fitness · motivation · running · training

Running Reboot #17

Image description: cat sniffing at running shoes against a dark wood floor.

I started running just before Sam and I launched the blog about nine years ago. I figure over that time I’ve had to reboot my running at least once or twice a year (more so lately), so even though 17 is kind of arbitrary, it’s probably about right. This time I called my former running coach, Linda, to see if she’d be willing to train me again.

We made a plan to meet up and go for a walk and chat, but by the time that happened I had already decided I wasn’t ready to commit to working with a coach again. For one thing, I really don’t have goals other than the goal of getting out the door three times a week. It seems kind of extravagant to work with a trainer if that’s my only goal.

But we met a couple of days ago in the park, on a beautiful afternoon, and had a wonderful catch-up. The pandemic has been long and relentless for everyone, and both of us (and we are not alone in this of course) experienced a shrinking of our social world. So it felt good to connect, and to hear about the changes of late as each of us has emerged into something like what life used to be like. Except where running is concerned. I said, “you probably have never had a time where your running fell to the side.” But she has, and like me she’s trying to get a rhythm going again.

Instead of deciding to work with her as a coach, which was more than either of us really felt like doing, we made a mutual decision to sign up for an online training challenge that starts on November 1 and continues to the end of December, and includes training plans and five virtual 5Ks for $49. I’m not naming the program here because, to my dismay, when I visited the website I noticed that one of the slogans is “gain fitness, not pounds.” Ugh ugh ugh. That almost made me bail, but I’m hoping that the training plans will not have weight “issues” woven into their narrative much, if at all. I hope very much that the messaging of that slogan is anomalous. I guess we’ll see.

I’ve already blogged about how virtual races don’t really grab me. But I do like the idea of having someone lay out a series of training plans for me from November 1 to the end of December, and I can let my motivation be what it is (which is to get myself back into a rhythm with my running).

Leading up to the pandemic I was just coming out of a long injury (my achilles) that took me out of my regular training for about a year. Because that injury, I stopped running with my group. Then, by the time I had built back up to some regular training, the combination of the early days of the pandemic (when we didn’t know a whole lot about COVID and I was still nervous about running close to other people) and my regression during my injury kept me running alone. Running alone means you’re not really accountable to anyone — I confess that it has been harder and harder to get myself out the door. By this summer, I was down to a couple of times a week, and lately I’m lucky if I get out for one run a week. That’s almost worse than not going at all because it’s not enough to develop any kind of conditioning.

Hence my desire and need for this reboot. I like that the main distance for this training challenge is 5K because it seems likely that if I can get a running habit going that fixes on 5K, I am more likely to carve out the time to do it. I will check in about it again in about a month, once I’m three weeks into the challenge. And Linda and I are going to check in with each other from time to time too, each of us reporting to the other how it’s going.

If you have any suggestions for how to lift yourself out of a slump and reboot your running routine, please share!

fitness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue Friday Link Round Up #107: Aging and Beauty

Today we bring you a collection of links and quotes on the subject of women, beauty, and aging:

Ursula K. Le Guin on Growing Older and What Beauty Really Means

25 Famous Women on Getting Older

Jamie Lee Curtis, 62, Opens up About Aging: ‘Getting Older Makes You More Alive’

Róisín Ingle: I am 50 and I don’t want to be improved any more

You’re not allowed to just be old and embrace it

Yo, Is This Ageist?

May be an image of 1 person and eyeglasses
Jamie Lee Curtis

More quotes from Jamie Lee Curtis that have been making the rounds on social media:

“I have been an advocate for natural beauty for a long time, mostly because I’ve had the trial and error of the other part.

“I did plastic surgery – it didn’t work. I hated it. It made me feel worse.

“I tried to do everything you can do to your hair. Personally, I felt it was humiliating. I would go into a hair salon, the smell of the chemicals, the feeling of that colour on my hair, sitting under the hairdryer – it was like, for what?

“So very early on in my career, I had a perm and then had to dye my hair for a movie, and it burned my hair off my head! And the first time I cut my hair short I went, ‘Oh! Oh my god. Oh wow! I look like me!’

“Since then I stopped dyeing it, and then I’ve been an advocate for not f**king with your face.”

“The term, anti-ageing… what? What are you talking about? We’re all going to f**king age! We’re all going to die? Why do you want to look 17 when you’re 70? I want to look 70 when I’m 70.

“The current trend of fillers and procedures, and this obsession with filtering, and the things that we do to adjust our appearance on Zoom are wiping out generations of beauty”

On cosmetic surgery: “It’s also very dangerous. It’s like giving a chainsaw to a toddler. We just don’t know the longitudinal effect, mentally, spiritually and physically, on a generation of young people who are in agony because of social media, because of the comparisons to others. All of us who are old enough know that it’s all a lie. It’s a real danger to young people.”

A poem:

I WANT TO LOOK OLDER

I want to look like me,
but I want to look older.

I want to look just like myself,
but with wrinkles.

I want to look the same but wiser,
I want to look the same but softer,
I want to look the same but more peaceful, serene almost, yet with a glitteringly life-filled laugh that could cut through the gloomiest of atmospheres, like a hot knife through butter.

No need to tell me I look young or younger, if you must comment on my ageing journey, tell me I look like myself, but older.

Because not only is this true, it’s the biggest compliment I could receive.

It took me a long time to really become myself,
why would I want to look like someone else now, why would I want to hide how far I have come and how blessed in time I have been?

I want to look like me,
but I really do want to look older.
Not everyone gets to.

By Donna Ashworth
from
UK: To The Women: words to live by

Another quote:

‘Women have another option. They can aspire to be wise, not merely nice; to be competent, not merely helpful; to be strong, not merely graceful; to be ambitious for themselves, not merely for themselves in relation to men and children. They can let themselves age naturally and without embarrassment, actively protesting and disobeying the conventions that stem from this society’s double standard about aging. Instead of being girls, girls as long as possible, who then age humiliatingly into middle-aged women, they can become women much earlier – and remain active adults, enjoying the long, erotic career of which women are capable, far longer. Women should allow their faces to show the lives they have lived. Women should tell the truth.’
Susan Sontag – The Double Standard of Aging (1972)

fitness

Can You Be Too Flexible?

Flexibility is something that most athletes aspire to, but until recently I never thought about there being a problem with it. After all, I spend a fair bit of time stretching and trying to increase my mobility; most of my athletic friends do the same.

My daughter, however, struggles with hyper-mobility. According to the Hypermobility Syndromes Association, hypermobility is most common in childhood and adolescence, in females, and Asian and Afro-Caribbean races. It tends to lessen with age. In many people joint hypermobility is of no medical consequence and commonly does not give rise to symptoms. Hypermobility can even be considered an advantage, for example athletes, gymnasts, dancers and musicians might specifically be selected because of their extra range of movement.

That describes my daughter pretty well. She is Asian and aspired to be a dancer. When she was learning to dance en pointe at 12, she took a good year longer than her classmates to master the skill. That was because she needed time to develop foot muscles strong enough to compensate for her loose ligaments.

Young woman with black hair, wearing a black leotard and white tutu, standing en pointe with one leg above her head

Still, that mobility looked pretty cool on stage. She could move effortlessly into the splits, then side splits, them touch the floor with her head from that position.

Now that she is no longer dancing for hours every day, she struggles with joint pain. Despite being very fit by most standards, she needs to do even more exercise to strengthen her muscles since her ligaments don’t do their job properly. So far, the promise of symptoms lessening with age has not materialized, so she will be getting advice from her physiotherapist on a home gym set-up so that she can do weight training in the basement.

While she does that, I will be reflecting on different bodies and how they work. This blog has often commented on the common stereotypes of fat/unhealthy and thin/fit, and how both can lead to poor health outcomes for people. I knew that there are injury risks with almost every sport, and stretching before and after exercise is one way to minimize those risks. Until my daughter started suffering, I had no idea that it was possible to be in pain because your body is naturally so stretchy.

Lesson learned. I’ll add this to my growing list of gender analysis considerations, my list of ways that something can affect different people in different ways – some good, some neutral, and some bad, depending on the individual and their circumstances. It has been a good reminder on the importance of checking my biases, and not making assumptions about anyone else’s health or fitness.

fitness

I did it! Back at the gym

I said goodbye to gym in March 9, 2020.

In May 2020 Cate asked, When will you feel okay about going back to the gym?

In response to her question then I said,  “I might ask Meg, the personal trainer I work with, to come visit our backyard in the summer and work with the group of us, including my mother. Between now and next winter, I think I’ll buy some more weights. I’m very happy with my indoor cycling set up and Zwift. We’ve got the TRX. If I had more space I might buy a rowing machine. Bottom line: I’ll proceed pretty cautiously. But I am also pretty privileged in terms of space and workout company at home.”

Update: My household did all that, including buying a rowing machine. And I think the bloggers all proceeded pretty cautiously about returning to indoor workout spaces.

I’ve enjoyed working out during the day and I’ve missed that now I’m back at the office. Don’t get me wrong. I’m so happy to be back in the office. But I miss the activity breaks (hi Cheddar!) I get working at home.

I have plans for office yoga, blog post to follow. And I’ve also rejoined the campus gym.

I love the university TRX classes, specially the shorter lunch hour ones.

I announced my decision to go back on the blog last week. See here.

“The university gym has been open for awhile but it’s only now that I’m happy to go back.

What’s changed?

Well, the university has a vaccine mandate and almost all of our students are fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t will be unenroled from their face to face classes in the week ahead.

You might worry, well I worried that they could still come to the gym, but the province has also enacted a separate vaccine mandate for gyms and fitness facilities. You need to prove your vaccination status to enter the gym.

And because the university’s vaccine mandate includes staff it means that everyone there will be vaccinated. Regular gyms have a vaccine mandate for customers, enacted by our provincial government, but staff don’t have to be vaccinated. Adherence to the new rules isn’t 100% in the big wide world either. Tracy’s former yoga studio is proudly breaking the law.

So today, I did it. I went to the gym. It was great.

I went back to my usual lunchtime TRX class. It’s in a new room, a much much larger room. And there were only four of us there. We got to take off our masks when we were at our station. And once we got started things felt okay, better than okay, good, in fact.

Given the large presence of Zwift and indoor bike racing in my life, likely I won’t go back to university spin classes.

But lifting weights? Indoor personal training once it gets too cold to workout outside? Lunch hour TRX?

I’m in and I’m very happy to be back.

fitness

What’s in a workout? Just about anything

What counts as a workout is a topic of never-ending interest to me. Partly, I think it’s because it’s a constantly moving target for everyone. This year, I’ve been including daily meditation in my workout log for the 221 workouts in 2021 FB group. I’ve also stipulated that any cycling counts on its own, as well as any swimming. Other things, like yoga, walking, stretching, strength work (which I’ve done maybe 7 times this year–oops!) get bundled together for the day.

But more interesting to me is WHAT people are doing this year, as opposed to last year, as opposed to 5 years ago, etc. Age, injury, and changes in life circumstances can necessitate changes in the ways we move, when, how often, and for how long. For me, my workouts these days are shorter in duration, effort, and mileage. Kayaking has receded (for the time being). But, swimming’s now on the menu this year, which I’m loving.

I see the same playing out in the social media posts of friends and acquaintances. Home gyms have had their moment in the sun, along with backyard yoga and dance parties, and of course dog walking. Lots and lots of dog walking…

Now, in October 2021, some people are moving back to the gym (Sam posted about it recently), yoga studios, and climbing gyms. For me, I’m not quite ready for that. However, I am scouting around for a saltwater indoor pool in my area for winter swimming.

As of October 19, I’m at 178 of 221 workouts this year. I’m confident I can make 221 well before December 31. In previous years I’ve squeaked in just under the wire, which is fine: I’m pretty much a just-in-time delivery gal. I’ll be looking to see how this year goes. It feels different in a lot of ways (duh). At any rate, I’m kind of curious to see how I work out the rest of my workout year.

What about you, dear readers? How’s your 2021 workout year working out? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, here’s my post from 2019 (five million years ago). Enjoy reading some history…

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

This year I signed up for the Facebook group 218 Workouts in 2018.  Samantha, Cate, and some of their friends are members, and I decided to join in. The premise is simple: you list workouts you do, numbering them, and post them to the group page. Sometimes people add pictures (which I really like), and one person offers fun commentary on her workouts that I enjoy. Here’s one of her latest:

12 km bike 2km treadmill and 7000+ steps all over downtown chasing down fuses to fix the oven cause it’s fall, and all the things can be roasted, don’t cha know!

Yes, I do know.  Hope you find those fuses and get roasting soon!

I’m currently at 171 of 218 workouts for the year. Making the goal will require focus and commitment, but it’s doable.

You may be wondering:  are there any guidelines for what counts as a workout…

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ADHD · fitness

Clear, Specific Instructions For The Win

Sometimes I have trouble following instructions.*

That goes double for exercise instructions.

I feel like I spend way too much time in uncertainty, wondering if I actually grasped the instructions and trying to figure out if I am actually doing the exercise properly. (Yes, this a whole other thing, I’ll get into that in another post.)

My challenges with instructions stem from a variety of things.

Often, I think that I understand what I’m supposed to do but when I actually go to do it it turns out I haven’t made all the connections and I actually have no idea where to start.

Other times, my ADHD brain spins out into so many possible interpretations of the instructions that I’m not sure which one was meant.

A GIF of a small brown dog with floppy ears chasing its tail
How my brain feels when trying to interpret some instructions. Overthinking is one of my superpowers. Image description: a GIF of a small brown dog with floppy ears moving in rapid circles while chasing its tail,

In some cases, my brain understands what to do but I can’t quite translate it into action.

And, of course, sometimes the instructions are not completely clear.

So, I am always intrigued, interested, and grateful to receive instructions that my brain and body instantly understand.

The first time I heard a yoga instructor (in a video) tell me to ‘hinge at the hips’ it was like a light bulb came on in my brain. I had heard all kinds of instructions about what not to do with my lower back and I had battled my way through those the best way I could but I still wasn’t feeling the benefits of the seated forward fold. Being told to hinge at the hips made all the difference.

A GIF of a large grey hinge
Imagining a pivot point at my hips made all the difference. Image description: a GIF of a large grey hinge (or something similar), well, hinging.

When I was struggling with the choreography for a certain kick for my 3rd degree black belt test, I was grateful for all the advice I received about how to improve but it was only when Mr. Dyer told me to ‘throw my right hip toward the wall’ at one point in the kicking process that I could put it all together properly.

Even though it happens fairly regularly, receiving clear, specific instructions like that is a huge relief to me and I thoroughly enjoy the small blast of mastery they bring.

My most recent example of blissfully clear instructions came from this video about neck mobility from Mark Wildman.

At one point, he advises the viewer to point their ear at the ceiling for a given stretch. It was so clear and so useful. And it eliminated the aforementioned perpetual fear that I wasn’t doing a given exercise ‘right.’ (By the way, that fear is about not about perfectionism, it’s about my concern with accidentally wasting time.)

The fact that the stretch felt great and really helped was practically just a bonus at that point. 

I know that I am not alone in enjoying clear instructions, so let’s gather some more examples.

What exercise instructions have you received that have really hit the nail on the head for you?

*Anyone who knows me well it’s probably snickering right now thinking that I just object to being told what to do. That’s not untrue, but this post is about something different.

Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness · interview · Rowing

Blog Interview with Tori Murden McClure (author, athlete, adventurer, and administrator!)

Tori Murden McClure is an amazing woman.

She was the first woman and the first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, which she did in 1999. She was also the first woman and first American to ski to the South Pole and the first woman to climb the Lewis Nunatak in the Antarctic. (See Wikipedia for more.)

McClure is a university president (Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky) and the author of A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean.

Here at the blog, we’re in awe. We read the book. We asked for your questions.

And then I got to interview McClure, courtesy of a blog connection. (Thanks Lauren!)

There’s way too much of me audibly agreeing with McClure in this interview. But it’s the blog’s first video interview. We’ll get better. I promise I’ll never say “right” again.

Enjoy!

challenge · cycling · fitness · Zwift

8 days to finish Zwift Academy 2021! Here’s my plan

I have eight days left to finish Zwift Academy 2021. It’s been both easier and harder than in past years. Past years were a mad dash to the finish. It’s been easier to complete and schedule the workouts but I’ve also been finding the workouts themselves tougher. I feel more than a bit out of bike shape after a summer of more low key outdoor pursuits.

I did the last workout, #6, this afternoon. It was supposed to be the afternoon of the Guelph Fall Colours Ride organized by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transit but that was rained out. Instead I hopped on the trainer and slogged through the last of the formal structured workouts.

Zwift Me. Sam’s Avatar doing the workout on her pink Tron bike

Here is Zwift’s description of the workout: “When you attack in a race or surge over a short hill, an intense burn always follows. This workout ensures you’ll hit these types of efforts stronger, pushing through the burn and helping maintain a high pace without fading after each effort. The anaerobic capacity (AC) effort at the start of this workout helps build up high lactate concentrations, essential for building FTP. The 1min rest that follows is enough to help recover adequately so you can complete the workout strong, but it doesn’t leave so much time that lactate concentrations will decrease. The workout is key when it comes to boosting your FTP and tackling longer segments with a higher level of fitness.”

GCAT Fall Colours Ride postponed to the 23rd due to rain

Here’s my riding plan for the next week:

Monday: Casse Pattes course ride over with TFC Dynamite team mates

Tuesday: Race Casse Pattes with TFC Dynamite in the Zwift Racing League

Wednesday: Zwift Academy Recovery Ride

” A Zwift Academy Recovery Ride is a social ride and an essential part of any training plan. Recovering from hard work allows you to adapt and develop. To do this you need to learn how to go easy and that is exactly how you should pace yourself on this ride. You will need to complete at least two recovery rides in order to graduate from Zwift Academy. These rides will be available exclusively in the event calendar so make sure you plan accordingly for these events. One recovery ride will need to be completed during the 1st block and one will need to be completed during the 2nd block to graduate. Recovery rides for block 2 are available from October 3 – October 25 . If you missed completing a recovery ride, recovery rides will also be available during makeups from October 11 – October 25.  Recovery Rides must be done with the group, and cannot be completed alone.”

Thursday race: Team Time Trial with TFC Phantom

Friday rest day

Saturday: Rescheduled Fall Colours Ride

Sunday: Finish Ride

“A Zwift Academy Finish Line ride is specifically designed to capture your gains over the duration of the Academy. It is set up identically to the Baseline Ride and will measure the exact same segments you started the Academy with. Riders are challenged to get PR’s on the segments and ride easy between the segments. There is no drafting and no leader. “

I’ll report back and let you know if I improved!

fitness · swimming

First fall open water swim: Catherine gets her feet wet

I never realized that starting something new, whether tentatively or full-force, had so many aquatic metaphors or turns of phrase.

  • Getting your feet wet
  • Testing the waters
  • Dipping a toe in the water
  • Taking the plunge
  • Swan-diving in

This makes me very happy, as I get to be both literal and figurative at the same time. Yesterday I did my first solo pond swim during the fall. Ever. That’s right, I’ve never done any New England open water swimming after early-mid September. That’s not particularly shocking, of course: school is starting, temperatures are dropping (although they’ve been up and down and up again the past month), and our attention turns away from crisp blue water and toward crisp red apples. So it has been with me.

Until this year. Yes, I know: cold-water swimming is to pandemic outdoors as bread-baking is to pandemic indoors. But hey, whatever gets you in the water… We’ve blogged A LOT about swimming. If you’ve missed them, start out here, with some videos about wild swimming.

Some of our bloggers are bona fide all-season swimmers. Diane is our resident cold-water expert and the source of much wisdom on the subject, including her post with tips for avoiding a Darwin award while open-water swimming. Worth reading!

Back to me: Saturday was a lovely day, with air temperatures in the low 70sF/22-23C. Walden Pond, my swimming hole of choice, had water temps around 67F/19.5C. For me that’s a little on the brisk side, but easily manageable in just a swimsuit plus cap, goggles and trusty swim buoy.

It was around 4:15pm, and there were lots of open-water swimmers out there. A little more than half were in swimsuits, and the rest in wetsuits. It took me a few minutes to get used to the cold water, and I didn’t hurry (this is one of the tips I read most, even though this water isn’t cold… yet). Honestly, why hurry? I enjoy just hanging out, standing in the water, taking in the scene, getting used to my new aquatic environment.

Finally, I submerge myself up to the neck, squealing a little (I tried not to be too loud), and swimming to get warm. I swam along the shore for a bit, just checking things out. Once I felt comfortable and adjusted, I headed out to deeper water, enjoying the blue sky above me, the gently lapping waves (there was a bit of a breeze that day), and the distant sounds of people having a wonderful time on a Saturday afternoon.

This was my first wet run of the fall, and I discovered a few things:

  • Don’t forget ear plugs next time (to avoid swimmer’s ear and also for when the water gets colder);
  • Don’t try to adjust your goggles while in deep water; it can be done, but maybe on shore is better;
  • If you swim with the wind, your swim buoy will snuggle up to you and even try to pass you in the water
  • As a solo swimmer, I will need to come up with a plan to keep myself occupied; coming up with time goals or route plans seems like a good idea
  • I REALLY LIKE SWIMMING! I WANT TO KEEP SWIMMING THROUGH THE FALL!

I did manage to find a shortie wetsuit that fits (che miracolo!), which I will use at some point, along with neoprene booties. Maybe neoprene gloves will be purchased at some point, too. And I have my eye on this swim cap.

We shall see how things go, but I’m excited. I’ve broken the ice (even though it’s not that cold yet and I doubt I’ll be that hardcore, but you never know) and am going to try to swim every week for… a while…

Readers, how are your fall sports or activities transitions going? Have you said goodbye to some things, or are you shifting to fall-weather gear/clothing/etc.? I’d love to hear from you.

commute · cycling

From contemplation to action: Bettina’s e-bike is here!

In my last post, I shared that I was contemplating the purchase of an e-bike for my commute with tiny human in the bike trailer. Well, that escalated quickly – I ordered one the next day! I spent a weekend thinking about it and researching, and then a great offer came along that I couldn’t refuse. And now it’s here: my Bergamont E-Grandurance RD Expert (mine is the 2020 model and this link is the 2022 one, but you get the gist). And here’s a picture:

Bettina’s new e-bike leaning attractively against an industrial staircase, black and new and shiny in the sun.

It’s basically a gravel bike with a motor, which I really like. What I like even more is that it comes with all the trappings to make it road safe and comfortable (rack, fenders, lights etc.). It’s marketed as a commuter bike, which is exactly what I need, and it’s sporty, which is exactly what I want.

So far, I’ve tried it on an even surface and using the motor (which has three levels of support) is like someone pushing you along. Zooooom, swoooosh!

The reason I haven’t used it for its actual purpose yet is that we’re currently lacking the correct through-axle adapter to attach the bike trailer. It took me longer to research the bloody adapter than it took me to find a bike I liked, and in the end it turns out I have to have it shipped to Europe from the US *facepalm*. Apparently, through-axles are a lot less standardised than would be good for them. I mean, we have two adapters already in the house and neither one fits, and the trailer’s manufacturer doesn’t have one that fits my through-axle. It took us several e-mail exchanges with their customer support to work that out. In the end, the good folks at the Robert Axle Project came through for me and set me up with the right thing (if you ever need a through-axle adapter, these are your people – stellar customer service and they really do seem to have everything!). Let’s hope it doesn’t get held up in some global supply chain debacle.

So far, even though it’s mostly been sitting in our basement, I’m thrilled with my new toy. Will report back on how it goes with the trailer-pulling and commuting!