cycling · fitness

Do bicycles hurt books?

I love bicycles! (You know that, of course.)

Miss Piggy and Kermit ride bikes

I also love books.

Cat reading a book

And it amused me to come across the worry about bicycles hurting books from the first wave of mass participation in cycling.

I knew about the worry about cyclists and church-going. See Can good Christians be cyclists? (Joke, sort of)

See Moral Threat of Bicycles in the 1890s.

Another charge against the cycling craze was that people were spending their Sundays—often the only work-free day of the week—on bike rides rather than at church. Already, male church attendance had been on the decline. As a sport open to both women and men, cycling threatened to leave preachers with congregations made up of only the sick and the elderly.

But I hadn’t heard about the book worry about cycling. Not only does it eat up your book reading leisure time, it makes you too tired to read afterwards.

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I sometimes even love to combine bikes and books, reading books about riding bikes.

I’m looking at this list, On your bike: the best books to celebrate the cycling boom

Do you have a good one to recommend?

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions · planning

Go Team! January 16: Pause Not Stop (a.k.a. Word Power)

I paused my workout plan for a few days this week.

I was sick on Monday and Tuesday so I couldn’t do my HIIT program or my yoga. I could manage to take the dog for very short walks and do a few neck stretches but that was it.

On Wednesday, I kept my cardio on pause but I could do some yoga.

On Thursday, I had lots of cardio at TKD and did yoga when I came home.

On Friday, I pressed ‘play’ went back to my regular routine.

As a storyteller, a writer, and a coach, I am all about the power of words.

That’s why I chose to say that I ‘paused’ my workout plan instead of saying that I ‘stopped’ it.

Stopping has a finality to it. You might start again or you might not.

Pausing feels like it includes an intention to start again.

When I’m coaching people and they choose to pause something they want to eventually continue doing, I ask them about their conditions for returning.

Will they start again after a specific time frame?

Does their return depending on finishing something else? (Another project, or letting an injury heal.)

If they aren’t sure about their conditions for returning, I ask them to pick a date or time when they will revisit their decision to pause. That frees them up from annoying themselves every day with ‘How about today? No?’ and it also helps them stay conscious of their plan to return.

If you have hit a snag in your workout plans, perhaps, instead of coming to a stop, you can make use of the power of a pause.

Obviously, if you can reshape your plans, that’s great. And it’s always a good idea to keep up the things that you *can* do, but go ahead and pause the plans that you can’t follow in the moment.

You don’t need to feel guilty about it. You haven’t failed, you haven’t messed up, and you aren’t quitting. You are being responsive to the reality of your life in this moment.

But by calling it a pause instead of a stop you are keeping the metaphorical door open for your return. You are making a conscious decision to temporarily alter your plans.

Fitness isn’t an all or nothing one-time project, it’s an ongoing, responsive plan.

And it is perfectly ok if some parts of that plan have to be paused from time to time.

(It’s also ok to stop your plan entirely if you find something that serves you better, but this post is about when you WANT to continue but you just can’t do it right now.)

Here’s your gold star for your efforts to increase your fitness by doing what you can and by responding to the reality of your life right now.

A gold star ornament hangs in the foreground, there are  decorated tree branches with lights and small visible pieces of other ornaments in the background.
This is a stock photo so this gold star wasn’t hanging on *my* tree, but I still wholeheartedly approve of its gold starry-ness.
covid19 · family · fitness · fitness classes

Bettina’s postpartum fitness parade, part 2: postpartum gymnastics

So I already have to recant a promise I made in my first post in this mini-series: I cancelled my MommaStrong subscription this week. I just haven’t been doing the workouts because I enjoy other things (running, yoga) so much more and it’s not worth paying good money for something I don’t use. But anyway, on to part two of this little series on what I’ve been doing fitness-wise since giving birth.

In Germany, statutory public health insurance entitles you to a postpartum gymnastics course and will pay for up to 8 sessions (because of my work I have private insurance, but it’s also covered). I think this is kind of amazing and possibly quite unique, at least from what I hear from some of my international friends, who have been astounded by this.

Normally, these postpartum gymnastic classes are fairly mellow, aimed mostly at restoring some pelvic floor and core health after pregnancy and childbirth have left your body in… probably a very different shape than it used to be. They sit somewhere between physical therapy and a light workout and are intended to prepare you for going back to “normal” exercise and life in general without incontinence and diastasis recti problems.

If you’re interested in what these classes look like, here’s a video (in German, sorry) from a couple of midwives who have recorded theirs and put them on YouTube to cater to women who can’t attend an in-person class due to the pandemic:

Video from hallohebamme.de – postpartum PT/gymnastics class. They do their course in a “mummy and me” format, Bettina’s was a class without baby.

I think these are the right choice for most people, but if you were quite active before and during pregnancy and had a relatively uncomplicated birth, you’re probably hankering for something a bit more challenging. At least I was. Luckily, my midwife had caught onto that. She found out about a postpartum gymnastics course specifically for “sporty women” (sic) and I immediately signed up.

“Thanks” to Covid, it was an online course. Run by two midwives, we gathered on Zoom once a week for eight weeks in November and December to restart an exercise routine. The sessions consisted of warm-up, some cardio, a lot of post-pregnancy safe strengthening exercises for arms, legs, and core, and finally stretching and cool-down. Over the course of eight weeks, the intensity increased gradually.

Reader, I LOVED it. The first session, I almost cried when I actually broke a sweat. I know breaking a sweat is by no means a requirement for something to “count” as exercise, but I was really craving a hard workout by that time. The women who ran the class were lovely and funny and did their best to make sure we did the exercises correctly even though they couldn’t physically correct us. The only thing missing was the community spirit that would probably have developed had the class been in-person. Although I’m definitely ready to take up other forms of exercise again, I’m still kind of sad the course is over. I was a lovely way of getting myself in gear once a week.

Are postpartum gymnastics courses a thing where you are?

fitness · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · new year's resolutions

What’s your Word of the Year? Here are ours…#WOTY

Word cloud of the bloggers’ #WOTY

We didn’t all blog about it but most of the bloggers at Fit is a Feminist Issue have chosen a word of the year.

Why do it? Sometimes people choose a word of the year to guide them instead of a new year’s resolution, and for others it’s part of the resolution. It can mean different things to different people but the basic idea is to name an area for concentration, focus, or exploration. Sometimes it’s what you want more of in your life and sometimes it’s more general, to give a flavour to the conversations you’re having about your prupose, direction, and plans.

But with no further ado, here are our words for 2021:

Mina’s is ENOUGH

Christine’s is CONSISTENT

Sam’s is FLOW

Cate’s is STEADFAST

Nat’s is REST

Tracy’s is MINDFULNESS

Martha’s is HOLD FAST

Nicole’s is STEADY

Susan’s is PERSIST

Catherine’s is AWAKE

What’s your word of the year?

Let us know in the comments if you’ve chosen a word for 2021, what it is, and what it means to you. Thanks!

fitness · WOTY

Catherine’s word of the year: Awake

I’m not an early bird. However, even the morning larks among us would agree that 2020 was a good year to sleep through. Sleep is magic. Sleep is healing. Sleep feels delicious. Sleep is good for almost anything that ails us. But for me in 2020, I spent a lot of time turning away from the world outside, retreating, trying to shut out the feelings caused by what was happening. I just wanted to go to bed and wake up in 2021.

And now it’s here. 2021. Time to be awake, alert, engaged, curious. Time for sensing, feeling, thinking, processing, inquiring, musing.

It’s sunflower time.

A sunflower (girasole in Italian, meaning “turn to the sun”) seeks the light, turning to follow the brightness of the day.

An upright sunflower, enjoying some direct light against a blue sky. By Lisa Pellegrini for Unsplash.
An upright sunflower, enjoying some direct light against a blue sky. By Lisa Pellegrini for Unsplash.

I’m not sure I can manage quite that degree of exposure this year. Luckily, there are modifications available.

A sensible sunglasses-wearing sunflower. I like that idea. By Wan J. Kim for Unsplash.
A sensible sunglasses-wearing sunflower. I like that idea. By Wan J. Kim for Unsplash.

With or without sunglasses, sunscreen, and big floppy hat, I want 2020 to be a year in which I keep my eyes open to take in what’s around me and in me, even if it’s a bit much. I have dreams and plans and goals: for movement, for creativity, for connection. They can’t be done (or done well) in the dark. I need light and space and energy and warmth (or bracing cold) to be fully involved, aware. And awake. That’s it.

Dear readers: do you have a word of the year? What would you like it to be? What do you need to inhabit your word? I have extra sunglasses, if you want to borrow some.

fitness · habits · martial arts · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 15: Put on Your Dobok (or bandana or fancy socks or…)

If you are having trouble getting in the exercise frame of mind, creating an external cue might help.

Let me give you an example:

Last Sunday morning, I participated in an international online superclass for Taekwondo .

When I registered for the class back in December, I hadn’t noticed that it started at 7:30am Newfoundland Time.

I was excited to take the class but 7:30am on a Sunday seemed really hard. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get into the Taekwondo ’zone’ and that I wouldn’t get as much out of the class because I would be sleepy and uncoordinated.

Luckily, I was wrong.

Even though it was early, even though it was a Sunday morning, even though I was online instead of in a class, once I put my dobok (my TKD uniform) on I was in taekwondo mode.

It was a kind of magic. One minute I was sleepy, grumpy, and vaguely regretful about committing to this. The next, I was awake, interested, and ready to get moving.

My dobok gave me an exercise context, it was an external cue.

After all, I only put my dobok on for Taekwondo. I don’t put it on to lounge around the house or to run errands, I put it on because it is time to go to class.

And, it turns out that any time can feel like class time…if I put my dobok on.

Obviously, most people won’t have a dobok but you probably have a piece of clothing or gear that symbolizes exercise for you, an external cue that will put you in a movement frame of mind.

If you don’t have one yet, it might be a good time to start developing one. Find something you can use or wear every time you exercise so, eventually, that item will tell your brain that it is time to get moving.

(A category of item can work just as well as an individual one, i.e. wearing any bandana around your neck could be an exercise cue, it doesn’t have to be that specific red one.)

Do you have a piece of clothing that puts you into exercise mode?

If so, what is it?

If not, what *could* you use to help you slip into that zone?

Keep up the good work, Team, building habits takes conscious effort and, like I said the other day, it’s okay to give yourself what you need to support those efforts.

Here’s your gold star for today!

A  multi-sided gold star ornament hangs on an orange-coloured wall.
Another day, another gold star.
Keep up the good work!
fitness · mindfulness · WOTY

Tracy’s word of the year: mindfulness

Image description: Leafy country walking path with wood fencing and lush trees in Grasmere, the Lake District, England.

Like Mina (2021: “enough”), Cate (2021: “steadfast”), and others (group summary post coming this aft!), I too have adopted a “word of the year.” Anne’s guest post about it at the end of 2019 (2020: “explore”) inspired me to try it. For 2020 my word was “authenticity.”

I think it’s interesting to consider what motivates people to choose their words of the year and even whether they choose a noun (as most do) or a verb (as Anne did in 2020, and also, if you read her post, in 2018 and 2019, with “believe” and “bloom”).

My word for 2021 is “mindfulness.” Sometimes it happens that words that seem trendy or like platitudes take on new and profound meaning. Such is the case with me and the word “mindfulness” right now. I’ve seized onto it this year because I have found myself doing all sorts of distracted things since the pandemic started. Distracted eating. Distracted doom scrolling. Distracted television watching. Multi-tasking (I hate multi-tasking). It never feels good when I do things that I don’t feel present for — that’s how I think of mindlessness. And mindfulness, or being present to what’s in front of me, is the best way for me to reverse that habit of distraction.

My commitment to mindfulness grew out of the September meditation challenge using Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness. Catherine gathered a bunch of us to commit to it as a blog book group. Daily meditation is a great way to be mindful, at least for 10-20 minutes or however long you’re on your meditation cushion. When I’m not doing anything else it’s easy for me to be immersed in the task at hand (even if that task is just to sit quietly).

Since I’ve adopted “mindfulness” as my word of the year (two weeks ago!) I can’t say I have been practicing it consistently. Indeed, this week has flown by in a blur so fast I can’t believe it’s already Friday. When that happens, it usually means I haven’t been paying attention.

We have just begun a new stay-at-home order here in Ontario. I do not want to come up for air at the end of this 28 days (is it a 28-day thing? I don’t even know) and wonder what happened, having spent a month in a distracted state of auto-pilot. So I’m committing to being mindful, paying attention, appreciating the details, tasting my food, showing up for my meditation, my yoga, my workouts, my walks and runs, and focusing on one thing at a time.

Do you have a word of the year?

fitness · meditation · motivation · new year's resolutions · self care

Go Team! January 14: Multitask

Exercise is one of the few areas when we can actually multitask effectively.*

If you find it hard to fit exercise into your day, if it is a challenge to lure yourself into getting started, or if you find exercising a little dull, you might find it useful to multitask.

That might mean walking to complete some errands. (Or parking further from the store and then getting a burst of activity as you walk/run/gambol to the entrance.)

Or doing a few reps with each can as you put the groceries away.

You could use voice dictation to create a rough draft of something while you do some stretches.

Maybe the promise of listening to a podcast, a radio program, or a TV show would help you ease into starting your exercise routine.

Perhaps some exercise purists would say that your exercises will be less than perfect** if done while you are distracted, but who is trying to be perfect?

We’re building habits here, we’re not creating shrines to exercise.

This process is supposed to serve our needs and if listening to a podcast helps you get moving, then why *wouldn’t* you listen to it?

Today’s gold star is not only for your movement and self-care but for considering how multitasking might help you fit your wellness plans into your days.

A  person’s hand holding    a lit sparkler   that is generating star shaped sparks all around its top half. The background is blurred.
This sparkler is not a star, per se, but it’s star-like and definitely celebratory.

*Usually, multitasking is actually rapid task switching which our brains are not all that fond of, really.

**This might be the point where you say ‘But what about Yoga or meditation, Christine, I can’t multitask those.’ And I guess that’s true, in a way. Both of these things are about focusing in the moment.

However, yoga poses done while watching TV are better than not doing them at all. You won’t get all of the same benefits in front of the TV but you won’t get ANY benefits if you don’t do any yoga. And you can work up to the focused, on-the-may, type of yoga when you’re ready.

As for meditation: Again,you won’t get all of the same benefits if you sit quietly and breathe while listening to a podcast but you won’t get ANY benefits if you just avoid meditation entirely.

You could also try meditative doodling or painting if the idea of doing two things at once appeals to you but you can’t erase your mind around multitasking your meditation any other way.

fitness · mindfulness

Ten Percent Happier app is free for many types of frontline workers

Hi everyone– we at Fit is a Feminist Issue don’t do advertising or product placement (except for comedic purposes, and that’s mostly me…), but every now and then, we come across something out there that really works well, or is otherwise worthy of mention.

This is one of those times.

I’ve blogged a bunch of times this year about how restarting my meditation practice has helped me endure, better understand and adapt to the pandemic/political maelstrom which was 2020 (and apparently hasn’t read the calendar to see that 2020 is OVER). Others of us have written about contemplative and self-care and mindfulness habits we’ve revisited or started.

I’d like to share some very nice news with you: my favorite meditation app, called Ten Percent Happier, announced in December that they were offering the app, which usually costs about $100/year, for FREE for the following groups:

  • US Postal Service workers
  • warehouse employees
  • teachers and educators
  • grocery and food delivery workers
  • health care workers (obvs)

All you have to do is click here, and you’ll be directed to sign up immediately, or you fill out a short survey and then can sign up.

They are using the honor system to limit the free signups to the indicated groups. Here’s what they said on their site:

We know that many groups of people have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’d love to support everyone, we have been completely overwhelmed by the response to these offers. At this time, we’re only able to offer free access to warehouse employees, teachers, healthcare, grocery, and food delivery workers. Please honor this and do not click on the above buttons if you do not work in these fields. By doing this, you’ll allow us to serve these workers more quickly and efficiently, helping them in the critical work they are doing to support us all.

I love this– that is, I love that they’re making an effort to support who they can, making it easy for those groups to sign up, and asking the rest of us to help out by not deluging the system. I hope you do, too.

A heart symbol, made by two hands, against a warm color background. Wish the world were like this more often.

Readers, do you already use this app? Did you just download it and try it? Do you use others? Do other apps have this deal? Please share any info, as we are all in this together.

fitness

“Your bad habits can kill you,” Lebowitz says, “but your good habits won’t save you.”

The other day, I watched the new Netflix series “Pretend It’s a City” with Fran Lebowitz and Martin Scorcese. I enjoyed it very much. I know bits and pieces about Lebowitz. Enough to know that she’s a “cool, New York, writer”. Sometimes, she gets herself in hot water, as outspoken thinkers are wont to do. There are a lot of things about her that I can relate to and a lot I can’t. But she’s the type of person I just enjoy watching and listening to.

Things that Lebowitz and I have in common are that she’s a secular (or atheist) Jew, and we both love to read. Also, she rolls her eyes in a city (hers is New York, mine is Toronto) at the increasing lack of awareness of people that they are sharing space in a big city. My husband laughed and side-eyed me when Lebowitz stops and complains inwardly as a younger man cuts her off getting off the subway. But, despite our similar annoyance at certain aspects of city life, we both love our cities.

Black lettering on white background “Being Offended is a natural consequence of leaving the house” – Fran Lebowitz

Things that we do not have in common are that she’s much cooler than I am and has a much cooler persona and/or fashion sense. She’s a successful writer. She’s over 20 years older than I. And, she’s a committed smoker, which I, thankfully, gave up almost 20 years ago. She’s also a luddite, in that she doesn’t own a mobile phone, a computer, or a typewriter.

Even though I participate in certain group endurance sports, I could still laugh at her amusement, when a group of people were willingly pulling tires from a rope around their bodies through the streets of New York, as a form of exercise. Her comments on these types of challenges are also amusing, even though I can disagree with her and see the benefit of some of these types of challenges. Link here to some of her quotes from Pretend It’s a City, including the one about climbing a mountain.

A screenshot of Lebowitz from Pretend it’s a City with her quote “Climbing a mountain is a fake challenge. You don’t have to climb a mountain. Okay?”

Something she said, stood out to me, and had me agreeing – and disagreeing – at the same time. “Your bad habits can kill you,” Lebowitz says, “but your good habits won’t save you.” This quote comes from the discussion in the series about her anti-wellness stance, which I can relate to, to some degree, as I don’t believe a lot of the “wellness” industry”, as it has evolved, has anything to do with health.

I agree, and believe the science supports, that your good habits “might not” save you over the long haul. Unfortunately, luck or genes or terrible accidents may not be on your side despite your good habits.

But, day-to-day, which is often a focus of my posts, I think our good habits can save us. And, it’s one of the main reasons I exercise, try to limit my sugar, get enough sleep, do some yoga or active breathing, etc., on a daily basis. These habits save me on a daily basis. They save me from bad moods, hormonal changes, lack of sleep on other days, stress from work or living through a pandemic – in a city I love that is a “hot spot” for Covid-19 rates. They give me energy and a feeling of strength.

So, I say try to keep your bad habits in check. Keep your good habits at your side and in perspective. And go read or watch some Fran Lebowitz for some good laughs or thoughts that linger with you for days after for some ponderance on your own.

Nicole P. lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs. She loves to run, do strength training, mostly in the form of HIIT, and is practicing daily yoga in short bursts this month. She is hoping her good habits save her day-to-day.