Fitness: Are We Encouraging or Shaming?

by Kristen Abell

In student affairs it seems that this year has been one of focusing on health and wellness (at least in the online world of student affairs). We’ve seen the rise of the #safit hashtag, the Student Affairs Runners group on Facebook, and at a recent regional conference, our participation in the fun run/walk jumped from four last year to over 70 this year. With student affairs being a notoriously unhealthy field – especially in terms of balance – this seems like a welcome change.

And yet.

From the beginning, there has been something about the whole focus on fitness that has bothered me, and it took me awhile to put my finger on it – and even longer to write about it. It feels like when we talk about health and wellness, all we are talking about is physical health and wellness – and for many, what we are also talking about is size. Pictures and stories abound of weight loss, fitting into clothes, being the smallest we’ve been. To me it feels as though some have turned the focus from health to size, and those folks have turned from being supportive of all sizes to being supportive only of those who are making an effort to be a smaller size. I don’t believe anybody has done this intentionally, but it stings, nonetheless. For a field that is supposed to be supportive of all shapes and sizes, we’re acquiring a tendency to shame those of larger sizes because they’re not doing anything about it.

Perhaps part of this is my frustration with my own health issues. I’ve been fighting to breathe easy for so long that physical fitness still sometimes feels like a bit of a luxury to me. So to be told I need to be focusing on running harder or lifting more or losing weight just feels like a small part of the bigger health picture, and it feels out of focus.

And when we keep the focus on physical health, we have lost a large part of that picture. I know I’m sensitive to this because of my own struggles, but it is just as important to me – if not more so – that my mental health is good. And this can take more than just seeking balance. Sometimes it requires doctors, and therapy, and medication. Sometimes it requires that our physical health isn’t just fit, but that we are actually healthy – that we aren’t suffering from other types of illnesses. If we only focus on physical fitness, we’re excluding those who are fighting for even a baseline of health – physical or mental.

This has been a hard post to write – not least because I have several friends who I feel have benefited from the #safit movement. And I want to be clear that I don’t think it’s a bad movement at all. I myself love the encouragement that I get when I post a workout or something positive about my journey to better health. I’ve had several people who also have voiced how much they have been encouraged both from my posts and from this movement. I just think we have to be careful about crossing the border between what is good about this movement toward fitness to becoming more exclusive than encouraging. It’s a fine line, but it’s one that we should be particularly cognizant of as student affairs professionals.

What are your thoughts about the movement toward health and wellness in student affairs?

Fitness: Are We Encouraging or Shaming?

Follow Friday: Fitness Edition (Plus Bonus Link)

By Brenda Bethman

Credit: spykster, Flickr (via Fit Bottomed Girls)
Credit: spykster, Flickr (via Fit Bottomed Girls)

As you know (and may well be sick of hearing) from previous posts, I recently embarked on a quest to get more fit (or, well, fit at all if I’m going to be honest). Because I’m one of those people who likes to research everything, I’ve started following some fitness blogs and am sharing them for this edition of Follow Friday:

Women’s Health Magazine:The emphasis on weight loss and getting a “hot” body is annoying, but if you can get past that, there’s some good information on nutrition and fitness, as well as some good workouts, usually with video.

Fit Bottomed Girls: A more feminist and body-positive spin on women’s fitness (how can you not love a group who titles their book The Anti-Diet?), this site contains a wealth of information on fitness, nutrition and health. They’re also funny, which is a plus.

eat, live, runIf all this working out is making you hungry, here’s a blog with some fabulous (and healthy!) recipes

Happy reading and eating!

Oh, and that bonus link? Go check out Eric Stoller’s list of 20 (all-female) SA pros to follow on Twitter. It’s definitely a “must follow” list.

Follow Friday: Fitness Edition (Plus Bonus Link)

Networked Fitness and the Quantified Self

By Brenda Bethman

Recently, Owen Thomas at ReadWriteWeb embarked on a four-month experiment in networked fitness and the quantified self. Using a treadmill desk, fitness gadgets and apps, he’s tracking his data to see if he can meet his fitness goals and blogging about the results (see here for the posts to date). Coincidentally, I also started a new fitness program on the same date (August 1) as Thomas’ first post appeared — and being a good geek girl, I am also using an array of gadgets and apps to track my progress (and of course also blogging about it — if you have any interest, you can follow my posts here).

Thomas points out that one of the frustrating aspects related to the #quantifiedself movement is the lack of a monopoly — with so many apps, gadgets, websites, etc. — none of which track the same items — it can be overwhelming to try to figure out which tools are the best for you. In this post, I thought I’d share my setup in the hopes that it’s useful. It’s a tad complicated and probably not for everyone, but individual apps and gadgets can also be useful.IMG_1275

Here’s the list of what I use and what’s connected to what:

  • Fitbit One: The Fitbit is the gadget/app/website I use the most — it’s on me 24/7 unless I’m in water. The Fitbit tracks steps, calories burned, distance, active minutes, floors, and your sleep. It will also track non step-based activity (you have to add it manually or sync from another service) and food (although many Fitbit users track their food elsewhere as their database is lacking in areas). One of the things I like about it is that it gives you a good idea of just how active (or sedentary as the case may be) you are — combine that the game aspect of earning badges and suddenly I am talking an extra spin around the block to meet my steps goal for the day. I’ve found it motivates me to keep me active throughout the day instead of just while at the gym. I use the website and the iPhone app for syncing with the One — and have the Fitbit set up to sync with both MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper accounts (although the latter is only one way syncing with the Fitbit data flowing to Runkeeper but not vice versa).
  • MyFitnessPal: MFP is a calorie-tracking website with companion apps. It has a huge number of users and just raised a ton of funding. There’s also a very active user community that shares fitness (and, alas, dieting) tips in forums. I use MFP to track what I eat (roughly anyway — I’m not too obsessive about it) and any non step-based exercise (like strength training, elliptical, etc.). That data is then fit to the Fitbit and the Fitbit data also flows back to MFP. Using them together, I’m able to gain a pretty good picture of what went in and out on a given day. MFP’s food database is HUGE (higher ed folks, they even have Sodexho stuff in there), and tracks nutrients as well as calories, which to me is the more important part.
  • RunKeeper: After a couple of years of using the Nike running app, I recently switched to RunKeeper because it also tracks walking (in theory it tracks strength training also if you sync with one of their partner apps, but I have yet to find a strength training app that I like, so I just enter that data into MFP). RunKeeper will map your walk and track your pace, distance, calories burned, etc. It works for both runners and walkers, and can track other exercises as well. The free version does some minimal reporting and the paid version will get you more detailed reports. I use RunKeeper to keep track of walking distances. While the Fitbit theoretically does that, I prefer RunKeeper.
  • GymPact: GymPact is a motivational app that pays you money for meeting your weekly workout goals and penalizes you by charging you money if you fail to meet them. The nice thing about GymPact is that you don’t have to be in a gym for it to count — you can use their “GymPact Anywhere” (currently iPhone only) or sync with RunKeeper to have outdoor or at home workouts count towards your Pact (this is handy if you have a weekend like the one we just had — it was far too beautiful to exercise inside). I decided to give it a go since I’m committed to training sessions and a class for the foreseeable future. Since I know I’ll be at the gym, I may as well make money from it.
  • EarndIt: Speaking of rewards, EarndIt is another motivational site (no apps yet) that allows you to earn rewards that can be redeemed for goods or to benefit charities. So that run you just took can help bring clean water to Haiti or health to Guatemala. Again, if you’re working out anyway, why not help someone else at the same time? I’ve set up my Fitbit to sync to EarndIt and my Foursquare gym checkins also earn me points.

Reading that, I think “damn, that’s a complicated system!” and it is true that it took me some time to get things set up to work in a way that I like — and that, because of the fragmentation Thomas writes about, I am forced to rely on a system of syncing several apps in order to get a full picture. So far, however, it’s working for me and I definitely recommend any of these apps/gadgets/sites if you’re looking for ways to track your fitness efforts.

What other recommendations for apps/websites/gadgets do you have? Which (if any) do you use?

Networked Fitness and the Quantified Self

Linkage Love: Personal Wellness Applications

By Kathryn Magura

Despite my best efforts to remain sloth-like, 2013 has become the year of personal wellness for me. I did not set out with some overly ambitious goal to get “fit” or lose weight in 2013. What I did do is set some personal goals for how I wanted to live my life, and what I needed to do to feel healthy. Along the way, and through great advice from many of you, I found some applications that have helped me live a life more well:

  1. Couch-to-5K: I am not a runner. In fact, for most of my life, I would say I have been an anti-runner. “What if you’re being chased?”  I would give up, obviously. “What if there is a zombie apocalypse?” Team zombie. These are a few of my standard responses to convey my disdain for running. Then why on earth would I start running? Basically, I wanted to see if I could do it. Could my stubborn determination outweigh my staunch dislike for running? I have seen many other friends who wanted to run try out the Couch-to-5K app in the past with great success. How does it work? Well, the program is 9 weeks long broken up into 3-30 minute routines each week. You start by alternating walking with a smidge of running, and by the end you are running with a smidge of walking. Basically, they trick you into becoming a runner. Works for me! I started the program early in the spring and saw almost immediate results. I got sidelined by bronchitis, but have since restarted the program. Would I describe myself as a runner? Not yet, but at least I’m trying!
  2. Lose it!: The year before I turned 30 I noticed I was starting to gain weight at a rate with which I was not comfortable. I decided I would lose 30 lbs by the time I turned 30 and joined Weight Watchers online. I ended up losing over 35 lbs in just over 3 months, and it seemed annoyingly easy to do. I didn’t really work out much, just started eating better and drinking more water. I have kept that weight off for a few years, but then about 6 months ago I noticed I was starting to add the pounds again. I heard some friends talking about the Lose it! app, and how it helped them shed weight. I decided to download the free version and give it a shot. I appreciate how easy it is to add your foods and exercise, and how that all combines to healthy calorie intake goals. This program has helped me lose some of those extra pounds, and keep track of what I eat and how that impacts my daily routine.
  3. Sleep Cycle: I am a terrible sleeper. Awful, in fact. I have tried various techniques to try and improve my sleep, with little success. I have toyed with going to a doctor to assess my sleep patterns to see if there is a problem that could be isolated and therefore worked on to improve my sleeping. This past winter, I was introduced to the Sleep Cycle application, and thought it would be a great way to have a pre-assessment of my sleeping to see if there was a discernible pattern to my terrible sleeping. The way Sleep Cycle works is it measures your sleeping patterns over a duration of nights, and provides you an assessment of the best and worst times for sleep during the night. Tracking when you are at your deepest and lightest sleeping hours could help determine if something simple, like going to bed an hour earlier or later, could help you have better sleep. You can also track things like foods eaten or other things to see if there is a specific cause of a bad night’s sleep.

These are 3 applications I have had success with over the last few months. Which ones would you recommend to facilitate personal wellness?

Linkage Love: Personal Wellness Applications

Blogger’s Choice: My running technology

by Valerie Heruska

I started running (again) 2 days ago. I used to use my old ITouch2 and a pair of Puma Fass 550s. However, after a delightful visit to a wonderful store called Marathon Sports, located near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I upped my game with my running.


1. The shoes: Saucony Omni 11 (in lime green). The Omni 11  features some of Saucony’s innovative technology:  Support Frame for overall support and stability in the heel and ProGrid™ technology (previously in heel only) is extended to the entire foot bed for a more seamless feel. In my honest opinion, these are the best pair of running shoes I’ve ever had. I’ve gone through a lot of brands: Nike, Puma, Reebok — but these are pretty darn amazing.

2. The clothes: I wear everything from Underarmour to City Sports. One thing I cannot absolutely live without is Dri-fit technology. I want to hug the person that ever came up with this invention because it’s pretty much the best thing ever. The wicking effect of most Dri-fit items rocks  as it keep me cool and dry in the spring/summer.

3. The tech: I run with my Iphone5 and I use the Nike+ app.  I love the app for a few reasons: 1) It keeps track via GPS and not a chip 2) you can send me cheers if I link it to Twitter/Facebook 3) It will sync with Daily mile/mapmyrun 4) It will have athletes tell me how awesome I’m doing and how I’m kicking butt 5) It will outline my running path and use GPS to map my run.

4. Social Media: Of course! How could I forget. There are support groups on Facebook for anyone who is looking to stay motivated and healthy during their workouts.  There’s the Student Affairs Health Pledge and  Student Affairs Runners. On Twitter, just search the #safit13 or #safit hashtags. There’s even a blog:


I’m always excited to see what they come out with next for running. If you’re running or exercising – what other tech do you love to use while you work out?

Blogger’s Choice: My running technology

Linkage Love: Health and Fitness edition!

by Julia Golden

Last year I told myself I wanted to make a life change. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted to be more active. Quite often in higher education (especially Residence Life and Student Activities) we are working long hours, eating a slice of leftover pizza from a student meeting, or eating dining food.  While staying healthy can be quite the challenge the following link have helped me to stay focused:


My Fitness Pal:

My Fitness Pal has been an awesome website and app for my iphone. This website has the information on calories for many food and brands of food. The app lets you track this information down. I have found that when I’m at my office I go onto this website or ones like it to pre-plan what I would like to eat for dinner. Viewing this site also let’s me pre-plan eating out at a restaurant. For instance when I glance at a menu what are items with fewer calories? My Fitness Pal has many restaurant’s food item on their site.


Spark People

I enjoy Spark People and the community it provides. There are many blogs and success stories that inspire me to do my best. Connecting with an ‘Average Joe’ on exercising is uplifting. They have many tools that help you track your weight/calories etc. There are apps for smartphones as well. Again, this site is best for people who are looking for a community.


Fit Sugar:

I noticed this website when I was thinking of what songs to buy for my workout mix. They have lists of the top workout music from the past few years. What also made them stand out is their sections on snacks for vegan, gluten-free folks. While I am neither, my students are and this gave me options about what snacks might be appropriate to bring to a training. Lastly, I enjoy their free videos to view on new workouts.


To Hope and Health,


Linkage Love: Health and Fitness edition!

Track it and lose it.

by Valerie Heruska

Making your life easier

I  know I’ve expressed my love of apps. and the cloud in earlier posts, but I recently discovered two apps that are super helpful if you’re trying  to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For me, it’s not about some fad diet , but it’s about just maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating right and exercising daily. So, the two apps that make my life easier, Nike + Running and Lose It!

I love the Nike+ running app because it simply keeps track of your mileage. I used to have the Nike+ app for iPodTouch and the receiver that you would keep on your shoe. I felt that I was always recalibrating the running pace, and one day, while out on a run, it just stopped working. Finally, I came into the 21st century and got an iPhone5, and also got Nike+Running, which allowed me use a GPS instead of the receiver. I love this app because you can sync it with Nike’s own website or with daily mile. It cheers you on, tracks your runs, and just makes my life easier, so I know what my splits are and how fast I go on each run. Simple, but it makes my life easier.

Lose It! is an app I found out about through an article/review from the good folks at BostInno. Lose it! is an app. that helps you keep track of things you’ve eaten in that day. For me, the more I see it, the more I change the way I eat, and so I have to give big props to Lose It! Lose It! allows you to set a weight goal and how much you would like to lose per week. Based on your age and current weight, it will set up a calorie plan for you. You can add exercises and then it will calculate your calorie intake. Cool specs: You can scan the barcode of any food product and it automatically finds it for you. No more looking through books or inputting the information yourself, unless there is no barcode (sad). They also have a list of restaurants (chains) and grocery stores. It’s pretty awesome and I’ve been using it for about a week now. It’s free and it’s definitely made my life easier and healthier.

So whatever your weight loss or training goals are, these two apps are super helpful and have made my life a little easier.


Track it and lose it.

Highlight of an app: My Fitness Pal

by Colleen Riggle

It took my child turning one to finally give me the push to lose those lingering baby pounds.  I often hear many women complain about them days, months, or even years after giving birth.  Not that I am super concerned with my weight, but it was more so wanting to expand my wardrobe a bit more.  Materialistic? Perhaps, but it’s more realistic with the cooler Fall temps approaching.

Being an athlete I’ve always keep a good idea of what my daily caloric intake, fat and protein looks like and used various apps in the past.  However, for the past 35 days I have successfully logged every meal, snack, and cardio/strength workout.  For me that’s pretty impressive.

My Fitness Pal has been awesome for a couple reason.  It’s an app that is web based as well, so when I’m at work I can log my snacks and foods quickly without having to use my phone.  But if I’m on the go, sitting in traffic (carpooling, of course) I can log in my dinner or send some motivation to my “friends”.  Additionally, you’re able to either keep your food diary public or private.  My friends and I have public food diaries, so we able to get fresh, new ideas of meals or snacks.  We’re also able to give advice where someone might be struggling.  Or you can see just how many Starbucks I’ve had in the last week!

Lastly, what I love about My Fitness Pal is the barcode scanner! It’s awesome.  At dinner time, I just run around zapping the barcodes, which add to my “recent” foods, as well as my meal history!   Once in a while it’s a little wonky where it pulled up something totally random from what I was eating!

Whether you’re watching your intake, on a “diet” or just looking for a cool new app My Fitness Pal gets 5 stars from me!

Highlight of an app: My Fitness Pal

Highlight an App: Fitness

By Brenda Bethman

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I would much rather read a book than run or play a sport — and that I love to eat (really, truly love it). Combine that with a (mostly) sedentary job, a husband who is an excellent cook, and the inevitable slowing metabolism that comes with hitting middle age — and well, I could stand to get some more exercise (because I weighed the options and decided that eating nothing but salads or giving up wine were both unacceptable — so moving more it is).

Oh, and I should apologize for the lateness of this post — I was working on a new website yesterday and completely forgot about posting. So, here we are today. Now, where was I? Right, looking an apps — or really a gadget. Yes, I finally broke down and bought a Fitbit, under the assumption that a true geek girl would find data motivating. I’ve had it for a couple of days, but so far that is correct.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Fitbit, is a small wireless tracker that you wear and that tracks the number of steps taken, flights of stairs (or the equivalent when walking/running hills), calories burned, and miles traveled. Combined with the website, the Fitbit apps (or other apps such as MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, Nike+, etc.), you can also track calories consumed, water drunk, and workout activity. I am less interested in the calorie counting aspect as I find nothing more dull than tracking one’s food. Nothing. But the activity tracking has been an eye-opener — I knew that I spent a lot of time being inactive (especially in the summer), but it was shocking to see just how inactive (especially if it really is true that sitting a lot really is super bad for you). So, I’ve turned to technology to help me stop sitting so often (ironic, no?) — first, with the Fitbit, as seeing the numbers and charts is, as I noted, really very sobering. Also, with another app, BreakTime, that I’ve installed on my office computer and laptop. BreakTime can be set to automatically force your computer into an inactive state for a set amount of time at set intervals (currently, I do 5 minutes every 55 minutes). It’s configured so that I can’t stop it and I can’t quit the break early. So, once a hour, I can’t use my computer, which is my signal to get up and go take a quick walk outside or around the building. I am hopeful that I will be able to keep this up once classes start up again in a bit.

The other cool thing about the Fitbit (and the reason I chose it over other gadgets) is that it will also track sleep activity. Here’s mine from last night:

This is the kind of data my geeky heart just loves. And I’m hoping that it will also be useful should my not-so-great semesterly sleeping patterns reemerge with the start of classes.

So far, I’m pleased with the Fitbit and its associated apps — and hopeful that it will help me keep moving more even with the craziness of the semester. What about you? What apps do you use to try to work fitness into your busy day? Tell us in the comments. And here’s hoping that your openings / first day of classes/ beginnings of the semester go well!


Highlight an App: Fitness