Black History · cycling · fitness · Zwift

Black Celebration Month on Zwift!

See Zwift launches Black Celebration Series to commemorate ‘Black history, athletes, heritage and joy’

“The year of celebration will include multiple events held in New York along the Mighty Metropolitan route. This is a nod to the roots of many legendary Black cyclists like Major Taylor, and Olympic medallist Nelson Vails who will be joining events as a special guest. Other guests will include Ama Nsek (L39ION of LA) and Rahsaan Bahati, (Bahati Foundation Elite Team) as well as community leaders from the Black Cyclists Network and Level Up Cycling Movement.

All Zwifters will receive invitations to join the hour-long social rides in New York, where the pace will be managed by ride leaders and kept between 1.5-2 watts per kilogram of body weight.

In addition to celebrating Black athletic achievements, the virtual training platform has chosen LA Bicycle Academy (LABA) — a youth education program, community bike shop and youth cycling team — as its charity partner in a bid to expand its impact. LABA was set up by Damon Turner, who has mentored the likes of Justin Williams, Cory Williams, Rahsaan Bahati and Coryn Rivera, and its mission is to support communities without exposure and access to cycling. In addition to making a donation to LABA, which sponsors young athletes without the resources to continue their cycling careers, Zwift will be offering them mentorship opportunities.”

Zwift launches year-long Black Celebration Series –
“We rise up”

Change begins when we come together. I’ll see you out there fellow feminist Zwifters! Let’s ride. And as part of our celebration of Black cyclists I’m hoping to share some of their stories here on the blog.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 31 : How Do Things Look From Here?

It’s the last day of January and the last day of this Go Team series so it’s the perfect time to do a some ‘big picture’ reflection.*

The short version of this post would read: It’s ok to change anything about your plans, even your goal itself. Success may look different now than it did in January 1st.

The longer version? Well, that has more details:

If you’ve been reading this series (thank-you!), you probably started this month with plans and ideas for the habits you want to add into your life this year.

Perhaps you had a specific goal in mind, or a set of conditions you want to meet at points throughout the year. (Similar to a goal but maybe not the same.)

Now that you have had a month to explore those ideas and work on those things, do you still want them?

Perhaps this month has solidified your plans and you are dedicated to the path you chose.

Or, maybe you’ve realized that you still want the end result but the path/speed you chose isn’t going to get you there.

It could be that you’ve realized that that goal isn’t something you want after all, or, at least, it isn’t for you right now.

Now that you have a month of extra experience concerning that goal you could have any of a million different ideas/feelings about how much it suits you.

You are not stuck with the plans/goals you chose on January 1.

At any point you can change your plans, change your goals, change your approach.

Only you can know what success looks like for you. And since you are always changing and your life is always changing, your interpretation of what success means will change over time.

It’s all about how you want to feel, what you want to do, what you hope to train your body to do…at any given point in time.

You are the only one who can figure out what you want and if your plans and methods will get you there.

Only you can decide if you just need more time or if you need a different method or if you need a different goal.

Changing goals, changing methods, or changing direction are all valid things to do after a month of experimenting with fitness and wellness.

You haven’t failed. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not lost.

If you feel like you have failed or that you have gotten lost, I invite you to Rudner your plans.

Ages ago, I heard Comedian Rita Rudner make this great joke about how she handles being lost and I have used the idea metaphorically ever since – sometimes literally.

I never panic when I get lost. I just change where it is I want to go.

Rita Rudner

To extend the metaphor a bit: Making changes at this point (or any point) is like when you are listening to GPS directions and you get off course.

The GPS voice will be telling you that you missed your planned turn-off and it will give you directions to get back to it. (Which is one option.)

If you keep going, it will tell you it is recalibrating and it will give you new directions to the same destination. (Another option.)

Or, you can reprogram that chatty machine and give it a whole new destination. (Also a good option.)

You are in control and you can choose how to respond to the directions from the GPS. Up to, and including, reprogramming it or turning it off.

You are the boss of you and YOU get to decide what success means.

Well, mostly.

Because, at this exact moment, *I* am deciding what success means. I hereby declare that you have been successful thus far.

You have made an effort, physically, mentally, emotionally, over and over, to move forward with your plans.

It doesn’t matter how far you have moved, I say that your efforts count and they should be rewarded.

Hence, I award you the largest gold star on my collection:

For your efforts, my friends!

Forge ahead. I believe in you.

 A large gold coloured paper star decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections rests against a dark blue backdrop.
In celebration of our efforts together over the last 24 days, I offer my giant paper star- the largest star I own. It’s gold coloured paper decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections. Each point is 30cm/11.8 inches from the centre. Photo credit: My son, J. Image description: A large gold coloured paper star decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections rests against a dark blue backdrop.

*I revisit this theme on a regular basis. Here’s a post I wrote on Facebook a few years ago that expands on what I wrote above.

Hey Team!

Here we are at the end of January. Go figure!

The end of any month tends to make us compare what we did with what we meant to do, and there is extra weight to January’s reflection because of all the new year brouhaha.

But, here’s the thing, that mental review only has the meaning that we give it.

And we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about it.

Not getting to the end of your to do list is not a personal failure, it is JUST information.

It might be telling us that our list was too long. (This often happens. We think our future selves will be at peak performance levels all the time.)

It might be telling us that we had less time this month than we thought we would have.

It might be telling us that our schedule doesn’t work well for us.

It might be telling us that our systems aren’t serving us well.

It’s information for our future selves to use in making the next steps, it is not an indictment of our past or present selves.

So, that being said, when you make your plans for February, see how you can use that information to be kinder to yourself. See if you can make your requests to your future self a little closer to their capacity and their reality.

(For example, please don’t make the mistake I make and think that a work day with three meetings can also include all of your routine tasks for that day. That’s not how time works, apparently.😏)

And, most importantly, as you look ahead to next month, add in time for rest and for play – especially during busy or stressful times. You need time to recover, physically and emotionally, from challenging times. That’s not weakness, that’s just how human bodies and human minds work.

Finally, as you look at your lists, remember to consider the routine things and the non-tangible things you did. Making meals, returning phone calls, providing emotional support, filing papers, those all count and they all take time.

(Or as I said to a friend of mine recently – “If I measure my success this week in words written, I’m not accomplishing much, but if I measure it in emotional support delivered, I am knocking it out of the park.”)

Be kind to yourself, my friends, things go a lot more smoothly that way.

⭐️<- for your efforts today

Image description: A sketchbook opened to a page filled with drawings of black and white patterns. The words ‘Let’s Start Here’ are drawn in heavy black letters at the bottom of the page.
The patterns in the background of this drawing of mine are from a meditative drawing practice called Zentangles or Zendoodles. If you are trying to meditate but can’t quite get there, it might be worth giving this kind of drawing a try. Image description: A sketchbook opened to a page filled with drawings of black and white patterns. The words ‘Let’s Start Here’ are drawn in heavy black letters at the bottom of the page.

blog · blogging · fitness

Top ten posts in January 2021

  1. I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing? (Cate)
  2. On Not Erasing Blackness in gymnastics (and everywhere else) (Cate)

3. Kicking off 221 workouts in 2021 with 30 days of Yoga with Adriene. Join us! (Sam)

4. “Your bad habits can kill you,” Lebowitz says, “but your good habits won’t save you.” (Nicole)

5. The benefits of exercise are many, but long term weight loss isn’t (necessarily) one of them (Sam)

6. Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies (Sam)

7. Cate asks, Why do movement if we don’t “enjoy” it? (Cate)

8. Coming back to fitness (Guest post–Shannon)

9. Nat’s 2021 Stop Doing List (Nat)

10. Looking for a good group ride on Zwift? Here’s some places to start (Sam)

Chicks who ride bikes

cycling · fitness

Navigating pandemics, riding down cliff slabs: similar rules

Y’all have got to watch this video.

Danny MacAskill, world-famous and multiply-injured trials bike legend, rides down the Dubh rock slabs on the Scottish Isle of Skye. He’s not a novice at biking on and around and up and down and off a variety of relatively unbikeable terrain. You can see him busting out his skills here and here and here and here. And there’s lots more where that came from (YouTube, that is).

So, what makes this particular video noteworthy?

At the top of the cliff slabs, Danny MacAskill looks down and says, “that’s scary”. And then he proceeds to do it anyway, feeling his way, letting us see him go slow, even bobbling a little on a tough line. He repeats his pronouncement at least twice more. But he found a line through it.

Watching his ride down these slabs (which he filmed in one take, using mainly his helmet GoPro camera), I found some good advice for getting through the rest of this pandemic period. Feel free to stop reading and pull up the video at the time stamps noted, and see what you think.

1.Know this: some experiences we embark on, or confront on our way, are going to be scary. Period. That’s just how they are.

2. Be ready to go slow. Plan the slow-downs– find places where you’re forced to go uphill or pause what you’re doing. It helps you scrub speed, stay in or regain control.

3. Have really good brakes (MacAskill talks about his brakes set up– he knows he’ll need help, so he got some). Your brakes may be that inner voice saying, “uh, let’s not rush into this”, or friends helping you temper some urge that’s important, but which may need to wait a bit.

4. Draw on skills from different experiences and areas of training to get through this. For MacAskill, his trials bike training and downhill expertise gives him control and choices– pop the front wheel up, swing the bike around to change direction (2:04), track stand and bunny hop to gain a better position, stay loose when he’s closer to vertical, etc. Staying loose when things are going vertical seems like a very good skill to develop.

5. In that rare moment of beauty and grace, let yourself be with it. You and the bike are one (2:20).

5. But, what looks beautiful and effortless from the outside will often be staccato and exhausting from the inside. MacAskill lets us see both perspectives (2:10–2:21), and they’re both true.

At 2:45, he enters a rocky ridge line route. Even though you can’t hear it, you can tell he’s taking a deep breath to focus on this extremely dangerous and difficult line. You can feel every bump and the effort it takes to stay upright. Watching him bumping up the face of that sheer rock to a small ledge (3:42) nearly did me in.

6. Sometimes, there’s no place to hide. At 4:11–4:25, it’s just him and the cliff. He’s committed, and has only his skills and experience to get him down. Note how he drops way behind the saddle– a graceful dip– for a close-to-vertical section (4:22). He trusts himself and he trusts the bike.

7. Life occasionally demands some serious body english from us, and MacAskill shows us how it takes some jostling to get the next descent prepared (4:30).

8. Don’t forget to celebrate when you finish. MacAskill’s triumphant and relieved whooping commences at the 5-minute mark. At 5:12, he says, “Oh that was scary!” Yes it was.

In case we didn’t hear it the first couple of times, he takes off his helmet, points the GoPro camera at himself, and says, smiling, “That was pretty scary.” But he was thrilled and happy and uninjured.

Dear readers, are you feeling scared right now? Are you ready for the descent to the bottom of this period in history? What skills are you feeling in need of? Which ones are you drawing on these days? I’d love to hear from you.

diets · fat · feminism · normative bodies

Why diet culture harms us

Image description: bathroom scale showing “0” with an apple on it with a tape measure around the apple. Photo from The Times of India.

Diet culture. It’s not something I’ve thought about much lately. Indeed, it’s not something most of us think about much unless and until someone draws our attention to it (and even then, that drawing attention isn’t always welcome). It’s like that story about fish and water, memorably told by the brilliant, now deceased, writer David Foster Wallace in a 2005 commencement address entitled “This is water”:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

What’s the moral of this little story? When you are immersed in something, when it’s all around you, you might not even be aware of it. But that’s the only respect in which water is to fish as diet culture is to us. Because unlike water, which is life-sustaining to fish, diet culture is harmful to us.

When I first saw the article in Good Housekeeping, “The Unbearable Weight of Diet Culture,” I was set to rant. I wanted to rant about diet culture itself. How normalized and oppressive it is. How it individualizes our weight loss failures when in fact “98% of diets fail.” Think on that: 98%! How it promotes the idea that there is something wrong with a body that is not thin or lean. How it demonizes certain foods and moralizes ways of eating (like, desserts are “sinful” and we give into temptation when we eat them). How it stigmatizes people on the basis of body size.

There is space for ranting about all these things and more. I even wanted to rant about how Good Housekeeping, a mainstream women’s magazine, gives us this informative and insightful article about diet culture, while also having a whole section of their website, called “Diet and Nutrition,” devoted to endorsing diet culture with articles like: “The Best Diets of 2021,” “How to Find the Best Diet for You,” “Why Can’t I Lose Weight?” and “What J-Lo Eats in a Day to Look So Good.” [I’m not linking to that content but it’s easy enough to find}

Instead of faulting them for the contradiction, I actually want to applaud them for including any sort of counternarrative at all. The editors are well aware that they are walking tightrope. The diet culture article starts with the following qualifying statement:

Throughout 2021, Good Housekeeping will be exploring how we think about weight, the way we eat, and how we try to control or change our bodies in our quest to be happier and healthier. While GH also publishes weight loss content and endeavors to do so in a responsible, science-backed way, we think it’s important to present a broad perspective that allows for a fuller understanding of the complex thinking about health and body weight. Our goal here is not to tell you how to think, eat, or live — nor is to to pass judgment on how you choose to nourish your body — but rather to start a conversation about diet culture, its impact, and how we might challenge the messages we are given about what makes us attractive, successful, and healthy.

Where better to start a conversation about diet culture than in the very magazines that women flock to when they are seeking “solutions” to their “struggles” with weight? And the first question someone might ask, like the fish swimming in water, is “what is diet culture?” The article opens with rough account: “it’s a set of beliefs that worships thinness and equates it with health and moral virtue, according to anti-diet dietitian, Christy Harrison, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., author of Anti-Dietand host of the Food Psych podcast.” It is, says the article, “the lens through which most of us in this country view beauty, health, and our own bodies.” As such, it colours our judgments about ourselves and others, moralizing some food choices as more virtuous than others, causing people to praise others’ weight loss or adherence to restrictive diet regimes, and giving credence to such scientifically vacuous notions as “detoxing” and “clean eating.”

It’s also generated a billions of dollars industry where people seek a miracle. Why is it a miracle? Because, back to that alarming statistic: 98% of diets fail over time.

Here on the blog we have been critical of diet culture since the very start, while also being aware that we are immersed in it. We are critical of it because it is harmful, built on fat-phobia and self-loathing. From the GH article, here are some of the ways that it’s harmful (some already mentioned above):

  1. It promotes discrimination by normalizing fat phobia and promoting as normal the attitude that being overweight (or weight gain at all) is a sign of failure.
  2. It fuels a business designed to take your money.
  3. It’s a set-up for feeling like a failure.
  4. It distracts from larger social issues like walkable cities, wide availability of good quality foods, and other social inequities.
  5. It normalizes disordered eating.
  6. It’s self-perpetuating.

I would add a few of my own here:

  1. It makes way for people to use restrictive food plans to “virtue signal” by posting about their strict adherence to the latest food fad (e.g. no carbs, no sugar, keto, paleo, “cleanses” and “detoxes,” blood type diet, mediterranean diet and all the diets from the 80s and 90s named after doctors — Scarsdale, Atkins — or fruits — banana, grapefruit — and then of course the diets promoted by celebrities like Suzanne Sommers, Oprah, Adele…). It is amazing how much applause is dished out when someone posts a photo of their brown rice and steamed kale bowl.
  2. It infantalizes adults by encouraging the view that, left to our own devices, we will always make poor choices.
  3. It saps the joy out of health and fitness activities because if those are your only goals, and if the healthy choices don’t lead to weight loss, they’re not worth doing. But they are worth doing. We can get fitter and healthier without getting thinner and lighter.
  4. It creates obsession around food. Ever since the Minnesota starvation studies after World War II we have known that food deprivation generates food obsession.
  5. It also makes it almost impossible to have a pure, mindful eating experience that is unmediated by thoughts of “is this a ‘good’ choice?” “Should I be eating this?” “Is this on my plan?”

The article offers a couple of ways to work your way out of diet culture. One of their suggestions is to consider intuitive eating, which is an approach designed to combat diet culture, challenge the food police, and let your hunger be your guide. I like that approach myself, but it doesn’t work for everyone. We have had some discussions of it over the years on the blog, as champions and detractors.

It also suggests becoming informed about Health at Every Size (HAES), “a movement that recognizes “that health outcomes are primarily driven by social, economic, and environmental factors,” not weight, to encourage the pursuit of health without a focus on weight loss.”

I’ll add to this my own suggestion, which is not to applaud people for their diets and weight loss, and not to talk to people about their weight or weight loss efforts. I know that a lot of people are very public about their desire to lose weight (that’s diet culture for you! Making it normal to talk about something that really is no one’s business and, if you think about it, most people don’t care much what you’re up to in that department unless they’re judging you). I’ve often heard people say that they only compliment or comment when they know that’s what their friend is actively attempting. That’s endorsing diet culture, and diet culture is harmful. So I don’t do it even if my friend would like me to notice and compliment their weight loss. I like and love my friends regardless of their size or their food choices.

That said, I also try my best not to “get into it” with people who don’t want to hear it. I don’t always succeed in this. I have friends lately who are all in the “sugar is evil” trend. I have been through that one myself, and it caused an uproar that resulted in talking me off that particular ledge (not in the most pleasant way, but I still feel grateful as I look back), so I know how easy it is to rationalize this or that plan to dump sugar. All this to say that I dipped my toe in the water of asking questions, which I thought were gentle questions, about a friend’s quest to stop eating sugar, and it turns out that I had to learn the “it’s none of my business” lesson again. I’m public about being an anti-diet feminist fitness blogger. Friends know where to find me if they want that perspective. I need to learn to leave it at that and put my thoughts into a blog post once in awhile. Hence this!

Even if Good Housekeeping is sending contradictory messages when they write articles about diet culture and its harms, on the one hand, and provide ample information to those who wish to partake in it, on the other hand, I like their 2021 commitment to raising awareness. If no one points it out, we’ll never know we’re swimming in it.

Are you aware of diet culture?

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 30: All About Your Feelings

About 5 years ago, I was all tangled up in how to design and organize my website and a friend of mine gave me some great advice:

“Think about how you want people to FEEL when they visit. Think about how YOU want to feel when you direct people there. Use those feelings to guide your decisions.”

That was a lightning bolt moment for me.

I had always been focused on how I wanted my site to work and what I wanted people to see but I had never included feelings in the equation.

(Which was weird considering how often I nope out of a site because something about it squicks me out.)

It was an excellent way for me to make the decisions* I had to make about my site. And, of course, once it helped me in one area I used it in all sorts of others, too.

I found that it works especially well when it comes to fitness and wellness. And I include emotions and physical feelings in fitness/wellness decisions.

And, often, they become my ‘in the moment’ goals, letting me focus on my process, instead of on my ‘results’ goals which might be a long way away.

How do I want to feel during my practice?

Perhaps I want to feel at ease, or I want to feel challenged, or I want to feel energized. It changes from time to time.

How do I want to feel afterwards?

Perhaps I want to feel happier or I want to feel like I have worked every muscle or I want to grounded. I pick the activity that will (likely) give me the mood I want.

How will this make me feel in my day-to-day movements?

One of my major motivations is that when I exercise regularly the change in my leg muscles makes me feel more grounded and more powerful. Seeking that feeling instead of hoping my legs will *look* a certain way has been helpful for me. (Note: There’s nothing wrong with wanting your legs to look a certain way, I just can’t use it as a metric because I don’t have enough control over the results.)

I have even been considering tracking how my exercise/wellness practices make me feel every time so I can revisit them when my motivation dips and I need a reminder of why I practice.

Do you use you physical or emotional feelings to guide your exercise plans?

If not, do you think it might be useful to consider them?

And maybe even track them?

I strongly FEEL that you deserve a gold star for your efforts today, this week, and this month. Whether you have been moving, meditating, being mindful, drinking more water, or just trying to do all of those things, your efforts matter.

Keep at it!

Image description: A heavily decorated gold starfish shape with a shiny fake gem in the centre stands on one of its points on a base covered in shiny gold and silver fake coral and shells.
Tomorrow your gold star will be the biggest star I have, today it’s the most over-the-top star that I own. I bought it at Ripley’s Aquarium gift shop in Toronto in 2016 because holding it made me fell like I had won the encouragement Oscars or something. Yes, I know it’s a bit much, but it’s super fun and I love how it makes me feel (see what I did there?) Image description: A heavily decorated gold starfish shape with a shiny fake gem in the centre stands on one of its points on a base covered in shiny gold and silver fake coral and shells.

*Perhaps this is a natural part of your decision-making process? Previous to that point, I hadn’t really brought my feelings into a lot of those sorts of decisions.

cycling · Guest Post

Coming Back to Fitness (Guest Post)

by Shannon Dea

I am a late blooming, on-again-off-again exerciser. In September, I flicked the switch back to the “on” position.

For many years, I was convinced that exercise and sport weren’t for me. I was born with club feet and for the first five or six years of my life wore casts and then leg braces. During this period, I had very limited mobility; so, I spent most of my time with books and paper. When I started to walk – comparatively late in childhood – I was awkward, ungainly and slow.

I also had an eye condition that left me stereoblind (that is, without depth perception – or at least, not much). So, in addition to having legs that didn’t quite move in the usual way and a general lack of fitness from spending more time reading than playing outside, I also had a tendency to walk into lampposts and fall up (yes – up!) stairs. 

I gained the reputation for being good at school and bad at gym. And I bought it. It was so much a part of my identity that I was a klutzy weakling that it never even occurred to me that practice might help. Year after year, I got A’s in school and the consolation pin in Participaction.

It was pregnancy that changed all of that for me – in particular, a pre-natal yoga class. Having avoided all forms of exercise up until that point, I don’t remember what inspired me to sign up. But I suspect that the fact that it was geared for pregnant people made it feel less like fitness to me. It was a gentle yoga class with slow movements and deep breathing, and I found it super boring, but I liked the teacher. So, I continued taking classes with her even after the baby was born. 

When Maya stopped offering gentle classes and started offering Ashtanga (power yoga), I remember being afraid of making the switch, but I trusted Maya and she encouraged me to give it a try. Compared to the classes I had taken before, Ashtanga was fast, hot and high energy. It was hard work. But unlike the pre-natal classes, it wasn’t boring; it was thrilling. I started to do Ashtanga daily and for the first time in my life I became fit. I was strong, muscular and flexible, something I had never experienced before. I became passionate about Ashtanga and took teacher training with some of the top Ashtanga teachers in the world. When Maya moved to another town, I took over as the local Ashtanga teacher. That was my jam during my late 20s and early 30s.

And then I went to grad school. Between grad school and raising my kid, somehow my yoga practices became less and less frequent until eventually I was quite sedentary again. You might wonder how someone could revel in their newfound fitness as much as I did and then become sedentary again. I don’t really know how that works – whether it’s because my default for so many years had been not exercising or whether it happens to everyone. 

In any case, I was professionally busy but physically sedentary for about six years, until a colleague at my new job invited me to join a departmental fun run team. That invitation sparked the second period of fitness in my life. Running was terrible at first, but for some reason I stuck it out until I was a fast, strong runner, who I learned to my own great surprise loved the second hour of running even more than the first. How was that even possible? 

During those years (my early 40s), my fitness was fueled both by my love of the endorphins I experienced during exercise and by the mutual support from the friends I exercised with. We ran, we cycled, we swam, we kayaked, we did aerobics classes. And races! We did 5 ks, 10 ks, triathlons, and eventually a half marathon. I was fit and strong and super excited about exercise. And then I sustained a knee injury that revealed some pretty substantial arthritic degeneration in both knees. No more running. I was so bummed not to be able to run that I stopped doing everything else too. It was a kind of mourning period, I guess, but I never really snapped out of it.

In the years since I stopped running (and doing much else, fitness-wise), I have often felt shame and grief over becoming sedentary again, and in a bunch of ways, that seemed to make it harder to recommit to fitness. Brains are weird.

I’m 51 now, and in September I started a demanding new job in a new city and province. I decided that all of that change makes this the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. But we’re in the middle of a pandemic and the winters here are hard. I knew I wasn’t going to go to the gym or reliably exercise outdoors year round. So I bought a fancy exercise bike and since the fall I’ve been religiously working out on it three times a week for about an hour at a time. At first, it was boring and the time on the bike really dragged. (Has it really only been 5 seconds since the last time I checked? Ugh!) 

But after only a couple of sessions, I started to get strong again, and started to experience those lovely endorphins again. I am panting and sweating again for the first time since I stopped running, and I’m loving it. With each workout, I get stronger and faster. I’m still at that stage where every workout is a new PR. When I’m not working out, I’m stronger, calmer and more energized.

Will I lose momentum again like I did with yoga and running? Maybe. Probably. But that’s ok. People change, bodies change, schedules change. There are worse things than being an on-again-off-again exerciser, and I have enough stress without adding that worry to the pile. For now, I feel great. And every time I get fit again, it lays down a memory for my future self that I can always get back on the proverbial (and in this case, literal) bike.  

Shannon in a red helmet in front of the University of Regina entrance

Shannon is a Philosophy professor, a Dean, and a recovering desk potato. She philosophizes, deans, and exercises on Treaty 4 territory.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 29: Claim An Easy Win

Whether you have been able to work on your habit every day so far or you have been trying to figure out how to make your habit work, I’d like you to claim an easy win today.

What’s the teeniest, most straightforward, simplest example of the habit you have been trying to develop?

Maybe it is one mindful breath.

Perhaps a single yoga pose.

One rep.

One stretch.

One sip of water.

Think of a tiny thing that represents what you are trying to include in your life.

And do it right now.

Can’t do it right now? Pick a specific time to do it later – use an alarm, a reminder or a cue (i.e. I’ll do a squat while I cook supper.) to ensure that it gets done.

Then, celebrate that easy win – put a star on your calendar, pat yourself on the back, pump your fist in the air, shout ‘Go me!’ Whatever feels good to you.

You can do more than the teeny thing if you want to, of course, but the win lies in doing the small thing. Everyone who does the small thing can claim a victory no matter how much or how little else you do.

You might think of a small win as unimportant but pushing back against the challenges you face and creating that foothold for yourself can be the key to establishing the practice you want.

When it comes to building habits your repeated effort is the most important thing. Once your tiny wins are routine, you can build on them and you’ll be glad that you started small.*

So, go on and lift your arms over your head in a stretch or put your hands out in front of you and roll your fingers into a fist. Stand up slowly and sit back down even slower. Gently stretch your neck to one side and then the other. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while you inhale and then let them drop while you quickly exhale.

Do the small thing you can do as soon as you can possibly do and then be proud of yourself for carving out that time today.

I’m proud of your efforts and I offer you this gold star in celebration.

 Image description: a drawing of a gold star with lines of other small shapes radiating outward from each point.
Another of my star drawings. Yes, I draw stars often. Image description: a drawing of a gold star with lines of other small shapes radiating outward from each point.

*PS – Even if you did something huge yesterday or the day before but today this tiny win is a challenge, it is still a win. You are still showing up for yourself. Yesterday, I did a single yoga pose (frog) but I still counted yoga as done.


Update Regarding My Inner 13 Year Old

Last January, I wrote this post about the unexpected and really interesting experience I had while doing 30 days in a row (more or less) of yoga with my buddy Adriene, the Texan internet phenom yoga instructor that is almost as ubiquitous in my circles as the Bernie Mitten Meme. There has been a LOT go on since that post, both in my personal life and, obvs, the world. There is, however, a consistent thread that has woven its way through it all and I think that this thread began, or at least emerged out of the background in that post. I remember really vividly typing away in a coffee shop (remember that?) while waiting to see my best friend (Jennnnnnnnn, I misssssss youuuuuuu) for a coffee and a snack before heading off to in person teaching (remember THAT?) of my therapy students.

As I recall, we were reading excerpts from Janina Fisher, “Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors”. Without getting super technical, there is an idea that parts of us get hived off in our experience, assigned the job to hold feelings, self-concepts and impacts of trauma, and to keep it out of our every day awareness. It’s excellent as a temporary strategy but you can imagine, has its flaws. When we hive off parts, we lose access to not just the awful things, but the good things and our sense of narrative about our lives. Also those parts can feel isolated and sad and when that breaks through to our awareness, we use other means to push them away and that cycle just keeps on rolling along or maybe accelerating out of control until we are overwhelmed and unable to cope with all the screaming in our heads from all these disavowed places. This is something that everyone can relate to in varying degrees of severity.

So that book was on my mind somewhere as I was exploring what was coming up for me as I worked my way through 30 days of yoga practice and in that writing, I stumbled upon my awkward 13 year old self, looking at the window’s reflection as she walked by, hating herself for her clumsiness and general inability to handle social interaction. She was so present for me that when I wrote that post, I started to cry. . .or she did. . .I wasn’t sure but I took that to therapy.

Since that day, I have been attending in various ways to the 13 year old part of me. She has written some poetry, had some big hissy fits, cried a lot, gone to work with me, told me her secrets and also finally found a good gym teacher in Alex the trainer. She’s just been. . .around, making herself known with all her fears and need for acceptance and I have been paying attention in various ways that involve welcoming her as opposed to scrunching up every muscle in my body and willing her and her shame elsewhere “Just get out of my sight!” “I HATE you!” Strong language that. It’s so real.

I was super excited to start 30 days of Yoga with my friend Adriene again on January 1. I didn’t know what it would hold but I was excited to see if there was something different this year than last. I wasn’t clocking at all that I would want to deliberately notice the 13 year old in the practice. Silly me, she didn’t give me a choice in that matter and she showed up in the first week. I noticed it first as I moved gracefully from one pose to the next:

“Inhale, stretch up tall, exhale, float all the way down, forward fold, inhale, half way lift, exhale forward fold, place one hand, then the other, one foot back and then the other, inhale, plank, exhale, slowly lower down, inhale, cobra, exhale, downward facing dog.”

I was just floating along, confident, aware, engaged. It was magical.

“Is that you”, I asked her?

“Yup”, She said.

“Good job you”, I said.

“Thanks”, she said.

And that was that, we continued to practice and there was peace in my head. So, what happened there? Certainly, I am better at the yoga this year than I was last year. I’m stronger and more balanced because of the strength training I am doing in addition to the yoga. Yet, I think it’s bigger than that. Beyond strength and balance is integration and this integration is both physical and also psychic. The inner 13 year old feels palpably better than she did this time last year. She knows we learned how to make friends and she knows we learned how to find all sorts of love. She sees the success and meaningfulness that has accrued in our life and she feels entitled to it too, instead of holding all the feeling about the time we were not entitled to those things, or, at least, couldn’t find the feeling of that. She still gets roused and activated when I have a failure or a frustration or a fear of those things. But that communication between the rest of me and that state is so much more available now.

Did yoga heal me? Well, yes, in concert with a whole bunch of other things working together. Yoga certainly showed me something important, something that needed tending. When Adriene invites me now to curl over my bent knees and “hang out here for a minute in your own private love cave”, I hang out with me and sit in some love. I feel so grateful I can even though I’m not 100 percent sure exactly how I got here. Part of it is yoga and the rest is seeking a fuller self care and respect. I’m always sitting with my clients and encouraging them, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, to tend to themselves. When they eat, when they move, when they work. . .don’t forget to tend to yourself, even as you are attending to another. It’s more important now than ever.

Lotsa love y’all.

From Here. An adorable downward doggo with an ocean in the back ground. I tried to catch Shelby in one but she wasn’t having it.
fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 28 : Find a Role Model

It’s always easier to take on something new if you have a template to follow.

A trainer or coach can come in handy for developing a template for your actual workouts or wellness practices

But perhaps you also need a template for how to fit those workouts into your life?

That’s where a role model could come in handy.

Do you know (or know of!) someone whose life is similar to yours and who has a firmly established fitness/wellness practice?

(Yes, I know you won’t find an exact match but you can probably find someone close enough to use for a template. And it doesn’t have to be a fitness ‘influencer’ either – unless that’s what you are aiming for, too.)

Could you find out more about the kinds of exercises they do and how and when they do them? Perhaps you can even learn more about how they deal with unexpected time and life challenges.

I’m not suggesting this so you can copy them exactly, of course.

You’ll have to tweak and adapt their routines to fit into the specifics of your life.

But, choosing a role model and using the their approach as a template means that you aren’t starting from scratch. Some of the work is already done for you.

(Reminder: It is totally ok to nope out of anything they do that doesn’t sit well with you.)

If you’ve been trying to figure out your new habits and get into your new routine and it’s just not happening – a role model and a template might be the way forward.

Here’s today’s gold star for your efforts to build your new habits – whether you are moving merrily along or still getting into gear.

Go you!

GIF Description: A woman in a polka dot shirt holds a sign with 5 gold stars and the word ‘amazing’ on it. The image moves slightly but doesn’t change.​
A series of gold stars for your perseverance. You *will* figure it all out. GIF Description: A woman in a polka dot shirt holds a sign with 5 gold stars and the word ‘amazing’ on it. The image moves slightly but doesn’t change.