Category Archives: Fitness

3 Things I Don’t Love About Fitness Culture

A few days ago blogged about the four things I love about fitness culture. Today I’m going to be talking about three things I wish I could change about it.

Since it can be difficult to read people’s tones on the Internet, know that I’m bringing up these concerns because I care about this topic quite a bit. Everything I’m about to say is coming from a genuine, sympathetic perspective.

The Pseudoscience

What is it about the topics of diet and exercise that attracts so much pseudoscience? I’m all for each fitness enthusiast figuring out what works for them as far as what they eat and what types of exercise they do, but I’m also alarmed by how many ads I’m seeing for products claiming to do things that are either scientifically impossible or could potentially be dangerous if tried without a doctor’s supervision.

For example, I keep seeing advertisements for products that are supposed to block your body from absorbing certain types of calories in the food you eat. I’ve seen other ads for products that claim to be able to get rid of belly fat without diet or exercise, along with many other strange declarations.

While these kinds of ads have been around for a long time, I’m surprised by the fact that people are still falling for them. It would be amazing if there really were a magical pill, powder, device, or spell that allowed everyone to eat and drink whatever they pleased with no side effects, but sadly that’s not how the human body works.

The Consumerism

Consumerism is one of the biggest reasons why I stopped following fitness blogs and social media accounts. As a minimalist, I have no interest in buying a whole wardrobe of fitness clothing in order to have matching outfits when I exercise. What other people wear is not my concern, but I personally don’t see the need to buy new stuff if what I already own still functions perfectly well.

My workout outfits tend to be old, stained, and/or already mostly worn out. I like the fact that I can do any exercise in them I want to without worrying about ruining them. They’re impossible to ruin! If I didn’t wear them while exercising, I’d probably turn them into dust rags or throw them away entirely.

I follow this same rule when deciding when or whether to buy new fitness equipment. A yoga mat and a few pairs of free weights in various sizes are all I need. This seems to run so counter to how many well-known fitness enthusiasts operate that I often find it hard to connect to them.

The Objectification of Women

There are many wonderful stock photos out there of people doing all sorts of exercises, but in order to find them to illustrate my posts on this topic I need to wade through far too many images whose compositions vary widely depending on whether a man or woman is being shown in them.

This is a typical photo of a model who is a man.

 

Look at how his body is covered by loose, comfortable clothing. The photograph is framed in such a way that the weightlifting itself is what’s most important. The model is lifting heavy weights, and he’s totally focused on doing it properly in that moment. Nobody cares if he’s perspiring, has messy hair, or makes a funny facial expression while he lifts.

I do my best to share pictures of as many different types of fitness models as possible. This includes gender, race/ethnicity, disability, and as many other visible markers of difference as I can possibly find because of how important inclusivity is.

However, this is a mild version of the sort of photos I find when I look for fitness models who are women.

 

As you’ve probably noticed, they are not exercising at all. They’re using cell phones, and yet this is being tagged as a “fitness” photo. This happens far too often.

I’d like to be perfectly clear here that I have no problem with pictures of women exercising in sports bras and yoga pants. That’s what I wear for some of my workouts, especially if it’s a warm, humid day and I’d prefer to perspire from the workout itself instead of from unnecessary layers of clothing.

The issue is that male models are at least pretending to do workouts while female models are often either posed in sexual/suggestible ways or aren’t shown working out at all.

I don’t know about all of you, but this isn’t a time when I worry about how I look in any way. My only focus is on getting a little stronger, faster, or more flexible than I was the last time I did that routine. It would be really helpful to see this reality reflected in fitness culture imagery.

How do you wish fitness culture would change?

4 Things I Love About Fitness Culture

With the weather gradually warming up here in Ontario, I’ve been spending more time thinking about fitness and fitness culture.

Once the last patches of snow and ice have melted for good, my neighbourhood is going to have even more people going out and about for a jog, walk, bicycle ride, or other forms of exercise that aren’t so easy to do indoors.

Some people workout outdoors in all sorts of weather, of course, but it’s invigorating to see a much larger number of folks getting some exercise on a nice day.

While I’m waiting for that to happen a few weeks from now, let’s talk about the five things I love about fitness culture in general.

The Focus on Sustainable Change

What sustainable change looks like will vary from person to person, but most people seem to respond best to small lifestyle changes that build on each other.

For example, I’ve followed bloggers who switched from a completely sedentary lifestyle to an active one by beginning with a five minute walk one day.

As their stamina and overall health improved, they gradually moved to longer walks and then later to running, swimming, weightlifting, or other forms of exercise.

This is a pattern I’ve seen repeated in my own life, too. Changing everything at once often doesn’t work longterm. Picking one habit at a time to either begin or discard does. The smaller it is, the higher the chances are that I’ll be able to stick with it.

The Respect for Perseverance

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past five years is how crucial it is to keep going even when your goals seem just as far away today as they did yesterday or last week.

Losing weight and building muscles takes time.

So does learning a new language, finding someone to date, getting a  job that suits you better, and any number of other goals that someone might want to achieve.

There may be times when you don’t seem to be making any progress at all, but that doesn’t mean that pattern will continue. Good things often come to those who work diligently for them.

The Optimism

Our world is filled with things that either can’t be changed at all or take the efforts of far more than one person to be nudged even a single inch in a  direction.

I believe in both acknowledging this fact as well as focusing on the things that I as an individual do have influence over.

On a societal level, this can be something as simple as picking up a piece of trash you find on the street or holding the door for someone behind you. These little acts can make a big difference over time as more and more people participate in them.

On a personal level, I think there’s something to be said for taking note of all of the subtle changes that happen as one grows stronger, faster, or more fit. Fitness culture in general does an excellent job of encouraging people to track their progress and celebrate every success they have along the way.

I’d argue that our world needs more of this optimism. We can both fight for a better future and acknowledge all of the good that already exists around us.

The Discipline

Like perseverance, discipline is a skill that can be transferred to many parts of someone’s life other than their workout habits.

If you know how to have the self-control necessary to jump into an exercise routine on a day when you’d rather stay in bed, it can make other difficult parts of life a little easier to deal with as well.

This wasn’t something I necessarily thought I’d learn when I first began working out regularly, but I’ve seen all sorts of positive results in other areas of my life from learning how to make and stick to a regular fitness routine.

For example, I’m not a huge fan of calling medical offices to make appointments for myself even if they’re for perfectly routine check-ups. I started to become a little less nervous about this once I got into the routine of pushing myself a little farther with each workout. There’s something reassuring about seeing how far you can go if you step just an inch out of your comfort zone at a time!

Fitness culture’s encouragement become more disciplined is definitely one of the things I appreciate the most about it. If I’d known this was going to be an unexpected side effect of getting back into shape, I might have done it much sooner.

What do you like the most about fitness culture? On a more lighthearted note, how many of you also don’t like making medical appointments?

Ghosts of Fitness Past: Things That Have Thrown Me Off Course and How I Dealt With Them

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons people give for not being interested in work out. It wasn’t that many years ago that I was one of them!

Here are a few things that used to be barriers for me when it came to getting healthier and stronger.

Feeling Disconnected from Fitness Culture

How I Dealt With It: I stopped trying to connect with it.

I’m tentatively hoping to write a couple of posts about my impressions of fitness culture in general later on this spring, but for now I’ll say that this is a complicated topic that I have a lot of thoughts about. There is absolutely nothing wrong with structuring your life around becoming as fit as possible…but that sort of strict attention to detail doesn’t work for me personally.

Yes, I eat a healthy diet and have found several forms of exercise that I love. These are interests I deeply enjoy discussing with people who share them. There are so many different workout routines and diets out there that I always enjoy discovering what has and hasn’t worked for other people.

With that being said, I do not want to filter every morsel of food I eat or every other decision I make through this lens. This technique seems to  work beautifully for some fitness enthusiasts, but I’m the sort of person who needs to have those occasional breaks – and I’m not only talking about food here – in order to stay interested in following my diet and exercise plan the rest of the time.

Hating Exercise

How I Dealt With It: I drilled down to what it was exactly about working out that made me dread the thought of it and chose alternative forms of exercise.

To make a long story short, it turns out that competition is my kryptonite, I do not enjoy running at all, and I’ve never met a team sport that I found enjoyable.

Kudos to those of you who like them. They’re simply not stuff that appeals to me personally.

Since at least one of those three things were present in the vast majority of the workouts I did in gym class, it took a long time for me to tease them away from my thoughts on exercising in general.

Once I realized that I enjoy dancing, lifting weights, and brisk walking, it became a lot easier to fit those things into my regular routine. I’m always open to trying other forms of exercise, too, now that I know that my dislike of this activity isn’t universal.

Not Wanting to Start

How I Dealt With It: I agreed to do some sort of physical movement for five minutes before re-evaluating how I’m feeling that day.

This isn’t a mind trick, either.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, there have been times when I stopped after five minutes of exercise and decided to take the rest of that day off even if I wasn’t injured, sick, or in pain.

By skipping that one session every once in a great while, I maintain the motivation to continue working out the other 99% of the time. This seems like a fantastic trade-off to me.

Perfectionism is a trap.

Five minutes of exercise is better than zero minutes.

Not only that, but I’ve found that the hardest part of any workout is actually getting it started. If you can convince yourself to start the routine, it often feels much easier to finish it than to stop partway through.

Feeling Frustrated with My Progress

How I Dealt With It: I set goals and made observations about things that had nothing to do with the numbers on a scale, measuring tape, or body fat percentage.

This isn’t to say those numbers are unhelpful, but they’re far from the whole picture when you’re trying to figure out if your fitness program accomplishing its goals.

One of the first changes I noticed when I began exercising regularly again about five years ago was how much more energy I had.

Suddenly, I was sleeping better and not feeling so drowsy in the afternoon.

That wasn’t something I’d anticipated at all when I first began working out, so taking note of it was a sign that I was moving in the right direction.

A reduction in the amount of anxiety I was feeling was the next helpful sign. This happened weeks before the numbers on the scale nudged down enough for me to realize it wasn’t a fluke and I was slowly losing weight.

What are your ghosts of fitness past?

4 Things I Miss About My Old Workout Routines

I have a slightly embarrassing story to share with all of you today. About two weeks ago, I was walking around barefoot in my house and accidentally smashed my little toe into one of my hand weights that was lying on the floor.

(Pro-tip: this is not an amusing way to pass your time. I’d give it zero stars of out five and would not recommend this activity to anyone under any circumstances. Ha! )

That foot – and especially that poor little toe of mine – have been sore for the past two weeks, and I’ve been advised by my family doctor to give them plenty of rest and protection while they heal.

While my pain levels, ability to walk, and range of motion have continued to improve a little bit every day, I obviously have not been able to do my usual workouts for the past two weeks.

I’m at the point now in my recovery where I need very few doses of pain medication and am starting to feel eager to return to my old routines. My foot is not yet ready for all of that activity, so I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to the things I miss the most about the active lifestyle I had before this accident.

Feeling the Endorphin Rush

Brisk walks were something I enjoyed years before I became interested in other types of fitness. I didn’t have a name for the feeling they gave me for a long time, but eventually I learned about the endorphin rush that can happen after cardiovascular exercise.

For those of you who have never felt it, it’s like a wave of happiness that envelops your whole body. I personally love giving and receiving hugs, so sometimes I compare it to feeling a big, warm bearhug from someone you really care about. It’s going to be wonderful when I can move fast enough to feel this rush again.

Walking as a Form of Transportation

One of the best parts of living in Toronto is how accessible everything is, especially  if you live in a dense, urban part of the city. When I’m not injured, I can get all of my errands finished without ever needing to use a car or even public transportation for the vast majority of the year. There are multiple grocery stores, post offices, pharmacies, clinics, other medical offices, and speciality stores within walking distance of my home.

I was so used to walking everywhere without a second thought that it came as a surprise to me to see how much further away everything seems when you have an injured foot. Suddenly, I had to think about how heavy the bags would be if I went shopping for groceries or other necessities, how long the journey there and back would be, and how many staircases or slippery patches on the sidewalk I might need to account for.

It’s going to be nice to return to that level of activity once my foot is up for longer journeys and heavier loads of purchased goods again. In the meantime, I’m figuring out how much time I can spend walking and how much stuff I can carry without vexing my foot.

Accomplishing My Daily Fitness Goals

Before my injury, I’d get about an hour of brisk walking in on the average day. Most of it would happen in 10 or 15 minutes increments as I accomplished other goals like running errands or watching television shows, and it would add up to about 12,000 steps a day in total. I lifted weights and did bodyweight exercises regularly, too, but I didn’t count those sessions as part of the one hour goal.

Walking that much or that quickly isn’t something I’m currently able to do, and in the beginning my foot was so sore to even the most gentle touch that I didn’t worry about weightlifting either. All I wanted was to no longer be in pain.

I miss meeting my fitness goals consistently, and I think I might be ready to start doing upper body workouts again as long as I remain seated for them.

Feeling Perspiration

Yes, I’ll admit that this might be an unusual thing to miss. I used to strongly dislike the feeling of perspiration running down my back when I was a kid and had to go straight from gym class to sitting quietly and taking notes for english or history.

There’s a difference between feeling sweat slowly dry on your body in a classroom hours before the final bell of the day rings and being able to go straight to the shower after a workout, though. Now that I can wash up and change clothes instead of feeling vaguely crusty and stinky all day, I like seeing how far I can push my body safely when I exercise.

The perspiration is proof that I’ve worked hard and will have slightly more strength and endurance in the future. I might not notice a change between this session and the next one, but I know that will change if I stick to the habits I’ve created and remind myself of  what I used to find challenging six months or a year from now.

Here’s hoping I’ll be able to get back to my old habits soon!

Have you ever had a similar injury to mine? When was the last time you were too sick or injured to do your normal workout? I’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Toned, Lean Arms Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine. 

In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at Fitness Blender, and there is never affiliate marketing of any sort on my site in general. I’m reviewing this workout simply because I loved it and think some of you might, too.

About the Toned, Lean Arm Workout

This is a 20-minute upper body workout that exercises your rhomboids, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and chest. There is no warmup or cool down included in it, so be sure to get those routines in before and after completing it. 

I’m brand new to this routine, and I find it challenging. Unless your upper body strength is much more developed than mine, I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners. 

You will need a pair of hand weights for this workout. A yoga mat is helpful, too, although it is not strictly necessary. 

Fitness Blender’s Toned, Lean Arms Workout

My Review

I’ve been having such a great time sharing my thoughts on various workouts with you over the past nine months. While I do plan on writing further instalments in this series as I try new videos, it will probably be a while before I update it again. The Brutal Butt & Thigh, Ab Blasting, and Toned, Lean Arm workouts are part of my current routine, and I don’t see that changing in the near future. 

What I enjoy the most about the Toned, Lean Arm workout is the diversity of moves in it. My weightlifting sessions didn’t happen as regularly as usual over the past few months for various reasons, so I have lost a bit of my former strength. 

While this does make this routine more challenging, the fact that it includes easier moves between the more difficult ones keeps me motivated. I probably would have moved back to a different, lighter workout if not for this fact. 

This is something I’d recommend using a lighter set of weights for than you would normally choose. I scale back to the lightest set of weights I currently own (at 7 pounds each…maybe I should buy smaller ones for this routine?), and I still have trouble doing some of the moves because of how many different muscle groups they work at once. It does give me the motivation to keep plugging away at it, though! 

There were some nice modifications offered for a few of the moves. For example, Kelly (the instructor and demonstrator) recommended doing standing pushups against a wall if you weren’t yet strong enough to do a traditional one on the floor. I appreciated that, and I would have liked to see more of those alternatives offered for other sections of the workout. Fitness Blender has done this more often in the past than they did in this particular video. It’s one of the reasons why I generally recommend them so highly. Hopefully, they’ll go back to their old patterns in the future. 

In general, this is something I’d recommend. I was pretty pleased with the way it was set up and how much effort I had to put into keeping up with the pace of it. 

Every time I review a Fitness Blender video, I comment on the lack of music in them and how much I appreciate that. The only thing I will say on that topic this time is that I’m once again pleased to see such a distraction-free routine. 

Previous Reviews of Free Youtube Workout Routines:

The Challenging Chair Workout 

Bipasha Basu’s 30-Minute Aerobic Dance Workout

Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt & Thigh Workout

Fitness Blender’s Ab Blasting Interval Workout

 

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Ab Blasting Interval Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt & Thigh Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More

Why Do Library Holds Arrive Simultaneously (and Other Questions I Wish I Had Answers To)

Lately, I’ve been taking a break from my normal interests like reading science fiction and exercising outdoors in order to try other stuff. One of the consequences of this has been that I haven’t come up with as many blog post ideas related to those topics as I’d normally be playing around with. I suspect… Read More

The Best Fitness Advice I’ve Ever Received

There is so much conflicting information floating around out there about fitness, nutrition, and various types of exercise. Today I’m going to be talking about the best fitness advice I’ve ever received. I’m not a doctor or other medical provider, so this post is not written in order to give health or medical advice to… Read More

3 Things I Love About Autumn Hikes

This autumn has been an odd one so far here in Ontario as climate change continues to disrupt our normal weather patterns. Early September is often still hot here, but the heat continued on through October this year. I was actually still wearing shorts and other summer gear as recently as a week ago! Now… Read More