Family Yoga (Guest Post)

IMG_0787I’ve posted on this blog about discovering cycling after 60, taking up CrossFit, and the pleasure of knowing that I can still run – an activity that was my main exercise in my 50s. As you can probably tell I like to experiment with different types of movement.

Although I have done yoga from time to time throughout my life, it has always been for very brief periods and as something thrown in among other activities when it was convenient, which was hardly ever. In short, I have not been a practitioner of yoga. Still when my daughter, Sascha, finished her yoga teacher training and started teaching classes I wanted to support her and so I have added yoga into my weekly activities – just one class a week at first but now I’m planning to add more.

Why? Well, for one thing there are obvious physical benefits. The first couple of classes that I took were classes that she was teaching in the park in the early evening. I had done a vicious CrossFit workout in the morning of the first class and was dreading the soreness that usually follows such sessions. Although I was tired by late afternoon I managed to drag myself to the park for class motivated primarily by maternal affection. The hour provided a number of challenges – balances and stretches that felt fairly intense and not always comfortable – but at the end of class I felt fantastic, relaxed, and energized. I had forgotten that’s what yoga will do for you. But most surprising was that the next day I had almost no muscle soreness from the CrossFit. That was pretty amazing and it was the main reason I went back the following week.

Bird Park 4Another benefit was the class location. San Diego is a beautiful city and little Bird Park — a corner of Balboa Park — provides glimpses of downtown from an island of serenity. It is a lovely spot to be at the end of the day.

But the real treat for me has been the experience of learning from my daughter. This has been one of the unexpected pleasures of parenthood. We play the role of guide and teacher to our children for so long, it is truly lovely to reverse roles and surrender to being the student. I did not anticipate this part of my relationship with my children – perhaps because it is so hard to project beyond those busy days when they are babies, toddlers, and teenagers to a time when they will be adult selves with so much to offer. This new phase of our relationship feels like a gift.

She is a good teacher and I am getting better. And when you can see you are getting better at something it is encouraging and you want to do more. I anticipate that yoga will now be a regular part of fitness regimen. I doubt that I will be doing this anytime soon, but that’s all right. I am just happy to be able to continue to learn in so many different ways.

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Namaste!

Sharon Crasnow is a retired philosophy professor who writes on feminist philosophy of science and lives in San Diego.

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You can follow Sascha on Instagram at @phdyogi Her webpage is https://www.phdyogi.com/

Falling apart… (Guest post)

This summer is turning out to be a bummer for exercise. On July 9, I fell on my left knee at the end of a 7km run. I was about to cross an intersection and rather than watch where I was stepping, I was looking at incoming traffic to see if it was safe to cross. I stumbled on an uneven sidewalk surface and off I went flying. This was a running group outing and I had taken a different last stretch than the group.

My return to the pub where we start and finish was bloody and painful (I stupidly ran the last stretch, an extra 500m). I made quite the impression with the dirty bloody knees. My right knee was a little scratched too but nothing really bad, it was my left knee that took the big hit. Since I bike to run club, I also had to bike back with my busted knee. It was an experience. But eh! I am a trooper! I can do this, no? Who cares about pain? That was stupid.

I went back to running rather quickly, namely after only 6 days. I did that despite the discomfort because I like running and because I need to exercise. Whenever I don’t, even if it is to nurse an injury, I feel lazy. I also miss the movement. I am not good with sitting on my bum all day. I went running a few times and complained about how my knee was still uncomfortable. That was stupid.

Now, on August 1, I went out for dinner and was cycling back home. The main street I usually take home was under construction and I took a side street to be safer. That did not go too well. A train track crosses that street at a weird angle. My front wheel got stuck between the track and the asphalt, bringing me down and falling on my right knee this time. I guess I like to live a balanced life and since I had busted my left knee, I needed to bust the right one. A little girl who was playing nearby came over and asked if I was ok and said with a sorry voice that it happened to her “a few times.” So cute.

Now this injury put a clear stop to the running and I have not gone out since then. I have only cycled a little bit and went for a walk or two. I did get the whole thing x-ray’d as well as my left thumb which has been severely sprained but, thankfully, not broken. My wrists are also ok. This is from the jerk to my handle bar when the front wheel got stuck.

Now I have said above that some of my actions were stupid. I certainly did not take enough time to heal my left knee and thanks to my second fall, it will now heal properly or one can hope. I had an ultra sound done to check if I had a clot or something because my lower left leg has felt funny (swollen sometimes, tingly, painful, constricted) since just before taking my second fall. Good news: no clot in sight. But perhaps something else is pinched and causing this.

The most annoying of all this is that it restricts my movements. I am left with some weightlifting and no impact exercising. The weightlifting is a challenge with my sprained thumb but I am told the best physio for it is to keep using it. Ok. I am not sure how long it will take me to be able to go back to running. I really do like running and I really miss it. I find it meditative in a way that cycling or other exercise is not. But I will have to be patient (not my forte) if I want to be able to go back to it and if I want to not fall apart for real.

Wish me luck with this but mostly, wish me patience. Lots of it!

Cleaned but ruised knee after bike fall

Making fitness spaces functional and friendly

By MarthaFitAt55

I started swimming again last week. The new recreation centre finally opened in my neighbourhood and after three swims, I’m hooked.

I like swimming and was lucky to have a mom who believed we should all know how to swim, given we live on an island and have inland areas dotted extensively with ponds and lakes.

So I can swim and like it, but I didn’t always get to a pool because it was not a simple thing for me to manage.

Most of the time it was because the change rooms were poorly designed. There was no space to hang your towels while you showered so everything got wet. Or the lockers were too far away and you dripped water coming and going post swim.

Or the spaces were too small and there was too many people to manage the washing, dressing, drying etc. Or the spaces catered too much to people who fit more culturally accepted norms for body types and sizes.

The new pool is a dream come true. Surrounded by windows, the pool centre is bright and airy and features a splash pad, a physio area, and a hot tub and water walking combo.

But what really makes this place special for me is that it’s obvious people put thought into the planning the change areas and the details to make the space functional.

Each area has a dedicated change cubicle and a shower cubicle that is wheel chair accessible. Regardless of the label, the showers in all the cubicles work on a push button mechanism. No twisting and no turning. The soap dispensers have a lever you push. The temperature is also set so you neither freeze nor boil.

As you approach the pool area, the pre-swim showers also operate with a simple push button. You can either use a set of wide steps or a ramp to get in the pool. If you use a wheelchair, there’s also a lift.

So it’s obvious that universal design principles have been built in. But there are other things here that make the space accessible in ways other places do not.

The pool centre has made the women’s change area three times larger than the men’s. There are gender neutral bathrooms on the outside of the gender defined change areas.

Unlike other pool centres I have been to, everyone has space they can use as they need. The private cubicles can hold at least two people so if you had a child, you could manage to corral child(ren), wash and dress all in a contained area.

In fact, the only open areas are for hair drying/combing.. Whatever your reason, if you needed a private space to change, wash, and get dressed, you have one. Some people, regardless of gender, are comfortable in open change spaces. Others are not. The new pool centre meets those needs and then some.

What I can tell you is that I have seen more senior women and more women with diverse body shapes/ sizes, etc in the pool than anywhere else I have been. By building in functionality, privacy and comfort, more doors are open for accessibility and for inclusion.

I’m interested in hearing if these sorts of things matter for you and what does it look like. And not just pools. I know gyms are also looking at how they can be inclusive and respectful of all kinds of needs. My training space for example has wide doors, a street level entrance and extra large bathrooms that can hold a wheel chair or a walker. Please share in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

— Martha is delighted to be back in the water and her hips and knees love it too.

100 days of counting steps is like a marathon, only longer

Three outside stairs (in Chicago) with a right foot in a robin blue running shoe and the bottom of a brown leg (Tracy's) on the lower step.

Three outside stairs (in Chicago) with a right foot in a robin blue running shoe and the bottom of a brown leg (Tracy’s) on the lower step.

Sam and I are both doing the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge, which is 100 days of counting steps as a member of a seven-person team. We’re not on the same team. She’s on Nasty Women and Bad Hombres (a team specially crafted to win and which is currently 304th globally and 1st at our university), I’m on Oh, the Humanities! (a team not specially crafted to win that currently stands at 9040th place globally and 21st at our university).

I’m doing it despite that last year I said I would never do it again. I got drawn in by FOMO.

We’ve got 15 days to go and, like last year, I’m ready for this to be over. Today it occurred to me that this 100 day challenge is feeling like a long, long event that loses it’s shine after a bit.  I’ve run a marathon and done other distances of running events and triathlons in the past, and they all have a similar psychological pattern to them (for me, anyway).

At the start, I feel super enthusiastic and energized. I want to be there. I like being there. It’s fun to be doing what I’m doing. I’m up for the challenge. This is the part of the race where you feel like you can do anything. That’s how I felt about the step challenge for about 6 weeks.

I was in a routine and it felt good. There were some tougher days when I didn’t do my regular walking commute and had to make a plan if I was going to get those steps. I traveled a bit, and that threw off the routine but I managed. But for about the first half, it felt pretty good.

In the middle part of a race it’s easy to lose your focus. The mind starts to wander. All the scenery looks the same. I sometimes experience boredom or a sense of doubt about why I’m even doing this. But despite all of this, I’ve still got the energy to stick to the plan.

That’s how it felt for the past month. I’ve got other things on my mind and some days I just don’t care that much about steps. I get the idea — I know that mostly it’s no problem for me to get between 15000-20000 steps in a day. But other days, like if I work at home or drive to work or go to a pool party, it requires more effort and planning. I need to go for walks or plan a 10K run or risk falling short. My mind wandered but I stuck it out.

Going into the home stretch of a race — that’s when I feel as if I want to tap out. The doubt about why I’m doing this can shift into the downright conviction that this is a useless undertaking that makes no sense. Instead of a lack of focus, the mind fixates on just one thing — finishing. This is the time in a long race that I haul out all of the affirmations I can muster. I can do this. I’ve trained for this. I’m strong and full of energy. Seriously, anything. And still, it’s a slog. I just want it to be over.

It’s day 85 of the challenge. I’m in home stretch mode. I want it to be over. It makes no sense. I’m kicking myself for allowing FOMO to motivate me to do something that I have already determined loses its luster before the end. And to top it all off, I’m about to go sailing for two. And it’s hard to get steps on the boat. And I just want to enjoy my vacation.

Not that I don’t enjoy activity on m vacation. But I can start to resent goals and monitoring and tracking and all that. And that is the stuff of which the global challenge is made. I will stick it out to the end. I’m on a team and that adds to the commitment, even if my team doesn’t stand a chance of victory. At least some of my team members have had a good experience dedicating themselves to the challenge. As did I for the first bit. I guess it’s time for my affirmations.

I know we’ve asked this before, but I’ll ask again: how do you feel about tracking your steps? Is this a part of your life? A thing you do from time to time (for a time, like the 100 day challenge)? A thing you would never do because…?

Bikes and boats!

Tracy knows this much better than I do. It’s hard to get much movement on a boat. You can read a bit about that here. Though she’s had some success with sun salutations and end of day dancing.

Jeff is spending the summer on his boat, touring canals and waterways, going through locks, exploring new places. You can read about Jeff’s boating adventures over at his boating blog! Mostly I prefer the land and I prefer active weekends, usually on my bike. Often we’re happy to each do our thing but we’ve been scheming about ways to combine the two activities and this weekend we had some success.

Here’s his boat:

One challenge of visiting Jeff on the boat is getting back to your car. You see you drive to where the boat is but that’s a moving target. You get on the boat and motor away from your car. For those of us just enjoying weekend bits of boat life, we need to get back to the car to get to work Monday morning. Bikes are the obvious answer since Jeff’s cruising at slower speeds the distance works out okay.

Sarah and I boarded the boat in Westport with our bikes on Friday, leaving the car there. We noodled over to Perth for lunch on Saturday, and then anchored for the night near Rideau Ferry. Sunday morning we hopped off the boat and got on our bikes.

The little trip over to Perth was my favorite part of the trip. All of the locks are manually operated but these ones seemed especially old and quaint. The trip after the lock was through beautiful park land. We couldn’t quite make it to downtown Perth. Instead we tied up at the public dock and walked over to grab lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the water.

The only downside of our plan was carrying stuff in backpacks. Next time we’re leaving things on the boat for their return journey home.

Here’s the bikes on the boat, still with their bike rally plates attached:

I got some relaxing in, putting my pink toes up:

While Sarah and Jeff did the work of actually getting the boat through the locks:

Here’s Jeff on the Beveridge Lock:

And more:

And I did less useful things like take a boat selfie:

From boat to bikes!

There might have been a few hills on the 40 km ride back to the car. Luckily at the end there were also blueberry scones and lattes!

Thanks Jeff and Sarah for the boat-bike adventure. Let’s do it again!

FFS, I don’t deserve my health

Because of the blog people know a lot about the fitness-y things that I do. They say, “Oh you look great.” And that’s fine. I’ll take it. But then sometimes people go on to speculate that I am in such good health because of the fitness-y things that I do. “You take such good care of yourself!”

And then I turn red and think of nice ways to engage with the presumption that good health is worked for or deserved. Just like you can’t tell if a person is fit from how they look, you also can’t assume a person is healthy because they are doing physical activity.

In the scheme of things, I’m not that healthy. I’ve had my gall bladder out. In the course of the life of the blog, I’ve had thyroid cancer and had my thyroid removed. Both surgeries were fine. In some ways, no big deal, but still. I’ve got some osteoarthritis stuff going on too. I get a hacking cough that can last for weeks in the winter. Also, I’m visually impaired. Everything’s okay right now but I don’t feel like the healthiest person out there.

We actually have very little control over our health. You know that joke about having good parents being the most important thing you can do for your health. Genetics is huge.

Of course, get some exercise. Of course, eat your veggies. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink much. Stay connected with the world. Keep your brain working. There’s some stuff you can do that’s health promoting. But there are no guarantees.

In my post What does 74 look like? I wrote about luck, illness and disability, and aging. I talked about Jeff’s mother, one of the most healthy behaving people I’ve known and her death.

“I watched my mother-in-law go from being a happy, healthy, vibrant woman who loved hiking, swimming, and cross country skiing to bring someone who needed help with basic day to day activities in just a couple of years. The cause? ALS. Its cause isn’t known. Random genetic mutation? Doesn’t matter. Eating right and moving lots won’t prevent it.

If you saw me pushing her in a wheelchair and thought she was there because she made bad choices, you’d be wrong.”

We like to think we have control over our health. It’s good for us to believe that we do. It’s a useful lie. It motivates us to take charge of the tiny part of our health that is in our control. Yes, we can eat well and work out but there are no guarantees. I know you know this. But sometimes I think we forgot it.

This is a reminder.

It only took 27 years, but now I’m a bona fide intuitive eater

Image description: Colour photo of three small chocolate bowls, each filled with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, on white plates with blue and gold around the edges.

Image description: Colour photo of three small chocolate bowls, each filled with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, on white plates with blue and gold around the edges.

It sort of snuck up on me. I’ve known about “intuitive eating” for over 25 years. When I was a graduate student in Cambridge, MA, I used to browse the shelves at Wordsworth Books looking for something, anything, that might help me lose my obsession with food and weight and dieting. Like many of us, I tried diets, thinking that if I could just lose the weight I’d stop obsessing. That didn’t work. Even when I lost the weight I didn’t stop obsessing. A lot of the time I didn’t lose the weight anyway. And the attempts to lose it just increased my obsession with food.

At some point in the very early nineties, I stumbled upon a new approach — intuitive eating.  The idea behind it is simple: eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’ve had enough. Eat what you want to eat. There are no “good” foods or “bad” foods. For a chronic dieter who constantly moralized foods as good and bad, who weighed and measured portions and always felt deprived, who thought all day about what to eat and when, whose too-small meals were over too soon because there was so little on the plate, intuitive eating sounded like the key to freedom.

I hardly even cared anymore whether I would lose weight (well, okay, I cared a little). I just wanted to be okay with food and okay with my body.  It was a little bit terrifying to think what would happen if I released the restrictions and changed my way of thinking. But it was more terrifying to anticipate living like I was forever. That was around 1990. Fast forward to our “Fittest by 50 Challenge” that got the blog started back in 2012.  By January of the challenge, after a brief encounter with “sports nutrition,” I reconnected with intuitive eating.

The basic approach is championed by a host of authors such as Geneen Roth (Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating), Carol H. Munter and Jane R. Hirschmann (Overcoming Overeating), and Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (Intuitive Eating). The idea is that you can release yourself from food and weight obsession by releasing yourself from the restrictive approach mandated by “the diet mentality.”

In Intuitive Eating, Tribole and Resch outline ten principles. They have a comprehensive website where you can find these principles and become a part of a larger community who subscribes to this way of eating. The ten principles are:

  1. reject the diet mentality
  2. honor your hunger
  3. make peace with food
  4. challenge the food police
  5. feel your fullness
  6. discover the satisfaction factor
  7. cope with your emotions without using food
  8. respect your body
  9. exercise: feel the difference
  10. honor your health with gentle nutrition

I remember reading their description of what it was like to live like a seasoned intuitive eater. They said you stopped thinking about food all the time. You wouldn’t care any longer about the number on the bathroom scale. All foods would be permissible and you would reach for what you really wanted at the time. They said that though you might think that would mean that for the rest of your life you’d eat chocolate chip cookies all the time and never want a celery stick, that would turn out not to be true. Sometimes you might be offered cake and not feel like it. Other times you might order a veggie burger and fries and not eat all the fries. Not eat all the fries? Yeah right!

When I read that for the first time, even when I read it in 2012, I felt skeptical that I would ever get there. But through the past five years of blogging, I have devoted myself to living by the principles of intuitive eating. I do reject the diet mentality — there is nothing anyone could ever do to convince me to go another weight loss diet ever again. I honor my hunger by eating when I’m hungry. This was a foreign concept to me when I first started intuitive eating. I was so used to eating by the clock — if it’s noon it must be lunch time — that I didn’t even know what hunger actually felt like.

I do not agonize about food anymore, nor do I accept what the food police tell me. Eating chocolate instead of strawberries doesn’t mean I’m “bad.” Eating salad instead of fries doesn’t make me “bad.” That is why I wrote the post “Why Food Is Beyond Good and Evil.”

If there was one thing I wanted to do was to stop eating to the point of discomfort. But when you’re deprived most of the time, it’s all or nothing. Either I’m “virtuously” eating steamed vegetables with brown rice and cubed tofu, or going to town on too many pieces of deep dish pizza. By “too many pieces” I mean more pieces than I need to feel satisfied.

But over time I’ve learned how to listen to my body and can tell, for the most part, when it’s time to stop. I eat foods that I enjoy, so it’s easier to feel satisfied.  I don’t need food to soothe me anymore. This is not to say I never reach for chocolate when I’m in a funk. If I do, I do it with awareness not out of compulsion. I can and do have chocolate in my pantry all the time. One bar can sit there for months. This was not a thing that used to happen.

Our fitness challenge helped me learn to respect my body. Wow — I did two Olympic distance triathlons just before I turned fifty! And I’ve since run a marathon and several half marathons. And my body is pretty awesome. And it deserves good treatment. So there.

I also subscribe to the final two principles: I exercise and I honor my health.

The other day a friend said that I am a very “disciplined” eater. I challenged that assessment, asking what he meant. He said, “well, I’ve seen you eat potato chips and you just eat a few then put the bag away.” It’s true. I do that. But not out of discipline. That was the old way, the “diet mentality” way. I now do it because that’s what I feel like doing. I want a few chips. So I eat a few chips.

Now I realize intuitive eating has its detractors. Sam doesn’t believe in it at all because, she says, her thyroid meds mean she’s never hungry. If she only ate when she was hungry she wouldn’t eat.

Catherine is also skeptical. One of her reasons is that environmental factors are also important.

That’s fine. Me? I’m a huge fan. And though it may not be the cure-all that works for everyone, it has taken me from being a food-obsessed chronic dieter with a history of disordered eating, to a confident eater who enjoys food but is neither intimidated by it nor indifferent to it. I enjoy it and am fortunate enough to be in a position to acquire and to eat a range of delicious foods. That is an incredible achievement for me. It’s only within the past week or so that I realize that I actually live by the ten principles of intuitive eating pretty much all the time now. Coupled with that, I have maintained my weight within a 5 pound range effortlessly since 2013. It’s definitely a manner of eating that I embrace and feel fortunate to have learned.

Have you had any experience with intuitive eating? If so, we’d love to hear about it.