challenge · fitness

Catherine’s 223 workout challenge update

I’ve written a lot on this blog about movement challenges. I used to hate them– I forget why, but luckily I could look it up, as I wrote a post about it here in 2017. And I wrote another on here in 2018. In it, I wrote this:

I’ve taken on fitness challenges without thinking seriously about how I’ll make the time for them. Then, once scheduling conflicts hit, I’m unprepared for what to do.  And what do I do? Feel angry at the restrictions imposed on me, feel shame when I don’t complete the task, and feel isolated from my friends who are (from my perspective) humming along with their challenge. This is a recipe for emotional meltdown or shutdown (take your pick). It’s no wonder I’ve always hated them.

And yet I continued to be drawn to them. I joined the 218 workouts in 2018 Facebook Group, and finished my 218th workout on December 30 of that year. Not wanting my accomplishment to waste its sweetness in the desert air, I wrote about it here.

Turns out, that year started a trend on my part of finishing up my yearly FB group challenge of 2XX workouts in 20XX (done in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022) on the last or next-to-last day of the year. And of course I documented these for fitness posterity on the blog here, here,and here. In each post, I talked about being a just-in-time delivery gal, joking about soggy dog walks in late December, and finally making it over the finish line. Honestly, not such happy reports, given that I in fact finished the challenges.

Which takes me to 2023. As of today (Sept 20), I’m at 176 out of 223 workouts for 2023. This leaves me… chick-a-chick-a-chick-a-chick-a… (sound of mental calculation, FYI) 47 workouts left to make my goal. And I have… (insert whatever sound you like reflective of subtraction) 103 days left to do them.

How did this happen? How did I get more workouts done this year than the previous years? I think there are a few reasons. I did a lot of activity with friends (and family, and friends’ dogs and family’s dogs) this year. My big priority for the summer was to spend time with the people I care about, and for the most part it worked out. Injury got in the way of my trip to Canada, but as Arnold Schwarzenegger says in Terminator, “I’ll be back.”

I also traveled more this year, by car and plane, and did active fun things at my destinations. I’m going to a conference in Atlanta in November, and will be doing some active activities while I’m not sitting in sessions.

Finally, I’ve been in physical therapy for about a month for sciatica. I’m feeling a lot better and stronger. Yay! I’m also doing PT exercises at home regularly to keep that trend going.

Of course, anything can happen, and I don’t for a minute doubt my capacity for procrastination. However, I’ll take this moment and say I’m happy with how things are going. You, dear readers, will be among the first to hear when I cross that 223 workout finish line. Until then, I’ll keep it moving, moving.

challenge · fitness · yoga

A 30-day yoga challenge Tracy can get behind — any other takers?

Image description: grid with 30 days of yoga poses, one per square, cartoon-like drawings of a person doing each pose on a yoga mat. Each square includes the name of the pose (e.g. Pigeon Pose) at the bottom and the challenge day (e.g. Day 28) at the top.

I like 30-day challenges. I like easy and attainable challenges. And I love yoga. So when Sam brought this very attainable 30-day yoga challenge from Livestrong to the attention of the Fit Is a Feminist Issue blog regulars, I said, “Yes please!” I need to kickstart my Fall. Most people’s activity routines get solid through the summer. Mine faltered. Nothing like the first day of September and a very easy daily goal to ease back into it.

The gist of it is this: they suggest one pose a day (as per the above poster) for each day of the challenge. The commitment is to hold the pose twice a day for 30-60 seconds. If your body isn’t keen on the suggested pose, pick a different one. That’s it. I can do that.

And I bet you can too. Who wants to join me?

challenge · charity · cycling

Sam Pedaled for Parkinsons and Now Wants a Nap

Thanks to blog followers, family, and friends who sponsored us in this year’s Pedaling for Parkinsons ride in Prince Edward County. Our team, Spinning for Susan, raised nearly $5000.

Next year, we hope to do it again with a much larger team of fit feminist bloggers and friends and make a Prince Edward County weekend of it.

This year, it was just Sarah, Emily, and me again. Our team was small but mighty. I was nervous. It was my longest ride since knee surgery.

The weather started out cold and threatening rain. It was also a very, very windy day. Luckily, the sun did shine eventually, and we had the tailwind on the way home.

You can check out all my achievements on Strava. Thanks tailwind!

Thanks also, Sarah and Emily! I did a lot of drafting on this ride.

Here’s our team:

See you next year! It really is a great cause, a beautiful route, and though we did the 40 km this year, I’m hoping that next year I’m ready to tackle the 75 km.

But for now, what I want is a dip in the pool, an afternoon in the hammock with my book, and possibly a nap. I was laughing at my Garmin’s estimate of my energy levels, body battery=5/100. Definitely nap time!

challenge · fitness

April Challenges I’m Not Doing But Maybe You Would Enjoy Them

It’s April.


And it’s also the month of fitness challenges it seems.

There’s the 30 Day Cycling Challenge.

30 days of biking

We blogged about it here.

I won’t make it for all 30 days. I’ve got knee surgery on the 11th. But so far I’ve managed 3/3.

Day 1 was an outdoor ride with Sarah.

Day 2 was Zwift.

And Day 3 was a bike commute to work.


There’s also The ParticipACTION Step It Up to Spring Challenge.


Christine blogged too about the Active April Challenge.

Any other April Challenges you’d recommend?

(I notice they’re all assuming April is spring and that might not to be true in your part of the world.)

challenge · fitness

Maybe February is the new January: a case for showing up (late) to the challenge party

Okay, January 2023 is in the books. Along with it are the now finished (or abandoned) January challenges. Our own dear Fieldpoppy just posted yesterday about how her round of January challenges went. TLDR: they went splendidly! She’s found a structure and a set of routines that support her in other parts of her life (loads of work right now). In case you missed it, here’s one of my favorite quotes:

I like the person I am when my structure for movement is both doable and enough.

Yes to this, with an emphasis on the doable-ness. Honestly, I almost never find January challenges very doable. Even though I’m well aware of the ways the calendar works, January seems to sneak up on me every year. Before all the Christmas leftovers have been cleaned out of the fridge, before I’ve put all the presents away, before I’ve acclimated myself to another year, it’s time to change the calendars and overhaul my daily habits. Or so I’m told.

This January marked some big transitions, both in my work and family life. In short, my hands and head were full of managing those, with little space for tackling shifts in my sometimes haphazard daily movement regimen.

But now it’s February, and life is settled into a recognizable routine. I now find myself looking around and thinking, “okay, I think I can take on and try out some new things. I’m ready for my (fitness) close-up now.

So, I joined a gym last week! It’s got a salt-water pool, spin classes, lovely yoga studio, all the heavy things to lift and throw around, and lots of towels, too. I’m going this week and will report back.

For February, my goal is to swim once a week and either spin or do strength training once a week.

There’s a new yin yoga class at my local studio, Artemis. I’d like to try it out, either on zoom or live in person. I still love Iyengar yoga, too, and there are several classes there every week.

For February, my goal is to do one yoga class at Artemis (either in person or live on Zoom) every week.

I’m also dog sitting through Feb 12, which is getting me outside much more than 23 minutes a day. After Dixie the dog goes back home, I will have to walk myself, which is easy to do at school. On days I’m teaching, I’ll take an extra walk around campus or at one of the nature areas nearby.

My goal for the next four week is to take short walks on or nearby campus twice a week.

So, folks, February Challenge has been unlocked. I’ll let you know how things are going. Are any of you doing February in lieu of January as challenge month? Are you still riding the wave of an active January? Are you avoiding the whole business? I’d love to hear from you.

challenge · fitness

The Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out often, and other lessons from his Happiness Challenge

January is almost over, and with it comes a slowdown of the New Year’s challenges that show up in our inboxes and social media feeds. I’ve got mixed emotions about challenges. The novelty of them can be interesting, and maybe sometimes the intensity and repetition has lasting effects on habits we might want to alter or develop. However, I find that the novelty can soon wear off, and along with it my commitment to the challenge, especially if I’m just doing it just because it’s the season.

However, in this case the other person doing the challenge is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who’s sharing how to achieve and maintain happiness in the course of ten days. Well, not really. It’s another of the Ten Percent Happier meditation app challenges. They went to a lot of trouble to fly out to Dharamshala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile, and actually interview him about happiness, compassion, dealing with jerks in our lives, etc. And yes, there were ten days of meditations too, with Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax.

tldr: I did all the meditations, but the best part was what I learned about and from the Dalai Lama about happiness. Here are some of those lessons.

Lesson one: the Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out after he says something funny. He did this throughout the interviews, so I think it’s his thing. Each time he did it I enjoyed it even more. I think we should all start doing this; the world would definitely be a happier and more humorous place for it.

Lesson two: Even the Dalai Lama experiences anger. When Dan Harris, the Ten Percent Happier founder, asked him if he ever felt anger, he admitted that being woken up by a mosquito in his room was irksome.

Whew, that’s a relief! The goal of any happiness challenge just can’t be the elimination of either angry or sad or negative thoughts and feelings. Neither can it be the fashioning of a wholly positive and happy environment. If the Dalai Lama can’t achieve this, certainly I can’t either. So I don’t have to berate myself when I feel negative; it’s a part of the human experience.

Lesson three: as in all challenges that I’ve tried, some parts are much harder than others. Compassion is a very big thing with the Dalai Lama (obvs). He explains that compassion to others (and I mean ALL others, including even those most difficult people in our lives) gives us a benefit– the benefit of greater happiness. He calls this strategy “wise selfishness”.

His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can't get enough of this...
His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can’t get enough of this…

I tried the meditation on compassion for jerks (that’s what they called it), and it was pretty hard. You’re supposed to think of a difficult person in your life, and wish them health, happiness, safety and ease. I’ve done this sort of meditation before– it’s a variation on Metta or Loving Kindness meditation. It just so happened that, at the time I was sitting for this meditation, I couldn’t do it. It was too hard focusing on a very difficult person. I was resisting and losing focus and struggling.

During that meditation, though, Roshi Joan Halifax said that we could focus on ourselves instead if the going got too tough. Maybe that day we needed more help, more compassion. So I did, and that helped.

I am remembering this and trying to apply it to other challenges in my life– physical, emotional, logistical, etc. Not every day is all-go-no-stop. In fact most days aren’t. And some days our flow, our grit, our focus, our strength– they are at a low ebb. Wise selfishness includes compassion for ourselves as well as others. Okay, got it.

Lesson four: when someone is sad, offering them cake is always a help. Okay, there’s more to this one (but honestly, not a whole lot more). The Dalai Lama gave a talk with folks about how we are social animals, and that happiness comes from seeing that we are not alone. A woman in the group shared that she was grieving a loved one, and asked him how he maintained hope amidst grief.

His Holiness called her to him, and then fed her some cake.

The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.
The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.

An act of kindness, as simple as offering food, reminds us of our connections to others. This is another example of the wise selfishness that His Holiness was talking about. Do for others and you spread happiness. Wondering how you can pull this off? Easy– bake a cake. Or brownies. Your choice. And then share it.

At the end of the Ten Day Challenge, I feel like I’ve acquired a few new moves to take me in the direction of increased happiness. Thank you, Dalai Lama! Now, off to try my hand at a lemon pound cake to bring to friends.

Fellow readers, did you take away any new skills from January challenges? I’d love to hear from you.

challenge · fitness

Catherine’s 2023 reflections (and one complaint) about New Year challenges

New Year Challenges can be fun. Or at least that is what every single media outlet is trumpeting, from Self Magazine to the Tricycle Buddhist Review.

Honestly, I shouldn’t be complaining at all. Gone (at least from my media view) are the Do-100-Burpees-A-Day and Become-a-Contortionist-in-30-Days challenges. Or rather, they’re taking a backseat to what seem like more well-being and happiness-directed challenges. Not that there’s anything wrong with, say, doing a Plank Challenge. Sam wrote about hers here in 2020.

Things I like about it: It’s a short time commitment. I can do it while supper is cooking. I’ve got a yoga mat in the living room and I can do planks in my work clothes. The gradual increase in difficulty is good so far. I’m just at the beginner level. My view might change when I go up to moderate or advanced.

Cheddar, the ever-present and ever-loving golden retriever, helped, which I think made it even more fun. Click on this link for photos.

I’m doing some challenges this year, swept along by a) the general feeling of new-year-new-you-ness; b) an atmosphere in which friends and colleagues are doing challenges; and c) the more reasonable and relevant challenges that are out there now. Recall a recent post by Sam about some interesting new year challenges: Some New Year Challenges We Recommend.

Here are the ones I’ve signed up for so far:

  • 223 workouts in 2023
  • Yoga with Adriene, Center, a 30-day challenge
  • The New York Times 7-Day Happiness Challenge
  • The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness (on the Ten Percent Happier App)
  • Buy-Nothing-Until July 1 Challenge (with a few exclusions and some fine print)

I don’t list Meditation-Every-Day as a challenge this year because it’s now just something I do. It’s probably the most important contributor to my well-being and mental health, and it’s taken a while to get it locked into my day. But it’s there now. Having an app helps me keep on track (yes, everyone knows I use Ten Percent Happier. But But it’s really good and I love it…:-)

On to the reflections (and one complaint).

Last year I did the 222 workouts in 2022, and it was my hardest year for getting across the finish line. I had to to two workouts a day for the last ten days to make it. What happened?

Uh, I dunno. Wonderful image of a young man shrugging his shoulders by Oyemike Princewill on Unsplash.
Uh, I dunno. Wonderful image by Oyemike Princewill on Unsplash.

Rather than do a lot of post-game analysis, and in the spirit of new-year-newish-me, I’m starting again, with the new 2023 challenge. I’m resolving to pay more attention to my activity during the winter this year and see where things stand in April.

Yoga-with-Adriene’s 30-Day January Challenge has never actually worked out for me. I always get started– yes, I did day 1– and then speedily poop out. I’ve done days 1 and 2, but failed to do day 3. Today is day 4. I’m starting to think this challenge isn’t for me, which is to say that I’m not actually committed to doing it. That’s fine. But I’d like to make a decision one way or the other in the next day or so. Letting challenges fall by the wayside doesn’t feel great. Deciding to eschew them or replace them with something else (challenge-y or not) seems like a better idea.

Time for my challenge complaint. Just for fun, I signed up for the New York Times 7-day happiness challenge. It consists of taking a relationship quiz to see where your deficits are, and then following a week’s worth of tips for improving connection and the good feelings that come with it.

I took the quiz– a 10-question survey– and got my results. Not to brag, but I aced this one.

My results: I’m in tip-top social shape. Go me!

I kind of knew this already; my greatest resource is my strong connections to friends, family and community. I’m a phone person (that is, talking real-time with other people on their phones) and I do social and activity and cultural and creative things with others regularly. Not that I don’t have my problems, but this isn’t one of them.

And yet. After totally nailing this quiz, the Happiness Authorities are telling me to do EVEN MORE. They say this:

Even if it’s a bit outside your comfort zone, consider ways that you can be even more proactive in broadening your social universe and staying connected to people you value.

What?! But But I aced the relationships test! You are telling me I need to do better than tip-top? What’s beyond tip-top?

Climbing to a cloud above the tip-top is implausible and in this case ill-advised. Watch out, dude. The graphic dude is standing on a cloud above a sharp mountain peak.
Climbing to a cloud above the tip-top is implausible and in this case ill-advised.

Maybe sometimes it’s okay not to do more, in particular when what you’ve done or are doing is good enough. Honestly, from taking the quiz, it seems to me as if I should cut back a bit from my socializing and being-in-touch schedule. The quiz people generated this graphic representation of me and my relationships. Frankly, it looks dizzying and scary.

Tiny me in the middle of a psychedelic swirl of social patterns, closing in on me in tenacious concentric circles. Help.
Tiny Catherine in the middle of a psychedelic swirl of social patterns, closing in on me in tenacious concentric circles. Help.

For the record, I’ve followed the first three days: 1) take quiz– did I mention I killed it? 2) make an 8-minute phone call: done! I talk to at least 4 people a day on the phone just to chat; and 3) make small talk with people I don’t know as I go about my daily life: done! My good friends make fun of me for my habit and obvious enjoyment of talking to people I don’t know. What can I say? I’m a textbook extrovert.

The Dalai Lama 10-Day Happiness Challenge hasn’t started yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m guessing that it is more focused on cultivating moments of happiness and recognition of joy or beauty. That’s very different from chit-chatting on the phone. And, it’s something I’d like to work on, as it’ll help with mitigating anxiety, rumination and distraction– all issues for me. I’ll report back later.

Finally, I’m doing the Buy-Nothing Challenge, along with several FIFI bloggers. I followed in Sam’s footsteps starting last July, and it was great. I’m signing on for another half-year challenge, with the following special conditions: I can buy used clothing at my favorite consignment shop Wearovers when I bring some of my own clothing to consign. I can replace worn-out or wrong-size workout gear (e.g. I bought a new helmet to replace my very old one– a safety thing). I can buy clothing gifts for my family. Other than that, I’m good with what’s in my closet and dresser drawers.

It surprised me how much I liked this challenge. It’s a relief not to have to think about whether I really want some bright-patterned top that flits across my computer screen. I can look, which it turns out is still fun. In a way, it’s more fun, as I don’t have to worry about whether to buy anything. I’m not.

You, dear readers, will be hearing back from us as the year unfolds about our challenges: how they’re going, why we’ve kept them up or abandoned them, and what new challenges present themselves in 2023.

What are you doing, challenge-wise, this year? Are you taking a break from challenges? Are you aiming for heights above the tip-top? Let us know– we’d love to hear from you.

challenge · fitness · goals · habits · Happy New Year!

Some new year challenges we recommend

YMMV but we’re not big on new year’s resolutions here on the blog. That said, we do often embark on new year’s challenges.

Here’s three of our favorites:

Yoga with Adriene, Center

It’s January and that means it’s time for Adriene’s 30 day yoga journey. This year it’s called Center. I won’t be doing it while recovering from knee replacement surgery but in years past I’ve really enjoyed it as a start to the year.

Gretchen Rubin’s 23 in 23

Go Outside 23 in 23 is a simple habit changing—go outside for 23 minutes a day in 2023.

Outside in 23

Workout 223 times in 2023

The goal is simple, workout 223 times in 2023. We use the Facebook group as our accountability check in and we support one another through life’s many challenges. I love seeing all the different things members get up to. Here’s a link to the original group that started it all as well.

Training to smash the patriarchy

Any others to add to the list?

ADHD · challenge · habits · holiday fitness · motivation

Christine’s ‘Core’ Idea For The Next Three Weeks

I’ve been writing daily ‘Making Space 2022‘ posts since December started so I’ve been trying out bits and pieces of all kinds of exercise videos.

(Given that I am still at post-Covid fatigue levels, I haven’t done all parts of all videos. After all, I need enough energy in a given day to walk Khalee, to do my other daily activities, and to write the post, so choices must be made.)

I’ve enjoyed the variety but I have been finding myself wanting a little more consistency – something specific to do each day, whether or not I do that day’s video.

I’m feeling drawn to the idea of doing a set of exercises every day and feeling like I am building towards something specific.

And since a lot of my challenges with other activities seem to be related to a need for more core strength, I was already planning to make core exercises the focus of my exercise plans for the next year or so.

Starting now means I can really let myself take things slowly (even my ADHD brain recognizes that this is *not* the time of year to add anything big to my life), I can start building a strong foundation (both physically and habit-wise) without having to make too many plans right now, and when I pick a specific time for those exercises, I will be adding a little extra structure to my days so time won’t race along as much as it usually does this time of year.

But, knowing this time of year, and taking into account the fact that I am still dealing with fatigue, I am keeping the bar fairly low.

The first set of leg raises in the video below are my marker for what ‘counts. Once I have done those, I can say I am done for the day. However, if I feel up to it, I can keep going but anything beyond that first set is ‘above and beyond.’

A 5-MIN Standing Abs and Core Strengthening Workout from the Coach Sofia YouTube channel. Still image shows the video title on the left side and the instructor on the right. Coach Sofia is wearing blue leggings and a white tank top and has their right leg raised so their knee is at hip level and they have their left arm raised overhead.

I recognize that under normal conditions, these exercises might be a bit on the easy side for me.

Right now, however, I want to conserve my energy and I really want to focus on building the habit, on starting slow, and these exercises (which can provide more or less of a challenge, depending how I go about them) seem like the perfect way to do that.

How are you feeling about your fitness routines for the rest of the year?

Are you sticking with what you’ve got? Taking a break? Switching things up a little?

challenge · fitness · habits

Maybe it’s not the length of streak, but the number of streaks that we should count

I’ve been thinking and writing a bunch about streaks, in particular about meditation. So have a bunch of our bloggers. I mean, we at FIFI tend to pay attention to what we are doing and also how often we are doing it. In October, I ended up missing two meditation days (not in succession) in one week. That broke my almost-150-day streak.

Oh no! This woman gets me. Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash.
Oh no! This woman gets me. Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash.

Okay, time to start on over again. Yes, this has happened before, and will happen again. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the moment. (Feel free to insert more platitudes here). But, when I looked at my milestones on Ten Percent Happier (yes, of course they keep track), I saw this:

But wait, there’s more.

There’s one more streak photo to show you:

1 200-day streak.
Yes, 200 days! Did it once.

Here’s what I’m seeing from all this: it may be hard to sit 200+ days in a row, but it’s really easy to sit 3 days in a row. After all, I’ve personally done it 37 times! Honestly, this gestalt shift has made me very happy– it means (to me) that I know how to start and restart at something I want to do, but am not perfect or flawless at. Yay! This bodes well for the other things in my life I’d like to do more often and more consistently.

While I’ve got you here, let me say that I’m at 172 workouts in 2022, That means 50 to go. I can do it!

And it bodes well for you too, dear readers. I’m just a girl, standing in front of an app, asking it to help her love whatever activity it’s promoting. Who knew counting would be so much fun?

Readers, how do you feel about short-repeated streaks? Do you take them in stride? I’d like to know what you think.