Guest Post · running

Back to swimming and running (Guest post)

I haven’t run in a very long time but the momentum I’m feeling from recent gains in cycling encouraged me to recommit to triathlon training. My partner gets a great deal on a gym membership so we signed up and I’ve been to the pool twice, the scheduled 500m beginning workouts morphed into 800m ones. I just love the pool and, really, I feel my best when I can get 1,200m in but I’m trying to pace myself. I know I need to ramp up slowly or I’ll get too sore and tired.

I’ve found that the best workout is the one you like re: ramp up, distance and rest days. I’m using a free Sprint and Olympic 12 week plan as I’m 24 weeks from the Woodstock, Ontario race on June 6, 2015. My sister and I are returning to the Sprint distance there after a 2 year hiatus. It’s a basic plan and I like Friday rest days and clustering the cycling on the weekend but really there’s a ton of aps if you are looking for one plus triathlon clubs and training groups abound.

My first scheduled run was a little 20 minute go. I must say, I hate running. It’s hard on my asthma, I’m short and wide, not a good build for running and my DD chest is….floppier as I age.

So I trotted out on a fairly cool night just as the sunset and it felt..ok! What? I’m down quite a bit of weight and that definitely improved how running feels. My thighs felt strong as I ran, they seemed to magically spring forward, the cycling I had been doing gave me thighs some great conditioning.

I walked for 30s after 8 and 12 minutes and came in feeling good. I was matching some of my fastest pacing from 2 years ago (thank you free app that still has my data!) so, ya, I ran and it did not suck and that was a total victory!


link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #15


Fashion Photographer Aims to Shatter Stereotypes About Body Image With New Book (NSFW)

Fashion photographer Victoria Janashvili has spent years snapping pics of today’s most famous models; now, she’s publishing a book of photographs that celebrate all bodies—short, tall, skinny, curvy, and of all ethnicities—starting with models Denise Bidot and Marina Bulatkina.

Body Image Humour

“Sometimes I can’t figure designers out. It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.” ~ Erma Bombeck

“If there’s no chocolate in heaven, I’m not going.” ~ Author Unknown


The nippleless women of Rolling Stone

Sometimes the nipless woman bears an expression that asks: Wait, hey, are you guys gonna Photoshop my boobs smooth or what?

Yes, yes, we are, replies Rolling Stone.

12 Images of Real Women Facing Their Body Image Issue

“We.Women” is a new project by Lithuanian photographer Neringa Rekašiūtė that aims to change the way women view themselves and stop the assaults we lead on ourselves every day. It also seeks to highlight just how harmful the constant media bombardment of unrealistic images of women has been.

“Our media is full of images, attempting to construct what a perfect woman should look like,” Rekasiute says. “Sexualization and standardization of a female body in the media have direct negative consequences in the society. Objectivization of body encourages the society to focus on physical appearance of women instead of embracing their personality and inner feelings. As a consequence, about half of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, which leads to a number of psychological and health problems.”


Touch me/Don’t touch me: Bodies, boundaries, and non-sexual physical intimacy

by Natalie Dee



There’s an awful lot of physical intimacy in Aikido. I continue to find it fascinating how comfortable we are with that and how much trust it requires. I also think there’s a lot to learn from the experience of non sexual physical intimacy.

Aside people who work with bodies (doctors, massage therapists etc) few people spend a lot of time in close proximity to the bodies of people other than sexual partners and family members. Indeed our society has pretty strong taboos against touching the bodies of strangers. When these are violated, most often when those in positions of power claim the right to touch those they believe to be subordinate, anger results.

Now in the dojo you consent to allow others to touch you. Training partners get up close and personal. You get to know the bodies of those in your dojo quite well. I know who is flexible and who isn’t. I know who is strong and who isn’t. I could easily guess how much people weigh.

But it’s even more particular than that. I know how certain people smell. I can tell you who has a stiff shoulder. I know who just tolerates pain and who enjoys the pain of a good pin. I know the speed with which people move. Indeed when I recognize people from the dojo out on the street, it’s often their gait, their movements I recognize first.

I also put other people, and they me, in very vulnerable positions. Most strikingly, I throw them. I also take them to the ground and pin them, holding the pin until they tap the mat. Sometimes we don’t just hit the mat we slap it loudly or we hit the arm or the leg of the person pinning us. That slap means stop.

You don’t immediately let go of the pin. That might hurt too. Instead, you gradually and gently release the pin and move away. You turn to face your training partner and then the two of you make eye contact and return to standing together.

Sometimes it’s serious. Sometimes it’s playful. We have quiet moods as a club and at other times there’s a lot of laughter.

There are three observations I want to make about this kind of training and the intimacy it brings about.

First, as unusual as it is to have this kind of contact between adults, it’s especially unusual to have this kind of contact between men and women. There was one man who joined our club who, for religious reasons, wasn’t able to touch women. He trained only with the men. It made me uncomfortable and I’m frankly glad he didn’t stay. That’s been controversial in other Aikido clubs. See Teen felt ‘degraded’ after teacher backed aikido student’s request to avoid touching females on religious grounds. I’m with the teen here and I’ve never been sure how to deal with men who won’t shake my hand. (For a time I had an academic colleague who wouldn’t touch women. It was awkward.)

Second, women don’t often get this kind of opportunity for rough, physical contact. See Jessica’s guest post, In praise of physically aggressive sports and my post on the clash between ladylike norms and sports performance.

Third, it’s a terrific chance for younger women and men to learn about consent and bodily autonomy. You, the person on whom the technique is being performed, get to say when enough is enough. Yes, attack me. Now stop. Personally I find that pretty empowering.

Further reading:
The rules of engagement: Negotiating painful and ‘intimate’ touch in mixed-sex martial arts
Alex Channon and George Jennings

“Within a social-constructionist, feminist framework, we suggest that heteronormative, patriarchal and paternalistic gender structures can potentially be challenged through sustained mixed-sex practice. As such, this article contributes to work on transformative sporting bodies, martial arts and gender subversion.”

 Sociology of Sport Journal, 2013, Volume 30, 487 – 503

Towards the “Undoing” of Gender in Mixed-Sex Martial Arts and Combat Sports
Alex Channon

This paper addresses sex integration in martial arts and combat sports, discussing the implications of mixed-sex training for challenging orthodox Western constructions of gender. Drawing on qualitative interviews with 37 long-term martial arts practitioners from around the English East Midlands between 2007–2011, the paper argues that restrictive, essentialist and hierarchal conceptions of sex difference can be challenged through integrated training practices. The paper advocates the “undoing” of gender in this regard as helping to build a more progressive, inclusive and liberal form of physical culture, seen as a key potential of sex-integrated training. To that end, the paper makes a number of proposals for instructors and practitioners interested in developing such inclusive environments in their own clubs and training settings.”

Societies, 4 (4). pp. 587-605. ISSN 2075-4698 (Print), 2075-4698 (Online) (doi: 10.3390/soc4040587 )

diets · eating · Uncategorized

Planning another New Year’s Diet? Three Alternative Approaches that May Spare You the Grief

Far more tempting than the sugar cookies and shortbread, the spinach dips and puff pastries, the stuffing and the gravy…more tempting than any of these is the allure of that January 1st diet.

There are few women’s magazines and no fitness magazines on the stands right now that don’t have a feature about weight loss and dieting: a new plan for a new you!

Diets that begin on January 1st don’t typically work any better than diets that begin on any other day.  We’ve talked before about the sad news about losing weight and keeping it off.  See for example here and here and here and here.

I too ate more than I needed to over the holidays and my jeans are a bit tighter than they were a month ago.  So I get the temptation.  But I also know enough that dieting isn’t the answer.  By dieting, I mean following a very restrictive food plan and a drastic reduction in calories. It’s temporary and designed to make us lose weight.

The thing is, the body goes into a famine response — the metabolism slows and what food we do take in, our body hangs onto.  What’s worse, restrictive diets don’t really give us what we need to lead physically active lives. And they do nothing for our metabolic health. See “Metabolic Health Is a Feminist Issue.

I’m here to tell you that there is still hope. I don’t mean there is a diet that is the last diet you will ever need. No.  I mean there are things you can do instead of dieting that have a good chance of improving your relationship with food.

What the three approaches I’m going to talk about have in common is that they require us to give up the diet mentality and focus more on what’s going on with us internally.  The three approaches are: (1) mindful eating; (2) intuitive eating; and (3) the EAT Q method that applies the idea of emotional intelligence to eating.

savorMindful Eating

The book Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life is a collaborative effort between a Buddhist monk and a nutritionist. Amazon quotes Donna Seaman from Booklist, describing what the book has to offer:

So essential to healthy eating is a healthy perspective that Zen Buddhist master and prolific author Nhat Hanh joins forces with nutritionist Cheung for a truly holistic approach. The duo pairs the latest nutritional information with the age-old Buddhist practice of mindfulness—that is, of being fully aware of all that is going on within ourselves and all that is happening around us—to draw attention to what and how we eat. Guidance is offered for recognizing what barriers—physical, psychological, cultural, and environmental—prevent us from controlling our weight, and readers are encouraged to savor food in order to fully nourish both the body and the mind. To that end, Nhat Hanh provides guided meditations on everything from eating an apple to coping with stressful situations, along with advice on selecting and preparing food, staying active, and avoiding self-criticism. Complete with a discussion of why healthy eating is also good for the environment, this is a uniquely insightful and positive program for wellness: a book of tested wisdom; practical action; and intellectual, emotional, and spiritual nutriments.

The idea is not to fixate on weight. Rather, it encourages us to bring our awareness to ourselves, our relationship with food, and the experience of eating.

You can find out more about the book and the approach on the Savor website.

Eating mindfully, free of distraction, is a challenging undertaking. When I took a mindfulness meditation course, one of the first things we had to do was to eat a raisin mindfully. That meant feeling it, smelling it, looking at it, rolling it between our fingers — all this before we even put it in our mouths.  From start to finish, it took about five minutes to eat — to savor — that raisin.

I’ve scarfed down whole meals in about the same amount of time, not even tasting them, on auto-pilot, or distracted by a magazine, the television, or that thought of dessert (!).

Learning to pay attention, not just to the food I’m eating but to the way I feel as I am eating it is a difficult challenge for me but it’s definitely something that I’ve been working on and I’m renewing my commitment to eat as mindfully as possible in 2015.

intuitive eatingIntuitive Eating

I’ve been a big fan of intuitive eating for quite some time now.  You can see my post “Intuitive Eating: What It Is and Why I Love It” from almost two years ago.

My main source of information about this approach comes from the book, Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

The book outlines 10 principles of intuitive eating:

Intuitive Eating (IE) is based on ten principles, to each of which the authors devote a full chapter:

  1. reject the diet mentality
  2. honor your hunger
  3. make peace with food
  4. challenge the food police
  5. feel your fullness
  6. discover the satisfaction factor
  7. cope with your emotions without using food
  8. respect your body
  9. exercise: feel the difference
  10. honor your health with gentle nutrition

Much of it is in the same spirit as mindful eating, but there is a more explicit focus on rejecting the diet mentality and learning to approach food differently. There is much more emphasis on getting in touch with your internal cues, feeling what it feels like to be hungry (and to respond to that hunger) and to feel full and satisfied.

I credit the intuitive eating approach with helping me learn to enjoy food again without feeling so bound by the rules and restrictions I’d internalized after years of dieting.

There’s an on-line community focused on intuitive eating. You can find it here.

eat qThe EAT Q Approach

Susan Albers’ book EAT Q is subtitled “Unlock the weight-loss power of emotional intelligence.”  Anything that talks about the weight loss power of anything automatically raises my hackles. But what I like about this book is that it devotes a whole chapter to undoing the diet mentality.

Dieting is a major barrier to the EAT Q approach. You can’t get anywhere with EAT Q if you’re stuck in the mindset associated with dieting.  Why?

Dieting distorts feelings around food and eating to the point that the feelings become secondary to the basic rules of deiting: restrict (food) and resist (desire).

There are other obstacles to EAT Q (i.e. pleasure seeking, social eating, stress, and trauma) but dieting is the first one on the list.

Lots of people who have difficulties with food engage in emotional eating.  Eat Q is “a concept that helps you align your intellectual knowledge about food and nutrition with your emotions…Eat Q improves the quality of your food decisions no matter how you’re feeling.”

It combines emotional intelligence and mindfulness to address emotional eating.  Emotional intelligence is “a set of skills that, collectively, helps you be aware of and understand your emotions and the emotions of others.”

Emotional eating is “defined by experts as eating in response to emotions–whether positive or negative–in order to change those emotions.”

And mindfulness, as mentioned before, is rooted in Buddhism and is about being “fully present in the moment, in a nonjudgmental way.”

When we employ the Eat Q method, it “helps us navigate our relationship with food–our overall ability to manage the relationship between what we feel and how we eat.”

The book outlines what it is, spends quite a bit of time talking about barriers to practicing it, and finally provides a few “tools for success.”

You can find out more about Eat Q here.

A New Year, a New You — Doing Things Differently in 2015

Each of the books I’ve talked about here outlines an alternative to the trap of dieting.  They’re challenging in their own ways. Unlike diets, these are not just temporary solutions. Rather, they are lifelong undertakings that can bring peace to our relationship with food and with our bodies.

One qualification worth mentioning: if you are very physically active, perhaps an athlete who trains intensely, you may find that simply paying attention to your physical hunger signals may not be good enough for you to get the food you need to support your training.  When I’m doing a difficult bike class on the trainer or out for a long run (over 12K), I need to eat regardless of whether I’m hungry. In fact, if I wait until I’m hungry, I’ve waited too long.

Nevertheless, except in the middle of a difficult training session, my internal cues are fairly good guides. And I consider it a huge achievement that I can recognize them. Back in the day when dieting was a way of life for me, I didn’t even know when I was actually hungry or when I’d had enough.

One final point. An important practice related to all of these approaches is the practice of eating slowly. Just learning to slow down is a major step for many chronic dieters.  For more about eating slowly, see Zen Habits’ post about Slow Eating.

I’m not going to promise that any of these approaches will guarantee weight loss. You might lose weight and you might not — but you will enjoy your food more and be less likely to eat more than you need.

Does anyone want to join me in my 2015 commitment not to diet and instead to eat slowly and mindfully?



2014 in review!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 390,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 17 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Running hot and cold on exercise and weight loss


It’s that time of year again.

Our news world is full of new year’s resolutions and science reporting on exercise and weight loss. The latest trend seems to be running while cold. The theory is that our overheated houses are contributing to weight gain and that we burn more calories when we have to work to maintain our body temperature.

Basic idea: Warmth is making us fat and running with an ice vest on can help fix that

See The Health Benefits of Cold.

Cronise began a regimen of cold showers and shirtless walks in winter, and he lost 26.7 pounds in six weeks. He began measuring his metabolism during and after cold exposure, and found that his body was burning a tremendous amount of energy. Rather than storing energy as fat, his body was using it to sustain his core temperature. Cronise’s preliminary experiments led him to put together what is now a pretty high-tech lab in his Huntsville, Alabama, home, where he conducts miniature scientific studies, mostly on himself. All of this attracted publicity, naturally. Timothy Ferriss hyped Cronise’s unorthodox weight-loss success in the 2010 best seller The 4-Hour Body. That same year, Cronise gave a popular TEDMED Talk. Wired ran a feature story describing his home laboratory, titled “The Shiver System.” Through it all, Cronise endured not just the obvious physical discomfort of his endeavors, but the discomfort of personal and public criticism. Some detractors raised concerns about regularly exposing one’s skin to cold (Cronise shared these worries); others accused him of diverting people away from solid principles of weight management and toward dubious shortcuts.

But not so fast….other research shows that people who run in warm environments lose more weight.

Exercise to lose weight? Stay warm, says the New York Times’ Gretchen Reynolds.

The researchers conclude, warm temperatures demand more from the body, because it must dissipate any buildup of internal heat. Blood flows away from the stomach and limbs and toward the skin surface so that the excess heat can be released.

When you exercise in cooler conditions, said Daniel Crabtree, a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, who led the study, “you don’t have to pump blood to the surface to dissipate heat.” The blood instead circulates normally, picking up and distributing biochemical signals from the stomach and elsewhere that apparently prompt the release of ghrelin, augmenting appetite and undercutting your best intentions to forgo that cupcake after exercise.

What to think? It’s not clear. Researchers seem to go back and forth on this one every year. We’ve even blogged about it before. See Does heat make you fat? No wait, it’s cold.

Our advice: Focus on fitness. Warm or cold, just run. Do what feels good. You’ll do more of it. Me, I’m skipping the ice vests.


competition · Crossfit · Rowing

2 km erg test: How far the mighty have fallen


I’m not rowing these days. Not just because it’s winter. I’m also not training indoors with the London Rowing Club.

I first stopped when I was helping to care for a seriously ill family member but even after her death I didn’t go back. I loved rowing but it wasn’t a perfect fit. There wasn’t enough local racing to keep me interested. The time spent driving versus the time spent racing seemed all wrong in the case of out of town regettas. Most importantly though my work travel schedule doesn’t fit well with taking a seat in a racing boat. I’m just away too much.

I’m okay with that. Really.

I loved rowing and expect I’ll do it again some day. I’m still excited and nervous when confronted with a 2 km erg test. When I first started indoor training for rowing, I wrote about the monthly 2 km erg tests. I liked the erg more than I thought I would and I actually won the masters women class in a local ergatta and blogged about that too here.

At CrossFit the other day, a timed 2000 m row was part of the workout. Yikes. Coach Dave asked if we had a best time we wanted to beat. The thing is I do have a best time, see posts linked above for details, but when I’m only training on the erg occasionally at CrossFit I can’t honestly expect to beat it. I settled on a time above my best ever time and aimed for that instead.

I was chatting that day with two other women who were trying to balance different goals, with varying degrees of commitments to different sports. I can rank the various things I do: cycling, Aikido, CrossFit, running…

I’m not quite a Jill of all sports, it’s easier to think of me as a polyamorous athlete with primary and secondary, etc commitments to various sports.

Rowing, I’m sorry. When I think about it that way you’re at best an occasional date.

I’ll keep my best ever 2 km time in my sights but I won’t sweat it too much if I fall short.



Under-loved posts of 2014

We published a list of our top posts from 2014 but this is a different sort of list. It’s a list of posts that we think deserve, in our eyes at least, a little bit more attention than they got. Who knows why they weren’t that well read. Titles? Timing? We’re not sure. But we think you ought to read them.

From Tracy


From Sam

From our Guest Bloggers

fitness · Guest Post

It’s not enough for me (Guest post)


Santa threw a Health magazine in my stocking this year. In typical voracious reader fashion, I read the whole thing. I’ve got an intensely critical view of fitness and health magazines, but I still read them when they are put in my path. Two things stood out for me in this issue.

The editor’s message: “If I eat right and fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise, even an ordinary day at the office feels like a win.”  The columnist’s (Tracy Anderson) message: “When the calendar is jam-packed, I know it’s tempting to push exercise to the back burner … to help you squeeze fitness into your crazy days, I’ve come up with a supereffective 10-minute head-to-toe toner.”

I know exactly why these two messages jumped out at me. I spent a very full fall squeezing in exercise in 10-, 20-, and 30-minute bursts, hoping my fitness would not suffer too much, hoping a less-is-more approach would allow me to find time for other things that mattered to me. I have an active life to begin with, I reasoned, so I just need to keep that up.

By the end of November, my exercise “routine” consisted of:  walking the dog daily (sometimes for 45 minutes, usually for 25, to his detriment and mine), playing with my son, walking around campus with a filled backpack, taking the stairs, soccer once a week, the odd yoga class. It was the minimum possible, meeting the “get 30 minutes of exercise” a day guideline only by virtue of the speed at which I walk (my heart rate actually did go up).

It’s not enough for me.

After a fall of doing the bare minimum needed to maintain my sanity, I am back exercising more. It did not happen overnight, and it is requiring a pretty substantial reset only made possible by virtue of the holiday closure of the university at which I work.  It started on December 1st. My son had a Lego advent calendar; I had a commitment to myself to get on the recumbent bike for 30 minutes each morning I was home, in addition to the “active” life. It was a start, a stop-gap plan until the rush of the fall term would end for me on December 19th. (It was also a way to deal with the work intensity of December, but that’s another story).

Since December 22, I’ve been back as a regular at the YMCA each morning (except for Dec 25, when it was closed). In my first class, Boot Camp, a mix of cardio intervals and weight sets, my legs were shaking so much in the final set of lunges that I needed to break my form. I spent Christmas day grimacing any time I had to use a gluteal muscle.

At some point in my run yesterday, I shifted from thinking about the productive soreness in my muscles, and started thinking about why less-is-more did not work for me in this instance. It’s worked elsewhere over the past year: I answer fewer emails, own fewer items of clothing, generally have a “try to declutter” attitude. I also thought about minimums and how, for me at least, there is a definite relationship between taking time and taking space. In my 15 weeks “off,” my best guess is that my weight fluctuated only slightly and if that’s what I cared about maybe there would be no issue for me; all of my clothes still fit. (I was actually kind of surprised by that, once I realized how much fitness I had relinquished). I noticed it in how I carried myself, though. How my shoulders no longer entered the room before me. How my legs were more often crossed than in power poses. How I felt small, not just petite. In that digressive way the mind works when running, I thought of the sign above my desk that reads “Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded.” Minimums have never worked for me, in anything I do – what on earth made me think that it would work when fitness was concerned?

I’ll keep reading about how less-is-more – and I might even apply some of it to my daily life – but when it comes to exercise, I’m pretty clearly in the more-is-more camp.


Top ten posts of 2014

This isn’t a list of the the most viewed posts in 2014 but rather the 2014 posts that got the most views!

What’s the same as in years past? Our most popular posts are about body image and weight.

What’s different? Two of our most popular posts are from guest bloggers. Yay! It’s feels like we’re part of a real community of feminists writing about fitness these days.

Here’s the 10 most viewed posts from 2014:

  1. Jennifer Lawrence and Body Shaming. Really?
  2. image

  3. Does one of the fittest women in the world need Photoshop?
  4. Big women and strength
  5. image

  6. Men: It isn’t junk, Women: Stop saying you don’t need to see that
  7. Deadlift Day
  8. image

  9. Revisiting the Thigh Gap: Thin Body Shaming Isn’t Okay Either
  10. CrossFit and women’s bodies: It’s complicated
  11. image

  12. Fat, Strong, and Confident (Guest Post)
  13. Thigh chafing and the joys of summer
  14. image

  15. Losing 20 lbs: A complicated gift (Guest post)

Thanks to all of our readers, likers, and followers! It’s nice to feel appreciated.