219 in 2019 · 220 in 2020 · 221 in 2021 · covid19 · fitness · habits · motivation

Workout guilt (no not that kind)

Image description: two canvas tote boxes tucked under two stacked chairs, yoga mat rolled up and stashed beside the chairs, yoga two wood and two foam yoga block between the canvas totes, two kettle bells in front of the blocks, blanket on chair. (Tracy’s home workout equipment)

Usually when people associate guilt with working out it’s guilt over NOT working out. I don’t agree with guilting ourselves over that but that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, there is a new kind of guilt creeping into my awareness since I started being a part of a group that tracks workouts. This year it’s 221 in 2021. The fact of counting our workouts generates no end of hand-wringing, especially among people who are new.

I get it. When I first started I wanted to know what people “count.” But it’s only since COVID that I’ve noticed people expressing guilt that maybe they are counting too much. I mean if I count a Sunday 10K run as one workout, does a 20-minute walk at lunch count equally? If I counted a vigorous hour at the yoga studio back in the days before COVID, does one of Adriene’s 10 or 15 or 20 minute practices count?

Some people have an idea that it has to be at least 20 minutes to count. Many, including me, work with the idea of deliberate movement. But even then, I often will combine a short walk with yoga of whatever length as one, even if they were both deliberate and at different times. I do this because now that I am working home, almost every time I move it is deliberate. Sometimes I make myself do a short yoga session or go twice around the block or do a short run with hill repeats at lunch just to move. I don’t use a fitness tracker, but I bet I’m not reaching 2000 steps some days. That is not how I used to live pre-COVID. I used to walk a lot. The workouts I counted were at least 45 minutes because I didn’t really do other kinds of workouts back then.

I think there is a worry lurking behind some of the stress people are experiencing over counting too much is that they are somehow cheating. But cheating whom, I ask? There is no prize. There is no “system” to “game” here. All we are doing is tracking workouts. And to me, if someone deliberately works out, then yay! That’s a win.

It’s hilarious actually because lately I’m doing Superhero workouts 4-6 times a week, yoga pretty much daily, and a run or a walk every day. In January I counted them as three separate things most days. Now I’m more likely to count the superhero workout as one, and the yoga and walk or run as one.

It’s the end of February and I just hit 110 workouts. That seems somehow impossible, almost halfway to my annual goal. In fact, I’m bored of counting my workouts. If the point of it was ever to get a habit going, then I’ve achieved the goal already. And now it just feels embarrassing or something to be racking up so many workouts.

I wondered whether this was a “woman-thing” where we deny our achievements and want to downplay them. Kind of took me back to when people were all impressed when I signed up for the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and I would say “it’s just a little triathlon, not an Ironman or anything.” Why do we do that to ourselves? It was a big thing to me, never having done one before! I was terrified and I did it. Yay me. No need to downplay it. Is that what’s going on now with the guilt of counting deliberate movement as workouts during COVID?

We are living through a global pandemic. We are housebound, sometimes in an actual lockdown. We are doing our best to show up for hour upon hour of virtual meetings for work (well, this is my reality) and stay upbeat even when the idea of one more hour on zoom is soul-crushing. We haven’t been able to sit down to dinner with friends since the patios closed last fall. We didn’t see our families for Christmas. We wear masks to the grocery store. We’ve lost family members and friends and not been able to mourn them together in person because of COVID restrictions on travel and gathering and touching one another. We have been unable to make solid plans. We don’t know what life will look like post-COVID.

We have cobbled together home workout spaces over time, tucking our yoga mats and dumbbells in the corner when we’re not using them to make space for our (albeit truncated) daily lives at home. We are actually using that equipment (remember back in the day when we bought stuff to workout at home and it just gathered dust? Remember?).

Given all that, it’s pretty darn awesome if we do something active on purpose. Maybe we’re on track to 650-700 workouts this year and without COVID we wouldn’t be. Silver linings and all. Go us! Let’s check the guilt at the door.

218 in 2018 · 219 in 2019 · 220 in 2020 · fitness · habits · motivation

Want to join our merry band for 221 workouts in 2021? Here’s how…

A number of us here on the blog have been aiming to achieve 217 workouts in 2017, 218 workouts in 2018, 219 workouts in 2019, and 220 workouts in 2020.

Catherine blogged about it earlier today in her post Three year-long workout challenges: any lessons learned?

In a move that will shock absolutely no one, we are all doing it again for 2021. There are actually two Facebook groups now, the original group and a somewhat smaller feminist spin off. That said, there are feminist bloggers in both groups and some of us like staying in touch with people in both groups and have stayed a member of both groups.

I asked Jason, the founder of the original group about new members for 2021 and he wrote back right away, “I’m indeed planning on 221 in 2021 and I’m always happy to have more like minded folks join our merry band.”

Cheryl, frequent guest here, said the same, “I’d be happy to have more folks join my group. Or folks can search 220 workouts in 2020! (Fit Feminist edition)”

How do you join?

Jason writes, “Here are the generic instructions on how to join a Facebook group. Per usual I will keep the group name 220 workouts in 2020 until January 1st when I’ll switch it to fit the new year. How do I join a Facebook group as myself or my Page? From your News Feed click Groups in the left menu. In the search bar at the top, enter some keywords for the group you’re looking for. Select the group then click + Join Group below the cover photo. Select whether you’d like to join as your profile or your Page and click Join Group.”

What’s the idea anyway?

Here’s the description from the 220 in 2020 group:

WHAT: The idea is simple. In 2020 there are 365 days. We are going to challenge ourselves to workout 220 times in those 365 days.

WHY: (1) Consistently doing deliberate exercise is one of the most important factors in developing good health and fitness. (2) Choosing to complete a workout or not is something we can control.

HOW: (1)Workouts are defined as any form of deliberate exercise/movement. Some examples are, lifting weights, doing gymnastics, a CrossFit WOD, a hike in the great outdoors, practising a martial art or yoga. Taking a dance class or playing rec softball with the folks from work also counts. Do what inspires you to move your body. (2) Use a spreadsheet, a habit tracking app, or a notebook and give yourself a checkmark for every workout you complete. (3) Share your progress with the group.

See you there!

Count with us!
219 in 2019 · 220 in 2020 · fitness · habits · motivation

On Becoming “Someone Who Does This Shit” (Guest Post)

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.

View of trees in foreground and Toronto cityscape in background, from an evening run in November

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?

219 in 2019 · fitness · Guest Post

20-20 Vision in 2020 (Guest Post)

by Alice MacLachlan

Sam asked me to tell you all about the 219 workouts in 2019 group, why I joined, and why I’m rejoining 220 for 2020.

Here’s the thing: the group is a fabulous idea. It’s a dynamic group of awesome people doing a wide range of activities. People’s workouts ranged from walking the dog or taking the kids skating, to Yoga with Adriene (a fan favourite), CrossFit, triathlon training, ballet, and serious resistance work. Seeing these exercises drift across your fb feed gives you new ideas for things to try, and the rising numbers (workout #20! Workout #42! Workout #210) are inspiring. It really is – or should be – a reliable recipe for success.

And yet, I didn’t do it. Not only did I not make 219 workouts, but I didn’t even come close. I stayed in the group and read everyone’s posts, liked as many as I could, and was glad to follow my friends. But I stopped updating – it felt silly, and then humiliating, to be in the low double-digits when everyone else was at three. And that’s ok: true, I hadn’t *initially* planned to broadcast the fact by blog post – but I was ok with it.

So, in some ways I’m absolutely the wrong person to write this post, but maybe in others that makes me the right one. Maybe you, the reader, are like me: you used to be someone who exercised, who loved and prioritized it, who made it a habit and a joy. Then things changed and life got more complicated, time filled and your body changed. Two gorgeous kids and a miscarriage took their toll, as did turning 40. Runs hurt instead of healed, yoga gave you time to fret rather than flex, muscles cramped, tendons swelled, and it became easier to just not.

I joined 219 in 2019 with the hope that I could use this group to turn it all around, to become the person I used to be. And it didn’t work. I was part of a lovely group doing all the right things, but it still didn’t work.

But I’m rejoining now with 20-20 vision, as it were, with a clearer vision of myself and my body and my plans. I’m going to revisit what counts as a workout for me (it might not be a long run, anymore; it might be a short walk to the playground for some rough and tumble play with my kids), and revise my expectations for how many I can do.

220 is a good goal, but so is 200, or even 20 + 20. I still like the idea of doing it surrounded – even virtually – by a group of excellent people. And I look forward to more ideas and inspiration. I recently learned that two of my fitness heroes (shoutout to Sam and Rebecca) only started working out seriously around my age. It’s nice to know I didn’t miss the boat.

When I round out 2020 I will probably be exactly the same person I am today, in exactly the same body. I plan to enjoy moving, and reading about the movements of others, along the way. Maybe even 220 times – who knows?!

Alice MacLachlan is a former marathon runner, boxer, and soccer player – and current expert on all things Frozen, Paw Patrol, and PJ Masks. She also teaches philosophy at YorkUniversity, co-edits Feminist Philosophy Quarterly, and thinks too much about civility, apologies, and forgiveness. 

219 in 2019 · cycling · fitness

Sam is quickly checking in for December

I think it’s mostly good news really. My knee isn’t worse. I’m walking more. It still hurts a lot but there’s a lot of research that suggests moving anyway is better than not. See here.

I made it! 300 workouts in 2019. The goal was 219 in 2019 but that went by months ago. I thought 300 was too ambitious but by counting physio I did it.

I passed my indoor cycling exam.

I’ve been riding in Zwift lots.

Zwift at the Bike Shed in Guelph

Still waiting for the snow for fat bike riding.

The only bit of bad news is my arthritic toe

219 in 2019 · fitness

219 in 2019: 10 to go for a just-in-time finish

Hi readers– here’s my penultimate update on the 219 in 2019 workout challenge (the last one will be when I cross that finish line). I decided this year to count workout days rather than individual workouts. That may seem harder, but I also decided to let just about any purposeful physical activity (like a short walk that I decided to take, or a short yoga session before bed) count. The reason for this was that I wanted to get more consistent in my physical activity, regardless of what it was. And even if I just did yoga before bed, I wanted to get myself in the habit of doing it. And so I did.

There have definitely been some lulls in my activity at various times this year. I’m going to look back at my posts on the 219 on 2019 FB group to see when they were and what was going on at the time. Data is/are a good thing, and knowledge is power.

So where am I? It’s December 19, and I posted #209 last night (walking, and yoga class). So I’ve got 10 to go. If I do some activity every day, I’ll make my goal by Dec 28. And I’ve got 3 days to spare in case of glitches.

Finishing things is generally hard– at least it’s hard for me. I tend to run out of steam/time/interest before the end, so it’s a giant slog to complete big projects. However, this case is different for a few reasons: 1) I’ve made it so that any physical activity I decide to do counts, so I have oodles of options; 2) I do have some wiggle room– 3 days to spare; 3) I’m not alone in this challenge– I’m in a FB group where others are doing their thing and supporting each other; 4) it’s not like the challenge will actually be over when I hit 219. The group is re-upping for a 220 in 2020 challenge, and I’m definitely in. It’s so great to be a part of a group where people are sharing what they’re doing and cheering on others in their activity.

If you missed some of our other posts on the 219 in 2019 challenge, you can check them out here:

Sam: Sam is celebrating 100; Going for 300?; I did it… Now what’s next? Sam is on a countdown!

Cate: Workout #300 (and 301 through 305.5)

Catherine: How challenges challenge me, and why I’m a convert; 30 days of workouts left

Readers, where are you in your workout year/challenge year/ongoing relationship with physical activity? Do you have some end-of-year goals? I’d love to hear about them if you care to share, and will cheer you on no matter what.

Squirrel reaching for acorn. I know how they feel.
Squirrel reaching for acorn. I know how they feel.
219 in 2019 · fitness

30 days of workouts left: update on 219 in 2019 challenge

The 219 in 2019 Challenge has been a big project for a bunch of us bloggers here at Fit is a Feminist Issue. Samantha hit 219 in late September and is closing in on 300. Cate passed 250 workouts in September, then sailed on by 300 in early November. Her goal is 350 by the end of the year.

Two persons, one of whom is indicating approval by a sign saying woo hoo!
Two persons, one of whom is indicating approval by a sign saying woo hoo!

Now to me. I decided to count workout days rather than individual workouts, as I wanted to track my workout consistency over time. As of Sunday Nov 24,, I’ll be at 189 workout days, 30 days shy of my 219. There are 37 days left in which to complete my 30 days of workouts.

Well, okay then.
Well, okay then.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been a just-in-time delivery gal, and I think this challenge is no exception. Last year I finished my 218 in 2018 Challenge on… wait for it… December 30. Yes, I had one day to spare. I was hoping to hit 219 earlier this year, but I will make it by Dec 31.

Here’s another thing: this year went better than 2018 with respect to workouts for me, even though I had a bunch of medical setbacks early this year. One reason why things went better is that I decided to count workouts based on how I was doing and what I could manage. A lot of times it was just some walking around campus and yoga before bed. When I was laid up with a sprained ankle, it was stretching on the bed. Or PT, which admittedly became a big workout over time. This summer it was bike rides, some swimming, some hiking, walking on beaches and in woods and by lakes, etc. And always yoga: yoga at home on my mat in the living room, yoga at my local studio Artemis, yoga on vacation in hotel rooms and on visits to unfamiliar studios in other cities. That’s been my favorite thing about being a part of this challenge: it’s challenged me to come up with fun and new ways to be active while traveling. And I love that.

Here’s a last thing (for now, until I hit 219): I’ve found that it can be hard to stay focused on being active at home. Life gets hard and tiring and stressful, and it can sap me of energy and motivation. I was less active than I wanted to be. There you go.

Okay, really last thing: this will come as no surprise to you, dear readers, but what has helped me get as close as I am today– 189 baby!– is planning to be active with friends. Making yoga or cycling or walking or hiking dates with people helps get me up off the couch and onto the saddle or into the woods or yoga studio. And it makes me happy. So thanks, friends!

Where do you feel like you are, readers, with respect to your workouts in 2019? Do you have goals for the end of the year? Are you moving along, stumbling, recovering, contemplating? I’d love to hear from you.

219 in 2019 · holiday fitness · holidays

Sam is on a countdown!

A US route sign that reads “45.”

How many days are left in 2019? I’ve been Googling that question for awhile and comparing it to the number of workouts I have left in the year if I really do aspire to make it to 300 workouts in 2019.

Originally I was aiming of course for 219 in 2019 but that number went by a while ago. In a weird way my injured knee has helped with daily exercise because I just have to pay attention to doing physio and making sure I get the kind of movement that helps my knee. Keep moving and don’t give in to arthritis pain, is the latest advice. I’ve written about that in a post called Pain and the Choice to Walk or not Walk.

As of today there are 45 days left in 2019 and I just logged my 260th workout. It’s Sunday so I worshipped at the church of Zwift, riding 27 km in one hour in virtual London, England. Doing some basic math here that means I’ve got 40 workouts left and 45 days. Given that I also aspire to one day rest day a week, the math should work out perfectly.

I’ve often enjoyed having some sort of challenge through the holiday season to keep me focussed on exercise and not letting that be the thing that gives way in the face of all the extra socializing, shopping, hosting, wrapping, cooking excetera excetera. In the past I’ve done running streaks from American Thanksgiving through until New year’s short distances say 1 mile a day. My running days are over so this is probably a better focus for me anyway.

What will the next 40 workouts look like? My guess is we’ll be spending some extra time in the virtual cycling world of Zwift given a bit of extra flexibility around my work hours. I’m either walking or riding to work most days and doing some extra activity to make that count either yoga at home or planking. Sarah and I were talking this morning about making it out to the hot yoga studio in Guelph finally. And I’ll be sure to get some weight lifting in as well either with a personal trainer or on my own.

Wish me luck!

219 in 2019 · fitness

Workout #300 (and 301 through 305.5)


Tuesday this week, I had a super long day ahead of me, with really challenging work.  Somehow, I got out of bed and went to a 6 am spinning class.  (Then I might have been really annoying about it on FB).

Screenshot 2019-11-06 17.26.12

I’m not a crack of dawn worker-outer — but something in me just knew that this class was a thing I would need for my day. And my day was hard, but I navigated it with a certain amount of ease.

That spin class was workout #304 for 2019.

Not that long ago, I wrote about hitting my 250th workout for 2019.”  In that post, I reflected on how taking on the “217 in 2017″ challenge nearly three years ago had transformed my relationship with working out — and in fact in some ways, has actually transformed my identity.  I used to be a person who worked out often, but there was a lot of negotiation and whinging about whether I really “felt like it” or not.  More times than I can count, I got as far as putting on running gear but never getting out the door.  (Christine wrote about this kind of exercise procrastination last week.  It’s definitely a thing).

Somewhere in the past two years, I turned into a person who works out every day, pretty much, unless something seriously prevents me.  I’m not sure exactly when or why it happened — in 2017, I had to stretch to hit my 217th workout on Christmas day.  In 2018, I hit 218 by August, and kind of gritted my teeth to reach 300 before the end of the year (302 in total).  This year, I sailed past 300 last weekend, and felt confident about setting a goal of 350 by the end of the year.

Cate pictured in the middle of a 5km run, on a trail under a painted metal bridge last Saturday, workout #300

A casual observer might think that reaching for 350 workouts this year might be a slightly obsessive manifestation of my weird affinity for counting things.  (For a very non-data-driven person, I take an unseemly satisfaction from hitting cumulative numbers of workouts, steps, kilometres ridden, streaks).  But I had a realization last week that it’s something a lot different than that — working out in some way almost every day this year has had a pretty profound effect on my emotional landscape.

I have been bleating about the relationship between exercise and mental health for years now.  It’s a proven thing, so familiar it’s almost a cliche.  Exercise can prevent or help manage depression, lessen anxiety and stress, and just generally lighten your mood.  I’ve “known” this for decades.  But I’ve never felt it in such a steady, persistent way before.

My new yoga studio set up for a restorative class. Bliss

A couple of months ago, my business partner commented that I seemed so much more patient these days.  And despite some intense work stress and considerable lashings of perimenopausal PMS and hormonal swings, I’m actually feeling an emotional buffer — dare I say emotional regulation — that I’ve sought most of my life.  Since I was a small child, I’ve had a lot of anxiety and stress. (Picture poor little 7 year old me crying on the couch, clutching my stomach and freaking out my teenage babysitter, because we were about to move.  Then multiply that for countless other experiences throughout my life).  Most of my adult life I’ve had a tendency to impatience and irritability, with a fair bit of volatility at the worst points in my life.  I’ve taken anti-depressants, run marathons, meditated, yoga’ed, and done a ton of “inner work,” as they say.  All of those things have helped steady me — along with the magical seasoning of being past 50 — but I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as in balance as I do right now.  Stressful stuff still happens — and I feel it — but I can hold it at arm’s length, breathe through it, detach from its power — in a way I never have before.

The 305.5 workouts I’ve done so far this year are a melange, ranging from a brisk 4 km walk or hour of restorative yoga to 7 hour bike rides and cross-fit classes.  Turns out, for more emotionally regulated, balanced me, it’s not about intensity of any given episode of exercise, but about a steady stream of them.  I don’t know exactly what brain/metabolic process is being triggered here, but it’s definitely a good thing.

This realization doesn’t mean I’m going to grimly trudge through a prescriptive roster of movement, for my own good. 95% of time, I fully enjoy whatever exercise I’m doing, once I’m doing it.  It’s the starting to exercise part that has always been a source of avoidance and irritation.  Somehow in the past three years, it’s stopped being optional — it’s just is a thing I do. This realization about the impact just reinforces that shift.

What about you?  Can you actually feel the difference for your mental and emotional health of regular movement?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works out in Toronto.




219 in 2019 · fitness

I did it! 219 in 2019. Early even. Now what’s next?

I’m sure everyone who reads the blog knows that a bunch of us here are in an accountability group with the goal of working out 219 times in 2019.

And Sunday I met that goal. My 219th workout was a spin class as part of my cycle instructor training.

What counts as a workout for the purposes of the challenge? Whatever works for you. Some people are aiming for working out 219 days in 2019 for example. I count discrete chunks of intentional movement. Like Cate, I count 4 hour paddles as 1 and I count a 30 minute lunch hour exercise class as 1. I count 100 km bike rides as 1 and 10 km local commutes as 1. I figure it evens out in the end.

The one exception are my bike commutes to work. They’re too short. Just 4 km round trip. And they’re part of my baseline of physical activity. So I count them only if I also do something else. So I count a bike commute plus dog walk as one, a bike commute plus abs as one, etc. It’s all about motivation to do more.

I’ve written before about possibly shooting for 300. If I’ve already done 219 workouts I would need to do 81 more to make it to 300. There are 94 days left in the year. Is that manageable? Maybe. I’d get 13 off days roughly one rest day per week. Certainly it would be good motivation to see me through the dark days of November and the holiday busyness of December.

I think I will. Shooting for 300 workouts in 2019 is my new goal now. Wish me luck!