fitness · fitness classes

Mini-workouts, and the people who have opinions about them

Yesterday I was busy with a bunch of errands and chores and tasks and to-do items, i.e. it was a normal Saturday. However, I found myself with not enough time to do a walk or yoga class. So, I thought, hey, let’s do one of those New York Times X-minute workout (where X is a number <10). They have 6, 7 and 9-minute workouts, along with modifications. Great– this is just the ticket.

I did the standing 7-minute workout, which was sufficient for my busy-day needs. You can try it here.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the NYT comments for the article. What I found was plenty of opinions:

  • use of the term “exercise snack” made them think about potato chips, which they didn’t want to do
  • the workout felt too much like a warmup
  • the workout needed more of a warmup
  • they suggested sprinting up three flights of stairs would be a better short workout
  • they expressed horror at the idea of sprinting up three flights of stairs
  • they wanted a printable version of the workout
  • apropos of nothing, they expressed their disapproval of leaf blowers (which I share, but..)

All this reminded me of a post I did a few years back about the NYT 6-minute workout. Now THOSE readers had some serious opinions. If you’d like to look at it, here’s the post below.

And however many minutes you choose to devote to working out, I wish you well. And don’t think about potato chips (unless you want to).


covid19 · family · fitness · fitness classes

Bettina’s postpartum fitness parade, part 2: postpartum gymnastics

So I already have to recant a promise I made in my first post in this mini-series: I cancelled my MommaStrong subscription this week. I just haven’t been doing the workouts because I enjoy other things (running, yoga) so much more and it’s not worth paying good money for something I don’t use. But anyway, on to part two of this little series on what I’ve been doing fitness-wise since giving birth.

In Germany, statutory public health insurance entitles you to a postpartum gymnastics course and will pay for up to 8 sessions (because of my work I have private insurance, but it’s also covered). I think this is kind of amazing and possibly quite unique, at least from what I hear from some of my international friends, who have been astounded by this.

Normally, these postpartum gymnastic classes are fairly mellow, aimed mostly at restoring some pelvic floor and core health after pregnancy and childbirth have left your body in… probably a very different shape than it used to be. They sit somewhere between physical therapy and a light workout and are intended to prepare you for going back to “normal” exercise and life in general without incontinence and diastasis recti problems.

If you’re interested in what these classes look like, here’s a video (in German, sorry) from a couple of midwives who have recorded theirs and put them on YouTube to cater to women who can’t attend an in-person class due to the pandemic:

Video from – postpartum PT/gymnastics class. They do their course in a “mummy and me” format, Bettina’s was a class without baby.

I think these are the right choice for most people, but if you were quite active before and during pregnancy and had a relatively uncomplicated birth, you’re probably hankering for something a bit more challenging. At least I was. Luckily, my midwife had caught onto that. She found out about a postpartum gymnastics course specifically for “sporty women” (sic) and I immediately signed up.

“Thanks” to Covid, it was an online course. Run by two midwives, we gathered on Zoom once a week for eight weeks in November and December to restart an exercise routine. The sessions consisted of warm-up, some cardio, a lot of post-pregnancy safe strengthening exercises for arms, legs, and core, and finally stretching and cool-down. Over the course of eight weeks, the intensity increased gradually.

Reader, I LOVED it. The first session, I almost cried when I actually broke a sweat. I know breaking a sweat is by no means a requirement for something to “count” as exercise, but I was really craving a hard workout by that time. The women who ran the class were lovely and funny and did their best to make sure we did the exercises correctly even though they couldn’t physically correct us. The only thing missing was the community spirit that would probably have developed had the class been in-person. Although I’m definitely ready to take up other forms of exercise again, I’m still kind of sad the course is over. I was a lovely way of getting myself in gear once a week.

Are postpartum gymnastics courses a thing where you are?

220 in 2020 · fitness · fitness classes · motivation · online exercise · training · walking · yoga

It’s not “just” yoga or “just” a walk: it’s a workout

image description: Selfie of two women, Violetta in front, long dark hair with highlights, smiling, white t-shirt; Tracy in back, smiling, with sunglasses, medium length salt and pepper hair, red and black top, black coat, camera strap visible; field and trees in background. (we had just finished a two-hour physically distanced hike with others). Photo credit: Violetta.

The other day I didn’t have the energy for a run, so I checked in with my out-of-town running buddy, Violetta, and said I might “just” do some yoga or “just” go for a walk. She said she’d been feeling the same that day, but that she wanted to stop putting “just” in front of these choices, as if they are somehow lesser, inferior, or slack options that we need to apologize for. I agree. Indeed, I even thought it as I was texting the “just yoga” message.

I know I’m not the only person who imposes conditions on the types of activity that it’s “okay” to count. I’ve blogged about this before (see “What counts?” and “More than six years later and Tracy has the same questions about what counts”). And it has come up again and again during the “220 in 2020” group. That’s a group where we keep track of our workouts with the goal of doing 220 by December 31, 2020. Next year the goal will be 2021. Today I logged my 408th workout of the year. I have fewer questions about what counts.

2020 is the year where movement has become a part of my daily routine. Almost every day I do something intentional, whether yoga, a zoom weight training session, a run, a walk, a hike. And sometimes the very goal of daily movement is what gets me moving. It used to be the 220 in 2020 but I’ve long since surpassed 220, so the goal had to shift away from a total number and more to “something every day,” away from outcome and towards process or maybe a habit checklist type of approach. Workout? Check!

Just because some of what we do is different in level of exertion or the amount of time we spend on it from some of the other things we doesn’t mean it’s less than. During the pandemic more than ever it’s become important to me (and I know I’m not alone in this) to be intentional about movement because some days, if I wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t even reach 1000 steps. I go from my bedroom to the kitchen to my home office to the kitchen again all day. At night I sit down to read or watch something. And then I go to bed. I go out much less than I used to. Because it requires choice, I’m at the point where intentional physical activity that I wouldn’t otherwise choose to do “counts.”

Even as I say that I am aware that there is a level of self-shaming that so many of us engage in when we compare. And it’s not always when I compare myself to others who I regard as more fit, stronger, faster, more active, or more committed to what they do. It’s also when I compare what I did yesterday in my one hour sweaty, kick-butt Superhero workout to what I did today (a 3K run and some gentle yoga). They’re all workouts. They all count. I’m not cheating when I track them.

It’s interesting to me to look back on my angst over the years about what counts because I don’t feel that anymore. I have a solid sense of confidence that I get to decide on my own criteria, and that it doesn’t make sense for me to think that every workout has to be equal to every other workout in its demandingness for it to legitimately count.

And it’s also okay, even necessary, at least sometimes to choose rest. That’s a healthy choice, too (even if it doesn’t count as a workout).

Do you consciously or unconsciously rank certain activities as superior or inferior to others? Do you discount some of your workouts because they’re not “demanding enough?”

[Shout-out to Violetta: Happy birthday, my friend!]

fitness · fitness classes · motivation

How to get out of bed for a 6 a.m. workout

Image description: Screenshot of an iphone screen with alarm set for 5:20 AM, black background, green “on” activated beside digital reading of 5:20 AM

Motivation. That’s probably the number one theme for anyone who struggles with working out. Yes, we deal with injury, weather, and interrupted routines. But how to get and stay motivated? That can be our undoing. Today I want to zero in on one really specific thing that people say they are not motivated to do: get up for an early morning workout.

Since shortly into the pandemic, I have been doing Superhero Workouts with fieldpoppy Cate’s amazing trainer, Alex of ABH Movement (I guess Alex now counts as my trainer too, since I’ve been working with her since May). These are one-hour live Zoom workouts, where Alex leads and a fluctuating number of us (usually somewhere between 8-15 these days) follow. Because we’re live, Alex can give us pointers on our form and we can ask questions or request alternatives. And I definitely work harder than I would if I had to make up my own workout and do it alone. My time of choice: 6 a.m. (MWF) or 6:30 a.m. (Tuesdays). On Saturdays it’s at 9:30 a.m., so that’s not a motivational challenge as far as the time is concerned. Thursdays it’s from 7:30-8:30 a.m., which is too late for me most days because of work. On MWF there is also a 9 a.m. class, and that draws its own regular crowd but I have never been. I like the early workout.

A few people told me flat-out that I would never see them at a 6 a.m. workout because that’s just way too early. I confess that as much as I love the early workouts, sometimes I need to give myself a pep talk to make it out of bed. The absolute best part of working out this early in the day is that by 7 a.m. (or 7:30 on Tuesdays) my workout is done! So how do I get out of bed for an early workout several times a week? Here are some of my strategies:

I get to bed early enough the night before…This sort of goes without saying but it’s key. If I don’t get at least (or close to) seven hours of sleep, I’m not likely to make it out of bed for the early workout. I set my alarm for 5:20 on the 6 a.m. workout days. That means I need to do my best to be sleeping by 10:30 at the latest.

I don’t get up right before the workout; give myself some time…Lots of people who have a 6 a.m. workout would probably get up at 5:50, especially if they don’t need to go anywhere. Even when I used to do swim training at 6 a.m. at the Y, I used to get up at 5:40 and just pull on my suit and my sweats and go. But now I have a different routine that involves hanging out with the kittens, feeding them, and perhaps meditating before the workout if there is 20 minutes of time. That means that by the time the workout starts I’m awake, not groggy. My usual wake-up time for the 6 a.m. workout: 5:20 a.m.

Have a pep talk ready for those days I don’t want to get out of bed…I have those mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed. But I also know myself. I’m the type of person who, once I am out of bed I’m ready to go. But if it’s raining, or snowing, or cold, or dark, or some combination of those things, then bed feels so cozy. The number one thing I tell myself is: “think of how good I’ll feel by 7 a.m. when I’m done my workout!” But I also tell myself: “I’m going to feel glad I got up within a few minutes of getting out of bed–really I will.” My pep talks aren’t of the style in Welcome to the Grind (have you seen that? -It’s a bit too earnest for me but I include a link here since some people find it really motivating and inspiring).

I work out with a group…That’s another thing that gets me going: “It’ll be fun to connect with the team.” Alex has great energy and really gets us going in the early morning, and I am starting to know some of the others (albeit in a very limited way because we’re Zooming) as well. Since I first tried group training I have come to appreciate its motivational magic. I feel the loss when I miss out on a group workout. I miss them. They notice I’m gone. Working out alone is rarely a replacement for a group workout, even though solo workouts always have their place in my training. It’s not just about accountability. It’s also about the energy of others. I love what Alex has created with the Virtual Superhero team and I always feel better not just for having done it, but while I am doing it.

I work out with friends... This is similar to working out with a group, but it’s more direct. On Tuesdays, a friend of mine whom I introduced to Alex’s workouts has started coming to the 6:30 class as well. When we touch base the night before to say we’re both doing the 6:30 class the next day, that’s basically enough to guarantee I’ll get out of bed for that workout. It’s not that much different from planning to meet a friend at the gym at 6:30 — you would not want to stand someone up that early in the morning (if ever!).

I take afternoon naps…I know naps are killers for some people, making it difficult for them to sleep at bedtime. But I learned the virtues of a power nap from my Dad, who used to come home from the office at lunch, eat, and then have a 10-minute nap before heading back to work. I usually go for a bit longer, but rarely longer than 30 minutes (I set a timer). It’s a great refresher that I can fit in now that I’m working at home. The kittens love it too (they always come and nap with me). And if I’m feeling tired from having been awake since 5:20, it’s gives me enough of a boost to feel good until bedtime without interfering with my ability to sleep at night.

I am flexible; sometimes I bail…I don’t always follow through with the early workouts. About once or twice a month, on those mornings when I got to bed too late or if I feel ache-y or if my body or mind needs more rest, I turn off my alarm, cancel my workout, and go back to sleep.

I should add that I’ve always been a morning person. I appreciate the quiet of an early morning. If we had to rate times of day from 1-10, where 10 is the time of day we love the most, I would rate 6-9 a.m. as a 10.

Those are my gentle strategies for getting out of bed for early morning workouts. How do you feel about early workouts? If you’re into them, how do you motivate yourself to get out of bed for them?

covid19 · fitness classes

Seeking research participants

Professor Ann Barnfield is trying to find research participants for a study on the effects of participation in online exercise/physical activity sessions. She wonders the fit feminist blog community can help.

Here is the description of her project: “There is now much evidence that involvement in in exercise/physical activity has benefits both mentally and physically, and group activities can have social benefits. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, such activities have been severely restricted, and even banned outright. Physical health would be maintained to at least some extent by solitary exercise, but the social and psychological effects might be affected. There is some information showing  that being able to see, and maybe to speak to, others (instructor, fellow participants), during exercise/physical activity sessions is of benefit to individuals, but there is at present little actual research into the effects of socially/physically distanced sport and exercise sessions. I propose to survey online physical activity/exercise session participants to see what the effects of such participation are, and thus am writing to you.”

Here’s the official request:

Dear Activity Participant,

You are being invited to participate in a study that Anne Barnfield, a researcher from Brescia University College, at the University of Western Ontario, is conducting to investigate the effects of participation in online exercise/physical activity sessions for those who take part in such sessions.

Briefly, the study involves completing an online survey about your experiences with participation in online exercise/physical activity sessions. It is anticipated that it should take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete the survey. If you would like to participate in this study, please click on the link below to access the letter of information and survey link.

Survey Link

Thank you for considering this request.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Barnfield, DPhil.

School of Behavioural and Social Sciences,

Department of Psychology,

Brescia University College

feminism · fitness · fitness classes · health · inclusiveness

What’s the top thing you would change about the fitness industry today? (Group post)

Image description: Tracy’s minimalist home workout gear: overhead shot of running shoes, a cloth basket with a tennis ball and workout bands and a few other indiscernable items, set atop a yoga mat on a wood laminate plank floor.

When Sam and I started the blog back in 2012, we were committed to offering feminist thoughts on fitness and to trying to incorporate our feminism into our fitness lifestyles as we approached our 50th birthdays. Now, as we approach our 56th birthdays in the next couple of months, we continue to reflect on the ways the fitness industry could be friendlier, more inclusive, and more approachable. We are both super pleased that we have managed to carve out and support a community of others who are seeking an alternative to the usual messaging.

I’ve been doing the virtual Superhero workouts with Alex (for more info, check out ABH Movement) a few times a week, and on Friday evening she had a team happy hour on Zoom. She sent around four questions for us to ponder before we met, with the plan to discuss them. We didn’t make it to all of them (because by the time we did a full round where we each talked about when we first started doing fitness classes, happy hour had already spilled into 90 fascinating minutes). But Kim and I thought the final question would make a great group blog post: What’s the top thing you would change about the fitness industry today?

So I did the thing we do: I asked the Superhero team and the blog regulars for their answer to this question. And here’s what people had to say.

Nicole: I would take away the nutrition advice that some gyms provide. I don’t think there is a good way to do it in that environment. Also, it should be illegal for the instructor to say “did you indulge a little last night? Hungover? It’s OK, that’s why you are here!” No, I’m not here for that at all. Ever.

Tracy I (me): If I could wave a magic wand I would banish “weight loss” as a fitness goal from the entire industry. I would replace it with learning to believe in yourself and to love (or at least neutrally accept and value) and trust your body and appreciate it for what it can do, whatever that may be. Also: to encourage other women along the way to do the same. No comparing (I wrote about comparing back in the day)! ❤️

Cate: So many things– I’m 100% with both Tracy and Nicole on this — but I’d add I’d strip out any admonishment or encouragement to focus on anything except form. I have been lucky enough to find some amazing coaches — like Alex — plus yoga teachers and spin instructors who really understand how to support people to work for the next dimension while also emphasizing form, safety, alignment and the specific strength, needs and possibilities of your own body. But occasionally I wander into a class — like at the Y, or with a spin substitute — whose whole coaching is “harder!”. I went to a “boot camp” class at the Y a few years ago where the (20 something) instructor mocked me for doing my lunges slowly and carefully. This is obviously damaging for individual bodies and psyches, but also, I think, one of the biggest things that turns newbies away from fitness.

Sam: Oh there’s so much I would change if I ran the zoo. (Sorry, I can never resist that line from Dr. Suess.) But the most important thing for me would be a much greater emphasis on inclusion and diversity. I want room in my fitness world for people of all races, and genders and ages and physical abilities. Along with inclusion and diversity, I want to end the assumptions about who does what. I want more women in the weight room and more men in the yoga studio.

Coach Alex: As a coach, I desperately want everyone to know that if you don’t enjoy something, you don’t need to do it to “get in shape”. There’s this notion that certain movements/ways of exercising are most effective or necessary for the progress you want to make, and that’s simply untrue.

So many people struggle with developing a consistent and healthy relationship with fitness because it’s either a chore they feel they “have” to do OR they are fearful of starting in the first place (fitness is scary and intimidating). The reality is the fitness industry promotes fad diets, exercise trends, and equipment that ultimately will keep you hopping on and off the bandwagon- but if you find movement you LOVE (whether it’s weightlifting, Zumba, a sport, cycling, etc…) then THAT’S what’s going to keep you coming back. If you do burpees because you think you have to (but you hate them), you’re going to dislike that workout and dread coming back. I wish more people knew that just the act of MOVING is enough to keep you healthy and make fitness gains, and once you find a form of movement that sparks joy for you, that’s where the fun really starts 😜❤️

Chippy (Virtual Superhero teammate): What id like to change is that women are allowed to have muscles and that doesn’t make you unattractive. Those muscles take a tremendous amount of work and are beautiful. Strong is beautiful and there needs to be a cultural shift that goes with that for women 😊

And we’d love to hear from you. If you could change one thing about today’s fitness industry, what would it be?

covid19 · fitness · fitness classes · gadgets

To pod or not to pod?

Owners of gyms and yoga studios and general athletic facilities, which have been closed for a few months now, are starting to make plans for how to reopen safely. The biggest problem is how to restrict the transmission of virus droplets that occurs when a lot of people are breathing in the same enclosed space. If you missed our super-popular and informative post about this by engineers Sarah and Cara, you can read it here.

COVID-19 and the gym: building engineers weigh in

The problem of reconfiguring building systems and infrastructure to mitigate virus risk is ongoing, and experts are hard at work formulating plans.

And then some other people came up with this idea:

A person doing yoga (downward facing dog) inside a clear geodesic pod. In a group of others doing same. Outside. In Toronto.
A person doing yoga (downward facing dog) inside a clear geodesic pod. In a group of others doing same in their own pods. Outside. In Toronto.

So many questions come to mind here. The first one for me is “WHERE’S THE DOOR?”

Don’t worry– it’s right here.

Person doing savasana, or corpse pose (or maybe just sunbathing) inside pod, with door open.
Person doing savasana, or corpse pose (or maybe just sunbathing) inside pod, with door open.

They probably left the door open to avoid heat stroke– it’s got to be pretty toasty inside. Yes, there are fans, but I’m guessing they’re not going to help a lot. the instructor apparently gave up on their pod and taught from the open air.

Pod-yoga instructor, teaching podded students after escaping from her pod.
Pod-yoga instructor, teaching podded students after escaping from her pod.

The activity-within-pod idea isn’t actually new. For about 10 years now, novelty marketers have been advertising clear plastic watertight balls for playing on water.

Adults and children flailing about inside clear airtight plastic balls in a pool.
Adults and children flailing about inside clear airtight plastic balls in a pool.

For about the same amount of time, consumer and governmental safety agencies have warned against using these things, as they increase risk of suffocation or drowning. Of course, you could cut your risk of death in half by using it only on land:

A ballerina in a white tutu, posing inside a clear plastic ball. She's got max 30 minutes of air, FYI.
A ballerina in a white tutu, posing inside a clear plastic ball. She’s got 30 minutes of air, max.

I have to say, even if my risks of 1) drowning and 2) suffocating were eliminated, I don’t think I’d enjoy exercising inside a pod. Frankly, I’d feel too much like this:

Praying Mantis practicing rock climbing inside glass dome, looking uncomfortable.
Praying Mantis practicing rock climbing inside glass dome, looking uncomfortable.

It occurs to me that maybe it’s the dome-shape that’s got me bugging. A gym in LA has come up with plastic-sheet cubicles for its early-adopter clients. They can do classes and weight work inside, surrounded by clear plastic.

It’s not clear to me, though, whether the cubicles solve the problems that Sarah and Cara raise about gyms, air circulation and droplet transmission. There’s so much we don’t know. And, we need to get data through testing, which takes time.

For now, I think I’ll keep doing my group physical activity either inside through zoom or outside in small groups at a safe distance. And the only thing I think we should use those clear plastic balls for is making an impression on the runway, as Shangela did on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3.

Shangela stomping the runway inside a clear plastic ball.
Shangela, stomping the runway inside a clear plastic ball.

So, dear readers– would pods of either the domed or cubicle variety get you back to the gym or keen to join group classes? We’d love to hear from you.

fitness · fitness classes

The NYT 6-minute workout: commenters’ critiques and robust responses

Just when you thought that workouts couldn’t get any shorter, the New York Times has shaved another minute off and created the 6-minute workout. Tara Parker Pope offers us a cheery encouraging introduction:

I know that six minutes of exercise doesn’t seem like much. You might wonder: Is it even worth my time? The answer is yes! We created this workout with Chris Jordan, Director of Exercise Physiology at Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and creator of the widely-known 7 Minute Workout. His research shows that even very small amounts of exercise, when carried out with intensity, can reap big fitness rewards. By committing to a super short workout today, you are taking the first small step to building a fitness routine. Remember, new habits start with small changes, not big moves. Commit to just six minutes of exercise three times a week and you are on your way to a lifelong fitness habit.

Pope’s message seems super-clear: 6 minutes is not a huge commitment, the exercises are tough but doable (for some people– more on this later), and sticking to them for a while may well open up in us the possibility of incorporating more exercise into our daily lives. This is a total win.

At least you would think so. Not all the NYT commenters agree.

But before I get to those, here’s what the 6-minute workout is. There are actually three different 6-minute workouts, each to be done once a week (in theory).

Workout 1 is here. It consists of:

  • Jumping jacks
  • standing lunges
  • kneeling push-ups
  • forearm plank

You’ll repeat them twice, giving you a total body workout. Each exercise is 30 seconds long. Do them at your own pace. You’ll rest for 15 seconds after each exercise.

Workout 2 is here. It consists of:

  • Stand and box (standing– punch forward with left and right arms)
  • side squats (moving from standing, left and right to a squat)
  • kneeling push-ups
  • bird dog (on hands and knees, lifting opposite arms and knees front and back, respectively– I hope that makes sense)

Workout 3 is here. It consists of:

  • march in place
  • squats (with arms outstretched front)
  • push-ups with twist (after pushing up, lift one arm to ceiling, repeat other side)
  • bicycle crunches (arms by side, palms down, you know the rest– ouch)

There are no real surprises here. I happen to love bird dog– we do this in yoga– and I like holding the pose for a while. Standing lunges are hard for me, so I don’t dip so far. And there’s no way to sugar-coat bicycle crunches. They put the work in workout.

So you would think the comments would be sparse and fairly bland, since this is not a revolutionary exercise suggestion.

But no. They had a whole host of complaints, including:

  • didn’t like the vocal tone of the narrator
  • preferred pulling-movements to pushing movements (so pushups back, row good)
  • pointing out that reading about the workout is much easier than actually doing it
  • didn’t fit their very specific physical needs and exercise preferences (followed by a detailed description of the aforementioned)
  • all they care about is filling in the green ring in their Apple watch; would this do that?
  • this is a total wuss workout– instead people should do e.g. 40 plank pushups, 80 static lunges (40 each leg) with extra weight, 50 squats with extra weight, and a 2:00 min. straight plank (there were many such suggestions)
  • DON’T do this if you: have bad knees, are over 50, just ate, didn’t eat, have a last name that begins with M, and so on
  • Given that many workout wardrobe changes (12 in total), this would likely take more than 6 minutes (this one I concede has humor, if not merit)
  • People who don’t exercise more than this are in part responsible for global warming
  • Where’s the “mature” version of this (hmmm… do they mean naked version? I know, they mean older people, but really, “mature”?)
  • What can I sub for… fill in the blank (As former wait staff, I know that Americans do love their substitutions!)

And then someone just posted a picture of Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the US.

Okay, that’s actually their profile picture, but I thought it was jarring and funny.

Of course, a lot of commenters thanked Tara Parker Pope for posting, and sung the praises of the 6-minute workout.

My favorite of these compliments was this one:

Thank God. I tried the 7-minute workout last year, but really, who has time for THAT?

And my favorite responder to the “this workout is nothing and makes people too complacent and contributes to national ill health” complainer:

Nothing’s stopping you from making them more strenuous– maybe incorporate a pogo stick? While dodging a robotic vacuum that moves faster and faster? With a cat on your head?

Yes, dear responder. But I do think exercising with a cat on my head will take more than 6 minutes. We should ask this woman.

Woman attempting to exercise with three cats swarming around her.

Readers, what do you think about these 6 or 7-minute workouts? Have you tried them? Did they do anything for you? I’d love to hear your stories.

fitness · fitness classes · training · weight lifting

Fitness on the cheap: Sam joins a discount gym

Our group of regular bloggers is pretty privileged. Between us we pay for spin classes, CrossFit style studio memberships, rock climbing, coaches of all sorts, yoga classes, monthly access to indoor bike trainer facilities, Zwift memberships, personal training, and more. We try new things, like Orange Theory. I tell people I don’t have other hobbies and it’s my my form of recreation. But still, it’s costly.

(We’re not even going to talk about gear or clothing or bikes or boats, just the places we work out.)

Does fitness have to be expensive?

Recently I joined a discount gym. It’s not a chain fitness studio and it’s not $10 a month. But it’s close. It’s $20 a month and it’s open all the time, 24/7. I joined because I like to work out with my son sometimes and he’s got an all hours kind of schedule. It’s my personal trainer’s home gym and also the gym my physiotherapist goes to so I figured it must be okay.

What’s the price contrast? Let’s see, an hour of personal training costs twice as much as one month at the discount gym. A month at the gym costs the same as one session at the bike studio. Zwift is $15/month and that’s just a virtual world. You still need a bike and a trainer.

What I love so far:

  • When it’s staffed (regular hours) I can bring a friend anytime. It can be the same friend every time. And there is no pressure on them to join. After hours, there’s no staff and you use your card to get in. If you’re nervous, there are emergency call buttons on lanyards you can keep with you. 
  • It’s got every piece of workout equipment possible. It’s enormous. There are three big rooms and one is set up CrossFit style with room for ropes, tires, etc. There’s a sled to push and pull. There’s also a fitness studio with an app and workout videos to choose from to display on a big screen.
  • The other customers are an incredibly diverse bunch. I love the range of clothes people wear to workout. There are Italian grandmothers in cardigans, elastic waist pants, and flat dress shoes. There are serious powerlifters in all the gear. And everything in between. I love the high school students who come in after school in pretty much what they are wearing. Ditto the guys in construction boots and nurses still partly in uniform. There’s zero pressure to look all matchy-matchy in nice workout outfits. People are doing lots of different kinds of work outs and it’s all good.

What’s not so great?

  • Unlike classes and personal training and coached cycling/rowing workouts and boutique fitness studios like Cate’s feminist CrossFit or Tracy’s body-positive boot camp, or Orange Theory, you need to have a plan. It’s on you. You need to have a plan for what you are going to do when you get there. I cheat. I follow my son’s workout at about half the weight. But on my own I’m sometimes stuck and go back to old favourites. Lat pull down and bench press and deadlift, anyone? You also need to get there. When there isn’t a group and things start whenever you get there, I sometimes have a harder time getting myself out the door. Without a person whose expectations I want to live up to, sometimes it’s challenging to push yourself. 
  • Also because you can go anytime–24/7!–I can tend to put off going to the gym until later. I sometimes think what I need is a series of workouts on my phone that I can follow along with at the gym but my bad knee means I have to pick and choose. I manage. But I could be more thoughtful and deliberate about it.

Okay, now about you? Are your fitness activities all planned by you or by a trainer or by the agenda of group fitness? Do you go to pricey boutique studios or the generic discount gym? How much do finances and cost play a role in your choices?

people in gym exercising
A photo of a gym, lots of free weights, by Mark Bertulfo, Unsplash.


cycling · fitness classes · traveling

Sam worships at the church of spin and empowerment in Halifax, #SpinCo

The back story: I travel a lot for work and I struggle to combine work travel and fitness activities. I blog about it a lot. It’s a challenge. See here and here and here and here.

But it’s also a challenge that’s changed a lot over the years. Certainly it’s changed since we started the blog. The big difference is that I used to be able to count on walking a lot while traveling, carrying my own bags, and a little hotel room yoga to meet my fitness needs. These days though I can’t walk as much as I’d like. My knee is unreliable. Some days I can’t walk much at all.

So I’ve realized that to achieve my fitness goals and stay emotionally healthy I need actively pursue fitness while I travel. I need to take time out of my days to do specific fitnessy things. Everyday movement just won’t cut it. My knee even feels better with exercise so riding my bike has a kind of urgency about it these days. Heading out to Halifax for the Canadian Council of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science Deans annual meeting, I decided to take some spin classes while there.

So I searched online and found Spinco. They had classes at a time I was free and it was right downtown. I signed up for two classes.

Here’s my quick review:

👍 I loved the staff,. They were so warm and welcoming and enthusiastic. They helped store my new Brompton behind the counter, talked with me about Guelph and about spin classes, and they helped get me set up. They were probably the friendliest and most helpful fitness studio staff I’ve ever met and I’ve been to a lot of fitness studios in my life. Give these women raises!

👍 I loved the energy and the music. I even went looking for playlists on Spotify. Here’s one. The vibe was upbeat and happy. We worked hard but we also had a lot of fun.

👍 The physical space was bright and light and comfortable. They had nice lockers and showers. There was zero weight loss messaging and no scale in the locker room.

👍 I loved that I could use my road bike shoes. These were the first spin bikes I’ve seen that have Look Keo pedals. Most people won’t own them and the studio had cycling shoes which most people there were wearing.

👎I wasn’t a big fan of the music volume. I had a hard time hearing the instructor over the music. I kept thinking of your post Cate on what makes a good spin class. You would have also hated the volume. At one point I thought the instructor kept yelling “Wall Two, Wall Two” and I wondered what that meant. Some special SpinCo thing? No, it was of course “One Two.”

👎I also wasn’t a big fan of the dark. I couldn’t really see what the instructor was doing. There was a disco ball and groovy lighting but still, too dark for me.  When I went to get weights I couldn’t read the numbers of the end to see how heavy they were (not very) and to make sure I got a matched set. I nearly tripped returning my weights when it was all done! I would’ve put on my phone flashlight except I’d followed instructions to leave my phone in the locker.

👎 I missed having access to the data. I want to know my speed, my cadence, my power. These bikes didn’t have computers with the data. Now, this  is more a “spin/dance” class than an “indoor cycling” class but still. I missed my numbers!

👎 I felt a little bit out of place. There might have been two people in the class over the age of 30! There were a lot of pony tails and yoga pants and sports bras. It’s okay not to fit in and I’m comfortable with that most of the time but this was a bit much. (I went twice though and the weekend class was better. There were two guys and a couple of women closer to my age.)

❓ There was a lot of bike dancing. Check out the video below if you don’t know what I mean by that. So much moving around on the bike to music. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I might have preferred less of it truth be told, much as I love dancing off the bike. In order to keep my knee happy with all the dancing I had to keep a lot of tension on so I was in control but it’s nice to be able to do that now.

❓I was intrigued by the SpinCo motivational jam. It was like being at church with Oprah on speed. “You are enough. You are not broken. You are not the habits you acquired while coping with trauma. Those habits do not define you. It’s a new day. You are powerful. You can leave all your bad news behind in this class.”

You get the idea. It was pretty unrelenting. I didn’t mind it but it’s a definite thing.

It’s obviously connected to the company’s mission.

“It is our mission to empower and inspire our community. We are in the business of revolutionizing lives and know that our work is never done. We believe that strength comes from within, but that we are stronger as one. Our aim is to infuse our community with a positive, never-quit attitude, which reaches far beyond the doors of our studios. This is our culture. We believe in it. We live it. We breathe it. It’s who we are.”

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@brenden.butchart ⚡️🏁#SPINCOhalifax

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See lots more on their instagram page. Would I attend regularly if I lived in Halifax and worked downtown? Maybe. It was a pretty good workout. It was fun. I left in a good mood.  If i’m in Halifax for work again I’ll definitely go back.