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.

Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 91-100, 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.

Read about Days 51-60 here.

Read about Days 61-70 here.

Read about Days 71-80 here.

Read about Days 81-90 here.

Samantha:

Nia saves some of her advanced messaging for the end. I like that approach. Day 91 tells us that pursuing our fitness journey won’t be easy. Also, “overnight success” is an illusion and we need to be in it for the long non-sexy haul. Nia advises us not to be afraid of putting in the time and the work. This goes counter to lots of things we say here on the blog about small change and loving what you do but I think Nia is right actually even though it’s a harder message to hear. For me these days with my knee, I’m realizing that I need to do a lot of non-fun things and my focus is often on grit and determination rather than pleasure.

Day 93’s message is about another tough emotion, fear. It’s okay to be afraid. But you need courage to do the thing anyway. You needn’t be fearless, says Nia. But you need to be afraid and act anyway. Again, there’s some hard messages here about what it takes to reach your goals. It won’t be easy but that’s okay.

Don’t compare. That’s really a reminder message on Day 94.

Like Christine I loved the idea of a palate cleanse when what you’re doing is no longer working. Change it up and try something new. That’s the Day 95 message.

On Day 96 we’re asked to think about the shortness of life as motivation. We’ve only got one kick at this can. Nia’s use of death as motivation is interesting. I think it works for some people but not others.

There’s more tough love on Days 99 and 100 which talk about change being hard but persevering anyway. This is the sort of talk that might have had you putting the book aside if you encountered it in the early days but by end of the 100 Day Reclaim you’re likely more ready for this kind of message. Also, I think Nia is right. It is hard.

Overall, I loved this book and would definitely share with friends looking for their own fitness journey,

In fact, I think I’d give them them this 3 book set!

Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey

Run Like a Girl 365 Days a Year: A Practical, Personal, Inspirational Guide for Women Athletes

The 100-Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as It Should Be

I’ve really enjoyed this process of reading along with Catherine and Christine and sharing our reflections together.

Christine:

This final section of the 100 Day reclaim is a good reflection on the rest of the contents of the book. In fact, I think that one section of Day 96 summarizes her whole approach, reminding the reader to ‘Put your focus, energy and limited time where they matter most’ and to shield ourselves from the other noise that might interrupt our fitness journeys.

In Days 91-100, Shanks is reminding us that this is not an overnight project, that there will be challenging parts, and that it is okay to change things to help make them more appealing or more do-able.

In Days 91 & 99, she reminds us that change is hard and that our mindset can help us get through our challenges. In Day 91, she reminds us to manage our expectations and to be aware of our patterns so we recognize familiar challenges and find our way past them. In Day 99, she coaxes us to take a long view and to try and see how doing something challenging today will help us in the future.

Day 92’s ‘It’s okay to change direction’ gives us permission to make changes in our plans without feeling like we are somehow failing. Personally, my ADHD loves to interpret a change in plans as a failure or as being lazy, so I particularly enjoyed this reminder that change is often the right way to proceed. I found it fit in really well with Day 95’s advice to do a ‘Palate Cleanse’ and mix things up a bit when our routines are getting stale.

I really loved Day 93’s theme ‘It’s not about being fearless.’ In my experience, a lot of fitness experts underestimate the intimidation factor in trying new activities and the logistics of participating in fitness classes, strength training and the like. Her reminder that your apprehension can be overcome is very valuable to me and it reminded me of one of my favourite quotes (shown in the image below)

In Days 94 & 96, we’re advised not to use comparison as a measuring tool and to keep our eyes on the big picture, solid reminders for a long term project that is supposed to be about doing things that serve ourselves well.

Day 97’s ‘Regain Control’ was very useful, reminding us that we have power over the choices we make and that we can choose flexible plans that give us room to make mistakes and learn from them. This section reminded me about how, after reading an article about this word use a few years ago, I decided to stop thinking of ‘trying to get control’ of my efforts and instead aim to ‘take charge.’ Since I am comfortable taking charge but things can be out of my control, I find it very empowering to see opportunities to ‘take charge’ of my choices. A minor difference, perhaps, but still useful for me.

Day 100 – PersevereThis was a perfect note on which to end the book and it was a terrific connection point for me. Perseverance is one of the tenets of taekwondo and it is a principle I embrace fully. I think my ADHD serves me well in this area because, while I struggle with consistency and with seeing how my current efforts will add up to the result I seek, I am endlessly willing to start over and keep trying different approaches to achieve the result I am looking for. For me, starting again is not discouraging, it’s hopeful, ‘Maybe this time I’ll get it right!’ and having a reminder to apply that to my fitness efforts outside of TKD was terrific.

So far, I have worked my way to becoming a 3rd degree blackbelt in TKD, by persevering, perhaps I can become a ‘blackbelt’ in other areas of fitness, too.

The 100 Day Reclaim by Nia Shanks has really served me well and I am very glad that I read it. I have some more work to do to apply the principles that I need but now I have a clearer idea about how to proceed and my reading has revealed some of the tricky thinking habits that were in my way. While the messaging in this book wasn’t always a direct fit for me, I think it does a great job of reaching out to a wide audience and I think it will do a lot of good in the world.

I have really enjoyed this group practice of reading and reflecting on this book and I have gotten as much out of seeing Sam and Catherine’s responses to the material as I did out of my own reading. We are all at different places in our fitness journeys and we all have different approaches to maintaining/improving our fitness, it’s been cool to see what resonated (or didn’t resonate) with each of us.

I hope we can choose another book to read together soon.

Catherine:

Saying goodbye is hard. I’m terrible at it. When I visit friends and family and it’s time to go, I announce my upcoming leaving, stick around at least 30 more minutes, repeat my thanks and farewells multiple times, and still fail to head out the door. Finally, I go, but usually because I’m on the verge of being late for the next thing.

So it is with Nia’s book. I’ve really enjoyed settling in and getting to know her approach to self-care, her ways of motivating and speaking truth to us. In days 91—100, it’s time to go out on our own, and Nia wants to prepare us for that journey. She reminds us that achieving our health/fitness-to-us goals won’t be easy, we may be scared along the way, and that some day, we’re all gonna die (she’s up front about this on day 96).

But Nia balances out the harsh reality reminders with strategies for handling rough patches: changing directions is always an option, especially when we’re feeling stuck. In fact, she recommends an activity palate cleanse as good on its own merits. Last spring break (yes, I look forward to it even though I’ve been a professor for 26.5 years) I tried out two new and different activities, taking parkour and aerial silks yoga classes. The first one inspired me, and the second one made me feel claustrophobic (and a bit queasy, to be honest). But I felt stimulated and proud of myself for going out there and trying something new. A change really can be as good as a rest.

Nia saves the best messages for last. Yes, oh yes, success comes in so many colors, and in so many moments. I think this is the biggest boon she has given us. Here is what success looks like in my life: making it to yoga class when I’m soooo tired, but know that I’ll feel better after; recognizing that I just can’t make it to that yoga class, so I go home and rest, doing a video yoga practice before bed; trying out a class with a new teacher, even though I’m worried about the level; getting enough sleep (a non-negotiable need); bringing my lunch to work, even when it’s unexciting, so I’ll have fed myself; I could go on.

These are not stunning feats of JLo/Shakira performance. They are stunning feats of ordinary self-care. They work individually, each time we do them, and they work over time, through perseverance—Nia’s last word to us. Through perseverance, we develop stamina, resilience, kindness for ourselves, and maybe some wisdom. Thank you for sharing your hard-earned wisdom with us, Nia.

Suppose we decided to do another joint read/review? Do you have a book you’d recommend? Suggestions welcome.

We’re thinking about this one…The Joy of Movement: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage

advice · Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 81-90, 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.

Read about Days 51-60 here.

Read about Days 61-70 here.

Read about Days 71-80 here.

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Catherine

As often happens, Nia’s observations and advice are eerily well-timed. Today I’m finishing up a big work committee project, and this week I’m wrapping up my hitch in a leadership role in my church. This means a lot of things that HAVE to be done NOW. It also means some looking back with regret that I didn’t do this or that, or I wish I had done something differently. With respect to the HAVE-TO-NOW items on my to-do list, we have day 83: “feeling like it” isn’t a requirement. With work, with physical activity, with cooking foods that feel healthy-to-me, I’m not always humming with inspiration. No. But that doesn’t mean that those things aren’t important to me. They are—they were when I agreed to them or planned them, and they are now. It’s just that life’s many vagaries and ups and downs are happening at the same time. So, am I going to finish that last letter and go to my yoga class today? I hope so (and if I don’t it certainly won’t be Nia’s fault.. )

Hand-in-hand with day 83 is the advice of day 84: be ready for expectation bias. We’ve all been there: we sit at the desk, the yoga mat, the bike saddle, the cockpit of the kayak, and…. Nothing. There’s no juice, no flow, no feeling of gusto. So we (meaning I) conclude that something must be wrong. Here’s the thing: it’s not. It’s that life thing again. This absolutely bears repeating and rephrasing and repeating again.

Day 87—Fast or Slow?—is my favorite of this section. When I’m feeling pressured or tired (or enthusiastic or strong), my default setting is fast—well, as fast as I can. But “as fast as I can” isn’t sustainable. Yes, to meet that looming deadline, we push hard. To get up that last hill, we push hard. But we are not supposed to push hard all the time. Trainers tell us this, our mothers tell us this—it must be true. Thinking about what approach—fast or slow—we want to do today, or this moment, or this set, or this mile, or for this song is what Nia is suggesting. As always, slowing down and taking time to figure out what we want and what we need (which aren’t always the same thing—see day 83) will help make the decision much clearer.

I would like to write more about the other days, but I’ve got loads of work this week and some hard deadlines (including the one for this post). So I’ll close with following day 85—Play with what you have. I have to stop now. But see you next week for the triumphant conclusion of Nia’s book!

Sam

Day 82 is about the past. You can’t change the past but you don’t need to let it ruin your future either. Nia writes, “Improving your health and level of fitness, when distilled to its basic elements, is about eating nutritious foods most of the time and moving your body frequently and consistently.” But it’s not that simple and it doesn’t feel that easy. We know what we should do but we aren’t always moved to do it. Why is that? Part of the answer comes from our past experiences. Our past shaped our views of food, body image, weight, and fitness. There’s a lot to unravel there. Nia suggests that the past doesn’t define us and that we can choose differently starting today. She says, in an upbeat tone, you can always construct a new lifestyle. I’m not so sure about that. I think how hard it is to just ‘choose differently’ depends on the kind of childhood you had.

You don’t need to feel like it, says Nia on Day 83. We do lots of stuff we don’t feel like doing. Before I wrote this blog post I cleaned my bike and paid the electricity bill. I can assure that I didn’t feel like doing either of those things. I’d just gotten home from work. It’s been a long day. I’m hungry. But somehow, before I had my broccoli soup and grilled cheese (fancy weekday cooking!) I wiped the mud off my frame (chain cleaning to come later) and logged onto to my banking app and paid bills. I didn’t expect to feel good before doing these tasks. I just did them. Some days fitness is like that.

Fast or slow? On Day 87 Nia discusses the choice between fast and furious, change all your habits at once, fitness efforts versus slow, steady, gradual change. What I like is that Nia doesn’t assume slow and steady is better. Slow and steady, small changes suit a lot of people but I like that she recognizes that some people do better going big. The year I quit smoking, started to commute to work by bike, and learned to lift weights was a very big all-in year. There were some enormous changes in my life. They didn’t all stick but that year did set me up for a confidence about what my body could do. I still think it was a positive thing. I have the same fond feelings for the two year count down to turning 50 that I shared with Tracy and documented in our book Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey. Riding, rowing, running, soccer, CrossFit, and Aikido all at once. That was a lot. There was nothing small about that year. But I am happy to think of these things in waves and I loved that very big two year period.

Christine

As you can guess from my previous comments, there are many things that I love about this book. However, one of the things I love the most is how Shanks keeps the promises that she makes to her readers.

This promised to be a book about digging into your underlying mental challenges with developing a fitness routine and Shanks has really delivered for me.

She continues to deliver in Days 81-90 with an exploration of ways that our feelings and expectations can get in the way.

In Day 81 ‘Look Then Laugh’ she reminds us that it is okay to acknowledge that things sometimes go awry, despite our best efforts. We might as well be amused when that happens because there is no point in beating ourselves up about it. This kind of reminds me of that FB meme that encourages us to view our lives like a book or movie and to shout ‘Plot Twist!’ When things go wrong.

Day 82 ‘You Can’t Alter The Past’ – I really loved how this section acknowledges how our past affects our current perceptions and how we can become aware of what is happening and seek to change it. When I’m coaching people, I refer to this type of thing as ‘the stories we tell ourselves’ and encourage them to become aware of the stories and see which ones they want to keep. (That makes it sound incredibly simple – it is not- but it is the underlying principle of the practice.)

Day 83 – ‘Feeling Like It Is Not a Requirement’ – The fact that I didn’t need to feel like doing something in order to do it was HUGE revelation for me at one point in my life. I tell my writing coaching clients this all the time and I like the reminder here that we can apply this principle to fitness. Even when you have picked a fitness activity you enjoy, you won’t always feel like getting started but if you do it anyway, in whatever capacity you can at the moment, you will be happy you did. I like how she compares fitness activities to brushing your teeth – that’s always my go to comparison, too. We rarely skip brushing our teeth, no matter how little we feel like doing it, so it makes a good base-level example for this type of approach.

Day 84 – ‘Expectation Bias’ – I appreciated that this section reminded us that our expectations of a fitness session can affect the results (and our enjoyment.) I think we can all use the reminder that expectations colour what we experience. For me, personally, this gets tricky because of my oft-mentioned challenges with self-perception. I have to remind myself to balance that ‘try it anyway’ with the yoga advice ‘meet yourself where you are’ so I don’t judge myself too harshly for what I can or can’t do on a given day. This isn’t a problem with Shanks’ advice, just a moment of self-reflection!

Day 85 – ‘Play With What You Have’ – This section was a solid way to keep ourselves from falling into the ‘if only’ trap and, instead, to focus on what we have available to us in the moment and make the most of it. I like the playing cards metaphor she uses here and I will probably adapt it for my coaching practice. I often have to coax people to match their expectations to their reality (i.e. if you only have 5 minutes a week to write, don’t be hard on yourself when you can’t produce a novel in a month!) so the more ways I can explain that, the better.

Day 86 – ‘Change The Rhetoric’ – I really liked how she advises us to remember that getting to exercise/focus on fitness is a privilege and a luxury and that workouts do not make us warriors or heroes. Those ‘epic person’ ideas can be useful to a point but they can also get in our way and give us a harsh view of those who do not (or cannot) do what we can.

Day 87 – ‘Fast or Slow’ – This was a good reminder that there are different approaches to fitness goals and that we all need to pick the kind that serves us best. In Day 87, she focuses on the difference between going ‘all in’ with fitness and eating changes all at once versus taking an incremental approach. Of course, there are many combinations of those practices that will work differently for different people.

Day 88 – ‘Self-Fulfilling Prophecy’ – For me, this section works very neatly with Day 84’s ‘Expectation Bias,’ Shanks is basically saying that by declaring what we can or cannot do before we even try it, we limit what might be possible.

I have seen this happen when I help students in Taekwondo (and I sometimes fall victim to it myself but I try to catch myself quickly.) Sometimes, people decide in advance that they will never be able to do a push-up/land a punch/ break a board and then they psych themselves out of being able to do it. As a step toward change, I try to encourage people to put the word ‘yet’ at the end of their pronouncements ‘I can’t break a board…yet.’ – it opens the possibility of being able to do it in the future.

When students say ‘I just can’t do…’ and there is no physical limitation on why they cannot, they end up grunting and groaning through any attempt and then they give up. That really doesn’t serve them well and it keeps them from learning how to improve.

Day 89 – ‘Friendly Reminders’ – Days 81-90 have been full of friendly reminders for me but this section really summed up a lot of especially good content from earlier in the book and this seemed like a good time to circle back to it. Reminders that you don’t have to ‘earn’ your food by exercising, that fitness practices should make you feel good about yourself, and that you can focus on mastering the basics first, were all very welcome.

Day 90 – ‘Own Your Personal Records’ – Ah, this is another time when my perception of my own efforts gets in my way! Shanks is advising us to celebrate our milestones (including milestones related to consistency) without putting any conditions on them.

So, she wants us to stop saying “I know it’s only a light weight but…’ or ‘I know it’s just 10 days but…’ and, instead, celebrate that we have had a victory of any sort.

I know that I do this with my own fitness victories and, for me, it ties into that whole ADHD thing of not being able to judge how hard I am working. So, I don’t want to make a big deal of something that is actually less that what I could do. Even though I might be proud of a victory, when I tell others about it, I might undersell it a little in case my perception of my effort is off.

I have to give this a bit more thought and see how I can take a more self-supportive approach.


Once again, I got a lot out of this section of the book and it has given me a lot to consider putting into practice. Even though I use a lot of this same advice in my coaching sessions, it is interesting and useful to see it applied in a fitness context and I look forward to seeing how I can make it work for me.