What am I reading? I just finished two beautiful books. Lots to say about both books but not here, not now. I will say that they pack a pretty big emotional punch.
I’m also listening to two books– Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots and Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (which is wonderfully read by Meryl Streep). Thanks to Rob for the birthday gift of Hench and Cate for the Tom Lake recommendation.
Next up, it’s more by Claire Keegan and a book on writing for popular audiences that’s been recommended. Also, I was happy to get Emma Donoghue’s new novel as a birthday gift.
So that’s my list. It’s kind of my last blast of summer reading before the pace of the university terms ramps up. Once mid-September hits, I’m still reading fiction but at nowhere near my summer pace.
Here on the blog we have some feminist fitness themed books to recommend, if you’re looking for blog-themed reading suggestions.
◙ Recently Cate reviewed Staying in the Game by Pamela Meyer. I’ve ordered it and I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say about leadership and change.
Back in 2016, I did a two part interview with Pamela Meyer about returning to ski racing at mid life. Over the past eight years, she has gone from dipping her toe back into racing after more than two decades away from it to passionately competing in amateur races at an advanced level. She is a four-time NASTAR national gold medalist in her division, and also competes with the Wilmot Mountain Masters and Rocky Mountain Masters, where she won her first race in her age group last season.
As Meyer has trained, raced, triumphed, panicked, focused, been injured, recovered, lost and won, she has pondered what fully immersing into this kind of passion can teach us about other parts of our lives. Now, she’s drawn on her expertise as a leadership and agility thought leader to write “Staying in the Game — a guide for anyone who yearns to live with joy and purpose, in sports, in life and in work.
I met Pamela 21 years ago, when we were working on our PhDs together. I’ve always been awed and inspired by the way she dives into everything she does with playful intensity. She’s written before about the need for play at work (and in life), and established herself as a global speaker and innovator on agility at work. This new book integrates many of her earlier ideas into a deceptively simple guide to finding, seeking and fully engaging in the things that give you the most joy, meaning and impact in your life.
Staying in the Game is nominally pitched at the business and leadership audience that Meyer engages with most in her work, and some of the language might not immediately feel like it applies to an everyday desire to feel like we are living as fully as we want to. But for me — as a person approaching a milestone birthday, and who coaches people every day who are striving to feel like they are living in the way they are truly supposed to — this book offers a lot of practical guidance to explore what matters most to you most as individuals, how to develop the focus you need to get there, and how to keep learning and adapting.
The core concept of the book is about “Embodied, Agile Leadership” (EAL), which she defines as: Embodied — Attuned and engaged with your whole self; Agile — Able to quickly assess, learn and adapt to changing conditions; and Leadership — Able to effectively respond to both challenges and opportunities. The concepts do apply to leadership of all kinds — in business or in trying to change the world — but they equally make sense for anyone who is trying to set and achieve goals of any kind. Meyer tells her own ski racing story — and those of competitors in their 70s and 80s – throughout the book to illustrate the possibilities of true embodied awareness, self-reflection, and adjustment to what is true now and in the moment.
The book does not focus on aging, but draws light lines between the need for adaptation in any context and the inevitable adaptation we need to embrace as we age and our bodies change. And despite Meyer’s own incredible achievements in ski racing (and work), the book is not aimed just at high performance or elite level sport — it’s an accessible guide to exploring what gives you meaning (or happiness) and how to embrace it.
“Staying in the Game” is shaped into three sections — essentially, finding your own purpose or goal (your “game”), the dynamics of being in that space, and then “staying and playing for live and livelihood.” The book is part theory, part inspiration, part cheerleader and part self-help. Each chapter introduces a key concept, intertwined with storytelling from the worlds of business, ski racing and Meyer’s own embodied experience, and then concludes with some self-guided journaling and self-coaching prompts and exercises.
Meyer never implies that ‘anyone can do anything,” but overlays the book with a fundamental optimism about the potential of letting go of your own self-limiting beliefs and finding community and connections that enable and support you to try the things that scare you. One of her core messages — which applies to so many of the topics we engage with on this blog — is that we’re successful in sport, fitness, life challenges and work when we prepare fully, plan lightly, and adapt to what life offers us.
I will be recommending Staying in the Game to my coaching clients who are looking for an easy-to-follow framework that gets underneath motivation, fear and letting go. If you’re curious too, you can buy the book on the usual big retailers or better yet, order it from a small local bookstore, like Queen Books in my neighbourhood.
(And thanks to Pamela for putting her big heart and brain into the world).
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede-Desmarais, who lives in Toronto, never skis and always looks for the deeper meaning.
The Tour de France Femme starts Sunday, July 23; read the book by Kathryn Bertine, who fought to bring the race back for women. Inspiring athletes and adventurers, past and present, make up my summer reading list. And one musician biography, for those who remember the ’80s.
Athlete and activist Kathryn Bertine wrote Stand: A Memoir on Activism, and she lives in Tucson! Although this book is a couple of years old, Bertine’s message is critical for anyone trying to change patriarchal systems, also known as “we’ve always done it this way.” Bertine gathered a small team of professional female athletes to challenge the Tour de France organizers, gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures on a global petition, and worked behind the scenes to get to the 8-day stage race we will cheer for next week. There’s still work to be done to make it 21 days to equal the men’s race.
Kathrine Switzer is Marathon Woman, and she shares her story of becoming the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and the fight to include women in the race. A classic book combining feminist activism with the hard work of marathon training.I love hiking and biking in northern Arizona and Ladies of the Canyon, by Lesley Poling-Kempes, shows what it was like to hike and ride horses through this region in the mid-19th century. The author took a deep dive into the archives and uncovered stories of women who traveled into canyons and across Monument Valley. Women with long skirts and cinched waists ride cowboy style through the desert heat, creating lives for themselves in the wild west.
The Forgotten Botanist: Sara Plummer Lemmon’s Life of Science and Art, by Wynne Browne, tells another adventure story from the 1800s. Sara taught herself botany and explored the southwest with her husband. She scaled cliffs and crossed deserts to collect and name new plant species in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Mexico. She was also an activist in women’s suffrage and forest conservation. The famous cycling climb in Tucson is up to the top of Mount Lemmon, named after Sara who was the first white woman to reach the peak (hiking, not cycling).
In Why Sinéad O’Connor Matters, Allyson McCabe, looks at the life, music, and complex public image of the artist. After a childhood of family abuse, a teacher/nun introduced O’Connor to the guitar. She took control of her own music before she was 20 years old, and famously criticized the Catholic church for hiding child abuse (denied at the time, and later proved to be true). Her song writing and voice won awards, but popular opinion often turned against her. McCabe argues O’Connor was held to a different standard than the male musicians of her time. Read while listening to “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Mary Reynolds writes and bikes in Tucson, AZ, and is writing a book “The Quake That Drained the Desert.”
I was reading it at the same time as Nat’s partner Michel was attempting a 1000 km ride. I blogged about not being tempted by either option. But obviously I’m a bit fascinated by people who have this in them.
The book was published this spring but the ride was in 2018.
Here’s the basic facts.
Who: Jenny Graham, 38 year old Scottish endurance cyclist and adventurer
What: 18,000 miles, 16 countries, 124 days
If you don’t want to read the full book, you can read Bicycling magazine’s short version here or the Guardian’s account here.
In light of Nat’s post about providing support for Michel’s ride, it won’t be a surprise that for Jenny Graham’s ride which was required by Guinness to be unsupported in order to count, the main challenges were logistical.
There were broken bike parts, lots of sleeping in ditches and bus shelters, googling coffee and breakfast near me, unexpected menstrual needs, charging of all the equipment, and many opportunities to persuade well meaning strangers that it was okay for a woman to ride alone at night.
Interestingly for us more everyday riders there was also no angst about speed or fitness.
As with Buhring’s book there’s a lot of racing to the next stopping point and not so much introspection. There’s also a lot less detail than you might expect about the places Graham is riding through. We get to know Canada through Tim Hortons and her fear of bears and Australia through long straight roads, winter riding conditions, snakes and kangaroos. The section on riding through Russia was like an advertisement not to do that with lots of near death on the roads.
The book really is a head down story of the logistics of managing this sort of ride. Yet somehow you get inside Graham’s head and Graham’s story is pretty engaging.
It did make me think more about some extended bikepacking trips but it also hammered home for me that I like riding with my head up and seeing the places I’m riding. Also, both books and Michel’s trip which I followed along with Nat on social media, made me realize how much sleep matters to me. There was a lot of talk about sleep deprivation in the book along with accounts of mini naps and drifting off the road. I knew she made it and even so I found it hard to read.
The book is gripping–i read it pretty quickly–but it’s not the adventure book I’d imagined.
You can read the history of the record Jenny Graham holds here.
One of the pleasures of the end of my semester is looking over the vast number of books I have (hello, pandemic online shopping!) that I haven’t read yet, and teeing up those for close-to-immediate consumption. You might like some of them, and you might also have recommendations for us, so please feel free to post any suggestions in the comments.
A book I just got in the mail is called Fat Girls Hiking, by Summer Michaud-Skog. It’s got tips and advice and stories and pictures. As a person who doesn’t love hiking but loves nature, I thought it might be useful. Will report back.
Public interest in wellness is driven by two opposing philosophies of health that cycle into and amplify each other: restoration, where people use natural health products to restore themselves to prior states of wellness; and enhancement, where people strive for maximum wellness by optimizing their body’s systems and functions.
Oh yes. Please go on…
The concept of wellness entrenches an individualist model of health as a personal responsibility, when collectivist approaches would more readily serve the health and well-being of whole populations.
My thoughts exactly! I love it when I agree with a book before even reading it… 🙂 Seriously, though, the so-called wellness culture is pervasive and often suspect. I’m looking forward to reading what Derkatch has to say.
Climate change is most definitely a Feminist Issue. The book All We Can Save: truth, courage and solutions for the climate crisis is an anthology of hopeful essays, stories and poems, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson. It also came out n 2021, and I bought it then. Now seems like high time to crack it open and see what it has to say. I can use both some good news and also nudges to become more active in helping take care of/save the planet.
Dear Readers, what are you reading this summer? Audio/kindle/paperback/first edition/graphic novel/something new? I’d love to hear what you’re starting, what you’re finishing, what you liked, and what you didn’t.
Our books club is starting soon! Do you have your copy?
“The co-host of Maintenance Phase and creator of Your Fat Friend equips you with the facts to debunk common anti-fat myths and with tools to take action for fat justice.
The pushback that shows up in conversations about fat justice takes exceedingly predicable form. Losing weight is easy—calories in, calories out. Fat people are unhealthy. We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Fat acceptance “glorifies obesity.” The BMI is an objective measure of size and health. Yet, these myths are as readily debunked as they are pervasive.
In “You Just Need to Lose Weight,” Aubrey Gordon equips readers with the facts and figures to reframe myths about fatness in order to dismantle the anti-fat bias ingrained in how we think about and treat fat people. Bringing her dozen years of community organizing and training to bear, Gordon shares the rhetorical approaches she and other organizers employ to not only counter these pernicious myths, but to dismantle the anti-fat bias that so often underpin them.
As conversations about fat acceptance and fat justice continue to grow, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” will be essential to ensure that those conversations are informed, effective, and grounded in both research and history.”
“When the filmmaker Azza Cohen asked her grandmother to star in a documentary, she knew she wanted to tell a story of an older person not looking back at her life but forward. Cohen’s short film “FLOAT!” follows her 82-year-old bubbe as she checks off one of the items on her bucket list—learning how to swim.”
Read an extract – ‘Hierophany’ – from the Sunday Times bestseller Enchantment: Reawakening Wonder in an Exhausted Age, by Katherine May.
“”Follow along as PEARL iZUMi athlete, Marley Blonsky takes on her first century ride in the Gravel Graceland of Emporia Kansas.
I always felt like an imposter, having never actually ridden a century in my entire cycling career. I set the goal of completing the Unbound Gravel 100 and wasn’t entirely certain I could do it. While maintaining a 10mph doesn’t sound that hard, I really like to take breaks while riding – Marley.”
What are you listening to 🎧, reading📚, or watching 📺 this weekend?
Equal, a Spotify playlist in honour of International Women’s Day
Here at the blog we’re reading and reviewing “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon. Pick up a copy and join in. We’d love to know what you think. Some purchasing options are here.
Lori Campbell writes “Hey friends outside of the land commonly known as Canada – did you know you can now watch the first 3 episodes of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge for free on YouTube??
Check it out!”
We interviewed Lori about Canada’s Ultimate Challenge here.
“The pushback that shows up in conversations about fat justice takes exceedingly predicable form. Losing weight is easy—calories in, calories out. Fat people are unhealthy. We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Fat acceptance “glorifies obesity.” The BMI is an objective measure of size and health. Yet, these myths are as readily debunked as they are pervasive. In “You Just Need to Lose Weight,” Aubrey Gordon equips readers with the facts and figures to reframe myths about fatness in order to dismantle the anti-fat bias ingrained in how we think about and treat fat people. Bringing her dozen years of community organizing and training to bear, Gordon shares the rhetorical approaches she and other organizers employ to not only counter these pernicious myths, but to dismantle the anti-fat bias that so often underpin them. As conversations about fat acceptance and fat justice continue to grow, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” will be essential to ensure that those conversations are informed, effective, and grounded in both research and history.”
“What would it be like to live in a well-rested world? Far too many of us have claimed productivity as the cornerstone of success. Brainwashed by capitalism, we subject our bodies and minds to work at an unrealistic, damaging, and machine‑level pace –– feeding into the same engine that enslaved millions into brutal labor for its own relentless benefit. In Rest Is Resistance, Tricia Hersey, aka the Nap Bishop, casts an illuminating light on our troubled relationship with rest and how to imagine and dream our way to a future where rest is exalted. Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially not for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us. Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it asserts our most basic humanity. We are enough. The systems cannot have us. Rest Is Resistance is rooted in spiritual energy and centered in Black liberation, womanism, somatics, and Afrofuturism. With captivating storytelling and practical advice, all delivered in Hersey’s lyrical voice and informed by her deep experience in theology, activism, and performance art, Rest Is Resistance is a call to action, a battle cry, a field guide, and a manifesto for all of us who are sleep deprived, searching for justice, and longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of Grind Culture.”
“For Petrzela, fitness is a social justice issue. She argues that the fight for a more equitable exercise culture will be won only by revolutionizing fitness culture at its core, making it truly inclusive for all bodies in a way it has never been. Examining venues from the stage of the World’s Fair and Muscle Beach to fat farms, feminist health clinics, radical and evangelical college campuses, yoga retreats, gleaming health clubs, school gymnasiums, and many more, Fit Nation is a revealing history that shows fitness to be not just a matter of physical health but of what it means to be an American.”
by Stacy T. Sims with Selene Yeager. This is the follow-up book to Sims Roar, and focuses specifically on physically active women approaching or in menopause. I was interested in this book after I saw numerous women in triathlete and cycling groups singing its praises. Before I go further into the review I want to note that I found the book covertly fat-phobic and would not recommend it to anyone with disordered eating (or in recovery) or to anyone who just generally doesn’t want to be told repeatedly that maintaining or improving body composition is a key reason to remain active. I’d also add that the book discusses only women, and does not recognize that some people who menstruate/experience menopause do not identify as women.
Part One of the book offers a detailed overview of menopause. What it is, what it does within the body, and the possible impacts it may have on people experiencing perimenopause and menopause. I found chapter 3, focusing on hormones and symptoms, especially useful for breaking the whole process down into simple language and explanations.
Part Two of the book moves on to performance. It is probably useful to note here that this section is geared toward athletes. While this includes recreational athletes it does not feel as inclusive of folks who are regularly active but not “athletes.” There is no definition of the difference between those two levels of activity, but my personal sense is this book is not written for someone who spends their days chasing kids around a playground or someone who does a medium-intensity 30 minute workout a few times a week. The schedule templates and descriptions are more in line with someone who is training for an event, who works out 6-7 days per week, often with an endurance (multi-hour) session or race included. Though you would not discern it from the title “Next Level: Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond” this book is not written for an inactive or low-activity person.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 focus on the specific types of activity Sims recommends: HIIT, SIT, lifting “heavy shit,” and pylometrics and jumps. She gives an overview of different high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint interval training (SIT) structures (tabata, hill sprints, 20/10, 40/20, etc). Here’s where the language about “performance-boosting body composition changes” comes back up, along with Sims belief that HIIT and SIT strengthens and increases amount of energy-producing mitochondria, improves insulin sensitivity and lowers fasting blood sugar levels, triggers anti-inflammatory response when done regularly, stimulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) keeping gray matter healthy and improving cognition and working memory. Sims is a big believer in “lifting heavy sh*t,” citing benefits in strength building, increased metabolic rate (waking up more muscle fibers which requires a lot of energy to exist), improved posture and stability, stronger bones, better blood pressure control, maintenance of healthy body composition (defined as maintaining lean muscle, reducing fat gain), and fewer sick days (improves immunity). She also includes tips for lifting heavy sh*t, including warm-up moves and basic heavy lifts. Finally, Sims discusses information about jumps and plyometric moves, citing research that supports plyometrics being beneficial for improved muscular strength, bone health, body composition, posture, and physical performance. This chapter also includes a guide to these movements, working in phases from beginner through intermediate levels.
The next 10 chapters focus on aspects that can impact athletic performance, such as gut health and microbiome balance, diets and proper nutrition fueling, nutrition timing, hydration, sleep and recovery, stability and core strength, bone strength, exercise scheduling, and supplements. Many chapters include descriptions of athletes Sims has coached during the menopause transition, offering a description of the concerns of each athlete and the training (including each of the above elements) plan Sims developed for the athlete, and the outcome of each case.
CW: body weights discussed here — Throughout the book Sims offers examples using body weight as a guide (ex: macro calculations for a woman weighing xxx lbs.) These numbers are often quite low, as are the body weights of the athletes Sims describes in her case study sections. The average woman in the U.S. weighs 170 lbs, but the women Sims writes about or uses for sample information weigh significantly less than that. Further, there is little discussion about how to manage macros for larger athletes, which may feel daunting to the many athletes at or above the “average” range. Lastly, I would note here that Sims uses some calculations that include BMI without further discussion about the problematic development and history of the BMI (although she does note that the BMI is less useful for some athletes and that there may be more useful tests.)
The final chapter offers different templates for putting all of this information into practice, including macro targets, training plans, and symptom tracking.
Final thoughts: I found the book to be informative in many areas, and I’m glad I read it. That being said, I don’t see a lot of implementation in my future, although I plan to talk to my trainer about lifting more heavy sh*t. As someone who Sims would likely categorize as active but not an athlete I’m much more focused on functional fitness (like getting my 70 lbs dog in/out of the hatchback), but I’d gladly take some relief from perimenopause symptoms, some of which are hitting me hard. I think Sims falls down in two areas in this book, the first (fat-phobia and body weight) I’ve already covered. The second is Sims reliance on relatively small studies to strengthen her claims, which she (accurately!) says identifies a lack of research done with people who menstruate/experience menopause. Where I think Sims shines in this book is her ease in breaking down medical/scientific terminology into layperson terms, and in her encouragement to start small/slow and work up to the plans she includes here. This type of staggered implementation may help readers avoid overwhelm and injury.
Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.