fitness · fitness classes

The NYT 6-minute workout: commenters' critiques and robust responses

Just when you thought that workouts couldn’t get any shorter, the New York Times has shaved another minute off and created the 6-minute workout. Tara Parker Pope offers us a cheery encouraging introduction:

I know that six minutes of exercise doesn’t seem like much. You might wonder: Is it even worth my time? The answer is yes! We created this workout with Chris Jordan, Director of Exercise Physiology at Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and creator of the widely-known 7 Minute Workout. His research shows that even very small amounts of exercise, when carried out with intensity, can reap big fitness rewards. By committing to a super short workout today, you are taking the first small step to building a fitness routine. Remember, new habits start with small changes, not big moves. Commit to just six minutes of exercise three times a week and you are on your way to a lifelong fitness habit.

Pope’s message seems super-clear: 6 minutes is not a huge commitment, the exercises are tough but doable (for some people– more on this later), and sticking to them for a while may well open up in us the possibility of incorporating more exercise into our daily lives. This is a total win.

At least you would think so. Not all the NYT commenters agree.

But before I get to those, here’s what the 6-minute workout is. There are actually three different 6-minute workouts, each to be done once a week (in theory).

Workout 1 is here. It consists of:

  • Jumping jacks
  • standing lunges
  • kneeling push-ups
  • forearm plank

You’ll repeat them twice, giving you a total body workout. Each exercise is 30 seconds long. Do them at your own pace. You’ll rest for 15 seconds after each exercise.

Workout 2 is here. It consists of:

  • Stand and box (standing– punch forward with left and right arms)
  • side squats (moving from standing, left and right to a squat)
  • kneeling push-ups
  • bird dog (on hands and knees, lifting opposite arms and knees front and back, respectively– I hope that makes sense)

Workout 3 is here. It consists of:

  • march in place
  • squats (with arms outstretched front)
  • push-ups with twist (after pushing up, lift one arm to ceiling, repeat other side)
  • bicycle crunches (arms by side, palms down, you know the rest– ouch)

There are no real surprises here. I happen to love bird dog– we do this in yoga– and I like holding the pose for a while. Standing lunges are hard for me, so I don’t dip so far. And there’s no way to sugar-coat bicycle crunches. They put the work in workout.

So you would think the comments would be sparse and fairly bland, since this is not a revolutionary exercise suggestion.

But no. They had a whole host of complaints, including:

  • didn’t like the vocal tone of the narrator
  • preferred pulling-movements to pushing movements (so pushups back, row good)
  • pointing out that reading about the workout is much easier than actually doing it
  • didn’t fit their very specific physical needs and exercise preferences (followed by a detailed description of the aforementioned)
  • all they care about is filling in the green ring in their Apple watch; would this do that?
  • this is a total wuss workout– instead people should do e.g. 40 plank pushups, 80 static lunges (40 each leg) with extra weight, 50 squats with extra weight, and a 2:00 min. straight plank (there were many such suggestions)
  • DON’T do this if you: have bad knees, are over 50, just ate, didn’t eat, have a last name that begins with M, and so on
  • Given that many workout wardrobe changes (12 in total), this would likely take more than 6 minutes (this one I concede has humor, if not merit)
  • People who don’t exercise more than this are in part responsible for global warming
  • Where’s the “mature” version of this (hmmm… do they mean naked version? I know, they mean older people, but really, “mature”?)
  • What can I sub for… fill in the blank (As former wait staff, I know that Americans do love their substitutions!)

And then someone just posted a picture of Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the US.

Okay, that’s actually their profile picture, but I thought it was jarring and funny.

Of course, a lot of commenters thanked Tara Parker Pope for posting, and sung the praises of the 6-minute workout.

My favorite of these compliments was this one:

Thank God. I tried the 7-minute workout last year, but really, who has time for THAT?

And my favorite responder to the “this workout is nothing and makes people too complacent and contributes to national ill health” complainer:

Nothing’s stopping you from making them more strenuous– maybe incorporate a pogo stick? While dodging a robotic vacuum that moves faster and faster? With a cat on your head?

Yes, dear responder. But I do think exercising with a cat on my head will take more than 6 minutes. We should ask this woman.

Woman attempting to exercise with three cats swarming around her.

Readers, what do you think about these 6 or 7-minute workouts? Have you tried them? Did they do anything for you? I’d love to hear your stories.

food · gender policing

Harley Quinn’s Fantabulously Emancipating Egg Sandwich (Guest Post)

By Quill Kukla

Love for “Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” seems to be dividing up roughly along gender lines, with women/non-men generally adoring the critically panned movie, despite its blatantly terrible editing and pacing, and the fact that it feels like it ran out of budget two thirds of the way through and was turned over to someone’s high twenty-year-old art history major niece to finish in exchange for a bag of Molly. 

What does this have to do with fitness, and the themes of this blog? Let me start by saying that by the end of the movie, I NEEDED an egg sandwich. Not just an egg sandwich, but a greasy one, with runny yolks and gooey cheese, and I would need bacon on it too if I hadn’t truly forsworn eating my pig friends. This is because a major narrative focus of the movie is Harley Quinn craving, ordering, watching being cooked, losing, and finally eating (but never paying for, of course) the world’s most appealing and beloved egg sandwich.

A couple of points are obvious. First, with Joker having ditched her, Harley is very pointedly single in this movie, and it is the sandwich, not a man, who plays a narrative role akin to a lover – the desire, seduction, meeting, loss, and re-meeting with the happy romantic ending. After decades of PhD-educated Harley reduced to a boy-crazy Joker appendage, seeing her turn her love to a sandwich is gratifying; women don’t need men! We need really good sandwiches! (Yes, nerds, I know Harley is bi and there have been women in her life too, but her primary role in the DC universe is as Joker’s sub.) Second, it is nice to see a woman who is supposed to be sexy and interesting enjoying greasy f*cking food for once. That sandwich is full of fat and salt and it looks delicious and she is there for it. 

But third and less obviously I think, the sandwich plays an unusual role in the film that bucks a major and toxic cultural trend. In my recent article, “Shame, Seduction, and Character in Food Messaging,” I argued that people – and very much especially women – are caught between two contradictory and unsustainable sets of cultural norms around eating. 

One set of norms treats eating anything other than austere, ‘healthy’ food in small quantities that don’t risk making you fat as shameful – as a transgression for which we should always feel guilty. We talk about being ‘bad’ and ‘letting’ ourselves have dessert, or of treating ourselves off limits food as a ‘reward’ for having exercised or starved ourselves for a week. Remember when Huma Abedine’s emails were subpoenaed and we found out Hillary Clinton wrote to her about being “bad” and splitting (splitting!) a crème brûlée? In this framework, all food that is not eaten for health and skinniness reasons is framed as ‘junk’ food that is inherently worthless.

The other set of norms sexualizes or, I argued, pornifies the consumption of food that is not ‘healthy.’ In this framework, hot women and ‘real’ men indulge in meat and pie, as a form of seduction and as metonymic for sex, while people who are austere about what they eat, like vegans or people who avoid gluten, are portrayed as less fun, desexualized, boring, and repressed. 

Of course, both these stories are sexist and oppressive, and they leave us, I argued, with no good way to eat. Our choices are to be transgressive and eating ‘junk,’ and hence be blamed for our weak character and insufficient self-discipline, or to strictly regulate what we eat and stick to ‘healthy’ foods, while being treated as unsexy and not sufficiently bold or pleasure-seeking. Or perhaps, finally we can get away with eating some ‘junk’ food if the performance of doing so is sexualized and porny and as long as we are skinny.

Re-enter the egg sandwich. On reflection, what I loved most about the scenes featuring it is that this sandwich broke all these rules. Harley Quinn, as the movie subtitle tells us, has been Fantabulously Emancipated. She is emancipated from her man, and very clearly emancipated from social norms more generally, as she is not at all ‘well-behaved’ in the movie. But she is also emancipated from the tyranny of our messed up diet culture, healthist culture, porn culture, and impossible eating norms.

As she tells us in voice-over, the egg sandwich is the first thing she wants after she frees herself by blowing up the chemical plant where she and Joker had their first big date. And who can blame her; it looks f*cking delicious. Her eating of it is not sexualized at all. When she finally gets to it, she chows down unceremoniously. What she is enjoying is the food, not any kind of metaphor for sexual indulgence. We see her chewing, her mouth moving, the sandwich dripping messily. How often do we see scenes of women just tucking in in movies and other mass media, aside from fat women who are being shamed or mocked? Harley does not take herself to be doing anything bad, and the sandwich is not framed as an indulgence for which she should feel guilty. It is framed as a glorious act of freedom and pleasure. It doesn’t matter whether it is ‘healthy.’ It matters that it is yummy, and that she is eating for herself, because she wants to. It matters that it is framed as a masterpiece of egg sandwich making, and not as ‘junk’ or as low quality food. It matters, I think, that she gets some guy to cook it for her too, so it is not a reward for her gendered domestic labors. 

The day after I saw the movie, I recognized how much I crave seeing healthy scenes of women just eating good things and liking them, and how very rare they are. To quote Janelle Monae, watching Harley enjoy her sandwich, you could tell she was a “free-ass motherf*cker”, and I did indeed feel fantabulously emancipated by it all. 

And now I need to try again to find a sandwich as delicious as hers was. Runny yolk, extra grease, extra cheese, just a splash of green onions. Wish me luck.

Quill Kukla is Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, and also a Humboldt Scholar at Leibniz University Hannover. Their forthcoming book is entitled City Living: How Urban Dwellers and Urban Spaces Make One Another. They are also a competitive amateur boxer and powerlifter

fitness

Getting in the groove of personal challenges

Last fall I participated in a work place challenge with a team. I had a lot of fun and I wrote about it here.

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Young female in blue polka dot dress twirls in a living room with a piano and couch in the background. Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Over the holidays, I thought about the things I wanted to do this year from a fitness POV. Coincidentally, I saw a post about from blog co founder SamB talking about being part of the 219 workouts in 2019 group.

Hmm, I said to myself, that sounds like fun. So I joined the group for 2020 and the goal is to make 220 workouts this year.

I’m at 20 which averages 10 a month for me to date (and February is not over yet!). There are lots of people in the group who have double, triple and even quadruple that number, but it doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because there are others like me, just finding ways to keep moving, especially during the dreary days of winter.

What I love about this activity, and I’m not much of a tracker, is that it’s a gentle nudge to keep moving because daily I see all the fun things people are doing to move.

There’s been walking, skiing, biking, yoga, skating, hiking, swimming, running, cross fit, weightlifting, zumba – the usual. But there’s also been playing with toddlers, wandering in the woods with dogs, laundry, housecleaning, bellydancing, shoveling, stretching, aerial hooping, tennis, roller derby practice, and a whole variety of movement classes and personal routines with handweights.

I had long understood housecleaning as exercise because there is lots of movement, but how much movement? Could I quantify it in some way?

The next time I set to do the laundry – the sorting, the washing, the hanging up, the folding, the putting away – I tracked my steps. In the first hour, I logged more than 3000 steps and I realized that in spite of momentary pauses when setting the washer or dryer, I was non-stop. I was up and downstairs, I was lifting and setting down baskets, I was bending, stretching, walking, and in some cases jogging from one place to another.

Laundry won’t replace my yoga, swimming and lifting sessions but I am more conscious about how often I sit in the run of a day and how often ordinary activities related to daily living can add movement.

I’ve also been inspired to see what else is available in my community. I may not try aerial hooping, but there may be a whole bunch of other things I can try. I won’t know unless I look.

What about you, our readers? What things have you tried that bring fun and movement to your life every day?

— MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s.

fitness

“Motion is lotion”: why you should move when you’re sore

I wrote last week about how I turned 55 and immediately hurt my SI joint and started hobbling around going “oh my hip” .  I saw my chiropractor twice right away, who repeated the phrase “motion is lotion” a few times as she did all sorts of magical things to mobilize me.

As anyone who has experienced joint or muscular crankiness knows, your first instinct is to lie on the ground demanding that people bring you frozen grapes. And then to put those grapes on the part that hurts, sitting still until everything eases up. Or seizes up.

I did that for half a day. Then I did a whole bunch of yoga and stretching and the things my chiropractor told me to do. I was such a good client she made a video of me doing TRX squats, ferociously tracking my knee over my toes to set new patterns.

That’s the thing: a lot of the time, if you do some sort of soft tissue damage, it’s not the thing you hurt that’s the problem. It’s the result of some other pattern of all those interrelated tissues. With me, it all began with poor ankle mobility, which goes WAAAAY back to 1999 when I trained for a marathon too quickly after a sprained ankle.

So my new mission: mobilize my ankle, learn to squat with the force of rotating my inner thighs, re-engage in form.

Over the week, I did some yoga, some more stretching and some light running. And then by the time I had personal training a week later, I was ready to let Alex boss me around again.

She started with some very intense hip and leg mobility, squishing every painful fascia and adhesion and overused muscle one by one against the hard handle of a kettlebell.

A friend wandered by when I was in that position and later said, “you looked like you were in so much pain I was ready to push her to the ground at your signal.”

The thing is, it did hurt like hell. But then it all released. And I had the good endorphins, and I was sweating. And 15 minutes later, I was doing this.

Wall walks give me a lot of pleasure. And for the whole day, my body was looser and calm and whole. No pain at all.

Coincidentally, another friend posted on facebook this week that she had hurt her back shoveling snow. Her feed was immediately flooded with injunctions to rest, drink tea, put her feet up.

“No resting!” I thought. “Motion is lotion!”

Then I started wondering what the actual evidence was for movement vs. rest. I have been thinking about mobility and aging and what it means to keep moving through the long list of discomforts as my body develops whole new ways to show its fatigue. Should we always “move through the pain?” When is it a good idea to keep moving our bodies, and when should we rest?

Turns out, of course there is no easy answer.  The bottom line seems to be:  of course your body needs rest and recovery, and you shouldn’t act as though muscular or fascia pain doesn’t exist.   BUT slower movements and thoughtful stretching are an important part of both healing the injured area and preserving your mobility in the rest of your body.  This applies to normal muscle soreness from an intense workout as well as muscular, fascia and joint pain. 

For my immediate issue, my sacroiliac joint pain has tons of evidence to support easing the pain through stretching and movement.

But more important, to me, is that when we hurt, we have a strong tendency to stop moving.  And then it’s a lot harder to start moving again.  And if we don’t start moving again, all of the issues of aging and mobility stack up quickly.  And then we just… stop moving.  And then everything else in our lives gets smaller.

There is a lot of evidence that movement helps the pain and stiffness of arthritis, and reduces your risk of developing any number of chronic diseases, from diabetes to heart disease to parkinson’s. This is well trodden territory for this blog.

And as several of us have posted many times, movement as simple as walking preserves mobility as you age, and eases pain, and it’s never too late to start.

There is growing evidence around physical exercise as a non-pharmacological treatment for chronic pain,  including how to support people who are reluctant to move because it hurts, to overcome their fears for the ultimate benefit. 

So I go back to what I’ve been preaching all along:  listen to your body, and keep moving.  Take the stairs, and walk places, and do things that give you joy.  And now I have a new layer: focused, intense mobilization as part of my workout constellation.

Alex made me a little video of all of my stretches.  And I now have this kettle bell torture program all laid out for me. And what the excellent chiro taught me.  And what the stretch therapist I saw a month ago taught me.  To stay mobile, I need to keep mobilizing.  Sometimes, it IS the workout — not the prelude to the workout.  

That’s a paradigm shift, but I’m slowly learning it.

How about you?  Do you frame activities like stretching, physio, mobilization, yin and restorative yoga as workouts in themselves? 

 

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who wants to still be able to stand on her hands when she’s 85. 

fitness

Do runners hate running?

According to a news story earlier this week, Strava — the activity tracking app — did a survey that found that most only 8 percent of runners using their app say they love running:

Strava, which tracks the sports activity trends of some 50 million people in almost 200 countries, surveyed 25,000 runners and found that half of them say they either hate it or barely tolerate it, while only 8 per cent love it.

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andrew-dinh-hYTzyMok_a4-unsplashThis prompted a debate in our blogger group.  Nicole and I (both runners) expressed disbelief, noting that we both feel so much joy from running, and why do it if you hate it?  Nicole noted that maybe the survey captured newish runners who are still experiencing a lot of discomfort and hadn’t discovered their groove yet.  I acknowledged that I often find running a slog but the moments of transcendence and overall wellbeing make any discomfort or undo effort worthwhile.

Susan said the survey fits her profile — she runs because it’s good for her but she finds it unpleasant.  (Well, she actually said something much more eloquent:  I think I run to prove I can. Maybe it’s a primal “I could maybe get away from a predator” or “I could keep up with the pack”. I run so I can enjoy biking more. I run because it’s good for my heart (the physical heart). I get very little joy out of the act of running. It’s hard and I’m prone to injury because I’m not balanced in very fundamental ways in my body. These are not things that can be fixed only managed. So, while I do not run to punish myself and I do get pleasure after I have managed a run, I don’t like it and you can’t say I should!)

And Sam and Tracy (who also love running, though Sam is sidelined from it by her knees), said the survey fit their understanding — that a lot of people exercise for reasons other than enjoyment, including body image and “weight management,” and running gives people the most efficient workout.

What about you — do you run?  do you do it with gritted teeth because it’s good for you?  do you love it?  How would you answer the questions: Why do you run?  How do you feel about it?

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Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who still thinks of herself as a “runner” despite low mileage, no plans to race and no consistent schedule.  Here she is dancing to Shakira while at a light during a run earlier this month.

fitness · season transitions

In a late winter slump? Try these active indoor solutions…

This time of year is hard on our moods. I mean, it’s late winter and it’s blah outside (unless you live somewhere warm and lovely, in which case, congratulations and feel free to go wash your car outside in the sunshine). There are stalwarts among us who keep outside activity going through rain, sleet, snow and dark of night; however, most of us end up spending more time indoors, moving less, feeling cooped up and a little crabby.

Bettina summed it up beautifully– this is late winter slump time. She also put out the call to the rest of us– what are some strategies for making it through to springtime?

Well, Bettina and friends, thanks to 1) the internet, and 2) a lack of better ideas for today’s blog post, I have found some indoor workouts that should provide at the very least a change of pace, and maybe even inspire new fashion directions. Here we go…

Of course no indoor workout list would be complete without the OG aerobics videos of Jazzercise. It’s worth watching just for the hairdos and leotards (had to check spelling, as I was writing it as lyotard, a philosopher who I believe never recorded any workout videos). Here’s a perky example below:

Yoga videos are all over the place, and many of us have written about some of our favorite youtube yogis, like Adriene and Bad Yogi. But if you’re really looking to shake things up, I suggest checking out this 10-minute yoga video below, hosted by none other than the late great Dixie Carter, actor and star of Designing Women, one of my mother’s favorite TV shows. Here’s her video, which features a Linda-Blair-Exorcist-style vocalization at 5:19.

Now, you may be thinking, “enough already with the retro funny exercise videos; show me something new!” Gotcha. How about a parkour warmup you can do at home? This one is courtesy of Ronnie Street Stunts. Mr. Stunts has his own youtube channel, so you can do a deep dive into his parkour instruction, including (of course) a 30-day parkour challenge, which is here.

Is parkour too ho-hum for you? How about this: Scarf juggling. Yes, I can feel your skepticism from here, but hear me out: according to Jugglefit.com, juggling has many health benefits:

  • Juggling is a portable workout.
  • It makes you smarter.
  • It sharpens focus and concentration.
  • Juggling is the ultimate in stress relief.
  • It’s an exercise that doesn’t “feel” like exercise.
  • You can juggle where you are– no travel required.
  • Juggling helps maintain and increase range of motion in the arms and shoulders.
  • Juggling is beneficial for all ages and body types.
  • Juggling wards off cravings (really? maybe because you’ve got your hands full? dunno about this one).
  • Juggling is easy to do with friends and family.

Still don’t believe me? Well, try it out yourself, with help from this guy:

Now, the videos I’ve shown you so far may be a distraction, but they aren’t likely to help you get the jump on some of your favorite summer sports. I hear you– it’s time to offer a video that will be useful for activities you love, but which you can’t do easily in winter.

Take kayaking, for example. You can don a drysuit and brave the cold water (some do), or you can practice rolling and other techniques in a pool (I’ve even tried this). But that requires a lot of effort and hauling of equipment. Isn’t there something that can be done from the comfort of your living room? Funny you should ask. Yes, there is. In the video below, some guy shows us rolling techniques we can practice at home, on the floor, with children even (he’s got two little ones helping with demos and explanations).

I want to try this right now. But I have to wait until I finish this blog post…

Which I will do after one more at-home DIY full activity video that cannot fail to please everyone all the time. Yes, I’m talking about Soul Train line dancing. The video collection online is a universe unto itself. But here’s one to give you a taste or provide a sweet reminder:

When I was little, we never missed Soul Train, and often ended up dancing in the living room. It was fun then, it’s fun now.

So Bettina and all the Fit is a Feminist issue readers and bloggers, here are some suggestions for addressing late winter blahs. Let me know if 1) you try any of these; or 2) you have other suggestions. We want to hear from you!

fitness

The Thrill of Getting in a Lot

On Monday, my Health App on my iPhone read 23,143 steps by the end of the day, or 15.5 km. I was pleased.

It was a statutory holiday where I live. Which provided the opportunity for my day to start off with a light 5km jog on my usual route. It was a bit chilly at 9 am, about -4 degrees Celsius. But it was sunny and the sidewalks were dry. Dressed properly, this is ideal February jogging weather in Toronto.

I had plans to go for lunch and to an escape room with friends that day. I asked my husband if he felt like walking there and he said sure, so we did (50 min walk). I assumed we would take public transportation back, but high on our successful escape, walked back as well. It was so inviting on such a beautiful day.

It is not unusual for me to walk somewhere I am going, given the right weather and shoes. I walk to work about three-quarters of the time. If I need to go somewhere within an hour’s walk, and I have the time, I go for it. My love for urban walking, prompted me to sell my car a few years ago. The 14-year old car showed only 60,000 kms on the odometer and I was using it much less after moving to a more downtown address.

It’s not only walking that I enjoy racking up the distance with. When I went to spinning classes on a regular basis, I loved going to the special 3-hour spins that they organized.

Long walks, long runs, long spins, and long baking and pasta-making sessions(!), provide me with the type of active meditation that my mind craves. Continuous movement, focussing on one foot after the other, or forming one cookie after the other, allows all of my brain’s open tabs to flow freely, without too much analysis on my part.

Walking can have its nuisances in a city. I’ve mentioned before, my annoyance with golf umbrella holders, absent-minded wanderers who don’t yield for people coming in the opposite direction, reckless drivers who treat pedestrians like an obstruction that they wouldn’t mind hitting, just to get them out of the way.

But the alternatives to walking are not much better in a busy city anyway. A public transit system that has outgrown its capacity decades ago, coupled with politically-driven decisions about it’s improvement, means vehicles are often stuffed beyond capacity. These circumstances can bring out the worst in humanity. And driving within the city, during rush hour, or any other busy time of the day, is ill-advised from any rational angle, unless absolutely necessary. At least with walking, the movement of your feet, promotes the good feelings that come with activity. The endorphins. The creative sparks. The appreciation for a body that allows you to walk.

The joys of walking outweigh any minor nuisances for me. Within a few steps of the office, the corporate world is left behind. Some steps provide a distraction from familial concerns and existential thoughts. And also, a sense of balance about what wellness means to me and gratitude for the luxury of time for those thoughts. And the longer the journey, the better, IMHO.

Here’s to the joy and gratitude of getting in a lot of it. Do you like to walk (or do another activity for long periods of time)?

Nicole Plotkin is a law clerk who works out regularly, enjoys food in all forms, enjoys time with her husband, family, friends and two dogs.