fitness · Happy New Year! · new year's resolutions

Starting the New Year today

No, you don’t need to check your calendars– today is February 9, not January 1.

Maybe you’re thinking: she’s on one of those inspirational jags, urging us to see our lives afresh each day.

A rosy "today is the first day of the rest of your life" image.
A rosy “today is the first day of the rest of your life” image.

No, that’s not it.

Or, you think, oh, she’s using one of those implicit New Year’s resolutions gone awry memes to make a point about resolutions and habits.

"My 2020 is going to start on Feb 1. I've decided January is my free trial month."
“My 2020 is going to start on Feb 1. I’ve decided January is my free trial month.”

Nope.

My late start to 2020 is more practical in nature. January was a complete blur of a month this year. I was sick as a dog with a virus/sinus infection all month, I had 19 tenure committee meeting to prepare for, attend and then to write six letters for, I started classes January 23, and finally, I was finishing up my job as co-warden of my church. Today is our church annual meeting, where we elect new wardens.

Pineapple doing a happy dance.

This means that as of today, Feb 9, I am DONE with my church leadership job. I am DONE with my university tenure committee, I am DONE with this wretched virus/sinus thing, and I am READY to get going on my year. But what does that mean?

Mainly it means moving. January was exhausting. All I could do was work and sleep, and very occasionally do a little yoga and walking. I miss movement. I miss strength training. I miss cycling (albeit on the trainer these days). I miss daily yoga. But my new year is starting today, so I can get back to those things, starting with a vengeance!

Wait— hold on a minute. What was true on Jan 1 is still true on Feb 9. It’s not like Feb 9 resolutions are any less prone to over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations than Jan 1 resolutions. I mean, my head is filled with all the new year’s advice we have to manage and make sense of:

  • Just do it.
  • Be in the moment.
  • Breathe.
  • Forget the past.
  • Today is a new day.
  • Focus on the process, not the product.
  • Failure is not an option.
  • Failure is your friend.
  • ACK!

So what should I do and how should I do it?

I’m starting by walking to yoga class this afternoon. I’m setting up my bike trainer in my study, too. My yoga mat and some weights are in the living room. It’s time to move, one day at a time. Also, it’s time to make plans to do physical activities with friends, and put together a weekly doable schedule. I’ll check in next month to report on how things are going.

What about you, dear readers? How is your new year going? We can declare restarts any time we want. Or we can just restart every day. This whole dedicated habit structure thing is not my forte, but I’d welcome your thoughts or ideas about what works for you.

fitness · habits · Happy New Year! · motivation

Happy Quitters’ Day!

Based on loads of data (48 million users worldwide logging their training), Strava says today’s the day when lots of us who made big new year plans give up. We abandon our new year’s fitness resolutions. This year Strava predicts January 19, two days later than last year.

It seems early to me. But who I am to judge? I typically don’t make super big “new year, new me” style resolutions. I did quit smoking on January 1 but that was in 1989, a very long time ago. And I started by cutting back in September so it wasn’t exactly cold turkey.

New year, new me!

Running Magazine has some good tips if your motivation is starting to wane but you want to stick with it: find a buddy, revise your resolution, schedule a race, and don’t be so hard on yourself. I like them. They’re good tips.

I also like a line I learned from Precision Nutrition coaches a few years back, quit tomorrow. It’s their motivation secret #2. “If you’re struggling with your fitness goals, feel free to quit. Just do it tomorrow.”

The idea is that we often quit at the start of a day or activity when things feel especially hard. Or in the middle of a really tough day when we’ve just had enough. Instead, just do the thing and see how you feel after. Still feel like quitting? Quit then. Allowing yourself the possibility of future quitting can help you keep going now.

What works for you to keep you going when quitting beckons?

eating · eating disorders · fitness · food · habits · Happy New Year! · holidays · new year's resolutions · overeating

Still Recovering From Holiday Overeating? Here’s what I’m doing next.

CW: Discusses disordered eating habits and negative self-talk.

Continuing with my normal life.

No, seriously. The moment the celebrations are over and I feel like, “hmm, maybe it’s time to eat fewer cookies, get a little more sleep and find that gym membership card again,” then I’ll just take one thing and do what is normal for me. I’m not going to ramp up, push hard, or go strong. It is not time to atone, make up for, or negate.

I’m just going to let myself fall back naturally into my old routines. It might take a few days, or a week, or whatever, but I’ll find them again. The key is to not spend my time wallowing in guilt or blaming myself in anger. The more emotion I put behind the transition, the harder it is.

I know because I’ve been there before, and not just at the holidays. You see, for nearly as far back as I can remember, I’ve dealt with compulsive overeating. I stole food and hid it in my room as a little girl. As a teen, I would spend my allowance on donuts and pastries that I would eat while walking home from school. I managed my emotions, my sense of loneliness and isolation, depression, traumatic experiences and their aftermaths with food.

I have spent the better part of the last decade extricating myself from these patterns, and while I can’t say I will never overeat unintentionally again, I can say it occurs less and less frequently.

One of the most powerful tools that helped me was to learn to remove emotions from my observations of these patterns and to switch my internal talk to neutral observations. “Why was I so stupid and ate all that cake again?!” has become “I have eaten more cake than I planned on eating.”

I don’t immediately go into damage control mode. I don’t promise to eat only a salad for dinner that night or swear off cake for the rest of the week. I don’t immediately go out for a run or plan a brutal lifting session. I try to just notice it and move on.

I think the noticing is important, although I haven’t read this anywhere else. My friends who are chronic dieters often seem to do a “I’m eating whatever I want, I don’t care” move and then use that as a way to “ignore” what they are overeating. From what I’ve observed on the outside, this seems to backfire as shame and guilt in the long run. It looks like the act of pretending one doesn’t care builds up increased levels of emotional connection to choices rather than diminishing them.

So, the first step isn’t to pretend I am neutral, but to acknowledge the feelings and the choices and consciously rewrite the observation into a neutral statement. “I care about how much I’m eating and I’m going to eat this cookie anyway” is a much more powerful sentiment than trying to convince myself that I don’t care when I actually do.

Then, when I’m ready to make a different choice–the party is over, I’m not out to brunch with friends, I’m back from vacation, and it’s just another meal–I do whatever I would normally do. The only exception is if I really, truly, just don’t feel like it. If my “usual” is dessert after lunch and dinner, but today I’d rather start with a piece of fruit at lunch, then I eat it. But I have to be honest with myself–it doesn’t work to try to convince myself that I should only want a piece of fruit. And this goes for the other direction as well–if my “usual” is a piece of fruit and I really want dessert, I have to be honest with myself about that, too. Again, the act of trying to convince myself creates too high of stakes and too much emotion. So, I have a serving of what I really want while practicing being neutral, and then I get back to my normal routine.

This works with other habits and routines I’m trying to get back to, too. Stopped going to the gym? Letting myself stay up too late? Need to call my parents more often? I observe it. And then allow myself to do one thing that I used to do that helped me maintain that behavior in the past. I only commit to trying ONE thing. It may be as small as putting it on my calendar or packing my gym bag. I break the inertia, do that one thing and observe it without judgement. And then try again.

And before too long, it will be just another day.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found practicing neutral observations, picking up heavy things, and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

Happy New Year! · race report · racing · running · traveling · winter

Race Report – Bettina’s New Year’s Eve 8k

In 2017, I started dabbling in running one or the other race, and discovered a wonderful one: the Bilbao – Rekalde San Silvestre 8k, which takes place on New Year’s Eve. My husband is from the Basque Country, so we spend New Year’s there every year. I had so much fun in 2017 that I decided to run it again on the last day of 2018. This time, I roped in two friends to run it with me. Overall, just under 2,500 other runners had the same idea. And it was even better than the year before!

I’ll get into this in a moment, but first, there are a couple of other things I’d like to talk about. The first is the reason I love this race: while there are of course some people who are there for the competition, the vast majority are there for the fun. People run alone, in groups, with their families, or dressed up in all kinds of costumes. My favourite this year were the two guys who came dressed as a trainera (a Basque type of rowing boat). In the head picture of this official blog post you can see them! There’s also a summary video of the race that gives you a good idea of the vibe (you really only need to watch the first half, the second half is more boring, unless you want to see how the winners did):

The second thing I wanted to talk about is slightly less fun: it’s the gender split of the race. There are only two categories, male and female, which is a problem unto itself, but the race this year was no less than three-quarters male. That doesn’t seem like a particularly healthy split to me. In fact, even in comparison to marathons in the US (a statistic I could find quite quickly), it’s quite poor. I’m not totally sure what is going on here. It’s a fairly short race (below 10k), not a very serious one, and cheap (10 euros) so it sends all the right accessibility signals, or so one would think… and yet. I was intrigued, so I looked into the data for Spain (from a few years ago) a bit. Generally, women are quite a bit more sedentary than men. For example, in the 25-44 age bracket, 55% of women never (!) exercise, compared to 41% of men. On the European scale*, Spain sits in a middling position overall regarding physical activity, but the difference by sex (again, the data is binary) is comparatively large. Possible explanations would be entirely speculative at this point – but our work, fit feminist friends, is not done.

For now, let’s focus on why I loved the San Silvestre even more this time than the year before. In 2017, it poured with rain throughout the entire race. This time around, we got spectacular blue skies (see picture below) and a perfect running temperature of just over 10°C. It felt amazing!

Runners gathering for the San Silvestre run in front of the Guggenheim Bilbao museum, with a spectacularly blue sky and curious onlookers.

Also in 2017, I was still getting into running and quite slow, and I suffered due to the hills along the route. But over the past year, I’ve been working on my hills quite a lot, and my overall running speed has increased. We’d decided to run the race in our pack of three, so the (supposedly) slowest in the group was our pacer – and he wasn’t slow at all! We ran pretty much at the speed I currently train at, so we did very well. It gets even better: the reason we did the time we did was that our first kilometre was really slow due to the masses of people at the start. Meaning that overall, I was actually faster than ever, aside from that first bit! And the really amazing thing is that I could have run even faster – but the way we did it was perfect because we stuck together as a team and had a fabulous time. Mission accomplished!

*There is so much interesting data in that Eurostat graph, I’m going to make it its own separate post, promise!

Happy New Year!

Top 10, Part 2: Our most viewed posts in 2018 from 2018

Tracy’s boudoir photo shoot

Why make it all about weight? Can’t it just be a good hair day?

Once upon a time there was a leather jacket (Guest post)

Why we can’t promise a feminist space will be a safe space

Other books we love!

I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing?

Four worries Sam has about intuitive eating

Nat gets her hearing checked and encounters unfettered sexism

An open letter to Kathleen Wynne (Guest Post)

Guess which body shaming phrase Sam doesn’t ever want to hear again?

Bike with basket resting on a pink wall.
Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash
blog · feminism · fitness · Happy New Year!

2018 in review: blog favorites

As 2018 comes to an end, I want to share with you reflections on some of our favorite blog posts from this year. If you have a favorite, and if you have a topic that you’d like us to write about, please let us know.

Looking back at my own blog posts, I noticed some trends. First, I’ve explored new options for activity, namely compression socks (which for me are here to stay), and interesting swimwear with more coverage, both for sun protection and because I like that. Second, yoga has played a bigger and much more important role in my life this year. It has helped me stay connected to physical activity and my body no matter what– when I had pneumonia, when I had a sprained ankle and then the DVT, I always had yoga. It’s also connected me to other places– I tried out yin yoga in Arizona, and yinki in San Diego.

My fellow bloggers have written so much about so many important issues, it’s hard to pick. Here are a few examples of blog posts I love.

Hands down, my favorite posts to read are Cate’s (fieldpoppy) posts about her active travel all over creation. She’s hiked and climbed in St Lucia, danced with locals at the Nomad games in Kygyzstan, and most recently ridden, pushed and pulled her fully loaded rental bike (complete with yoga mat) in Victoria, Australia. Her reports are honest (sometimes travel is tiring and sucky, with bad food and busy roads) but also motivating me to follow where my own wanderlust leads.

Sam’s posts are about anything and everything in the world of fitness, and I always look forward to learning about something new, silly, cool, worrying, or important. Some of my favorites, though, are about her own processes of dealing with fitness in her own life. I love her post about dealing with exercise while in a new and big job as Dean— seeing how she schedules in workouts has helped me with my own plans. Sam is also frank about what’s happening in her fitness life, which includes injuries, mourning the loss of running, and optimism around new ones (snipe racing, anyone?).

Tracy also writes about lots of topics, taking on bogus nutrition claims (yes, you can be vegan and an athlete– duh…), reporting on her running races and training, and also blogging about body positivity. I loved her boudoir photo shoot post; it helped me recognize the ways I can be more expansive and accepting in my views about beauty, age, and self. Also, Tracy is a strong advocate for the start-small view of habit shifts. We often (especially now, in the heat of resolution fervor) want to throw ourselves into a whole new regimen. But such drastic shifts tend to burn out quickly. Starting small is more sustainable and provides a base for building to bigger goals.

I could go on all day, but I do have PT and then an outdoor walk scheduled. So let me just note some other blog posts I really loved:

We’ve had lots of wonderful guest posts this year. A few you might want to re-check out are:

So, dear readers, what are your favorites– favorite topics, favorite posts, etc.? Also, what would you like to read about in 2019? What’s on your minds as we cross into the new year? Let us know–we’d like to hear from you.

“New Year” on a chalkboard, surrounded by boughs. Photo by Annie Pratt on Unsplash.