cycling · eating disorders · feminism · fitness · motivation

A return to fitness in 2018 (Guest post)

Biking with a friend

I love to make New Year’s resolutions, although I sometimes have uneven results. My main and most exciting New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to do 218 workouts – they don’t have to be particularly strenuous or any set length but they have to be fun and pleasurable.

I hope that 2018 – the year I turn 40 – will be at my fittest year ever. This isn’t an extreme goal because my fittest year was probably 2011, when I was running regularly, had not yet gotten my driver’s license so cycled everywhere out of necessity, and impulsively bought an expensive personal training program. I was 33, so it is not as if I am trying to re-live athletic teen years, which would be considerably harder. I was actually the type of kid for whom gym class was a nightmare. I walked the field when I was supposed to run, regularly ‘forgot’ my gym clothes, and dreaded group sports when my lack of any skill would be humiliatingly apparent to all my classmates.

I was not fit in any sense of the word until my late twenties when I started to cycle everywhere often, in those years, pulling two children and/or groceries (!!) in a bike trailer. When I was 30 and newly single I decided to try some new activities: running, roller derby, hot yoga, and weight-training. I felt fantastic, met some great people, and began to think of myself as a fit, even athletic, person. I felt strong and powerful and had a lot of fun. I still remember the exhilarating day I ran 13 km for the first time. As someone who a couple years earlier could not run one block, I was extremely proud of myself.

Unfortunately, the fitness activities got confused with and integrated into disordered eating habits, which dulled my enjoyment. Healing from disordered eating, which for me meant restricted eating, and unattainable weight loss goals, meant also giving up some of my fitness goals. But now I am about turn 40, a busy PhD student, community activist, and mom. Giving up a strong focus on fitness may have been necessary for me to heal from disordered eating but it also meant that I lost the physical and emotional benefits of fitness especially the almost magical effect it has on my ability to deal constructively with stress.

I miss the camaraderie that accompanied roller derby practices and group runs. I miss experiencing my body as strong and powerful. When I think about my life in ten and twenty years, I want fitness to be an everyday part of it. So, I have made a plan to get to my fittest this year and to re-discover the joy of fitness.

The plan is simple: do 218 workouts in 2018 which will include some weight-training, a gentle triathlon, and a few no-pressure and fun 5 or 10 km runs.

Maybe I’ll even, finally, attempt a fall half marathon – but only if it brings me joy. I also hope to cycle year-round instead of taking a long winter break after which I always feel hesitant and creaky. The focus, other than doing the 218 workouts, will be on feeling pleasure in moving my body and having fun participating in physical activities with other people.

There will be absolutely no weight loss goals or restricted eating plans and I will steer clear of others who have integrated those elements into their fitness plans and motivations. I’m excited, motivated, and ready to have fun and feel strong!

Kayaking in Venice in 2017

Becky Ellis is a PhD student at Western University who studies the bee-human relationship in cities. She is a mom to four kids and a community activist. Becky loves gardening, cycling at a leisurely pace, and taking millions of pictures of bees. She also maintains the blog Permaculture for the People about social justice and urban permaculture.

fitness · motivation

My Gift to Me (no wrapping required)

I was busy yesterday so I didn’t get to read Sam’s post until just now. This wasn’t written in response to hers, but I think it complements it nicely. I’m definitely not aiming to be in peak anything by January but fitting in some more fitness is how I *want* to enjoy my holiday time. 

My (non)schedule is one of the major obstacles in my efforts to establish a daily exercise plan. It’s not that I am ‘too busy’ to exercise every day, it’s that my days are a bit of a jumble and I have trouble eking out a regular time to move.

I’m self-employed, I work from home, and my family starts school/comes home for lunch/after school at a variety of different times.* My kids are mostly able to manage their schedules on their own but, they’re still teenagers, and so they often need my support to keep things moving. Then, during the afternoons and evenings there’s homework, and projects for the boys, and projects, meetings, household management, taekwon-do, and volunteer work for me. And, of course, my husband has his own business, and sometimes his work schedule affects the rhythm of when and how all of the rest of that can happen.

Then, if you factor in my ADD (prioritizing, distractions, schedules, and recovering from interruptions are a particular challenge for me), it’s obvious why I end up struggling to see how everything can fit into a given day. To expand on what I said above, I have time to exercise every day.  I just get so caught up in work and details and interruptions that I find myself annoyed when I run out of day and have to go to bed.

Now, I do okay, overall. I do a fair bit of walking – even though my youngest son no longer *needs* me to walk him to school, I use his schedule as an excuse to get out of the house and go for a short stroll. I go to taekwon-do twice a week.  I practice at home, and I do stretches and yoga, and the like, but it’s not regular and it’s not intense.

I feel my best when I work out daily but somehow that fact escapes me as I make decisions about what to do next in any given day. That overall feeling of well-being gets lost in the shuffle of daily priorities and I don’t like it.

That’s why I have decided that I am gifting myself a habit-establishing fitness routine over the holiday season.

The author's fitness gifts to herself - a pair of red hand weights, a hula hoop, a green yoga mat with a red bow on it. A small stuff santa is sitting in front of it and a string of star-shaped lights are draped over the hoop and weights.
On the first day of fitmas, my true me gave to me…
I know that a lot of people find it hard to stick to habits this time of year but for me, the break from daily comings and goings is an opportunity rather than an obstacle. I know what my next couple of weeks are going to look like and I have very few external forces shaping my days. Or, to put it another way, *I* can make everyone wait while I finish my workout and no one will end up with detention as a result.

I’m not going to try anything drastic, and I will be realistic. I’m just going to do at least 30 minutes of movement in the rec room every day, as soon as possible after I wake up. The plan is to alternate between yoga, taekwon-do practice, strength training, and cardio but I will do whichever one feels most fun on a given day.

This isn’t something I *must* do, it’s a gift to myself.

Happy Holidays, me! Today’s present is yoga. Enjoy!

* I have people leaving my house separately in the morning in time to get to work/school at 8:10, 8:15 and 8:30. One person has lunch from 12-1, another from 12:20-1:10. My kids finish school at 2:10 and 2:30. That’s a lot of coming and going.

PS – Happy Holidays to all of you! No matter what you are celebrating or not celebrating, I hope these last few days of 2017 find you at ease. I wish you joy and I wish you fun. See you in 2018!

martial arts · motivation

Taking a Quick Glance Back

A couple of weeks ago, I was helping* with a belt testing for Taekwon-do and watching the other students tests for belts ranging from yellow stripe to black stripe was really encouraging for me.

I spend entirely too much time with my eye on my next belt, on learning the next thing. It is all too easy to forget how much I have already learned, how far I have come. I mean, obviously, I know that I have more skills than I once did but since those skills are part of my knowledge base now, I end up focusing a bit too much on the skills I don’t yet have.

It’s a natural development of a graduated learning system. You are always aware of what you don’t know because that is what is between you and your next belt. I can always tell you what I need to know for my next test and how much of it I have already learned.

The author wearing her white martial arts uniform with a yellow belt around her waist. She is smiling, standing slightly sideways, with her left hand held flat at thigh height.
This is me, right after my yellow belt test in 2010. I’m proud of my past self but I have LOTS of advice for her.

It’s a sensible approach for skill development but it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Even though I generally feel challenged rather than discouraged, I am still very aware of the areas in which I fall short. And I know that can be the case with any sort of goal, particularly fitness-related ones.

That’s why the belt test was so encouraging for me. In the course of a single afternoon, I was able to see my skill development at each level mirrored by the students who were testing. I could see what I must have looked liked at my first test – determined, yet uncertain, with my skills just beginning to grow. I could remember myself at each level, what I felt like I knew then, and how I must have been better than I realized.

Seeing how the students’ dexterity, strength, power, and speed increased at each belt level was an excellent reminder and a boost to my ego. I have followed that path. I am still on it. My skills are improving all the time and I’m sure that senior students can note that when they are watching me. That’s a good thought to keep tucked away for when I get frustrated with myself as I practice for that next test.

It’s good for me to have that test in my future – it helps to focus my practice and it gives me something to work toward.  However, I can’t just keep my eyes on that prize, I have to take some time to glance back at my yellow stripe self, my green belt self, my red belt self and celebrate how much I have accomplished already.

I’m grateful that assisting at the belt test gave me such a direct opportunity to see how I have refined my skills over time. I’m not sure that I would have thought to do it otherwise.

Do you often take time to note how far you have come from where you started?

If so, what do you do?

*To be clear, I was *not* testing these students, I am not qualified to do that yet. I was just helping to keep the test running smoothly and assisting where needed.

fitness · motivation

New strategy: Using activity and workouts as a reward

Image description: colour cartoon style drawing of a gold star with a red, blue, and green striped trail behind it and three white four-pointed stars in the background.
Image description: colour cartoon style drawing of a gold star with a red, blue, and green striped trail behind it and three white four-pointed stars in the background.

I’ve long found it interesting that working out, something that makes me feel so good and that for so many of us falls squarely into the category of “leisure,” is so difficult to motivate ourselves to do sometimes. We complain about having no time. We gripe about the weather. We are (often legitimately) too tired. And yet on the other side of it, many of the activities we do are enjoyable additions to our lives.  Luxuries even.

I’m a big believer in strategizing ways of developing new attitudes or tricks to get me to do things that I in some larger sense want to do but for some bewildering reason also avoid or resist doing. Working out falls into that camp for me from time to time, and I’ve incorporated a number of “life hacks” to get me moving. I’ve blogged about quite a few of them: working out with friends, working out with a trainer, working with a coach.

But my latest is a really simple head game. Now, I know it’s hard to play games with yourself because you kind of know what you’re up to. But it’s working. The game: use workouts as rewards for doing other things that I’m avoiding. Imagine: the workout as a carrot not a stick.

As I mentioned the other day in my post about friends and mutual motivation, we all have things we don’t want to do. For most academics who teach, grading is that thing. And ’tis the season! I have found that I can push through a stack of papers if I know that, at the end of it, I get to go for a run or a training session or a yoga class.

We all have those things that we avoid or procrastinate over. And when we compare working out to one of those things, suddenly a 45 minute run or 60 minutes in the weight room or sweating it out in the hot yoga studio seem like the pleasures they are.

If you struggle with motivation to get your activities into your life, try treating them as rewards for completing the tasks that you tend to avoid.

Do you treat activity as a reward or a punishment? If you’re new to treating it as a reward, give it a try and let me know how it goes! So treat yourself to a workout! You deserve it.

fitness · motivation

Tracy’s new fave music video because that kid! What attitude!

One of the greatest things about having a large community of active people around me is that great recommendations I get when I put out a call for tunes to refresh my running playlist with. The most recent update came to me, not with my own call but in a comment thread in response to someone else’s. Maybe I’ve had this recommended to me before, but I didn’t follow up. That was back when no one had posted the video. This time, someone did.

The tune is called “Soy yo,” which is Spanish for “I am.” It’s by Bomba Estéreo. My Spanish is kind of rusty, so beyond the title I don’t know what the words mean. But it doesn’t matter because the music video has given me such a positive impression of the song that I feel like a million bucks of invincibility every time I hear it. It’s all on account of the kid at the heart of the video. She is just bursting with life, with attitude, with gumption.

From the minute she steps out of the salon where she just had her hair done, clearly pleased with herself and the result, she is ready to take on the world. And so she does. In three short scenes, she puts herself out there with unabashed self-confidence. And I’m cheering for her all the way.

See for yourself!

What’s your current fave video (preferably it’s attached to a great tune for my revised winter running playlist)?

accessibility · aging · fitness · Martha's Musings · motivation

Courtesy, seniors and fitness assumptions

By MarthaFitAt55

I’ve discovered that I can be seduced by click bait. I see the headlines, and boom, there I am reading an article and fuming over the ridiculousness of it all.

It’s pretty easy to dismiss screamer headlines and their unsubstantiated content, but sometimes, you get drawn into an article because you just can’t help yourself.

STOP OFFERING YOUR SEAT TO ELDERLY PEOPLE ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT, ADVISE HEALTH EXPERTS

So I went there and was appalled and a little angry. Appalled as the article recommends not offering seniors a seat as standing is way better than sitting. Angry because the article makes no mention of the risk of falls from a lurching bus or tram.

Seniors riding a bus
Image shows seniors riding the The Rapid (the bus system serving Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

The Reader’s Digest version is this: older people need encouragement to keep fit. Sedentary activity, including sitting on public transport, leads to negative health effects. Encourage them to be active, like taking the stairs or walking for ten minutes a day. In fact, the expert quoted in the article says we should “think twice before giving up your seat on the bus or train to an older person. Standing up is great exercise for them.”

For those of us under 60 with a reasonable amount of calcium in our diet, the risk posed by an unexpected lurch or stop on the bus is at most a possible wrench or at least a bark of our shins against someone’s briefcase or shopping bag.

For seniors, it’s a different story. I found a guide encouraging active living habits for seniors on line, and even it warned them about the risks of sudden stops on public transport. To wit,

“It is also important to be alert so that you do not accidentally get injured on public transportation. Busses and taxis are notorious for being rough rides, and during quick turns or stops you may jerk forward in your seat. If you are not paying attention, then you could fall out of your seat and injure yourself. Always hold onto the bottom of your seat or onto a railing in the bus or taxi to keep yourself secured.”

According to Indiana University, the impact of falls is great:

  • Falls are the leading cause of a move to skilled-care facilities, often long term.
  • 20-30% of those who fall suffer moderate to severe physical injuries including breaks, cuts, and bruising.
  • Falls often result in long-term pain.
  • Falls involving a hip fracture lead to 10-15% reduction in life expectancy.
  • Older adults who fall are likely to worry about the future and loss of independence.
  • Loss of self-esteem and mobility leads to decreased activity and eventually inability to perform activities of daily living.
  • Because of decreased confidence and physical functioning, patients who fall are likely to fall again.
  • Elderly who fall are less likely to take part in beneficial activities like exercising or socializing because of a fear of getting hurt again and the embarrassment of a fall.

I don’t know about you, but if I were 65 or older, I would rather be seen as someone in need of a seat rather than someone in need of a hike. Mostly it’s simple courtesy as one should never assume that one is either fit or unfit. Maybe they’ve just come back from a rousing afternoon with the grand children; perhaps they’ve just spent time in a gym pushing weights around. Who knows? Sometimes, we just like to sit and watch the passing scene out the window.

Next time I see a senior, I’ll ask them if they want my seat and let them make the choice, not me.

— MarthaFitat55 has been working hard to build strong bones and muscles so she can keep standing for a long, long time.

fitness · martial arts · motivation

Fighting With Myself (Guest Post)

The hardest fight I have in Taekwondo is the battle with myself. In order to make progress and to improve my skills, I have to fight my concept of time and my sense of ‘good practice.’

An agenda book with a pen

I want to do everything at once and I want to do it at the perfect time. In the fictional world where I can do this, my practice space is tidy, my work is neatly portioned into appropriate slots, and my family is delightfully engaged in their own wholesome pursuits. And, of course, in this world, I know the exact right thing to practice at this point. My perfect practice self has identified a course of progressive work that starts at the ‘true’ baseline and will bring me forward in a logical fashion. This will lead naturally toward my goal of being a super-fit Taekwondo genius with strength beyond measure.

I can hear you laughing at me from here. It’s okay. Go ahead.

I know I am being ridiculous.

I know there is no perfect practice time and there is no perfect practice plan. I know that something is better than nothing. I know that any work will bring me closer to being a 3rd degree black belt.

Yet, I get tangled up in this intellectual exercise of perfect practice at the perfect time. It ensnares me so completely that I have trouble doing anything at all.

This doesn’t just happen to me with exercise, of course. I have the same trouble with all kinds of things. The familiarity of the feeling has indeed bred contempt but it still crops up all the time.

When I make a plan to exercise in the morning, my brain gives me 5 or 6 reasons why it’s really not the best time – it’s better to write first thing, or I should probably focus on getting enough sleep, or, I am not awake enough to have good form, or I might not have time to shower afterward and that will throw off my morning.

When I plan to exercise in the afternoon, the litany goes like this – you don’t want to waste water taking two showers a day so you’ll feel weird all day until you exercise, or you will probably be in the middle of something in the afternoon and you won’t want to stop, or that it will be a hassle to change clothes and put on a sports bra in the middle of the day.

The evening is no better because then my brain says that I am taking away from family time and that if I work too hard, I will have trouble sleeping later.

I would be less annoyed about all of this if I didn’t actually enjoy exercising. No matter what time of day I actually get over myself and start moving, I always like it, but my brain forgets that in the effort of finding the perfect schedule.

After I clear that scheduling hurdle, though, I have to win the battle of the perfect practice. (Yes, I get on my own nerves with this part, too.)

In my post two weeks ago, I identified all of the things that I want to improve as I move toward my next belt test. I want greater strength, I want greater balance, I want to improve my skills, and so on. The trouble is, that I want to do all of those things at once. Any time that I am working on one piece, my brain reminds me that I *should* be working on the others. It refuses to believe that I have to work on one thing at a time.

The problem is not that I want instant results – although, I’ll take them if someone is giving them out. It’s that some part of me refuses to believe that the results will be achieved by doing things one at a time. So, I keep seeking this perfect practice plan that will make it obvious to my brain that I am doing the *right* thing right now and that I am on the road to my goal.

I know better than this, too, of course. I know that I don’t actually need to do everything all at once. I can work on my balance today and my cardio tomorrow and it will all come together in the end, but, yet, I resist getting started. Some part of me fears that I will be ‘wasting time’ on the wrong exercises – and, no, the foolishness of thinking any that exercise could be wasted is not lost on me.

Typing this all out has made me even more aware of how silly all of this is. I am working against my own interests and I need to get over myself and take more action. I have to borrow from the basic tenets of Taekwondo and remind myself to use self-control and perseverance.

So, here’s how I am going to win this battle against myself: I am committing to practicing for at least 30 minutes in the morning for the next seven days. I will design my practice the night before and include a variety of exercises that will help me get stronger and have better balance.

I’m going to give myself the week off from overthinking my exercises and I am just going to enjoy them.

I’ll take this one week at a time for now. I don’t have to solve this all at once.

Here’s to winning this battle!

KIYA!