Apr 3, 2022Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Somehow I missed this when I came and only saw it when Anne Helen Petersen linked it.

Core strength has been such a concern for me the last several months. I definitely grew up in the generation of believing that endless crunches or sit-ups would do things they definitely will not do, but then around 2014 when I started working with a trainer and then got pregnant in 2015, I really came to understand the importance of actual core strength. I haven't been to a trainer since we moved shortly after my kid was born, but I kept working on core strength in ways about functional strength and protecting my back ... until last summer, when after a week of horrible shoulder/upper back pain, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my neck that was leading to a pinched nerve somewhere, and felt like I had to lay off a couple of the key exercises I'd been doing. Then a few months later I realized, you know, I may not be able to do all the same things, but I can and should try to figure out what I *can* do, or I'm really going to regret it. So I've been working on that for a few months now.

But visible abs? Hilarious.

I'm also going to look through the links here and see if there's anything I can send my mom. I really worry about her lack of core strength, since it can be such an important component of balance and falls are a worry for older people. But honestly her core is so weak that every exercise I try to give her scares her, that it's going to hurt her. (Partly I think this is that she has never really learned to tell good, strength-building pain from bad pain, but either way she does not feel she can do even many very gentle exercises.)

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Who's the Jessamyn Stanley/Diane Bondy of Pilates?

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Just want to throw this one out there for anyone who, like me, doesn't particularly enjoy gym-style exercise (this is my term for exercise that is primarily done solely for exercise, like running on a treadmill, or doing crunches, as opposed to exercise that comes along with something else like individual or team sports, or biking/running/roller blading/swimming outside):

Doing any kind of ab exercise has always been one of my least favorite things. I'm more of a recreational sports-as-exercise person, and even when I've done strength training in the past I've avoided any ab machines because they just weren't fun for me.

So, imagine my delight when I discovered that archery, of all things, is a great workout for your shoulders, back, and entire core! And even as a mid-fat person the classes I started taking were pretty accessible (and also very welcoming! lots of size diversity in archery, at least where I'm at). Definitely worth checking out for anyone looking for a fun activity to do that also has benefits for core strength and flexibility.

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First I have to say: mat ball! We used to play this in middle school and it was the best! I appreciate the suggestions here and the focus on strength over looks - I'm definitely still working on decoupling exercise/fitness from size. Also, thanks so much for providing the transcripts for your podcasts, Virginia - I take information in so much better when it's in print!

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This was immensely helpful. I have been struggling lately. I'm turning 40 in September and going to Florida on vacation with my in-laws in October and... I was going to spiral here, but I'm stopping myself. I'm feeling a lot of feelings around the swimsuit. I'm talking to my therapist about it regularly, doing some tapping, always trying to push back on my history of disordered eating. It's really hard. I needed Anna's (and your!) words today.

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One of the things I'm taking away from this is thinking of and referring to things I do as a movement practice, NOT exercise.

The word "exercise" for me is always goal-oriented, and even if the goal is feeling better and stronger it still means pushing, not enjoying, and there are "right" and "wrong" ways of doing it. That right/wrong may be true in the sense of avoiding injuries or overdoing, but I feel as if the descriptions and prescriptions are mostly about making sure you do something a zillion times until you're really great at it according to some metric that doesn't make the world a better place--instead of doing it and finding you enjoy it and therefore doing it some more.

I had a regular yoga practice for years and referred to it as moving meditation. When I thought of it that way and it fit into my life routines I stayed with it. Now that I haven't practiced in a while and it's more difficult because hey, bodies change, I'm discouraged if I'm trying to meet some exercise-y standard. I can't love it if I'm trying to achieve something and I want to do things because I love them.

I was recently introduced to viniyoga, which has a much more therapeutic orientation (at least in the way it was described and the videos I found--shoutout to Yoga with Juris, who's an older man in a T-shirt and we never see his abs, nor do we see a room full of skinny people with visible muscle definition, just him in his living room). So much gentle encouragement and "hey, isn't it great we're doing yoga together!" that makes me want to do it again. I had been practicing ashtanga so I was a failure because I couldn't jump forward or do a headstand and I would never have the core strength of the skinny white instructors who used the word "yogini" seemingly without any idea of the cultural cooptation.

If you're going to interview folks who have something to do with positive movement practices I hope you'll connect with All Bodies on Bikes, which I think I've mentioned here before. They're a fabulous bunch of people with a website (https://www.allbodiesonbikes.com/) and a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/allbodiesonbikes) that is absolutely NOT about biking to change your body (they have the same kind of language usage guidelines you use in the community here). They're explicitly size-inclusive and also inclusive across any kind of disability that might affect what type of bike/trike you use or what you're able to do on it (the enormous ableism of the fitness industry is another aspect to dig into). They're not bike snobs and if you've read any bike magazines you know what I mean. Their motto is "All bodies are good bodies. All bikes are good bikes. All rides should be celebrated."

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Thank you for sharing this conversation. I found myself nodding along at so many points - like skipping ab exercises because I'm never going to have visible abs so what's the point (obviously you and Anna list a million reasons why that reasoning is flawed!!). Thanks for linking to the list of stretches to strengthen your back - I'm going to try that tonight as that's my number one physical pain point. I sometimes go search for information like that, get discouraged by all the other messaging around it, and give up - so appreciate the curation of something that's actually doable and sounds helpful! Thank you both!

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