A few weeks ago I got into a mutual motivation session on social media with my friend, Serene. I posted something about getting out for a run at lunch time. Serene said, “Go, Tracy, go!” That was enough to kick me into gear. When I got back I posted a series of pics with the status line: “Photo evidence that if Serene says go, I go.”
Serene then felt obligated to go to the gym later that day for her workout (I think she said, “OK now I have to drag my ass to the gym.” And she did.
We kept it light and fun, with me coming back with “Serene, now tell me to get going on grading those papers. You seem to be effective at getting me to do stuff I don’t really want to do.” Academics really, really struggle with grading papers. Ask any of us. It’s hands down the worst part of teaching. Further evidence of it’s bottom ranking was Serene’s comment, “Anyone who thinks that working out is the hardest thing to make themselves do has never met grading.”
Too true. Indeed, in addition to Serene’s prompting, I think I went running that day at least in part to avoid grading.
So what happened there? What happened was a little exchange on social media got Serene and me out the door to do our things. She reported back later: “Update: definitely one of those days where your workout sucks no matter what you do, but I did it!”
I find friends are really great motivators, and it’s awesome when the motivation is mutual. After I posted earlier this week about my pull-ups, I had a few people message me to say that my post motivated them to give them another whirl. This is another example of the way we can motivate each other. I see you, my friend, do something awesome and it makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I can do that awesome thing too.
Another way: workout dates with friends. Sunday morning long runs with Anita and Julie were the mainstay of my running training for the longest time (until Anita went to the UK for a year and Julie started suffering with foot troubles and has had to turn to spinning for a bit — waiting!). Knowing we had a commitment to meet up with one another was mutually motivating for all concerned. It also got us through the tough runs, when things became difficult and we wanted to quit. We’re always less likely to quit when we’ve got friends counting on us.
And lately, I’ve been meeting up with friends at the early hot yoga class on Saturday mornings. I love activity dates so much.
Do you and your friends engage in mutual motivation? How?
One of the greatest things about having a large community of active people around me is that great recommendations I get when I put out a call for tunes to refresh my running playlist with. The most recent update came to me, not with my own call but in a comment thread in response to someone else’s. Maybe I’ve had this recommended to me before, but I didn’t follow up. That was back when no one had posted the video. This time, someone did.
The tune is called “Soy yo,” which is Spanish for “I am.” It’s by Bomba Estéreo. My Spanish is kind of rusty, so beyond the title I don’t know what the words mean. But it doesn’t matter because the music video has given me such a positive impression of the song that I feel like a million bucks of invincibility every time I hear it. It’s all on account of the kid at the heart of the video. She is just bursting with life, with attitude, with gumption.
From the minute she steps out of the salon where she just had her hair done, clearly pleased with herself and the result, she is ready to take on the world. And so she does. In three short scenes, she puts herself out there with unabashed self-confidence. And I’m cheering for her all the way.
See for yourself!
What’s your current fave video (preferably it’s attached to a great tune for my revised winter running playlist)?
Aimée Morrison writes: “I am officially 100% over ever seeing another skinny, pretty, blonde, expensively dressed yoga teacher doing incredibly difficult poses in airy and sunlit minimalist rooms, unsweaty and smiling beatifically. Honest to god, I think these kinds of braggy photos are the reverse of yoga. Of course, my feed is full of yoga ads with nothing but these kinds of images. OVER IT.”
I was glad I found a yoga photo without skinny blondes for this post.
Aimée Morrison has been practicing yoga for 11 years, training in a 200 hour YTT in 2014, and Yoga for Round Bodies 2016. Erstwhile yoga teacher introductory to advanced at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener. In her spare time, associate prof at UWaterloo, specializing in social media.
I was feeling down about my knee and all the not-moving I’ve been doing. Also, pain is hard. So sitting on the sofa, icing my knee, I picked up my phone and posted to Facebook and complained about it. Two other friends, it turned out, have similar knee issues.
Later, I posted again: “Two different friends are going through similar knee things. I don’t know whether this makes me feel better or worse. I’m getting old but not I’m alone? Sigh.”
Turns out that two was a radical underestimate. More than a dozen friends chimed in about their experiences with injuries, chronic conditions, physiotherapy, and rehab. Thanks friends! I guess. Sorry you’re in my shoes. We had a great discussion and I felt better after. I asked people who wanted to share their thoughts in a group blog post the following questions: What’s one lesson you’ve learned? One piece of advice you’d give others?
Alexis: “I love this! I would say that the main thing I’ve learned from repeated injuries is that our bodies are sites for care – being injured really illuminates for me how many people around me are living in a lot of physical pain, all the time, and that makes me amazed at how kind, competent, and generous they are even under that kind of pressure. So it’s cheesy, but having injuries has helped me think about extending care to myself and others as a more general way to be in the world. Some injuries heal, but some don’t, and we can’t tell which ones will or how they’ll transform, so adopting an attitude of patience and a practice of not-despairing-yet is good.” (Regular injuries include dislocated sacro-iliac joint from deadlifting too heavy while too tired, IT-band pain when running in non-minimalist shoes, and Achilles tendon pain when running to far in minimalist shoes. Teacher, functional potter, meditator.)
Sandi: “During the off season, I lift weights but don’t do anything else. I’m hoping my lack of yoga and stretching is my problem, and not my age. I was cleaning out my closet and trying on jeans when I tweaked my knee. I’m making assumptions that its just patellofemoral pain so have been rolling my quadriceps. I’m thinking yoga might have to be the next step.” (Sandi is an IT consultant who spends too much time sitting at a desk and Highland Games athlete in her off hours.)
Dani: “I’ve been thinking a lot about your blog idea about injuries and joint issues. I think injury recovery has a bit of privilege involved in it. Not only does there need to be financial privilege of having benefits or the ability to pay for treatment but also the privilege of having time to recover from the injury or joint issue. I routinely have injuries and or joint issues but because of what I do I don’t have the ability to take the time to heal. I’ve stopped going to the doctors for injuries because they’ll tell me to rest, but I have 12+ horses that rely on me for daily care…so I rely on Tommy Copper clothes, Alleve and topical treatments…oh and Dr.Ho.” (Dani is a horsewoman who puts her horses health above her own.)
Alison R: ” “Let it rest” is almost as hard as “do this painful physical therapy.” I have had to do both in my life. But whenever a piece of us is broken, I find it helpful to remember–and to use!–the pieces that are not. Knee or ankle injury? Keep doing upper body and core, or sitting leg lifts. Shoulder or elbow injury? You might have to give up running, but walking and leg day and core are still options. I don’t say this because I am obsessed with exercise. I say this because it feels bad, when one is injured and active but told to let the injury rest, to not be active. Ask your doc or PT if it will impair healing to exercise in other ways with the rest of your body. And it feels bad, when one is generally active, to do painful PT. So finding non-painful ways of still enjoying your body and being active can really help make it through the bad bits. “Let it rest” and “do this painful PT” can be miserable enough. Those of us who enjoy moving can still find ways to do it even with injury, with input from the medical professionals who are helping us out.” (Alison is a hiker, recovering soccer player, occasional runner, and person who enjoys lifting heavy things.)
Sarah R: “I’m a 45 year active female too young for knee replacement, but want my activity level back. One lesson I’ve learned about rehab after injury is that you need to be patient; most times recovery is slow and painful. But if you do what the professionals say you will get back to your activities. Some advice is to always stay flexible and to add variety to your activities to keep all ligaments, muscle groups strong in the joint.”
Ruth: “If you do anything that involves sprinting (football, basketball, soccer, actual sprinting) you will eventually pull a hamstring. I’ve been sprinting for my whole life, so I’m pretty lucky that this has only happened a couple of times. Mostly what I have learned is that unless something is broken, most of the time you have to heal on your own. The ER can’t really do anything for even a bad sprain, so you have to ice it, rest it, and take post-surgical doses of ibuprofen (even though I have never had surgery in my life, unless you count a colonoscopy). You can almost always do *something* when you have an injury. So I took a couple of days off and then started with walking on the treadmill. By day 4 I was back at kettlebells with modifications. I need 5-6 workouts a week to feel normal, so my main goal was *don’t break the chain*. Keep moving. Even with a bad hamstring pull, you can do planks, ski-erg, pull-ups and chin-ups, bench press. If you talk yourself into thinking there is only *one* sport for you, you will be in a lot of trouble. If it isn’t an acute injury, you will eventually get an overuse injury, so be prepared to change it up.” (I am a philosopher, tree farmer, and lifelong runner. I like team sports but not contact sports, so other than running, I’ve played squash and tennis. Lately I run,snowshoe run, row (on water and the erg) and do kettlebells. I would like to hike all of the 4,000 footers in the White Mountains.)
Lori: “Lesson learned from a bad hamstring injury a couple of years ago: take rest seriously, and don’t identify too closely with one sport or activity; fitness is about being flexible to give your body exercise in ways that work. I took up swimming and took a break from running when I had the above injury, and it was great–grew to love swimming.” (Lori is a runner who is aspiring to do more yoga, who loves activity that is outdoors and challenges her in a variety of ways: balance, strength, agility. Movement makes her happy.)
Vanessa: “Well, this is a re-injury. I had surgery 10 years ago. I’m not sure what I could have done to avoid it the first time other than “don’t fall skiing” and the second time as “don’t slip on an elementary school gymnasium during indoor ultimate frisbee. But I suppose corresponding lessons would be make sure the release pressure on your skiis properly corresponds to your weight (I had lost some weight at the time I went skiing and it didn’t pop off as it was supposed to) and for the gymnasium, wear running shoes with good traction?” (Vanessa is a newly thirty writer/editor who categorizes herself as a cyclist, traveller, and plant-based foodie.)
Susie: “I took up swimming after blowing out my right knee 4 years ago. Tore the meniscus while reaching up to put a box on a shelf. No one had ever told me I needed to maintain my knees. Decided to forgo surgery in favour of physiotherapy. The physio told me to get in the pool and drag my bad leg along until it was able to move. Joined a masters’ swim club, and the knee continues to improve. Which is great, because I really hated not going skijoring in the winter with the dogs, and hiking in the summer. Advice: non-weight bearing exercise is your friend, to help rebuild the knee.” (Hobbies: Sailing in the summer, skijoring in the winter, and swimming all year round. I love my Bob, my boys and my border collies.)
Jennifer: “What I am learning is how random the incidents seem to be that cause knee issues for so many! Dancing furiously? Chasing a lover around the bed? Going down a mountain too quickly after hiking up? Check, check and check. Random! Then a huge learning curve to figure out what to do. As a 50-something who suffers from gravity’s inexorable push, I am beginning to think knee probs are a rite of passage for the fifth decade or so.” (Jenn is an old-school community reporter learning new fangled ways in stunning, Chilliwack B.C. and dreaming of one day climbing its highest peaks. But not with these knees.)
Jody: ‘My knee injury is a result of osteoarthritis worsening over years of physical labour and finally a yoga move without direction. What I have learned is you can come back from an injury even after years of no treatment and the advice I’d share is to accept where you’re at and be patient with yourself.” (Aspiring writer of random thoughts, star gazer, mother, and somebody’s grandmother. A woman warrior of many a challenge and misadventure who refuses to give in.)
What’s your injury/rehab story?
What’s one lesson you’ve learned? One piece of advice you’d give others?
I’ve been thinking a lot about food choices lately. I’m not doing that in judgmental way. I’m interested in which foods resonate and why. What counts as comfort food? Me, I’ve got a soft spot for white bread. See In defense of (some) white foods (some of the time). My fave form is toast with jam. That’s definitely a childhood memory thing. Here’s my thoughts about bread with jam in the form of ‘hotel toast.’ This originally appeared in a zine (remember those?) called Philosophers on Holiday, edited by Peg O’Connor and Lisa Heldke. It’s from volume V, number 1-2, summer/fall, 2001.
Philosophers on Holiday is a quarterly ‘zine launched in the summer of 1997 as the “hippest, nowest, coolest thing in the philosophical travel-and-leisure genre.” After the free inaugural issue, people actually subscribed. This just encouraged us to do more, and so we offer selected articles from our print edition here in cyberspace, filling yet another void in the field of philosophical travel and leisure. We borrow our motto from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein suggests that philosophical problems emerge when we forget how words function in ordinary circumstances. When language “goes on holiday,” we create our own thorny, knotty problems–and then we proceed to chew on them for a thousand years or so. Our ‘zine was born out of our recognition that when philosophers go on holiday, we also tend to thrum up thorny little problems that keep us worrying all the way across Montana. Philosophers, unleashed in the ordinary world, are dangerous–or, at the very least, highly amusing. Of course on a good day, we can also be rather insightful. (Paying way too much attention to the ordinary can produce real wisdom every once in awhile.) Philosophers On Holiday attempts to bring all things philosophical and holiday-related together in one place; the danger, the amusement, the bumbling, and, yes, the occasional pearl of wisdom.
In Newfoundland, where I lived from the age of 4 to 11- having emigrated from England with my baker parents and baby sister- the locals called it “fog bread”. White, wispy, insubstantial. Mass-produced, eerily free of mould for weeks on end. The bread of choice for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well as such more traditional favourites such as bologna and mayo or margarine and sugar.
“My dear,” said a neighbour, “it ain’t much of a bread but it sure makes a lovely piece of toast.”
As toast was where I first encountered it. Growing up as a child of bakers who cared deeply about such things as the proper ingredients for bread, there wasn’t any of the processed white sliced stuff in our house. Sure, we had French baguettes from time to time, or nice, hard, crusty rolls. But just trying getting those in the toaster. The first time I had puffy, white bread was as toast in a hotel dining room. What a culinary eye-opening experience- hotel toast. Yum. Soft, squishy and evenly brown all over. It was the perfect receptacle for strawberry jam.
I remained convinced through a few years of my early childhood that there was something special about hotel toast, some special appliance they used, some secret recipe. Whenever my family stayed in hotels, I ordered toast. I even called it “hotel toast,” convinced that one couldn’t get it elsewhere. Years later I discovered the secret-the bread that my parents never put in the shopping cart because it was full of “artificial preservatives.” (Ketchup was similarly maligned and banned along with “miracle whip” and pre-fab pastry, individually portioned in plastic wrappers.)
The love of puffy white toast hasn’t successfully been transmitted through the generations. I tried some on my children while we were renting a cottage in Prince Edward Island this year. “Ewww, ick.” They replied. I’m sure their rebellion of parental standards take a different form. Perhaps they’ll admire lousy but successful arguments.
Part of my workout routine at personal training involves pull-ups. Up until yesterday, they were always assisted by a rubber band. Paul has been changing to bands that offer less and less resistance, until finally a few weeks ago he said, “That’s it. Next time we’re going to no band.”
I wasn’t so sure about that, because I’d read that women can’t do pull-ups. You can see stories about that research here and here. The report says:
exercise researchers from the University of Dayton found 17 normal-weight women who could not do a single overhand pull-up. Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat.
By the end of the training program, the women had increased their upper-body strength by 36 percent and lowered their body fat by 2 percent. But on test day, the researchers were stunned when only 4 of the 17 women succeeded in performing a single pull-up.
Now, the pull-ups we do aren’t quite the same grip as the canonical overhand grip. So maybe I can’t do the standard pull-up. But still, even though I am gripping a bar that is perpendicular to my body, I’m pulling up my body weight.
So what happened when Paul took away my bands? Well, first he offered to put his hand under my right foot “just in case.” But then he thought the better of it and asked me to see what I could do.
It turns out I could do eight pull-ups! And not just once. Working in between sets of one arm dumbbell rows (with 35 pounds), I managed to do three sets of eight pull-ups. This completely shocked me. I know I’m stronger than I used to be, but I really don’t consider myself especially strong. And here I am, able to do pull-ups without a band.
I confess that Paul offered a little bit of assistance, putting a finger in the middle of my upper back and, when the going got tough, applying a little bit of pressure. But seriously, mostly it was me. And that’s pretty awesome. I felt sort of like a rock star for a few minutes!
So as Audrey said, “That readers digest mag article can shut up while I do some pull ups.”
What’s your relationship with pull-ups? Do you do them, want to do them, or have you let the research influence you to cross them off your list?
I’m sharing these pictures of me, ages 3 and 4, to show something that was unremarked then but noticeable now. My underwear are showing! Who cares? After all, I was just a very young kid. But my sense is that’s something people care about now even if we didn’t then.
I love the freedom of movement in these photos. The joy of moving without worrying about whether your body and its coverings are breaking any rules.
I have a special soft spot for the picture at the bottom of my grandfather and me. I’m mimicking his posture, down to the position of his legs, and even smoking a candy cigarette. He died of cancer so there’s that too.
I’m trying to remember when I became aware that strangers shouldn’t see my underwear. At what age did modest and propriety kick in?
When I started elementary school I went to Catholic school in Newfoundland. Mostly I have fond memories of my days with the nuns. Occasionally though their standards of ladylike behavior and I would run afoul.
Case 1: I’m sitting backwards on a school chair leaning my arms on the chair back, legs spread. I was wearing tights. Thick woolly tights so I didn’t think anything of it. But the nuns did. “That’s not a nice way for ladies to sit.” Noted.
Case 2: It’s winter and in addition to the jumpers and the tights before we go outside for recess you need to put on snowpants. There’s a line to get into the girls locker room so I pull them on quickly, look to make sure no one is looking, and zoom, up they go over my tights and jumper. But an older Sister caught me and sent me to the corner for not being modest. I knew the rules though I thought they were stupid rules and off I went.
What prompted me to think about school and modesty?
On the academic front, I’m teaching about school dress codes and the policing of young women’s bodies. Usually though the focus with dress codes is on high school age girls.
Then this came through my social media newsfeed.
A note that came home from school to a mother who blogged about it: “We would like to suggest that the girls wear a form of cycling shorts under their dresses to protect their modesty during outdoor play.” She blogged about it here.
I ran the whole thing by a few friends, and they shared my instinctive horror at the prospect of being obliged to teach my daughters that their underwear is obscene. Several of them had their own stories of similar goings-on in other schools.
Encouraged by their reaction, I replied with a gentle query, asking the headteacher to clarify the meaning of the word “modesty” in the context of children aged from four to ten years old, and wondering from what, exactly, this mysterious quality was being protected. Her reply was cheerful and evasive: “in the instance of underwear,” she explained, children doing normal school things like sitting on the floor or playing outside was “an issue,” and, again, all the girls must do this peculiar thing called “maintaining their modesty.”
I’ve written about the competing demands of athletic performance and modesty on the blog a few times. And I like wearing bike shorts under dresses so I don’t worry about showing my underwear.
At home I’ve got a homemade one that’s a fixed height. It’s basically an Ikea bookcase with a door for the table top. I fixed the monitor height by attaching it to the wall. Because it’s fixed height I only ever use it in bare feet.
Shoes have different height heels, mine do anyway, and going bare foot eliminates that variable. It also feels good. But maybe that’s just me.
Which comes to my first recommendation. Get a good floor mat. They make them for people in jobs that require a lot of standing. Mine is a chef’s mat and I bought it in a fancy kitchen supplies store.
My other standing desk is actually a variable height addition to my work desk. It’s fancy but I didn’t pay for it. Work did and they stopped paying for various chairs and physio to eliminate back and hip pain which has pretty much completely disappeared now I sit less.
The upside of the variable height desk? I can work in shoes. It doesn’t matter what height the heels are. Of course there problem with the variable height desk is that I can use it for too long in the sitting position. Early on though I discovered a fix.
That’s my second piece of advice. Always leave the desk in the standing position so when you come back to it, it’s up and you just start work. I arrive at work and work standing until mid morning. Often I change into work clothes from cycling clothes, get coffee, and sit for a bit. But before I go to lunch I put the desk back up to standing.
After lunch, it’s standing so I stand. Mid-afternoon, I swap again. But I when leave my office for the day it’s part of my routine to return the standing desk to the standing position.
There’s been a lot of research about standing desks and about standing versus sitting. Part of the problem is that the ‘always standing’ workers have issues too. But note they’re always standing. I’m not.
What’s best, surprise, surprise, is movement and variability. Sit, stand, walk. Don’t do any one thing for too long.
And to that list, I’d add, when I’m working at home, be sure to walk the dog (great for thinking) and flop on the bed (great for reading and napping.)
Last year this time I wrote a blog post about early winter walking– you can find it here. In the post I was full of resolve and plans for doing a challenge for walking a mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. A bunch of the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers and friends were doing it– some running, some walking.
For me, this challenge was a bust. I didn’t have the oomph to do it. It just made me feel resentful, overburdened, under-exercised, and inferior to my obviously-better-life-manager compatriots. However, it turns out that others found the challenge, well, challenging. It was reassuring to know that I had company in having a hard time meeting the challenge of challenges.
Of course this is no surprise. Challenges can be motivating, but also can trigger resentments, fears, anxiety– you name it. I speak for myself in a blog post here, but I know y’all can relate. Your comments about the various challenges I’ve taken on have been so helpful– I’ve gotten advice, encouragement, and stories of solidarity.
Now here we are, a year later, in that frenzied, festive, overheated period where both the light is fading to its minimum and we are expected to rev up the fun and frolicking.
In the midst of it, I feel– calm. A bit quieter than usual. Slow and deliberate. The indirect light suits me. The early dusk I find entrancing. This is a new experience and completely unexpected.
Maybe part of the reason is that I’m continuing my yoga-every-day practice. I’m up to 52 days now (I think), and it’s become a habit. Some days all I do is a few sun salutations, child’s pose, downward dog, a twist or two, and then legs up the wall. Other days I do more active yoga classes (or two classes in one day, kind of by accident last Wednesday). There are lots of options, and I’m beginning to develop tastes and preferences and needs which vary day by day. I’m learning a lot about how I actually feel– in my body, in my head.
But to hear these messages I need to be quieter. Despite the frenetic pace of the season, a little bit of yoga practice is bringing that quiet to me.
This week I’m setting up my bike trainer. Next year I have several cycling goals and plans, and they require proper training over the winter. I’ll be writing about those plans a bit later. But for this month, I’m going to try to bring that sense of quiet to my study where I can just turn the cranks on the bike and listen to what my body is saying that day. I’m keeping up the yoga too. It will be interesting to see if there is a way to bring a sense of quiet and inward focus to my other physical activities.
Are you feeling more inner-focused these days? Are you making use of the last bit of light and warmth before deep winter hits? How do you manage the transition? I’d love to hear from you.