Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 61-70, Two (!) Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. Most posts will include words from Catherine, and Christine and me, Sam, but today it’s just them. I spent the weekend at a wonderful philosophy conference in Arizona but then my travel back encountered the usual winter flight-delay problems. Sunday was seven extra hours in the Phoenix airport and I got home to my by three am. Work is extra busy (it’s academic budget season!) and I’m behind with all the things. A one day reprieve wouldn’t have helped so here’s Christine and Catherine going it alone. I’ll be back for days 71-80. I’ll be on holidays!

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Read about Days 31-40 here.

Read about Days 41-50 here.

Read about Days 51-60 here.

Catherine:

Day 61—if this happened to a friend

I keep struggling with Nia’s language even though I agree with and am warmed by her overall message. She gives an example of eating fast food for lunch instead of bringing it from home. All of us have done this, which she calls “giving in to fast food temptation”. Sigh. Then she says that doing so “typically leads to less-than -deal choices in the days that follow”. Argh.

But then Nia says all the right things (IMHO) about moving on, learning from what happened, etc. I feel like this is a tightrope Nia has to walk to please everyone: 1) people who are on a dieting track and suffer from guilt and self-recrimination; and 2) people who categorically reject dieting and see it as destructive and no-win. We bloggers (and lots of our readers) are in 2).

It’s so important for people in 1) to be able to hear Nia’s message, and I get that the wording she’s using is what is familiar to them. Here’s another example, talking about learning from what she calls a slip-up in eating: “…so you can handle it more productively”. I’d put it differently: “so you have some space for planning in ways that respect your desires and the realities of your life”. I don’t think Nia disagrees with me at all. I just prefer to lighten the language to remove as much value judgment as possible.

I’m liking Nia more and more as I read through this book. Hey Nia, I wish you could come by my house for tea and a nice walk at the park nearby.

Day 62—better, or tired?

Just before my first mountain bike race, someone gave me advice on how to pace myself: if I’m about to throw up, slow down. If I’m not about to throw up, go faster. That’s not terrible advice for a short race. But we’re not in short races most of the time. We’re in these bodies for the long haul. For me, “better” means keeping doing what I want to do for me, which is a variety of types of movement often, combined with enough rest to support myself, modifying when I’m injured or ill, or ramping up when I’m training for an event or curious about meeting some fitness goal.

Day 64—not good, not bad.

Here’s a friendly amendment for Nia: there are two other words that are often stealth terms for good and bad: health and unhealthy. These terms get used to bludgeon us into shame about what we eat and do. They scare us about the consequences of our eating and doing. Then, they coerce us into no-win diet patterns and physical regimens that are unfeasible and injury-conducive.

Is there such a thing as a healthy diet? Yes, there are loads of healthy diets. But there’s not agreement among health professionals about exactly what that looks like. I prefer the term healthy-to-me. This is awkward, and I don’t fault anyone else for not using it. It’s meant to convey my priorities and values (e.g. about meat or dairy consumption), constraints (e.g. allergies and tolerances, time and money, access and abilities for storing and preparing food), and preferences (some people just don’t like brussels sprouts, no matter what I say!). What we eat is up to us, and what we call healthy says a lot about us. It’s worth paying attention to that.

Day 66—coasting!

I love this so much. Coasting is a skill we all need to develop. It’s a powerful tool that will help keep us from self-blame, which is the worst thing we can do anytime. I have much more to say about coasting, but will leave it for a future blog post.

I read the rest of Nia’s posts, but will leave comments to Sam and Christine. You’ve heard enough of me for one day…

Christine:

Before I discuss this week’s sections, I just want to share a little about how this book has helped my mindset already.

I live on the island of Newfoundland (Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada) and we just had a record-breaking snowstorm. On Friday past, my city had 93cm of snow (37.2 inches) and 140+ kph (86mph) winds and we have such huge piles of snow that several cities and towns have been under a state of emergency. This is the most snow that I have EVER seen fall at once, and we already had a lot of snow on the ground to start with.

On Thursday, I suggested to the other members of our Fit is a Feminist Issue team that I would do a post about shoveling and the other exercising I was going to do during the storm. I’m still going to do that post but it isn’t going to be the kind of post I expected.

I was expecting to do a fun little post about how during the stormiest day, I did yoga and some extra cardio by taking the dog out for a pee when it was super windy, then once the storm stopped, I would post about shovelling and the yoga I did to recover from shovelling.

Instead, the storm kept me edgy and distracted. I did yoga but it was late at night (and of course, I took the poor pup out whenever she needed it) and when our family started shovelling on Saturday, I went up to my hip in the snow. In the course of extricating myself, I wonked out my knee a bit. Nothing serious but enough to ensure that I had to be REALLY careful.

So, what does all of this have to do with The 100 Day Reset?

I didn’t feel bad about what I couldn’t do.

I focused on what I *could* still do. I did yoga and stretching. I switched up my usual shovelling technique so I could help, and I did it in small stretches. I thought about what I was eating instead of mindlessly eating foods that might make me feel worse about being stuck inside.

I’m a solutions-focused person anyway but I am also quite hard on myself when I feel like I might be slacking (self-perception issues are a companion issue with ADHD.) Thanks to Shanks’ book, I didn’t even consider that I was slacking off or being lazy – I was doing what I could in that moment.

So, thanks, Nia Shanks! You saved me a lot of frustration this weekend.

On to Days 61-70

I love a lot of the advice in this section, truly, truly love it.

I like being reminded to be kind to myself (Day 61) and especially the reminder to deal with ‘mistakes’ by gleaning useful information to prepare for similar future situations. I LOVE that she says that exhaustion is not a marker of success (Day 62) and that we don’t have to do an epic workout every time. In my coaching, I tell people that it is okay to create ‘placeholders’ for habits they are establishing (e.g. opening a document on the computer at a specific time – even if they aren’t going to be writing yet.) and I appreciate the way Shanks has similar advice for fitness habits here.

Day 63’s note about not giving into fear (fear of failing, fear of looking silly) was eye-opening for me. I realized (again?) that I can often be afraid of starting because I know I struggle with consistency.

I enjoyed this week’s sections about how to alter your thinking to serve you better.

Day 64 was about how to choose ways to view events in your fitness journey (i.e. the events are neutral, we assign the values to them, even when we don’t have to), Day 65 was a strong reminder that we can start/restart at any point and the key is to do SOMETHING now.

Day 66 advised us to recognize that there will be different rhythms in our schedules and we should work with what we have – working hard when we can, ‘coasting’ when we need to. (Important advice for me this weekend)

I appreciated the message in Day 67 about the futility of complaining and how we should look at the thing we are complaining about and make changes so it is no longer an issue. I like keeping the focus on finding solutions but, personally, I sometimes need to vent in order to clear my brain enough to start to see solutions. That’s not the same thing as ongoing complaining without taking action but my (sometimes overly-literal) brain initially balked at my mistaken idea that no amount of complaining was acceptable.

Day 68’s reminder to focus on what matters in the big picture was useful and I especially appreciate Shanks’ suggestion that we are just one workout away from being back on track and that we can do that workout today. That section dovetailed nicely into Day 69’s advice to mentally prepare for things going wrong and to plan the things you will do if your ‘what if’ came to pass.

Finally, I am all about Day 70’s advice to observe how things went ‘wrong’ and learn from them. Noticing how I got to a particular frustrating set of circumstances and identifying a different path for next time is an extremely useful piece of advice for me. I’ll be talking more about that in my ‘Christine weathers the storm’ post this Saturday.

By the way, throughout these sections, I can see the line that Shanks is walking with the way she talks about eating and I appreciate her efforts to steer away from diet-talk while still trying to engage people who are in that frame of mind. I, personally, would like to see her take an even stronger stance against the diet mindset but I don’t exactly know what form that could take.

Storm dog in the snow
Book Reviews

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 51-60, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Read about Days 31-40 here.

Read about Days 41-50 here.

Nia Shanks’ 100 Day Reclaim

Catherine: Nia opens up this section by urging us to take in the information that feeds us. As an academic and feminist fitness blogger, this is hard to do. I feel obliged to keep up with the latest fitness and diet fads. I want to be informed to help my students, my colleagues, my readers and myself in better understanding the science, pseudoscience, genuine wellness advice, and stealthy corrosive messaging that’s all over the internet.

Still, Nia is right. Exposure to unrealistic, photo-shopped images of bodies and fat-phobic messaging is demoralizing. Case in point: Jillian Michaels (celebrity trainer of sorts) continues to pummel us with fat-phobic, bogus-healthist screeds, this time against Lizzo. I mention it not to cause anyone to rush to Google, but to underscore Nia’s point that we would do well to be prudent about what we expose ourselves to. Of course, it’s a balancing act—those of us involved in health justice and advocacy need to be informed in order to do our work. But, it does come at some cost, and we should decide when we’ve paid enough.

I love day 52. Nia encourages us to be Adapters Extraordinaires. I admit that I like this because I secretly think this is one of my strengths. Life, for me, is at its most exhilarating when there’s a fair amount of change, spontaneity, and novelty. Solving problems on the fly and figuring out new ways through change feels good. However (there’s always a however, isn’t there; sigh…) this process is messy, leaving all sorts of things behind, like healthy-to-me eating, or important-to-me movement. But thoughtful adaptation feels different. Here’s an example: for the past two weeks, I have had a terrible cold and bronchitis (I even had that barking cough that babies sometimes get). Robust exercise has been completely off the table. Even yoga, which usually sustains me when I’m not feeling up to snuff, hasn’t been an option very often. What has? Sleep. I’ve had to sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. And then repeat the sleeping. Yes, I had to adapt, and I didn’t like the adapting. But it worked, and I’m mostly better now. I’m still in adaptation mode, walking and doing some gentle yoga. Hopefully by early next week, I’ll be able to get on the bike trainer. We will see. As Nia says, adapting to the current state of me is useful in supporting the long-term state of me.

Nia talks about paradox in this section, and paradoxes are one of my favorite things. As a philosopher, I’ve written about them and taught them and found them hugely stimulating. Why? Because a paradox is a sign that we’re missing something. Maybe it’s obvious, or maybe it’s something no one has ever thought of. Nia uses the language of paradox to talk about restraint in eating and also discomfort (okay, pain) in movement: how can we 1) eat and move in ways that fulfill us; and 2) meet goals that necessarily involve pushing through immediate desires to focus on long-term ones?

Yep, this is a full-blown paradox. We are presented with two imperatives: eat/do what feels good to us in the present, and eat/do what advances our longer-term wellness-to-us goals. For most of us, these orders conflict. Nia suggests that there’s a happy medium. I’m still looking for a different way to thread that needle. If I find it, you, dear readers, will be the first to hear about it.

Christine: The recurring theme in Days 51-60 is to stay conscious and aware.

If we want to have fitness success, we need to define that on our own, conscious, terms (Day 54) and then support it with our choices. In order to do that we need to be aware of the messages we receive from social media (Day 51) and from our past (Day 60.) We need to choose when we will say yes and when we will say no (Day 58.) We can find ways to enjoy life (and fitness) more by choosing when to indulge, when to work hard, and when to relax (Days, 53, 54, 56 & 57.) We can choose our mindset (Day 59) and we can choose to adapt to make choices that serve us best in any given circumstance (Day 52.)

I especially liked Shanks’ reminder on Day 52 about the importance of adapting to whatever your schedule happens to be like at the moment (if you don’t have time for your usual number of workouts, what do you have time for? How can you make the most of that time?) because my ADHD brain is especially adept at tossing out a whole plan if one part of it doesn’t work.

Day 57 (Paradox II) really struck home for me. In this section she reminds us of the long term value of challenging ourselves, and of learning to tolerate some types of discomfort. Again, my ADHD brain has particular trouble starting a task if it knows it will be boring or uncomfortable. Yet, another part of my brain has no trouble with practicing (most) self-defense activities in Taekwondo because it knows that working on them now will reduce my chances of freezing-up if I ever have to use these moves in real life. The discussion in this section helped me build a connection between the discomfort of the effort in fitness activities and my successful tolerance of a similar discomfort in TKD.

Finally, I think Shanks picked the perfect moment in the book (Day 59) to remind us that we can renew our purpose and our mindset at any point. Again, since I have that particular knack for tossing out a whole plan, I appreciated the reminder that I can start over again and again.

I am getting a lot of what I need out of this book. I am thinking a bit more effectively about my fitness activities and how I approach them. I appreciate how she keeps helping me to bring concepts I use for my coaching clients into my own plans for increasing my fitness. While I know to keep conscious of the things that influence the way I work in other areas of my life, I haven’t done as much to stay conscious about my influences in the area of fitness. The thought exercises in Shanks’ book are making a big difference for me.

Sam: Days 52 and 53 have some hard lessons. 52 is about flexibility and still finding your way when life throws you a curve ball. You might be all about plans and schedules but life doesn’t always work out that way. The key to success is sometimes knowing when to go with the flow and make a new plan. That was my evening yesterday. Sarah and I had planned to go to nap yoga after (for me) an afternoon of lifting weights and a long walk, after an emotionally tough weekend. But Sarah was running late and we weren’t going to make it to nap yoga. Instead we met at the Bike Shed and got a quick Zwift ride in. Flexibility FTW!

53 is about doing the hard thing. Nia says we need to choose, easy or rewarding? Around here we often counsel in favour of listening to your body or doing the thing that feels good and there is truth in that. But there is also truth in doing the hard thing anyway even if you don’t much feel like it. For me, it’s a balancing act between listening to what feels good and also being willing to push hard and do uncomfortable things. Thanks Nia.

Day 54 asks us to “be more” whatever that means in the context of our lives. Don’t be afraid of taking up space, not just physical space but also emotional space too.

I’m really enjoying the daily approach. I was worried the chunks would seem too small or that it would all be old hat, since I’ve been reading in this area (life coaching/fitness motivation) but it’s not. It would be terrific paired with Mina Samuel’s Run Like a Girl 365 Days a Year.

Book Reviews · fitness

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 41-50, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Read about Days 31-40 here.

Catherine: Nia could’ve spent the whole book writing about just these themes in days 41—50. I see them all as ways to look at what we do and who we are from every vantage point, all the better to see possibilities for change, for validation, for appreciation.

Starting with the appreciation bits: Nia encourages us to embrace our natural abilities. I’m very good at organizing social activities and keeping up with friends. This translates for me into lots of opportunities to arrange or join in on physical activity and also share meals. When I’m cooking or eating with others, I eat in ways that are more healthy-to-me. What can I say? I like to go along with the crowd, and my crowd has a lot of eating and activity habits that I admire and want to incorporate into my daily habits.

Nia says we tend to take for granted some of the positive habits or abilities or life situations or gifts we have right now. Stopping for a sec to notice what we have, what we have done, all that we are—this is worth doing. I agree.

Now that she’s got us here, stopping, looking around, and noticing, here are some things she’d like to point out. One is our own aging. Yeah, it’s happening. Cursing the calendar or the mirror doesn’t help. Instead, she suggests doing what we can to age gracefully and maintain a good quality of life.

Aging gracefully—this phrase bothers me. I get what Nia is saying. But for me, aging is decidedly ungraceful. It’s awkward, unpredictable, jolting, and a big pain in the patootie. My long-time-colored hair is growing out, and I’m loving the unruly and uneven shocks of silver and white. My hips hurt when I sit for too long, so I have to stand up in the middle of long work meetings. This is decided ungraceful, especially because some of my male colleagues gently (but regularly) mock me for stretching and standing up whenever I do it. I’m serious. I handle it, but not gracefully. Nope.

I’m sure Nia would support me here—she’s all about us being ourselves and carrying ourselves proudly. I just want to point out that graceful, aging is not.

Nia also asks us to look at what we struggle constantly with. Here’s how she puts it: “a battle you find yourself facing again and again with you usually coming out on what feels like the losing side”.

I immediately thought of one that I’m going to work on: even though I’m not a morning person, my most productive time is the first 4—6 hours of my day. After that, my focus and determination flag. I struggle with how to spend those precious hours: Writing? Grading? Physical activity? Meditation? Making a schedule hasn’t worked well—whatever I’m doing at the time, I tend to follow that to its conclusion, and then worry about the other things I haven’t done in this Magic Period of Perfect Productiveness. Yeah. Blech.

How to respond to this daily struggle? Nia offers a couple of suggestions, one of which is to introduce chaos into your routine. Shake things up to see how we respond when the normal goes out the window. I’ve had this experience. When my car is in the repair shop, I have to improvise getting around. I have bikes, feet, buses, and trains at my disposal. They take more time and focus and energy, but they’re also invigorating and different. I’m now wondering how I can make my mid-late afternoons different and more invigorating. I’ll report back on this in a blog post. Thanks, Nia.

Christine: Overall, this section of the book had a lot to offer me in terms of staying aware of how I get off-track with my plans. I’ll be making use of a lot of these practices as I move through 2020 and continue to establish a fitness plan that is do-able for me.

The breakdown:

41 – Why are we never satisfied?

I like how she states ‘you can and should do whatever you want with your body’ but while I feel the pressure to always be doing ‘more,’ I have managed to sidestep that for now.

42 – What we take for granted

I talk a lot about this in my coaching practice, the idea that we need to notice the things we DID get done, the things we have achieved. I know there’s a popular meme that says ‘Don’t look back, you aren’t going that way.’ and that is valuable in some circumstances, it also keeps you forever pushing forward and never noticing how far you have come. I really like how Shanks frames that in terms of gratitude – gratitude for yourself and the work you have put in.

43 – Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

This section really struck home with me. I’m not too caught up in notions of being ‘too old’ to do things and I’m pretty good at dismissing any ‘never’ or ‘always’ statements that bubble up but I still have to fight my inclinations towards a fixed mindset. When you couple that with the bizarre sense of time that ADHD has granted me, I often realize that I have been subconsciously holding on to the idea that the way things are today is the way they will always be. I notice it in my mood first and then have to dig in to find the thoughts that generated that mood. I like this reminder to be even more conscious of this issue.

44 – Stupid Advice

The stupid advice she is counselling us against in this section is the advice to ‘Just love your body.’ I am so glad she included this in the book. I see and hear this advice tossed around all the time and, to use a local expression ‘it rots me.’

It’s not like we can step outside of decades of cultural pressure and just make a sweeping change to dismiss all of that internalized garbage.

Obviously, discussing this in the larger context is beyond the scope of Shanks’ book but I like what she has done in this format. She advises us to notice when negative body feelings arise and do our best to work toward being indifferent towards those parts of our bodies. She adds that we can start focusing on what those body parts can DO and we can perhaps find an appreciate for them in that.

Day 45 – You do what you do. Why?

This is another day about noticing and this time she is asking us to notice our habits and to assess them for whether they serve us well. She advises us to make plans that will help us change those habits. I like how she cuts through all of the decision making around habits and breaks it down to, essentially. ‘notice, plan, adjust your actions.’ While there are always emotional considerations around these things, her suggestions are on a scale that makes sense to me and I could probably do them no matter what emotions swirl around them.

Day 46 – What is a constant struggle?

This section builds nicely on the last, asking us to notice what kinds of things regularly derail us and then to make plans for how to deal with those situations when they arise again. I tend to be very solutions-focused but I sometimes forget to do these sort of alternate plans so this reminder was super-helpful.

I’m still not keen on all the talk about how to manage your eating but, as far as I can see, Shanks doesn’t veer off into ‘diet’ talk so I just gloss over those sections as unrelated to my particular goals.

Day 47 – Embrace your natural abilities

This section is about noticing your strengths, not just in fitness but in all areas of your life. And, she makes a great suggestion about bringing your skills in other areas to apply to your fitness plans.

I love helping clients find what I refer to as ‘transferable skills’ and I love that she suggests finding them here.

Now, if I can only figure out how my ability to write really fast can translate into fitness, I’ll be all set. 😉

48 – Don’t disdain growing older

I like the advice in this section but it does seem a little out of place. I appreciate the positive approach she is advising and the reminder to focus on the things that we can control but it’s not clear how this fits in with the rest of the book. That could be just because I have, luckily, never been too invested in age-based restrictions. Or perhaps, at 47, the full cultural pressure of this one hasn’t hit me yet.

49 – Deliberately introduce chaos into your routine

I LOVE THIS SECTION. It terrifies me but since ADHD makes me especially susceptible to getting buffeted around by unexpected changes, I really love the idea of building (metaphorical) muscles for dealing with that chaos. I will be trying this ASAP.

50 – Zoom Out

This section is a great reminder of the big picture for people who tend to abandon their fitness related plans when they get off track. Shanks’ advice to zoom out puts a those few missteps into perspective.

Sam: I really liked this section of the book. So far I’ve been reading along and agreeing. Choose fitness goals that aren’t about aesthetics. Check. Aim for consistency not perfection. Check. Enjoy the journey. Check. All well and good but these are all things I already know. It’s nice to be reminded but I started wanting some new tricks in my bag. Days 41-50 were fun that way.

I liked Day 41–having goals is good but don’t keep resetting the bar higher and higher. Some is good doesn’t always mean that more is better. Take the time to appreciate what you’ve achieved. Nice.

Day 44 which talks about being neutral about your body instead of trying to love your body reminded me lots of Tracy! I’ve been missing Tracy since she’s away in Mexico so that made me smile.

I think we all liked Day 46 on identifying struggles and making plans.

But my fave day was Day 49 on deliberately introducing chaos into our carefully structured lives so we can learn to roll with it. I might try that. Thanks Nia!

advice · Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 31-40, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Christine:

In Days 31-40, Shanks is getting further into some of the aspects of fitness mindset that I need to work on.

Day 31 is about how our repeated actions are investments in our health and fitness, some of which pay off quickly and some that pay off over time. This is really one of my sticking points. I’m not exactly looking for a magic bullet (and I don’t generally buy into the distractions she warns us against in Day 32) but I have a lot of trouble remembering that each individual workshop will add up to a positive result.

(This is an ongoing issue for me in many areas, I refer to it as a reverse forest-for-the-trees problem. It’s not that I can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s that I forget that the forest is made of individual trees and I get overwhelmed at the idea of trying to deal with the whole forest at once.)

For me, most of this section builds on the idea of investments. She reminds us that there will be setbacks and we might get sidetracked, but if we keep moving forward with purpose (not passion – Shanks makes some great points about the limits of passion on Day 34), and do things that support us instead of undermining us, we will find the fitness practices that suit us best.

I like how she doubles down on the idea that food can (and should) be guilt-free. This is not a problem for me but I know it is a pervasive issue so I like that she is returning to it over and over.

Some highlights from Days 31-40 (these are the messages I liked in each section, not the title for the days):

Day 35: Focus on being a person YOU approve of.
Day 36 – Failure is an experience, it doesn’t define you. You decide what it means.
Day 37 – We should seek a fitness lifestyle that enhances our lives instead of dominating them. Bonus: The way she talks about what counts as a supportive action is especially useful.

I think that some people might find that this section repeats a lot of the previous messages, but in different terms. I found that there was a feeling of familiarity with some sections but it didn’t feel repetitive. Instead, I felt that she was adding a layer to her previous messages and some of them resonated more thoroughly with me this time because of the different phrasing.

There was, once again, a lot in this section that I can use to help me shape my approach to being more consistent with my exercise.

Catherine:

Investment. Purpose. Sticking to the basics. Supporting. Growth. These are some of the phrases Nia uses in days 31-40 that really appealed to me. It feels to me like she’s allowed us to freak out, get angry, shilly-shally around, and take some time to get used to this 100-day process. But now it’s time to settle in and focus on the work at hand—that most important work, which is us.

Day 31 starts with thinking about self-caring activities as investments, deposits in the portfolio of my own wellbeing. Immediately, I thought: hmmm. does Nia think that when I avoid exercise or miss sleep or eat poorly-to-me, I’m making withdrawals? Is my every move a plus-or-minus, to be totted up on a spreadsheet?

No, I don’t think she’s endorsing an accounting plan for self-care and self-esteem. During these 10 days, we are encouraged to look to our goals, our plans, our habits. We stick to what works. We notice what sorts of activities support us in our development of agency over our own wellbeing. Then do those more. When something doesn’t work, we look at it, and see how we can grow from that experience.

My favorite lesson was day 34, on recognizing that we don’t need to feel passion for something important all the time in order to keep doing it. What we have (or can have) is a sense of purpose. We form goals, which may be big and lofty and long-term. But progress toward a goal is inevitably made through mundane, ordinary activities: grocery shopping or food package ordering, laundering sports clothing and packing the gym bag, keeping track of winter cycling gear so it’s always handy, making those regular dates with friends to walk or cycle or swim or do yoga or have a cup of coffee. Consider these your inner postal carrier: remember, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”.

Nia is encouraging us to bring the mail, just keeping bringing the mail. Okay, Nia, I’m on it.

Sam: I often think about writing and exercise in the same way. They’re both things I need to regularly and sometimes they can both be difficult to motivate. In my life it’s interesting that some of the strategies that work for one also work for the other. On Day 34 Nia reminds us to think of exercise in terms of purpose not passion.

If you wait until you’re overcome with passion and motivation, you don’t get around to moving or writing nearly enough. Make it a habit. Schedule it.

On Day 38 Nia suggests other goals for seeing progress besides fat loss. Fat loss, she remind us, is not the only option for tracking progress. I know this. I really know this. But sometimes I need reminding. Thks Nia!

Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 11-20, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here.

Here’s our thoughts about days 11-20.

Sam:

The day that made me smile and laugh out loud was Day 13 on the naked truth, Part 1. Writes Nia, “We are not saving the world or being heroic or going “beast mode” or any other hyperbolic term plastered on a meme floating around social media intended to get you psyched up to hit the gym. Working out is a privilege. Have you ever thought about it that way?”

I do a lot of different fitness things. They’re my big indulgence in life. They’re good for me but that doesn’t make a better or more virtuous person. I am often struck by the moralizing language we use around both exercise and food. I’m working out, not saving the world. People say, “Oh, you’re so good.” But honestly I don’t do it out of duty. I do it because it’s fun (mostly). Feeling grateful that I have the time and money to do the fitness-y things that I do is motivational. Why sit around bored when I could be at the gym having fun?

The Naked Truth, Part 2 makes a point that we often make here on the blog. Food choices aren’t good and evil. You’re eating a brownie, not kicking a small child. You’re eating kale, not ending global warming. And so on.

Day 14 also makes an excellent point: Beware of always chasing more. I can fall into the trap and Nia’s thoughts are useful reminder that that’s a trap. Relentlessly chasing more and better, she writes, is a sure fire path to discontentment.

Days 16 and 17 are about eating slowly and mindfully and tracking food.

Days 19 and 20 are about perspective and stripping it all down to what really matters. We make it complicated, claiming this way is better than that way. Keto over vegan or CrossFit instead of running. Nia offers this instead: “Move your body frequently in ways you enjoy. Eat plenty of whole foods, while including room for your favourite not-super healthy foods too.”

Christine:

My personal favourites from this section are the days in which Shanks reminds us to get out of our heads and find actions to take that bring us toward increased fitness.

I especially like how she notes that fitness is about finding ways to live our best lives – whatever that means for us- rather than about attaining specific goals.

I am definitely all in for celebrating every ‘win,’ no matter the size, and I appreciate how she tries to pry open doors for us to think differently about food and about exercise. Anything that reduces food- and-exercise-related guilt is good by me.

However, I find some of the sections about letting go of our thinking habits to be a bit too glib. I would have liked her to say something along the lines of ‘this is a much bigger issue than I can get into fully here but I think you’ll benefit from starting to think along these lines.’ As it stands now, I feel like some huge challenges – for example, learning to stop thinking of food in moral terms- are brought down to ‘just stop’ when the process is much more complex.

I also think, though, that I am not the intended audience for these sections. I somehow escaped connecting food with ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and I have never felt guilting about eating anything. Clearly, letting go of those specific things won’t be a problem for me. 

Perhaps people who are firmly entrenched in those thinking patterns need to ease into the idea of changing them and this might be a good introduction. I would still prefer that she mention that there is more to it than the scope of these daily entries can cover.

While some days in this section weren’t for me, I did find a few days very thought-provoking and I am seeking ways to apply the ‘take action’ advice in my day-to-day.

Catherine:

Last week I was critical of the messages Nia was sending out. I think it was partly because I was feeling out of control, and Nia was talking about my options for gaining some control.

BUT I AM OUT OF CONTROL, NIA!

This week I’m taking in Nia’s words like a thirsty distance cyclist at a rest stop. I’m gulping, sipping, swishing them around, trying to extend the feeling of the relief they offer. Here’s what really resonated with me.

1) Just Stop Digging. When you’re in a hole, that is always something you can do. When I’m feeling really at sixes and sevens, with too much to do, too little sleep, an abundance of anxiety and paucity of focus, I can just stop for a minute or ten. I don’t have to send that email now, or sign up for a yoga class that I don’t have time for, or anything right now. There will be time for deliberation. But for now, just stop. Got it.

2) Lead with your Ass. Again, this is about doing an end-run around the Brain when the Brain is in too much of a tizzy to help you. Whether the task is getting out of bed, heading to the gym, responding to that pressing work email, or starting dinner, the brain is not always necessary. Just get the ass in gear sometimes, and the brain and heart will follow. Okay.

3) Activity is a Privilege. Yes, oh yes. Nia emphasizes this on several of the days. Having time, money, access, ability, etc. to go somewhere and move our bodies purposefully- just move them and nothing else—is a privilege that so many people don’t have. This isn’t meant to guilt us into movement or philanthropy or anything. It’s just truth. She calls it the Naked Truth. Yes, Nia, sometimes we have to be uncovered to learn what’s going on. Thanks.

Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 2-10, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Nia Shanks, 100 Day Reclaim

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Here’s our reflections on Days 2-10.

Christine:

My main goal with this book is to find ways to make it easier for my ADHD brain to manage the logistics of daily exercise. In Days 2-10 there are several questions that are helping me to get into the heart of that problem. 

I particularly liked Day 7’s focus on how your daily actions help you build the life you want. That is a reminder that I often need. ADHD makes it challenging for me to see how the pieces of a project add up to the whole. This is especially true for me with exercise since the tangible results can be a long time coming. It’s hard for me to remember to include something in my day when I can’t always see the overall purpose it is building to. 

It’s one thing to *know* that it will lead to feeling stronger over time but remembering that in the moments when I am planning my day is a huge challenge for me. 

Some of the information in Day 8 can help me with that issue though. Day 8 is about recognizing ‘wins’ of all sizes and if I can keep in mind the lessons of Day 2 – which were about focusing on the process rather than the results – I should be able to come up with a way to make my daily exercise a ‘win’ that I can focus on.

I’m finding it interesting to discover, though,  that some of the questions aren’t relevant to me at all. For example,  I don’t need to work on disconnecting my self-worth from my appearance and my goals are not connected to improving just a single area of my body. Shanks has advice on both of those fronts and while her questions are thought-provoking, I don’t need to put a lot of energy into those areas. 

I know that Catherine has some issues with how Shanks keeps using the concept of choice in this part of the book. I can completely see why framing things as ‘choosing who you will be today’ and ‘choosing your lens’ would get on someone’s nerves – there can be a slippery slope between the language of ‘choosing’ and the language of the law of attraction and victim blaming.

My mind didn’t go in that direction because in my coaching practice I get my clients to think about choices but in a different way that you might interpret it here. I use language around choice to help people work on areas where they feel dragged along and reminding them that they do have opportunities to choose can empower some people. However, it does need to be employed judiciously because, depending on someone’s background, it can feel dismissive or like you are blaming them for their situation, which is never helpful.

I have some issues with the ways she discusses goals and eating and weight loss and I feel like there are some value judgments in there but since I am not her audience for those topics, I suspect that she is generally doing what she can to bridge the gap for people who are used to thinking of exercise and fitness in terms of weight loss and visual results.

Catherine:

Nia spends a lot of time on days 2—10 talking about control. I’m reminded of Janet Jackson in the 80’s; likely that will be my tune of the day…

Here are some of the ideas she uses:

  • free yourself from constraints (of worrying about what others think)
  • take advantage of what you have control over—what you do today
  • you can choose to remove the colored glasses (of the way you’ve viewed food, exercise, etc.)
  • decide how you want to define who you are
  • every day is a new opportunity to choose who you will be

I get it that she’s suggesting that we would be better off if we had more agency and control over our actions and emotions and decisions. Maybe that’s even true (because my day job is philosophy, I think agency and control are complicated). What I don’t see is how she thinks we can get more control just by deciding. If that were true, life would look really different.

What I think we can do, and what I try to do in my life, is aim for more perspective and support around our goals. With perspective, we have a little space to look around and see some of those constraints Nia talks about. With support (from friends, family, therapists, coaches, and yes, Nia, too), we can achieve and celebrate some of those daily triumphs. I experience this every day and am grateful for my community. I can’t achieve fitness just by deciding. I can go to a yoga class or walk or ride with my friends, or supported by my community.

Sam:

I suspect Nia’s audience is younger and more angst ridden than me. Some of the lessons in days 2-10 are ones that I think I learned years ago. Yes, I’m doing this for me. I’m not exercising to impress or please others. I’m not focused on looks. I know we all make mistakes and I don’t think in all or nothing ways. So instead, my approach to days 2-10 was to think about the bits that did speak to me.

I liked the focus on thinking about the things you can control. So for example, don’t fixate on outcomes–whether that’s running 5 km in 25 minutes or benching 150 lbs–instead put your attention on areas you can control, such as doing the training required. We might not have as much control over the daily habits as we think. See Catherine’s point above. But we do have a lot more control over the daily habits than we do over the end result. That was Day 3, focus on the process, not the prize. I also liked Day 7, focus on daily actions which is a similar idea.

I also liked Day 8, on acknowledging small wins such as being neutral about food and getting out for a walk to manage stress, or something really simple like getting to bed on time. Today my small win is going to personal training before a workplace festive event. My hair might be messy but I’ll be in a better mood, I’m sure.

Are you reading along with us? What did you think so far?

body image · Book Reviews · fitness

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 1, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Sam:

I really like Nia Shanks. When this blog’s Christine mentioned that she’d bought her new book, my eyes and ears perked up. I often need a fitness challenge over the holidays. I’m scrambling to complete 300 workouts in 2019. Maybe this would help. We both said we’d write about it.

Here’s my thoughts on Day 1.

Day 1’s message is about changing your focus from looks to performance, from weight lost to weight lifted. Got it. Already with you on that. It’s been years since I’ve worked out with aesthetic goals in mind. I agree with Nia Shanks that for most of us, this is an important shift in thinking.

But but but… there’s also a line in her Day 1 setup that I hate. Shanks writes, “And guess what? It’s very possible the results you’ve desired all along will come as a side effect….”

Aha! Indirect strategies, get the thing you want by not aiming for it. We all know how this works. Get happiness not by looking for happiness but rather by finding some activity in which to immerse yourself. Then you’ll find happiness. Don’t look for love. Instead, find activities you enjoy for their own sake and maybe while there you’ll also find true love. I tell my students never to aim to get high grades. Instead, fall in love with philosophy, with hard problems, with the work, and then high grades might follow.

Some people offer this up with non-diet food strategies too. Don’t restrict calories. Instead, learn to eat intuitively and then you will find peace with food and possibly also lose weight. It’s the add-on bonus, benefit. Tracy has written before about un-diets that are really diets in disguise.

Except, you might also not lose weight by working out for the “right” reasons. You might work out really hard, get very strong, and still not have the body you were hoping for. In fact, I think that’s the more likely result. My worry about hoping that you’ll try for strength and get the body you always wanted as a side effect is that it still misleads people about the possibility of dramatic changes in the way we look. When we don’t get them we give up and lose out on all the health benefits of training for strength and endurance.

I’m hoping things get better in the days ahead! I’m sure it will.

Christine:

Sam and I are at different points when it comes to fitness. Her routines are solid and fitness is part of her daily reality. 

I’m still working on those things. Aside from my taekwondo classes, I struggle to make exercise a part of my week – let alone my days. I’m hoping the routine of reading and reflecting on this book will help make that more straightforward.

Given that we’re reading the same book, it’s no surprise that Sam and I ended up on the same page – literally and metaphorically. I’m also frustrated by the inclusion of the notion that looking better/losing weight may not be the goal but that it is a likely side benefit. However, given that Shanks is trying to convert her audience from one mindset to another, perhaps this is a stepping stone. 

I’m choosing to focus on this quote instead “Why then should you work out? To get stronger. To discover what your body is capable of doing.”

That’s a project I can get behind.

I’m interested in adding strength, power, and endurance. And I like exercising- once I get started. My obstacles are scheduling and logistics, and I’m hoping that working my way through the 100 Day Reset helps me overcome those.

Catherine:

Full disclosure: I just ordered the book yesterday, so haven’t read the first bit yet. But, I’ve read her stuff and also the intro parts from her site. And the message is clear: focus on strength and incremental goals (pay no attention to the person behind the curtain, just keep moving, nothing to see here) and: presto, change-o, your body will be changed in ways that you want (because you have been conditioned to want a certain sized and shaped body).

I’m genuinely torn between two interpretations of this: 1) Nia Shanks believes this, which would be disappointing, but understandable, as it’s an almost-irresistible message; 2) Nia Shanks doesn’t believe this, but she’s using the idea to get the book marketed and sold, and stealthily believes that once people focus on strength and agility and grace and physical accomplishment, they’ll see that the bodies they have are pretty darn awesome, and they’ll stop worrying about not having some other type body.

I’m going to proceed with interpretation 2). Despite that fact that I’m a feminist athlete and philosopher who writes and teaches about body-neutral fitness, I still suffer from the desire to have a different body from the one I currently reside in (no matter what state/shape/weight it’s in). There it is. But, those worries and yearnings disappear (really– as in “poof! gone!”) when I’m moving, lifting working my body.

So I’m in, Nia. Let’s do it.