links worth reading

Egyptian squash players are among the best in the world, and privileged families have long pushed their children to take up sports, but the new focus on fitness is drawing in people from all classes, with substantial numbers of women, too, and is more about exercise for exercise than about games or competition.

I’m not sure that I totally understand the connection between the revolution beyond wanting to shake things up, but still, this is neat.

They do have a point, however, if they are only exposed to people who attend those types of classes in which the instructor doesn’t adhere to scientifically proven cycling training principles. In other words, the trendy fads that lift weights and dance and flop around on the bikes. Ultimately, this style of cycling class is not doing what they purport, and may be a waste of time. Yet, everyone knows how popular they are and crowds around the world are clamoring to get in, and facilities are insisting their instructors teach this way.

Pretty sure that’s Tracy Anderson they’re talking about, who is like the Jill Stein of exercise (i.e. don’t believe science is real even though their professions should indicate otherwise). I am of two minds here – SoulCycle-style cycling is what got me into fitness, both for the fun and the fact that it got me up to a basic cardiovascular health that allowed me to try other sorts of fitness. The fact that you’re doing so many different things means you stay engaged without noticing that you’re tired. I got a bit smaller doing it and then I totally plateaued as they say, but so long as it’s not your only workout and you don’t do certain moves, like four corners, I see no problem in getting your heart rate up now and again if it’s what motivates you to do any movement whatsoever. But yeah, it’s not exactly going to change your body or make it stronger per se. You gotta do other stuff, too.

But within 20 minutes after arriving, I found I couldn’t quite relax. It wasn’t the music or the mats, sweaty as they were from the session before. It finally dawned on me: There wasn’t a single other non-white person in the room. I felt conspicuous, even exposed.

I feel this so hard. Feeling alone is why I wanted to start this blog, in the hopes of connecting with other women of color and intersectional feminists in the fitness world, though that hasn’t really happened (partly because I’ve been shit at updating as grad school and work take over my life). It still makes me uncomfortable, though I’ve noticed that living in Tucson again means a lot more diversity in the gym, at both the front and the back of the room, than it did when I lived in the whiteness of the Bay Area (which is funny, since it has a gigantic population of people from the Asian diaspora, and yet I didn’t see many of them teaching).

Fatphobia is violence. Fat folks, but specifically fat women and femmes (those who do not identify with femininity in their gender expansiveness and are policed for it), are shamed, assaulted, preyed upon, spied on, sexually exploited, interrogated and denied humanity in structural and interpersonal ways. The ways in which strangers and those close to us — often folks who are thin and have acceptable body types — shame us includes taking pictures/videos of us without consent to ridicule and mock our bodies.

I am not fat, and I don’t wish to co-opt any of the statements in this article as my experience. But I am, as of a couple years ago, a huge proponent of the fat acceptance movement (thanks, very patient friends and also scientific research proving that fat outside doesn’t actually prove unhealthy insides), and I agree with what is said in this article full-stop. I am also an LA Fitness group ex instructor, and while I am frustrated to no end with their persistent refusal to enter the 21st century, I know firsthand that they take chances on beginners and do not use the outside of a person to determine whether they are a capable teacher or strong athlete. I am certain that my outsides are what didn’t get me jobs at fancier gyms, even though it turns out I am a pretty badass teacher. I am also proud to know that I am employed by a gym who saw this for what it was – a crime – and reported the bitch to the police for sexual assault (because it’s pornography without consent).

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sorta review: companies that truly get inclusivity and diversity

I am known, at least in the books/publishing world that I peripherally live and work in, to be the girl who gives no cookies to people just for saying they give a shit. I particularly mean shits about diversity and equity. Lots of people like to say they care, and then they still do stereotypes. Or they say they care, and they beat you over the head with how much they care by constantly calling out what a good job they’re doing or telling you how they’re doing a “body acceptance” issue of a magazine before going right back to the status quo, or a “black girl magic” book and 100 white girl books right alongside it. You get the idea.

There are, however, some brands out there that seem to just have a natural inclination to be representative and equitable in their work. And they are the ones I try to give my money to. They are women’s magazines whose pages are full of photos of all sizes and colors and sexes of woman. They are clothing companies that fit people with shapes that don’t generally grace runways.

You know you’re a brown person in America when you’re so used to being erased from the media and materials you consume that seeing someone who resembles you or whose story speaks to you is jarring. It’s downright unnatural. Even though I, like anyone else, should be entitled to some representation in the things I buy.

Sigh.

Anyway, if you are also a member of one or a number of marginalized groups, and/or if you just think it’s important to support businesses and publications that care about those people, here are some things I recommend.

Dear Kates

Dear Kates
These are not cheap. But they shouldn’t be. They’re period (or incontinence, or post-partum) undies. They’re also useful for working out when you’re doing really heavy work for a long time and don’t want to offend others if you start to smell. They’re also cute and quite comfy. I love mine. They were worth every penny, and they show no sign of breaking down after numerous washings. AND not only does this company make a wide range of sizes, but they often use real women as models. That’s because women come in all sizes. It’s also because they pick really cool ladies who are engineers and CEOs and stuff, and they tell you a bit about their stories. AND they name the undies after cool ladies – like, for example, the Ada is named after Ada Byron Lovelace, WHO INVENTED COMPUTER PROGRAMMING. Betcha didn’t know that, because patriarchy.

Anyway, I love Dear Kates so much that I ordered cards to be a brand rep, and that means I can give you a discount. They didn’t pay me to write this, but I love them. So if you’re going to go over there and order, use the code XOHannahGomez to get 15% off whatever you buy.

Pole Fitness

Pole dancing

Yes, really. I bought a Groupon to my local pole fitness place, and I bet you have one in your area. I was really afraid because I’m not graceful at all and have no idea how to be sexy or work my angles or anything. I would be TERRIBLE at America’s Next Top Model. Awful. I might be a beast on a fake bicycle, but I lack a lot of physical awareness, tbh.

But I will try literally any type of fitness once, especially if there’s a deal on it. So I went, and I still have five classes to go on my pass, and even though I’ve obviously not been going consistently, I think it’s great. One of the teachers is one of the tiniest people I’ve ever seen. Another was a beast at the pole and also fat. Another was of average height but looked like she didn’t have any fat on her, but somehow also didn’t look like a body builder. Anybody was welcome. The class was full of all types of people, and we were all wearing booty shorts and tight shirts or sports bra. Because who cares. We were all there to feel strong. And I did. Slash I felt weak. You might think you’re strong because you lift weights, but try lifting your entire body off the floor by your arms–held at a weird angle. Try it.

Honestly it was one of the best experiences I’ve had simply because it was so nonchalant and welcoming. I’d compare it to gymnastics or acro yoga if you’re trying to gauge muscle use or calorie burn. Also, I hate dancing, and there was no dancing involved. It was simply a foundations class where you learn moves and learn how to hold yourself up on a pole and hang off of it in various ways. Coordination and strength first, sexiness second. Or, for me, probably never. You should try yours. I have a feeling my experience is actually the standard at such places.

InStyle

Yes, it’s just a fashion magazine. But also it is unique. It’s intelligent like Vogue, but it’s a lot more attainable and affordable inside. I like that it really does teach me style, whereas a lot of other glossies are just about trends and Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar are for incredibly wealthy white women who probably do not have jobs.

InStyle is also great because whenever it’s doing pictures of celebrities or makeup advice or whatever, they have women of all colors. Just because there are celebrities of all colors and because an eyeshadow that looks good on Iman will not necessarily look good on….I dunno. Someone pale that I don’t pay attention to, because her makeup will not look good on me.

They could improve a bit more on size acceptance, because they still call out whenever they’re doing larger sized fashion, but I will still take that in the meantime, because at least they’re doing it. Small steps.

Women’s Running


I’ve told you about this magazine before and why I love it. So get thee to Amazon or their website and order.

Girls of color. Big girls and small. Transwomen. Olympians. Regular people. Affordable items inside. Very little about weight loss and a lot about mental and physical strength and self-satisfaction. What’s not to like?

fitness for bibliophiles: the any old book will do

never-half-ass-two-things-whole-ass-one-thing

I disagree.

I mean, yeah, of course. That is a true thing that Ron Swanson has said there. If I took that advice more often, I would already have about five novels published and be in much better shape in my career. But sometimes you don’t have the energy to whole-ass anything, and so you may as well half-ass at least a thing or two. If it’s a question of half-assing two things or doing nothing at all, pick the former.

You’ve heard that “sitting is the new smoking“? Research is showing that even if you are an active person, you’re probably still going to die young. I bought a Jawbone tracker a few months ago and have definitely noticed that even if I exercise 60-120 minutes a day, which I generally do, I still have trouble remembering to get up and walk around. Last year, when I worked in a library, I was at least standing up and sitting down pretty regularly. Now, though? I have my step counter set to an 8000-step-a-day goal (I figure that with the amount of exercise I do on machines like stationary bikes, that’s a sufficient goal rather than the usual 10,000), and I only meet it about half the time. Sure, the thing is not perfect–it regularly tells me I’m being idle if I’m standing and walking around my kitchen cooking, just because I’m not swinging my arms enough, I guess, but it’s a decent approximation.

I would like to not die young. One of my biggest exercise motivators, besides needing to make rent, is not wanting to die ever. Also, because group fitness is my main area of activity, even if I’m not always the teacher, sometimes I just need me time. Off the couch. I get a lot of me time because I live alone. But it’s not the same, you know? Anyway.

When I was in grad school, I always had a ton of reading to do. I have more to do now, given that it’s my main area of employment and I’m on a literary award committee. And I’m going back to grad school in August, so that will add even more. Reading is necessarily a stationary activity…

…or is it?

Only somewhat.

When I came to the realization that my $19 a month Boston gym membership was still costing me real money, I realized that if I took my reading to the gym, I could at least give my body a slight boost. So I hopped on the T (or walked, when the weather was nice) and went to GymIt, parked myself on a recumbent bike or elliptical, turned up the resistance a little, and read my book.

Was I working super hard? No. Was I increasing my cardiovascular fitness? Probably not. I wasn’t trying to do anything but make my legs move and get my reading done. I’m going to say that a recumbent bike serves the same purpose as standing and walking around when you’re just trying to counteract the stationary nature of your life.  Not that I have a degree in physiology, but it seems logical.

I’m prone to vertigo, so I was not going to sprint on the elliptical. I was not, for many reasons, going to run on the elliptical. However, so long as I took the occasional break to look around the room and take a sip of water, I was able to read without any problem while still making my legs work and burning a few calories. It’s easy to hold a paperback while on a recumbent bike, but I recommend magazines or Kindles when you’re standing, as taking one hand off an elliptical handle to turn a page can make you dizzy.

This is a good way to start a fitness regime, too, especially if you’ve previously been doing nothing at all.

So now if it’s a day I’m not teaching and that I have low energy, I try to force myself to do exercise of this ilk, nothing else. It gets me out of the house, it keeps me from the distractions of Netflix that keep me from reading at home sometimes, it will likely not contribute to the overuse injuries that fitness instructors are prone to, and it makes me think that maybe I won’t die young.

That’s it. Give it a try.

june’s links worth reading

Physicians should avoid attribution bias, or blaming a health condition on a patient’s weight because it is low-hanging fruit. Patients across the weight continuum develop a variety of diseases. Obesity does not make patients immune to conditions smaller patients develop and vice versa, and this fallacy can be fatal to patients. Weight-based stigma shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way of doctors giving care and patients seeking it.

I have a lot of terrible things to say about how doctors “treat” patients and how many terrible experiences I’ve had with them (I go to nurse practitioners whenever possible, and I will evangelize forever and suggest you go to them too), but at least this is not something I’ve experienced. Doctors need to stop this shit.

It saddens me that my gorgeous friends wish my body upon themselves and that they’ve been so conditioned to think of themselves as not good enough unless they’re an unattainable weight.

I have an idea. Let’s stop using the phrase “thinspo” at all, but also listen to this girl and think about how troubling it is to say that bodies suffering through illness are something to aspire to.

I do love lifting. I love it with a strength and dedication I didn’t know I was capable of. I love how much of what I learn in training is applicable to real life. The only deadlift advice I can ever remember is “it is always hard.”

Alyssa and I became friends on Twitter, and while we have many feminist and activist interests in common, I think it was when I posted that I wanted friends on MyFitnessPal that we really started interacting regularly. Her entries inspire me every day, because I feel I still have a long way to go to be a really fit person, but I can identify a lot with her sentiments here and can see how maybe in the future I will feel them even more strongly.

Why is “summer” the goal, a reason to get fit? Is there some magical countdown to Memorial Day, where I’m shamed into wearing a sweatsuit on the beach unless my arms are perfectly sculpted and my thighs no longer lovingly rub together?

I’m nowhere near perfect at this, but I try in every class not to use shaming, problematic language like this, and then I hope to transfer it to my self-shaming.

review: sweatstyle and fytso

I am a sucker for subscription boxes and I love buying things if I don’t have to go to the mall to do so. Since exercise clothes are pretty much all I wear now, given that teaching fitness is one job and working from home is another, I decided this year that I really needed to try fytso and sweatstyle. Both are subscription-based services that send you a box of “curated” items based on a profile you fill out. Generally it’s clothes, though fytso also does sneakers.

fytso-logo
If you’re on a budget, which I always am, fytso is going to be more your speed, as they do more mainstream brands, like Reebok and Adidas. After you fill out your profile, you get an email with your preview, which has five items in it.

These emails are pretty internet 1.0, with photos of the items pasted in that are not clickable (except to the image itself, not to a site with sizing info or anything like that) or zoomable. You are not given the price of individual items, but your “stylist” lets you know the total for all the items. They also give you vague names for the items, like “blue shirt,” so that even though you know it’s Reebok, you can’t really search for the item through google because you lack the precise name or style number. This is obviously because they didn’t want me to do what I did, which is check for the price individually on the site, since it’s not like it’s difficult to find that brand everywhere. And from my searching, it seemed like it was cheaper to buy some of the stuff elsewhere.

You are given the chance to “replace” and ask for some things to be changed out, which is very nice, but at that point they still don’t tell you the individual prices. IF you push because all you want is one particular pair of capris, then they’ll tell you, but it’s really like pulling teeth. Then, once you decide what you want, they add it to your cart and then you go in and actually do the purchasing like a regular e-commerce site.

I purchased a pair of capris my first time around, and since then I’ve gotten rid of them because they really didn’t fit around my butt. Not fytso’s fault, but I should have known better because I should have been more aggressive about my reverse image search on Google.

My second preview, I was going to purchase something but then I had the unexpected need for brand new tires, so I emailed and said I wasn’t going to be able to purchase that month. The stylist wrote back and said, “No problem! I’ll email you next month if that’s okay.” I said, “Yep! Thanks.” And then I never got another email from them again, so that’s how fytso works. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

sweatstyle
So then I went to sweatstyle. I completely understand that lots of people cannot afford high-end clothing, and I certainly can’t without hefty discounts. But exercise clothes are my work uniform, so it’s really like shopping at Ann Taylor is for other people. If you are middle class or higher, the best thing you can do for yourself is buy more expensive, higher quality stuff that lasts longer.* So I’ve been buying better brands of clothing when I see them on sale or when I get points or free items or whatever. (I am really, really good at shopping if I don’t have to do it in person around middle schoolers at the mall. I regularly get about $150 worth of items at Sephora for like $10 because I’m baller at combining coupons and getting samples and shit. I’ll help you anytime you want.) Anyway.

So I was happy to try sweatstyle. They get major points because they actually send you items and let you try them on and just keep what you want. This also means that, like stitchfix**, they charge you a styling fee that is applied towards your purchase. Or you just eat the $20 if you don’t like anything.

Sweatstyle has a very extensive profile, which is great. They also include a letter from your stylist about why things were chosen, which is cute, and it shows that they actually read your profile. But, as I learned, it doesn’t mean they actually understand how bodies that differ from supermodels’ actually look or fit into clothes. I got a backless shirt, which is ridiculous, because people who have to wear bras cannot wear backless shirts. I said this when I returned it (your return sheet asks you to give reasons), and then I got literally the EXACT same shirt in a different color in my next box. I also got a lot of sleeveless items, which do not work when you have large breasts, because it means half of your bra is exposed, not just your pits. Also, even for my consideration of quality (always think COST PER WEAR, not COST PER ITEM–again, if you’re middle or upper class and can afford to spend wisely), a lot of the items in the box were just unattainably expensive and didn’t seem worth it – $180 for a jacket I’ll wear while jogging two days out of the year? Nah. (Also, shows they don’t look at your address when they choose your items. Arizonans are not in need of a ton of cold weather items. One lasts us years.) In the end, I chose one item each from my first two boxes, not because I was IN LOVE, but because I liked them enough and did not want to lose $20. I wear them, but I was not exactly ecstatic, and they’re not my favorite items in my dresser, just fine ones.

My third box I just had to return without picking anything, because even the stuff that was cute did not fit quite right, and I just could not validate how wildly expensive they were in my current unstable financial situation, so I thought it was better to lose $20 than buy an ill-fitting item I would end up hating and lose $75. I will be canceling my membership and sending them a link to this review.

messy desk
Here’s the thing. You can run your business any way you like. You can do whatever you want. You can give as many or as few fucks as you choose. BUT–

It would be nice if you didn’t claim to be something you’re not. Subscription boxes like these are constantly talking about how new and different and innovative they are, how they’re doing something that women really need, and the implication is that they’re targeting someone who has been missed by normal commerce. That’s a lie. Fytso, Sweatstyle, Stitch Fix, etc – they’re all targeting upper-middle-class women with disposable income and the measurement ratios of the so-called “average” woman (which is a lie, but that’s not the point). They might be smaller, fancy brands that you can’t find in the mall (at least in the case of Sweatstyle), but that doesn’t mean they’re brands that do anything that brands more easily found online, on Rue La La, or at shmancier malls, don’t do. They all cater to the same type of person, and they all leave out fat women, curvy women***, trans women, and short women. Again, run your business any way you want, but don’t call yourself cool or innovative when you’re the status quo.

Always, but especially in the days of social media, any group that is marginalized or underserved sticks together. We talk. Gluten-free people, for example, spread the word about places that cater to us and actually know what gluten is. A lot. Don’t want to serve us? Fine. You could be making a lot more money, because you’d be getting a ton more customers.

Those of us with larger breasts who actually know how breasts work, no matter our size, talk. If there are companies that acknowledge that we have bodies, we tell each other. Ergo, if you actually made clothes that are designed for literally anyone who is not totally flat-chested, you would actually make more money because we would tell each other about it and then tell you to shut up and take our money. Companies like fytso and sweatstyle are not only smug when they don’t deserve to be, but they’re also shooting themselves in the foot by not trying to hit an untapped, underserved market that is absolutely desperate to spend our money.

So I’m done with both of these boxes. If anyone has tried other subscription boxes that don’t suck, please do let me know. If you wear a size 10 or higher, my friend Kelly really liked Dia & Co. But as for me, I’m still looking.


*If you are poor, you cannot do this because poverty is expensive and cyclical, and I get that, and vote Bernie Sanders, please, because no other candidates give any shits about you, I promise.
**I do not recommend for the same reason I will not be recommending sweatstyle, so keep reading.
***let’s talk some other time about how “fat” and “curvy” are not the same thing and shouldn’t be used as such.

fuck this. see my body. deal with it.

Friday I went to hot yoga.

I bought a Groupon awhile ago for ten classes ($35!) and went to one class. I didn’t particularly like the teacher and also I don’t particularly like hot yoga, or even yoga that much. This is a thing I forget regularly and buy groupons for and then remember that I don’t love it, and even though I don’t hate it, it’s hard to plan on doing it because so much depends on the state of hydration, vertigo and IBS my body happens to be in, whereas other types of exercise have a bit more leeway where that comes in. Gross. Anyway. You see what I mean. Hot yoga takes very particular planning, and a lot of things they say about it is kind of bullshit tbh. High heartrate doesn’t necessarily mean more calorie burn, and calorie burning is really not what fitness is all about.* Anyway. Hot yoga is not a blast, but I also enjoy the last fifteen minutes or so, when I feel really bendy and like I can accomplish any of the moves.

The only reason I went is because my groupon is about to expire, and when classes are regularly $16, you have to go to at least three to make the groupon an actual deal. I think I’ve told you this before, but there is no better motivator to work out than having money on the line.**

So. Rewind a bit more. Earlier in the day, I was teaching my usual Friday morning aqua fit class. I teach from the deck, in clothing. I really think that in the grand scheme of attractive women, I’m a bit above average but far from a hottie. Lots of t&a if you’re into that, but really I’m not that special. I do, however, dress pretty well, at least in the sense that I’ve learned from trial and many, many errors what looks good on my body and what doesn’t. (Thanks, Clinton Kelly! See my humblebrag below.).

He started with "I love your hair," and then we talked about grammar. Dying.

A post shared by sarah HANNAH gomez (@shgmclicious) on

What I’m saying is that while I don’t think I look all that great naked, and I certainly don’t try to spend long amounts of time with people when I’m unclothed and lights are on, but I work somewhat hard to make my body look decent, and I also wear things that mask or accentuate things, rather than exaggerate them.

So I was doing one of my ridiculous jumpy-aroundy things (you try demonstrating water activities on land and see how graceful you look) and two women*** were talking to each other and said, “No jell-o there!” and pointed to me. The pool is indoors and it’s impossible to hear anything, so I asked them what they said because I thought maybe they had a question. They repeated themselves and told me I was “solid” because apparently I have no jiggle to my thighs.

  1. This is an outright lie.
  2. This is supposed to be a compliment even though “solid” is an iffy word.

I told them to hush, that I look good in clothes and there’s a reason I don’t wear my swimsuit to class**** and also a good half of my measurable difference in thigh appearance over the past year is magical body cream, not the workouts I do.

These are true things, but they’re also things I’ve been trained to say because women are trained to deflect compliments. When is the last time you received a compliment and immediately follow it with a qualifier or a modifier or a negative thing to balance the compliment with? If you identify as a woman, I’m going to go with never, and I dare you to tell me different.*****

I don’t want to be flippant about body dysmorphic disorder, because that is a real thing in the DSM and I really hate when people use true disorders and diseases as if they’re silly (“omg, I’m, like, so bipolar today!” NOPE).  But I think those of us who live in western, body-obsessed developed nations are all trained to have a touch of body dysmorphia because we’re constantly barraged with messages telling us our bodies don’t look right. And if you don’t look right ever, but you’re only ever seeing “right” bodies in front of you, but if you’re also educated enough to know that those “right” bodies aren’t even “real” because of Photoshop, how do you even have the mental capacity to consider what your real, physical body actually looks like? I don’t. And I don’t want to. I don’t really want to look at my body unless I’m looking at a cute outfit I have on. I have been so confused by messages my whole life that I also cannot competently buy foundation or concealer because magazines have confused me about what color my skin is. That’s a story for another day, though.

So. I told them to shush and went on with class. Then I went to hot yoga.

Hot yoga is terrible; did I mention that?

There is nothing you can wear that is not uncomfortable – and while I haven’t tried it, I’m going to posit that not even nudity is comfortable in hot yoga because hello, dangling parts and boob sweat. So I wore Spandex bike shorts, which I have been wearing for pole fitness recently****** and a cotton t-shirt that I wear when I want to look not totally shlumpy but not waste a real outfit. Cotton is terrible for sweating, and it’s especially terrible when you keep bending over and are being told to breathe and the shirt is covering your face.

I was so fed up that I just tore the shirt off. So then I was in bike shorts, which, like Spanx, only stay down on your thighs if you don’t have any thigh fat to worry about anyway, which were constantly riding up, and a sports bra. Thank goodness it was this really adorable Panache one, because other sports bras I own look like granny bras.

So there I was, with my cellulite-y thighs, uneven shorts, cute bra where my nipples were showing through even though it was ONE MILLION DEGREES IN THERE, and with all my belly rolls for people to see.

pexels-photo

Yoga is supposed to be meditational, about pushing thoughts aside and just focusing on your practice, but how can it be when there is a person with cellulite in the room with you? And with rolls all over her torso? People who have muffin tops are not entitled to wear skimpy outfits, even when it is, again, ONE MILLION DEGREES in the room and there is so much sweat dripping into your eyes you think your contact lenses will fall out.

I kept staring into the mirror, being kind of disgusted with myself, trying to figure out where in the world people were getting this idea that I was ripped or something. And also I was trying to make my body do the things that the instructor was telling us to do, and it’s easier to do that when you have visual feedback.  I couldn’t see it.

But at the same time, I could. Because if I were truly so disgusted with myself, I would never have taken my shirt off. I never would have worn those shorts. A year or two ago, I would have worn a parka into that room and stayed the whole class, even if I fainted, rather than admit defeat or show people my body. Today I said, “fuck it. My body is doing this thing and I’m going to make it as bearable as possible, and that means only wearing this small amount of clothing.”

Do I have any idea what people were thinking? I kept telling myself I did, but no, I didn’t really. Probably no one cared. Probably because I was managing to keep up with the class, the guy next to me that I could have sworn was judging my fat rolls was probably thinking, “damn, she can balance on her leg for longer than I can.” Or maybe he was thinking about his own leg. Or his cat. Or what he was going to eat for dinner. I don’t care. So why would I think he cared so much about me to do anywhere near the level of analysis I was already throwing at myself?

I got through the class. It was actually the best hot yoga class I’ve ever been to, I think. And I will never not wear that type of outfit again. Fuck shirts. This is my body and this is what’s comfortable and also now I’ll have less laundry to do.

It’s been amazing to become a fitness instructor and realize that people respond to a lot more things than just appearance. Confidence is one. I’m not a particularly confident person in this sense, but I do put on a pretty good sense of authority and “I’ve got this”ness. Qualifications are another. I have five fitness certifications. How many do you have, random person taking my class? Being in the front of the room and knowing that people know that you’re getting paid to be there is another.

We respond to social cues. I thought every fitness teacher I ever had for years had the perfect, most unattainable body and spent a lot of time thinking about how there was no point in trying to be fit when I was never going to look like that. I’m thankful I made it over that bridge, and now sometimes I wonder (in the most complimentary, you-inspired-me kind of way) whether my instructors really had these Barbie doll bodies or if I was just seeing that because I was supposed to see someone powerful leading the class.******* And now that I’m the one at the front of the class, are people projecting onto me?

I know I am a different size and shape now than I was a year ago, though by no numbers or photos would you see any sort of Biggest Loser transformation on me. The pounds are the same. The clothes fit a little bit differently. Mainly it’s just that I feel fucking powerful and I don’t get tired doing activities that used to instantly exhaust me. So I wonder if that’s what people are seeing, not the “solid” thighs – which bounce. I promise. I punch them regularly and they jiggle. I haven’t had a thigh gap since I started college, and that was just one really awesome week.

tl;dr: enviable bodies are in the eye of the beholder, blah blah blah. If you are the type of person who tries to hide their body in baggy pants and old cotton things that don’t let you breathe when you exercise, I implore you to purchase clothes that fit properly and are designed for exercise. When I started wearing legging-type garments, which I now do almost exclusively, my posture changed. I felt better. I worked harder. And I started seeing my body for the powerful thing it is, not the sack I had let myself believe it was because I didn’t fit some bullshit societal mold.

I realize it’s incredibly unfair to write about my breakthrough without posting a selfie, but I’m not good at selfies and also I’m wearing a really unattractive (sartorially speaking) sleep bra as I write this, so some other time, promise.

*it’s partly what it’s about, but it’s really not that simple
**Unless you are really wealthy, I guess? But those of us who don’t have lots of money think about it a lot, or at least I do. I cannot really afford all the different groupons and deals I’ve been purchasing to try different fitness studios, but I keep doing them.
***I think the youngest person who takes my class is 50, and that’s why it’s my favorite class to teach – they’re all awesome and they think I’m adorable and silly and probably hopeless but in a sweet, harmless way
****the number 1 reason being my boss told me not to wear a suit and not to go in the water, but I’m not sad about that all the time
*****and then teach me your ways, o wise one
******and that class takes place in a pretty dark room with women of wildly varying body types and that’s why I feel safe there
*******You should be well aware that I am all aboard the Health At Every Size train, but this essay is about western beauty and body standards and how internalized they are, you feel me?

may’s links worth reading

Happy last day of the month! Here is some stuff I read this month that I think you should read, too.

It’s the vague talk of toxins that reminds doctors of leeches.

“Juicing” is basically bullshit, but if you like juice, that’s still great for your health, says NYT.

Despite spending billions of dollars on weight-loss drugs and dieting programs, even the most motivated are working against their own biology.

Coming to understand that my body has a weight it likes, and that it’s better to judge your health and fitness by any of about a million other markers rather than weight, has changed my life. If you’re not converted yet, maybe this article will help.

In its early days, Runner’s World wasn’t in the weight-loss game—perhaps because runners in the 1960s were mostly wispy men with little to gain from losing. But over time, slimming down became a big theme in our pages.

Runners’ World congratulates itself on how awesome they are at being positive at weight loss or something, and the weird prose makes me uncomfortable, but just looking at the pictures is an interesting basis for a sociological analysis you can do in your head.

Those who endorsed more of those false beliefs showed more bias and were less accurate in their treatment recommendations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pain and race and gender lately ever since I finally got a diagnosis for my generalized crappiness disorder (aka fibromyalgia), and this article is really telling.

When doctors actually asked women if they wanted to have these fake periods, many said they didn’t.

This. I don’t have endometriosis, or at least I’ve never been diagnosed with it, but I have had unwieldy, incredibly long lasting and incredibly heavy periods since whatever point of puberty where you start to have regular ones, so a year after you start or something? Whatever. Point is, as the really good comments section illustrates (I really want you to read it even more than the article), women’s experiences matter, and also, evolution designed us to have babies roughly every year from age 12 to 52, thus NOT MENSTRUATING, so the idea of having a billion periods just because you cannot or choose not to have children is absurd.

fitness for bibliophiles: the henry and clare

“I won’t ever leave you,” she says. “Even though you’re always leaving me.”
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The driving tension of The Time Traveler’s Wife is the alternating POV chapters – which don’t just alternate POV but also times. Henry and Clare, destined to be soulmates, are always meeting when she’s too young, then Henry is disappearing whenever they’re trying to work on their marriage, and then the babies Clare is pregnant with time travel out of her body and she miscarries, and now I’m just making you sad, but you see my point? They’re always in each other’s lives, but they’re never in the right place at the right time.

So. Let’s say you are the type of person who needs accountability and companionship to commit to going to the gym. Or, alternatively, you have already committed but you also happen to like having a gym buddy. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you want to get ideas for workouts, so here is how you’re going to get your fitness on, Henry and Clare-style.

Scope out the floor of your gym and identify some machines or free items that you want, like kettlebells or various weight machines, as well as a little bit of space for body weight exercises. Discuss ahead of time what specific activities you’re going to do, and pick at least four (so, for example, bicep-curl-to-press with dumbbells, the adductor/abductor machines, wall sit, kettlebell deadlift – and we’re going to call them “stations”). Have your eye on the clock or get a watch or use your fancy pocket telephone computer, whatever. Just be able to regularly see 60 seconds passing.

Now (you already warmed up in this scenario). One of you starts at a station, and the other stays near enough that you can converse and encourage each other. At the start of the minute, one of you does the station, the other does a cardio interval. If it’s convenient to you, you might try hopping on an elliptical or treadmill, but otherwise you can run in place or do jumping jacks. Grab a jumprope, maybe. Just get your heart rate up.

At the end of the minute, switch places. No break.

Then you switch again, but on station 2. One minute, one minute. Move on, no break.

Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve gotten through each of your stations (that is, each person has done each station and each corresponding cardio interval). With four stations, that’s eight minutes. After you’ve finished, get a sip of water, towel off, and then do it again. Another sip of water, wipe the sweat off your brow, and then do it one more time. That will take you to around 30 minutes, including your warmup and cooldown/stretches, obviously more if you’ve worked in more stations. Even if you only do it twice, it’s high intensity interval training, which means you’re working hard, improving your cardiovascular function, and getting stronger. Congratulations: you win! Henry and Clare did not, but that’s their problem, not yours.

Get the book @ iTunes | iBooks | Amazon | IndieBound

i mudded! again!

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.19.22 PMTwo Saturdays ago, April 30, I did a 10K mud run – for the second time.

I never could have anticipated I’d become any sort of fitness person. I hated physical activity as a kid unless it was riding my bicycle*, I couldn’t breathe**, and I was afraid of the ball in all sports that required them. But I guess I have always enjoyed climbing on things, because learning to rappel off a mountain in eighth grade was pretty great, and high ropes course was infinitely superior to low ropes course, because it was all me and all climby fun stuff, none of that bullshit team building crap. So when I first heard about the Tough Mudder, I secretly thought it sounded cool, even though I outwardly  scorned it for being ridiculous.

It is ridiculous. Mud runs are ridiculous. And I would never do one. Certainly never a Tough Mudder.

I have a penchant for signing up for things I have explicitly and recently stated I have no interest in. So last October, mainly because I wanted to make new friends, I did a 10K Terrain Race at Old Tucson Studios. I did make new friends (two cycling teachers from the gym where I work), and I had a great time. One of the girls I ran with, who is also a PE teacher, told me that even though I didn’t run at all, all the cycling I did would actually make me a more competent (in terms of endurance, not actual form) runner than I’d thought, and she was right.

So I figured sure, why not do the run again.

It was way, way harder this time. I forgot until moving back to Tucson that I have the worst allergies in the world, since in Boston and the Bay Area I did not. I cannot breathe in the spring out here. I had to stop for walking breaks so many times, which was a bummer because I have gone practice running like four times since the last time I did the 10K, and whenever it’s a real race I need a walking break, but when it’s just running to run, I don’t. I thought I had broken down that wall, but clearly there’s something to competition (and, probably, pacing myself) that I have not cracked yet.

That said, though, I got through it. And it’s partly because of a thing I’ve done as long as I can remember but only recently learned the name for – defensive pessimism. It’s what happens when you, like me, tell yourself the plane is going to crash when you’re going through takeoff. Or when you determine that if you don’t finish a thing, you’re going to quit (I’ve done that with my novel, and I’ve yet to finish it but also yet to quit altogether). Where I learned it was an anecdote about one of those people who tried to swim the Arctic because apparently an Ironman or something is for losers. He was feeling like he had nothing left to give and told himself over and over just how many miles down he would sink, just how cold he would be as he died, and said that to himself over and over again as he….finished the swim. So I spent the race telling myself I could just quit at the 5K split and call it a day. And then my friend and I got there (I’m 100% sure that this race, which had numerous logistical failures this time around, actually had it split into about 7K and 10K, but that’s another story) and she asked if I wanted to do that because she could see I was struggling, and I said no. And I did lots more walking breaks and forewent more obstacles than I’d planned to, but I finished it.

I finished. I did not check my time and I’m sure it was a shameful one, but I don’t care. It wasn’t a race for me. It was just a thing I did, and I finished, and defensive pessimism got me through it. The end.

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*not all that surprising that indoor cycling was my first certification and my favorite class most of the time

**nope, not asthma. Vocal cord dysfunction!