t really my thing.

At the end of a rough day at work, and after several days of hard workouts, it felt right.

What did I like? I enjoyed the length of time in the postures. The room was warm but not hot. I enjoyed some of the guided meditation. I didn’t fall asleep.

I mention not falling asleep because in earlier attempts to lay still and meditate and relax (childbirth classes) I’d fall hard and fast asleep, pretty much almost instantly. That was little use in preparing for childbirth since the pain meant sleep wasn’t an option. This was really my first successful attempt at completely relaxing while awake.

I’ll definitely do it again.

competition · cycling · fitness · Guest Post · racing · running · swimming · triathalon

Is this what retirement is like? (Guest post)

by Mary Case

Day one of retirement was officially declared a “jammie” day. No alarm clock, a pot of tea, a good book, feet up, sitting in front of the fireplace. It was blissful and lasted almost ninety minutes.

Author in a comfortable arm chair, sitting in front of a fireplace with her feet up, reading a book with her dog at her side.

And then that was enough for the dog who, delighted that there was another human home, insisted on a walk.

Somewhat reluctantly I changed out of my jammies.

It is so quiet and peaceful on this crisp winter’s day.  No noise except the occasional passing car. Was this what it’s like, this retirement thing?

I returned home an hour later, fully intending to return to my perch. (My colorful, cozy jammies now replaced with walking gear, looking suspiciously like running gear), and then I had a vision: an empty pool, a lane to myself perhaps. Was that actually possible? 

Empty YMCA pool.  All lanes free.

It was too irresistible, and so the perch by the fireplace was abandoned again. And there it was: my empty lane. Two kilometres of blissful, uninterrupted swim strokes.

Was this what retirement is like?

The choice to retire from teaching elementary school music was a tough one. I loved my job and was not particularly desperate to get out. 

I had a fulfilling and vibrant career but, I was curious what life would be like on the other side. 

Last fall, in a moment of “but what will I do when I retire?” I wondered what it would be like to be a gym rat, and so I approached my computer in search of half ironman races. These are called 70.3’s in the triathlon world. It seemed a good idea at the time, and it was a distance that my years as a triathlete had prepared me for. 

I chose a date. May 31st, that worked for me. It would have been concert prep time, if I was not retired. 

I chose a location. Connecticut, I could drive there. 

Done! I signed up. 

Oops. I missed a little bit of homework here. I found out later that this half ironman is called the Beast of the East. 

As I write this blog, week one of retirement is almost over. It’s also my 59th birthday. I think about this “fitness” thing. For me, it’s always about the joy of seeing what my body is capable of. I do not have a point of view about speed, competition, losing weight, or much of anything else. 

I love a challenge; my body loves to move endlessly, and the amazing thing is that I am fitter, faster and stronger than I have ever been. 

I think I might  be able to get used to the quiet, the recovery time and being able to head to the gym, my trainer or the road, at hours that do not involve the numbers 4, 5, or 6 attached to “a.m.” 

I think I can get used to this thing called retirement. And who knows, hills may just become my new best friends. 

Author, School photo.  Looking very professional in a pink top and pearls.

Mary is a recently retired Elementary School Music Teacher, an Energetic Body Worker and a professional violinist. When not involved in any of the capacities mentioned above, she can often be spotted in water, on a bike, or running to prepare for her next triathlon.