Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness

Book Club Week 3: The Joy of Movement, Chapter 3

A few weeks ago we started a virtual book club.

You can read about the idea here.

You can buy the Joy of Movement here or from a local bookshop or your favourite online retailer.

What’s the plan? Christine, Catherine, and I are reading a chapter a week, for seven weeks and writing about it here. We did that for Nia Shank’s book The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. And we liked it so much we’re doing it again. Read what our reviews looked like here.

What’s different this time? We’re inviting you to join us. Read along and put your contributions in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a lot. A few sentences, a few paragraphs, whatever you’re moved to write.

Want to catch up?

Read Week 1 here: https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/03/10/book-club-week-1-the-joy-of-movement-chapter-1/

Read Week 2 here: https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/03/17/book-club-week-1-the-joy-of-movement-chapter-2/

Catherine

Chapter 3 of McGonigal’s book is about Collective Joy, which it would be safe to say is in short supply these days. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

McGonigal tells stories that are likely familiar to many of us about the experiences of groups of people who are moving together. Some of them are moving in unison, like rowers or performing dancers. Others are moving at the same time, like yoga students. And, there are times when people are moving in their own ways for the same occasion, intentionally at the same place—like cyclists or kayakers or people dancing at a party.

What comes out of these collective movements? McGonigal describes the feelings in a bunch of ways:

Total attunement
Collective effervescence
Synchrony
Kinesthetic of togetherness
Muscular bonding

The idea is this: when we move together with others, we feel connected to them in a physical, visceral way—we have the physical sensation of being part of a larger whole. And these sensations do yummy things to our brains and bodies and psyches. They make us feel good, naturally, but they also promote cooperation with others. They may even be protective– physically and psychologically. McGonigal uses great examples of the sounds of people marching in unison and musk oxen circling in response to wolves to illustrate the power of joining with others to create a larger, more powerful collective being.

There’s more (this was my favorite chapter so far and is definitely worth checking out), but: given that joining big groups and merging to become a unified whole is most definitely contraindicated now, is there anything for us to use here and now?

Yes, I think there is. McGonigal talks about virtual togetherness through apps and even jogging drone buddies. But I’d like to share with you my experience of virtual synchrony these days.

I’m doing zoom yoga classes three times a week now—there’s no barrier to me getting to class, as my yoga mat is in the living room. It continually surprises and pleases me how much I’m getting from these classes. Each instructor creates their own atmosphere, and I feel connected to them and also to the other students. We all chat a little before and after class, but that content isn’t the most important thing. It’s the reminder that we are all part of this studio, doing this yoga practice, at this time and in our shared virtual space.

Last Friday, during Flow and Meditate class, our teacher Alex commented that it seemed like half the class was in need of burning off some extra energy and the other half needed a nap. He could tell this from tuning into us on our screens, and he adjusted our session to give some extra movement options for those with jittery feelings, and then did a soothing restorative exercise at the end. I felt seen, accepted, connected to him and the other students, and part of a supportive whole.

I hope all of us can find some collective attunement, synchrony and even effervescence now. Reading this chapter reminded me that it’s accessible, which is just what I needed to hear.

Christine

This was a weird chapter to read in this time of social distancing and vague, pervasive sorrow but it did give me hope.

‘Collective Joy’ is all about how synchronized movement with a group brings us joy and builds our connection to one another. McGonigal moves through a variety of examples – everything from dancers to groups of joggers to army drills- to illustrate how moving in rhythm with others creates group cohesion and creates a sense of individual and collective well-being.

I was especially intrigued by how people described participating in these group activities, the sense that they weren’t just an individual participating but they were part of a greater whole – something bigger than themselves. Moving as a group gave them a sense of belonging and built trust within the group..

The descriptions resonated with my own experiences in Taekwondo and Nia and in leading action songs in Girl Guides. The scientific explanations for the specific type of connection and happiness that develops during these activities was very satisfying.

As I said above, it was a bit disconcerting to be reminded of all of the good feelings that those connections bring right now. It made me long to get back into the second row of black belts in my TKD class, with Mr. James to my right and Ms. Gathercole to my left and Mr. Power in front of me and work our way through our patterns under the direction of Master Downey or Master D.

This chapter has left me very thinky, wondering how to apply this new knowledge of movement, connection and community-building in the various contexts of my life. How can I help people find more of that joyful feeling? What can I add to my classes, my coaching, and my volunteer work to help people feel that sense of belonging?

At the end of this chapter, McGonigal says that some people have a ‘prosocial’ orientation to life and are more easily able to synchronize with others*. Judging by where my mind went with this information, I suspect that I am one of them.

*Even though I have written before about my challenges with coordination, I ‘tune in’ to other people’s simple movement patterns quite naturally. The trick for me to stop thinking about it and just let my body do its work.

Sam

This is my favourite chapter so far. But it was hard not to start mourning for hot yoga classes, Aikido classes, and group bikes rides.

I’ve had the most joy and done my best work in groups, whether that’s team time trials in the cycling world, being one of four people in a rowing scull, or playing defense in soccer. Cycling and rowing are the most alike. In both sports you match your cadence and effort to the people near you. I can always do more as part of a group. I am looking forward to getting back into group sporting events and training when we’re on the other side of this pandemic.

But it’s also made me realize why my Zoom and Zwift connections are so important. Community can take many forms. It’s not the same of course but riding in a group on Zwift is enough alike group riding in the real world of cycling that the time flies by.

I loved this chapter and I plan it read it again when we’re on the other side of the covid-19 pandemic.

Book Club · Book Reviews · cycling

Virtual Sam: On Zwift and other online communities

If you’ve been thinking about riding virtually, now is a great time to try it out. I’m not going to get into argument about the pros and cons of riding outside versus inside in these days of #StayingAtHome and #PhysicalDistancing. Probably during the pandemic and the associated restrictions on movement and activities, I’ll do a bit of both. But for me, right now, I’m saving far and fast for Zwift.

Recently as you might have imagined there have been record numbers of riders on Zwift. This is the month in Canada when most bike clubs start riding outside but all the bike club rides are cancelled. If you want to ride in a group, you’re going to need to find a virtual group. Lately I’ve been riding with the Swarm. See Sam goes SWARM-ing! . And I’ve been thinking about how much group rides there resemble group rides in the real world.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, what is Zwift? (from Wikipedia)

Zwift is a massively multiplayer online cycling and running videogame and physical training program that enables users to interact, train and compete in a virtual world...Zwift allows players to ride their bicycles on stationary trainers while navigating through six virtual worlds (Watopia, Richmond, London, Innsbruck, Yorkshire, and New York – a seventh world, Bologna, is available for certain time trial events, and an eighth, Crit City, is available for short, criterium-style, races). Players may cycle freely around the game world and join organised group rides, races or workouts with other users. Zwift uses ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy technologies to transmit data that, in combination with athlete weight and equipment choices, is used to convert the athlete’s efforts as speed and power (watts). “Smart” trainers, which include a built-in power meter, permit accuracy in the measurement of watts as well as enabling an immersive technology experience, where resistance is applied or lessened to simulate the gradient encountered on the virtual course. Zwift estimates the power of users on conventional trainers via the user’s cadence and the power curve of a wide range of specified trainers.”

What’s to like, as a woman cyclist, is that it’s becoming relatively easy to find women to ride with. Also, it’s easy to find groups riding at just about every speed. If you’re a road cyclist on the slower side, don’t panic, there are lots of people riding in Zwift at your pace. There are groups for over 50s and groups for people just getting into riding and groups for people who want to learn how to race. It’s a little mind boggling how many options there are. That’s the advantage of connecting with thousands of riders all over the world. If it’s a thing that’s accessible to you financially, I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Peleton might be the pandemic bike of choice for people who want a community of spin classes. But Zwift is the pandemic cycling option for people who want to join a community of cyclists.

When I ride on Zwift on my own, I tend to go fast (for me). I like the sprint segments. But for all sorts of reasons it’s good to go slow. In real life, I vary my speed by riding with different groups of cyclists. Now that I’ve discovered group rides on Zwift I can do that there too. I’m learning to moderate my pace and group ride virtually. Zwift is realistic enough that I have the same issues–zooming ahead downhill, for example. As in the real world, I’m learning not to wear myself spending too much time at the front. I’ve also just now learned how to play with Zwift’s interactive features–waving, giving fellow riders “ride-ons” and using the chat functionality. All of sudden, look, here’s me chatting with strangers on the internet. Weird. But there it is.

Do you ride in Zwift? Are there groups you like? Any social rides or training rides you recommend? Let us know.

And speaking of virtual communities and chatting with strangers on the internet, I also took part in an online, international book club this weekend, organized by my friend Todd Tyrtle. “Todd finds ways to connect with other humans – probably more than he was before the pandemic and organizes an international book club that you, too, can join.” Read Life Moves Online.

I talked about the book we’re reviewing here, see Book Club Week 1: The Joy of Movement, Chapter 1 and about a book that I’m reading to review for the blog called This Road I Ride.

Here’s our Zoom meeting of the book club!

Book Club · Book Reviews

Book Club on pause for a week while we all adjust to working from home!

A few weeks ago we started a virtual book club.

You can read about the idea here.

You can buy the Joy of Movement here or from a local bookshop or your favourite online retailer.

What’s the plan? Christine, Catherine, and I are reading a chapter a week, for seven weeks and writing about it here. We did that for Nia Shank’s book The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. And we liked it so much we’re doing it again. Read what our reviews looked like here.

What’s different this time? We’re inviting you to join us. Read along and put your contributions in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a lot. A few sentences, a few paragraphs, whatever you’re moved to write.

We’re taking a pause this week because of COVID-19 and its impact on our lives and yours too.

Want to catch up?

Read Week 1 here: https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/03/10/book-club-week-1-the-joy-of-movement-chapter-1/

Read Week 2 here: https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/03/17/book-club-week-1-the-joy-of-movement-chapter-2/

Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness

Book Club Week 1: The Joy of Movement, Chapter 1

Welcome to our virtual book club! You can read about the idea here.

You can buy the Joy of Movement here or from a local bookshop or your favourite online retailer.

What’s the plan? Christine, Catherine, and I are reading a chapter a week, for seven weeks and writing about it here. We did that for Nia Shank’s book The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. And we liked it so much we’re doing it again. Read what our reviews looked like here.

What’s different this time? We’re inviting you to join us. Read along and put your contributions in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a lot. A few sentences, a few paragraphs, whatever you’re moved to write.

The Joy of Movement

Here’s our thoughts about Chapter One “The Persistence High” and we look forward to hearing what you thought about it in the comments section below.

Sam

I’m so glad we’re reading a happy book. These aren’t easy times and I need something positive and uplifting to sustain me. Kelly McGonigal describes her book as a “love letter to exercise.” The theme of the book are the connections between exercise and happiness. Chapter One looks at the “persistence high.”

McGonigal doesn’t call it “runners high” but that’s the thing she’s talking about. I confess that while running (and riding) make me smile, as a person who doesn’t use mood altering drugs I hate the “high” talk. I confess I kind of glossed over McGonigal’s discussion of “exercise induced endocannabinoids” and went straight to the social bonding material.

The second part of Chapter One discusses the connection between exercise-induced euphoria and social bonding. McGonigal likes that idea that being physically active can enhance co-operation and help us extract even more joy from working as a team or helping others (30). There are some lovely examples of people who run as part of a group and feel better for both the running and the social connection. Her theory is that the good feelings of exercise enhance the social pleasures of sharing and co-operating. Regular exercise allows for more feelings of closeness and connection, companionship, and belonging.

Does this seem right to me? It certainly matches my experiences of group riding, group exercise in CrossFit communities, team rowing, canoe trips with friends and family and so on. But I am, by temperament, a social exerciser. I liked this chapter but I wondered about my friends who are solitary distance cyclists (hi Cate!) or who like to run ultramarathons and who train many hours alone, because that’s the why they like it.

I’ll confess that the academic in me also wanted more studies and footnotes. But it’s not that kind of book and that’s okay.

Christine

I confess, I was predisposed to like Joy of Movement. Two of McGonigal’s previous books ‘The Willpower Instinct’ and ‘Yoga for Pain Relief’ are in view while I type this. I like her writing style and I enjoy the way that she makes connections between ideas.

So, when I received an email promoting ‘Joy of Movement.’ I literally squealed.

If you read our posts for Nia Shanks’ ‘100 Day Reclaim,’ you know that I am puzzling out why it is so hard for me to be consistent with exercise and what part my ADHD plays in that challenge.

I found some very useful tools in Shanks’ book and, even just 62 pages in, I am finding some very satisfying ideas in McGonigal’s.

While I currently work as a writer/storyteller/life coach, the questions and interests that led me to my career are rooted in my anthropology/archaeology degree. I am interested in people, how we connect, how we work together, how all of our current patterns came into being over time.

So, McGonigal’s interconnected discussion of human evolution, social connections, and physiology and how they all play a role in the joy of movement is exactly my kind of thing.

A few challenges:

Like, Sam, I am a bit wary of some of the language in the discussion of a ‘runner’s high’ but I found the section very intriguing and useful.

I am also wary of how people might interpret the discussion of the Hadza, an African hunter-gatherer group, and see them as some sort of mythical ideal rather than as an example.

McGonigal avoided this pitfall and warned us against some aspects of it. However, I have taken too many anthropology classes that cautioned against the risk of idealizing another cultural group (it’s an easy trap to fall into) so I kept wondering about the possibilities of that as I read.

I also couldn’t help but wonder about whether someone whose movement is restricted would be upset by some of the ideas in the introduction. I understand (and am thrilled by) the fact that this book is about finding the joy in movement. However, some of the statements in the first chapter about how movement is our only way of interacting with the world and about how movement is connected with the most basic human joy did make me think about how those concepts would affect someone who is unable to move. Obviously, one book is not going to meet the needs of all audiences and, of course, McGonigal will expand and explain her ideas throughout the book, so this is just a question and not at all a condemnation.

The great stuff:

Those things aside. are some of the ideas in the book that resonated for me, so far:

Movement strengthens our feelings of community – I am thoroughly intrigued by the idea that the ‘feel-good’ results of certain intensities of exercise carry over into a desire to connect with other humans. And, the fact that she gets into a discussion of how things like sharing food and putting in a group effort further builds our sense of community makes this thread of ideas useful for me as writer, as a storyteller, and as a coach, in addition to how it helps me think about exercise.

A runner’s high is actually a ‘persistence high’ – Even though I struggle to be consistent, being persistent is one of my strengths. Once I get started, I can and will keep going until the task is done. (For someone with ADHD, this can lead to other challenges, but let’s stick with the positive here.) So, this idea that my persistence, when consciously applied to exercise could have even more rewards, is very inspiring. I’m very interested in the concept of additional physiological/psychological rewards for our movement efforts and the fact that it may have an evolutionary basis.

‘Continuous Moderate Intensity’ is the goal for feeling good – I know that short bursts of intense exercise can be good for me and that I sometimes enjoy them. However, I have trouble making myself start a high intensity session. Reading McGonigal’s information about the psychological benefits of continuous moderate intensity reminds me of the fact that I need to be exercising for about 10 minutes before it starts to feel good. I regularly forget that fact so this reminder, grounded in a kind of scientific discussion that is familiar to me, is helpful and motivating.

Group effort, personal effort, and feeling good- One of the examples that McGonigal uses to illustrate her ideas is a gym in London that is structured around its members doing collective good with their exercise. They run together toward the site for a community project, or their individual runs take them to visit someone who need their help and company.

One of my most satisfying days recently was the day I spent helping to shovel people out after a storm. I worked with various groups to excavate people’s cars and driveways and by the end of the night I had plenty of activity minutes, lots of energy, and the great feeling of a job well done.

Given my schedule, I can’t always do group projects like that but I have been looking for ways to do it more regularly. This section of the book put me right back into that ‘helping out’ feeling and reminded me that I have to keep an eye out for those opportunities.

Collective Goal – At another point in this chapter, McGonigal mentions a person in a spin class who feels like everyone in the class is working toward a collective goal. I love the idea of that and it matches my experience with Taekwondo – one of the few places in the world where you would say ‘nice work’ to someone who has just kicked you in the head. I’m really interested to explore how the positivity of a collective goal shows up for me in other forms of exercise and how I can use it for motivation.

There are many more useful and enjoyable pieces of the book, of course, but my section of this review is already a bit too long so I am going to leave it at that.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of Joy of Movement.

Catherine

Before I get started properly, I want to say how fun it is to read a book with others, commenting and reading others’ comments along the way. It motivates me to keep going and keep reading and writing—my own form of a “persistence high” that McGonigal talks about.

Like Sam, I don’t like the use of the word “high”, both for the reasons she gives, and also because I don’t experience what I would call a “high”. It’s rather a feeling of relaxing into the pleasure of the activity. When I used to train for bike races (more than 10 years ago), I found that 23 minutes into my workout on my bike trainer, all of a sudden I’d notice a drop in heart rate while expending the same effort. I noticed this outside as well. These days, it takes longer—probably 30—35 minutes— but I start to feel lowered anxiety, more relaxation, more pleasure, and less effort to go the same speed. It tends to persist, with some shifts with stronger efforts, but then the pleasure comes back in abundance. I find myself laughing after big efforts, and laughing while flying down hills. Is that what McGonigal is talking about? Maybe.

Her discussion of the ways we benefit by doing physical activity in groups was familiar and encouraging. However, the GoodGym group was doing a bunch of activities that account for the feelings of bonding, connection, self-satisfaction, etc. Any of us at any level of physical ability will benefit from volunteering in groups, helping others, working to improve the environment and providing services for those in need. Like Christine, I felt like people with physical limitations would feel less included in this section. I look forward to reading more, in part to see what McGonigal will have to say about movement and activity for all.

One more comment: I would also liked to have seen some study references, but I know it’s not that kind of book. In 2017, I wrote a post called Running is Contagious? It depends on who and where and when you are. (https://fitisafeministissue.com/…/running-is…/)


It cited a study that showed asymmetric patterns of motivation among runners’ groups. In short, when a slower runner reported a run, it motivated a faster runner in a group to go running, but not the other way around. Paying attention to the social dynamics of our activity groups may be just as important as belonging to them. But, I am getting ahead of myself and ahead of McGonigal, too. Let’s see what she has to say next week.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Chapter One? Let us know in the comments below.

Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness

Join the Fit is a Feminist Issue Book Club!: We’re reading The Joy of Movement

Joy of Movement

We’re reading a new book and we’re inviting you to join us!

You can buy the Joy of Movement here or from a local bookshop or your favourite online retailer.

What’s the plan? Christine, Catherine, and I are reading a chapter a week, for seven weeks and writing about it here. We did that for Nia Shank’s book The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. And we liked it so much we’re doing it again. Read what our reviews looked like here.

What’s different this time? We’re inviting you to join us. Read along and put your contributions in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a lot. A few sentences, a few paragraphs, whatever you’re moved to write.

When do I get started? Reading? I’d recommend this weekend! Commenting? We’re starting Tuesday, March 10th. Our review post will usually goes live at 2 pm EDT.

Is it a good book? Actually, we don’t know yet. We’re reading it week-by-week with you. It *looks* like a good book. That’s why we chose it! But we’ll see.

Feel free to drop in or drop out at anytime. This is a fun, informal gathering of feminist friends interested in reading books about fitness. If you’re interested, let us know in the comments to this post.

We’d also appreciate suggestions of other books to read and review as we go.