Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness

Book Club Week 5: The Joy of Movement, Chapter 5

A few weeks ago we started a virtual book club.

You can read about the idea here.

You can buy the Joy of Movement here or from a local bookshop or your favourite online retailer.

What’s the plan? Christine, Catherine, and I are reading a chapter a week, for seven weeks and writing about it here. We did that for Nia Shank’s book The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. And we liked it so much we’re doing it again. Read what our reviews looked like here.

What’s different this time? We’re inviting you to join us. Read along and put your contributions in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a lot. A few sentences, a few paragraphs, whatever you’re moved to write.

Want to catch up?

Read Week 1 here:

Read Week 2 here:

Read Week 3 here:

Read Week 4 here:

This week is just Catherine and Christine chiming in. I’m too swamped!


In Chapter 5, McGonigal writes about overcoming obstacles, generally by plowing over or through them. For the record, I have no interest doing a Tough Mudder competition. Ever. Any athletic event that involves even mild electrocution is not for me. I know whereof I speak, having zapped myself and blown several fuses in my house once with an ill-tempered hairdryer.

I can relate, though, to willingly embarking on a physical adventure where at some point you just take a deep breath and say, f**k it, here I go. My first scuba diving trip was just like that. I jumped off the boat into 15 meters of cobalt blue water, having no idea what would happen. There was terror at first, followed shortly by “hey, look at that pretty blue fish. Oh, look, there’s another one. I’m think I’m going to go follow them now”. I can’t convey how proud and thrilled I was for having lept into the wild blue water.

McGonigal’s exploration of the idea of high terror/low horror experiences is intriguing, and helps explain the appeal and payoff that comes from extreme events like Tough Mudder. However, I don’t think this idea applies to confronting serious physical challenges like recovering from or adapting to severe injuries. She relates inspirational success stories of people who trained at an adaptive fitness gym. They and their trainers set very difficult goals, and when they finally reach them, they get to post a message on the Wall of Greatness.

Not everyone in physical therapy or training is going to meet those goals, though. Sometimes overcoming obstacles means figuring out ways around them. One of my favorite mountain bike ride leaders Bill, who rides everything elegantly, always reminded us that “every mountain bike comes fully equipped with a hiker”. Some obstacles you commit to confronting and riding through or down or up. Other times, you get off and walk your bike around them.

McGonigal reminds us of the glorious feelings we can have in our bodies from doing, watching, witnessing and trying to master arduous physical tasks. I have reveled in such moments. Right now, they’re not resonating so much. Maybe it’s because we’re in the midst of Coronavirus time. I’m biding my time, moving my body in my local environment, keeping some resources in reserve. There will be “Cowabunga!” moments in my future. I’ll reread this chapter again when I’m ready for one.


 Overcoming Obstacles

I am getting so much out of this book and it is meeting my need for certain key types of information that might help me work with my ADHD (instead of against it!) and become even more consistent with exercise. The (sort of) downside is that the information is wrapped in big ideas and big personal concepts that take a while to unpack and that kind of thinking doesn’t lend itself to a weekly review. So, I haven’t been covering everything that I want to cover each week but I suspect that I will be circling back to this book in future monthly posts.

The ideas in Chapter 5 – Overcoming Obstacles are definitely examples of the situation I am describing above. There is lots of great information in here but digging deep into how it applies to me and how it will help me will take a lot more thinking. So this isn’t all I will have to say on this topic!

Overcoming Obstacles is all about motivation, encouragement, and hope. She describes all kinds of different scenarios that illustrate the key components of activities and programs that support people to persevere and push themselves (in useful ways) towards the goals they have set for themselves. The personal stories are inspiring in themselves but her information about *why* they work is especially valuable.

In fact, the way that McGonigal handles stories is one of my favourite aspects of this book. Not only does she share individual stories as examples but she also refers frequently to people’s storytelling capacity, and to the stories they tell themselves as they proceed through their lives. As a storyteller and a life coach, I LOVE these references. In some cases, they confirm information that I already use in my practice and in others they expand it in new directions – it’s great!

I really enjoy the way in which McGonigal discusses the mental challenges involved in preparing for and completing physical challenges. Too often, the mental work of exercise is dismissed or lumped into ‘Grit’ or ‘Just set your mind to it!’ Obviously, grit and determination play a role in the mental effort required but it is much more complex than that (especially for those of us who are not neurotypical) and I appreciate the ways in which she addresses the thinking required to accomplish physical tasks.

3 thoughts on “Book Club Week 5: The Joy of Movement, Chapter 5

  1. The one and only Tough Mudder I ever did I recall thinking, as a live electrical wire grazed my temple, what am I doing? This is not a challenge I’m interested in. I love running up and down mountains and I even love mud. But the “made up” challenges weren’t right for me. I’m strongly with you on that!

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