I’ve been working on a project on women and cycling, which begins by looking at the role the bicycle played in early feminism. One of the things I’m interested in seeing is whether the attitudes to women on bikes in the 1800s have entirely gone away. What I argue, in the course of a longer paper on the subject, is that they haven’t. In fact, I think some of the same attitudes pose an obstacle to getting more women on bikes now.
Yesterday, for the second time in a week, I was part of a conversation about exercise procrastination.
Exercise procrastination is when you put off starting today’s exercise session.
So, this isn’t about people who don’t want to exercise, nor is it about people who are putting off starting an exercise program. This is about people who have an exercise habit but have trouble getting started on a given day.
I know that lots of people have no issue at all with fitting exercise into their schedule. For them, it’s automatic. There’s no need to convince themselves to get started, no ‘talking themselves into it’ and, from what I can tell from chatting with them, this whole post would make no sense to them at all.
But for everyone of those ‘just schedule a time and do it’ people, there are people like me who spend a lot of time convincing themselves to start moving.
I know that, for me, there are ADHD factors at play here.
I have trouble with switching tasks and I struggle with task initiation. Both of those things make stopping what I am doing and then starting an exercise session a tricky proposition.
And, since it requires sustained concentration and effort, my brain treats a 30 minute exercise session like it is a HUGE task instead of a small part of my day.*
But I also know that, once I get moving, I really enjoy exercising. It’s just that getting started is hard.
So, to lower the obstacles between me and exercise, I have two practices in place.
I set a reminder for 10 minutes before I want to get started so I have some warning that I will have to switch tasks.
I tell myself that I only HAVE to exercise for 10 minutes.
(Yes, apparently the number 10 is a big factor in my exercise plans.)
Most of the time, the 10 minute reminder is enough notice for my brain to get used to the idea of switching from one task to another, so that change doesn’t feel abrupt. And, ages ago, I figured out that once I am exercising for 10 minutes, I usually start to enjoy myself.
Obviously, sometimes I start having fun right away but sometimes it doesn’t seem fun at any point. I don’t necessarily stop when exercising isn’t fun but having the 10 minute escape hatch is still helpful. Knowing that I *can* stop in just 10 minutes makes it easier to get started.
I still procrastinate when it comes to exercise but since I put those two practices in place, I do it far less.
How about you?
Do you procrastinate about exercise?
How do you get past the procrastination and get moving?
*I’m not even going to get into the whole rigmarole that my brain puts me through with picking the ‘right’ time to exercise and the ‘right’ exercise to do, those things are outside the scope of this procrastination thing.
I was walking in front of two young women undergrads on my way to the gym. Their conversation was personal and painful. Back when my knee worked I would have picked up the pace. Now I can’t. I just had to listen.
I won’t share the whole story because of possible identifiable details but the main theme is familiar to blog readers, body shame and size anxiety
Young woman 1 (YW1) says she went home for the weekend and cried the whole time. It started when her mother bought her new pants.
“I hate it when people buy me clothes. I HATE IT.”
Noted. But why tears? She continues.
“They were a size too big. What does she think I am, a fat cow? I can’t believe she thinks I’m that big.”
Friend asked sensibly what prompted her mother to buy her clothes. So far I’m liking the friend.
Turns out YW1 had messaged home that none of her clothes fit and she’d gained weight eating in the cafeteria even though she went to the gym everyday.
Friend now drops out of my favour when she commiserates. “And your mom thought you wanted to stay big? Who wants that? You need to get back into your regular clothes. Let’s just workout and skip lunch. F*CK your mom.”
On behalf of moms everywhere let me just say she was trying to help! You said none of your clothes fit! She likely carefully looked at labels and bought one size up. Care, concern, detective work. Problem solving is what moms love to do. Over the years, I’ve learned that isn’t always what’s wanted. Sometimes they want you just to listen. That’s a hard lesson to learn.
But also as they both passed me, now heading to the gym with resolution and speed, I couldn’t help but notice how tiny they both were. Single digit sizes for sure. I noted that even though I know it doesn’t make a difference. I’m sorry you’re stressed and crying all weekend about weight gain. University life isn’t easy. Just a few weeks ago I was walking through the residences, knocking on doors and talking to students about the first few weeks of university. It’s part of a program here at U of G called House Calls They knew we were coming so I thought they might not be home. But no, they seemed to appreciate the connection and openly shared some of the problems. Sometimes I helped and sometimes I just listened.
I’m sorry we live in a world where that’s the thing you choose to name and cry about because I’m pretty sure it’s not the only thing going on in your life.
I’m sorry double digit, high end of the straight sizes, me had to hear you calling yourself fat and thinking that one size is up is cow sized.
I reminded myself that all bodies are good bodies and went to look for some cows that make me smile.
I’m back inside riding. Why hello Zwift! It’s been awhile. So much fun.
I’m also continuing the path to become an indoor cycling instructor. I wrote the test yesterday. Scary. It won’t be graded for a few weeks. I’ll let you know. Next up, playing apprentice instructor in a few classes.
But I’m still trying to go for short outside rides too. I’m commuting by bike and I’m looking forward to playing in the snow with bikes. I even blogged about my transition to being an all season rider. That makes fall less sad. But so too do plans to go riding in January in Florida
And before that I was in Munich for a conference on Neglected Relationships talking about chosen family. What a big month!
So dark! And getting darker still next weekend. Pretty soon I’ll be getting up in the dark, riding to work in the dark, and riding home in the dark too. I’ve got my warm, reflective gear ready along with all the lights for my bike out and fully charged.
I’ve also decided to order some full spectrum lights to help with the season of darkness. Do you do that? Does it help?
My knee pain continues. I’m not able to walk very far without my knee brace but even with the knee brace it’s limited. I’ve pretty much cut out long walks which is hard. I didn’t see much of Munich. I miss walking Cheddar!
I’m losing weight still and still conflicted about all of that. I’m at the stage of needing to replace some clothes. On the upside I can now fit into my smaller jeans again.
I’m trying to avoid the internalized version of you’ve lost weight, you look great. That’s a little bit too easy of a trap to fall into if I try being body positive about my slightly smaller body. Body positivity is easier for me at smaller sizes. No surprise. And it feels mean to my former size. Given that I know the odds of never seeing that size again aren’t great, I’m trying to avoid all of that.
Instead I’ve been trying out Tracy’s body neutrality attitude. This is a good body. So too was my larger body. It’s just that the larger body wasn’t such a good match for my aging arthritic joints. It was better for some things and this body is better for others.
The tone of incredulity was hard to miss. My mother, who I love very much and is, and has always been, very different from me, clearly could not fathom why I would want to learn to lift heavier weights. You see, I’ve recently hired a personal trainer to teach me the big barbell lifts, and while I am thrilled about it, my mother is clearly concerned.
I don’t share her fears. And I LOVE lifting weights. Why?
Lifting gives me a sense of mastery of a skill–a skill that few have pursued with seriousness, male or female, but especially us females. We aren’t encouraged, of course, but there is something wonderful about feeling really and truly capable at lifting heavy things. Or perhaps in part, it is because it is not encouraged? There is definitely something subversive about the pursuit of strength for a woman–a willingness to stand out, to stand up proud, and to possibly pursue taking up MORE space in a world that encourages us to achieve endless smallness instead.
Lifting gives me a space to focus purely upon myself and my own goals. I do it for myself, because I like it, and I enjoy the results. I know not everyone here supports aesthetic goals associated with exercise, but I admit, I like the definition in my arms when I flex. I like the subtle ripple of muscles on my back when I move. I celebrate these changes in my physique as evidence that my body, at least to some extent, is something I can mold to my desires. I grew up bigger and softer than most of my peers, and I falsely believed it was my fate to remain that way. Redefining my goals with lifting has shown me that I have more control than that over my appearance–they aren’t always dramatic these changes, and I’ll likely never look like a fitness model, but they are real, and measurable proof that I can have some impact on my appearance, to look more on the outside like the strong person I know I am on the inside. Lifting helps my appearance more closely mirror an authentic sense of myself.
Truly though, the goal for me is so much more than the pursuit of an aesthetic; I enjoy feeling strong. Feeling and truly being strong helps me feel safe and in control. I like how it allows me to move with confidence through the world, literally changing how I show up. Because of my lifting, I hold my shoulders and head up a bit higher, walk a bit more confidently, move with more self-assurance. Lifting also reduces my pain so I move a bit less like the “old lady” I can feel like some days, and it gives me agency to improve upon challenges that otherwise I’d have no venue to improve. I am strong enough to dig my own holes, open my own jars, and assemble my own Ikea cupboards. Lifting gives me the confidence to do these physical tasks and to believe I can be competent at them.
Lifting builds my mental toughness. Learning that what I thought were my limits were in fact surmountable feats has helped me to challenge other assumptions I’ve had about myself. Pushing the boundaries of strength in a climate that does not encourage me to do so has helped me to ignore naysayers who would try to hold me back in other aspects of my life. It is easier (although still not always easy) for me to speak up when I have had many opportunities to stand up for my space at the gym. It is easier for me to speak my truth when I have had to listen to myself and acknowledge my truth as an athlete.
Lifting challenges my own belief that I am a sickly person, who will always suffer poor health, bad luck, and the chronic pain that comes with it. I can be proactive in this way, when so much of my health is so out of my control. In this one element of my life, I can choose to increase the odds in my favor. It won’t grow back missing organs or wipe away the scars of surgeries. It doesn’t allow me to quit all my medications, although maybe it helps me manage with lower doses. It doesn’t end all my pain, although maybe it reduces the severity. It doesn’t mean I can suddenly ignore troublesome symptoms, although it may help me notice important changes sooner. I am not a genuinely healthy person, but lifting certainly makes me healthier.
Lifting for me is a celebration of life and abundance. I recognize my ability to lift is a gift and a privilege. Not everyone can do what I am doing. I have not always been able to do what I am doing. I may, some day, no longer get to do what I am doing today. I am so grateful for this time, for this opportunity to push myself and to have the health and strength and resources to lift like I do, as often as I get to do it. I love lifting weights because it brings me joy and gratitude for this moment. That is why I do it.
Now it’s your turn–do you have a powerful reason why you move the way you do? Please share your thoughts below!
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found joyfully picking up heavy things and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.
This weekend I’m at a conference called Feminism and Food, courtesy of CSWIP— the Canadian Society of Women in Philosophy. It’s happening at the University of Guelph, where Samantha works, and she’s one of the organizers. Thanks, Sam (and all the others), for such a great conference!
The talks have been so fun and thought-provoking (in very good ways), that I wanted to share a few of the tidbits with y’all. Here we go:
Maybe you’ve been thinking for a while now, “I wonder– is sourdough actually sexist?” Or not. But Vanessa Lehan-Streisel has thought a lot about it. She looked at the resurgence of sourdough bread and the rise of celebrity male bread bakers. What’s the upshot of all this: she says that they’ve injected technical terms (like algorithm) and use of super-fancy and super-expensive appliances that ignore the long ( I mean really long) tradition of women bakers, baking sourdough and all sorts of other bread without shouting about it or going on social media, etc. She’s got a point here.
Am I a compost pile? Well, no, but… Shannon Boss showed us that food is not only about health, but also about dissolution. We may not come from compost, but to compost we shall go. This may not seem like a happy message, but it was refreshing to be reminded that we are natural organisms, subject to the forces of nature.
There’s more to say, but the conference is still going on, and I don’t want to miss a crumb.