Sam, Catherine, Susan, Tracy and I are all participating in facebook groups to track our workouts for the year, with the goal of hitting 219 in 2019. This is my third year doing it, and I’ve written about it many times — exploring what “counts” as well as the impact of counting and accountability.
Last Tuesday, I hit #250 for 2019 (a noontime #getstrong class, benchpress day) — and it made me pause and reflect on how profound the impact of participating in this group has been for me. I used to be a person who worked out a lot, but I think my default setting was day-without-a-workout and then I sprinkled in runs, spinning and yoga classes and trips to the gym, probably working out three times most weeks, if I’m honest. Now, I’m someone who works out pretty much every day, unless something significant happens to stop me. And that happened in less than two years.
Over those two and a half years, I’ve really tried to define what “counts” for me. It’s a very imprecise science, but here’s where I’ve landed: any episode of sustained physical activity that isn’t what I would normally do in my day. Riding my bike 5km to a meeting doesn’t typically count, because I would do it regardless — but riding my bike in the rain or cold, or to a meeting that’s unusually far away, does. (If I have a medium long commute, I’ll add some yoga or planks or something to make it feel like a set of activities). For the most part, I count one episode of activity as one “unit,” whether it’s 20 minutes of low key yoga or an 8 hour, 150 km bike ride. I believe it all evens out. (I also have an arcane system of half points, usually applied to something like a short self-guided yoga session or after dinner walk that I didn’t really feel like doing but made myself do. I give myself points for getting off my butt when I didn’t want to even if the actual output wasn’t particularly intense).
I know — it’s wacky — but it works for me. And even though I’ve been a person who works out regularly for 24 years, it has transformed my relationship with moving my body.
My first year doing the group — 217 in 2017 — I worked hard to get to 217, finally hitting it on Christmas day, then doing a few “bonus” workouts for the year. I felt pretty pleased with myself. Last year, after working out every day in July, I realized I could aim for 300 — and ended up at 302. This year, I’m well poised to surpass 300 — although I don’t really have a refined goal — maybe 325? (350 seems punitive and like it would lead to me not having enough rest).
Across the past year or so, there are literally only a handful of days where I just shrugged and didn’t work out at all because I “didn’t feel like it” — the days I’ve “missed” I’ve been sick, or traveling, or literally working 14 hours. There are almost no days where I haven’t grabbed at least a pre-bed 30 minutes for a quick 20 minute run or Yoga with Adriene. Now I have a little inner question mark of “what will you do today?” — not “what days this week might you be able to work out?”
Theory in action: this Thursday, I facilitated a huge, all day, complicated meeting in Ottawa. I had to be onsite at 7, then had to fly home later that night. The day before, I squished a 5 k run in between arriving and diving into prep, then the day of the meeting, at lunch, I put on my training shoes and marched briskly around a two bridge loop on the Ottawa river. It was a gorgeous day, with the parliament buildings right behind me (looking reassuringly solid despite the messy chaos of the news of the day — although I see that the wind made a haystack of my hair, lol). In the past, I might have managed the run, but never both the run and the 7 km walk.
I don’t take selfies of every workout, but looking at the ones I do have over the year, it’s a pretty amazing reel of me moving my body and moving through my life: running around my neighbourhood, and in Australia, Uganda, Lithuania and the south of France… yoga poses where I’m going deep into strength and stillness… hiking in Iceland with my niece, near Algonquin park, and in Newfoundland… stand up paddle boarding with my neighbour… riding my bike in Lithuania, Newfoundland and in the last leg ever of the Triadventure, which has been part of my life for so long… learning to lift heavy weights for the first time in my life in the feminist gym down the block that feels like such a powerful gift. The images are a kind of journal, and they’re a ribbon of affirmation: I am strong. I can move through my life with grace and power. I can make choices every day that feed my health, my mind and my soul.
What we actually do in our “219 in 2019” accountability group is simple: we list what workout we did and what number it is. There’s a bit of discussion and encouragement of each other, but mostly it’s just a record. But the impact of it on my life has been profound.
What kinds of simple habits have transformed your relationship with movement?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and moves her body in Toronto. She writes for this blog once a week.