What Is Your Fitness Age?

Banner from the World Fitness Level website, where you can find the online fitness age calculator. https://www.worldfitnesslevel.org/#/start

Banner from the World Fitness Level website, where you can find the online fitness age calculator. https://www.worldfitnesslevel.org/#/start

I love this idea of our age versus our “fitness age.” In this fascinating article, CBC news reports that older athletes age in fitness terms is “astounding.” The news is this:

Super-fit participants in the National Senior Games show a fitness age up to 25 years younger than their chronological age thanks to their cardiovascular health, says a U.S. doctor who took to Facebook with the findings to inspire people of all abilities.

Imagine being 25 years younger than your chronological age in fitness terms. It’s kind of amazing and something to aspire to.

You can use this on-line calculator to calculate your fitness age. The results might surprise you. The average age of participants in the Senior Games is 68. But the average fitness age of the participants is 43.

Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland who started running at age 40, is a triathlete involved in the Games, which start Friday in Minnesota.

Fellow researcher Ulrik Wisloff at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim designed the calculator and has published research based on findings in Norwegians. When Peeke learned of the calculator, she jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with Wisloff on another group: competitors at the National Senior Games.

What does the on-line calculator do?

The online calculator asks people to provide information such as their age, city, ethnicity, how often they work out and how hard, as well as resting and maximum heart rates to estimate cardiovascular fitness level or “fitness age.”

The good news is that embarking on a fitness program can, in a very real sense, make us younger. It’s hard not to be intrigued by the calculator. I plugged in my info: all sorts of data from my age, sex, and highest level of education to my maximum and resting heart rates.

According to the fitness calculator, depending on how much I exert myself, my fitness comes in at the fitness of an average “under 20 year old” or an average 29 year old. I actually don’t think they have nuanced enough choices for exertion, because “little hard breathing or sweating” doesn’t get it right (I work harder than that), but the next hardest option is “I go all out,” which I do, but not all the time. They need a category that accounts for intervals or something.

That said, it’s encouraging to know that my fitness age is somewhere in the twenty-something range. That makes me feel kind of awesome.

What’s your fitness age? If it’s not where you want it to be, I hope you feel encouraged that this is one area where it’s possible to get younger.

Looking ahead: The quiet season and the joys of fall riding

A beautiful short film about one woman, her bike, and the joys of riding in the quiet season.

I know it’s summer. But I’m an academic and at this time of the year my thoughts turn to autumn and the start of new classes. I’m writing course outlines,  thinking about the merits of final exams versus final projects, and logging into our university’s admissions centre to see how enrolments for my classes are going. Next year I’m teaching Sports Ethics, Ethics for an Online World, Introduction to Ethics, and an upper year seminar in political philosophy on  equality and why it matters.

I’m also thinking about riding. As the days get hot, I find myself thinking fondly of riding in 15 degrees Celsius. I love the beautiful fall colours and the joy of all that fitness accumulated over the summer with none of the heat and humidity.  If you have wondered about riding a bike, don’t wait until spring. Fall is a much better time to start! See Reasons to start riding in the fall.

See you out there!

(Note to blog regular readers: I’m actually away on the Friends for Life Bike Rally. You can about that here!)

 

Friends For Life Bike Rally Day 2: in which Samantha pulls me to Adolphustown

This is the longest day of our Toronto to Montreal journey. It’s 130kms of lovely lakeside biking but still, that’s a lot of biking. 

Truth: I have been road biking for less than a year and before that, I was only the most casual cyclist. So, I have been pretty darn impressed with myself that I’m hovering in the 23.5 km/h average range. 

Sam has been gracious enough to ride with me this year and I have spent that time chatting, panting, swearing under my breath and occasionally thinking of good questions to ask about cycling. 

All these things combined together on day 2. First of all, speed is about time on the bike. I can do squats and deadlifts and run and TRX but nothing is gonna get me faster on the bike than trying to go faster. So, I will keep trying. Faster is most definitely more fun. 

Next, don’t brake. I don’t mean never, but try not to. She suggested all sorts of ways to slow down that don’t involve braking (no, dragging your feet on the ground isn’t one of them. It wears out your shoes, just like mom said, amongst other problems). What clicked for me was conservation of energy. If I don’t brake, I pedal less or less hard. If I pedal less hard, I use less energy and I have more for hill climbs and sprints and such. 

Next, I have a weak right butt cheek. TMI? Maybe, but it led to the next important lesson. I started to get spasms in my right butt cheek around 35 km. It’s easy to fix. I have to stop and stand up. Nothing else works. No other position, or standing up while riding or anything. I have to get off. That isn’t a problem if I can wait for official breaks but when the interval shortened to 25 km, then 15 km, then 8, well, that’s a pain in the butt, if you get my drift. It was a long day and going slower wasn’t the solution. The solution was to go as fast as possible and get it the heck over with. Which leads me too…

“Susan Finally Learns to Draft”. Oh yes, I learned and I learned good. My whole world was Sam’s wheel and her butt. I stuck to her like glue and we went FAST! It was glorious, especially when my rear wasn’t at a critical point. I got over my anxiety of being close, didn’t brake hardly at all and she dragged my sorry self all the way. 

At 100 km I thought about stopping and taking a support vehicle. And then I wanted to cry. I have worked so hard to get ready for this ride and, barring something truly horrible, I want to finish. I NEED to finish. All my pride and competitiveness and blah blah says “ignore your rear and get in gear”. So I did and in just over 5 hours of riding time, we made it. 

I could NOT have done that without your quiet and persistent and patient support, Sam, so thank you. 

By the way, if anyone is impressed, show us how impressed you really are and sponsor us here. That’s me. Sam is here

  

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The Runkeeper’s sub-60 minute 10K plan: app-solutely!

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 4.52.30 PMI’m about 6 minutes away from getting my 10K down to 60 minutes. For those of you who do 10K in 40-50 minutes, a sub-60 10K may seem like a breeze. But for me, from where I’m at now, it feels almost impossible. It means I need to sustain an average pace of 6 minutes per kilometre for 10 whole kilometers. And to me, that’s fast.

But I’ve got a trusty app that promises to help me, and I’m trying to stay positive about the whole thing because so many people say it’s within my reach. Runkeeper is a run-tracking app that, like most other run tracking apps and among other features, has built-in plans. I’m doing the free sub-60 10K plan. As regular readers may know, I’m keeping it low-key this summer. So the idea of an app that tells me when and how far to run, plays some music while I do, talks to me along the way, and reminds me the day before of what’s coming up appealed to me.

Each week of the plan includes four runs. So far, it’s been easy because each of the runs has been assigned as “slow” and they’ve all been relatively short, with the longest being yesterday’s 6.4K (I think they just converted things from miles, which is why all of the runs are strange distances like 3.2K, which is 2 miles, 4.8K, which is 3 miles, and 6.4K, which is 5 miles). The good news: after one week, I’m on track. I did what the app told me to do.

Four workouts down, 57 to go! Yep. There are 61 workouts in total, over 16 weeks. Officially that will take me to November 7. My goal race is the MEC 10K the week before, on Halloween.

Speed work starts tomorrow: after a 4.8K slow run, I’m doing 2x 20 second intervals FAST with 2:00 in between. And then I’m done. I like the psychology of the approach: small, manageable increases in distance and effort. That’s my favourite game (see my post about doing less).

The main challenge for me, besides the sheer fact of trying to get faster, is to run continuously without walk breaks. I’ve been using the Running Room model of 10-1 intervals, and though I like it and I know that it has a lot to recommend it, I am experimenting with losing the walk breaks during this training.

You can pay for a super duper version of Runkeeper, either by the month or the year, that has all sorts of bells and whistles: more stats, more training plans, a “DJ” for your music, more analytics, workout comparisons and so forth. But I’m happy with the basic, which logs and tracks my workouts. Since I’m aspiring only for the sub-60 10K, the plan they’re offering is just fine with me. If I want more data and comparison, I can always get that from my Garmin on Garmin connect.

I’m interested to hear from others who have used apps or training plans on their own to achieve goals. If you’ve got some experience doing that, please share about it in the comments. Meanwhile, with 13 weeks to go I can’t say yet how successful I’m going to be with the app.  As with anything, the first hurdle is always sticking to it. I’ll report back next month about how it’s going. For now, I’m feeling good about it.  Wish me luck!

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #36

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

By the way, Facebook recently clarified its stance on nudity, writing, “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures.” For the full story see here.

Why does a fitness blog even care about body image? You can read about that here.

#ProjectWomanKIND Is Challenging Society’s Beauty Standards As Top Plus Size Models Give Interviews On Their Insecurities

What kind of woman are you? #ProjectWomanKIND is a web series seeking to answer that question through a series of interviews with a diverse group of plus size models, to explore what kind of women we are outside of the strict standards society and the media have set for us. The project says it is “all about exposing the honest, real, and raw conversations that women have with themselves and their girlfriends about their bodies every single day.”

UNPOPULAR OPINION: I Can Either Be Thin or Fun, But Not Both at the Same Time

A week ago, out grocery shopping, I bumped into Kathy, a woman I’d meet at an old slimming group seven years ago. Kathy had known me at my heaviest of 250 pounds. I was 26, I waddled and I would lie in bed at night and imagine slicing off my fat with a carving knife.

“You must feel amazing!” Kathy said, looking at me as if I’d just stepped out of a fairy-tale, to which I smiled, and told her all the things that she expected to hear and that I’d expected to feel. It hurt to lie, but the dairy aisle wasn’t the place for a heart-to-heart, and so I left Kathy with a sense of fresh hope, and she left me an e-mail address to send on my diet plan.

 If I’d told Kathy the truth, I’d probably have lead with the words “frustrated,” “terrorised,” “hungry” and “bored,” because although there are many things I love about being slim such as respect, skinny jeans and consideration from the opposite sex, if I get fat again, they’ll disappear, and that makes me want a cream horn more than ever!

25 Women Bare Their Gloriously Unretouched Thighs — And Describe Them In One Word

 

When you think of your thighs, what descriptors comes to mind? Are they “thick”? “Honest”? “Magical”?

One word many women associate with their thighs is “complicated.” It can be hard to be 100 percent into your thighs when the only ones we seem to see are attached to airbrushed models in magazines and advertisements. Quite often, those “perfect” thighs don’t even exist without the help of crafty retouchers. (Spoiler alert: 90 percent of women have cellulite.) But knowing that intellectually doesn’t always assuage the visceral shame women can feel when they feel like they don’t measure up to an ideal.

As an antidote, HuffPost Women photographed 25 pairs of thighs belonging to a diverse group of inspiring women between the ages of 20 and 70. We asked each woman to pick a word to describe her thighs, and talk a little bit about her relationship with the body part that can make her feel “strong,” “feminine,” “resilient” and at times “dimply.” The resulting photos are stunning — and entirely unretouched.

 

Photographer Challenges ‘American Beauty’ Standards With 14 Women Of All Shapes

San Francisco-based photographer Carey Fruth has set out to redefine what ‘American beauty’ is with a photo series of the same name that has women of all body types posing in romantic beds of flower petals. Fruth was inspired by a racy scene from the 1999 movie of the same name in which Kevin Spacey fantasized about one of his daughter’s friends.

“By stepping into a fantasy dream girl world and by letting go of that fear, they free themselves up to direct that energy they once wasted on telling themselves that they weren’t good enough to elsewhere in their life,” Fruth told Huffpost.

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Vagina contouring is a makeover for your southern hemisphere

You have probably heard of contouring, or visual reshaping, in regards to bronzer and Kardashian-inspired YouTube tutorials. Let’s travel a little down south.

Vontouring (no, that’s not a typo) is the nickname for Protégé Intima, or the non-invasive, non-surgical remodeling of the inside of the vagina using radio frequencies. And we should mention, it’s not makeup either. The treatment is the latest and purportedly safe way to visually enhance one’s lady lips.

These 10 Gorgeous Photos Feature Models Of All Sizes (NSFW)

Victoria Janashvili is a real-life body-positivity superhero: Her day job consists of photographing what she calls “Victoria’s Secret-type women” for men’s magazines, whereas she says her side/dream job is photographing “all sizes of women,” sans retouching. Her work in its entirety is a celebration of every single body. Today, the 26-year-old’s debut book, Curves, is released — a true realization of that not-so-side-anymore dream job.

The Real Problem with Inclusive Beauty Movements

Body-positive and inclusive beauty movements promote the idea that everyone is attractive…but is that actually the case? And are their beauty-centric messages leading to any real societal progress?

Scroll through Pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr long enough and you’re bound to find inspirational quotes—written out in pretty calligraphy and oh-so-shareable—on the subject of beauty. These mantras include sayings like, “imperfection is beautiful,” “beauty is how you feel inside,” and “everyone is beautiful in their own way.”

Some well-known brands have also joined the inclusive beauty movement. The Dove for Real Beauty Campaign, for example, sends a similar message, claiming it promotes a new definition of beauty that “will free women from self-doubt and encourage them to embrace their real beauty.”

How Long Do We Have to Hate Our Bodies?
I’ve talked to quite a few women in their seventh and even eight decade that have never learned to make peace with their hips or their thighs or their bellies–hips that have shaken to music of many eras, bellies that have borne babies and thighs that have propelled them inevitably forward to a ripe old age.  And I see the part of them that has been carefully educated to be smaller, to be less than, to show no excess warring with the part of them that wants to stop worrying about it all and just eat the damn cookie.  And it makes me sad.

I say carefully educated, because this body hatred–this need to make ourselves smaller and less than–is something we learn.  In her brilliant piece, Egan states:

…unlike the foolish or best-intentioned mishaps, the terrible accidents, the slip-ups that irrevocably change a life, this regret is not a tragic mistake. It’s intentional. It’s something other people teach them to feel about their bodies; it’s something other people want them to believe.

 

Fat lass at the front?

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile you know all about my ambivalence about the word “fat.”

Big, large, strong, powerful…I like all those words. I wish we had better words for big women. Like “brawny.” I like that word. But it feels masculine, seems gendered. (What do you think?)

Nevermind, I know by our society’s definition I am fat. And I know lots of people see me that way. I am a member of the “Fit Fatties” group on Facebook. So why not embrace it? Reclaim it? Have fun with it? Lots of women do.

This bike clothing company is.

Women's Purple Cycling Jersey

THE SIMPLEST IDEAS ARE THE BEST:

It occured to us that if we couldn’t find top quality cycling gear, in proper manly man sizes, then probably, no one else could, so we took a bit of a punt and set up a sportswear brand which didn’t just do ‘usual sizes’ but it also did bigger sizes.

WHAT’S IN A NAME:

By happy coincidence Fat Lad At The Back had been the nickname of founding Fat Lad and our Lad In Charge, Richard for around 20 years – He had other nick-names but none of those are publishable and anyway, in Yorkshire, Fat Lad At The Back is a term of endearment and we think a pretty cool name for a sportswear brand.

BIGGER AND BETTER:

We didn’t just want to size up our gear, we wanted to redesign traditional garments so that they would properly fit and flatter the new ‘average’ size of cyclist. It took months to track down a manufacturer prepared to make the larger sizes and pattern changes we required and we finally found a superb family run company in Italy who had been making sportswear for 35 years and who understood that we wanted cyclewear which didn’t make the wearer look like a shrink wrapped chicken. 

MR AVERAGE:

The Fat Lad brand was created for Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists who needed something to wear too, so we introduced larger sizes. More and more Lads said to us, “as soon as I read it, I knew you were talking to me!” and a community started growing. The lads started sending us photos of themselves wearing their FLAB jersey’s and having fun on their bikes and posting funny and supportive comments on social media.

SPARE TYRE:

Then we met Geoff, at 23 stone he had already shed 15 stone, but our largest jersey didn’t go anywhere near him. Geoff’s story touched and inspired us, so we designed the Spare Tyre range, a collection specifically tailored for Geoff shape and all the other lads like him. 

HERE COME THE LASSES:

In no time, the lasses were saying “what about us?” so we began work on our women’s range. It has to be said it was a touchy subject with the lasses – some loved Fat    Lass, some hated it, but on the basis that we were sure you didn’t have to be a virgin to travel Virgin, we persevered and designed a lasses range which took into consideration women’s curves and women’s comfort.

NEW STUFF:

We have extended the range to include triathlon wear and running wear and will continue to bring new colours, designs and garments into the collections.

THE BULGE:

Core to our success have been our customers. They help us develop our product range, they fill our social media with comments and hilarious one-liners and great photos, they take part in our photoshoots, they come and chat to us at events and they generally keep us on the right path.    

FLAB continues to grow (no pun intended) and in a short space of time it has become a people brands. Key to that is encouraging everyone to have fun and enjoy their sport. We don’t differentiate between lads and lasses, skinny and fat, beginners and pro’s. The only thing that matters is we’re all part of the bulge.

OUR VALUES:

Sticking with the simple theme, our values are pretty simple. We’re serious about our sportswear but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We make top quality sportswear that does what it says on the jersey.

We are the Fat Lads and Lasses at the back, Join us and be proud.

What do I think of this company’s playful bike jerseys? I like their expansive size range but I’m not sure I’d ever wear a jersey that refereed to me as a “fat lass.”

I think it’s easier for men to get away with this kind of self-deprecating humour. Why “self-deprecating”? Why not just factual? “Fat” need not be an insult. And that’s true. Except here it’s the “at the back” part that self-deprecating. Men get to make jokes about their size in ways that women don’t. I considered briefly getting my partner a bike jersey that says on the back “Big Men Break Wheels” after he’d had a run in with a series of broken spokes. There were no equivalent jerseys for women.

I did buy a Fat Cyclist jersey when he was selling them to raise money for cancer research after his wife’s cancer diagnosis a few year’s ago. Team Fatty joined the Livestrong Challenge and raised more than a half million dollars.

Here’s his blog post from August, 2009:

Susan died tonight (August 5) at 7:25pm. It was a hard, long day, and Susan fought right to the end, for much longer than anyone would have thought she could.

My mom, my sisters Kellene and Jodi, and my Brother-in-Law Rocky were all here to support my family as Susan passed away.

I’ll have more to say soon, but consider this. Susan inspired me to expand the focus of my blog from nothing but bike-related jokes to a serious and pitched fight against cancer.

Then she inspired 500+ of you to join Team Fatty, the largest LiveStrong Challenge Team there has ever been.

And Team Fatty has raised close to more than $500,000 — a record amount.

Susan’s part in the battle is over, but she didn’t lose. She led the charge. She showed the rest of us how to fight: with determination, focus, creativity, and outrageous endurance.

Now it’s up to the rest of us to Fight Like Susan.

Of course, the Fat Cyclist isn’t really fat. He’s just a regular sized guy who drops weight each spring to race. You can read his bio and weight loss story here. He’s now remarried and races triathlons with his new wife. I love his blog. Read it here.

I’m digressing a lot.

Back to the point of the post: I bought a Fat Cyclist jersey, like this one:

 

It’s pretty. It’s black and pink, two of my favourite colours. Sadly, I can’t wear it. Each time I do, people feel the need to tell me that either: A: You’re not fat really. You’re just chubby; B. You’re fat now but keep it up. Keep riding and you’ll lose weight; or C. Don’t call yourself that. Focus on the positive.

Women have a harder time than men claiming the label “fat” without the sympathy. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Often I’m not the “fat lass at the back.” Depending on who I’m riding with (and whether hills are involved)  I may well be the “fat lass at the front.”

 

 

Fit is a Feminist Issue: the Sunday Boo-Boo edition

Some of you who read this blog often may know that I write a regular Sunday column, called Weekends with Womack. But this week, my column appeared on Saturday instead.

Oops!

oops

I hit the wrong button (publish instead of preview), and sent it out on its way to the cyber-feminist-fitness community. And I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.

runaway

So in honor of my mistake, here are some pics of bike-related boo-boos. To err is human, but please don’t ride with these.

A (somewhat) common mistake is a bike constructed with the front fork facing backwards. Here’s what it SHOULD look like:

mtb

In this picture, however, the front fork was installed backwards. This is not good.

fork-backwards

By the way, most of the pictures come from this website; many of them are only funny to serious bike geeks, but check it out and see what you think.

This bike is fine, except that the handlebars were installed upside down. This means you can’t really use the brakes. Uh, oh.

handlebars

Someone brought this bike into a bike shop, complaining about how the brakes didn’t work. The mechanic had to explain gently that wedged between the brake levers was a suboptimal storage place for the giant kryptonite lock.

lock

Sometimes people accidentally put their helmets on backwards; I’ve seen this in nature, and it’s well documented online. There’s this guy:

guy

This picture below is actually from a website that is supposed to explain proper helmet use. Unfortunately, what the site says is that her helmet is improperly adjusted.   If by that they mean “the parents totally put the kid’s helmet on backwards”, then I guess that’s right.

kid

In case you were wondering, here’s a diagram illustrating both correct and incorrect helmet configurations.

diagram

Yes—in the real world, errors abound. But it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with them, too.

wheelie

See y’all next week!