Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 2-10, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Nia Shanks, 100 Day Reclaim

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Here’s our reflections on Days 2-10.

Christine:

My main goal with this book is to find ways to make it easier for my ADHD brain to manage the logistics of daily exercise. In Days 2-10 there are several questions that are helping me to get into the heart of that problem. 

I particularly liked Day 7’s focus on how your daily actions help you build the life you want. That is a reminder that I often need. ADHD makes it challenging for me to see how the pieces of a project add up to the whole. This is especially true for me with exercise since the tangible results can be a long time coming. It’s hard for me to remember to include something in my day when I can’t always see the overall purpose it is building to. 

It’s one thing to *know* that it will lead to feeling stronger over time but remembering that in the moments when I am planning my day is a huge challenge for me. 

Some of the information in Day 8 can help me with that issue though. Day 8 is about recognizing ‘wins’ of all sizes and if I can keep in mind the lessons of Day 2 – which were about focusing on the process rather than the results – I should be able to come up with a way to make my daily exercise a ‘win’ that I can focus on.

I’m finding it interesting to discover, though,  that some of the questions aren’t relevant to me at all. For example,  I don’t need to work on disconnecting my self-worth from my appearance and my goals are not connected to improving just a single area of my body. Shanks has advice on both of those fronts and while her questions are thought-provoking, I don’t need to put a lot of energy into those areas. 

I know that Catherine has some issues with how Shanks keeps using the concept of choice in this part of the book. I can completely see why framing things as ‘choosing who you will be today’ and ‘choosing your lens’ would get on someone’s nerves – there can be a slippery slope between the language of ‘choosing’ and the language of the law of attraction and victim blaming.

My mind didn’t go in that direction because in my coaching practice I get my clients to think about choices but in a different way that you might interpret it here. I use language around choice to help people work on areas where they feel dragged along and reminding them that they do have opportunities to choose can empower some people. However, it does need to be employed judiciously because, depending on someone’s background, it can feel dismissive or like you are blaming them for their situation, which is never helpful.

I have some issues with the ways she discusses goals and eating and weight loss and I feel like there are some value judgments in there but since I am not her audience for those topics, I suspect that she is generally doing what she can to bridge the gap for people who are used to thinking of exercise and fitness in terms of weight loss and visual results.

Catherine:

Nia spends a lot of time on days 2—10 talking about control. I’m reminded of Janet Jackson in the 80’s; likely that will be my tune of the day…

Here are some of the ideas she uses:

  • free yourself from constraints (of worrying about what others think)
  • take advantage of what you have control over—what you do today
  • you can choose to remove the colored glasses (of the way you’ve viewed food, exercise, etc.)
  • decide how you want to define who you are
  • every day is a new opportunity to choose who you will be

I get it that she’s suggesting that we would be better off if we had more agency and control over our actions and emotions and decisions. Maybe that’s even true (because my day job is philosophy, I think agency and control are complicated). What I don’t see is how she thinks we can get more control just by deciding. If that were true, life would look really different.

What I think we can do, and what I try to do in my life, is aim for more perspective and support around our goals. With perspective, we have a little space to look around and see some of those constraints Nia talks about. With support (from friends, family, therapists, coaches, and yes, Nia, too), we can achieve and celebrate some of those daily triumphs. I experience this every day and am grateful for my community. I can’t achieve fitness just by deciding. I can go to a yoga class or walk or ride with my friends, or supported by my community.

Sam:

I suspect Nia’s audience is younger and more angst ridden than me. Some of the lessons in days 2-10 are ones that I think I learned years ago. Yes, I’m doing this for me. I’m not exercising to impress or please others. I’m not focused on looks. I know we all make mistakes and I don’t think in all or nothing ways. So instead, my approach to days 2-10 was to think about the bits that did speak to me.

I liked the focus on thinking about the things you can control. So for example, don’t fixate on outcomes–whether that’s running 5 km in 25 minutes or benching 150 lbs–instead put your attention on areas you can control, such as doing the training required. We might not have as much control over the daily habits as we think. See Catherine’s point above. But we do have a lot more control over the daily habits than we do over the end result. That was Day 3, focus on the process, not the prize. I also liked Day 7, focus on daily actions which is a similar idea.

I also liked Day 8, on acknowledging small wins such as being neutral about food and getting out for a walk to manage stress, or something really simple like getting to bed on time. Today my small win is going to personal training before a workplace festive event. My hair might be messy but I’ll be in a better mood, I’m sure.

Are you reading along with us? What did you think so far?

cycling · training

Time to go slow?

An orange stripey snail on a bright green mango fruit. Photo by Unsplash.

In a TEDX talk Stephen Seiler explains how “normal people” can train like the world’s best endurance athletes. What’s the lesson? “No pain no gain” is a slick slogan, but a fundamentally flawed approach to getting faster and fitter over time.” Instead, Seiler who has spent years studying the training habits of great endurance athletes explains that high volume training in the “easy zone” is the way to build, speed and endurance.

This article on the biggest mistakes that self-trained cyclists make makes a similar point.

One of the big mistakes is avoiding easy rides. “Most self-trained cyclists assume that only the hard rides matter. But, that’s a wrong assumption.  In fact, easy rides are just as essential as the intense rides. You need to do the easy rides as they help in developing your aerobic system and promote the recovery process.”

The trick is, of course, that you need to spend the time you’re not going easy, going really hard. How much time should you spend in each zone? The worry is that self-trained cyclists, that’s us cyclists without coaches, spend most of our time in the murky middle.

From What Everyone Gets Wrong About Endurance Training: “In 2010, a meta-analysis by Norwegian researchers examined the actual distribution of training intensity used by elite athletes across the full spectrum of endurance sports. The conclusion: The best in the world complete about 80 percent of their training volume at low intensity, 7 to 8 percent at moderate intensity, and about 12 to 13 percent at high intensity.”

Here’s the problem though–time. Professional athletes training for competition have hours each day set aside for training, most of it in the easy or green zone. You and I have jobs. We have families. We might read books or go to the theatre. We aren’t doing this full-time. Cramped for time, we look for short cuts. One short cut that’s often promised is high intensity interval training. But apparently, so cycling coaches tell me, this can’t replace a solid aerobic base. Building that base means a lot of time exercising in a zone so easy it hardly feels like work.

More from What Everyone Gets Wrong About Endurance Training : “Successful training for endurance sports is highly nuanced. Athletes do require some HIIT in their programs, but they need a tiny fraction of what is being proposed by many in the fitness industry. The endurance athlete will use HIIT as a supplement to—not a replacement for—the aerobic base work that makes up the foundation of their fitness.”

Six thoughts:

One, all of this has got me thinking about zooming around in the virtual world of Zwift. I spend a lot of time in Zwift, going hard, racing uphills and competing with past me for sprint PRs. I’m friends on Facebook with a few cycling coaches who complain about the tendency of Zwift to encourage speedy riding rather than base building. I probably should do some more easy paced group rides in Zwift. There are even some good training plans in Zwift. It might be time to stop just playing and make a 2020 plan.

Two, it might be time to unpack my heart rate monitor. Yes, I could use the talk test but I’m kind of attracted to numbers and data and tracking things. See Take it easy: Why train with a heart rate monitor, part 1 and Go hard! : Why train with a heart rate monitor, part 2.

Three, this is all about sports performance not health. For the health benefits, HIIT is just fine.

Four, while I don’t have the hours and hours a day competitive athletes have for base training, I do commute by bike and run errands by bike and all of that is in the easy zone. It counts too.

Five, while I raised the worry about zooming and Zwift that’s true for spin classes too. Spin classes whether on a Peloton bike or in a studio are rarely in the easy-going zone. Again, most of the people in the classes aren’t training for performance. Mostly they’re training for general health and fitness reasons.

Six, thinking about this forces me to think about the kind of cyclist I am. I’m not racing. I’m not training for a competitive cycling season. So can I ignore this advice? The problem is that although I’m not racing, I like to ride with fast people. I want to go out with the local bike club. For a woman rider in her mid fifties, I suspect that means taking my training seriously.

See you in the green zone!

How do you think about training and performance for running/cycling/cross country skiing and other endurance sports? Do you follow the 80% easy rule?

fitness

Update: December Anchoring

By Christine Hennebury

My days have gotten that hectic that I have stopped keeping individual day lists in my bullet journal. I’m just making lists of what seems important next, just like the Octopus’ sign says.

It’s December 9th and, so far, my idea to use a daily warm-up to anchor myself has not been going as planned. Despite that, I think things are going okay.

My plan was to do yoga and the warm-up video as early as possible each day. That way, I would have a little space to myself in my hectic schedule and I could use that as an ‘anchor’ in my day.

However, my December days have been a jumble for a variety of reasons and I don’t think I have followed the same schedule two days in a row.

Between sleeping poorly, driving people to appointments and exams, and some work challenges, it just hasn’t been possible to get up and make that space first thing in the day. And, if I can’t do it first thing, it seems to take most of the day to get to it.

BUT…

I have gotten to both yoga and the warm-up video each of the nine days so far.

And I am really loving it.

I really enjoy the simplicity of the video. The production and the exercises themselves are very straightforward and that works for me.

Obviously, I could do a 5 minute warm-up without a video but I probably wouldn’t. And if I did try to do it myself, the minutes would probably crawl by. Following the video means I can enjoy the movement without having to track my time or my reps.

And, I probably wouldn’t do the same variety of exercises either. This warm-up works my whole body and I especially like how the top of my back feels after I finish a 5 minute session.

Even though I have often ended up doing a daily warm-up at 9pm, it still helps with my goal of creating a little space in my day that is just for me.

And, it’s a little bit of extra movement that feels good and grounds me in my body.

That sounds like some useful anchoring to me.

An anchor on a dock. Photo by Unsplash.
advertising · cycling · fitness · motivation

A few short words about that peloton ad

That peloton ad has had its day and there’s not a lot new to add. I’m glad Monica Ruiz, the lead in the ad, is getting a chance to start over. And I learned a new descriptor, “sad eyebrows.”

Oh, did you miss it? Here’s the story. And here’s the ad itself.

Someone gets a peloton bike for Christmas

Is it a bad ad? Is it creepy? Is it more like a trailer for Black Mirror than an ad for a spin bike? Should you give your spouse exercise equipment for the holidays? Was she just a little too worried about what her husband thinks? Was she too thankful for the gift? I’m going to leave all those questions alone. But I was shocked by the number of commentators who focused in on the Peloton wife’s weight.

“Peloton’s viral ad captures a ‘116 lb woman’s YEARLONG fitness journey to becoming a 112 lb woman’” screamed commentators. See Marketwatch on the controversy.

So many of the complaints focused on the fact that she was already fit, by which they mean thin. This isn’t fair to fat but fit people. This isn’t fair to thin people who often aren’t encouraged to exercise because they’re thin even though you can be thin but very out of shape . See How equating being fat with being out of shape hurts thin people too.

Frankly I was relieved that it wasn’t an ad about a fat wife getting an exercise bike and her year long weight loss journey. Phew.

We need to break the connection between thinness and fitness. There was lots wrong with the ad but the fact that the gift receiver was already thin had nothing to do with it.

body image · fitness

5 small steps for me, 5 big steps toward body/self acceptance

The following is true: I struggle with accepting my body as a good body– one that functions well, seems appealing to me and can be owned proudly by me. I have fought with and disapproved of my body and body image for as long as I can remember. But I am really sick and tired of feeling this way. It’s exhausting and no fun at all. Know what I mean? I’m sure you do.

I'm 50% sick and 50% tired.
I’m 50% sick and 50% tired.

Writing for and reading this blog, however, has introduced a new notion to me: maybe I don’t have to fight with and disapprove of my body in such a systematic and comprehensive way. There are options here, one of which is to be nicer to my body, to cultivate acceptance and care of myself so I feel better about the way I look and feel to the world and myself.

Hey, it's something to think about.
Hey, it’s something to think about.

Oh– please don’t worry that I’m on the verge of telling y’all about some new diet or other cockamamie plan to try to make myself look different. Yeah, that’s not happening.

No diets. No gadgets. No funny food. No supplements. No surgeries.
No diets. No gadgets. No funny food. No supplements. No surgeries.

Instead, I’m doing or have done these things.

  • I’m cleaning out my closet to put away (either out of my house or in a bin in the basement) clothing that doesn’t currently fit me.

I know, this seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve never really truly done this before. And in fact, there are still some residual too-small clothing items hanging around, but I’m working on it. I have to say, it feels kind of good to survey my closet and drawers and not have to sift through several sizes and eras of clothing, deluged with memories and regrets, just to get myself dressed in the morning. Sheesh.

  • I’ve resumed wearing blue jeans, which has become possible because I’ve bought jeans that fit me right now (as opposed to some hypothetical time in future when my body is some smaller size).

Again, duh. But it has been difficult to bring myself to live in the present moment, at my present size. However, three things have made this easier: 1) relative ease of online ordering; 2) the abundance of clothing lines that now offer larger sizes in jeans; 3) stretchy fabrics! So I now have two cute pairs of jeans that actually fit me. Woo hoo!

  • Last summer, inspired by friends (including some of the bloggers), I’ve stopped coloring my hair, and letting the gray underneath grow out.

It’s now been 6 months, and I love the silver gray around my forehead, at my temples, and the gray that’s inching its way down. It’s going to take at least another year, but I’ve got time. Lots of people think it looks cool (which is always nice to hear). Mainly though, *I* love it. I didn’t think I would, but I do. Gray/silver hair suits me, and also opens up new color possibilities for clothing. Fun!

  • I’m taking baby steps toward regular strength training, which is something that makes me feel powerful and in touch with and grateful to my body when I do it.

I bought an online strength training program, which I started, but it’s taking a while to get going consistently. Still, it’s here, I’m here, and everything counts. I may join my local YMCA to take classes or do some personal training– we shall see what the next steps are. But I’m on a path to something, and it makes me appreciate my physical self whenever I take a step. Breathe…

  • Last and definitely not least: I’m being more open about how hard I find body self-acceptance, and I’m inviting support and partners and fellow-travelers to join in conversations with me.

What sorts of activities or relationships or other things help you with body acceptance? What are you looking for to help you with your own position or process? I’d love to hear from you.

baby steps.

clothing · Dancing · Sat with Nat

Nat calls for high performance formal wear

I’m seriously hoping my post motivates athletic wear companies to start making formal wear.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, why can’t we dance the night away at weddings & other formal gatherings without drowning in our sweat? Whether you prefer a snappy suit or a darling dress no one feels great in their getup after even a short stint of enthusiastic dancing.

This year, for the first time in a long time, I had 3 formal occasions in the span of a month and I needed something to wear.

I shopped in dress stores in Canada and the USA to no avail. I wear plus size clothes. I’ve worn pants or skirts or dresses before. My default look is quirky femme who dresses for comfort. Nothing that fit inspired me despite my willingness to put down serious cash on a gown.

I shared my trials and tribulations on social media for comedic effect but also for advice.

There are these formal, uh, onesies? Jumpers? They look cute but to use the toilet you either need to drop the whole thing on the floor or buy one with access snaps.

I couldn’t imagine being in a toilet fumbling with my neither regions so that was not an option for me.

As the first event drew nearer I started to panic. I was certain I wouldn’t be able to find anything that fit, was comfortable, and that I liked.

I happened into Ricki’s, a shop I’d never tried on my sister’s advice to consider a combination of separates instead of a dress.

First winning moment, everything in the store went up to plus sizes. I could actually try on every style in the store. Amazing!

Second there was a sale. Yippee!

Third, there was stuff I liked that was comfortable! Wahoooooooooo!

I ended up buying a super fun glitter stretch knit dress with a cowl back.

Nat stands back to the camera showing of a well fitted dress with a plunging back

I wore that dress to my work formal. No shape wear, just a regular bra and undies. The stretchy fabric meant I was super comfy sitting, eating and dancing. The only downside was it didn’t breathe very well so after a few songs I’d be soaked from dancing. Granted I’m an enthusiastic dancer. I also sweat quite a bit. Honestly though if Under Armor or some other athletic wear company would make high performance formal wear I know a large group of suit and dress wearing humans who would by them!!!

We have money!!

I also scored a really shimmery sequined top and then a mirror calf length cardigan.

I wore pleather leggings with a lace top and the mirrored cardigan to my friends’ wedding. Again, comfy, classy and appropriately attention seeking. Let’s be honest, after the trials and tribulations of finding fun, functional formal wear it’s good to get noticed!

Coming up next is my partner’s work formal. I have at least 3 options that look great, feel good and I can dance in. I’ll get super sweaty but that’s ok.

Have you found formal wear that breathes when you dance? Please tell me about it!

I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE!

fitness

Most read posts of all time on the blog

Image description: Hands on a laptop keyboard

All of these posts have been read (ok, well looked at, or clicked on) more than 10,000 times each. That’s pretty exciting for academic authors. We’ve also come a long way. When Tracy and I first started writing here, back in September 2012, we didn’t expect more than family and close friends to follow along. But our writing struck a nerve, it seems. And now an active community of writers, guests, commentators etc has grown around the blog.

The blog is now very much a team project and Tracy has stepped away from the day to day of it all. However, the most popular posts of all time were written by Tracy and me. That’s because they’ve been around the longest, they turn up first in searches, and later posts often link to them. By the way, that’s true too for academic writing. My earlier papers are the most cited because they have more years of citations in the bank. My most cited academic papers are from 1997 and 1999.

That said, it often amazes me how much staying power these older blog posts have. Certainly they’ve been read lots more than any of our academic writing.

In case you’ve missed them, here’s our list of “greatest hits” from the early days of the Fit is a Feminist Issue blog. The number besides the post is how often is been read.

She May Look Healthy But…Why Fitness Models Aren’t Models of Health, 84k    

Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program: A Year in Review, 52k

Finding clothes to fit athletic women’s bodies 46k

Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies 41k

   
The Shape of an Athlete 41 k    
Padded sports bras and nipple phobia 38k    
“You’ve Lost Weight! You Look Great!” Isn’t a Compliment 31k    
Why the “Thigh Gap” Makes Me Sad 28k    
CrossFit and women’s bodies: It’s complicated 28k    
Intermittent fasting and why it might not work as well for women 21k    
Raspberry Ketone, Pure Green Coffee Extract, Garcinia Cambogia, Weight Loss, and the Fallacy of Appealing to Authority 19k    
Bike seats, speed, and sexual depravity 17k    
I hate you Weight Watchers 13k    
Fit, Fat, and What’s Wrong with BMI 12k    
The women of CrossFit 11k    
On going commando and athletic clothing 10k    
Thigh chafing and the joys of summer 10 k    
Six Things Sam Loves about Rowing and Six Things She’s Finding Challenging, 10 k
silhouette riding bike and broom