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.


Book Reviews · fitness · running

Run like a girl, or ride too in Sam’s case

Look what I got in the mail! A book by the blog’s Mina Samuels, which includes interviews with me and with Kim.

You can read all of Mina’s posts on the blog here.

You should also go buy the book. I have been picking it up and browsing and reading and smiling ever since it arrived.

Book Reviews

Nat reviews Bikes Not Rockets: Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories

This awesome collection of 11 short stories answers the question that has always bothered me in science fiction “Why aren’t there any bicycles?”

This is the 5th book in the series published by Microcosm Publishing edited by Elly Blue.

When the opportunity came up to review this book for our blog Sam knew I was the feminist sci-fi reading and writing cyclist who is always on the lookout for a great read.

In the introduction Elly Blue outlines why when we build worlds and tell tales that we must actively engage in intersectionality. If we don’t think about all the axis of identity and oppression then we risk perpetuating the “isms” of the world we live in into our imagined worlds.

I have had the opportunity to go to WisCon, a feminist science fiction convention, the past two years.

WisCon and Functional Fitness

WisCon41 all the feels about disability

It was a wonderful experience but I also learned how some of my favourite genre stories are filled with unexamined ableism, sexism and racism. If we can build any world we want when writing why not create ones that challenge these inequalities?

As a fledgling writer I’ve set aside my apocalypse novel after realizing it was a story about privileged white people patting themselves on the back for figuring out how to live in the apocalypse the way many people around the world live today. Ya. That was an icky realization. I can do better. We can do better!

Elly Blue clearly knows how to get there and has sought out writers who are witty, funny and craft tender, engaging stories with characters I can relate to who take up the challenges in their lives while riding bicycles.

Novel cover art depicting a woman riding a bicycle through space. She wears a helmet and her pants are tucked into her socks. With toe clips, saddle bags and an oner the handlebar bag she clearly has spent many parsecs in the saddle.

Would you like a chance to win a copy of this fantastic book?

Like or comment before my Saturday post goes up at 6am EST and I’ll put your name into the draw.

The book was funded on kickstarter:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ellyblue/bikes-not-rockets-feminist-bicycle-science-fiction

And if you are looking for more great stories the buck the norms in engaging ways check out the full catalogue at microcosmpublishing.com

beauty · Book Reviews · fashion

Beauty, barbells, and blush for the gym: Sam has some complicated thoughts

I read this article, Make Up is the New Work Out Gear, with a sad feeling. Really? Really? Can’t there be some places (like the gym) where we are free from beauty’s demands and normative femininity?

I knew it was on the horizon thanks to the Clinique counter. I was there recently because of my own vexed relationship with make up. I’m all in favour of the fun stuff  (pink lips and sparkly eyes!) but I’m not such a big fan of foundation and cover up and blending (whatever that means).  I like my artifice to look like artifice. I like my hair best when it’s bright blonde or pastel pink. I never colour my undercut so you can always see the grey and silver. So it’s not about looking like I’m young, or in the case of make up, tanned and well-rested. But I just don’t want people asking me every winter if I’m sick. “No, I’m just pale. This is what white women without make up look like in January!” That’s what I want to scream.

Back to the Clinique counter where they were outfitting with me foundation and blush etc which, when I remember, I sometimes wear to work, grudgingly. They’re also selling “CliniqueFit”–a line of make up just for working out with the slogan “Life is a marathon. Look good running it.”  As usual, there’s a lot of it. There’s pre-workout this, post-workout that, not to mention the stuff you wear while actually working out. And it’s sold as an essential, not an optional thing, “essentials for your highly active life.” 

I get it. Who doesn’t want to look good?

See  our fellow former fitness blogger Caitlin. She writes Athletic women want cute clothes and shoes too! 

And my musings on looking good while working out, 

And, of course, I also think, hey, you do you. I’ll be over here in my ratty workout t-shirt, unbrushed hair, and gym relegated leggings wearing definitely zero make-up. You can wear your pricey matching Lululemon workout outfits with your bared midriff and your smokey eyes. It’s a big tent. Let many  flowers bloom.

Yet, it’s also not simply a matter of personal choice. Feminists know this. We don’t choose alone. We choose in a context. That doesn’t make the bottom line any different. I’m still a strong supporter of not judging others and of individual women picking their own way through this minefield. My sense, as I watch young women get ready to work out in the university change room, is that in these days of Instagram and fitness influencers, it’s getting harder to make the choice to not care.

I’m writing this blog post on holidays in Florida, where I am I here to ride my bike. But since there are only so many hours a day you can ride, I’ve brought some fun work along. I’m reviewing the book Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal by philosopher Heather Widdows. The Irish Times ran an article about her work:  Why are beauty standards becoming more onerous.

Ironically, she says, the beauty demands are greatest in cultures where freedom is highly valued. Thus she provides today’s idea: “As beauty norms get harder to attain, we all have less choice rather than more choice.”

So I am trying very hard here not to be a grumpy old ‘get off my lawn’ feminist. But I worry we’re all upping the ante and making it harder and harder to not look in the mirror and judge everything we do by appearance. I know for me too once I start doing a thing, it can be hard to stop. I laughed at Mina’s naked yoga toes story but it also rang true. I had my first ever pedicure in 2017 as a treat before the bike rally. I liked my pink toes. But when it came off, I wanted more. Now in the fall when I stop wearing toe nail polish my toenails look all worn and mangy to me. When a thing stops feeling optional, it starts feeling more like a duty and less like fun to me.

So what makes the ‘wearing make up to work out’ choice complicated isn’t just its effect on other women. That’s the issue of collectively raising the bar and making it more difficult for other women to opt out. But it’s also the effect on our own individual, future choices. Think carefully before you allow beauty into a realm where it wasn’t before. If you’re like me you’ll have a hard time in the future chasing it back out.

How about you? Do you wear making up while working out? Do you wear special make up for that purpose? How do you feel about your choice? (Let’s stay away from the choices that others make.)

Book Reviews

Books for fit feminists and friends!

There are parts of my Dean’s job that feel like work–tenure and promotion meetings, anyone?–important work, yes. But still work. And then there are times when I’m just thrilled to be associated with the College of Arts at Guelph and the thing that I’m doing just feels like fun, not like work at all.

As Dean I get to attend musical performances, art openings, and theatre.  Also, book launches. Last week we had our first big snow and I walked home and then bundled up to walk downtown to the Bookshelf/ebar  to watch two fantastic women colleagues in History launch their new books.

Full disclosure: I own signed copies and I’ve listened to them read from their books but I haven’t read them yet. Still, it strikes me that they’re books that readers of this blog would like very much.  In Thumbing a Ride: Hitchhikers, Hostels, and Counterculture in Canada Linda Mahood explores the rise and fall of hitch hiking in Canada. In Be Wise! Be Healthy!: Morality and Citizenship in Canadian Public Health Campaigns Catherine Carstairs and her co-authors examine the history of public health in Canada. These books connect with our themes of adventure and travel, as well as health education and healthism.

Looking for holiday gifts? All of your friends already own Fit at Midlife? Then, consider these titles!

Oh, oh, oh. I also love that they had non-alcoholic punch at their lunch. Thanks Linda and Catherine! (I’m hoping to get them both on board as bloggers too. Wish me luck.)

Book Reviews · fitness · trackers

Trackers, Vox, and chilling feminist fiction

If you’ve got a thing about tracking devices (hi Tracy!) there’s a feminist distopian novel you might want to read. Or listen to. I went for the audio book. Since reading it I’ve been unable to look at the slim attractive devices on friends’ wrists quite the same way.

I picked it up afer reading this artice in the New York Times, How Feminist Dystopian Fiction Is Channeling Women’s Anger and Anxiety.

From the article, “In Christina Dalcher’s recent debut novel, “Vox,” an ultraconservative political party gains control of Congress and the White House, and enacts policies that force women to become submissive homemakers. Girls are no longer taught how to read or write; women are forbidden to work or hold political office, or even express themselves: They are forced into near silence after the government requires all women to wear bracelets that deliver a shock if they exceed an allotted daily word count.”

Instead of steps the tracker counts words. 100 a day are permitted. It’s chilling.

Is it a good book? It’s a good audio book. I’m never sure how well that translates that plain words. But you might feel a bit differently snapping a tracker on your wrist after reading it.

Have you read it? What do you think?

Vox
Cover of VOX, a novel, by Christina Dalcher
Book Reviews · fitness

Please review our book!

I feel a bit like a broken record these days asking people to rank and rate our book. But the thing is reviews matter. Books that have more reviews, good reviews, are more likely to appear as recommended titles for people who use the biggest of the online book retailers, Amazon. So, please do us a big favour and review our book. See Why reviews matter.
Even if you didn’t purchase your book from Amazon, your review will help ensure others find out about Fit at Mid-Life
How to review Fit at Mid-Life:
  • Click https://www.amazon.com/Fit-Mid-Life-Feminist-Fitness-Journey/dp/1771641673
  • Scroll down to the Customer Reviews Section
  • Take a look at the existing reviews, and click on “Helpful” below any positive reviews you find helpful
  • Click on “Write a Customer Review
  • Select your star rating
  • Write a few words on what you liked (or loved) about Fit at Mid-Life

You can also review our book at GoodReads. We have more reviews here and they’re fun to read I think. I especially like the review that described us as having “that peculiarly Canadian style of being earnest, educated, judgmental, ideological, and yet both endearing and inspiring.”

A black and white photo of Sam and Tracy’s book on a window ledge. The window is stained glass.