Last week I read the book Healthy as F*ck by Oonagh Duncan, which focuses in large part on how to create and sustain habits that work for you to support your health. Near the end of the book, she talks about identity and the strong need that people have to stay consistent with our own definitions of ourselves. The context here is how reinforcing our healthy habit loops helps strengthen our identity of being “Someone Who Does This Shit” – whatever that shit may be.
It occurred to me after reading this that being a person who exercises regularly has become a solid piece of my sense of self, and I can tell you most emphatically that in the past it was not. As recently as 2 ½ years ago I struggled to get myself to be physically active – it was something I sometimes did (and had a hard time with), and it was not part of my self-concept. And now here I am, someone who strongly identifies as a person who moves.
This transformation has happened for me gradually since July 2018 when I read Sam and Tracy’s book Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey, and decided that I was ready to make some real changes. My first step was taking up running that summer, then I took part in a Fit is a Feminist Issue challenge in the fall, and in the new year I started a 219 workouts in 2019 Facebook group, which rolled over into a 220 in 2020 group. In 2020 I also started working out regularly in group sessions with an awesome trainer (Ali MacKellar) whose approach reflects my values and who creates community around this work. Building my fitness habits with the support of other fit feminists has been instrumental in making this change possible for me.
So after finishing the book and realizing that movement has really become part of who I am, I sat down and did some math based on the tracking from the 2019 and 2020 groups.
First let me tell you that I move my body in lots of ways – running, cycling, and sweaty HIIT sessions, as well as walking, yoga, and bellydance. My loose criteria for what counts as a workout for the purpose of tracking is basically any form of intentional movement of 25 minutes or longer. Why 25 minutes? For the simple and not-at-all scientific reason that 25 minutes is the length of many of the Yoga with Adriene sessions I do. So it keeps things easy for me.
In 2019 I hit 219 workouts right at the end of December, which means I worked out an average of just over 4 times every week that year. Wowee, I thought, good job Cheryl!
So far in 2020 I’ve done 270 workouts as of November 15, which is an average of 6 workouts a week. Umm, I’m sorry, what?? I work out 6 times a week?? On a regular consistent basis?? Me?? I had to double check the math, as this seemed like this couldn’t be possible. And yet it is. As you can tell, this was actually a shocking realization for me.
Doing some form of intentional movement most days every week has become a regular part of my life, even more so during a global pandemic where there’s less incidental movement happening for me. Every week I make a plan for what workouts or activities I’m going to do and when, as part of the list of things that I just automatically do. Planning for physical activity, and following through on those plans, have become habits.
Seeing these numbers drove home the realization that who I am has changed. For the first time in my adult life I am “Someone Who Does This Shit” when it comes to moving my body, and I feel really good about that.
I imagine that this has already been reinforcing my habit loop, as I have become a person who works out 6 times a week without being aware of it. I wonder if the more conscious realization of it will reinforce it even more?
I’m curious about other folks’ experiences around this? Is movement/exercise something you *do*? Or does it feel more like its part of who you *are*? And either way, how have you created habits that work for you?