advertising · aging · body image · Fear · health · meditation · mindfulness

Why Is The Wellness Industry Growing By Leaps and Bounds?

The wellness trend is surging, so we’re told. Women are taking care of themselves more these days. Prioritizing their needs (an idea whose time has surely come). Paying attention to nourishing foods. Getting more exercise. Starting to think about the health of their minds and spirits. These are good things, right? Yes!

I’m on board. I have a curious bent. As much as I like to try new physical activities, I also like to try new health and wellness protocols. Why wouldn’t I want to feel as good as possible physically and emotionally? I’ve had some kind of meditation practice for more than a decade. I incorporate acupuncture and massage into my schedule with some regularity. There’s a Korean spa just over the George Washington Bridge we like to go to with friends for a stiff scrub and some time in the saunas and under the far infrared light. Yes, my vagina has been steamed with mugwort vapors (enjoyable, not life changing). And I have succumbed to the promises of quite few skincare products; the best of which deliver on about 25% of their hype, which is more than I really expected, if I’m honest with myself.

Have we gone too far?

Lured by the wellness industry’s promises of eternal youth and beauty (also great sex), are we trying to buy our way out of reality? Goop is one of the industry’s most high profile villains-du-jour. High on the list of accusations lodged against Goop are that it is marketing products that are not scientifically proven.

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amber tincture bottles on a desk with books and decorative straw ball

As an aside, researchers (at Harvard, no less) are hard at work studying the surprising efficacy of the placebo effect. Virtually all of us engage in some magical thinking that has worked. There is a good chance that we will discover that a lot of pseudoscience may be less pseudo and more science than is currently understood.

In the meantime though, Goop has been taken to task (and court) more than once for grandiose claims it makes about the products it hawks. The clientele, largely white women of privilege, is disdained as gullible over-spenders with too much money and not enough sense. It’s so easy to question the priorities and intelligence of someone who buys a jade egg for her vagina; even if the whole idea of the egg is pretty ancient.

Yet, the very success of enterprises like Goop demonstrates that for all the privilege (whether real or not—the infamous jade egg was only $66), money is not buying us peace of mind. I haven’t actually bought anything from Goop, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t feel better about myself. Rather, our unease with ourselves enables companies to offer more and more outrageous and outrageously priced “solutions” for unsolvable challenges, like aging (and fear of aging). As this article in Quartzy points out, #skincare is just a code word for anti-aging. The marketing language may be coloured with all sorts of body positive words, but the root emotion that’s targeted and monetized is the same as always with these kinds of products—shame. Shame about our bodies. Shame about getting older.

I struggle with this. I spend too much time studying the wrinkles on my face, trying to decide if they are worsening, or if whatever new miracle product I’m using is actually smoothing them away, even a little. I have strong feelings about cosmetic surgery. Denying my aging feels like a betrayal of women. Yet it is also a high horse that is precarious. As much as I want to accept the inevitable with dignity and grace, to stay strong and healthy by eating well, drinking water, exercising, sleeping and such, I know that at any moment I might fall off my hobbyhorse, landing on needles full of Botox and fillers, or UPS boxes full of promise-y Goop products.

We women are not alone in our susceptibility. Men are just drawn in by different language. For men it is the language of performance optimization that closes the deal. Deploying knowledge to biohack a more efficient personal ecosystem are their code words for lose weight, get strong and stay young.

We are not idiots for falling for these bright, shiny promises. We live in a society that delivers a torrent of messaging, which tells us that we aren’t young enough, fit enough, beautiful enough, rich enough, famous enough, or really enough of anything. Even when anti-aging is rebranded as the dewiness we all deserve, we know the truth of what we are buying. We are spending money to put a finger in the leaky dyke of our not-enoughness. Intellectually, I know I should always think that I am enough. But I don’t. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s a big part of why the health and wellness industry is growing.

We have the actual, literal possibility of more and more comfort, yet we live with less and less ease.

I wonder if that’s because we know that our society is askew and our subconscious senses this dis-ease. The gap between have-a-lot and have-not is widening exponentially. Some women are spending a small fortune and enormous amounts of time on wellness, while in the same country other women are working multiple jobs and still can’t put dinner on the table for their children. Coming home from a dermatologist appointment during which I had a little skin tag on my neck removed (a voluntary procedure), I walked past a homeless man, sleeping out in the pouring rain. A wave of guilt washed through me. Should I have given the money I’d just spent to him instead?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of our health and wellness. I’m not going to stop trying to stay physically and mentally healthy, or stop buying any beauty products. I’m not saying we shouldn’t indulge.

I am proposing that if we do so more mindfully, perhaps we can indulge just a little less and share just a little more.

We are optimized when we are comfortable in our bodies and with who we are. That’s the brass ring of health and wellness.

fitness · meditation · yoga

How yoga sneaks up on you

IMG_4269I lift my heel and flex my toes in high lunge, and feel every part of my foot flicker to life.

*

I roll down into forward fold and I flash through an inner dialogue of hips taut, hamstrings tight, feet turned in a little too much, fibrous muscle catching over my left knee, piriformis sore, toes further away than last week.

*

I sit in dandasana and feel hips, thighs, spin, neck race into position, work to constellate into an upright, strong posture.

*

I sit in hero pose at the beginning of a class, legs tucked under, looking like I am doing NOTHING, and my quads fire into agitated life, screaming to be released.  At the end of class, I sit as comfortably in this pose as in a chair.

*

I balance in warrior three, feel my leg root, glide forward in complete equilibrium.

**

I’ve been doing yoga at least once a week for more than 20 years now.  These poses are “easy” asanas — but I was reflecting in my class on Monday that I experience them fresh every time.  I discover my toes anew every time I step on the mat, am present to these little bits of my body that work for me all day, every day, but which I never really feel or pay attention to until I’m directly engaging them.  I feel like different parts of my body literally greet me when I fold, stretch, balance — hello calves!  hello arthritic big toe! hello side-twisty bit!

At the same time, I experience the poses as familiar, attached to a story — “oh, interesting, I’m so much stronger and deeper in chair pose than I was six months ago” — and as completely new — “how do I fold in suryanamaskar A in a way so it really feels like a flow?  how do I curl over my toes from upward dog to downward dog in a smooth motion?”  I’ve literally done 1000s of sun salutations in my yoga life — but every one has its own life to it, its own story, is a new question.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was contemplating going to her first yoga class ever, and she was reluctant because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to follow it, wouldn’t be able to “do” it.  I found myself quite passionately describing my experience of yoga as “never easy,” that there is no “right” way to do it, and that good yoga classes are always about never comparing, about going deep inside your own possibilities, being okay with the fact that you have been doing yoga for 20 years and still cannot do some of the things that other people can do easily.  For me this is getting my heels down in downward dog, doing Utthita Hasta Padangustasana without falling (grabbing my big toe with one hand and extending my leg out straight while balancing on other leg), comfortably doing eagle pose.  I have done these poses 100s of times, and they are a new, imperfect challenge every time.  As I said to my friend, “the joy of yoga is that there is simultaneously no failing and it’s all failing — it is never perfect.”

Other people doing variations on a pose my massage therapist tells me to do and which continues to elude me.

**

My meditation teacher Jeff Warren once said that yoga is a “spiritual trojan horse” — that many people start doing yoga for fitness or stress reduction, and then find themselves “deliciously, inexorably, sometimes alarmingly – moving along a course of spiritual development they never expected.”

That has been my experience with yoga.  Not in a namaste and sanskrit tattoo kind of way — I have strong feelings about the cultural appropriation side of yoga.  But I do know that a guided meditation during shivasana back in 1996 was the first time I really experienced the connection between my body and a deep felt sense of “mystery” — the first time I had a somatic experience of my self and all of its yearnings for meaning.  Over time, I’ve developed language for these yearnings, journeyed through meditation, reflection, solo pilgrimages, all the “work” to face my demons and look as unflinchingly as possible at what it means to be a present, emotionally honest, flawed, vulnerable human, capable both simultaneously of inflicting harm, of weaving golden connections, of great generosity.

Yes, yoga is a way to keep my aging body more supple, to build strength and agility in the muscles and connective tissues that get worn and frayed through daily life, through sitting, through running and cycling and walking in the wrong shoes.  Anyone who thinks it’s “not real exercise” is misguided — I rarely go to hot yoga, but I always need a shower after a class.  It’s physical WORK.

But there is also a meta-experience of that physical work that always brings me back to the mat.  Yoga is lesson after lesson.

On the mat, I do the same kind of observation and noting of what is happening in that very moment that I seek in meditation — the unexpected stubbing of my toe as I hop back to the front of my mat, the ease and depth of triangle, the three breath limit for full bridge pose.  Presence reveals an endless flow of news, slows me down.

Every time I do handstand, I have a moment of hesitation, a prick of fear about turning myself upside down.  That flicker of hesitation is a continual re-engagement with my own courage, with the intertwining of self-aware strength and vulnerability to strive for in my entire life.

On the mat, I am often simultaneously deeply engaged and deeply bored, fully immersed in what I am doing and impatient at the same time, resisting checking my watch.  This is my monkey mind life, unable to stay still.  Yoga shows me this tendency, cautions me about it, reminds me that it just gets worse.

On the mat, I sometimes feel the deep vulnerability — the sadness, the hope, the loss, the fear — that is squelched in real life.  I am reminded to listen.

Every time I fall out of a pose, or can’t reach for something I’m aiming for, I’m reminded about letting go of attachment, of not taking what’s in front of me for granted.  This has helped me through losses and irritations, reinforced my gratitude for my body’s changing strength and agility as I age.

More than anything, yoga reinforces “beginner’s mind” for me.  Every time I’m on the mat, I discover what is true for me that day — can I hold a pose longer, or bend further, or is there restriction?  Can I hold that multi-stage balancing posture, or am I going to tip?  I am never the same yogi from one session to the next. It’s grounding and it’s freeing.  It’s a reminder that I can fail in one moment and there will always be another posture, I can succeed one moment and not have the same experience next time, I can be triumphant — see my handstand! — and I can be humbled — see me suddenly unable to reach my toes in a simple forward fold on a stiff day!  I am human and I am present to that human-ness.

When I learn these things on the mat, I learn them in my body.  When I manage to hold onto the wisdom off the mat, I am a better human.

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Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who blogs here the second Friday and third Saturday of every month, and other times she needs to say something out loud.

body image · fitness · meditation

A Little Meditation on a Meditation

It’s nearly 10pm on the night before this blog is due. There’s a few reasons I’m “Last Minute Leslie” today but the most significant one to this project is the fact I was spending my afternoon time (normally a blogging opportunity) writing a “Body Awareness Meditation” for my therapist in training community.

It’s part of the routine of our twice yearly weekend intensive retreats to start Saturday and Sunday morning with “Body Awareness”. It’s up to whomever volunteers for this duty to decide how to do that. Sometimes it’s more like yoga. Sometimes it’s more like silly walks and sometimes it’s more like mindfulness  It’s always something about the body.

I had never led this aspect, I’m only in my second year of the teacher role and I sat down to think about what I wish I had known 20 years ago when I was on my first weekend intensive retreat with this same school. I hated the body awareness thing. I’d listen to my instructors who were crunchy granola baby boomer hippies in socks and Birkenstocks with dangly earrings and roll my eyes. All that breathing in and out. All that stretching and clenching and releasing. All that feeling the parts. It was stupid, uncomfortable, uncouth, undignified, weird, creepy. . .I squirmed in my head until it was over and then moved on.

20 years is a nice round number later to reflect on where I was back then and where I have travelled to since. Essentially, back then, I was a head floating on a support mechanism that I was utterly unfamiliar with. It was awkward, rebellious and foreign. It was beautiful but I didn’t know what to do with that, so I mostly hid it and cursed it’s unruly ways. I only saw the flaws in the mirror and I didn’t want to feel them or breathe into them or inhabit them any more than I perceived was necessary.

So Much Has Changed. One of the things that happened that really shifted me is something not everyone experiences or can experience and that’s childbirth. Growing and pushing out some babies had a very intense and unanticipated embodying impact. The most powerful things I took from that experience were a sense of autonomy and control. I know that some people have the exact opposite experience of childbirth and I have compassion for that also. I am so grateful that it introduced me to the inherent power of my body.

I had both my kids while I was in therapy school and it may not have been a co-incidence that also at that time, I was starting to recognize I wanted more out of my physical self-experience in a multitude of realms. My intuition was firing on all cylinders in the parenting department and the therapist department. They were feeding each other and informing each other.

I found Pilates, a thing I was good at. It’s also a thing that promotes micro awareness of all the parts. I was strong, not awkward, I found grace. I started running and eventually biking. All along this path, other things were also changing. I was becoming experienced in my craft, I was less fearful about my physicality. My felt sense of myself became a landscape the same as my thoughts and theories, put to use to help connect with a client, or help me dance, it was all the same.

So now I’m sitting at my table thinking about what to write and say to 35 students to bring them in and invite them to be aware of the awesome resource that is their body. Whether it is well, or unwell, loose or tense, a haven or a hell, it’s theirs and the information it holds, processes and conveys is absolutely essential to what I’m trying to prepare them for. I’m making magic workers for wounded souls and I know they can’t be at their best unless they learn to be with and listen to their own bodies.

I wrote a thing I really like. I don’t know if 20 years ago me would have liked it as much as today me does. It has some explaining, and some breathing and some tensing and relaxing. It has some directing to and directing away. It has some exhortations and some settling in. Mostly, it flows like a story from today me, strong, graceful, embodied and accepting of the Things, to 20 years ago me, who was a head on a complex apparatus she was afraid to inquire about. I’ll report back in the comments on how it goes.

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This is a really wild image of the World Tree and it represents both embodiment and aspiration beyond the body to me. It’s exactly the kind of woo woo baloney 20 years ago me would hate and now me is All Over. Find the original here,

 

 

aging · athletes · meditation · running · soccer

I Had A Midlife Crisis and Didn’t Realize It At The Time

Extreme Athleticism is The New Mid-Life Crisis provoked me to wonder if a series of ultra-running events I did when was 44-45 were motivated by fear of aging.

At the time they felt organic. Not like I was trying to outrun my aging or shore myself up for the years to come, as the article suggests. More like I had been trail running for some years, enjoying increasingly longer distances and then thought, “Could I run one of those ultra distances?”

To be clear—I’ve never run more than a 50k, though the trails add challenge to that distance. The longest event, time-wise, was in Cape Town, South Africa. Three Peaks Challenge runs up and down the three smallish mountains that push that city toward the sea: Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. That 50k run took me 9 hours.

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Mina running down rocky steps on Table Mountain in Cape Town

I went into the longer distances as someone who had run marathons, done half-ironman triathlons and even the Canadian Ski Marathon a couple of times (a two-day, 100-mile cross-country ski). I wasn’t a stranger to the borderline extreme.

Yet, before I did any ultra-runs, I thought that anyone who undertook such an endeavor was trying to avoid something they didn’t want to think about (not just aging). Even when I did the ultras, I felt like the extremes I participated in were just the right length. Anything longer had a whiff of desperation. Yes, that was highly subjective, probably wildly inaccurate and judgmental. I was thinking like that old joke about the driver who thinks everyone driving slower is an old grandpa and everyone driving faster is a danger-on-wheels. (A side note: Who decides what’s extreme? One person’s extreme may be another’s daily dose in these times of ever more punishing activities.)

If you’re getting the feeling that I’m avoiding the question I opened with. You’re right. Until I wrote this, I didn’t want to think that I had a mid-life crisis (more judgment). Looking back now (at a distance of seven years), I see that maybe I was. I had published two books and still felt like a struggling writer. My marriage was not in the best period. I was looking for some way to feel special and strong. When I finished ultras, I felt invincible.

My foray into ultra-running was sidelined by Morton’s neuroma, a nerve inflammation that feels how I imagine an electric cattle prod applied to the ball of my foot would feel. I finally had surgery to remove the neuroma about 18 months ago.

Summer 2017 was my first back running in the mountains. I was cautious (and elated just to be running at all without extraordinary pain). This past summer, I did quite a few 3 to 4 hour runs, including the Sierra Crest 30k I wrote about in this post: Compare and Despair. As I was training, I kept asking myself, “Do I want to be doing more of these longer runs? Do I want to aim for another 50k or even something longer?” Right now, the answer is no.

Unless I live quite a long time, I’m probably past mid-life. Is that why I don’t feel a zeal for the extreme? According to the Medium article I mentioned at the top prime time for the uptick in extreme athletics is 40-49. I hate the thought that I’m not doing the extreme runs anymore because I’m too old or I can’t. Anyhow, I know that’s not true.

Have I accepted my mortality? I’d like to think that I have after much meditation (plus silent retreats, plus a vision quest), but I’m also sure that I have not achieved such equanimity.

What I do have are other challenges on my plate—finishing my book, my first ensemble play being produced at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in March 2019. I don’t feel like I need the extra scare of an ultra run on the horizon, too. I’m enjoying my sleep and time to read novels on the couch on the weekend with my partner.

I’m happy. I don’t feel like I need to prove to myself that I’m strong. I am.

But … I also love running for long stretches of time in the mountains or forest. Another ultra-run is not out of the question. So, if I’m not in midlife anymore, then maybe I wasn’t running far because of a crisis in the first place.

What about you? Have you had or are you in the midst of a mid-life crisis? What does that look like for you?

fitness · Martha's Musings · meditation · yoga

When the humidex is high and the will is low

By MarthaFitat55

 

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Image shows a body of water with ripples formng a series of circles. Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

We have had high humidex levels in my part of the country we call Canada. Some people think it’s all snow and ice all the time, but nope, we get heat here too. The past few summers we have seen increasing periods of humidity, the kind that I only ever encountered when I lived in Ontario in the mid 80s.

I’ve been lucky too that my training times up to now in previous summers have managed to avoid the periods of extreme heat. This year though, it’s another story.

That’s because the gym has been hotter than the gates of Hades. In fact, several times my trainer has deemed it too unsafe to train, it’s been that ridiculously hot.

When it is so warm that breathing causes you to break out into a sweat, what’s the next best option to keeping the wheels turning on the training train?

For me it has been swimming and yoga. I’ve written about my swimming adventures here, here, and here. But my return to yoga this summer after almost four years away has been a revelation.

My former yoga instructor offered an eight week yin yoga summer program, and despite the heat some evenings, I, in fact, found it quite lovely and rejuvenating.

First off, though, there were no goats nor kittens, nor were there beers or bottles of wine. This was not hip yoga, unless you mean the kind that would help me keep my hips in good nick so I can keep walking and climbing stairs.

Yin yoga is sometimes described as a passive practice because you tend to hold poses for longer periods (thus doing fewer of them in a session), but it is this holding which allows muscles to stretch and fascia to relax.

It is my favourite form of yoga because it brings you in touch on a deeper level with your breathing and your core. It also means you have to focus on stilling the distractions that keep knocking on your mental front door.

The yogi chose a different quotation from her collection to guide our practice each night. One night she chose this one: I am my strongest when I am calm (Yung Pueblo). Even though summer yoga has been finished for almost three weeks now, that quotation still rings in my ears.

Our pace of life is one that is managed by multiple demands on our time from family, friends, work, community. I had returned to yoga because I wanted an alternative for the weight training hiatus. The effort of focusing reminded me how often those demands were like tendrils winding themselves tighter and tighter, sometimes even cutting parts of ourselves off from the whole.

I am my strongest when I am calm. As I write this sentence here, I feel the stress of my day leak away.  It reminds me I don’t have to be buzzing madly like a bee from one flower to another. I can pick a moment, or a pose, and lean into it, think about what’s happening, and noticing the little changes that emerge or arise the longer I hold the pose.

Those eight little words are profound. It’s made me think again about what strength means. For me it’s been about asking for help, stepping back, pausing to breathe, feeling the moment, accepting a change in plans, approach, direction. These days, it has also meant I rest with an idea to see what happens, to understand what emerges from the stillness, and to feel the surety that comes from embracing the balance that comes from both the push and the pull.

I’ve learned that it is also more than figuring out how long I can hold it (hey there dragon pose), or if I can push it (nice to meet you flying dragon), or if I need to release it (thank you child pose). It’s about recognizing the power I have within and knowing it will still be there when I go back into the gym once it is cooler.

I am my strongest when I am calm. Yes. Yes, I am.

— MarthaFitat55 is embracing her best self and best life through movement and fitness.

 

fitness · meditation

Update: Meditative but not always meditating

After today, I have three days left in this phase of my meditation experiment.

 

A white person's hand, palm upward, rests on their leg, just above the knee. They are wearing grey pants with black polka dots. The background is a red mat resting on green carpet.
I was told once that when you meditate, you put your palm upward to receive information from the universe and you put it down if you are being introspective. I’m open to ideas in this photo.

It hasn’t gone like I had hoped but I am still pretty pleased with the results.

 

Over the past couple of weeks, things have gotten more and more hectic for me.  my freelance workload temporarily increased, the weather got super warm ( at least warm for here),  and it seemed like demands on my time increased overall.  My schedule went awry and I lost any sense of *when* to do things (a big problem for someone with a slippery grip on time in the first place).

 

So many things were flying at me that I struggled to prioritize (again, not one of my strengths) and I didn’t even choose a time to do an update here.

 

This is exactly the sort of thing that my plans were supposed to help me prepare for but I wasn’t ready for the scope of my sudden-onset-busy-ness.

 

Things worked out in their own way, just not how I had planned.

 

The Downside

 

While I did pretty well on my first couple of weeks, during the second half of the month, I only *sat* to meditate a handful of times. My idea of clearing this space and increasing my meditation time slowly didn’t work at all like I envisioned.

 

Lots of times, I got interrupted by one urgent matter or another. Or the alarms I set had to be postponed because there was too much going on at the time.

 

And sometimes I couldn’t make myself stop what I was doing, either because my brain refused  or because I had a deadline.

 

The Upside

 

I can confirm that it takes 2-3 minutes for me to stop squirming and settle into my meditation – this is valuable information.

 

I can confirm that when I am having trouble ‘settling’ on my own, I can do a guided meditation and it will help.

 

And here’s the really big thing.

 

Even though I have not yet made a regular routine of twice daily meditation, my INTENTION to do so has made me more aware of my patterns – both of thinking and of doing.

 

In these hectic weeks, I became increasingly aware of how my time was being used. I began to have some space, some additional space, between me and the action I was taking. I started to breathe slowly when I felt stressed and reminded myself that the stress was temporary. 

A rectangular index card rests on a wooden surface. The card has a drawing of one side of an analog clock face, which is outlined in green, and the words 'Take your time' are written on the left side of the card.
In addition to meditation, this month, I have also been doing the Index Card a Day challenge. This is from one day when my meditation and my art practice was on the same page.

 

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So, even though I wasn’t sitting to meditate per se, I was in that kind of mental space.

 

It was almost as if the fact that I meant to meditate  was giving me the the breathing room that I hoped for.

 

I want to be able to have a bit more space in my head, I want to feel a little less reactive, and I want to be more thoughtful about things. I like it when I ask questions about why I’m doing things the way I’m doing.

 

So, I feel like I got one of the wellness benefits of meditating, or at least one that really helps me, without  going fully into a meditative practice.

 

In my earlier update, I talked about ‘doing the dishes meditation’ or ‘mowing the lawn meditation’ and I have found that I have had success with that again in these past two weeks. I am more conscious of what I’m doing when I’m doing it, I’m not self-conscious or anything,  but my reactions are not always automatic either.

 

Phase Two

 

The things I have gained feel great but  I still feel like I want to work toward steadier, specific meditation. I want to meditate a couple of times a day and work up to a longer times. I like how that type of meditation feels and I want that feeling more often.

 

So I’m going to keep working on it throughout August. I am going to work up to those two separate times in a day .

 

I’ll report back in a week or two and let you know how it’s going.

fit at mid-life · fitness · meditation · training

The power of the pact

Image description: low angle street shot of Tracy and Sam with a building and stop sign behind them on an overcast day. Tracy is standing, dressed in running gear, wearing sunglasses. Sam is on her bike, standing, left foot on the ground, right foot on her bike pedal, wearing black workout shorts, a black tank that says
Image description: low angle street shot of Tracy and Sam with a building and stop sign behind them on an overcast day. Tracy is standing, dressed in running gear, wearing sunglasses. Sam is on her bike, standing, left foot on the ground, right foot on her bike pedal, wearing black workout shorts, a black tank that says “FEMINIST” and sunglasses.

During the media around the book, someone, somewhere described Sam and my Fittest by 50 Challenge as a “pact.” Maybe it was that time we were on TV.  We’d never described it quite like that ourselves, but it was a pact. Our challenge was to be the fittest we’d ever been in our lives by the time we turned 50. We made the pact when we were 48.

Now, there were lots of factors that kept us going through the challenge — not the least of it was the public accountability of the blog. But looking back, I think one of the most important factors was that we made a pact with each other.  The dictionary definition of a “pact” is a formal agreement. It involves a kind of mutual commitment to do something.

Having that commitment in place made it harder to back out. It didn’t exactly have the moral weight of a promise. But it still had some binding force or at least a sense of accountability.  In other words, the pact became a motivating factor in our fittest by 50 challenge. It also provided a framework for mutual support and encouragement. And a sort of shorthand for what we were undertaking to do — i.e. “planning to be the fittest we’ve ever been in our lives by the time we turn 50.”

We weren’t doing it for each other, but we were doing it together.

I realize that I quite like pacts. I’ve got a meditation pact going with a friend right now. We’re both committed to getting back on track with meditation. I started out on my own, deciding that I would do 90 meditations in 90 days. I’m on day 15 now. I mentioned it to my friend last week and he liked the idea. So we made a pact. Now we check-in daily–usually by text–to say we’ve done our meditation. And we agreed to have an actual conversation at least once a week about what our experience of meditation was that week–what shifts we might have noticed; what challenges we might have faced; anything we want to share about the previous week of meditation.

The pact has helped me stay on track, and has also given me a nice way to connect with someone with a shared commitment.

That idea of connecting with at least one other person who is trying to do exactly the same thing, even if not in exactly the same way, has power. Samantha and I each did very different things for our fittest by 50 challenge — she dedicated herself to training for the Friends for Life Bike Rally. I dedicated myself to training for an Olympic distance triathlon. Similarly, my meditation friend and I haven’t given any ground rules for what style or length of meditation we need to do each day. We might do quite different things and experience it completely differently. But having the pact means that we are more likely to do it, to report to each other about it, and to feel a sense of camaraderie about it.

So pacts aren’t just about being accountable. They motivate more by fostering a sense of connection and common purpose. I love a good pact!

Have you had any experience with pacts?