Good Advice, Bad Advice: some thoughts from our bloggers on 2015

As this year wraps up, we’ve all been awash in benedictions on 2015 and expectations for 2016. Still, it’s cheering to look forward to fresh slates and new possibilities. This includes fitness. I’ll be posting Sunday on my fitness goals for 2016. For now, as a final adieu to 2015, I asked our bloggers what were some of their favorite fitness advice or revelations for this year. I also asked them what was the worst piece of fitness advice they ran across. Here are some of their responses (edited for brevity).

Let’s start with the revelations and good advice.

Gyms? You don’t necessarily need them.

I let my membership lapse in February, intending to switch to the YMCA; I then experimented with not joining, to see if all my outdoor activities could make the gym redundant. And they did. I cycled as usual with my club… I joined a rowing club in town and was motivated to get out on the water as often as possible because, no gym… I took up yoga at a specialist Iyengar studio in town because I could justify the added cost. And I swam, swam, swam at community pools around town, including my gorgeous outdoor neighbourhood pool.

Now, here we are at the end of the year, deep into winter, and I have no plans to head back to the gym! I am riding outside until it snows, riding my rollers, doing a trainer class with friends, using the ergometers at the rowing club as well as their weight equipment, and I’ve hired a personal trainer that my friends rave about, and indeed he is superb. I don’t miss the gym one bit. It’s true that all this stuff together costs a bit more than a year’s gym membership, but not much. Best of all, I’ve realised that doing sports stuff I love is WAY more fun this way.

Know that you can go slow.

I turned 50 this year and the biggest shift for me was to accept that I’m slowing down and taking longer to recover, that I won’t be in the faster group of runners or cyclists anymore. That was hard to swallow and I fought it. But acknowledging It helped me be present to what is true for me — that I’m 50 and can still ride 525 km through the Vietnamese hills with only my base fitness, I can run 10km with ease and joy — but all only if I slow down, stretch, remember that I’m preserving my body for mobility for another several decades rather than trying to win something in the now. 

For daunting exercises, divide and conquer.

There’s always a couple of exercises in my sets that make me anxious. A friend told me to divide my reps by three and make them more manageable chunks. It works beautifully!

Enjoy the immediate gratification of good feeling that exercise can bring.

Exercise does NOT have to hurt to be beneficial.

Just say NO to fat shaming at your doctor’s office.

Finally, after years of putting off medical care and gritting my teeth when I finally trudged into my doctor’s office, I changed practices and started afresh with someone I could be honest with. I told her I would not agree to be weighed anymore (except at a yearly physical), or unless it was needed (e.g. pre-operative appointment). I explained my position and she didn’t argue with me. I still get asked to be weighed each time to go (even for a cough—argh), but I say no each time and briefly remind them of the conversation we had. I’d prefer not being asked, but I can handle this, and it makes medical appointments much less stressful.

Goals/Schmoals—you can do the movement you do without judgment, assessment, or goals.

I’m trying to get out of the mindset that leads to self judgement when I don’t achieve an arbitrary goal. Self judgement is super demotivating. I have become very mindful of the temptation to critique myself when I don’t run/bike/whatever. Instead, I look to the next opportunity to do it, not because I should, but because I want to take care of myself. It’s resulted in the achievement of goals, ironically. I am now the proud owner of a 10minute mile (6 minute kilometer). It’s not that I’ve abandoned goals altogether, I just don’t take my failure as seriously as I used to.

When you feel the need, go for speed.

Speed work actually works! In swimming and running my times improved from speed drills. I will be doing more of this in my training through the winter. 

No one else is going to call you a failure (so how about don’t do it to yourself?).

I took a trad climbing course this summer. That’s a rock climbing technique where you place your own protection in natural features in the rock instead of clipping into already set bolts. It’s completely terrifying, since it requires even more trust in your own ability than regular rock climbing does. After a particularly knee-shaking, life-choice-questioning climb that weekend, I was once again reminded of a life lesson I probably should have learned by now (I don’t actually think I’ve learned it yet), that most people out there are not the least bit concerned with branding you a failure. And when you come back down off the cliff convinced that your friends will never let you show your face near them again because of whatever inability you have just displayed, you find yourself proven utterly wrong. Because they really don’t care half as much as you do about how good you are at things.

All movement counts—the power of everyday exercise is not to be underestimated.

I’ve blogged about this a bunch, and my experience on sabbatical demonstrated that just being active every day can strengthen me, improve the quality of my sleep, and make me feel happier. I’m keeping it up now that I’m back.

Now to the bad fitness advice to be avoided.

Anything to do with linking fitness and BMI is bad bad bad, especially doctor weigh-ins.

I see a rheumatologist regularly because I have an autoimmune disease; every time I visit her office – EVERY TIME – I have to be weighed and my weight noted in my file. My rheumatologist knows that I am an athlete and we talk a lot about which activities are helpful and/or harmful for the joint condition, and how to mitigate the latter. She’s a very good and sensible doctor, and I know she’s not *asking* for my weight; it’s something that gets done as a matter of routine for all patients by the interns. But why, for heaven’s sake, does it need to be routine? It’s just like the regular weigh-in when I get my physical at the doctor; the nurse duly notes my weight and then gets out the BMI chart. I always want to scream: put that away! It tells you nothing about my body or my health!

It’s one of the things I hate about going to the doctor – it makes me anxious for a good period of time before I head into the appointment room. I get performance anxiety about it. Surely that’s not a good thing?

Just say NO to diet trends.

I find the whole gluten free/paleo/deprive yourself of whatever trendy item is in vogue diet to be quite tiresome [you said it, sister! –caw].

I dislike the endless cycling of diets and “bad” foods everyone is obsessed with. I’m still with Michael Pollans “eat food, not too much, mostly plants “and keep a special place in my heart for carbs if I’m working out hard.

Worst advice was was to eliminate grains & starches from my plate as part of the Prevent weightloss program I’m accessing through work. After a week of feeling deflated and falling asleep every night after dinner for two hours I put grains and starchy foods back on my plate. I need that energy!

Bogus advice from factory farming and self-serving “health” industries: Milk (and its many contaminants), it does a body good.

Once more with feeling: weight loss does NOT equal fitness.

I continue to encounter people (mostly in my practice) that are fixated on the fitness=weight loss equation. By that I mean, fitness is for weight loss or weight loss means I’m getting fit etc. I have become more vocal about steering people away from that as a goal. I try to shift the conversation to taking care of the body by moving it and fueling it well, instead of punishing it and starving it. Punitive strategies never work in the long term and do great damage over time.

Demonizing fatness and body positivity are wrong and scary, and we all have to stand together on this.

The most appalling thing I’ve been exposed to fitness-wise is the sub-group of people who have made it their personal mission to debunk Ragen Chastain and everything she says. People need to get a life. I found it shocking to learn that there are whole blogs devoted to inspecting date stamps on her training photos and so forth to prove that her claims about training can’t be true. Seriously? It’s fat hatred in action. It was enough to make me leave the Pathetic Triathletes group, which made me realize too that I prefer the feminist fitness community that we have cultivated to any other fitness community in the world.

So, readers, what are some of your favorite fitness revelations of the year? Any really bad advice that stands out? Let us know.

And Happy New Year from Fit is a Feminist Issue!

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About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

6 thoughts on “Good Advice, Bad Advice: some thoughts from our bloggers on 2015

  1. fitnessgrad says:

    Catherine,
    I must have missed this , because I would have loved to share some of my thoughts on good and bad and what I have learned, lol. Of course many of your bloggers did a great job and hit what I would have probably mentioned anyways. I just started blogging and my topics are based around health, fitness, wellness.. ect. All the good stuff, right?ha. I am quite interested in reading what you have to say later about your fitness goals and as to why you chose them as a goal. You are more than welcome to stop by my page and read some of my blog post, would greatly appreciate it & maybe we can share some opinions or what have you.

    Shay-lon

    Like

  2. siglindesarts says:

    My revelation was that I don’t always have to build up to a new challenge, if I have a solid base. I swim regularly, especially outdoors in the summer – usually 3-4 km each time. This summer, my friends and I decided to swim 8 km (the length of the lake and back), even though we hadn’t done more than 5 km at any single session this year. Turned out to be way easier than I thought! I’m no longer so afraid to try new things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. yogibattle says:

    What a wonderful list…even useful to us guys! I particularly like what you said about the BMI fallacy. Happy new year!

    Like

  4. Sandi C. says:

    Looks great! I’ve found that with a focus on strength and increasing capability I’m so much less focused on weight and waist size. I’m still aware there’s room for improvement, but not obsessively like before.

    Like

  5. Anusha Narasimhan says:

    Thank you for the lovely post. I don’t like going to the gym, so I do yoga at home. I haven’t been exercising lately. Your blog is an inspiration to concentrate on my fitness. Reading this post, I’m motivated to resolve that I’d exercise daily. Wish you a happy and healthy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Motorina says:

    I’m an unconventional athlete – came to exercise late, non-standard body – and am a passionate advocate for the benefits of joyful movement for everyone. I’m an advocate of HAES, and vehemently call out fat hate when I see it.

    Yet I’m really sceptical about Ragen Chastain. Why? Because her ironfat blog has been demonstrated to be lies and nonsense once too often. Whilst I hope she’s doing the training she claims and will achieve everything she wants at ironman, I can’t ignore the inconsistencies in her blog, or between her claims of athletic excellence and the reality of her half-ironman and marathon performances.

    IMHO, those inconsistencies make her a bad advocate for fat acceptance. It’s nothing to do with her athleticism, and everything to do with her integrity.

    There are plenty of fat athletes out there – training hard, achieving, inspiring – but Ragen isn’t one of them.

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