fitness · Guest Post

Workout Selfies: Yay or Nay?

Woman wearing olive green leggings and matching sports bra doing a yoga pose. A shelf with yoga props is in the background.

A few weeks ago Virginia Sole-Smith at Burnt Toast wrote about posting workout selfies. The internet did what it does, which is have a variety of opinions. I posted a link to the article on my personal Facebook page… some folks messaged me privately to say it was an interesting article and they were thinking more about it after reading. Other friends commented publicly to say they agreed or understood the point of the article. One friend said “I’m sure I don’t agree – not sure on the why,” and there were additional “disagree” or “agree, but that isn’t why I do it” comments.

The article also got posted in the FIFI Facebook feed, and received multiple responses. After going back and reading through the responses I noticed that a lot of them are in favor of workout selfies and felt the article was out of bounds in saying that they were unnecessary. A few folks said they were interested in sitting with the why behind the selfies, as Sole-Smith suggests: “we should sit quietly for a while with why we do it. And name its potential for harm.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article since my first read of it, and have revisited it a few times. I like the nuance Sole-Smith brings to the piece, and the fact that it isn’t presented as an all or nothing argument. I follow many “influencers” on social media who document their athletic movement, most of them doing so in larger bodies. I follow them specifically because I want to see larger bodies doing joyful movement, and my feed is carefully curated to avoid weight loss and diet influencers. If someone I follow is interested in changing their body I support that goal, but I’m likely to unfollow them if they talk about intentional weight loss as a virtuous endeavor, because that isn’t something I’m interested in reading about. There are a few folks that I think manage a good balance between discussing weight loss and activity because they understand the potential harm of weight loss discussions that aren’t contextualized. For me, Sam is a great example of this where she has chronicled her path to knee replacement surgery over the years (sorry that it still hasn’t happened, Sam!)

Image of a sports watch surrounded by a partial pair of running shoes, earbuds, and a jump rope.

Influencers aside, I have several friends who post workout selfies on their social media accounts. Some do it to keep themselves motivated and share their movement journey with friends. They get “likes” or favorable comments which helps them feel supported. One friend runs a monthly marathon for local charities and her daily run selfie includes images of local scenery, social justice-orientated signs/murals, and related social commentary. Another friend is a sociologist studying race in running spaces. She posts her daily running selfie to show a Black woman in our local, white-dominated running environment. I’m so used to seeing these posts that I rarely stop to think about them and what they mean or convey about workout/diet/selfie culture, if they mean anything at all. But I often notice when friends who don’t normally post workout selfies start posting them, especially when they also post about intentional weight loss. Sometimes their commentary comes with statements like “been inactive for too long, gotta get myself back in shape” or other similar sentiments. Those posts always make me a little sad because I don’t feel like they are moving for movement’s sake or for joyous purpose, but rather to try and punish their body for being “bad” or “too big.” And once I start thinking about those types of comments I start to wonder what they think about the “bigness” of other bodies, and how that shapes their perspectives and interactions with folks who have those bigger bodies.

Overall I’m in agreement with Sole-Smith’s perspective on workout selfies. I don’t think they are needed very often. I love being in supportive movement-specific groups and that is where I expect to see, and sometimes share my own, movement updates or sweaty selfies. And I’m not here to tell anyone else what they can or should post on their social media accounts. We’re all different and we all enjoying posting and viewing different types of things. But I think it is worth some self-reflection to understand why we are or are not posting that workout selfie, what the goal is for sharing, and how it might be received.

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

fitness · Guest Post · habits

10 a.m. only comes once a day

10 a.m. is my window of greatness. All things are possible at 10 a.m in my world. I’m not an early riser, nor am I a great sleeper, so no matter what time I get up I never really hit my groove until around 10 in the morning.

Image description: A small portable alarm clock showing the time as 10:13. Image titled “Clock” by Simon Shek.

Even though I have a semi-flexible work schedule, I still like to have some structure to my days. And with a lot of meetings and a fair amount of appointments each week, I have to keep a good eye on my calendar to avoid missing something or scheduling over another commitment.

It turns out though, unfortunately for me, that 10 a.m. only rolls around one time each day. Why does that matter? I can usually only do one task during that “greatness” window. If I’m home and don’t have any meetings I will often opt to get some movement in during that time. I typically have my best/peak movement sessions when I can complete them in the 10 o’clock window. And I’ve noticed that if it doesn’t happen during that time the odds of getting movement in later in the day diminish as the clock ticks toward evening.

It turns out that movement isn’t my only 10 a.m. activity though. I live in an area where traffic can be very heavy during the morning and evening commute, and afternoon traffic worsens with the school/bus transit schedule. So when I need to schedule an appointment I often find myself asking for the 10 o’clock hour. It is early enough that doctors and other service providers aren’t behind and running late, and places like the post office aren’t overly crowded.

Appointments and movement time aside, I also find that 10 a.m. is my ideal time to write. Yes, I am writing this at 10 a.m., and since I started writing have received a text reminding me of a 10 a.m. appointment later in the week. As a professor, research and writing are a part of my job responsibilities. While I find that I research and outline best at other times of day, writing comes easiest during my personal golden hour.

This preference for doing all the things in the 10 o’clock hour is something that I’ve noticed since the pandemic shifted my schedule in the spring of 2020. Prior to that I had a less flexible work schedule and typically only tried to hold that morning window for tasks related to writing, or other work obligations. As my schedule shifted and settled into the current configuration I started to wonder why there were days I felt like giving up before I even got started. It took some time to sort out that my brain was saying I couldn’t write because I spent the magic hour biking or at an appointment. Or it was saying that I should plan to skip the bike ride because the afternoon would be too busy and I had already squandered my movement time by spending it writing.

Several years ago when I was really struggling with meeting my writing goals I started looking into schedule blocking, and learned that many people have this time in their schedule that they feel all things are possible. I’ve seen it referred to as tiger time, magic hour, golden hour, drive time, and a few other names. The gist is always similar in these descriptions – it is the time in which you feel most productive and focused. For some people it is a specific time of day (10 a.m. for me) while for others it is a range, such as 10 a.m. to noon or 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The duration of the window will also very from person to person, or even from day to day. There are days when my window of deep focus only lasts 45 minutes, while other days I get into a flow and realize it is well past lunchtime and my stomach is growling.

Since learning about time blocking and schedule management I’ve started following some habit change experts, particularly ones who work from a base of self-compassion and not from a “hustle” or “grind” framework. One thing I’ve learned is that having awareness about my own scheduling preferences is more than half the battle. Once I realized that I was scheduling all of these things over top of each other in my mind, I was able to figure out how to best prioritize them to ensure there was something left for all my commitments, even if they couldn’t get done at 10 a.m. I’m much better at telling myself that a bike ride is possible at 3 p.m., and it is okay if it isn’t peak performance because the events of the day have used up more energy than if I had ridden at 10 a.m.

Do you have a “golden hour” or “magic window” where you feel most productive? What types of activities do you hope to complete during that time, and how do you adjust when it isn’t possible? I’d love to hear more strategies and tips for those really hard or busy days.

Image description: An older style green bike with a spedometer attached to the handlebars. Image titled “Spedometer” by Alexandra Guerson.

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

Guest Post

Pen or Pencil?: Some thoughts on mistakes (Guest post)

My friend recently showed me a set of beautiful pencils she was buying. We’re both proponents of nice writing instruments, and I was glad she had found a new set that made her heart sing. During this conversation I mentioned that I a) did not care to use pencils very often, and b) dreaded using an eraser. The eraser is really more of a practical bit – I just don’t like all those little tiny eraser shreds after use. But I started to really think about my preference for pens over pencils, my preference for permanency.

I make a lot of mistakes. I’m sure most people do, but some days it feels like I make more than the average bear. Despite this, I’m still willing to do the crossword puzzles in pen, with little scratch-outs and letters that have been written over several times. My errors are plainly visible to anyone looking over my shoulder or coming behind me (yes, I even start the crosswords at the doctor’s office in pen.)

My lifelong movement journey has been filled with mistakes. Some of them are permanently written on my brain, while others are more visible on my body. A limp here, a grimace at a particular movement there. The days when my brain says moving will not make me feel better, despite years of that being untrue. The flashbacks to an adolescent gym class when I was told I was too slow, too fat, or too much of a girl to do a particular activity or sport. Some of these mistakes aren’t mine, but they are indelibly stained onto my body.

After years of ignoring my body and believing it needed to look a certain way or do certain things, I sometimes still struggle to align my body and brain. This isn’t about celebrating all the things I can do – I’ve become very good at that. It’s more about the actual link between movement and thought. I’m not very coordinated, and my brain and my muscles don’t always connect together. If someone tells me to swim down the lane like Katie Ledecky my brain is sure that I am doing just that. I am sleek, I am strong, and I am fast. When I come back to the edge I can’t help but notice I’m not nearly as fast as Katie (who is!?) and when I watch video of my swim I see I’m not following any of the swim instructions my brain was sure I was excelling at. I look more like a fish out of water, not the graceful mermaid I had imagined. The disconnection between brain and muscle can feel overwhelming some days.

I’m not saying my pen over pencil preference is the perfect metaphor here. On some level I just prefer a pen. I like the weight of a heavier pen and the feel of the ink scratching onto the page. I prefer a blue or a purple ink. I truly do dislike the feel and the mess of those little eraser shavings after an edit has been made. These are just my preferences, of course, and I’ll gladly support yours for something different.

Although there have been disagreements between my body and brain over the years I’ve been proud of the things my body (and my brain) have accomplished. There has been a lot of joy in movement. And still, after all this time of putting my mistakes out there (in pen!) for everyone to see I’ve started to appreciate the openness of that. It feels good to have a record of what worked and what needed correction as my body and brain find more alignment with one another. Last month I found myself “riding to the beat of the music,” moving my legs in the same 1-2, 1-2 pattern as the cycling instructor was calling out. The sense of accomplishment in that small act was enormous, scratching out and writing over some of the old words I’d written on my body.

Amy in a blue sweater staring into the distance and squinting in the sun

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.