fitness · top ten

Top Ten April 2023 Posts, #ICYMI


Catherine wrote about the Dalai Lama sticking his tongue out. She was writing about mediation but I guess people searching key terms related to the recent controversy found her post. This was our most read post in April.


Cate’s still menstruating post was the second most read post. It’s usually in the top ten.

Three is the magic number

Catherine’s 2017 post on the Sit rise test and what it does and doesn’t show is having a bit of a moment as the sit rise test is in the fitness news again. It’s our third most read post this month.


In 2019 Catherine wrote about yoga poses she can’t do and what she does instead. Yoga poses was the fourth most read post on the blog in April.


The first of the most read posts that was written this year, Mina’s Sweating like a whore was our 5th most read post.


In 2017 Michelle blogged bout her changing relationship with her FitBit. Walking 20k steps a day was our 6th most read post in April.


Tracy’s 2013 post The shape of an athlete was the 7th most read post in April. I still love that post too!


And in other Tracy news, she also blogged about her new project. Tracy’s new blog was our 8th most read post.


Pain and the human playground was a short review I wrote about a show about endurance athletes and their limits. It was the 9th most read post in April.


And last but not least, the 10th most read post was one of the latest installments in my ongoing saga of knee surgery and recovery, Knee surgery recovery second time around.

And tomorrow it’s the start of May!

fitness · WOTY

Catherine’s 2023 word of the year: an update

It’s almost May 1. For me, this date signals a shift in my work, in my schedule, in my life cadence. May 1 is the last day of classes (although not the last day of meetings, or grading or exams). But still. It holds out the promise of summer– of beaches and lakes and forests and backyards and decks.

Four months into 2023, it occurred to me to check out my WOTY– word of the year. We at Fit is a Feminist Issue have been posting them for some years now. Here are a few of our posts:

What’s your Word of the Year? Here are ours (2021)

It’s word-of-the-year time again (2022)

Fit Feminists’ 2023 Words of the Year

Mine for the past three years have been these:

  • awake in 2021
  • creativity in 2022
  • allow in 2023

I’m not sure how these words of the year are working out for me. Maybe it’s not my fault, but 2021 now seems like a haze, with transitioning from life and work entirely online to venturing into work and other people’s homes in person. I don’t remember how awake or alert I was.

Creativity is a good word for any year for me, certainly as an aspiration, a reminder of the joys (for me) of making, making new, opening up avenues for novel activity. I love me some novel activity; if you missed last Sunday’s post on my visits to an alpaca farm, float tank and the wackiest massage chair ever, check it out here. I’m not taking issue with my 2022 word, but rather it’s kind of a primary word for me every year. Does that count? I’m not sure how the word-of-the-year authorities would rule on this one.

Which brings us to 2023: Allow. Yeah, no. What possessed me to pick ALLOW as my word? I am sooo not an allowing kind of person. Letting things be, going with the flow, keeping cool– all these are most definitely not descriptors of me. And they also don’t describe how my year has gone so far.

Work life has been turbulent– coming back from sabbatical to a new department chair, hiring a new colleague, and adjusting to the loss of my dear friend and colleague Laura, who died last year. Home life has been fun but busier, with two out-of-town friends staying with me once a week while working in Boston. Active life has been opportunistic and not systematic, which is not an unfamiliar pattern but one that I’m not happy with. All of this points to one thing: I need a new Word of the Year.

Luckily, the internet has lots of suggestions. I checked out this site, and from all the ads, it seemed like her WoTY was Vrbo. Not helpful. This one had 244 options, which is just too many for me.

But you gotta pick sooner or later, so here’s my adjusted Word of the Year: Friend.

Of all the things I do, being friends with people is one of my favorites. Doing things with them, talking with them, helping out from time to time, and even allowing (yeah, I guess that word is somewhat useful) them to help me– all these things are what I consider my life to be about.

Yesterday I had friends over for brunch and then we went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for their annual Art in Bloom exhibit. Garden clubs around the area are assigned a work of art, and they construct a flowery companion for it. I go often, and it’s always fun. Here’s a selfie of us from yesterday:

Melanie, me, Deb, and Mari at the museum.
Melanie, me, Deb, and Mari at the museum.

Yeah– Friend. That works. I’m shifting words, but I think this is much better.

What about you, friends? Did you pick a word for 2023? Do you remember what it is? How’s it working for you? I’d love to hear how things are going for you and your word.

fitness · running

If running a marathon is too much trouble, how about catching a ride instead?

It’s happened again. Someone who had signed up for a long-distance running race decided to pursue alternative modes of transportation in order to finish more quickly. In this most recent case, Scottish ultrarunner Joasia Zakrzewski competed in her own custom version of a duathlon– combining running with riding in a car.

I don’t think that’s a thing.

Frog agrees with me: nope, that's not a thing.
Frog agrees: nope, that’s not a thing.

During the 2023 GB Ultras Manchester to Liverpool 50-mile race on 7 April, Zakrzewski reportedly was limping and got in a friend’s car to go to the next checkpoint to tell course marshals she was withdrawing. She says,

“When I got to the checkpoint I told them I was pulling out and that I had been in the car, and they said ‘you will hate yourself if you stop’,” Dr Zakrzewski said. “I agreed to carry on in a non-competitive way. I made sure I didn’t overtake the runner in front when I saw her as I didn’t want to interfere with her race.”

However, that’s not how the race ended. In fact, when she crossed the line– in third place– she was given a medal and a trophy and posed for pictures. At no point did she tell the race officials that her finish time was aided by a 2.5 mile car ride.

Young Keanu is correct: that's just so not right, man.
Young Keanu is correct: that’s just so not right, man.

Race director Wayne Drinkwater was completely in the dark about this, too.

…At no point at the finish were the event team informed by Joasia that she was ‘not running the race competitively’.” … None of our event team in question, with written statements to confirm this, were aware that Joasia had vehicle transport at any time during the race until we received information after the race from another competitor.

It wasn’t until they received information from another competitor that they investigated.

Drinkwater said the organization received information that a runner had gained an “unsporting, competitive advantage during a section of the event.” Mapping data showed Zakrzewski covering a mile of the race in just 1 minute 40 seconds. Organizers learned she had traveled by car for 2.5 miles before continuing to complete the race on foot.

Of course, once all this came out, Joasia was iconsolable:

Joasia Zakrzewski said her actions were “not malicious” and the incident was caused by miscommunication… She said she was “devastated” by what had happened and extremely upset to see “haters” on social media calling for her to have a lifetime ban. “I’ve given so much to the running world so I am devastated this has happened,” she said.

Hmm… She’s “devastated” by what “happened”. It’s not like this was some geopolitical event occurring at the time of the race. She did this. These comments don’t acknowledge that she knowingly let the race officials put the medal on her, not the rightful 3rd-place winner, Mel Sykes. She even uploaded a photo and data from her running app on Twitter. All this suggests that she intended to hang onto her ill-gotten third-place finish. But when some folks looked at the Strava data, they found anomalies, and soon all was revealed.

Mel Sykes’ twitter post (@nuddypants–love this handle) about the race, where she was belatedly awarded 3rd place.

This race wasn’t a special qualifying one, and there wasn’t even prize money for the winners. Not that such conditions would justify cheating, but they might explain it. There’s no real explanation here.

Cheating happens in athletic events, and it happens in running races. One of the most infamous cases happened in my town (Boston) in 1980 when Rosie Ruiz, an unknown runner, crossed the finish line, winning the women’s race. Canadian runner Jacqueline Gareau crossed the finish line for real in 2:34:28, but was denied her rightful glory. It took a week to suss out that Rosie Ruiz didn’t run the whole course. In fact, she took the T (the Boston subway) and popped out a mile or so from the finish. Taking public transport, while more ecologically conscientious than driving, is not an approved method for marathons.

Like Mel Sykes, Jacqueline Garneau did get recognition for her Boston finish. In 2005, she was the grand marshal for the Boston Marathon, and she was hailed and cheered while crossed the winner’s tape, albeit 25 years after she finished.

Jacqueline Garneau, Canadian marathon runner, crossing the tape in Boston, 25 years after her win.

What’s the message here? It’s not that cheaters never win– sometimes they do. But here are some cases where a cheater’s win is fleeting, because a bunch of people are paying attention and care about fairness and fun in sport. Mel Sykes, in her Twitter feed, is looking ahead to more fun races, runs, walks and cafe stops along the way. Jacqueline Garneau looks happy in her picture at the Boston finish line. She looks happy here, too, posing with men’s winner Bill Rogers, both wearing the winners’ olive wreaths and medals.

Jacqueline Garneau in 1980 with Bill Rogers-- both winners of the Boston Marathon.
Jacqueline Garneau in 1980 with Bill Rogers– both winners of the Boston Marathon.

If you want to read more about Garneau– what she’s doing now, how she feels about that day in Boston, look here. Tidbit: she forgave Rosie Ruiz. Joasia Zakrzewski may be forgiven as well. Once she learns how to apologize properly.

Readers, did you hear about this latest example of very bad athlete behavior? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.


Pull your hair back and put on your body glitter

For many of us, exercise is a constant quest for good vibes. Besides the obvious physical benefits, the thing that keeps us coming back, day-in and day-out, is the endorphins, often during and immediately after our workout, and also, the equilibrium that exercise provides throughout the rest of our day(s).

I do track some of my workouts using metrics provided by Strava and my FitBit. But, I don’t dig deep into the metrics. I don’t pay a lot of attention to splits or similar. I look at overall time and pace per kilometre. I do enjoy seeing where I was faster during certain runs but my motivation for running faster amounts more to sensory motivation. How did I feel in that run where I was faster? What did that stride feel like? Can I mimic that stride next time? I read this article yesterday, “A Longevity Doc’s Secret to Crushing it in Old Age“. While I find some of his advice moderate and helpful (albeit slightly ableist and tinged with a Type A lens) in some examples, where he talks about V02 max, my eyes gloss over and I know that I am never going to be calculating my V02 max as a metric,”You also want to be able to hike on a hilly trail? To do that comfortably requires a VO2 max of roughly 30 ml/kg/min. Let’s take a look at the results of your latest VO2 max test—and guess what, you only scored a 30. You’re average for your age, but I’m afraid that’s not good enough, because your VO2 max is also going to decline.

So what motivates me when it comes to exercise? There are moments in my decades-long journey that are entrenched in my psyche. The feeling during a long run where the body is in sync with the mind. The feeling of finishing a race. Having salt crusted on my face during long marathon training runs and knowing I look ridiculous, but being weirdly happy, even if sore. Those last few minutes in a spin class, decades ago, when the instructor would say OK, “close your eyes, put your head down and just GO!” and I would sprint like crazy to the finish line.

For that last one, at the time, the spin studio I went to didn’t yet have metrics tied to your bike. I preferred it that way (after experiencing the more modern version years later with the metrics/leaderboard). How much you were “giving it” was all based on your own feeling and perception. That feeling of letting GO and spinning your legs and the feeling in your chest and brain were pretty telling, however, and have left its mark.

A few years ago when I joined the band of people buying stationary bikes during the pandemic and using the Peloton app, seeking that feeling, was part of my motivation to use Peloton for the spin-style classes. I did find it in some cases, although perhaps not quite the same without being in a big, loft-like workout space, with dozens more people spinning alongside you and the carefully curated music playing loudly on the speakers. Yes, the Peloton classes provide curated music, but I often have it playing pretty low, out of consideration for my townhouse neighbours. I don’t have other spinners around me, but rather, my two dogs sprawled out on the couch.

I haven’t been using my bike as often and I gave up my Peloton app awhile ago when they increased the prices (combined with real life options opening up, just didn’t seem worth it). However, I started a new job a couple weeks ago and I am adjusting to a new schedule. I can still go to the gym a few times a week and run a couple days a week, but on a couple of the weekdays, when I need to go into the office, having the option of a bike ride before work is appealing, so I signed up for a “free month trial” while deciding if I want to recommit.

The first class I joined was a 30 min 90s ride and it served just the purpose I was seeking. And, as a bonus, the instructor, said at one point, “Pull your hair back and cover yourself in glitter and GO”. I appreciated that visual in the moment. When was the last time I dressed up to go out on the town? It’s been awhile. Not even sure I want to do that, but I can appreciate seeking that FEELING of liberation. Of no stress. Of no perimenopause. Of not worrying about multitasking with brain fog. I can seek that feeling of pulling my hair back and covering myself in body glitter and enjoying that moment. I hope I can seek that type of feeling well into my senior years. That will motivate me to continue exercising more than any V02 max calculation.

Nicole P. is enjoying her new workout schedule and using how she feels as a metric of success.

AI and Fake Fitness Images

It’s in the news a lot right now, how AI is making it increasingly difficult to spot fake images on the internet.

Fitness imagery has never been that realistic but in the past, here on the blog, we’ve worried about Photoshop and digitally enhanced fitness imagery. Feminists worry that women’s bodies are being judged by unrealistic standards that even fitness models themselves can’t attain.

But now the worry is a little bit different. It’s that some of the images aren’t just digitally enhanced, they’re entirely made up. AI generated images are harder and harder to tell apart from the real thing.

Me, I love photos of older active women and I often share them on our Facebook page. When I saw the picture below of the older women skateboarding it seemed like a natural thing to share and I didn’t look into its source. Some of our Facebook followers did though and it turns out that it’s image created by AI.

Skating Nanis on Instagram

Thankfully Allison, over on our Facebook page, let me know that there are older women skateboarding. She shared this story, MEET LENA, THE 64-YEAR-OLD SKATEBOARDER WHO’S INFINITELY COOLER THAN YOU.

And here’s a video about some older skateboarders.

What do you think about AI generated fitness images? I know I’ll be more cautious in the future.

advice · fitness · health · motivation

Is it bad being negatively motivated to exercise?

The other day I was listening to American businessperson Carla Harris being interviewed on Adam Grant’s podcast about her successful career in the finance industry. My ears perked up when Harris described herself as “negatively motivated”:

but i am negatively motivated. you should know that about me. so when you tell me i can't do something, I'm all over it like a bad smell.

Harris suggests in the podcast that she took the underestimation of her as a black women in the white-male dominated finance industry as a challenge to overcome.

There are other, slightly different definitions of negative motivation, such as this one from Google:

Google defines negative motivation as behaviour that is motivated by anticipation or fear that an undesirable outcome will result from not performing. Fear is a powerful motivator, especially when that fear relates to your survival or, in the case of employees, their income and growth.

Negative motivation here is less about seeing adversity as a challenge and more about acting out of fear given the negative consequences of not acting. This definition aligns with how I often find myself motivated to exercise: not out of pleasure or reward but out of what I know will happen if I don’t exercise–namely stiffness, reduced flexibility, low mood, and inability to keep up with my friends.

Is it bad or wrong to be motivated by adversity, worries, or fears?

One fitness and wellness blog site suggests that positive motivation and reinforcement is more effective. The author uses an analogy of a gazelle being hunted by a cheetah to describe how “negative reinforcement works great temporarily, but falls short on long-term lifestyle changes” (p.18). Once the cheetah stops chasing the gazelle, the gazelle is no longer motivated to run at top speed.

However, positive reinforcements have been found to be effective only when they continue to be applied. According to one meta-analysis study, positive reinforcements improved exercise behaviours to a greater degree than negative reinforements, but once the positive reinforcements were removed there were mixed results in sustaining exercise behaviours.

Even if they are equally effective, I believe it is probably more difficult in the long to live among negative motivation and reinforcements all the time. A few years ago Kim Solga wrote about the underestimation of women cyclists. Even if female athletes are motivated to blow up gender assumptions and limiting stereotypes in their sport, Solga rightly points out that being on the receiving end of the negativity—the mansplaining, showing off, and the excessive complimenting—is exhausting!

Cheetah lying down. Photo by ray rui on Unsplash

I think I’d prefer not to be negatively motivated. I don’t want only hardship or fears to be what spurs me on. (And, of course, sex and race prejudice in sport needs to go away entirely.) Yet, when I’ve tried to be positive, set happy goals, and reward myself with bubble baths, they don’t always work.

Maybe it’s okay to be negatively motivated so long as I cut myself some slack occasionally, especially when I start to exhaust myself with all the worries. Some days, even the cheetahs and the gazelles hang around in the desert sunshine, watching each other but taking a break from the chase.


To listen, read, watch on a Wednesday, #ListenReadWatch

Listen to SELF magazine’s spring workout playlist

Spring workout playlist

Read this article in the Atlantic

“Lifting weights has turned working out from a penance that I resent into something more like a science experiment—what can my body do if I invest in it? Can I pick up my own body weight? (I can.) Can I get my suitcase into the overhead bin without help? (You betcha.) Can I get rid of my constant shoulder pain from being a professional computer gremlin? (Sort of—but you still need an ergonomic desk setup, kids!) Can I quiet the voices telling me the only reason to move my body is to make it smaller? (Yes—not all the time, but more than I ever dreamed was possible.) Thanks to weight lifting, I’ve found a new and honestly revelatory relationship to exercise and to my body in my 30s—and Johnston’s writing was my gateway.”

A Voice of Reason in the Workout World
Entertainment musts from Julie Beck

By Kelli María Korducki, The Atlantic

Watch this trailer.

Read more about it at Bicycling Magazine

“Due out this summer, The Engine Inside follows six people from around the world, and their lives with bikes. Through each character’s story, the film uncovers the often-overlooked potential of the bike. The film explores the impact bikes have on such global issues as physical and mental health, socio-economic inequality, infrastructure, and climate change.”


Physiotherapy (for fun and fitness)

Physiotherapy isn’t actually all that fun, but I couldn’t resist the alliteration.

Sam has been doing lots of physiotherapy for her knees, and I have noticed increasing numbers of other friends who are doing physio for various ailments and injuries. My only experience until now has been after I broke my arm a few years ago.

Lately, however, my various aches and pains have been getting worse so I decided to see if a physiotherapist might be able to help me correct my posture or whatever it is I am doing wrong. It turns out I am dealing with arthritis in my knees, sciatica, some scoliosis, and trapezius muscles that are rock hard (not in a good way). This was not a complete surprise, but I had been in denial about naming the pains.

During that first session, I mostly got poked, prodded and stretched, which was surprisingly tiring. I then got sent home with a set of ten exercises to do every day until my next appointment. None of them are very big but they are surprisingly challenging. And I guess that’s the point.they are supposed to target my weak spots.

It feels weird to be doing something I associate with injury as preventive medicine, but it also feels wise. The more mobility I gain/retain at this stage, the higher the likelihood I will be able to stay active in future.

My artist’s model doll showing off all their bendy joints. Like me, they’re a little worse for wear, but still pretty useful.

ADHD · fitness · habits · meditation

Meditation Experiment Week 1

In last week’s post, I told you I was starting a meditation experiment. The plan was to try reframing my meditation as if it were one of my medications – something I ‘take’ regularly that provides benefits over time. And, hence, to anchor my meditation practice to taking my other meds each morning.

How did that go?

Let’s say results were mixed.

The reframing part, the *idea* of meditation as medication is a good approach for me.

Considering meditation as a necessary component for my well-being is really helpful. With this approach, embracing meditation as a self-prescribed medication, the practice becomes less of a ‘task to get done’ and more part of the foundation of my daily life.

Yes, it has only been a week but I can feel the shift in my own perception and it feels good.

I’m not feeling a lot of the ‘give myself some extra brainspace’ benefits yet but it has only been a week.

I am, however, finding that it is much easier to actually start a meditation than it was at the beginning of last week. AND my meditation itself feels a bit better, a little more breath-focused, a little less scattered.

So, from that perspective, my experiment results are very encouraging.

However, the second aspect of my experiment?

Not so much.

In fact, trying to link the practice with my tangible medications was an abject failure.

As I had guessed, that part of overall my day is a little too unpredictable to include meditation.

And in attempting to link my meds to my med, I found myself taking my doctor-prescribed meds a bit later. Taking them later is not only less-than-ideal for my health and concentration, it increases the risk that I will forget them entirely.

After 3 days, I reassessed and decided that the link in timing was not all that important to me, but the change in perspective was vital.

So, I abandoned the idea and just included my meditation whenever felt best each day.

In fact, after a very busy day on Friday, I ended my meditation at 11:59PM. Just under the wire for a planned ‘daily’ practice, but it still counted!

Overall, this approach is working – it’s easier to start meditating each day and the practices themselves feel pretty good. I know the mental-space-at-other-times part will arrive whenever it gets here, so I’m not trying to rush it.

And I’m actually pretty proud of myself for not stressing about the ‘failed’ part of this experiment.

There was a time when I would have had to scrap the whole thing, convinced that I was missing some key piece of information and hence doing the whole thing wrong.

That instinct still pops up for me from time to time but it rarely details me any more. Apparently, the work I have done on that sort of stuff is really paying off. 😉


Sam is easing back into the real world

It’s been almost two weeks since knee replacement surgery and I’m starting to feel like myself again. The first two weeks of recovery are intense. It’s a mix of pain, pain management, not enough sleep, physio, icing, elevation, and a lot of medication. The pain meds are obvious but after surgery you also take anti-clotting medication, antibiotics, and iron pills.

But now, the worst of it is over. I get my staples out tomorrow. I’m no longer taking serious pain medication. I’m sleeping 3-4 hours at a stretch which feels heavenly compared to 1-2 hours. I can sleep on my side now. Some of the sleeping does involve dogs. They’re great nap companions.

Sam napping with dogs

I can read. Also, I don’t need crutches about the house. I’m climbing up and down stairs pretty regularly. The mobility aspect of this recovery is much speedier with the second knee, now that I have one good leg. There’s a month now before back to work.

The recommended medical leave for knee replacement is 6-12 weeks. Last time I just took 6 weeks and I think I’ll do the same this time. I don’t have a physically demanding job. Mostly I sit at a desk or attend meetings. I can do physio in my office and I’ve got a freezer for ice storage.

My doctor made it clear it was up to me about length of leave and by six weeks I felt ready to get back at it. I was sleeping properly and I wanted to get back to some of my academic writing. It felt wrong, since I’m paid to be a Dean, not a publishing scholar, to be home from the Dean’s office and working on my own research. I also missed the people in my office and the projects on which we were working.

I was amused both times by the people who were shocked I took leave at all. Surely, they said, I could just work from home? I’m not sure I’d do my best administrative work while on morphine, frankly. But even after those first two weeks I wasn’t quite ready to go back. I was still struggling with sleep and physio took up an awful lot of time.

Mostly the ‘no leave’ crowd were either American or had business jobs, or both. I felt pretty comfortable with the low end of the recommended leave last time and I think it’s likely I will this time too.

I’m already starting to get a little bit bored. I’m binge watching The Expanse (I’ve stopped and started before but never made it all the way through) and doing a lot of physio.

Sam’s physio companions

I’m hoping that weather picks up this week and I can sit outside and see if I get any birds at my new bird feeder.

Sam’s new bird feeder

Once the staples are out and everything is healed, I’ll head back to the gym and the recumbent bike, some weight lifting, and maybe more aquafit.

I’m really looking forward to riding my bike to work this summer too.

Sam’s pink Brompton