Skiing, working out and jogging!

Getting Stronger!

Lots of change…mostly for the better — and a reminder that I can’t go it alone.

Terri E. Givens -
3 min readApr 14, 2024


Five months ago I started with weight training, and this week marks five months of working out with my personal trainer for 3 days a week — except for that week over the holidays when we had COVID. I have always exercised, but I knew after my experience with my back issues last Fall, I had to seriously ramp it up.

I have always been athletic, but over the last year I had neglected the kind of workouts that would support my degenerating back. This is the way my life is going to be, so these workouts aren’t a temporary fix. There are days when I wish I could just stop and rely on walking to work and the occasional bike ride, but that’s not cutting it anymore.

This has been a team effort — I need help to keep all of the parts of my life going, both mentally and physically. My team has hard at work to make sure I can not only manage my back pain, but get back to doing the things I enjoy. The steroid shots I got back in November helped reduce my pain levels so that I was functional. My physiotherapist, Noémie, has been targeting weak areas and recommending additions and changes to my workouts to address problem areas. My personal trainer, Ken, has kept me going with my weight workouts. I’m usually pretty disciplined, but knowing that Ken is there waiting for me to get to the gym, or join him on Zoom, ensures that I keep up with the workouts. My chiropractor helps to keep me in alignment, and my psychologist has helped me develop strategies for managing my busy life and the stress it causes.

I’m very grateful to my team for getting me to where I am today. Looking back at September and October I was in a fog, trying to manage relatively high pain levels, and relying on muscle relaxers when the pain was too much. Now I’m back to enjoying activities like skiing, jogging, and although the pain is still there at times, I’m much more functional. My spine will always be a mess, and I’m hoping that all the work I’m doing will help me to age with grace. I will be 60 years old in October and I hope by then that I will be able to celebrate a year of taking better care of myself.

“We cannote walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the lessons I’ll be carrying forward from this experience is the important of having support. The work I do in academe and the community is important, but I can’t do it alone. As I move forward with my career, I’ll be moving out of administration, refocusing on my research and teaching. I know that I will need a group of suppportive colleagues who can help to define and support my vision.

In many instances we have developed critical mass so that we can rely on colleagues who understand the importance of examining the questions that our disciplines have ignored or simply can’t see. It will require teamwork and a sometimes a willingness to put our egos to the side so that we can work together, collaboratively.

It hasn’t always been easy for me to ask for help, but this Fall was a dire situation where I knew I couldn’t overcome the pain I was in without help. The same is true of the moment we are in. We need to find ways to work together where we can, to provide the support that those who would undermine our work are doing their best to take away. We can’t rely on those who can’t see how they have been enmeshed in systems of dominance to provide what we need to succeed. We need to be able to provide it to each other.



Terri E. Givens -

Professor of Political Science, McGill University. Higher Ed Leadership, Immigration & European politics. Author of Radical Empathy & The Roots of Racism