#deanslife · cycling · fitness · habits · motivation

“How’s the #writeandride goal going?” Sam is glad you asked.

Image description: Puppy Cheddar, with surprised look on his face. White text over image says, “Shouldn’t you be writing?”

So last week I pledged to write 30 minutes and ride 20 km everyday (except Fridays when I can write for an hour and weekends when I can ride more). I didn’t make it everyday. Life got in the way of writing one day, riding another, and one particularly busy work day neither happened.

In general I’m not someone who throws daily habit goals away if I don’t make them work every day. Maybe I’m too easy on myself. Tracy and I noticed we have different approaches to the corporate step counting challenge that way. Me, I happily get up the next day and try again. Still, I rode 120 km in a week and that’s not too shabby. I finished one book review and two abstracts.

Still on the overdue list: one update of an older encyclopedia piece, one book review, and one companion chapter. Due June 1st, another abstract, 1000 words. Due June 2-4, two contributions to panels at Congress.

I did some of each, writing and riding, at Susan’s cottage on the long weekend. I loved writing on her comfy sofa, curled up with my laptop in front of the fire, surrounded by friends who were also reading, writing, napping, and cooking. It felt so good to finally be outside riding with friends. And best of all, after a weekend of riding hills my knee felt better not worse. Yay!

By the way, in case you think there’s too much talk about academic life here on the blog. Deep breaths. Don’t worry. I’m starting a Dean’s blog over the summer and some of this talk will likely land there. My first post is “Yes, I work at the university. No, I don’t get summers off.”

Image description: A group of young white women with white helmets in matching black and white stripey team kit. They’re riding road bikes, in a close pack, and smiling at the camera, making thumbs up and peace signs.
fitness · motivation

Writing and riding, goals, and resolutions

So I’m behind with three writing projects (two book reviews and one edited companion chapter). There’s also a 1000 word abstract I want to write and two sets of remarks to prepare for Congress in early June. This is even before my larger summer writing goals kick in. My plight will be familiar to academic colleagues in various disciplines around the world. Welcome to academic summers.

That’s not only only pressing set of priorities though. I need to get in bike shape for my Newfoundland bike trip.  And of course there’s my ongoing big job. This morning’s priority is preparing for University of Guelph Research Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park where we hope to wow the MPPs with all the exciting research we do.

So I think my weekday plan is going to have to involve some writing and riding now that university is getting a little bit quieter. Nothing unreasonable but here’s my plan: 20 km+ riding on the weekdays and long rides on the weekends. 30 minutes of writing each day except for Friday when it’s 2 hours.

Day 1 was a rousing success, though more biking than writing. I rode my bike to the Bike Shed in the cold and the rain and rode on the trainer with a different bike for an hour when I got there and then rode to work. Cold and wet but 40 km done and dusted.

In the evening Sarah and I had our first night out Snipe sailing. After a late dinner, I snuck in 30 minutes on the most overdue of the book reviews. It’s a review of Heather Widdows’ Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal. I had some things to say about here on the blog.

Writing and riding are both things that require daily routines for me. See Shouldn’t You Be Riding?

I’ll check in as I go along as let you know how it’s working out.

accessibility · fitness · monthly check in · motivation

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the April version

What’s up this month? The weather has been miserable this spring! I usually hate March and love April but not so much in 2019. It’s certainly affected my plans to be regularly riding outside now. And my knee pain has affected my ability to dog hike with Cheddar very much.

I’ve been commuting by bike to work but otherwise not really riding outside. It’s been cold, and wet, and windy. The last I can take but the other two have kept me inside Zwift-ing away into April.

As a result I’ve also been spending a fair bit of time inside at the gym: personal training, weight training on my own, rowing, knee physio, and fancy stretching. I love having the university gym so close to my office. It’s probably not the best gym for me but since the best gym is the one you actually go to, it’s best for me right now.

The rowing machine is my fave piece of cardio equipment at the gym and I start most days there with a 2 km warm up at a moderate pace. For me that’s 10 minutes for 2 km, or 2:30 for 500 m, My speedy pace is 2:00 for 500 m, or 2 km in 8 minutes. I’m not doing 2 km tests these days or racing in ergattas but I still love the rowing machines as my go-to piece of cardio equipment at the gym. My heart rate goes up. And most importantly, my knee doesn’t hurt.

I’ve also been doing lots of fancy stretching. I love being able to reply to emails while the machine holds me in a stretch position.

The other machine that I’ve discovered that’s hard but not knee punishing is the Jacob’s Ladder. See photo above. The thing is I like tough, challenging workouts. We can debate whether it’s right to say that I like suffering or whether endurance athletes are really all masochists or whether it’s okay to dub your indoor cycling space your pain cave. It’s been tough for me to find things that don’t aggravate my knee but are still challenging in the way that I like athletic activities to be. I miss CrossFit!

What makes it such a tough workout?

See Jacobs Ladder climbers reach tough fitness rewards.

“Jacobs Ladder, a moving, angled, climbing machine, may be named after the Biblical stairway to heaven, but it packs such a challenging workout people have dubbed it the stairway to hell.

Fitness experts say users of the fitness machine, which is a favorite among Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and “The Biggest Loser” television series, reap total body, calorie-busting rewards.

“It’s a great and tough cardio piece,” said Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine. “Picture a step mill that combines the lower and upper body, and you have Jacobs Ladder. Except instead of steps, you have rungs.””

Here’s an argument for preferring the JL to your treadmill.

In April I’ve also come to appreciate some of my personal features that have helped me slog through this winter with my badly arthritic knees. It’s not just toughness though people say that about me and I’ll nod. Toughness isn’t enough given the nature of the problem. It’s also creativity and being positive when things are difficult. It’s funny because I know those characteristics are true of me in other areas of life but I haven’t thought about it in the fitness context.

Looking forward to spring and the warm weather coming up!

fitness · fitness classes · Guest Post · habits · health · Metrics · motivation · Tools · trackers

A WayBetter way to exercise? (Guest post)

Elan Paulson is an exercise-curious, occasional guest blogger on FIAFI.

The world of business has many concepts to describe how it sells things to people. One is innovation. According to Clayton M. Christiansen here and in other places, there are two main kinds of innovation.

  • Sustaining innovation refers to how businesses with many resources (those that dominate the market) make a product better for their target consumers.
  • Disruptive innovation refers to how businesses with fewer resources explore new ways of meeting the demands and interests of new or underserved consumers.

According to Christiansen, sustainers focus on improving a product, while disruptors challenge sustainer dominance by focusing on changing processes (of product creation, distribution, etc.). Disruption occurs when the innovation becomes mainstream.

There’s more to say about these concepts, including my critique of them as lens for sense-making, but for the moment I want to use them to understand WayBetter, a subscription service that has emerged in the health and wellness app industry.

In its About section, one of the WayBetter co-founders describes its services as “a whole category of games that help people stick to their commitments” because “life is better when you can turn work into play.”

This is what he means: Users bet their own money that they can accomplish a specific time-bound exercise goal. After the allotted time, users who achieved the behaviour-based goal receive back their own money (through a point system) as well as a cut of what was ponied up by those who did not meet the goal. Picture-taking and sync-ups with exercise tracking technology are put in place to minimize cheating.

In Christiansen’s terms, WayBetter is a disruptive innovation for how it has found a new process to promote exercise behaviours. (Its name suggests that it has literally found a “better way” to exercise). While other companies sell on-site, group-based fitness memberships and training services, WayBetter offers the flexibility of anytime, anywhere activity as well as the support of a group. WayBetter emphasizes how the process is fun: pay yourself for exercising. WayBetter has developed a market not in exercise programming but in exercise motivating.

However, WayBetter is a disruptor not because it turns “work into play” but because one could regard this as a betting service, or a form of gambling. (Waybetter). On one hand, the “game” is betting on yourself, and getting back your money simply by doing the exercise that you said you would do. On the other hand, an enterprising exerciser could choose “runbets” that other exercisers might be less likely to complete, thus maximizing their chance of a higher return than what they initially bet. WayBetter turns exercise into a game of predictive markets, and exercisers into investors.

So, it’s possible to think about WayBetter as a disrupter not for how it reaches underserved consumers (read unsuccessful/unmotivated exercisers) but for how it has created a new market—one of venture capitalism. Motivate yourself not simply to do exercise but to earn money off of the failure of others to motivate themselves to exercise.

At the moment, WayBetter’s dietbet claims 700,000 users, and the runbet website boasts that users have logged over 1,677,000 miles. I don’t know details about its income, but WayBetter takes a rake of each bet and uses third-party advertising. With no compensation, stock, acquisitions, or other company information currently available on Bloomberg, it’s not fully clear whether WayBetter’s disruptive innovation will become a sustained innovation.

But I believe it will become a sustained innovation because the value of its ability to change behaviour pales in its ability to change in mindset about exercise not (only) as a game but as a financial investment. WayBetter’s legacy may very well be how it and other services like it will change the very meaning of exercise by casting it (explicitly or implicitly) in market terms.

And, whether consumers win, recover, or lose their money, WayBetter still comes out Way Ahead.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

fitness · mindfulness · motivation · self care · trackers

Fitness as a very demanding lifestyle? Or, Sam likes tracking but not all the things!

“Celery juice, an online business and lifting heavy poundage. These are just three of a multitude of things that keep sisters, online health and fitness influencers and Western University alumni Hayley and Chelsey Liske moving all day, every day.” I read about Hayley and Chelsey in the Western Gazette. While I was excited to hear about their success, I was nervous about the details.

And I confess I was both shocked and amused by their daily schedule which included their meals, their workouts, time for gratitude journalling, social media, and meditation.

It reminded me of the new pink planner, pictured above, that I got over the holidays. I like the pink and it’s nice paper and a good size but the categories put me off ever using it. There are spaces for tracking food and exercise, fine, but also you have to write in your own motivational quote and track “self care.”

On the one hand, here at the blog we’re all about an expansive account of fitness that includes sleep, mental and emotional well being as well as having fun. But there’s something about tracking glasses of water alongside meditation, and gratitude rituals that rubs me the wrong way. Can’t I just go to the gym and fling some heavy weights around? Do I really have to meditate and list the things for which I’m grateful as well? Can’t I just have a hot bath without calling it “self care.” It feels to me like TOO MUCH.

It’s also precious and in this case, pink, and only available to a very small group of women.

Thoughts?

fitness · motivation

Motivation and moving more

Move More
Image description: Grey and yellow text which reads “Move More.” The “V” looks like raised arms with a head. Or maybe a ball. I can’t quite decide.

New Physical Activity Guidelines Urge Americans: Move More

Of course they do. It turns out that fewer than 20 per cent of Americans meet the minimum recommended amount of daily physical activity. It’s not a lot either, just 150 minutes a week. I don’t have the numbers for Canadians but in this regard I know we’re not that different.

Now 150 minutes a week is not the optimal amount of recommended exercise. That number would be much higher. This is the minimum. There’s been talking through the years of raising the minimum recommended amount but the public health consensus seems to be that just wouldn’t be motivational. People would look at the higher number, cry, and go sit back on the sofa with Netflix.

Image description: Browsing images for “Netflix and sofa” I found this one on Unsplash. It’s a white cuddle chair with purple throw pillows near a window. I like it!

There’s another interesting thing about the amount of exercise Americans get. Of the fewer than 20% who make the minimum, a small percentage get 5 or 10 as much as is recommended.

Maybe you do. You’re reading this blog, after all. I aim for 90 min a day (Google Fit tracks it for me) and make it most days. So I meet the minimum in 2 days.

So rather than most people exercising a moderate amount through daily movement and everyday exercise, we’ve got a few people who work out a lot while the majority of people get no exercise at all. ( Again, I say “we” because although these are US numbers, Canadians aren’t much better.)

So how do we do it? Here’s some advice on making time for movement.

And when I asked on our Facebook page, there was a lot of positive discussion.

Here are some of the Facebook commentators’ ideas:

  • Fitting it into your workday is helpful – taking a brisk walk during your lunch hour, and/or using a standing desk.
  • Create a culture of exercising for fun. I wouldn’t be where I am re: amount of exercise per week if I didn’t have running, barre, and climbing buddies to go with.
  • Cities designed to be walked in, fewer malls that require driving to and working fewer hours so that people have time to walk, cycle etc.
  • Stop building towns that require or encourage you to drive everywhere. encourage people to walk or cycle, to work ( or public transport & walk) to school, to church, to shops. Build sidewalks instead of parking lots. America’s obsession with the automobile is a massive part of the problem. Health insurance incentives for the active. Fitbit etc can help monitor.
  • Doctors could suggest movement for minor muscle strains/ bad backs rather than drugs.
  • Be European for a day and walk more / drive less
  • Infrastructure changes to restore walkability, cracking down on developers putting more and more fast food businesses in economically depressed areas. Adjusting the school day to include more fitness, but fitness for fun, not the hated structure of gym class where you “have” to participate in that day’s activity even if it’s something that makes you really uncomfortable.
  • A city design that doesn’t require that you drive everywhere, making physical activity something that you have to go out of your way to do?
  • It would be nice if you could take your dog more places. I’d love to combine walking my dog with doing errands but the only place I’m sure I can take her is the bank/ATM.
  • As someone who hated sports and slowly found her way to regular exercise between age 25 and 40, I wish school PE classes would focus on helping kids find what they like, and maybe focus more on the things that people do as lifelong activities. I think some of the things they focus on do meet that criteria but using that as a focus I feel like might be helpful
  • I also hated team sports growing up, but now in my 30’s I’ve discovered hiking, working out with a trainer, and horseback riding as activities I now love. I dreaded PE in school and if they would’ve been more focused on just MOVING instead of team sports, I may have figured out how to enjoy exercise much earlier.
  • Shorter work hours. More accessible green spaces. Affordable shared spaces for activity. Free childcare at gyms/studios.
  • It’s a public health issue, not a personal health issue at this point. And I think it is an issue of access more than an issue of motivation. (That’s an observation- I haven’t looked into the actual research.)
  • Better sidewalks, bike lanes, walkable cities, public transit. The infrastructure current in the US defaults to car travel.
What are your suggestions?
femalestrength · fit at mid-life · fitness · Martha's Musings · motivation · training · weight lifting

Fostering resilience through fitness

By MarthaFitat55

jenelle-hayes-4397-unsplash
Image shows a small fire surrounded by stones in the woods. In the background, a person wearing jeans and a plaid shirt holds a small branch. Photo by Jenelle Hayes on Unsplash

Every day I find myself using something I learned in my almost ten years with the Guiding movement.

While I might not ever go camping in the woods again by choice, should I land there, I know how to build shelter and fire and how to find water. I use my map reading and orienteering skills when I travel; I am conscious of my footprint on the earth and what I need to do to take care of it.

With my Brownie pack and my Girl Guide company, I learned to be part of a team, to solve problems jointly, and to respect others and their gifts. I learned to set goals, to acquire new skills, and to cultivate resilience and strength in myself and others.

I am grateful to the fabulous women who gave their time to support us girls in growing up to become competent, committed, and engaged members of our society.

Today is Thinking Day and I am reminded of what a great space for girls and young women the Guiding world is to learn some practical skills. And this reminds me that I have found or built other spaces where I can continue to grow and develop.

Like the gym. Not the gym of my childhood though. That place was fraught with stress and fear, the kind that is negative and immobilizing. While I know my gym of today can sometimes cause me stress (hello, wonky hip) and a little fear (goodbye Jacob’s ladder), it’s the good kind of stress and fear.

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash
Image shows a gym with green carpet and grey tile. In the background, a person moves ropes while another does pushups. Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

The gym is a place for me where I can build the skills that will make me strong, and I hope, keep me that way for a very long time.

The gym is a place where I can push myself to try new things. And it’s a place, when things don’t work, I can try again, or figure out a way to do it differently.

The gym is a place where I learn how marvelous our bodies are: for the things they do naturally and the things they don’t and the things we may need to re-learn how to do all over again.

For me, the gym has become a place of opportunity and a place where I value physical strength, in the same way being in Guides developed and supported others kinds of strength.

How about you? What does the gym mean to you (if you go to one)? What are the other places where you grow and support resilience and strength through fitness?

MarthaFitat55 is a writer lifting all the things, physical and mental.