Book Reviews

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 51-60, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

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.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Read about Days 31-40 here.

Read about Days 41-50 here.

Nia Shanks’ 100 Day Reclaim

Catherine: Nia opens up this section by urging us to take in the information that feeds us. As an academic and feminist fitness blogger, this is hard to do. I feel obliged to keep up with the latest fitness and diet fads. I want to be informed to help my students, my colleagues, my readers and myself in better understanding the science, pseudoscience, genuine wellness advice, and stealthy corrosive messaging that’s all over the internet.

Still, Nia is right. Exposure to unrealistic, photo-shopped images of bodies and fat-phobic messaging is demoralizing. Case in point: Jillian Michaels (celebrity trainer of sorts) continues to pummel us with fat-phobic, bogus-healthist screeds, this time against Lizzo. I mention it not to cause anyone to rush to Google, but to underscore Nia’s point that we would do well to be prudent about what we expose ourselves to. Of course, it’s a balancing act—those of us involved in health justice and advocacy need to be informed in order to do our work. But, it does come at some cost, and we should decide when we’ve paid enough.

I love day 52. Nia encourages us to be Adapters Extraordinaires. I admit that I like this because I secretly think this is one of my strengths. Life, for me, is at its most exhilarating when there’s a fair amount of change, spontaneity, and novelty. Solving problems on the fly and figuring out new ways through change feels good. However (there’s always a however, isn’t there; sigh…) this process is messy, leaving all sorts of things behind, like healthy-to-me eating, or important-to-me movement. But thoughtful adaptation feels different. Here’s an example: for the past two weeks, I have had a terrible cold and bronchitis (I even had that barking cough that babies sometimes get). Robust exercise has been completely off the table. Even yoga, which usually sustains me when I’m not feeling up to snuff, hasn’t been an option very often. What has? Sleep. I’ve had to sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. And then repeat the sleeping. Yes, I had to adapt, and I didn’t like the adapting. But it worked, and I’m mostly better now. I’m still in adaptation mode, walking and doing some gentle yoga. Hopefully by early next week, I’ll be able to get on the bike trainer. We will see. As Nia says, adapting to the current state of me is useful in supporting the long-term state of me.

Nia talks about paradox in this section, and paradoxes are one of my favorite things. As a philosopher, I’ve written about them and taught them and found them hugely stimulating. Why? Because a paradox is a sign that we’re missing something. Maybe it’s obvious, or maybe it’s something no one has ever thought of. Nia uses the language of paradox to talk about restraint in eating and also discomfort (okay, pain) in movement: how can we 1) eat and move in ways that fulfill us; and 2) meet goals that necessarily involve pushing through immediate desires to focus on long-term ones?

Yep, this is a full-blown paradox. We are presented with two imperatives: eat/do what feels good to us in the present, and eat/do what advances our longer-term wellness-to-us goals. For most of us, these orders conflict. Nia suggests that there’s a happy medium. I’m still looking for a different way to thread that needle. If I find it, you, dear readers, will be the first to hear about it.

Christine: The recurring theme in Days 51-60 is to stay conscious and aware.

If we want to have fitness success, we need to define that on our own, conscious, terms (Day 54) and then support it with our choices. In order to do that we need to be aware of the messages we receive from social media (Day 51) and from our past (Day 60.) We need to choose when we will say yes and when we will say no (Day 58.) We can find ways to enjoy life (and fitness) more by choosing when to indulge, when to work hard, and when to relax (Days, 53, 54, 56 & 57.) We can choose our mindset (Day 59) and we can choose to adapt to make choices that serve us best in any given circumstance (Day 52.)

I especially liked Shanks’ reminder on Day 52 about the importance of adapting to whatever your schedule happens to be like at the moment (if you don’t have time for your usual number of workouts, what do you have time for? How can you make the most of that time?) because my ADHD brain is especially adept at tossing out a whole plan if one part of it doesn’t work.

Day 57 (Paradox II) really struck home for me. In this section she reminds us of the long term value of challenging ourselves, and of learning to tolerate some types of discomfort. Again, my ADHD brain has particular trouble starting a task if it knows it will be boring or uncomfortable. Yet, another part of my brain has no trouble with practicing (most) self-defense activities in Taekwondo because it knows that working on them now will reduce my chances of freezing-up if I ever have to use these moves in real life. The discussion in this section helped me build a connection between the discomfort of the effort in fitness activities and my successful tolerance of a similar discomfort in TKD.

Finally, I think Shanks picked the perfect moment in the book (Day 59) to remind us that we can renew our purpose and our mindset at any point. Again, since I have that particular knack for tossing out a whole plan, I appreciated the reminder that I can start over again and again.

I am getting a lot of what I need out of this book. I am thinking a bit more effectively about my fitness activities and how I approach them. I appreciate how she keeps helping me to bring concepts I use for my coaching clients into my own plans for increasing my fitness. While I know to keep conscious of the things that influence the way I work in other areas of my life, I haven’t done as much to stay conscious about my influences in the area of fitness. The thought exercises in Shanks’ book are making a big difference for me.

Sam: Days 52 and 53 have some hard lessons. 52 is about flexibility and still finding your way when life throws you a curve ball. You might be all about plans and schedules but life doesn’t always work out that way. The key to success is sometimes knowing when to go with the flow and make a new plan. That was my evening yesterday. Sarah and I had planned to go to nap yoga after (for me) an afternoon of lifting weights and a long walk, after an emotionally tough weekend. But Sarah was running late and we weren’t going to make it to nap yoga. Instead we met at the Bike Shed and got a quick Zwift ride in. Flexibility FTW!

53 is about doing the hard thing. Nia says we need to choose, easy or rewarding? Around here we often counsel in favour of listening to your body or doing the thing that feels good and there is truth in that. But there is also truth in doing the hard thing anyway even if you don’t much feel like it. For me, it’s a balancing act between listening to what feels good and also being willing to push hard and do uncomfortable things. Thanks Nia.

Day 54 asks us to “be more” whatever that means in the context of our lives. Don’t be afraid of taking up space, not just physical space but also emotional space too.

I’m really enjoying the daily approach. I was worried the chunks would seem too small or that it would all be old hat, since I’ve been reading in this area (life coaching/fitness motivation) but it’s not. It would be terrific paired with Mina Samuel’s Run Like a Girl 365 Days a Year.