fitness · habits · media · time

Nearly half of British women don’t exercise? The Internet has thoughts

A few days ago, a new survey published by Nuffield Health, the “Healthier Nation Index” made headlines in several UK papers: “Half of British women do no regular exercise”, and several permutations of this. Apparently, according to The Guardian, the study finds that “many lack motivation or got out of the habit during lockdown”. Unsurprisingly, the Internet has thoughts on this.

Tweets range from “no shit, Sherlock” responses like this one

to “there’s something seriously wrong with the way this is being reported” like this one:

and everything in between. Not to speak of the fact that if 47% of women don’t work out regularly, 53% actually do, so there’s a bit of the good old “only bad news is good news” thrown into the mix as well.

There are several themes to the rightful complaints about how this data is being reported and picked up by the media:

In addition to all these, one thing that bothers me about the reporting on these is how it individualises the problem by claiming that “women lack motivation” when really, to a large degree its societal constraints that cause the gender gap here. Well-meaning initiatives like the UK-based “This Girl Can” campaign reinforce the notion that all women need to do is “get out there” and “make the time”, “start small”, etc. But what if you really don’t have the time? This is the case for so many people, especially women. What if by the time you get home from your full-time job, have maybe cooked dinner, done some cleaning, put the kids to bed if you have them and so on, you’re dead tired and all you want is your bed or the sofa? What if you have health conditions that diminish your energy levels? Especially for single parents or people who can’t afford to outsource their housework, this is reality.

For me personally, especially since having a child, yes, it is to some degree a motivational issue. But I, too, despite my enormous privilege – an incredibly supportive partner, childcare, household help, etc. – I often find myself too tired at the end of the day. You can’t just rustle up some motivation if you’re running on empty. (And no, I won’t “just get up earlier”. This woman needs her sleep.) I do feel like even for me, some of this is due to societal gender roles. My husband, for example, finds switching off and taking time for himself much easier than me. I always feel like I need to double-check that it’s really ok to go for a run, or feel a bit guilty for working out instead of doing chores. Part of this is personality-based, but it’s also education and socialisation.

The way these survey results have been reported is beyond unhelpful. It’s not fair to put the responsibility for not working out fully back on women and make sound like it’s their own fault. That’s victim blaming. Ugh.

advice · fitness · motivation · planning · time

Exercise During Vacation and Work Time

Our blogging team has reflected differently on our vacation exercise: what we did do, what we did instead of what we planned to do, what we imagined doing, and how long we did it (long, short, and ideal).

But we are all thinking about vacation as time that is not non-vacation time. If you’re normally very active, on vacation you can relax. If you are normally too busy for activities, then on vacation you have that time. Vacation is choice: a time to do more (or less) than what you do when you are not vacationing (unless you are retired, but that’s another scenario from which I am still woefully far away).

Then

a list with activities
List and calendar making for holiday activities

This past summer vacation, I wrote out a list of physical and social activities I wanted to do on my own or with friends and family: hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, etc. Then, on the next page (likely your previous page, as I am left-handed) I drew a wobbly boxes and slotted list items into my hand-drawn calendar—spreading the activities out but also ensuring I got them all into my vacation time.

So, each vacation day I had at least one activity to look forward to, and thinking back I had a blast: two weeks of a high-energy days that were filled with lots of fun and plenty of exercise in my local area.

Now

Now, I am back to my regular work week. Back to the office. And I am kinda down about it.

melancholic woman watching video on laptop at home
Not me, but I feel this. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Even though I still have most nights and weekends for summer exercise, I feel not nearly as motivated and encouraged to be active as I did when I was on my two weeks of holidays. Activity-wise, I peaked during my summer vacation time, then valleyed right after on my non-vacation time. And I am finding that it is not helpful to be this unmotivated, considering that now I am needing exercise more than ever after sitting in an office all day.

Next

What’s the learning here, and what’s next for me? It’s a long time away my next two-week vacation!

My vacation activities seemed galvanized by choice. Now that I am back to work, I feel less freedom in how I spend my time. Would making another list and wobbly, hand-drawn calendar give me back that “vacation feeling” that would nudge me back to want to be more active?

Or, perhaps I should try to mentally de-coupling my physical activities from my vacation time altogether. Perhaps exercise is the vacation from work.

Do you notice a difference in your levels of activity transitioning between vacation to work time? How do you manage that transition? What works for you?

ADHD · fitness · time

What Are YOU Up To This Summer?

Now that the stresses and fun of the past month or so have passed, I’m looking forward to the mixed blessing of a flexible summer schedule.

I mean, I love having my evenings free and since I work for myself, at home, I can shift things around to take advantage of good weather or some pop-up fun.

A GIF of a meerkat popping up from its den and looking around.
This is fun, right? Pop-up fun? Image description: a light-coloured meerkat popping up from its den in a sandy surface.

BUT

Since my brain has a very casual relationship with time under any circumstances, the flexibility of summer can also be a challenge for me. If I don’t make my decisions in advance or if I don’t pay close attention to how I spend my time, I can suddenly find myself at the end of summer, frustrated about all of the things I missed out on for no good reason.

So, one of my projects for this weekend is to figure out how I want to spend my summer.

An outdoor shot of a patio railing, a shed, and trees with blue sky in the background.
One thing is for certain, I want to make sure this view plays a big role in my summer. Image description: the view from my patio chair on a bright sunny day. In the foreground is a chair with a red cushion and a table with flowers in a pot next to the rail of my patio . In the background is my red shed, wooden fence, and green trees against a warm blue sky.

I’m considering when to work and when to rest (and thinking about what ‘rest’ includes). I’m figuring out what to include in my day-to-day and which larger summer activities I want to organize and do. I’m thinking about the projects I want to complete in the house and in the yard and deciding when I’d like to work on them.

Basically, I want to make sure that I actively choose a shape for my summer instead of just reacting moment by moment.

(By the way, if a summer of reacting moment by moment is your ideal, please have at it! Do what works for you.)

I’m planning to include things like revising my novel, practicing my TKD patterns outside where there’s more room, hula-hooping, going swimming, reading in my hammock, taking a few hikes, taking Khalee on longer walks, going for longer bike rides, creating some zines, and spending a lot of time hanging out outdoors with my friends.

A GIF of a child using a hula hoop in a department store. Even after their hoop drops to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips.
This little one and I have a lot in common with our hoop skills but I think we both have fun all the same. Image description: a GIF of a small child with long brown hair and glasses in a department store aisle. They are trying to use an orange hula hoop and even after it clatters to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips back and forth.

What do YOU have planned for your summer? Let me know in the comments!

Or if it isn’t summer where you are, what do you have planned for the next few months?

motivation · time

No way, not me, not that! (Sam is not riding 50,000 km in 2022)

Sometimes you read stories about amazing athletic feats and feel inspired. That happens sometimes for me.

And then there are the stories that come across your newsfeed that make you think, “No way, not me, not that!”

I have that reaction to x number of marathons in x number of days stories. Nope. Never. Not me. Not that.

Now I’m not a runner. My knees make running impossible. But I also have that reaction to some cycling stories. Like this one!

Czech amateur cyclist rides over 50,000km in 2021, more than double most pros

How many kilometres do you fit in each week? How many can you fit in each week? Whatever that number is, it’s fewer than Czech cyclist Katka Rusà, who finished 2021 with a quite frankly ridiculous total of 50,105km, an average of almost 1,000km per week.

Somehow, she did all this – more than 2,000 hours of riding and 341,167m of elevation – while working full time as a proofreader for an online news company and had no days off. She also plays scrabble competitively.

To put that distance into perspective, Annemiek van Vleuten recorded the most distance of any professional woman on Strava and she only did 30,352km, the next behind her was Erica Magnaldi who did 25,471km.

from https://www.cyclist.co.uk/news/10441/czech-cyclist-rides-50000km-in-2021

In interviews about her incredible distance achievement, Rusà says, ‘Everyone’s day has 24 hours and there are seven days a week. We all have the same amount of time, it’s up to you what you do with it.’

You’ve seen that message before if you’re active in the fitness world at all.

Here’s the Beyoncé version of it.

You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce.

It’s true in one sense that there are the same number of hours in a day for all of us. But it’s not true in another sense, given our various commitments and life circumstances we don’t all have the same 24 hours

Here’s Graeme Seabrook responding to the meme on Medium, “As I come more fully to terms with the way that my life and my schedule can best support my mental, physical, and emotional health — and the impact that has on my business I have had to focus constantly remind myself that comparison is the thief of joy. I don’t have 24 hours in my day. I don’t have 40 hours in my work week. I cannot simply “hustle harder” — well, not without ending up in a hospital. And when I add up all of the hours spent keeping myself sane and relatively healthy, all of the time and energy and boundaries and hard conversations and reading and talking and learning and therapy and journaling and meal planning and introspection and growth and tears and work that it takes for me to be a little more me every day I do wonder whether I am worth it. I do wish that I weren’t quite so expensive.”

In We don’t all have the same 24 hours, but I understand why some people believe it Alice Snape writes, “Can a single, working class mother-of-three, grafting away in a low-paid job to support her family really achieve as much in a day as somebody born into a well-off family who can afford to work in a part-time job? Who has better social connection and has been educated in a more favourable school? Can someone who is just trying to keep their head above water with minimal opportunities in a small town really be compared to someone who has exactly the same dreams, but for whom money has never been an issue? What if you have unconscious bias and racial gaslighting to contend with? As writer Evie Muir puts it: “I have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé but I spend most of them advocating for my own mental health against ableist, racist workplaces who make me cry and give me panic attacks. We are not the same.” When you ask those questions, the answer seems obvious.”

“We all have the same 24 hours.”
Use public transport? Your 24 hours are not the same as those of private jet owners.
Do your own cooking, cleaning, child~raising? Your 24 hours are not the same as those of someone with a full~time domestic staff. Stop this nonsense.” Tweet by @shailjapatel

Here one the blog we’ve written about scaling back when our life circumstances require it. See Tracy’s Life Happens, Plans Change, and That’s Okay and my Death Changes Everything and Rough Times, Tough Choices.

I’ve also written before about finding time to exercise and the things I don’t do. I might need to update the list!

This year I’m aiming to ride just over 1/10th of Rusà’s distance but even there I’m prepared to scale back if I need to. So far I’m at 695.4 km. Wish me luck!

I’m also curious to know your response to the “same 24 hours” thing? Is there any valuable take away lesson in it for you?


fitness · motivation · rest · self care · time

Go Team: Adjust Accordingly

Here in Canada, most of us had a long weekend and we’re starting our week on Tuesday instead of Monday.

We had an unusual Monday and now we are heading into a short work week.

Image description: a GIF of a stick person who is rapidly alternating between lying on their bed and jumping ​up to sit at their computer and work while an analog clock spins rapidly on the wall above.
I hate how short weeks can end up feeling like this. Image description: a GIF of a stick person who is rapidly alternating between lying on their bed and jumping up to sit at their computer and work while an analog clock spins rapidly on the wall above.

How many of us have adjusted our schedules and expectations accordingly?

It’s a trap I fall into on the regular – my schedule or capacity* is altered in some way and yet I still try to do as much work/keep the same routine/fit AllOfTheThings in despite having less time or less energy.

​. Image description: a GIF of a black cat with white paws that walks under a cardboard box that is being held up with a stick. The cat bats the stick with its paw and the box falls down and traps the cat beneath.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, you accidentally make things worse for yourself. Image description: a GIF of a black cat with white paws that walks under a cardboard box that is being held up with a stick. The cat bats the stick with its paw and the box falls down and traps the cat beneath.

This happens to me most often when I’m not paying close attention, when I forget to take stock of how much I am trying to fit into my schedule. During short weeks like this, I’m especially prone to it.

Trying to cram the same amount of stuff into a smaller container is a direct route to extra stress and frustration, and to a persistent feeling of ‘not measuring up.’

And it doesn’t matter if the ‘stuff’ you are trying to cram in is work-related, fitness-related, or personal. The issue is that we have set expectations that are way too high for us to meet.

In this case, it’s about time and about routines, but a mismatch of expectations and capacity about any goals or plans that we have set for ourselves can lead to those same feelings.

So, Team, whether you are heading into a short week, or an ordinary one, and whether your expectations are around your work, your workouts, or about anything else, I’m inviting you to pause for a moment and think about whether they match your capacity.

If there’s a mismatch, please don’t be hard on yourself.

We all fall into that trap sometimes.

Instead, why not reevaluate your time and your expectations and adjust accordingly?

Your brain will thank you.

As always, I’d like to offer your gold star for your efforts. In fact, here’s a whole bunch of gold stars – adjusting your expectations will take a lot of little efforts over and over so it makes sense to offer you a lot of little gold stars in recognition of those efforts.

Image description: hundreds of small shiny gold stars ‘shooting’ toward the screen against a black background.​
Image description: hundreds of small shiny gold stars ‘shooting’ toward the screen against a black background.

*For example, if I’m feeling sick or if I have slept poorly.

habits · time

On balance: finding time for new things

What is one to do when one enjoys too many things? The largest chunk of my day is usually spent working, anywhere between 8 to 10 hours on a given day (lately, I’ve been working a lot). I try to exercise as much as possible. Swimming, bouldering, cycling, running… running has been falling off my plate a bit lately, after my not-half-marathon. The weather got worse and it gets dark early now, so running in the evenings isn’t an option for me as I don’t like running in the dark very much. I like to spend some time each day lounging on the couch, too – reading, watching stuff on Netflix, and relaxing.

Now I’ve discovered a new thing. Bear with me: it’s role playing games. My partner has been an avid player since before I even knew him. He plays Dungeons & Dragons (aka D&D) regularly once a week with his friends over Discord, a Skype-like app. They go on for hours and seem to have a lot of fun adventuring and fighting all sorts of fantastic creatures. I used to make fun of him a lot. He has accused me of being a hobby snob and I admit he’s not wrong. I don’t much care for dragons and the glorification of the medieval (there was little in the way of education for most people and no healthcare worth speaking of, women were persecuted as witches, it must have been very smelly – need I go on?), of which there is a lot in D&D. Fantasy is not my genre; I haven’t seen a single episode of Game of Thrones.

Role-playing dice on a table.
A bunch of role-playing dice on a table. These dice are very fancy, they range from four sides to twenty and are used to determine different outcomes during a game, for example how well a character performed a spell.
Photo credit: Jaime Ochoa (Creative Commons licence)

Then I came across this article about how the author got hooked on D&D from a queer storytelling perspective, and I got intrigued. Very intrigued. Long story short, I now have two sessions under my belt and, despite myself, I must admit I enjoyed myself very much – so much so that I could see myself doing more of this in future. It’s fun to immerse yourself in a story and assume the identity of a character that can be essentially whatever you want it to be.

But my days are already packed! After the session on Wednesday, my partner and I immediately got into an argument because I got stressed as the laundry wasn’t done, the place was a mess, etc. etc. – even though I’d had a really, really good time. It feels like if I want to accommodate this new thing, something else will have to give. And I really, really don’t want that something to be my exercise routine. I’m going to have to find ways to adjust, and maybe it’ll turn out that I won’t be playing D&D regularly after all. I don’t want to exclude the option of making room for this new interest right away, either. I know I’m a serial overcommitter, but there are so many things out there to be tried!

I also wonder to what extent the fact that I am even asking myself these questions is influenced by my gender. I have a tendency to place duty above all other things, and unfortunately “duty” tends to be things like housework. I don’t know if this would be any different if I was a man, but the fact is that part of my argument with my partner revolved around my inability to let some things go. He has a much easier time of it than I do. By this I don’t mean that he skirts his duties in any way; by all accounts we have quite an even split of things like housework (he does more) and life admin (I do more). But he also finds it much easier to just ignore these things while he’s having fun.

So I wanted to raise this question to the community here: how do you balance different interests, especially when they come on top of an already busy daily workload? Also, what are you into aside from fitness-related activities? I’m curious, hit me with your favourite non-exercise pastimes!