220 in 2020 · covid19 · fitness

Working out during the pandemic: notes from Team Less can be More

This morning, Sam posted about working out more during the pandemic: Are you working out more or less often during the pandemic? Sam is on Team More

As an avid blog reader and writer, I knew that Sam was doing a lot of activity during the pandemic. It’s been cool to read about her Zwift rides, yoga with Adriene sessions, and of course the backyard weight sessions. Oh, yes– there’s Cheddar walking, too.

As a member of the 220 workouts in 2020 group, I’ve been seeing others continuing or even amping up their workouts. One member is doing 25 pushups a day for 25 days, and others have devised their own virtual exercise plans. And yes, there’s lots of dog walking going on.

Here’s what’s been happening with me: I started out pandemic exercise in mid-March with lots of zoom yoga classes. I loved them and was thrilled to get more time on my mat without having to leave my house. I walked some– alone and with my friend Norah. I even did some strength mini-workouts, using the NYT 6-minute workout. If you want to read more about that, check it out here.

After a few weeks in lockdown, though, I lost momentum. Zooming for my academic job, managing my own uncertainty and helping distressed students was exhausting, and I felt pretty flattened by it all. It became much harder to leave the house. I did walk with friends, but less by myself.

Zoom yoga was still there and still appealing, but partly because of Zoom fatigue and partly because of pandemic disregulation and doldrums, that slowed, too. Not having a schedule that requires me to leave the house and be places at particular times (for work or play) left me struggling in the most basic ways: my sleep, eating and exercise patterns suffered.

Then school ended, but there wasn’t that feeling of relief I always get. We continued to have a lot of meetings and webinars. Those meetings and webinars will be happening all summer long to help us prepare for fall instruction. So it’s not a regular summer in any way at all. Of course this is true for all of us.

If others of you have had similar experiences, you are definitely not alone. I hear from loads of friends about how hard it is for them to maintain schedules and routines without some of those external cues and stimuli and structures. Team Less is real, my friends. Just as Team More is.

One big thing I’ve done to deal with being on Team Less is to restart daily meditation. I took a 4-day Zoom meditation workshop with Alex from my yoga studio Artemis. It’s really helping me. As I love making lists, here’s a list of some things it’s doing for me:

  • It made me get up early for a 7:30 class, so it’s helped me reset sleep hours a bit;
  • It’s offered me various meditation techniques which I already knew a little about, but needed some help getting reacquainted with;
  • It’s provided company for me in my meditation, in the form of other students and the instructor;
  • It’s helped me slow down some of my anxious thought processes, and identify them as such– just some anxious thoughts I have at some time;
  • It’s helping me put together some new structures for myself, and think about how to proceed in this new environment;
  • And it’s telling me that sometimes, less can be more.

In light of the last item, I’m now putting together a new team, Team Less can be More. Yes, I may be doing less physical activity than I envisioned for the summer, but I can be accepting of where I am, enjoy what I do, and notice the times I have more energy and oomph to go out and walk or swim or bike or do outdoor yoga or paddle, etc. And then maybe do some of those things sometimes. Who knows what is possible…

One important last note: we at the blog spend a lot of time thinking and writing about our relationships with our bodies and with movement and with self-care over the course of human events and the life trajectory. The fact that some of us are moving more and some of us are moving less at any given time is information for us, and we are sending out that information in the hopes that it will help others in their relationships. I like using the language of Team More and Team Less can be More because what we are really doing here is intramural scrimmage. We’re working together to find synergy– benefits for the whole through interaction of our diverse and inclusive parts. Sam’s post inspired me to think about how I’m reacting to a pattern of less activity, and share it with y’all. I hope it’s helpful.

What are you finding from your patterns these days? Do you need more? Do you need less? We’d love to hear from you.

Less can be more.
220 in 2020 · covid19 · fitness · habits

Are you working out more or less often in pandemic times? Sam is on Team More

Woohoo! I hit 220 workouts in the year 2020 yesterday. That was my goal for the year. And here we are just past the halfway mark for the year. Weird times. Cate also made it to 220 this month and Tracy was there exactly a month earlier. Wow.

What was my 220th workout? A lunchtime TRX all body circuit.

TRX exercises, https://exercisewalls.blogspot.com/2006/07/trx-exercises-gif.html

It hasn’t always been this easy.

In 2017 I was worried I’d make it to 217. I even invoked the Mighty Penguin of Determination.

In 2018 I made it to 218 workouts with a week to spare.

In 2019, I counted my 219th workout in September!

Bitmoji Sam, Go Me!

And now in 2020, I’m way ahead of my goal. So clearly I’m working out more consistently. Like Cate, I find moving is a pretty central habit now. I don’t much think about it. I just do it.

What am I doing?

Here at home I walk Cheddar the dog in the morning before my knee gets sore. At lunch I do resistance training with bands, or I use the TRX or the kettlebell. At night I’m riding my bike on Zwift or doing Yoga With Adriene. On the weekends, I’m riding outside some.

But the thing is, I don’t think it’s just that over the years of counting workouts, I’ve succeeded in making it a habit. That’s true. I’m not discounting that. It’s not the only thing though. There are also pandemic related reasons I’m working out so much.

It gives me a mental break from doomscrolling (my fave new word/phrase). By the way, here are some tips to help stop that habit. It helps me sleep. Exercise helps my moods. It’s a thing I can do when I feel like I can’t do much else. And more than all of that, exercise now structures my time and bookends my day. I’ve never worked at home before and it’s all a big blur of work and leisure but workouts mark the beginning and end and midpoints of my pandemic days.

In the article Here’s Why Many of Us are Exercising A Whole Lot More Right Now one of the reasons cited is exactly my reason, that it gives structure to our days. But they also go over some others.

Cyclists and runners are all running more, especially casual runners.

People who already ran one, two or three times a week before the pandemic all said they were running more now. The biggest increase was among those who previously ran only once a week, who now report running just over three times a week, on average.” (From Will Pandemic-Induced Jogging Create A New Generation of Runners?)

Interestingly, serious runners are running less. People who in the past ran four or five times a week are running less. Why? The main reason that people give is that there are no big events, no races, no marathons to train for.

We’re all everyday exercisers now. Casual athletes are working out more and serious athletes are working out less.

See you at the path along the river! I’ll be the one walking the happy golden dog.

220 in 2020 · fitness · habits · health · motivation · rest · running · schedule · strength training · training · walking · yoga

220 in 2020: goal achieved, now what? Hint: keep going

image description: Tracy selfie. She’s smiling, wearing a Buff on her head and a workout tank, upper left arm tattoo of flower visible, home workout equipment (e.g. running shoes, cans of beans, chairs, blanket, bin with resistance bands, yoga mat on floor) in background.

A few of us have blogged about participating in “220 in 2020,” which is basically a group where you keep track of your workouts, with a goal of working out at least 220 times in 2020. Cate and Sam started talking about it back in 2017, when they did “217 in 2017.” It got Sam to think more explicitly and more expansively about what counts. And Cate has talked about the motivating power of this type of group and how it’s altered her relationship to working out. I jumped on board last year, with the 219 in 2019 group that spun off of the Fit Is a Feminist Issue Challenge group that Cate, Christine and I hosted for a few months in the fall of 2018.

Reflecting on “what counts” is not a new thing for me. Way back when Sam and I started the blog in 2012, I was already wondering what a workout actually is for me. I revisited that question when I joined the 219 in 2019 group. Then I concluded that “if these challenges are meant to get us moving, then whatever gets us moving counts.”

I just hit the goal of 220 workouts in 2020 on the weekend. It sort of snuck up on me. In fact, I didn’t even notice when I first posted it. It’s not something I “had my eye on” the way I did last year. I’ve even wondered whether it seems like a bit of an impossibility or something people view with skepticism.

Last year, using as my basic criterion “if it gets me moving then it counts,” I managed to get in the 219, with a few extra but not many. The vast majority of sessions I counted were either yoga classes, runs, or resistance training sessions. I had a sort of minimum time limit of about 20 minutes before I would count something as a workout. Yoga and personal training were always an hour. And most of my runs are at least 20 minutes and sometimes considerably longer.

By the time 2020, going on the momentum of 2019, I had successfully incorporated conscious movement into my routine every day. Sometimes, especially but not only while I was in Mexico in January and February, I would do something twice a day, like yoga and running, or yoga and a 10K walk. Starting with Adriene’s “Home” yoga challenge in January, I have actually done yoga almost every day since the beginning of the year. When I started to notice the numbers really racking up on my “count” in the 220 in 2020 group, I began to count two things in a day as one workout (like run+yoga OR walk+yoga) unless one of those things was super exerting or considerably longer than an hour). It’s almost as if I felt bad!

But the fact is, the goal of being able to record a new workout often did motivate me to get moving. And once I had yoga as part of my daily routine, I didn’t want to break that streak of daily yoga. But for me yoga alone is not enough — it counts, but I need to either run, walk, or do some resistance training as well.

Another woman in the 220 in 2020 group also hit her 220 on the weekend. And she asked me, “what now?” My first answer was “keep going.” Which is sort of obvious. I went on to wonder whether there is any reason to keep recording and reporting my workouts, though. The group has achieved its purpose for me — over the past 18 months of being part of a group like this I have integrated physical activity into my daily life in a way I hadn’t quite before. This is made easier this year by my sabbatical, so I am much freer than I usually am. For at least a few more months I get to set my own hours. That allowed me to kick into high gear in the fall, with hot yoga every day (oh, how I miss hot yoga! The pandemic has effectively taken that out of my life for the indefinite future). I made a smooth transition to Yoga with Adriene when I went to Mexico for the winter. That gave me a headstart on the transition to online everything that the pandemic has foisted upon us.

The running/walking + yoga combo was just starting to feel old when I discovered, through Cate, the online Superhero workouts with Alex in late April. That was just the thing I needed to add a new dimension of challenge to my fitness life. I had set resistance training and even running aside for awhile, having injured myself last spring and endured a very slow recovery. For me the perfect balance is a routine that includes yoga, resistance training, and running/walking. I don’t tend to take a day off, opting instead for active rest, combining a more restorative yoga practice with a walk.

This commitment to a routine that includes daily physical activity has also been amazing for my mental health. I have had a tough couple of years that culminated in the finalization of my divorce in early January. Sometimes it felt as if regular physical activity was the only thing I could commit to as part of a daily schedule.

When I stepped away from being a regular on the blog at the end of last summer, it was partly because I had very little left to say publicly about fitness. That still holds true, with the occasional blog post (I think I’ve blogged about 5 times since I “left”) and my daily progress tracking in the 220 in 2020 group being the extent of it. Once in awhile I feel compelled to make some social commentary (like my commentary on “the covid-19” weight-gain jokes, which aren’t funny).

As I hit my 220 target early, with almost half a year stretching out before me, I feel that it’s cemented what started when Sam and I embarked on our Fittest by 50 Challenge and started the blog in 2012. The big shift for me during our challenge was to a more internal and personal relationship with fitness. I realize full well, for example, that no one else really cares, nor should they, what I do. This isn’t to say I haven’t felt supported, encouraged, and motivated by the group. It isn’t to say either that I haven’t enjoyed watching the fitness lives of other members — their accomplishments, their routines, the adventurous and exciting things they do. It is to say that, in the end, I do this for myself. And I’ve experienced the benefits in my life.

So the answer to the question, “what now?” actually is, “keep going.” Not to accumulate a higher number (though I will, if I keep reporting in the group), but because it’s now a thing I do that is a positive part of my life. And recognizing that, it makes no sense to stop. I also think it’s pretty awesome, and I’m not going to worry if that makes me sound boasty or whatever, because sometimes I think we are not boasty enough. We minimize things we do that are actually awesome. And since (as noted above) no one else really cares, and since I definitely do care, well…it makes sense for me to regard reaching this fitness milestone about 5 1/2 months early as an actual achievement. [high-fiving myself now despite slight discomfort at what I just said, which discomfort highlights that I’ve internalized the message about how women shouldn’t be self-congratulatory about what they do even though I actually think we should]

So that’s my “challenge group” story for 2020. Do you have one? If so, let us know in the comments how that helps you (or, if you fly solo, why that works best for you).

220 in 2020 · climbing · family · swimming · yoga

Bettina has some news: exercising while pregnant

CW: discusses pregnancy

Last month, I blogged about my February slump. It’s true that I always find it harder to motivate myself towards the end of winter than at the beginning, but this year I had an added difficulty that I didn’t mention in my post because it was still early days: I’m currently 16 weeks pregnant, meaning that in February I was in the middle of first trimester fatigue. I. Have. Never. Been. So. Tired. In. My. Life. (Anyone who is tempted to counter this with an “ooooh, it’s going to get so much worse once the baby is here!”, please refrain in the interest of my sanity.)

Picture of a pregnant woman (not me) holding her belly. She’s much further along than I am, but I am definitely starting to show.

As a result, I’m now so far behind on the 220 in 2020 challenge that even if I kick things up more than a notch, I likely still won’t make it to 220 this year. Because come the end of August (due date: 30 August) and probably even before that, I probably won’t be doing much exercising for quite some time. I’ll keep reassessing what exercise means to me as I get further along and of course after I give birth, and I firmly plan on doing things, but I’m also not going to push myself beyond my limits. If I need a night on the sofa rather than in the pool, I’m going to give myself that.

While exercising has been tough, it also hasn’t been non-existent. I stopped bouldering essentially as soon as I knew I was pregnant. I went once in early January only to find that I was scared of falling the entire time I was on the wall. A lot of people boulder at least through their first trimester and possibly longer, but not me. I don’t want to climb in constant fear. But I am still swimming with my team, albeit a little slower than before. I’ve been running as well (much slower than before), and I’ve been doing yoga. I’ll report a little more on how these have been going in my post next Wednesday! In April, I’m starting a prenatal yoga class. I want to keep all of that up for as long as I possibly can. As I move into the second trimester, I’m hoping to get some of my energy back and also still be able to do most movements. So far, so good!

Also, I’m ridiculously thrilled and terrified in equal measure to become a parent. We are having a son, and we plan to raise a strong, fit feminist.

I would be excited to hear about your experience with working out while pregnant! Feel free to share in the comments.

220 in 2020 · fitness · motivation

Sam and Cheddar and the Plank Challenge

One of my favorite things about the 220 in 2020 group which we’ve all blogged about lots is how it motivates me to do new things. When I bike commute or walk the dog, often that doesn’t feel like it’s enough on its own to count as a workout. Sometimes I add on knee physio exercises or a bit of yoga, but I’ve also been adding on planks.

I’ve been using an app to do that, Plank Workout, which syncs with GoogleFit. Here’s a review of the app which weirdly mentions weight loss even though the app itself doesn’t mention weight loss at all.

“Plank workout is another great plank challenge apps for android and iOS users. It provides different plank variations to help you lose weight, gain strength and get a stronger core. It comes with three different difficulty levels for weight loss for both men and women. You can easily customize your training plan according to your own preferences. It provides customized workout which reminders help you make planking a daily workout routine. One of the best feature of this app is to provide detailed instruction, animation, and video guide.” From Best 10 Plank Challenge Apps.

I’ve blogged about working at home in the time of the novel coronavirus. Sarah and I are installing a TRX hook in the dining room. And certainly Yoga With Adriene and the plank challenge will be part of that. I’m not sure how happy I am about that. I’ll miss the gym if it comes to that but Cheddar will enjoy it! He likes to plank and do yoga with me on the floor.

Things I like about it: It’s a short time commitment. I can do it while supper is cooking. I’ve got a yoga mat in the living room and I can do planks in my work clothes. The gradual increase in difficulty is good so far. I’m just at the beginner level. My view might change when I go up to moderate or advanced.

I also like Cheddar’s company

Cheddar and me!
220 in 2020 · Guest Post · motivation · training

“I Just Keep Showing Up”  #MyFitnessLevellnFiveWords (Guest post)

by Laura MacDonald

Hi friends, we made it. We got through January.  All eleven months of it. 

One month ago I confessed on this blog how I felt when I fell flat on day two of the New Year. Ditching a workout and driving home from the gym in tears sure  wasn’t how I planned on starting the New Year. But now that we are on the other side of January, I can tell you that the month also didn’t end as I had planned either. But stay tuned true believers; it is a happier tale today.

On Friday January 31st I logged my 40th and 41st workouts of 2020.  This included a lifting session with good friends where I tested my overhead press 5 rep max and also played with some deadlifts at 3×5 reps.  We also joined an xpressFit class which included tabata planks with shoulder touches, riding the assault bike, hanging knee raises and kettlebell deadlifts. Phew. It felt good.

Open gym on Friday night followed by xpressFit is nothing unusual for me. What was unusual is that this marked the end of a full month of daily intentional movement.  

Every single day in January I recorded at least one workout. 

Some of these were CrossFit or xpressFit or powerlifting, others were hot yoga or Yoga With Adriene at home, some includes walks with a friend in the neighbourhood and some included a quick 100 air-squats in the kitchen while I made dinner.  One workout included two and a half hours walking on a picket line. Some workouts were long some were short, some were hard others were easy. Most were fun, and some challenged my patience and my perseverance. 

Although I started January with the goal of 220 workouts in this calendar year, it wasn’t a conscious goal to move every day.  But as January wore on, I found myself looking for ways to move that would feel good. When #MyFitnessLevelInFiveWords was trending last week (regular feminist bloggers chimed in on this here) I knew what my five words were, “I just keep showing up.” This mantra has been so useful to me for this whole month. Just showing up for movement every day has made a stressful and anxious month a lot more manageable and dare I say joyful. 

This is a sample of my self talk this month:

Don’t like how hot the yoga studio is? “Just keep showing up.”

Don’t like the lack of progress on in my powerlifts? “Just keep showing up.”

Don’t feel like doing a CrossFit WOD today? “Just keep showing up.”

Don’t feel like there is time to workout tonight?  You do have time for 100 air squats. “Just keep showing up.”

Don’t like the new yoga instructor who teaches a slow flow class like it is an advanced flow class? “Just keep showing up.”

Don’t enjoy how much my lungs burn after a cardio xpressFit class? “Just keep showing up.”  

Don’t enjoy the grey and gloom on January?  You can walk with a friend. “Just keep showing up.”

And after a whole month of just showing up – here I am.  I look at this spreadsheet and I feel pleased and proud. I see days where I delighted in movement and wanted to sweat and work hard and I see days where I was tired and the most I could do was twenty minutes of home yoga.  I see days where the best workouts were with friends and days where solitude and sweat was the only answer. I see a whole lot of just showing up and you know what? I feel better for it. 

January spreadsheet

Cheers to picking your self back up and to just showing up. I wonder what the rest of the year will bring?

See you out there pals.

2020 will be good to us yet. 

Laura at the gym

Laura is a secondary school teacher in Hamilton Ontario.  She’s CrossFit athlete, regular walker, new yogi and occasional cyclist.  In 2019 she learned that she loved to count (steps and kilometres and workouts completed) and is currently counting her way to 300 workouts in 2020. 

220 in 2020 · fitness · rest · yoga

Sam gives “nap yoga” a try

To start, it’s not actually called “nap yoga.” Its name is “restorative yoga.”

But still, there were pillows and blankets and there might have been some snoring. It was dark and warm and 8:30 at night.

“Restorative yoga is a practice that is all about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. … During the long holds of restorative yoga, however, your muscles are allowed to relax deeply. It’s a unique feeling because props, rather than your muscles, are used to support your body.” From An Introduction to Restorative Yoga.

You might think it looks like this:

But really it looks more like this:

After some hemming and hawing I posted restorative yoga in the 220 workouts in 2020 group. All the while I was wondering, does this count? Is it really a workout? Whenever I find myself asking that, I have two responses. One, I count 120 km bike rides as single workouts so it all balances out. Two, if the point of counting things is to motivate to me to do things I wouldn’t usually do then this counts. With my injured knee I’m trying to stretch and relax more. I’m going to massage therapy. And now I’m going to restorative yoga it seems. The minute I posted it, Tracy commented, “How did you like it?” She knows me well and knew it wasn’t my usual thing. There was nothing heavy to lift, no speed, and no throwing people around. Heck, except in winter when I love the warm, even regular yoga isn’t really my thing.

At the end of a rough day at work, and after several days of hard workouts, it felt right.

What did I like? I enjoyed the length of time in the postures. The room was warm but not hot. I enjoyed some of the guided meditation. I didn’t fall asleep.

I mention not falling asleep because in earlier attempts to lay still and meditate and relax (childbirth classes) I’d fall hard and fast asleep, pretty much almost instantly. That was little use in preparing for childbirth since the pain meant sleep wasn’t an option. This was really my first successful attempt at completely relaxing while awake.

I’ll definitely do it again.