As Summer Approaches, Tracy Takes Stock

Summer on a beachWe started the blog with a bold public commitment: to be the fittest we have ever been by the time we are 50 (that’s 14-15 months from now).

We’re not even a year into it, and my outlook, goals, and thoughts about this project have changed in some significant ways.

First, a bit about goals:

When we started, I wanted to: keep on weight training, stick with my steady yoga practice, and continue my transition from walking to running. I started (and have since dropped) tai chi, and included swimming only among my summer activities. Biking was (and remains) a leisure activity, but that’s a bit stressful for me right now because of an upcoming triathlon.

I also had an explicit goal of reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass, as measured by the bod pod.

I’ve had a troubled relationship with goals because, while for some people they are motivating, for me they can be demoralizing because of a hard-to-shake association with dieting and “goal weights” and because I have fought down a long-held tendency to set unreasonable and oppressive goals that I then fail to meet.

But my view of goals has shifted somewhat, both in terms of my willingness to set them and my ability to keep them reasonable. So, as summer approaches, I have been thinking about my goals in relation to our “fittest-by-fifty” project.

Sam and I have both written about long-view goals and short term goals (as well as challenges). Long view goals are the big ones.

I have whittled my fittest-by-fifty down to one long-view goal: I want to run a half marathon before my fiftieth birthday. And I mean RUN it, not walk-run it. I am training for endurance in my running, and I feel as if it would be a real achievement for me, a real improvement in my physical condition from what it is now (and certainly from what it was when I was just starting to walk-run), to be able to complete a half-marathon without taking walk breaks. In fact, if I can do that it will be the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life. That, it seems to me, is an appropriate measure (along at least one plausible dimension), of my fittest-by-fifty challenge.

In order to get there I have a number of shorter term running goals, as follows:

So there you have it: I want to run at least a half marathon.

Other than that, my commitments are mostly to continue with consistent and regular practice:

I don’t have specific goals that I am aiming at within those categories at the moment. It’s more about staying with these things that give me joy and make my body feel energized.

This minimalism with respect to my current goals could change. Sam has talked me into trying out Crossfit, probably in the fall. We’ll see where that leads.

Other things of note:

1. Yoga Sadana, June 22-28. I will be blogging about this more that week. This is one of my favourite things to do. Each summer, there is a seven day sadana at the Iyengar yoga studio I practice at. It’s seven days in a row of class from 6-7:30 a.m. Each day builds on the one before, and it has a kind of “pyramid” intensity to it. That is, intensity peaks on about days 3-5, with wind-up and easing in on days 1-2, and winding it down on days 6-7. It generates a real sense of community as well as a wonderful daily commitment. I always feel as if the world looks crisper and clearer that week.

2. Kincardine Women’s Triathlon, July 13, with Sam, her daughter Mallory, and my friend Tara. This is a try-a-tri, so I feel not quite as intimidated as I might otherwise feel about it. I’ve been training well for the swim, and can do the required distance in the pool in about 10 minutes at a pace that leaves me with steam for more. I’m not sure how much the lake conditions will affect my time and they may mean I need to use a bit more juice, but I am well-prepared for the swim and routinely swim significantly further, several times a week.

I just acquired a wet suit today and will be practicing with it, in the lake, on the weekend. I’m most concerned about the bike leg of the race, having no sense of strategy and no experience with anything other than leisure riding. At least I will not be tempted to “draft,” which is apparently against triathlon rules.

A friend who just did a triathlon and has been involved in a training group is going to meet with me soon to review some tips for making the most of transitions between the different parts of the triathlon. She also has some equipment suggestions.

And finally:

Blogging about fitness has raised all sorts of questions for me about what fitness actually is. At first, the challenge was to figure out what appropriate measurable markers we could use to determine whether we had, in fact, reached our goal. We bandied about all sorts of possibilities:

I’ve already noted how I’ve minimized my aspirations to focus on gains in my running and regular practice in yoga, swimming, and resistance training. So from an ambitious set of possibilities, the urge to simplify and do less has won the day (for me).

As we have vocally rejected the whole diet/weight loss mentality and spoken out against body-shaming, I have ditched the idea of objective body measurements such as body weight or bod pod readings as markers of my progress. Instead, I have embraced the intuitive eating approach and done all that I can to allow my body to guide me in all matters having to do with food choices. In this respect, my commitment to “fitness” has expanded to include a broader concept of well-being.

And finally, though this is subject matter for a future post, I have come to be concerned about the connotations of fitness as a central idea in evolutionary theory. Several people, including disability theorist Shelley Tremain, have called attention to this as a possible source of ableist discourse in our blog. The idea of the evolutionary superiority of those who are “fit,” as captured in the Darwinian idea of the “survival of the fittest,” is not of course a message we wish to perpetuate here, but may be implicit in the very language of fitness. And though I have felt defensive about it, I also think it’s an issue that warrants attention. I’ve only just touched on it in a recent post, and there’s a lot more to say.

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