Why women’s only events are important

Reflecting back on my physical education experience I had thought I was always a poor gym student, and then my mother handed me a stack of my elementary report cards. Guess what? My phys. ed. comments were stellar! So when did things change and why? I credit my middle school gym teacher with crushing my spirit and confidence. (Only temporarily, as I eventually rediscovered it.)

How did one man do this? Well…now that it’s almost 30 years later and I’ve had lots of time to consider it, including my own adventures into the field of exercise and education.

  • Consideration #1: HE was a HE. That transition from pre-teen to teenager is a delicate and confusing time for most if not all young girls and having a man lead the class requiring you to use your body and wear shorts can be very difficult.
  • Consideration #2: He was super-focused on teaching sports not active living. I remember doing endless amounts of drills (poorly, I might add) and not seeing the point because I had zero intentions of ever playing basketball.
  • Consideration #3: He loved athletes. And only athletes. If you weren’t one of his star players, you were irrelevant. The only students ever chosen to demonstrate or assist with anything were the super stars. If you didn’t have to skills or talent to bring a pennant to the wall, forget about it.
  • Consideration #4: If memory serves me correctly, he often asked kids without gym clothes to sit out (like, what the heck?) and I remember being put into teams based on ability and gender. As a trained teacher I have so many issues with this and could go on for days, but I’ll spare you.

So what does all of this mean? If it happened to me in my little neck of the woods, it’s happened to other girls all over Canada. Girls grow up to be women. If we grow up being ashamed of our bodies and abilities, and taught that we must be sports-focused, our chances of participating in exercise later in life is pretty slim.

Here’s a bit of research to think about before I continue:

  • An article on girls in sport says that “Research shows that only 4 percent of Canadian girls are getting enough daily physical activity to meet recommended health guidelines.”  
  • A report published by CAAWS states “Females, beginning at an early age, under-value and underestimate their capacity (and potential) for competency in physical activity. As a result, girls’ physical activity skill levels constantly fall further behind their male peers’. Therefore, girls may select only activities that are traditionally
    female, or worse, be turned off physical activity altogether. (Dahlgren,
    1988)”

So, why in the world of fitness and our age of gender equality, do we need women’s only events?

We need women’s only events because these women are the girls I used to be. They were embarrassed and ignored and discouraged from pursuing active lifestyles. They grew up thinking they weren’t good enough to be fit and healthy.

We need women’s only events because women need to feel free and comfortable and accepted and safe before being ready to try something new.

We need women’s only events because not enough women are exercising and pursuing regular physical activity. We need to make it as accessible and easy to get moving as possible.

We need women’s only events because we’re making up for some messed-up “guidance” women all over this country have received at the hands of men like my middle school gym teacher.

One such event that aims to encourage and support women in participating in outdoor endurance type events, is the Keji Multisport Festival and Women’s-only Triathlon happening at Kejimkujik National Park on September 22-23rd. Check it out and spread the word!

 

 

 

 

Reflections ARE important

I’m in the final week of a 6-week program through Whole Life Challenge and every night participants are required to submit a reflection on the day along with their score.Is it tedious at times? Yes. Does it get me thinking deeper about what I encounter on daily basis? Hell yeah. That’s where it’s importance lies: when we take a longer look at why we eat and move and go through our day the way we do, real change can happen.

Have you checked out your reflection lately_

What do I mean? At the start of the challenge I would find myself reaching for food when I was stressed out or bored. I find myself lacing up my sneakers or unrolling the yoga mat now. I have restricted my grains intake for 6 weeks and I feel a difference, and its one I’m enjoying. I’ve lost some pounds and inches and I’ve gained a clearer mind, clearer skin and more direction. That clarity is unexpected and the mandatory reflections have helped guide me there. I could improve on my sleep and hydration is a challenge for me, but I’m aware that these areas of my life are critical to my holistic health and that awareness is worth something!

I feel like I have more confidence in not just my physical abilities, but in my ability to overcome cravings and stay dedicated to a goal. I have confidence that a slip in my clean eating won’t define or derail me completely. I’m able to wake up with a plan for the day ahead and go to bed with a satisfaction that I did my best and accepted responsibility for my actions.  How awesome is that? I can take these skills into my business life and relationships and especially in my health and fitness goals. The other kind of reflections are looking pretty good these days, too. 😉

 

 

Tune in to get ahead!

When I head out for a run I make sure I’ve got the gear I need to have the best run possible:

  • pretty sneakers
  • FlipBelt
  • Chapstick
  • iPhone with kickass playlist
  • earbuds
  • running sunglasses and Nova Scotia flag Trail Wrap (weather permitting)My #1 fitness accessory is....jpg

There’s one more thing that I picked up in the last year that has become the #1 item I need for a wicked workout: my inner coach. My IC has become my guiding force every time I hit the road and I’m getting faster and stronger, so I never leave home without it.

Where did I find this Inner Coach? She was always there, just hiding in the background until I connected with Dr. Jason Karp and he shared his book The Inner Runner with me. I knew I was going to be attending his sessions at CanFitPro FitExpo in Vancouver so I devoured his words and my Inner Coach joined me for the first time on the run workshop through Stanley Park we did as a group.

IMG_3067[1]Jason encouraged us to leave our phones and Garmins alone for the run. We stopped periodically to enjoy the view, take a breath, and reconnect with why we started running in the first place. He reminded me to focus on the joy of putting one foot in front of the other, and to let that inner voice guide me.

My Inner Coach became louder after I read Eric Orton’s The Cool Impossible. Here was another elite runner encouraging me to enjoy the world on a run instead of tuning out. Tuning in has become my focus and my speed is increasing and my soul is calmer. I ran the Bread Run 5k last weekend which is a challenging course, but I had a fantastic time because I sang along with my power anthems and I maybe even danced a few strides while enjoying the farmland around me and taking time to thank the police and safety volunteers patrolling the route. I could have had a better time, but I would have missed the chilly morning air and the smell of fresh-cut lawns.

So, what’s your favourite fitness accessory? How tuned in are you during your workouts? What one thing has made the biggest difference in your performance?

 

Are you afraid of success?

I’ve been moving things forward in scary directions lately. What do I mean? I mean taking the risk of attending BlogFest. Putting myself out there in words on this blog. Setting a goal of a 25 minute 5k run. Meeting with new clients and taking ongoing projects to new heights. I even just applied to be a brand ambassador for a kick-ass running gear company. Why is this scary? Well, I might fall short: I might not be fast enough or wow new clients or get turned down by the gear company. You know what’s even scarier? I might rise to the occasion and kick some serious ass.

Are you Afraid

Isn’t it weird how we can be as fearful of great success and happiness as much, if not more, than we are fearful of staying the same or even experiencing failure. I’ve failed, (or not succeeded as much as I wanted to), in the past. In fact, I’m pretty good at it. I don’t think any of us know anyone who hasn’t experienced failure in some form. But how many of us have truly experienced success?

A friend of mine won $10,000 the other day and her initial reaction was fear. Like she didn’t deserve it and wasn’t sure how to handle it. Interesting response, eh? How many of you believe you don’t really deserve successes and happiness? WTF is up with that?!?

I’m taking Mel Robbins’ advice here again and taking the nerves and fear I’m experiencing about my goals and turning it into excitement at the success that’s coming my way. Yes, I need to remind myself it’s excitement and not fear a few times a day. I turn on my motivational playlist and ask friends to remind me, too. I go for a run or do a yoga video to refocus my attention on achieving those goals and away from the fear trying to talk me out of them.

_We grow fearless by walking into our fears._-Robin Sharma

I may have a weakness, but I’m not weak

It’s National Mental Health Awareness Week, and I believe strongly in the fact that mental fitness is as important as physical fitness. I was just scrolling through my Facebook feed and an article about how to explain anxiety to someone who doesn’t get it popped up.

I cope with anxiety on a regular basis. I always have. I can remember getting a bad grade on a test in Grade 5 and being so upset about it I had to call home to be picked up. You should have seen me in high school and university! I can’t count how many times my very patient mother had to talk me down. One amazing prof seemed to recognize this about me and told me to be kind to myself. And so started my decades long love/hate relationship with anxiety.

Having a weakness doesn't make you weak.

I have attended therapy several times, I’ve been on and off medication, and I’ve used workbooks and breathing exercises and I have no idea how many books I’ve ingested on the topic, but I’m thinking at least 100. I’ve always experienced some relief but my biggest breakthroughs have happened over the last 3 years or so. So, what’s been so magical about the last three years, you ask?

  • my physical fitness became a major priority
  • spending quality time with real friends became a focus
  • I’ve started telling my truth (see my post on fearing less) and really putting myself out there
  • my eating has cleaned up (less sugar, less flour, more water, more veggies)
  • I’ve learned that happiness is within my control
  • I’ve learned that a positive outlook is within my control and makes a HUGE difference
  • I’m focusing on spreading good energy

 

Do you notice how these “magical” things are all choices I’ve intentionally made? BINGO! I chose to learn about shifting my mindset. I chose to read the books I’ve read and watch the Ted Talks I’ve watched. I chose to eat better and move more. YOU can CHOOSE to learn different habits to manage your anxiety! There is relief!

Do I still experience anxiety? Sure I do. It’s a reality of being human. What has significantly changed is how I look at it (I”m not anxious, I’m excited, for example.) I have turned what many view as a weakness into one of my greatest sources of strength! I was faced with a challenge so I educated myself and armed myself with defenses that work for me. Find what works for you!

 

Got goals? Get a plan!

Thursday was a long day for me: the kids and I flew from Victoria, BC to Halifax, NS in an 8 hour trip. How did I stay committed to my fitness and nutrition goals while boarding flights and wrangling children? I had a plan.

Goals are great, but they don’t mean much without a plan in place to meet them, so I  set my alarm to get up early. I had set out my running gear the night before so I could get ready and head out for a run quickly and quietly.

got goals_

I came home, did the normal morning routine with the kids, got us packed up and even had time to go have a little peaceful coffee break to collect my thoughts for the day before heading off to the airport. I had packed some healthy snacks just in case and once we were in the air, I made healthy choices from the in-flight menu. Believe me, that mac and cheese looked really good but I had decided ahead of time to stick as close to the Lifestyle nutritional guidelines (of the Whole Life Challenge) so fresh veggies it was! I was so proud when my girl chose the veggies for herself too.

Our layover in Toronto was challenging because we only had about 45 minutes before boarding and anyone who’s ever traveled with two spirited children can appreciate the chaos potential. We opted for a ham panini, so I docked myself 1 point for non-compliance (no bread allowed!) but only one error on a travel day felt like a win for me! I didn’t give in to the displays of treats and I even took a few minutes to stretch in the boarding area.

Now that I’m settled (for the time being anyway) in Nova Scotia, staying with my parents (who are amazing to watch my kids while I go run) I’m putting my plan in place. I ran out and bought a new yoga mat so I can keep up with my weekly splits training, I’m continuing with at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and I intend to get a punch pass for the local gym.

It can be too easy to let life take over, but when you have goals in sight and especially when you start feeling the results of working towards those goals, you can’t stop. Make a plan. Change it if necessary, but stick to it. Never stop moving forwards.