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I work on the campus of a research institute with lots of scientists working round the clock to get out their next, hopefully highly-cited, paper, knowing full well that their career hinges on being faster, better, more hard-working than the person next door.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of these people aren’t just competitive in research, but in all aspects of their lives, including fitness. One colleague of mine referred to it as a “cesspool of incredibly fit people”. Personally, I’ve left research in favour of a career in research management. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a competitive streak of my own.

I exercise quite a lot, swimming, running, and bouldering mostly. I love hiking, kayaking, and surfing, although I don’t do much of the latter two these days, mostly for want of a large enough body of water nearby. I enjoy all of it immensely most of the time.

The problem is: I’m not good at any of it, or at least not what people generally define as “good”. I’m not strong, or fast, or well-coordinated. And I constantly compare myself to others.

The reason I mentioned my workplace before is that I sometimes go running with a group of colleagues at lunchtime. Our campus is located outside the city on a hill in the forest, which is perfect for that. Most of them are faster than me, in fact I’m frequently the slowest member of the group by some distance.

I boulder with a group of people a couple of times a week. Most of them can do harder routes than me, even the ones who have started bouldering later.

And in the pool, I compare myself to the people who are faster, not those who are slower. Every so often, I come home from exercising feeling frustrated and bitterly complain to my husband.

Why can’t I be better at sports? What’s the point of doing it if I won’t ever be any “good”? I like the social element of exercising in a group, but I can’t seem to stop comparing myself to others. And so my competitiveness sometimes gets in the way of my enjoyment.

I sometimes wonder if this is related to the way society expects women to give 150% in order to be considered “successful” (or even adequate). Or is it just my own personality? Am I intrinsically competitive, or have I been socialised to be that way, through the environment I grew up in and the academic training I’ve received?

As usual, the answer is probably “a bit of everything”. The thing is, in sports I don’t owe anyone anything. As long as I enjoy doing it, it shouldn’t matter if I’m any “good” at it. And yet.

So I’m interested: how do others cope with their own competitiveness? Does it affect your enjoyment of exercise if you work out with people who are better than you?

Bettina is a political scientist-turned-science-manager and feminist from Germany, where she now lives after stints in the UK and Spain. She enjoys sports, reading, food, and travelling.

Picture of Bettina in a green running shirt after completing an 8k race on New Year’s Eve 2017, during which she couldn’t stop comparing herself to other runners, but had fun nevertheless.
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I fell victim to an interesting Instagram ad this week and ended up downloading a fitness app that catapulted me into this post.

Perhaps it should not have been surprising to me that an exercise app demanded to know my weight before it let me continue. And perhaps I wasn’t surprised, I was just annoyed.

Here is the thing. I do not know my weight. I have not for years. When I go to a doctor who wants to put me on a scale, I decide whether it is worth protesting, but if I do step on to the scale, I do not look at the information.

Despite my disdain for our diet- and weight-oriented culture, I live in it, so I am susceptible to its tricks. So, if I know those numbers then I start to focus on them – about whether they are too much, about whether they are going up or down. And that is not how I want to spend my time or energy, so I just don’t.

I prefer to measure myself by how I feel and how I can move and by whether I can do the things I want to do with ease. I like to work toward getting better or more effective at something rather than trying to reach a certain weight.

I know I am likely preaching to the feminist choir here, but sometimes things bear repeating.

And I can see times when it would be useful to know your weight (or for someone to) – if you were receiving anesthetic, if you were deciding how many ceiling hooks were needed for your yoga hammock, if you needed safety gear, for example.

However, I do not think it is useful for my app to operate that way. I get that many people are interested in losing weight and so they are orienting it to them. But even though I had selected getting stronger as my goal, I was still supposed to jump through the hoop of selecting my weight.

And sure, I could have picked any old weight and put that in but I did not know how they were going to use the information to determine what the program showed me. I did not want inaccurate information to limit what was being offered. I did not want to have my challenges reduced or increased based on nothing.

I wanted to be able to select a goal that was meaningful to me. However, the questions they asked limited what my goals could be. In fact, they limited what I could even think of as goals – at least within the program. And I am sure that it happens with some actual trainers and the like, too. The fact that so many people have been guided into wanting to lose weight has created a situation where program entrance questions are based on the assumption that weight loss is a standard goal.

I would rather that the app (or a trainer!) ask me how many reps I can do of certain exercises and use that in their algorithms. After all, my weight tells them virtually nothing about me – nothing about my fitness level, my strength, my endurance,  It gives them no useful information at all, just a quick metric that they can use to indicate that their program is successful.

Added bonus: Going for a walk gave me the chance to take a photo of these rocks that had been covered by ice during a period of freezing rain. They look a bit like beach rocks.

The thing that gets me, of course, is that it is not a good measure of success. It would just tell them (and me) about the difference in numbers. It would not indicate health, strength, or anything else that might serve me well. It would only give me a number that might soothe my brain (if I was into that stuff) or that might get other people off my case (if anyone around me was invested in my size).

It irritates me (obviously) and it frustrates me because there are so many other ways to design a program so that it will serve people well.

When I downloaded the app, I did not want all this thinking and wondering. I just wanted to see what the exercise was that they had in the ad for the app – it looked fun.

I ended up just deleting the whole thing and going for a walk.

That *was* fun.  I achieved my goals of moving around and of being outside, AND I didn’t have to weigh myself to participate.

Plus, I got a cool photo of some rocks.

Note: Knowing your weight might serve you well. It does not serve me well.

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An athlete wears red sneakers with a kettle bell next to their feet

Two weeks ago, I had a day in the gym that was perfect. Every motion flowed like silk. After having a pause for the holidays, getting back in the groove felt great.

Last week, while my form was still on point, the flow was uneven. I finally understood what competition commenters mean when they say a lifter grinds out a set.

The amount of effort to move the plates was huge, at least for the first lift of the set. The speed picked up for each one after that first time, but still over the course of the session, my trainer and I could see that my brain and my legs were fighting each other on my first approach to the bar.

These weren’t lightweights, but neither were they really heavy ones either. And yet, they resisted movement. Each time I started a set, I dragged that bar over my shins, knees to finally come to rest at the hip.

My trainer made a couple of suggestions on modifying my approach. She showed me three different ways people set up at the bar. We split one approach into smaller steps, and I worked through each one to finally find the right stance for me.

I was so excited I wanted to try a whole new set, but alas, it was the end of the session, and I knew too well that my unrestrained enthusiasm could lead to a wrong move and that could lead to injury. As I had just reached one year without any complaint from the wonky hip, I had to concede. But at my next session, I promised myself, I would remember the tweaks and try them again.

That same day I received cartoon celebrating the knowledge we gain from failure. The cartoonist observed “Failure just means not yet.” It made me think a little more deeply about the reluctant bar.

Had I just kept on getting smooth as silk lifts with these lower weights, what would have happened once I aimed for the higher weights I want to try this year? Without learning some of the tricks and tips to adjust or modify my approach before trying again, I might have stayed stuck for a whole lot longer and experienced significant frustration at not moving forward (or upward as the case may be).

I’m trying to document some of these insights, along with the PRs and the key anniversaries (yay one year without a recurrence!) so that I can see all the ways I am moving forward even when it feels by only one metric like I’m not. What are other ways we can measure progress or changes in our fitness that are meaningful and realistic?

— MarthaFitat55 enjoys powerlifting even when the bar fights her command.

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On the flight home they gave me a New York Times and on the back page it had an article called “Getting in exercise while you travel.” Various of us have blogged about travel and exercise. Cate recently wrote a fabulous post about running in every place she visits. I loved that post and felt inspired by it.

I typically do run when I travel. I had an amazing experience on a running tour in Edinburgh last summer, and I usually make a point of getting out for at least one run wherever I am.

But, I had read somewhere that it is almost impossible to run in India except on treadmills in hotels that are high end enough to have fitness centres.

Even the travel tips in the article I mentioned at the beginning mention bike rides and walking tours. Now it’s true that you can get in a walking tour in India if you want, but for me a walk needs to be fairly brisk before it counts as exercise.  And I don’t think brisk walking is advisable. And there is not a lot you could do to get me on a bicycle here.  I’m terrified enough of biking on the road in Canada, let alone here.

Image description: A crowd of motorcycles, yellow auto-rickshaws, and cars wait in a pack at a busy intersection in Chennai for the light to turn green. In the background: green leafy trees on the right, street lights and a blue road sign above the road that says Sastri Bhavan (pointing left) and College Road (pointing right) and the same in Tamil script, a tall building with blue reflective windows in the distance.

The traffic is not like anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure. But not one I’d like to experience on a bicycle.

And though there is a lot to love about India (a LOT), the pedestrian infrastructure is not among those lovable things. The sidewalks are routinely blocked and there are dangerous potholes that could injure you badly if you stumbled into one. For example:

Image description: ground level angle showing a big hole in the sidewalk, beyond that is the road with a car and motorcycle and yellow auto-rickshaw, and and a parked motorcycle. Image description: old wooden wagon with metal wheels at the side of the road. A women in yellow, green and blue walks on the road beside it. Image description: woman in bright colours walking on the road, away from the direction of the camera towards a yellow truck. The sidewalk on her left is totally blocked by debris and a rusted trailer.

That this makes it difficult to be a non-disabled runner or pedestrian is obvious. I can’t imagine trying to navigate these same roads with mobility issues.

So yes, I can take the tips about doing a hotel room workout or stretching my calves while waiting in line. But travel tips for getting in exercise aren’t always universal, and it’s not always possible to do what we’re used to doing at home when we’re abroad.

My favourite thing to do in India was to take my camera with me everywhere I went and take pictures. I would not trade that experience for anything else in the world, not even clear sidewalks and cooler temperatures to make for pleasant running.

I’m heading home now and will be hitting the Canadian pavement as soon as I get there.

Have a good one everyone!

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When an active and inspiring friend and colleague invited me to join the 218 Workouts in 2018 group, I eagerly joined.  I started my fitness journey three years ago, and went from being pretty inactive to regularly getting in 6 workouts per week.  I was excited to tally my efforts.

I was enjoying a lazy day and hadn’t planned to do a workout on January 1st, but when I logged into Facebook late in the day and saw tons of “218 in 2018” posts all over my newsfeed, I decided then and there to stand up and do something active.  Just 15 minutes of lower body stuff (squats, lunges) and some yoga poses and stretching all while watching TV.  I counted it.  Workout #1.  It was purposeful movement.  The posts from the group members made me do it.  I didn’t want to fall behind.

Most of my workouts are typically more intense.  I take two 55 minute spin classes each week and get in three 90 minute strength sessions plus a yoga or movement class.  But, on a day last week that I just couldn’t bear to go out through the snow to go to the gym, I still managed a 30 minute yoga video that I found on Youtube and did in my living room.  It counted.  Workout #33.  Purposeful movement counts in my books.

In addition to being motivated by contributing and being a part of the Facebook group, I also decided to track my minutes per workout and totals in my spreadsheet.  In the first 6 weeks of the year, I have spent over 2500 active minutes in the gym! That’s incredibly motivating to know, and I feel proud, empowered and strong!

I relished adding two entries today having done spin and then a movement class. I have discovered I am a bit competitive (or maybe very competitive!?) even if it’s just with myself to keep up my pace.

Leslie chooses to be active to focus on overall health and wellbeing and to set a good example for her family. As pictured in the photo, Leslie spins in the SPIN To Conquer Cancer fundraising event in support of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, raising research dollars in memory of her friend Ellen who passed way from Multiple Myeloma in March 2015.  https://pmhf3.akaraisin.com/SPIN2CC/LeslieZ 

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A couple of weeks ago, a big study on the effects of workplace wellness programs came out, and the news was not good (for promoters of those programs).  Researchers from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign designed a large randomized controlled study to test whether workplace wellness programs would result in things like more trips to the gym, lowered healthcare spending, and 37 other potential positive outcomes.  They came up with nothing. nada. zilch. zippo.

A zero with a line through it.

Co-author David Molitor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was quoted here as saying, “across 39 different outcomes that we looked at, we found zeroes — and fairly precise zeroes — on almost all outcomes,” including health spending.

He noted two exceptions: Workers who joined the wellness program did become likelier to be screened for health issues, and to say they thought their employer put a high priority on employee health.

You may be wondering:  what exactly are workplace wellness plans?  They’re employer-sponsored programs for employees like smoking cessation programs, blood pressure screening, and also exercise promotions like running or walking programs, Fitbit or pedometer promotions and competitions, gym membership or yoga benefits,  flextime offerings for exercise during the workday, etc.

This seems like a good idea, right?  Encouraging and maybe even paying employees to exercise, get screened for disease risk factors, connect with other workers to form fun movement groups– how could it not work?  Don’t you think you’d be healthier if your bosses set aside time for you to do side planks at work with your colleagues?

Mostly smiling women doing side planks in work clothes in an office.

This is part of the problem.  Wellness programs don’t necessarily take into account what it takes for someone to be able to manage both work and working out under workplace time constraints.  A commenter for the article said this:

One problem at my work is they’ll let you take an hour, three times a week, but you cannot put that hour right before you leave, you have to report back to your desk from the gym before you leave the building….It takes too much work for me to change, get sweaty, take a shower that includes washing my hair, drying my hair, and re-applying make up all so that I can go back and sit at my desk for 10 minutes….Out of the 60 minutes I’m allowed, I’m lucky if a full 30 is actual exercise.

In this case, the constraints of the program didn’t work for her (and possibly not for lots of women, especially ones who are required to look and dress a certain way in their offices).

In addition, if companies encourage or expect their employees to engage in so-called health promotion activities, they should realize that these activities place an extra burden on workers in terms of time, scheduling, logistics, other resources (e.g. special clothing, time for cleanup, food and hydration, warm-up and cool-down periods).  It’s important to acknowledge work reality:  most employees are required to do more in less time, often for less money and fewer benefits (this is true for my job as a professor as well).  Responding to the expected stresses and illness that come out of such an atmosphere by handing out Fitbits is not going to do the trick.  Another commenter put it this way:

I have experience with a company that removed yearly bonuses, fun company paid events… and weekly paid lunches. Then they piled on so much work that break times became unpractical and overtime became expected. When turnover skyrocketed, they started a Stress Relief Team to come up with ideas like: plant a community garden and map out a walking path around the parking lot. Needless to say, none of this worked because it failed to address the issue of overworked employees…

Then there’s the worry that actually participating in the wellness program will get you in trouble with management because of the ever-expanding workday.  Here’s what another commenter said:

It’s one thing for companies to tout work-life balance, provide wellness programming of various types, and monetarily incentivize them to participate. In reality, when management is squeezed for results, scheduling early morning a/o lunch meetings is the norm, and your peers are wondering how does so-and-so have time to fit in a workout during their day…….participation in these programs is stymied.

If you want to read more about criticisms of workplace wellness programs, I recommend this Slate article, which is a data-packed scathing indictment of them.

The Illinois Workplace Wellness Study is a multi-year project, and their current results (of zero effectiveness!)  are after year one.  They’ll be continuing to gather and analyze data, including biometric and more survey data.  All this is important.

But as a feminist, a researcher with a soft spot for qualitative data, and an often-harried employee myself, I wish that the study would include this:  asking people what they think they need, and then (in the name of science), giving it to them.  And seeing what happens.

Just a thought.

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A few of us here are doing the 218 workouts in 2018 challenge.

What’s it all about? It’s pretty simple

“WHAT: The idea is simple. In 2018 there are 365 days. We are going to challenge ourselves to workout 218 times in those 365 days.

WHY: (1) Consistently doing deliberate exercise is one of the most important factors in developing good health and fitness. (2) Choosing to complete a workout or not is something we can control.

HOW: (1)Workouts are defined as any form of deliberate exercise/movement. Some examples are, lifting weights, doing gymnastics, a CrossFit WOD, a hike in the great outdoors, practising a martial art or yoga. Taking a dance class or playing rec softball with the folks from work also count. Do what inspires you to move your body. (2) Use a spreadsheet, a habit tracking app, or a notebook and give yourself a check mark for every workout you complete. (3) Share your progress with the group.

Let’s get cracking!”

How’s it working out for us? Here’s our progress report.

Hilary:

I used to work as a stone and brick mason, with tough, physical days 14 hours a day, five days a week for months at a time. Now I work at a business school. Adding a 20 minute walk to my downtown commute counts. Taking the millions of stairs instead of the Mount Everest escalator in my office building counts. Today, a two hour walk with a friend in the park and down a busy Toronto street counted. Back then, it wouldn’t have been on my radar; now, it counts.

Hilary works at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON.

Jenny:

218 in 2018 turns out to be just the right combination of goal setting and accountability for me. It feels manageable, and consistent with how I have managed fitness accountability in the past. This year in particular, January 1 coincided with a return to work at the end of a maternity leave. So, I find the weekly goal of 3-5 workouts helps me to carve out a little ‘me time’, and achieve a regular feeling of accomplishment.

Jenny is a boulderer, mother of two, occasional knitter, and aspiring cyclist.

Sam:

One of the interesting things about the “218 in 2018” group of which I’m part is that it gets you to think about what counts as working out. The group has allowed me to think of myself as active (at 28 of 218 so far) even though I’m currently injured. It’s helped me stay on track with all the physio. (So much physio!)

I’m also counting walking (which I don’t usually unless they were super long dog hikes in the woods) because for right now, with this knee, walking is a deliberate choice and it is exercise. I walked for an hour and fifteen minutes in Vancouver sunshine the other day while there for a conference. Right now I’m all about weights at the gym , knee physio, walking, and riding my bike on the trainer. They all count.

Cate:

I’ve already written a few times about what a motivator this group was to me in 2017. I think, more than anything, it helped me break the habit of “ach, I don’t feel like working out today, I’ll do it tomorrow.” That habit in the past meant that I usually only worked out maybe twice a week through the winter. Last year, this group kept me on track.

“What counts” for me is any episode of purposeful moderate to intense activity that is not what I would be doing anyway just going about my daily business. A walk to do errands in my neighbourhood or a short bike ride to a meeting doesn’t count, for me. But choosing to ride my bike even though it’s raining might, depending on how much it feels like an exertion.

I also count by episodes, not by comparable intensity. If I go to the gym and do a bit of a run and then a weight workout, that’s one count — “going to the gym.” But if I get up and go for a short run, then much later in the day go to yoga class, that’s two counts because they are two separate times of motivating myself to work out, get changed, etc. This leads to some weirdness where a 3 km 16 minute run “counts as much” as a 150km, 8 hour bike ride, but I think it all balances out in the end!

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It’s my last full day in India and it’s been a dream trip in so many ways. But if I had to identify one thing that hasn’t been great it’s been my activity level. Now, I’m not one to get down on myself when I don’t stick with routine. Regular readers of the blog will know that I am endlessly forgiving in that area, a committed advocate of doing less.

But I’ve been  completely absorbed with the adventure of exploring India, and one aspect of that adventure is that unless you’re in a high end hotel with a fitness centre, you can pretty much forget running. Apart from it being too hot, the roads are not navigable for runners (at least not anywhere I’ve been). The traffic is chaotic and there aren’t really long stretches of good sidewalk. Dangerous potholes mean you need to pay close attention even when walking.

I’ve spent part of my time in high end hotels when in Chennai (four nights at the Hyatt at the beginning of my trip and now two nights at the Taj Clubhouse at the end of my trip). At the beginning, I was too wiped out to think about spending time in the gym. But this morning, after many hours of sitting in the conference Thursday to Sunday then on a road trip on Sunday after lunch (sitting on a bus for hours and then on a boat before spending two hours on our feet exploring an ancient temple) my body was screaming for some of my regular activity. This hotel has a roof top fitness centre and I noticed last night when we were at the roof top restaurant beside the rooftop pool (it’s extremely luxurious and we got a deal on expedia) that they have a bank of treadmills.

The lovely concierge here, Rajeswari, said I could ask her anything.

Image description: Head shot of Rajeswari, a young Indian woman with dark hair, a red bindi between her eyebrows, a large beaded read necklace, and a red and beige sari, and a gold name plate that says Rajeswari. Blurred background of a green plant on the left and chairs on the right.

So I messaged her this morning at 6 a.m. to find out if the fitness centre has gear kits. Some hotels, like the Westin, will provide you with a kit that contains shoes and workout clothes. I didn’t expect to hear back from her quite so quickly, but she let me know that they don’t do that here. What about yoga classes, I asked. No yoga classes either. But, she said, I can have a mat delivered to your room.

Within ten minutes a purple foam yoga mat, just like the very first yoga mat I ever owned, was delivered to my door. There is something comforting about familiar equipment. Anyone who has ever worked out somewhere new will know that initial feeling of disorientation. But encountering something you already know makes you feel right at home. That’s how I felt when I was handed the purple yoga mat.

Image descrription: purple yoga mat on the floor in Tracy’s hotel room, with wood shelving and desk in the background.

It’s been many years since I’ve been this inactive, with only walking and sitting, for this long (over two weeks). My feet have swollen with the heat and inactivity. As I said to Sam this morning when I was messaging her: “I want my ankles back!”

When the mat came I couldn’t get going fast enough. I spent the next hour working my way through the moksha series of standing poses then floor poses. It felt incredible to stretch it out and put in some effort. I held each pose for at least 30 seconds, some longer, and did my best not to rush through anything. By the end, my aching bones and muscles and joints felt alive again.

At breakfast, Rajeswari came by to assure me that the mat would stay in my room until I check out tomorrow.

Image description: Rolled up purple yoga mat propped against built-in wood shelving with black desk chair and part of desk visible in the background.

And I’ve already done my research: I have a four hour stop over in Toronto on the way home. Pearson International Airport has a Good Life gym where you can rent a workout clothing kit for $10, store your luggage, and have a workout and a shower. After 24 hours enroute, I’m sure this will be a most welcome way to hit the Canadian ground running.

What workout gear makes you feel at home when you’re working out in a new or unfamiliar place?

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I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with my scale since time immemorial.  I have feared it, distrusted it, felt subservient to it, and even occasionally thanked it. Overall, I have been in a lopsided power relationship with scales my whole life.

I loathe getting on the scales at medical visits.  The medical assistants at my current primary care provider’s practice don’t insist or argue with me about getting weighed, but they do sometimes ask.  It’s not their fault– it’s just a standard thing that lots of medical offices do.  When I talk with them about it, they’re all understanding and low-key.  But it still leaves me feeling weird and bad, like I have revealed some quirk that they are accommodating.  I do recognize that for some sorts of visits and health needs, weighing gives them important information (e.g. for a pre-op visit before surgery).  So I submit to it, trying to distract myself from the shame I feel at the numbers displayed.  Yes, I’ve tried not looking.  It doesn’t help.

I’ve always thought that having a scale around my house was not a terrible thing; weighing myself occasionally would allow me to note changes in weight (especially in response to various eating changes I might embark on– not diets exactly, but playing around with some shifts).  But I still found that more often than not, seeing those numbers made me angry, upset, ashamed, and demoralized.

I thought I found a potential solution last year:  I bought a scale with no numbers anywhere, that WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES tell me how much I weigh.  I blogged about my new Shapa scale here.  Here’s what I said about it:

You bring your phone (with app installed) with you to where the scale is, and weigh yourself.  It takes a few weeks for Shapa to calibrate what your average weight is, and what your weight variance is over time.  Once it does that (and it won’t tell you those weights even if you ask nicely!), then when you weigh yourself, it will give you a message and a color.

The color is supposed to tell you if your weight is within one standard deviation of what it has been, or if you’re up from that, or down from that.

Well, the first time it registered me as up in weight, with a different color and the message “try a little harder”, I felt crushed.  Soon after I stopped using the Shapa scale.  But it was still around my house, and I felt bad about not being strong enough (whatever that means) to keep using it.

Last week I finally packed up the Shapa scale and put it away.  I didn’t know when I might use it again, but I knew I wasn’t up for dealing with it.

This week, however, I decided that it’s time to get rid of scales, at least in my house.  I don’t need one to track my size and weight– I’m completely aware of which clothes fit and how they fit (or don’t).  I’m also very aware these days of how my body feels– in what ways I feel strong or creaky, or flexible, or tired, or achy or jittery.  Do I need more than that?  I don’t think so.

This is part of a developing plan of mine to attend to the body shame I have felt my whole life.  More on this anon.  This is the year where I really devote time and energy to bundling up those negative feelings I’ve been toting around and throwing them in the dumpster!  That’s the image I really like.

Yes, I know it doesn’t really work that way.  But I’m grooving and humming on the image.  I love throwing things out– it feels powerful, definitive, and liberating.

An eminently appropriate first step in this process is to throw out the scale.  (actually, it was expensive, so I may try to sell it.  but still.)

What is your relationship with scales?  Has it changed over time?  I’d love to hear from you.

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Hello Fit Feminist community!

I’ve so enjoyed my monthly posts here, but I wanted to let you know this will be my last regular post for a while. It feels like a good time for me to turn my focus to other things that have been asking for my attention. I hope to do an occasional guest post and will, of course, continue to read! Thank you so much for having me as a regular contributor, for reading my reflections, and for your thoughtful and supportive comments.

Let’s get to it!

Last year I wrote about my knee injury and the moderate toll it took on my mental state. In passing I’ve heard that knees strongly correspond to our feelings of control and stability, and that knee injury sufferers often feel a loss of control. At the same time, I’m grateful I’m not alone. Sam’s written here about her knee injury, and in the comments on my last knee post, there were so many readers who discussed their own knee woes.

Since my injury, I’ve also noticed increased pain and tension in my hips and glutes, which requires regular attention. Apparently, this is one of the most common side-effects from knee-injury-sufferers. Hips work harder to compensate for injured knees. (Have any other knee injury sufferers noticed this??) It’s sort of cool to think that my body has my back in this way. But at the same time, the regular hip and butt pain isn’t so cool.

In one of the comments on my previous post, a reader wrote about a friend who also suffered a knee injury. This friend spent so much time and effort rehabilitating their knee that it became stronger than the uninjured knee! This comment inspired me.

A comment from a reader on my post about knee injury.

I’ll admit to being a little loosey-goosey with my own knee exercises now that my knee is mostly better. Of course, I’ve continued physio therapy and will do quad and knee exercises—but not with the kind of commitment that it would take to make my injured knee super strong.

I’ve been wanting to return to activities I used to love, like dance and martial arts. Additionally, my partner and I started working out together at a new gym near our house and it’s made me want to take up other activities together—for instance, I’d love to play squash together someday.

I’d also love to return to horseback riding but this can be a very knee-intensive activity.

But then I remember my knee, and the fear of re-injury literally stops me from wanting to try anything challenging. I know that higher impact activities will demand a certain level of knee strength and stability. And there’s also a level of spontaneity involved in these activities one can’t always control. (There’s that fear of control loss again!)

At the same time, I was letting that fear stop me. And I wasn’t taking back my control of the situation and being proactive. I was also letting other people’s knee advice influence me. People who have suffered similar knee issues have told me things about never fully recovering, of never being able to do certain activities again, etc. And I suppose on some level I took their word for it. “Why work on something if I’m only going to fail?” Was my subconscious thought. “Other people seem to know better.”

More broadly, this is something I find myself constantly having to push back against (both in the fitness world and world at large): knowing when to listen to other people and when not to. Especially in terms of women’s fitness, there is such a high level of B.S. out there. But I have been inspired by the defiant spirit of the Fit is a Feminist Issue community. From the comment about knee strengthening to Tracy I.’s post about doing chin-ups.

The idea of being able to get an injured knee to be stronger than an uninjured one was such a simple thought that opened my eyes to many other things. Maybe I’ll achieve that, or maybe I’ll get close. But I can’t keep merely hoping it’ll be okay. Either way, it’s certainly better to try than to deprive myself of the activities I crave.

Thanks, Fit Feminists!

I will prevail! (Being silly at the beach, 2014.)
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