feminism · fit at mid-life · fitness · racing · running · training

On Running My First Marathon (Guest Post by Alison Conway)

by Alison Conway

Image description: Alison on left, smiling, with short hair, sunglasses, and a t-shirt hugging a friend, longer hair, also smiling, stadium stands in the background.
Image description: Alison on left, smiling, with short hair, sunglasses, and a t-shirt hugging a friend, longer hair, also smiling, stadium stands in the background.

[Note from Tracy: Alison sent me this in April and her race was a few weeks ago. Congrats, Alison!]

Eighteen months ago, Donald Trump became president of the United States and I wrote here about my determination to limit my running time so that I could devote more energy to politics. Most immediately, my goal was to become active in the civic affairs of my home town.

Life had other plans for me. A year of upheaval included new jobs across the country, the sale of the home where I raised my children, the turmoil of a big move. My father became ill and he died. That family home was cleaned out and put on the market. It was, let’s say, a wrenching twelve months.

Through it all, running kept me grounded. Or rather, my running families kept me grounded. My Ontario friends ran with me in the weeks and months of packing and grieving. They convinced me to sign up for a spring 2018 marathon as a goal to work toward, whether or not I ran the race. I found a running club in my new home town and the folks in that group went out of their way to help me find my feet. I ran miles and miles through the roads and trails of my community, learning its spaces and hearing about those who live there.

As the ground under my feet was shifting, so too was the ground underneath American politics. Out of the ashes of the election arose the phoenix #metoo and a widespread protest against workplace harassment and sexual violence. From the Women’s Marches of January 2017 onward, energy and momentum built as women filed complaints and shared their stories.

When people remark on the difficult year I’ve had, I have often noted that running saved me. I began to wonder if it wasn’t doing more than moving me forward. The feelings I have toward the women who have helped me move and those who are helping me settle in British Columbia feel like the basis of a larger, collective feeling that has emerged in a wider sphere, one that helps women act together in an effort to shift cultural norms. It is, for me, both about harnessing anger and generating laughter. It is about looking down the road toward the goals that might take a while to reach.

A friend once said, casually, “Anyone can run a marathon. You just have to train for it.” What that remark misses is how difficult it is to train for a marathon: the discipline it takes to get out there day after day, week after week, in terrible weather, on days when other demands weigh heavily, when your mind says, “Enough.” There was a moment, maybe a month before the marathon, when I felt bone-tired. But I had friends waiting to run with me, so out I went.

Last month, race weekend arrived and I flew back to Ontario to meet the women who first encouraged me to sign up. One was injured, so couldn’t race—but she drove me to Toledo, OH, anyway. Another had just raced the Tokyo marathon, but she came along, too. They went over every detail of the race. I was shown how to make arm warmers, out of socks, that could be thrown away on the course (who knew?). They listened to me fuss and fret. They told me I could do it.

When I pulled on my arm warmers, the morning of the marathon, I felt like I was pulling on my armour. It was an armour I would not have been wearing, had it not been for the friendship of women, those who inspired me with the examples they set. It was an armour built, too, by the new friend who sent me a card, a week before the marathon, filled with messages of advice and encouragement; by the marathon veteran in my new running group, who slowed her own pace to help me speed up mine; by the colleague at my new job who trained with me, week after week, through rain and snow. It was the armour made by women everywhere who fight for the right for women to move freely in public spaces.

My marathon was a run of joy and gratitude, supported by the women who cheered me on as I faced down the miles. I have come out of a challenging year stronger and wiser. I can take that strength and wisdom into my community and help to make the changes that need to be made. The ground beneath my feet is made up of so much more than pavement. Mostly, it is made up of the feeling that emerges when women believe in each other: love.

feminism · fitness

Self-mothering as activity

Last weekend I went for a yoga retreat to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Wellness in western Massachusetts. My friend Laura and I did a Five Element Yoga workshop with Jennifer Reis, who also does Yoga Nidra (or yoga sleep) workshops. This involved a bunch of yogic practices:

  • poses or asanas;
  • different breathing techniques;
  • mudras, or hand gestures done with breathing, meditation, or poses;
  • self-massage (literally from toes to head);
  • yoga nidra, where you lie down on your mat while you are led through a body scan and/or guided meditation.

We also went through these poses, breathing technique and mudras in the contexts of earth, water, air, fire, and ether (something like space). All of the movements, however big or small, restful or vigorous, were hitched to some internal state, or intention, or emotional expression. The metaphysical taxonomy of all of this is pretty baroque, but as in many things, you can take what you like and leave the rest.

The big message I got from all the movement and internal focus was this: I want and need more mothering in my life. This semester in my academic job has been emotionally intense– one of my students died from suicide, and several others have been suffering from and getting treatment for depression, anxiety, and trauma. And for whatever reason, this semester I was the professor that these students talked to about their troubles. Of course they have many others in their lives, including therapists, family, friends, community, etc., but on the academic front it felt like I was the go-to person on the Bridgewater State University campus for student support.

I consider it an honor when a student trusts me with sensitive and difficult information about their lives. It is also a burden, as it makes me want to bifurcate myself into two persons: Catherine the kindly professor, and Catherine the mama bear, ready to do battle with whatever and whoever is causing them pain. I admit that I was more bearish than I usually am, in response to students’ pain.

I also didn’t take great care of myself this term; I haven’t been eating in ways that feel healthy to me, and I haven’t done as much activity as I need to feel good and vigorous and strong. Clearly I need some mothering myself.

So I did what I could, which is to go to Kripalu for the weekend as soon as the term was over. I am lucky and aware of the privilege that allows me to devote time and money and resources to this kind of self-care. I ate great tasting and healthy-to-me food that I neither cooked nor cleaned up after. I moved around and was still and was curious and listened.

What I heard were these desires:

  • I want to move with energy and strength and grace.
  • I want to be less fearful about the body I have now.
  • I want to be by myself and also with others in movement and stillness.

I’m not a mother, but I know lots of them. They seem to combine lavish loving with relentless cajoling, threatening, sweet-talking and redirecting their children to help them move toward their goals in life.

I have goals– in particular, physical activity goals this summer. They are:

  • Bikes not Bombs charity ride (30 miles)
  • PWA Friends for Life charity ride (68 miles)
  • MA-VT round-trip Labor Day weekend ride (100ish miles)
  • NYC Century ride in Sept (75 miles, which is actually 82)

I’m doing some riding and some yoga, but I need some serious self-mothering to get enough done to make these goals. So I’m going to see what I can do to act as my own mama bear to myself. I’ll be reporting back on what happens.

Thank you to all the mothers out there, and also to those of you in the process of self-mothering. I find strength and solidarity and motivation and community from reading your stories and comments.

Happy Mothers Day to all of us!

cycling · eating · feminism · fit at mid-life

Happy book launch dance! Sam’s wonderful weekend

Thanks Google for animating the images of me celebrating the book launch on Sarah’s front porch. Photos taken before breakfast and the drive to London.

This was a great weekend. So good. Very very good.

It began with an interview on live television, on Global TV’s morning show. Tracy will tell you more on Tuesday but for my part I need to let you know that the experience was actually fun. Even the make up part wasn’t awful. Tracy and I are getting pretty good at communicating our body positive, age inclusive fitness message!

Here’s me wearing television make up. It was fine.

And here’s a link to the interview. You can watch us here.

Then I went to get a haircut and color with the wonderful Grace who also has her own TV show as it turns out.

I’m so blonde. Spring is here!

Then I went out in the evening to see a movie at the Hot Docs film festival. It was called “The Artist and the Pervert.” Here’s the description: “Georg is a famous Austrian composer, his wife Mollena a renowned American kink educator. Together they live in a public kinky relationship. This film documents their lives between perversion, art, love and radical self-determination.” I recommend it.

Saturday began with breakfast at my favorite Toronto breakfast place, Bonjour Brioche. Here’s blogger Cate and our friend Steve basking under the patio heat lamps.

I found out an interesting fact about Bonjour Brioche over breakfast. It turns out this is the location where they filmed the scene in the Handmaid’s Tale where Elisabeth Moss discovers that women no longer have credit when her credit card is declined. It’s a bit ironic to locals because this breakfast place is a cash-only establishment and never takes credit cards.

After breakfast we drove to London for the London launch of our book. I’ll let Tracy tell you more about that too but it was a super moving event was standing room only they sold out of books but more importantly there was a real warmth and energy in the room

Here are some photos of us signing books talking and standing around with our mothers. I love that photo best.

Tracy reading. Me listening, hands on hips.
Tracy and Sam carrying cupcakes and supplies.
Tracy and me and our mothers.
Signing all the books!

On Saturday night I went out to BROADWAY BOUND!, put on by the Pride Men’s Chorus London. 

My son sings in the choir. So much fun.

Sunday was the second bike ride of the season. We ramped it up a little bit from 50 km last week to 60 km this week but I say that the wind was the bigger challenge rather than increased distance. The wind was pretty intense. We all got some Strava personal-bests on the downhill tailwind segments and really struggled into the wind on the way back. I was also sad to discover that the local Starbucks in Byron has closed and so we had to ride back under caffeinated and a little bit late for our movie.

map

Dinner was a quick slice of pizza and popcorn with the movie, not the healthiest choices, but hey Infinity Wars was a lot of fun.

This chart might help!

“I was explaining the MCU to my coworker and she asked me to just write it down for her.”

From Reddit
No #infintywar spoilers

feminism · fitness · running

Tracy’s Spring 2018 Feminist Running Playlist

Image description: Purple treble clef with a woman symbol fist at the bottom against a light background.
Image description: Purple treble clef with a woman symbol fist at the bottom against a light background.

The other day Sam and I were reflecting on how for some reason our feminism has gone from “rage-y” and ranty to reasonable and moderate. Maybe it’s because we are both university administrators, so we can’t afford to be rage-y and ranty at work (for the most part…), at least not overtly so, if we want to get stuff done. But it’s spilled over into the blog. I can’t remember the last time I unleashed some good old feminist rage about something.

And I’m not about to do it here in this blog post today. But I’m warming myself up to it. This week I put together a new running playlist and I decided to draw the entire thing from Jessica’s feminist playlist, on Spotify as “Handle that Shit (with strength and grace and a well-timed fuck)(explicit).”

Her playlist was a collaborative effort among friends on social media. She put the call out for feminist tunes for cranking and feeling that surge of strength and solidarity. And the suggestions started rolling in, and rolling in, and rolling in. I shared her call on my timeline and again, more ideas. In the end, she put together an amazing and varied 13.5 hour playlist. I highly recommend it.

Not all the tunes are good for running, though many are. I tapped into it when constructing a new playlist for the upcoming season (I say “upcoming” because here it is spring in name only).  As I said the last time I shared a playlist, it’s really idiosyncratic to me. I don’t measure beats per minute. I start off a bit slower and pick up the pace. But I’ve not yet test run it and it’s possible that I will need to double click on my ear bud chord a few times if a tune comes on that is not well-suited to where I’m at in my run. It will take a bit of tweaking for order and adequacy.

Feel free to follow it, suggest additions, or register suggestions and complaints (not promising to honor all of them, since my main goal is to make a playlist that works for me.  I have tried it out at personal training twice this week, and it’s great for that. Paul (my trainer) complained (in jest) that he didn’t feel represented. I take that as a good sign that it’s hitting at least one feminist mark. And when my friend Alison showed up at the tail end of my session, she remarked that the music was fantastic.

Here it is (explicit): “Tracy Running Spring 2018”

  1. “Deeper Well,” Emmylou Harris/Wrecking Ball
  2. “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” Eurythmics/Ultimate Collection
  3. “Smile More,” Deep Vally/Femejism
  4. “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” Joan Jett, The Blackhearts/Up Your Alley
  5. “U + Ur Hand,” Pink/I’m Not Dead
  6. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” Kelly Clarkson/Stronger
  7. “Fuck Love,” Iggy Azalea/The New Classic
  8. “Suddenly I See,” KT Tunstall/Eye to the Telescope
  9. “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” The Ting Tings/We Started Nothing
  10. “Hot Topic,” Le Tigre/Le Tigre
  11. “Hollaback Girl,” Gwen Stefani/Let’s Get It Started
  12. “No Man’s Woman,” Sinead O’Connor/Faith and Courage
  13. “Run the World (Girls),” Beyonce/4
  14. “Fuck You,” Lily Allen/It’s not Me, It’s You
  15. “TiK ToK,” Kesha/Animal
  16. “Bad Girls,” M.I.A./Matangi
  17. “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” Nancy Sinatra/Boots
  18. “Hung Up,” Madonna/Confessions on a Dance Floor
  19. “I Kissed a Girl,” Katy Perry/One of the Boys
  20. “Survivor,” Destiny’s Child/Survivor
  21. “Look What You Made Me Do,” Taylor Swift/Look What You Made Me Do
  22. “Hit ‘Em up Style (Oops!)” Blu Cantrell/Bittersweet
  23. “4 Minutes,” Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland/Celebration
  24. “Push It,” Salt-N-Pepa/The Best of Salt-N-Pepa
  25. “Woman,” Kesha, The Dap-Kings Horns/Rainbow
  26. “Shout Out to My Ex,” Little Mix/Glory Days (Deluxe)
  27. “Boss Ass Bitch,” Pretty Taking All Fades/Boss Ass Bitch
  28. “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor/New In Town
  29. “Not Fair,” Lily Allen/It’s Not Me, It’s You
  30. “No Scrubs,” TLC/Fanmail
  31. “NO,” Meghan Trainer/NO
  32. “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift/1989 (Deluxe Edition)
  33. “PBNJ,” Patti Cake$/Patti Cake$ (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

This post may not be a rage-y feminist rant, but the playlist is warming me up for one! Hope it does the same for you.

athletes · blogging · feminism · fitness

Meet the Fit is a Feminist Issue Bloggers

You can see our 2018 schedule here.

Tracy Isaacs posts Tuesdays and most Thursdays, writer, feminist, vegan, runner, sailor, philosopher, yogi, photography-obsessed, sometimes knitter, co-founder of Fit Is a Feminist Issue, co-author of Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey (launching in April 2018, published by Greystone Books).

Sam Brennan, posts regularly Mondays and Wednesdays, and randomly lots of other days and times! Philosopher, feminist, parent, and cyclist! Co-founder of Fit Is a Feminist Issue, co-author of Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey (launching in April 2018, published by Greystone Books.

Susan Tarshis is a feminist, therapist, parent and general know it all about a lot of things. She loves to hike with her dog, ride horses, ride a bike and do Pilates. She runs but doesn’t like that nearly as much. She is Associate Faculty with the Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy. Activity is necessary for life, health and growth in all domains. Our access to it and our ideas around it are informed by our histories and social locations. Susan likes to engage in discussion of these domains with personal stories. Her blogs often explore themes of performance, joy, authenticity and even despair. In the end, her dog always saves the day.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto when she’s not roaming the earth. She works in the space of sustainable socially accountable change in health and education, and is particularly interested in fostering a greater culture of aging with the greatest mobility possible. She posts the second Friday and third Saturday of every month as well as other times when the mood strikes!

Martha lives in Newfoundland and posts here the third Friday of every month. Martha is a late 50s feminist writer and consultant. She has tried running, rowing, trail walking, swimming and powerlifting. So far lifting weights and practicing laps in the pool have stuck.

Natalie lives with 3 awesome humans as well as high blood pressure and Major Depressive Disorder. She is working on completing her BA in Women’s Studies from Athabasca University one course at a time. She tries very hard to be a hopeful feminist and enjoys debunking ideas around fat bodies by wearing a lot of Lycra. Natalie posts the first Saturday of the month.

Kim Solga was born in Montreal, Quebec, grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, and has lived across Canada, in the US, and in the UK. She is a feminist scholar of theatre and performance by day, and a cyclist and rower by evening/early morning/on the weekend. Her trusty dog, Emma Jane, keeps her honest by demanding three walks daily. Kim also blogs about teaching, performance, and activism on WordPress, at The Activist Classroom. Kim blogs on the 4th Friday of the month.

Bettina is a 33 year-old research manager with a PhD in Political Science. She lives in Heidelberg, Germany, where she works for a European research enabling organisation in the life sciences. In her spare time she swims, runs, boulders and generally likes to be active. She thinks fit is a feminist issue because all too often, exercising while female means being judged: too weak, too strong, too fat, too thin, too ugly, too pretty… you name it. It’s time to fix that, so we need a feminist perspective. Bettina blogs on the second Saturday of the month.

Catherine Womack, “Weekends with Womack,” our Sunday regular.

“I’m an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I’m interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I’m also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.”

 

christine

Christine Hennebury, posts the last Saturday of the month. “I’m a writer, storyteller, and creative life coach from Newfoundland and Labrador. I’m a 2 degree blackbelt in ITF Taekwon-do who dabbles in yoga and Nia dance. I’m intrigued by the challenge of getting my body to do the things that my mind has already learned. Fitness is a feminist issue for me because I am much more interested in what my body can do than what it looks like. (After all, I am not a decoration.) I blog about taekwon-do, my inspirations, the challenges involved in building habits and learning new things, and the mental blocks to fitness.”

 

 

feminism

Fit Feminists Shuffle Things Around: New 2018 Blog Schedule

As Tracy de Boer announced Saturday, she’s taking a break. I was happy to read though that she’ll continue to post when there mood strikes. I’m hoping it strikes often.

Here then is our regular schedule for 2018.

Mon:Sam

Tues: Tracy

Wednesday: Sam or Catherine

(Thanks Catherine for helping me out this super busy first term at my new job!)

Thursday: Tracy or #tbt

Fridays: Susan/Cate/Martha/Kim

Saturdays: Nat/Bettina/Cate/Christine

Sundays: Catherine (Weekends with Womack!)

If you’re ever interested in guest posting here at Fit is a Feminist Issue, drop me a line at samanthajbrennan@gmail.com.

Here is the note I send guests.

Thanks for your willingness to join our community of guest posters at Fit is a Feminist Issue.

Posts usually range between 500 and 1000 words. If your post is really long it might make sense to do it in several parts.

First and foremost we’re a feminist blog and we expect guests to share that perspective. We also usually incorporate a personal perspective in our writing, even if that’s the history of what made us think about the thing we’re writing about.

We also are a body positive blog and we try to keep the diet talk down to a minimum. Lots of us are critical of diets, the long term odds of success, and the beauty standards beneath lots of fitness ideals. We’re more about doing things we love and sharing athletic, rather than aesthetic goals. That said, we don’t all agree about all of these things and “big tent feminism” is part of the charm of the blog.

We try to use accessible language and write with a sense of humour, where appropriate. We especially try to avoid ableist language. For example, we don’t say “crazy” or “lame.” Here’s a link to alternatives

Where it makes sense include links to further resources.
You must include a short bio at the end.

The way it works is that you submit the post for review and I edit it lightly (mostly for grammar and spelling and adequate paragraph breaks). I schedule it. I also add photos. You can email pictures to me, samanthajbrennan@gmail.com.

Contributor status means that you can’t add photos. After a few posts, we switch you to author status and authors can add their own photos and schedule their own posts.

Note: If you are adding your own photos and video, pls be sure to provide image and video descriptions for the visually impaired. All non-text content should have a text alternative that provides an equivalent meaning as the image. Read past posts for some descriptions of the images in the posts. Best practise is for the image description to go in the alt-text field which you can see when you edit the photo. You can put the image description in the caption as well if you have space. Captions are also useful for photo credits Finally, giving your photo a descriptive title makes it easier for search engines to find.

Please share your guest post widely to let your friends and social media followers know about the blog. We’ve got some excellent regular commentators and if you could check in on your post and reply to them that would be great.

Yay! And thanks for contributing!

Cheers,

Sam

A black road bike on a black backgroundFrom the Minimalists collection on Unsplash, photo by Josh Nutall

cycling · eating disorders · feminism · fitness · motivation

A return to fitness in 2018 (Guest post)

Biking with a friend

I love to make New Year’s resolutions, although I sometimes have uneven results. My main and most exciting New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to do 218 workouts – they don’t have to be particularly strenuous or any set length but they have to be fun and pleasurable.

I hope that 2018 – the year I turn 40 – will be at my fittest year ever. This isn’t an extreme goal because my fittest year was probably 2011, when I was running regularly, had not yet gotten my driver’s license so cycled everywhere out of necessity, and impulsively bought an expensive personal training program. I was 33, so it is not as if I am trying to re-live athletic teen years, which would be considerably harder. I was actually the type of kid for whom gym class was a nightmare. I walked the field when I was supposed to run, regularly ‘forgot’ my gym clothes, and dreaded group sports when my lack of any skill would be humiliatingly apparent to all my classmates.

I was not fit in any sense of the word until my late twenties when I started to cycle everywhere often, in those years, pulling two children and/or groceries (!!) in a bike trailer. When I was 30 and newly single I decided to try some new activities: running, roller derby, hot yoga, and weight-training. I felt fantastic, met some great people, and began to think of myself as a fit, even athletic, person. I felt strong and powerful and had a lot of fun. I still remember the exhilarating day I ran 13 km for the first time. As someone who a couple years earlier could not run one block, I was extremely proud of myself.

Unfortunately, the fitness activities got confused with and integrated into disordered eating habits, which dulled my enjoyment. Healing from disordered eating, which for me meant restricted eating, and unattainable weight loss goals, meant also giving up some of my fitness goals. But now I am about turn 40, a busy PhD student, community activist, and mom. Giving up a strong focus on fitness may have been necessary for me to heal from disordered eating but it also meant that I lost the physical and emotional benefits of fitness especially the almost magical effect it has on my ability to deal constructively with stress.

I miss the camaraderie that accompanied roller derby practices and group runs. I miss experiencing my body as strong and powerful. When I think about my life in ten and twenty years, I want fitness to be an everyday part of it. So, I have made a plan to get to my fittest this year and to re-discover the joy of fitness.

The plan is simple: do 218 workouts in 2018 which will include some weight-training, a gentle triathlon, and a few no-pressure and fun 5 or 10 km runs.

Maybe I’ll even, finally, attempt a fall half marathon – but only if it brings me joy. I also hope to cycle year-round instead of taking a long winter break after which I always feel hesitant and creaky. The focus, other than doing the 218 workouts, will be on feeling pleasure in moving my body and having fun participating in physical activities with other people.

There will be absolutely no weight loss goals or restricted eating plans and I will steer clear of others who have integrated those elements into their fitness plans and motivations. I’m excited, motivated, and ready to have fun and feel strong!

Kayaking in Venice in 2017

Becky Ellis is a PhD student at Western University who studies the bee-human relationship in cities. She is a mom to four kids and a community activist. Becky loves gardening, cycling at a leisurely pace, and taking millions of pictures of bees. She also maintains the blog Permaculture for the People about social justice and urban permaculture.