Caitlin closed up shop last year and I still miss her presence on the internet, both on Facebook and her blog. Tracy and I used to say that it felt like was our cooler, faster, younger sister.
Now we’re celebrating 15,000 followers.
What’s so great about that? I mean other than it being nice to be liked…
It gives us a bigger audience for our blog posts. When we look at where blog traffic comes from almost all of it, with some very rare exceptions, is Facebook. Shares from that page are a big deal for us. Occasionally I think about Facebook and its misbehavior and think about leaving but it would mean significantly scaling back our quest for changing the way people think about fitness. I’m not sure what the answer is but I don’t think feminists should be the first to leave.
It’s not just blog content that’s shared there. I also share a lot of things there that are likely of interest to blog readers. Disagreements occasionally happen and then I draw on our largest blog community to help me moderate. Thanks all!
If you’re a Facebook user and a blog follower, go like us there if you want more feminist fitness content in your newsfeed.
Well, here is another such post. About my favourite fitness coach ever, Alex Boross-Harmer.
A few months ago, Alex told me that her aspiration as a coach was to make a space so her clients feel that the hour spent working out is their best hour in the day. And I realized that this is exactly how I feel with her — first in her classes, and now in personal training, I feel supported, challenged, encouraged and stronger than I’ve ever felt in my life.
Alex’ is the first class I ever felt inspired to dance in — just because her joy at being in the gym is infectious. (And I am not a person naturally given to expressing joy). She is so good at what she does that I never feel she’s asking me to do something out of reach — but then I find myself deadlifting 170lbs or walking on my hands, things I never in my wildest dreams imagined doing at almost-55. She is phenomenal at pinpointing the thing that gives me joy and intuiting the precise moment where, with encouragement and detailed analysis and guidance for my particular body, I can take it one step further. She does this so effortlessly that I forget she’s half my age and so incredibly fit on her own she is almost another species from me.
I was trying to figure out why Alex is such a powerful presence, compared to so many other teachers and coaches I’ve had in my life. With other coaches in small group fitness classes, I often find myself feeling inept, or like I can’t quite get the form right, or I’m hopelessly clumsy. It’s hard to articulate, but with many other coaches, even when they do and say all the “right” things, I can feel held back in a way. It’s not something specific like being adjusted, or told I should stay at a lower weight to focus on form, or lack of encouragement. Other coaches can do all those things “right,” and it’s fine — I can get a good workout, have a fun class.
But Alex has a unique, powerful ability to authentically connect in a way that makes me feel like she really *sees* me — sees the power in me yearning to unleash, sees my desire to see myself as strong, to feel more and more resilient in my relationship to aging. She’s 27, but she sees it — in a wordless way. And she creates a space that enables me to grow into and trust the Strong, Confident Cate we create together. With her, I am simultaneously fearless and 9 years old, and wise and strong and 55. I will hurl myself upside down in a handstand in the middle of the floor, and I will trust her when she tells me to slow it down.
I keep trying to understand how she creates such enlivened safety. Some of it is what she says, some of it is her design of our sessions, and some of it is just a way that she metaphorically holds me as safe to explore and push myself.
I’m currently doing a certification program as a leadership/life purpose coach, so I’m paying a lot of attention to What Makes a Good Coach. I see a lot of the specific things I’m learning in Alex — holding the client’s agenda, making it about me, not her, championing, exploring what I need, advancing the learning. But many coaches do this. What makes Alex special is emblematized in a tattoo on her arm that says “get comfortable with uncomfortable.” She is authentic, and she is always seeking deeper self-knowledge, authentic connection. And that is a remarkable space to feel safe to deepen my relationship with my body. Thank you Alex ;-).
How about you? Have you had a fitness (or other) coach that truly inspires and pushes you? What made that person great?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who stands on her hands and ponders authenticity in Toronto. Alex is Alex Boross-Harmer, who has a new website: http://www.abhmovement.com
Look what I got for Christmas, a beginner’s guide to goat yoga. Hey, I’m not a beginner. I think I’ve been three times. I’m a fan. But still, it’s a fun book. Thanks Mallory!
We’re currently heading to Florida to ride our bikes for a week. But it won’t be all bike riding. We’re thinking of going here on our rest day, Dancing Moon Goat Yoga. We’ve packed our yoga mats for Yoga with Adriene. After 20 hours driving, with one overnight stop, we’ll definitely need it.
The last time I went to goat yoga I didn’t want to give the baby goat back!
Yesterday I went to ropes yoga (at my local studio Artemis Yoga) after a very long break (mainly because of scheduling conflicts). It was exciting and a little nervous-making to be back; I’m still recovering from cold and bronchitis and a month of very little physical activity, so I’m definitely not operating at full strength. But I love this practice—it appeals to my inner 8-year-old who enjoys climbing, hanging upside down, and trying new things.
The teacher, Pam, is a great instructor. She’s attentive, very knowledgeable, and offers loads of modifications in a low-key way. She also keeps the class moving at a good pace, which is not always easy when you’re using a lot of props (blocks, blankets, sometimes chairs) and moving ropes around and tying knots.
This class for me was an exercise in acceptance:
acceptance that I’m not recovered from this chest cold/bronchitis, so I can’t exert myself as much as I would like;
acceptance that my strength/conditioning are what they are at this moment, which will determine what my ropes practice is today;
acceptance that my body has a history of injuries (shoulder surgery for rotator cuff tear, to name one) and vulnerabilities and hard limits (there are some poses my body flat-out refuses to do);
acceptance of being seen and being helped while doing this practice– I was feeling a bit dizzy, so didn’t do the headstand inversion; instead Pam suggested a standing rag doll pose on the wall that felt good.
I didn’t take any pictures yesterday, so I’m reblogging my previous ropes yoga post so you can see how things are set up. I highly recommend this kind of class if you have an opportunity and like to climb and explore space, limits and what your body might be able to do with them.
I’ve been going to yoga classes off and on since my early 30s, when my friend Deb and I decided to celebrate finishing our dissertations with a hatha yoga class (not very wild and crazy, I know, but anything seems exciting compared to dissertation writing). My attention turned back to yoga in January when I started going to a local studio (Artemis Yoga in Watertown, MA) that is a 10-minute walk from my house. Again, it was motivated by a friend (Norah this time—what would we do without supportive friends?)
I’ve been loving and appreciating yoga for its focus on where my body is right now, the attention to thoughts, feelings and sensations, and the choices it offers for adjusting the intensity of the experience.
Which is why taking a ropes yoga class—also called Kurunta Yoga—was irresistible. And it didn’t disappoint.
Me, I’ve never been a word of the year person. I’m not sure why. Does it seem too “woo” for me? Too new-age-y?
That’s the thing. I might say that but I have chosen words. On my very first blog, way back on in the days of Friendster, I wrote a post called “My 40s are for FUN.” The theme of my 30s had been FAMILY, I said. Later, I planned my 50s to be about FITNESS. Enter this blog.
I’m also seeing a massage therapist who asks each session if I want a word for the purposes of focus. Last week after way too much time in conference chairs and airplane seats it was SOFTEN. He repeats the word while working out all the knots in my muscles and makes my knees just a little bit happier.
But this is my first time assigning a word for the year. I tried doing it during my stint with Precision Nutrition but it didn’t feel right. But this year a word struck me and that word is FOCUS. (What’s up with all the F’s? I don’t know. Sorry.)
Why FOCUS? Well, it’s a challenge for me. I like to juggle a lot of different things. I often read three of four books at a time. Watch a couple of shows. Have lots of different writing projects on the go. And I’m that way with physical activity too.
But this year I need to focus. I have one goal in mind which is getting ready for total knee replacement surgery next year. It’s not going to be easy. I have to keep up the physio, stay active, and do everything with knee health in mind. There’s no wandering off in pursuit of other goals. Everything has to be about my knee.
I need to practise saying things like, “that’s not the best thing for my knee and right now I need to give priority to my knee.” Focus.
I need to not do things, like certain yoga poses, that I can do but that hurt my knee. Focus.
I need to walk the right amount to help the joint but not enough to hurt it. Focus.
I’ll work out hard but then I need to carefully plan enough rest and recovery. Focus.
After I’d chosen my word, and written this post, along came Adriene. Perfect.
Watch “Home – Day 23 – Focus | 30 Days of Yoga With Adriene” on YouTube
My part of the country had a HUGE snowstorm on January 17. As in, 93cm of snow, 140+km/hr winds. This cluster of cities and towns on the Avalon peninsula has been under various forms of a State of Emergency for the past week and, as Martha noted in her post yesterday, it’s been a challenge.
Before the storm hit, I suggested to the other bloggers that I would write a post about my fitness efforts during and after the storm. I thought I would spend the stormy hours alternating between writing and exercise and get all kinds of things done and then, afterwards, I would rack up some serious strength training and cardio shovelling out my driveway.
The thing is, though, that you don’t really realize how much snow 93 cms is. You may understand it as a measurement but, until it is falling, you don’t really understand what it feels like.
The storm was so intense that it was disturbing on a visceral level. I got caught up in weather updates and social media posts, and I couldn’t shut out the sound of the wind. I felt that, even inside the house, I was being buffeted around, as if something terrible could happen at any second. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t make myself exercise, I couldn’t seem to settle into any specific activity.
I did go out after the storm and start to help to shovel the driveway but I sank in a drift that was up to my hip and managed to hurt my knee while getting myself back out. I had to take it easy for the rest of the day.
Now, as I mentioned in the 100 Day Reclaim post that is linked above, I was kind to myself about the whole thing. After all, you can only do what you can do, and there is nothing to be gained by judging yourself harshly.
So, I focused on the things that I could do.
Once my husband and sons had some ground cleared outside, I went back out to help shovel (keeping my foot on a stable surface meant less pressure on my knee.) I shovelled for short spurts, alternating where my hands were on the shovel, until the driveway was clear.
I kept up with my yoga.
I did lots of stretching.
I let my knee recover.
By Wednesday, I was back to my full shovelling strength and I spend most of my day helping to shovel people out. In the morning, I joined a group of neighbours helping to excavate someone’s car. In the afternoon, I helped my brother-in-law (who has a snow clearing business) break up the snow in someone’s driveway so it would fit into the snowblower.* In the evening, I joined a local ‘snow brigade’ – a group of volunteers who were accepting requests for help – and we dug out someone’s basement apartment.
On Wednesday, my Fitbit logged 17,433 steps, 11.3kms, and 275 ‘active’ minutes. Most of those steps were with a shovelful of snow in hand.
It was an incredibly hard day but it was also, somehow, really energizing.
I get why people with ADHD could thrive in jobs with intense physical labour. This was challenging enough to keep me engaged, it had a good social component, and it gave me the opportunity to help people without having to overthink the details.
I was tired at the end of the day (and even more so on Thursday) but it was very satisfying and it gave me some more insights into my plan to increase my fitness levels.
It turns out that I feel really great after exercising for a long time.**
And, I apparently enjoy functional fitness – I find the repetitive nature of strength training really hard on my brain. It’s not that I don’t want to put in the effort, it’s that I find it so boooooring that I have trouble making myself start it in the first place. I like being strong and I want to work toward greater strength but I need to find ways to get there without having to fight my ADHD to do the work. I’m still figuring out what that might look like but the insight is still important to me.
The physical effort I have put in this week – in yoga and in snow removal- has made a difference in how I feel, both mentally and physically. I want to keep those gains so I will be following Nia Shanks advice to keep taking action toward my goals – the thinking part will develop as I go along.
Please note: I recognize that there is a lot of privilege involved in being stuck in a State of Emergency and having the leisure to reflect on how it affects my fitness. This situation has uncovered a lot about food insecurity in the communities in my area and I have done what I could to support those who were working on the front lines to ensure that people had the supplies they needed in these dire circumstances. In this post, I focused on my fitness because this is a fitness blog, not because that was all I thought about.
*Snowblowers can only chop up snow that is the same height as the blower itself. Snow that’s higher has to be chopped down to an appropriate height. Chopping snow is not quite as hard as shovelling it but it is still pretty hard work.
**Perhaps you have always known this about yourself but my ADHD likes to dissuade me from starting anything that is going to be ‘too long’ or ‘too hard’ so this realization is really important for me.