Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 61-70, Two (!) Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. Most posts will include words from Catherine, and Christine and me, Sam, but today it’s just them. I spent the weekend at a wonderful philosophy conference in Arizona but then my travel back encountered the usual winter flight-delay problems. Sunday was seven extra hours in the Phoenix airport and I got home to my by three am. Work is extra busy (it’s academic budget season!) and I’m behind with all the things. A one day reprieve wouldn’t have helped so here’s Christine and Catherine going it alone. I’ll be back for days 71-80. I’ll be on holidays!

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Read about Days 31-40 here.

Read about Days 41-50 here.

Read about Days 51-60 here.

Catherine:

Day 61—if this happened to a friend

I keep struggling with Nia’s language even though I agree with and am warmed by her overall message. She gives an example of eating fast food for lunch instead of bringing it from home. All of us have done this, which she calls “giving in to fast food temptation”. Sigh. Then she says that doing so “typically leads to less-than -deal choices in the days that follow”. Argh.

But then Nia says all the right things (IMHO) about moving on, learning from what happened, etc. I feel like this is a tightrope Nia has to walk to please everyone: 1) people who are on a dieting track and suffer from guilt and self-recrimination; and 2) people who categorically reject dieting and see it as destructive and no-win. We bloggers (and lots of our readers) are in 2).

It’s so important for people in 1) to be able to hear Nia’s message, and I get that the wording she’s using is what is familiar to them. Here’s another example, talking about learning from what she calls a slip-up in eating: “…so you can handle it more productively”. I’d put it differently: “so you have some space for planning in ways that respect your desires and the realities of your life”. I don’t think Nia disagrees with me at all. I just prefer to lighten the language to remove as much value judgment as possible.

I’m liking Nia more and more as I read through this book. Hey Nia, I wish you could come by my house for tea and a nice walk at the park nearby.

Day 62—better, or tired?

Just before my first mountain bike race, someone gave me advice on how to pace myself: if I’m about to throw up, slow down. If I’m not about to throw up, go faster. That’s not terrible advice for a short race. But we’re not in short races most of the time. We’re in these bodies for the long haul. For me, “better” means keeping doing what I want to do for me, which is a variety of types of movement often, combined with enough rest to support myself, modifying when I’m injured or ill, or ramping up when I’m training for an event or curious about meeting some fitness goal.

Day 64—not good, not bad.

Here’s a friendly amendment for Nia: there are two other words that are often stealth terms for good and bad: health and unhealthy. These terms get used to bludgeon us into shame about what we eat and do. They scare us about the consequences of our eating and doing. Then, they coerce us into no-win diet patterns and physical regimens that are unfeasible and injury-conducive.

Is there such a thing as a healthy diet? Yes, there are loads of healthy diets. But there’s not agreement among health professionals about exactly what that looks like. I prefer the term healthy-to-me. This is awkward, and I don’t fault anyone else for not using it. It’s meant to convey my priorities and values (e.g. about meat or dairy consumption), constraints (e.g. allergies and tolerances, time and money, access and abilities for storing and preparing food), and preferences (some people just don’t like brussels sprouts, no matter what I say!). What we eat is up to us, and what we call healthy says a lot about us. It’s worth paying attention to that.

Day 66—coasting!

I love this so much. Coasting is a skill we all need to develop. It’s a powerful tool that will help keep us from self-blame, which is the worst thing we can do anytime. I have much more to say about coasting, but will leave it for a future blog post.

I read the rest of Nia’s posts, but will leave comments to Sam and Christine. You’ve heard enough of me for one day…

Christine:

Before I discuss this week’s sections, I just want to share a little about how this book has helped my mindset already.

I live on the island of Newfoundland (Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada) and we just had a record-breaking snowstorm. On Friday past, my city had 93cm of snow (37.2 inches) and 140+ kph (86mph) winds and we have such huge piles of snow that several cities and towns have been under a state of emergency. This is the most snow that I have EVER seen fall at once, and we already had a lot of snow on the ground to start with.

On Thursday, I suggested to the other members of our Fit is a Feminist Issue team that I would do a post about shoveling and the other exercising I was going to do during the storm. I’m still going to do that post but it isn’t going to be the kind of post I expected.

I was expecting to do a fun little post about how during the stormiest day, I did yoga and some extra cardio by taking the dog out for a pee when it was super windy, then once the storm stopped, I would post about shovelling and the yoga I did to recover from shovelling.

Instead, the storm kept me edgy and distracted. I did yoga but it was late at night (and of course, I took the poor pup out whenever she needed it) and when our family started shovelling on Saturday, I went up to my hip in the snow. In the course of extricating myself, I wonked out my knee a bit. Nothing serious but enough to ensure that I had to be REALLY careful.

So, what does all of this have to do with The 100 Day Reset?

I didn’t feel bad about what I couldn’t do.

I focused on what I *could* still do. I did yoga and stretching. I switched up my usual shovelling technique so I could help, and I did it in small stretches. I thought about what I was eating instead of mindlessly eating foods that might make me feel worse about being stuck inside.

I’m a solutions-focused person anyway but I am also quite hard on myself when I feel like I might be slacking (self-perception issues are a companion issue with ADHD.) Thanks to Shanks’ book, I didn’t even consider that I was slacking off or being lazy – I was doing what I could in that moment.

So, thanks, Nia Shanks! You saved me a lot of frustration this weekend.

On to Days 61-70

I love a lot of the advice in this section, truly, truly love it.

I like being reminded to be kind to myself (Day 61) and especially the reminder to deal with ‘mistakes’ by gleaning useful information to prepare for similar future situations. I LOVE that she says that exhaustion is not a marker of success (Day 62) and that we don’t have to do an epic workout every time. In my coaching, I tell people that it is okay to create ‘placeholders’ for habits they are establishing (e.g. opening a document on the computer at a specific time – even if they aren’t going to be writing yet.) and I appreciate the way Shanks has similar advice for fitness habits here.

Day 63’s note about not giving into fear (fear of failing, fear of looking silly) was eye-opening for me. I realized (again?) that I can often be afraid of starting because I know I struggle with consistency.

I enjoyed this week’s sections about how to alter your thinking to serve you better.

Day 64 was about how to choose ways to view events in your fitness journey (i.e. the events are neutral, we assign the values to them, even when we don’t have to), Day 65 was a strong reminder that we can start/restart at any point and the key is to do SOMETHING now.

Day 66 advised us to recognize that there will be different rhythms in our schedules and we should work with what we have – working hard when we can, ‘coasting’ when we need to. (Important advice for me this weekend)

I appreciated the message in Day 67 about the futility of complaining and how we should look at the thing we are complaining about and make changes so it is no longer an issue. I like keeping the focus on finding solutions but, personally, I sometimes need to vent in order to clear my brain enough to start to see solutions. That’s not the same thing as ongoing complaining without taking action but my (sometimes overly-literal) brain initially balked at my mistaken idea that no amount of complaining was acceptable.

Day 68’s reminder to focus on what matters in the big picture was useful and I especially appreciate Shanks’ suggestion that we are just one workout away from being back on track and that we can do that workout today. That section dovetailed nicely into Day 69’s advice to mentally prepare for things going wrong and to plan the things you will do if your ‘what if’ came to pass.

Finally, I am all about Day 70’s advice to observe how things went ‘wrong’ and learn from them. Noticing how I got to a particular frustrating set of circumstances and identifying a different path for next time is an extremely useful piece of advice for me. I’ll be talking more about that in my ‘Christine weathers the storm’ post this Saturday.

By the way, throughout these sections, I can see the line that Shanks is walking with the way she talks about eating and I appreciate her efforts to steer away from diet-talk while still trying to engage people who are in that frame of mind. I, personally, would like to see her take an even stronger stance against the diet mindset but I don’t exactly know what form that could take.

Storm dog in the snow
fitness · Guest Post · motivation

Aim Small: Why Big Goals Aren’t Always The Way to Start (Guest Post)

By Ella Connor

It’s a funny time of year to be involved with fitness. On the one hand it’s wonderful to see so much focus in the media and in general consciousness on the things that I value – health, fitness, strength, all the mental and physical benefits that come from exercise. Having those things in the forefront of people’s minds, if only for a few weeks, is undoubtedly a good thing. On the other hand though, I do find some of the messages around it, particularly on social media, to be unhelpful and, more importantly, actually potentially damaging in terms of people sustaining new fitness habits. 

An awful lot of the fitness messages that we receive at this time of year are grand in scale – “New Year, New You”, “Set Your Goals and Smash Them”, “Transform Yourself in 2020”, “Go hard or go home”. That sense of optimism and unlimited possibility is what gets an awful lot of people through the gym doors in January. But I’m not convinced it’s the best approach to keeping them there in February, March or 2021. Now, I’m not knocking big goals – I’ve trained for things in my life that a few years earlier, I wouldn’t have dreamed possible – but I didn’t start on the journey with those things in mind. Huge transformations are possible in anyone’s life, but they don’t happen overnight. The difficulty with starting your fitness journey with a big, transformative goal is that it won’t happen quickly and, quite often, it may not happen at all. Fitness isn’t linear, life gets in the way, stuff happens and best laid plans can go awry. Sometimes it turns out that the goal simply isn’t possible. I know we’re all supposed to believe that “if you dream it, you can do it”, but the hard reality of our fallible bodies, with their individual strengths, weaknesses and quirks is that sometimes you can’t. And it’s often not until you try that you find that out. 

If that’s the case, and your journey was entirely motivated by a fixed, inflexible end goal or vision, it’s hard not to see it as failure. And that sense of failure can kibosh the entire operation – “I tried, I failed, I give up”. Out goes the baby with the bath water – too much investment in an overarching end goal as the focus of a regime invariably means the little victories along the way go unnoticed. If your entire focus is being a size 10, and after three months of training you’re a size 12 with much better movement patterns and greater strength, chances are you’re going to see yourself as a failure and maybe throw away all those hard won benefits which could have taken you in a new direction. 

As a trainer, whilst I love new clients who have enthusiasm for change, I am always concerned about those who bubble over at the start with talk of how this is going to change their lives and be a totally fresh start for a new them. That all or nothing spirit and heavy investment in an imagined, often slightly abstract, outcome is unlikely to last through the inevitable set backs and hiccups that any kind of fitness journey involves. And it’s hard to get people with that mindset to appreciate the achievement of adding 5kg to their deadlift or improving their movement pattern for a squat because it doesn’t feel relevant to the reason why they are there. 

Often it’s the clients who start out with the aim of just starting who last the course. When you start any kind of fitness regime, it’s not a bad idea to simply see the process as the goal. Commit to three workouts a week rather than losing three stone, or getting totally shredded or being a size 10 by March. Decide that three workouts or runs or yoga sessions a week is good thing for you to do (because it definitely is!), do it for that reason and just see what happens. 

Chances are, as you progress, you’ll discover your own new smaller, measurable, more personal, achievable goals (nail that downward dog posture, run a sub 30 min 5 km, deadlift your body weight) which will motivate you along the way much better and lead to bigger goals in time. You might actually discover that your chosen end goal is an entirely different beast from the one you thought it was at the start – some of my best moments as a trainer have been when I’ve seen my client’s thoughts switch from a generic long term fat loss or aesthetic goal to a personal target of strength or speed – that’s when I know they have real investment in the process and a chance of genuine change. 

Slow change doesn’t make for great copy. “Be consistent and see what happens” is never going to be as catchy as “smashing your goals”. But it might just work. 

Ella Connor

I am a former lawyer turned personal trainer and fitness instructor. I love to lift heavy objects, run and climb obstacles. I work and train in Essex, UK.

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?

femalestrength · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions · skiing · training

Just Trying—For A Zesty Start to 2020

A few years ago, my cross-country ski mate moved to Montana. We had developed a relaxed, yet ferocious, approach to our shared ski workouts—lots of hard work and lots of chat time. My perfect workout partner. After she left, I lost my mojo.

I almost didn’t notice. For the first couple of years I was dealing with the run up and the aftermath of surgery for a neuroma in my foot. Not that I had to take any significant time off; it was more that the pain prior to the surgery dampened my enthusiasm and then I didn’t quite trust the absence of pain. Even as I write this, I know that my diminished energy for skiing was more to do with losing my partner-in-energy-for-fierce-workouts than it was related to the surgery.

When the ski season started this year, I noticed for the first time how many moments I told myself that I wasn’t fit enough anymore to do a workout from years past. For example, I used to ski up certain gradual hills using V2 (the most powerful skate ski stroke; think of it like the hard gear in the big chain ring on a bike). Now, I was intimidated by the prospect. I told myself that I shouldn’t even try until I got in better shape. Now, that’s a vicious cycle.

Then, skiing on December 31st, I suddenly realized—what am I doing? Just try, I told myself. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? You can’t finish the effort you started? What does that even mean? I’m the one who decides when the effort is done. I’m the one who decides whether I made a good effort or a not. And, if I never make the effort, then I can definitely keep telling myself I can’t.

So, in the middle of my ski, I just tried. I alternated V2 with the moderate ski stroke I normally default to. The next day, January 1, as I was finishing my ski, I got inspired. First day of the year, more, first day of the new decade, try on a new attitude. Plus, I was buoyed by my effort the day before. As I approached the hill where I used to do V2 intervals, I decided to throw in one interval. Just one. Just try. The hill was SO hard. I almost coughed up a lung, as a friend used to say. I got to the top. My technique was a mess. I was done in. I felt that nice glow of accomplishment.

I’m starting to thread back in bits of workouts from the days with my ski pal. It feels good. Fresh. Exhilarating even, as I feel the fizz of enthusiasm returning. As always, the experience makes me question, where else in my life can I just try more? Just try feels forgiving. More about the intention than the outcome. I’m less daunted. I’m less likely to judge myself, when trying is the key to my pleasure, not accomplishing a certain speed.

On January 3, I did the whole interval workout I used to do. V2 up the gradual hill. Fast as I can around and down the other side. Double pole on the barely-discernible-uphill back to the start of the loop. Six times. Just enough energy left for some ski dancing in celebration.

I feel an uptick of overall life optimism from my new and renewed attitude on skis; a zesty feeling I wish I could bottle for the less pleasant days. But life’s operating instructions are pretty clear: Best Enjoyed Now.

Will do.

What’s on your Just Try list?

fitness · motivation · You Ask

You Ask, Fit Feminists Answer: I hate exercise but it’s good for me. What should I do?

I shared Yoni Freedhoff’s How to be Healthy, in Just 48 Words on our Facebook page. A reader question for “You ask, Fit Feminists Answer.”

Seven of those words are “Exercise as often as you can enjoy.”

Here’s his extended riff on exercise: “Though commonly only considered in the name of weight (where it’s often less helpful than feels fair), the overall health benefits of exercise are difficult to overstate. Exercise increases life span and treats or prevents many, if not most, chronic noncommunicable diseases. My exercise mantra is simple: Some is good, more is better, everything counts. It’s also most likely better to do a small amount of exercise consistently than a large amount of exercise temporarily.”

A page follower messaged me to say that if she followed this advice she’d never exercise. She hates it.

She said she hears the arguments and see that exercise is a good thing for her physical health, her mental health etc and so wants to do it, but actually hates it. She’s just doing it for instrumental benefits and takes no joy at all in it. All the advice we offer is about finding a thing you love but what she loves are movies and books and good meals. To repeat: She hates exercising.

I figured all of the blogging team have something to say on this one. I’ve had a go at it before— see here and here.

Christine: First, I commend anyone who is willing to put aside their hatred of exercise and do it for the health benefits.

If you learning to love exercise is not an option, then I wonder what you could do to make it a little less hateful?

Could you read on an exercise bike? Do strength training while watching movies? Walk to the coffee shop?

I’m thinking of the exercise as a side thing you do while you are doing something you do enjoy.

The main thing, I think, is to not be hard on yourself about hating exercise. Then, find ways to make it a little less annoying to get moving.

Marjorie: I agree with Christine Hennebury about connecting it to something you DO like may be the key in this situation. There has to be some positive reward in the near to immediate timescale or I just can’t imagine making it stick as a habit.

I would add that it sounds like the activities they like are more solitary, so it may make sense to focus on solitary activities. Don’t force yourself into a group fitness class if you don’t want to be around other people. I value my “me time” so much at the end of the day, and going to the gym gives me a blessed hour in my own head before I need to be home and interact with my husband.

So, in addition to Christine’s suggestions, I would add the exercise can be shutting yourself into a room at home to do a workout video. Or maybe better yet, doing one solo in a side room at the gym (you can find videos for free online to stream on your phone) might give the introvert time you need.

Nicole:

While I hear people all the time say they don’t enjoy exercise, I find it hard to believe there isn’t something out there that they might enjoy. I think it’s fair that they don’t enjoy what is traditionally considered exercise (gym-based, running, etc), but given the importance in movement for health, I think it’s worth trying different things, until hopefully something sticks.
Do they like group activities? Perhaps they can find a group walk, or a group dance class? Have they tried pool aerobics?


I like Christine’s suggestions for incorporating exercise in other activities you enjoy – walking to a movie, doing push ups while watching a movie at home, reading a book on a stationary bike. Make it a reward system – 15 minutes on a stationary bike – I get to watch a double-header! Etc.

Natalie:

Some advice I’ve gathered from others:
-get a dog & walk it every day. Companionship, the dog needs you and it can be intriguing to see the world from their point of view. Daily walking/rolling is enough exercise to get health benefits. If it gets too easy add a weighted backpack or go faster (warning: this could lead to running!) or go longer.

The “off like a bandaid” approach. Short, high intensity training to get max return on your effort while minimizing the minutes you hate about your life. Stair intervals of walking up, rundown, run up, run down then 2 at a time up, run down. Repeat until exhaustion
Instantly gets your cardio up.

Go strengths based approach. What do you love? Cooking? Then volunteer at a community meal chopping, lugging ingredients and slinging grub. It’s movement. It counts!
Ditto on community clean up days and other volunteering.

One friend loves hunting so they use that activity to ground their routine and work up to the walking distance.

Connect to a cause. There are walks, runs, bicycle tours that raise funds for charity. Look at your chosen community and see if there is an event you can participate in that honours someone you know. Or train with that friend to support their endeavors.

Chores for your friends & neighbours. Shoveling snow sucks. But meeting a neighbour & helping them out is awesome. Ditto bringing in wood or groceries for them.

Dancing with friends and family.

Sex!!!

Susan: It doesn’t need to be sweaty, especially at the beginning. It doesn’t need to be in a gym. Walking is the easiest best thing that is good for body and mind. I actually agree that a dog is the best way to get yourself to walk and also has other benefits but even if there is no dog, put the boots on (cleats if it’s icy) bundle up and walk for an hour. Remember to swing your arms. Listen to an audio book. Easy, not too sweaty, excellent start.

Sam: I do a lot of exercise I don’t enjoy and so I’ve stopped with the “find the thing you love mantra” mostly. I don’t love knee physio or toe physio. But I do want to travel and walk up hills in new cities. I hate the idea of not being able to hike in the future. So lots of the exercise I do now is tied to being able to do things I love in the future. Exercise for the sake of living longer means more books and more movies in your life. It’s okay to exercise for instrumental reasons.

Having said that, I’d then figure out what is necessary–strength training for bone health, cardio for heart health, something for flexibility and mobility– and then regular, everyday exercise. I’d make a plan and then find ways to minimize misery in the execution of that plan. Music!

Catherine: I agree with what all the bloggers said. Here’s a thought: get a cheap fitbit (my fake-o knockoff one cost $30) and start noting your step counts (or use your phone). You may find that doing a little here and there will add up to more than you thought you did. You may find it interesting to set a few goals from time to time– like 4000 steps a day– and see what that feels like. Recent studies show benefits for women who do 4000 steps a day (vs less than 2500). Maybe add in a few stairs here and there, or go out of your way to take slightly longer routes to places you go. If you find yourself doing 4000-7000, yay for you! That’s great. There’s nothing magic about 10000 steps a day. You’ll find where you settle in and what works for you. Yes, there will be some higher and lower count days. That’s life, and you’re doing it.

Cate: All of these ideas, especially attaching movement to something you already like to do, are great. (E.g., go to the gym and watch a favourite tv show while walking on a treadmill; listen to your favourite podcast while going for a walk). Another thought I have comes from people I’ve known who hate exercise who say things like “I went to yoga and they told me how to BREATHE. I know how to BREATHE.” I recommend trying a little dose of beginner’s mind and curiosity — like you are exploring a new country or something, rather than taking on something you already know you don’t like. Like, what could you discover by breathing differently? What does that actually feel like? What could you find by taking the subway or driving to a neighbourhood you’ve never been in and going for a walk there? Can you be an anthropologist and watch people doing an activity with curiosity, like you’ve never seen such a thing before, and see what you observe? I find treating it like an adventure, not a task, can open up some new things.

Tracy: Something really simple that I think is helpful (and encouraged by the 220 in 2020 style groups): don’t call it “exercise”. Call it “movement” and just add a little of it every day, even if it’s walking your dog or walking to some place you would normally drive. Maybe you’ll start to love it or find something that you want to do more of and maybe you won’t, but to me “exercise” right away has baggage that lots of us need to lose.

I’ve also found it helpful to make a game of adding stuff. Like if I ran 20 minutes last week can I do 25 this week? But maybe that’s more advanced of a motivation strategy than someone who thinks they hate every activity can use to keep at it.

Okay readers, what do you recommend?

I searched Unsplash for “sad face” and got this image of a sad looking pug in a blanket. I couldn’t not share him. Enjoy.

aging · fitness · habits · holidays · motivation · new year's resolutions · season transitions

Words and Challenges for the New Year

Four days in, I’m still adjusting to this fresh start of a decade. We’re living in the 20’s now. A decade that makes me think my word for the year should be … ROAR.

My cousin introduced me to this word of the year practice about 10 years ago. Our guest blogger, Anne Simpson, wrote about her Word of the Year a few days ago. The idea is to distill your hopes, dreams, ambitions and challenges for the coming year into a word. What’s the one word you choose today to describe the year you are aiming for? A word that aspires to something greater, but doesn’t set you up for disappointment. A personal word that captures both who you are already (and you are just dandy the way you are!) and how you can refine that existing excellence. A word that will inspire you for the 364 days to come.

Vortex of black letters on white background
Nathaniel Shuman on Unsplash

Last year, I had some pretty definitive plans for 2019 related to one of my plays and my book that was publishing in July. I wanted to remind myself not to get too caught up in expectations. I also challenged myself to meditate every day. My word was PRESENCE. In 2018, I was immersed in book writing and my personal challenge was to not shop for clothes or shoes for the whole year. My word was ATTENTION. 

A quick note about these challenges I mention. I’m not one for resolutions. Or maybe I just don’t like the word, in the context of the New Year. There’s something about resolutions that always feels like someone/something is chastising me to do better. And I was never very good at sticking to resolutions. But I have developed a habit of setting myself a challenge for the year. And, weirdly, I generally manage to stick to my challenges. Could just be that the word is more motivating. My challenges are usually ways of being that I want to try on for size, with no commitment to extend after the year is over. You can bet I’ve shopped for some new clothes since 2018 finished.

This year feels largely unknown and fluid. Scary. I have some specific events I’m looking forward to–talks I’m giving in Princeton at The Present Day Club and San Francisco at The Battery; another reading of my play at Missouri State University; plus a new workshop series I’m planning with a friend of mine. I don’t know what any of these will lead to. I don’t know what my big project for the year will be. A new book? Another play? Rolling out the workshops? Plus, there’s my challenge for the year—no buying anything (except books/tv/film) on amazon. I may also go back to an alternate month no-shopping practice, because the prospect is peaceful to contemplate.

All in all, I feel open. Excited. Super daunted. And sometimes a little frustrated, because shouldn’t a woman in her 50’s be looking forward to a steadier, more settled year? That’s my voice of insecurity having her say. But she does not get to decide my word! So, given all that, what is my word?

I like ROAR , but that’s not it.

Here’s my always evolving list of possible words: illuminate … grow … strong … steady … being …  belonging … becoming … run … light … recharge … strong … vitality … engaged … present … discerning … happy … incandescent … yes … flow … curiosity … change … renewal … reliability … radiance … spontaneity … pleasure … simplicity

I like the potential these words embrace. This is a year about expanding and making space. I want to get to the end of 2020 and feel like I’ve tapped into new personal resources.

In that spirit, this year, I choose BECOMING.

What’s your word or challenge?

advice · Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 31-40, Three Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be.

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Christine:

In Days 31-40, Shanks is getting further into some of the aspects of fitness mindset that I need to work on.

Day 31 is about how our repeated actions are investments in our health and fitness, some of which pay off quickly and some that pay off over time. This is really one of my sticking points. I’m not exactly looking for a magic bullet (and I don’t generally buy into the distractions she warns us against in Day 32) but I have a lot of trouble remembering that each individual workshop will add up to a positive result.

(This is an ongoing issue for me in many areas, I refer to it as a reverse forest-for-the-trees problem. It’s not that I can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s that I forget that the forest is made of individual trees and I get overwhelmed at the idea of trying to deal with the whole forest at once.)

For me, most of this section builds on the idea of investments. She reminds us that there will be setbacks and we might get sidetracked, but if we keep moving forward with purpose (not passion – Shanks makes some great points about the limits of passion on Day 34), and do things that support us instead of undermining us, we will find the fitness practices that suit us best.

I like how she doubles down on the idea that food can (and should) be guilt-free. This is not a problem for me but I know it is a pervasive issue so I like that she is returning to it over and over.

Some highlights from Days 31-40 (these are the messages I liked in each section, not the title for the days):

Day 35: Focus on being a person YOU approve of.
Day 36 – Failure is an experience, it doesn’t define you. You decide what it means.
Day 37 – We should seek a fitness lifestyle that enhances our lives instead of dominating them. Bonus: The way she talks about what counts as a supportive action is especially useful.

I think that some people might find that this section repeats a lot of the previous messages, but in different terms. I found that there was a feeling of familiarity with some sections but it didn’t feel repetitive. Instead, I felt that she was adding a layer to her previous messages and some of them resonated more thoroughly with me this time because of the different phrasing.

There was, once again, a lot in this section that I can use to help me shape my approach to being more consistent with my exercise.

Catherine:

Investment. Purpose. Sticking to the basics. Supporting. Growth. These are some of the phrases Nia uses in days 31-40 that really appealed to me. It feels to me like she’s allowed us to freak out, get angry, shilly-shally around, and take some time to get used to this 100-day process. But now it’s time to settle in and focus on the work at hand—that most important work, which is us.

Day 31 starts with thinking about self-caring activities as investments, deposits in the portfolio of my own wellbeing. Immediately, I thought: hmmm. does Nia think that when I avoid exercise or miss sleep or eat poorly-to-me, I’m making withdrawals? Is my every move a plus-or-minus, to be totted up on a spreadsheet?

No, I don’t think she’s endorsing an accounting plan for self-care and self-esteem. During these 10 days, we are encouraged to look to our goals, our plans, our habits. We stick to what works. We notice what sorts of activities support us in our development of agency over our own wellbeing. Then do those more. When something doesn’t work, we look at it, and see how we can grow from that experience.

My favorite lesson was day 34, on recognizing that we don’t need to feel passion for something important all the time in order to keep doing it. What we have (or can have) is a sense of purpose. We form goals, which may be big and lofty and long-term. But progress toward a goal is inevitably made through mundane, ordinary activities: grocery shopping or food package ordering, laundering sports clothing and packing the gym bag, keeping track of winter cycling gear so it’s always handy, making those regular dates with friends to walk or cycle or swim or do yoga or have a cup of coffee. Consider these your inner postal carrier: remember, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”.

Nia is encouraging us to bring the mail, just keeping bringing the mail. Okay, Nia, I’m on it.

Sam: I often think about writing and exercise in the same way. They’re both things I need to regularly and sometimes they can both be difficult to motivate. In my life it’s interesting that some of the strategies that work for one also work for the other. On Day 34 Nia reminds us to think of exercise in terms of purpose not passion.

If you wait until you’re overcome with passion and motivation, you don’t get around to moving or writing nearly enough. Make it a habit. Schedule it.

On Day 38 Nia suggests other goals for seeing progress besides fat loss. Fat loss, she remind us, is not the only option for tracking progress. I know this. I really know this. But sometimes I need reminding. Thks Nia!