blogging

Top ten posts in November, #icymi

Our most read post of the month was Tracy’s post from a few years back on fear mongering, fear of fat, and seasonal eating. It included swear words and definitely hit a nerve then and now. The mixed messages start around the time of American Thanksgiving and they just want to make Tracy say “fuck off and leave me alone!”

Nicole’s post on feeling invisible was #2.

#3 was Susan’s thoughtful and politically engaged post on Brené Brown.

All of the posts except this one and Tracy’s #1 post were written this month. #4 was Cate’s older post on still menstruating at age of 53 and 1/2.

My post on pain and deciding whether or not to walk anyway was #5.

#6 Men, bodies, and shame was me talking about men and their bodies again!

Nat’s post about her experiences of perimenopause was #7.

A race report from our newest guest blogger Şerife Tekin was #8.

Dare not Compare, Kim’s post, was #9.

#10 was Cate’s post about catching butterflies with her vagina.

Blue sky, bare branches, yellow leaves. Photo by Łukasz Łada on Unsplash
blogging · fitness · top ten

Top ten posts in October, #icymi

Topping off the month is Cate asking, Am I leaking? How do they know? Really the whole theme this month in our top posts is messy out of control bodies!

I love it when an old post that doesn’t usually hit the top 10 hits the monthly top 10. This month #2 was one of my favourite posts of Tracy’s:”You’ve lost weight! You look great!” Isn’t a Compliment. I’ve been thinking about that a lot these days.

In the 3rd spot is Cate following up on a reader’s question on how much we should worry about post menopausal weight gain, around our bellies, when it seems like we can’t do much about it. #YouAsk

Continuing on theme of questions and answers is Catherine’s post on whether we should walk faster to avoid the grim reaper. (tl;dr: Not necessarily.) It was #4.

Crotch shots is always in the top 10 and this month it’s smack dab in the middle at #5.

Next is another regular. #6 is Cate still menstruating at 53 and a half.

Catherine hates being told she’s wearing the wrong bra size. So do we all. I hate these “you’re doing it wrong” stories and that one in particular bugs me. Her post about that is #7.

Marjorie Rose’s This is my “why” is number 8.

Catherine also blogged about the new marathon records set this month. That was #9

#10 tells the story of why I won’t be wearing a lady backpack anytime soon. Gendered sports goods aren’t my thing.

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Pumpkins!
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
blog · blogging · fitness

Top ten posts in September, #icymi

The most read post of the month was Catherine’s post on age and weight gain.

“I’m no human metabolism science expert, but I think the upshot here is this: the rate of lipid turnover (part of human metabolic activity that affects weight maintenance and change over time) varies in the population. Experts thought that we could improve our rates of lipid turnover through exercise. Turns out, not so much. In a way, this is good news– it’s offering another scientific puzzle piece to provide a picture of what we already know: in general, people gain weight as they age, independently of their eating and activity behaviors. This opens the door to shifting talk away from addressing how older bodies look and toward how older bodies feel and function for those who have them.”

Second was Marjorie Rose’s “How much do you bench?” and other signs of ignorance.

“In any case, this penchant for sharing myself means that it is not uncommon for me to mention my workouts with a class—maybe I’m discussing Newton’s laws and drawing an example from a recent lifting session at the gym. And usually, after the first incredulous question, “You lift weights?” the immediate follow-up question will be, “oh yeah, how much do you bench?” And I get stumped. I imagine my more skeptical students taking the inevitable pause as proof that I’m deceiving them about my weightlifting (I clearly do not fit their mental image of someone who strength trains regularly). But what I am actually stopped by is how overwhelmingly difficult it is to retrace their misconceptions back far enough to answer their question. Where do I begin?”

The number three spot was Nicole Plotkin’s post on imposter syndrome.

“I have been running for 16 years. I have run 2 full marathons and several half marathons. During my 30s I went to spinning class, on average, 4-5 times a week. Often double headers, and sometimes a run, followed by spin class. Then I learned kettlebell and yoga and became a devotee of a lovely local studio for a few years. For the past few years I have been going to a women’s studio for strength and conditioning workouts. And yet, I still feel like an imposter, on occasion, when it comes to fitness (don’t get me started on my career).”

This is the month when we all wanted to know if the headlines were right. Will soda kill us? Catherine weighed in. And her post on that controversy was our fourth most read post.

Cate’s classic “still menstruating” post came in at number five.

Number six was my unplanned angry post on the story about the swimmer who was disqualified for breaking modesty rules even while wearing the team issued bathing suit. And yes, race was a factor. Grrr. (In the end, the decision was overturned.)

My old post about crotch shots, it’s always on the list somewhere, was number seven.

Number eight was Catherine’s review of Brittany runs a marathon.

My new post about cycling safety as a disability rights issue came in ninth.

And number ten was Martha’s post on representation and why it matters.

blogging · fitness · Guest Post

Big blog changes: Be our guest!

Interested in guest posting here at Fit is a Feminist Issue? I thought I’d share (again) the instructions we send people who are going to guest post on the blog.

INSTRUCTIONS (AUGUST 2019 UPDATE)

Thanks for your willingness to join our community of guest posters at Fit is a Feminist Issue.

Posts usually range between 500 and 1000 words. If your post is really long it might make sense to do it in several parts.

First and foremost we’re a feminist blog and we expect guests to share that perspective. We also usually incorporate a personal perspective in our writing, even if that’s the history of what made us think about the thing we’re writing about.

We also are a body positive blog and we try to keep the diet talk down to a minimum. Lots of us are critical of diets, the long term odds of success, and the beauty standards beneath lots of fitness ideals. We’re more about doing things we love and sharing athletic, rather than aesthetic goals. That said, we don’t all agree about all of these things and “big tent feminism” is part of the charm of the blog.

We try to use accessible language and write with a sense of humour, where appropriate. We especially try to avoid ableist language. For example, we don’t say “crazy” or “lame.” Here’s a link to alternatives, http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/alternatives-to-oppressive-language/

Where it makes sense include links to further resources.

You must include a short bio at the end.

The way it works is that you after you receive and accept our invitation to the blog (through WordPress), submit the post for review and we edit it lightly (mostly for grammar and spelling and adequate paragraph breaks). We schedule it. We also add photos. You can email pictures to samanthajbrennan@gmail.com (or if you’re working with another blogger to their email address). Contributor status means that you can’t add photos. After a few posts, we switch you to author status and authors can add their own photos and schedule their own posts. If you would rather not work directly in WordPress, email us your word docx and we will import it into WordPress.

Note: If you are adding your own photos and video, pls be sure to provide image and video descriptions for the visually impaired. All non-text content should have a text alternative that provides an equivalent meaning as the image. Read past posts for some descriptions of the images in the posts. Best practise is for the image description to go in the alt-text field which you can see when you edit the photo. You can put the image description in the caption as well if you have space. Captions are also useful for photo credits Finally, giving your photo a descriptive title makes it easier for search engines to find.

Please share your guest post widely to let your friends and social media followers know about the blog. We’ve got some excellent regular commentators and if you could check in on your post and reply to them that would be great.

Yay! And thanks for contributing!

Cheers,

Sam and the Fit is a Feminist Issue team

A red bicycle leaning against a battered brown leather sofa with a “guest” tag on the rear wheel.
blogging · fitness

Big blog changes: New blog description, about us, we’re changing

What’s up? As you likely know, Tracy is stepping away from the blog. We’re more explicitly a team now. In some ways we’ve been a team for awhile with varying degrees of involvement from the people associated with the blog.

That’s meant a bunch of stuff: A plea for a new visual representation, a new schedule, and now some new text for the “about the blog” page that appears on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I think I’ve changed them all! Thanks Cate for drafting the new text.

“Fit Is a Feminist Issue started with a conversation blog co-founders Sam and Tracy have been having for more than two decades about feminism and fitness.  What does it mean to be fit? What way(s) does women’s quest for fitness and health contribute to empowerment and/or oppression? And what are appropriate measures of fitness in a feminist context? 

The blog started in 2012 as a record of Sam and Tracy’s quest to be the fittest in their lives when they hit the age of 50 in 2014.  Since then, the blog has grown into an international conversation about fitness, health, aging, and gender. From our original two-voice conversation, we now have a team of regular bloggers, including Catherine Womack, Cate Creede, Martha Muzychka, Christine Hennebury, Natalie Hebert, Susan Tarshis, Bettina Trueb, Mina Samuels, Marjorie Hundtoft, and Kim Solga with an array of guest posters from around the world.  We also have a very active community in the comments on our blog and on our facebook page and twitter feed. Some of our posts are about our personal approaches to fitness/health, and some posts are more reflective, critical and meant to challenge common assumptions. While Sam and Tracy have always been at the core of the blog, in September 2019, we’re excited to announce that our other regular bloggers will be taking on an even more prominent role.    For more on our history, read 

Tracy and Sam’s book Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey. (Greystone Books) For more on the future, keep reading the blog!”

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash
Image description: Black gothic font spray paint on a read brick wall, reads “Together we create!”
blog · blogging · fitness

Happy 7th Anniversary to the Blog!

A dark photo of a chocolate cake with rainbow coloured stripey candles. The candles spell out “happy birthday.”
Photo by Marty Southwell, from Unsplash.

Happy 7th birthday to the blog! (Tomorrow is happy 55th birthday to me!)

That the blog’s birthday and my birthday line up so nicely is no coincidence. Tracy and I started the blog roughly two years before our 50th birthdays as part of our “fittest by 50” challenge. If you want the full story about that, buy the book. Or read the blog posts from the early days.

On August 30, 2012 we didn’t write blog posts but we did post a bit about ourselves.

We’re now explicitly a team blog and I’m excited to see what that brings. See our new schedule here.

For me, I’m also branching out, starting a new Dean’s blog. And as I enter the second half of my fifties I’m thinking about a big stretch goal for 60. Still mulling…

blog · blogging · feminism · fitness

Tracy’s good-bye for now series, part 4: This time she really means it

Image description: Head shot of Tracy, short wavy salt and pepper hair, silver earrings, smiling, abstract painting in background.

I come from a family of long good-byes. We’re a family who walks you to the car. We say good-bye with hugs and kisses before you get in the car (very occasionally weeping but only if we know it will be a really long time before we see one another and mostly only when someone is leaving the country). To the very end, we play a game called “last look” and “last touch” where we drag it out even more, the winner being the person who gets in the last look or the last quick touch before snatching their hand away through the car window so no one else can touch. We’re laughing the whole while. And then, as you pull away, despite the “last look,” we stand in the driveway and wave. We watch you drive down the street pretty much until we can’t see the car anymore. Then we go in and have a cup of tea or something.

That helps to explain why this is taking me so long (my two week good-bye). I’ve learned to savour last moments. They can be so sweet. Like, this series has breathed some life into my blogging again, renewing my enthusiasm. But that’s not to say I’m staying on. It’s not that I think it’s too late to backtrack and change my mind (I once called off a wedding six weeks before). It’s more that I need to trust my gut on this decision, and it’s telling me to make space for new projects, some as-yet undetermined possibilities, and more generally just to have some breathing room. New space doesn’t need to be a vacuum that sucks something else into it right away.

This blog has given me a lot over the years. Sam and I have often talked about how we stumbled into it without thinking it would go anywhere — it was a temporary project to document our Fittest by Fifty Challenge, and it was meant to end five years ago when we each turned 50. Her energy and efforts have always kept it going. By comparison to Sam’s hard work on the coordinating and organizing and motivating fronts, I have really been little more than co-founder and regular contributor. So I see it as one of those things in life where what I’ve received is so much more than what I’ve given, and I’m grateful beyond what I can express in words. Here are a few of the things the blog gave me (not necessarily in order of importance):

A regular writing practice

I have blogged at least twice a week for seven years. I never did master the art of the short, quick post. As a writer, having a regular writing commitment twice a week (well, maybe once, since #tbt became a regular thing for me in recent years) with an audience to answer to has kept the ink flowing. There has been no time for writer’s block or perfectionism. Almost all of my posts are still in the “first draft” stage, where the content is mostly there but the writing itself needs more metaphor, more precision, more concrete details–the sorts of things that make it more interesting for a reader. I can live with that. I am infinitely more relaxed about my writing since starting the blog. Sharing “good enough” writing with people is no longer a worry. Actually, it’s been fun developing a more casual writing style. Even if it’s not my “best” writing, it’s my most enjoyable. And people read it!

Communities

This idea of community keeps coming back to me. The blog itself drew in a community of like-minded folks who wanted to participate in conversations about fitness from a more inclusive feminist perspective. When Sam and I started to realize people actually read and commented and engaged in discussion about our content, we were well and truly chuffed. Going into it we genuinely thought only friends and family would read the blog.

In addition to the large community of readers and commenters and followers of our Facebook page and Twitter account and Instagram that has energized us and encouraged us, I’ve also gained a closer community in the regular contributors. Last Thursday I reflected on some of the wonderful posts that the other regulars have written. The other blog regulars are a supportive, helpful, motivating group of incredible women I’m fortunate to know.

The blog has also given me a fitness community. As noted the other day, where I used to train alone, I now love to train in groups. Not only, but for sure regularly. My Sunday long runs, which I’ve been missing because of my Achilles issues, are among the highlights of my weekend because I love getting together with my peeps (Anita and Julie) and I feel something is missing from my life when I can’t or when sustained periods of time go by when our schedules don’t collide.

I don’t know about you, but a sense of belonging matters a lot to me. And as a philosopher who works on collective responsibility and collective agency, I’m aware of the possibilities offered when we do things together that we can’t do alone. Communities have great power. Becoming a part of these inspiring communities has been an amazing gift.

A regular and consistent fitness practice

If you want to kickstart your fitness routines, blog about them regularly and let that accountability to an audience start to motivate you. If we hadn’t blogged about our fitness challenge, I don’t know that we would have finished it (maybe I should speak only for myself here — I doubt I would have had the focus to keep at it for two years). But the blog gave me a place and a reason to develop a consistent fitness practice, a reason to try new things (like triathlon), and a place to reflect explicitly about what was working for me (like running, which surprised me because at the beginning I didn’t even like it).

It also let me reflect on and write about what wasn’t working for me. It was through blogging openly about my discomfort with cycling that I finally came to see that it wasn’t worth it to me anymore because of my intense road phobia. See the culmination of my many painful ruminations and doubts about cycling: “When the rubber meets the road (or not): Tracy finally quits the bike and triathlon.” And then there was the 100-day step challenge, which I did twice despite not liking it the first time. I got to document the waning of my initial enthusiasm.

Blogging here helped me think ahead about strategies for working out while traveling, and made me feel more accountable to implement those strategies. As Sam likes to say about all sorts of things: “blog about it!” I honestly would never have even tried triathlon, let alone fallen in (temporary) love with it and made it the focus on my Fittest by 50 Challenge, unless Sam had said: “Hey let’s sign up for the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon. It’ll give us something to blog about.” It sure did. And it galvanized my training goals for the next two years.

Blogging has helped me get back on track when I’ve fallen out of routine. It has become clear to me that it’s as important to share openly and honestly about setbacks as about successes. I had setbacks shortly into the blog and I have had setbacks more recently. And many along the way. Everyone has both–that’s the way life is. We are not robots. It’s been motivating to me to take that seriously and to use the blog as a way of thinking through how to get back on track and then writing about my progress. I’ve gained advice from others by asking for help here. That’s how I ended up trying an osteopath.

Fitness activities are positive and self-nurturing part of my life, whether my routine is in an ebb or a flow. That’s from blogging. Putting it all in print has let me see that there is a constant flow of change: I hit my stride for awhile and glide along seemingly without effort, then a shift happens and it’s a bit harder (or even sometimes impossible), then I regroup and scale down to get back on track, and soon I’m skipping along again to my latest favourite playlist. That is my larger rhythm and it repeats. And repeats. And repeats.

A voice

Not to say I came to the blog without a voice. But the casual nature of blog posts let me develop my own conversational style and a way of expressing myself that feels true and honest. I used to think that my “voice” (such as it is) was kind of boring. And maybe to some it is. That’s fine. But that’s me — lowkey, to the point, a comfortable (for me) balance between self-disclosure and reserve, the occasional unleashing of anger about the world, a mild sense of humour, and feminist.

Regular blogging about fitness from a feminist perspective has done more to cement my own sense of what it means for me to be a feminist than anything else. My years of teaching feminist philosophy and women’s studies; a stint as chair of the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research; writing academic papers about feminism; taking part in countless Take back the Night events…none of that has shaped my feminist voice or allowed me to express it and more importantly develop it as much as blogging at Fit Is a Feminist Issue.

Confidence

Back when I was an undergrad and I worked a summer job at Doubleday Publishing in Toronto, they had weekly sales for staff where books that had been returned were spread out on a table in the warehouse and we could buy them for super cheap. That’s where I picked up my copy of Hard Bodies by Gladys Portugues, my first foray into the world of women’s weight training. In it, she told a story of a woman at her gym who started a consistent routine of weight training and stuck with it. Over the course of that first year, the woman, once shy and reserved and even a bit fragile seeming, developed more and more confidence and strength. As it turned out, she had been going through a divorce throughout that time and the workouts transformed her from a broken woman trying to put her life back together into a confident role model for newer members. Or something like that.

Of all the information I read in that book, about split routines and super sets and how to do pec flies and squats and calf raises (all brand new to me at the time), the story of the woman who survived her divorce by going to the gym had the biggest impact. It suggested that developing physical strength, a comfort with my body, and a routine that made space for that could spill confidence into the rest of my life. And it could get me through the hard bits. And it has.

But blogging consistently about my fitness life and about feminist issues in fitness and sport has itself increased my confidence. I’m no authority on anything about fitness. But like millions of other women who have ventured into gyms, onto soccer fields, into swimming pools and yoga studios, who have climbed walls and boulders, ridden their bikes, run trails or sidewalks or tracks or multi-use pathways beside the river, pounded out timed sets at CrossFit, boxed and wrestled and done aerial silk routines, power walked or leisure walked, worked out with resistance bands or done body weight training in their hotel rooms, thrown axes, cross country skied, snowshoed, ice skated, snowboarded or skied downhill through moguls, roller skated, roller derbied, perfected parkour or played women’s rugby, learned karate, aikido, judo, tai chi, mixed martial arts….I have my experience. And it has built character. And this blog kept me getting back to it not to compete with others or boast about my achievements, but because it made me feel good and there was nothing at stake beyond doing something for me.

As I said in a post (I don’t know which post–it was awhile back), if I never lifted another weight or ran another kilometre or did another warrior pose, no one would care. But I would. And like that woman who hit the gym full force during her divorce, that sort of commitment to myself has built the sort of confidence that comes through tapping into an internal sense of self-worth. It’s interesting to me, if no one else, that it came to me so late in life. We were already 48, Sam and I, when we started this blog. I had a career and my health and good friends and family already. But I (again like so many others, even accomplished others) also had all sorts of insecurities — some of which I worked out through activities like running, triathlon, yoga, and weight training and then blogging about them. It was always a huge confidence boost, for example, when I was able to report progress — my speed workouts actually made me faster! I went from needing to use the gravitron machine for pull-ups to being able to do three sets of 13 without the machine or even elastic bands to take some of the weight. All. By. Myself! I got faster in the pool. Woo hoo!

The blog gave me confidence in fitness, in my feminism, and in life.

A Chronicle of Events

I don’t mean just my fitness event history, but there is that: I can look back and see my fitness history over the past seven years, from my very first 5K and my very first triathlon, through to my Olympic distance triathlons, my weight training successes, my first and subsequent half marathons, my one and only full marathon, Around the Bay 30K x2, various traveling adventures and how I stayed active along the way, bouts of injury and illness, the communities I became a part of, friendships developed. The blog really has offered something of a “web-log” for the past seven years.

But we have also been able to put a time stamp on certain moments, like #me-too and various iterations of the Summer and Winter Olympics, the evolution of Barbie (even if you might wonder, as I did here, whether she can actually be redeemed), the coming and going of various diets (Keto wasn’t even a thing when we started blogging), the repetitive annual cycle of media about “making it” through the holidays and then about new year’s diets and fitness regimes. The excitement about “power posing” and then the subsequent discrediting of the findings. The sway of public opinion about fruit (evil! good!). Daylight savings time, “beach body” season, gearing up for winter training. Even the moments when new team members came aboard, as the blog’s roster of regulars grew and grew. So much captured over these years.

A commitment and routine

My scheduled posting time has been Tuesday and Thursday, 6 a.m., for years. Every Monday and every Wednesday before bed I make sure I have something lined up to post automatically at 6 a.m. the next morning. It has felt good to have this commitment and routine, like a touchstone in my week, every week. Some weeks it’s harder than others to find the time, to find the material, to find the energy and inspiration (I don’t wait for inspiration!). But it’s a commitment, so mostly, except for a few occasions when I had to call in the team for help, I’ve been able to keep the commitment. It, and the workouts I stuck with to have something to say (or, when not posting about my own workouts, the credibility to say whatever I was saying about working and training), kept me going through some tough times.

This past year has been full of tumult and personal upheaval of the hardest kind. It’s quite easily been the most difficult year of my life. I hope I’m on the other side of the worst of it. Having the blog as part of my weekly rhythm, month in and month out, kept me grounded in something positive and affirming while not being at the same time overwhelming (like my job — it’s positive and affirming but also sometimes leaves me feeling drained and overextended). Despite that, the time feels right to step back. I’m sure I’ll visit from time to time, but I declined Sam’s offer for a regular once a month spot because I feel incapable of making any sort of commitment to anything right now.

Extra big shout-out and enormous (though inadequate) thanks to Sam.

[insert weeping here]

Last look! Last touch!

[standing in the driveway waving]

Now — a cup of tea and some T-time (my step-daughter, Ashley calls me “T,” so in my world “me-time” is “T-time”).

With love and gratitude,

Tracy

Image description: A fond blog memory. Samantha and Tracy on stage at the book launch in Guelph, book in the middle on a podium, front cover–FIT AT MID-LIFE A feminist fitness journey, facing the audience. Sam to the left of the podium, Tracy to the right, each at a mic on a stand, Sam standing arms akimbo and smiling, Tracy speaking, hands raised in a shrugging gesture, the back of two audience members’ heads in the foreground. Curtain and window to outside in the background.