Feature photo credit: Alora Griffiths via Unsplash
As gyms around the world are slowly reopening this year, I welcome them to take this opportunity to restart with some new ground rules and expectations for their patrons in order to make it a more welcoming space. As they existed pre-COVID, most gym cultures that I experienced were sometimes fine and sometimes extraordinarily problematic. They were deeply gendered spaces with unspoken rules about who belonged where. Uncomfortable exchanges as men stared or leered at me, ignored me and took my equipment, or talked down at me to “explain” something or “help,” were common. I’ve heard stories of men recording women while they lift. Of people with physical disabilities and older people being ignored or belittled. These experiences keep people from returning for the next workout.
So, I ask gym-owners take an active role in creating new, more positive and inclusive environments at their gyms. Post these expectations and then draw a hard line–folks who fail to comply will not be welcome to remain lifting there. Commit to building a sustainable community for everyone!
Do not give advice or feedback unless requested
Do not stare at or watch others lift for extended periods of time.
Absolutely no sexualized comments about other people’s bodies or their lifts
Pay attention to who is using the equipment. Make sure it is actually available before you take it/use it. Equipment unavailable? Ask to work in.
Recording other people’s lifts will immediately get you removed.
Racist, homophobic, sexist, ablist or other disparaging comments about groups of people will not be tolerated.
Post these expectations right alongside the usual “wipe down the equipment” and “rerack your weights.” Then, follow through. If a patron tells you they were stared at, given unsolicited advice, or overheard a disparaging comment, take it seriously and address the person who made the unwelcome behavior. Make it clear that you won’t tolerate behaviors that alienate members of the community.
I get it that sometimes it’s about education and not willful harm to others. It’s on you as the gym owner or employee to make clear boundaries and enforce them. You’re going to need to use your best judgement. There’s going to be grey areas. Stating your rules up front will make these ambiguous situations better–everyone will be on the same page about what you expect.
The rules will probably have to evolve as you learn more about what is problematic and how to reinforce norms that help everyone feel welcome. That’s ok. Update your poster every once in a while, keep learning, and show your members that you have their back. Consistent enforcement of behavior norms will do more for the health of your business than ignoring problematic behaviors, which leave so many of our communities alienated from the gym.
I’m a queer, White woman with some physical limitations looking for a comfortable and accepting place to lift. I’m less familiar with what other marginalized populations need in order to feel welcome in a space. If I left something important out, please include it in the comments below!
I look forward to lifting with all of you again!
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found wondering if her neighborhood gym has survived being closed for over a year, picking up heavy things and putting them down again (in her garage for now) in Portland, Oregon.
[I should probably start with a disclaimer: I have no stake in Apple at all, and I don’t even want to convince people to get an Apple Watch (which I myself hesitated over for years). I’m just saying how I’m using it and it’s helped me.]
Yesterday Cate wrote about slumps, and a few of us had something to say about them because it’s a thing these days. Towards the end she alluded to my new Apple watch. I’ll get to that in a minute.
I was in a serious slump. Usually I can pull myself out of them with a blog post in which I remind myself of all the things that usually work for me: keep it simple; start small; do less. But I wasn’t there. Looking back to a couple weeks ago, I don’t even think I was ready to be talked out of (or to talk myself out of) my slump. Everything besides sleep and the gentlest of gentle yoga seemed like SO. MUCH. EFFORT.
And then our covid case numbers started rising again. And this pandemic felt like it would never end (it still does). And we were on the eve of another stay-at-home order. A few months I had been asking around about fitness trackers and running watches and the like. My Garmin forerunner is a dinosaur and not the sort of thing you would wear any other time besides running. It’s been unreliable in booting up. People kept recommending the Apple Watch and the Garmin Vivo-something (I forget what exactly). So I bought nothing at first.
Then I decided to look into the Garmin and it turned out to be the same price range as the Apple Watch. And then they announced the lockdown. And I went into a spiral of: “I used to travel!” “I used to go out for dinner with friends.” “I used to go to a yoga studio and pay for passes.” “I used to DO THINGS.” Waaaa! Waaaa! And somehow by the end of that I had made an appointment to go the Apple Store the last day I could go (before everything went to curbside pick-up only), which happened to be the next day, to talk to a “Specialist” (lol) about a new watch.
The watch does lots of different things. But the best thing it does is the fitness “closing your rings” thing. I’m not a big fan of fitness tracking and step counting (as my experience with my workplace’s step-counting team competition has proven not once, but twice). But this ring thing! My friend Vicki invited me to be her “activity friend” on the watch, which means I can see when she’s made progress on closing her daily rings and she can see when I’ve made progress on mine. (I wouldn’t suggest becoming activity friends with anyone other than your good friends)
The outer (red) ring measures your movement (in terms of calories burned). You can set it to low, medium, high or custom, and it depends on things like height, age, weight. I chose medium and that seems about right for me. It’s manageable but not overbearing. The middle ring, sort of neon green, is the workout ring. The default is 30 minutes but I changed my daily target to 45 minutes since that seems pretty easy for me when I consider yoga, walking, running, and my superhero workouts. The inner ring (blue) is for standing, for at least one minute in 12 different hours in the day. You can change the number of hours in which you have a minute of standing to fewer than 12 but not more than 12. I kept mine at 12 and that seems reasonable but challenging on days when I am at my desk for hours in zoom meetings because it seems weird to get up and move around if I have to have my camera on. When you close all three rings you get a graphic on your watch that is sort of like the rings version of fireworks.
Okay. I know this seems somehow too simple to be motivating. But I have hit my targets all but one day since I got my watch a couple of weeks ago. Now keep in mind that though it counts steps, I do not have a step target and I don’t do 10,000 steps every day. In my pre-pandemic life steps were easy. But some days it’s all I can do to get myself out the door for a walk around the block.
Remember too that my watch was meant to replace my running watch. So in order to do it right, I did a little research and invested in a running app for the watch called Intervals Pro. It was costly for an app — $11.99 (CDN) — but it is so simple to set up custom interval workouts, with time or distance intervals, at set paces if you want, and it keeps a record of your training runs. And that too has added to my joy because my Garmin, ancient as it was, had exactly the kind of functionality for custom running intervals that I needed. I don’t know why I worried that something released almost ten years later wouldn’t be able to do at least as much. To be fair, without the app the Apple Watch wouldn’t have been able to do at least as much. But the app is a game changer for anyone who likes to pre-program custom run intervals.
Finally, and I am aware that this might make me sound superficial and self-indulgent, I have discovered a whole world of third party Apple Watch straps that you can order online for super cheap in all sorts of styles and colours. It is very easy to change the strap, and I do that several days a week. I also bought a protector thing that snaps on over it and affects nothing about how it looks and how it works, but will protect it from getting banged up and scratched.
Long story short: the watch has motivated me to run again, to get out for walks at lunch time or at the end of a work day, to stand up from my desk and stretch my legs more than I used to, and to include at least 45 hours of scheduled workouts in my day.
I’m now activity friends with two people (Vicky and my friend, Diane, who I actually convinced to get a watch so that we could be activity friends). And I like seeing their progress through the day. It motivates me without making me feel competitive. It’s more in an inspirational way.
As I write this the night before I’m scheduled to post, my watch just reminded me (ever so gently, not at all in a “you should be standing!” way) that I can still get a “stand” in, bringing my daily total to 11/12 with just one more to go before bed. That’s all I need to do to close my rings today. So I’m doing it.
Slump: that thing where you just can’t find the … enh <waving hand vaguely> stuff to embrace movement with gusto. Or at all.
I was in a slump a couple of weeks ago. For the first time since I started doing the “217 workouts in 2017,” I didn’t think about tracking movement. For days at a time. For 10 days, in fact. I did some things during that time, but they were so incidental that they felt kind of meaningless.
I had no energy to move my body, no motivation to head out the door even when I knew it would make me feel better, and even when I did do some things — a yoga class, a short run, a walk — I felt no joy or grit or satisfaction in completing it. And I even did a thing I might have only done about 3 times in my 26 years as a runner: I got my running clothes on on a lovely evening, got a block out the door and just thought, “enh, whatever” and turned around and went home.
When I finally got my shit together to post about it on the 221 in 2021 group, several other people commented that they had also been struggling. I noticed that — like me — a lot of people weren’t actually NOT MOVING — it isn’t a full “I’m not even putting on the workout clothes” slump. But they are moving less, and feeling unmotivated to do so even when they know it will make them feel better. And even the movement they ARE doing isn’t as restorative as they want it to be. Tracy called it a slumpmentality. Which I define as: “I’m still moving because it’s a habit and a thing I do, but I’m not striving and it’s highly unmotivating and I’m doing the bare minimum.”
Well, it is the third wave of a pandemic. And the allure of spring isn’t quite the same thing when you’re back in full lockdown and your hospitals are crammed to the gills. And I — like a lot of people — am just bone tired. Weary of screens, weary of the sameness, weary with endlessly long work hours and weary with 14 months of deep anxiety hanging over me. (Not to mention the menopausal and feline sleep disruption).
So. What are the other bloggers’ perspectives?
As Martha put it, in simple terms: I am not sure where to start except to say I am very, very tired.
Sam is overloaded too: For me it’s been work exhaustion. I’m working 12 hour days and feeling exhausted. Sleep comes first and so I miss out on exercise. But still I feel better if I do do something so I’ve been aiming for shorter workouts, dog walks. Sometimes that helps. But I also get sad about missing the harder things.Even if I only miss a few days in a row here and there, they feel like slumps since normally working out is a thing I love.
Sam also added: I also feel like I got hit by a truck after being vaccinated! I never have a response to vaccines not even shingrix which everyone warned me about. I ache all over, headaches and sleepy. Also dealing with various work and family crises. Ugh.
Tracy says I was in such a slump that I didn’t even have the motivation to blog about it or find my way out of it through a post about “starting small.” In fact I think I didn’t want out of it quite yet. But I’ve made it through to the other side and the Apple Watch helped. More on that Friday.
Catherine shared her experience of anxiety during the pandemic. I’ve had a series of slumps over the pandemic, especially difficulty in leaving my house. A combination of imposed advisories, fewer incentives (no movies, theater, church, dining out, etc), increased workload and decreased work boundaries, plus massively increased anxiety, which I suffer from in the best of times, has meant that I haven’t walked or ridden nearly as much as I wanted or needed for my own well-being.I have wonderful and attentive friends who encourage me to come outside with them, and that’s helped. I also have friends who have done zoom yoga with me, which also helps. But pandemic-exacerbated insomnia has also taken a toll on my energy and drive. Blech.
Bettina is also trying to balance work, a tiny person and lockdown reality: For me it’s totally work and family-related, but I’m definitely in a slump. The long walks I manage to take on the weekends are nice, but I just can’t get a long, hard workout in – a bike ride, or even better a swim since pools are still closed – the way I used to.
Diane finds a lot of motivation in her group of friends: I have had slumpy days, but they don’t last long because I have a network of friends to check in with. It’s hard to go more than a couple of days before someone calls to ask about a walk or a swim. Scheduled, pre-paid classes help me a lot too. There are times I would do nothing without them.
Nicole’s habit of fitness is serving her well, as she wrote about yesterday: There are three things that I think always keep me going: 1. Knowing I will feel better at end of workout and not feeling ok if I don’t. 2. Fear of family health history catching up to me. 3. Being a creature of habit and having an engrained habit.
She added: I have a couple colleagues who work out regularly and who say they just can’t right now. I worry about them as I think it’s a sign of depression if they usually can and can’t bring themselves to now. I don’t think tips help people in that state. I think it’d be best to speak to a doctor in that case. [Editorial note: I agree. If you’re finding yourself completely unable to move, and this is new, talk to your doctor or your therapist].
For Sam, three smaller bites of movement and projecting forward into what her body will be able to do in the future. 1. I need to remind myself that small things count–yoga before bed counts, knee physio counts, dog walks count. Not everything needs to be a 1 hour strength workout or a massive effort on Zwift. 2. It also helps me to think about plans I’ve made for the summer and getting/staying in shape to do those things. 3. Finally company helps. Lifting with my son or talking walks with others.
My cats know how to exercise in short bursts and then just chill.
So what helps?
For Catherine, it’s seeing some light at the end of a long dark year and going slowly. Now that the weather is warmer and brighter, life is getting better. Vaccination is a real boon—I’ll be traveling to see family and can hug my mom for the first time in over a year. De-slumping won’t happen overnight. I’m trying to be happy with myself for getting through this period as intact as I am, with structure and support and means and plans for biking and hiking and swimming and paddling. And then there’s this pickle-ball thing, which I may check out.
For me, it’s letting myself rest — yes, a walk counts as movement, dammit, and so does cleaning up my deck. It’s trying to go to bed earlier. And it’s a little novelty. Livestreaming a new yoga teacher, walking on streets I’ve never been on before. I fell into a real slump about continuing to work my way through all the zwift routes when all of the remaining 11 were well over 90 minutes and the appeal of indoor cycling has waned as the weather has warmed up. So today, I signed up for a livestream spin class from my usual studio, and ran zwift in the background to get half a route done while taking my cues from Jill, an instructor I like. (It backfired, though! Something went wrong when I paused zwift for a few minutes to get more water and it skipped over part of the route and then after toiling away for almost 1:45 hours, I didn’t get the badge! ARGH!)
I’ve also fallen into capitalist solutions. Although I’d resisted the very idea until now, Tracy’s new apple watch gave me impulse-purchase itchy fingers. I’m tracking it in the mail. And I’m about to hit go on new workout shoes I don’t really need.
What about you? Are you in a slump? What is helping?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who has let herself rest in places as diverse as a barbeque joint in Texas and a yurt camp in Kyrgyzstan.
Ramadan, a period mostly known to non-Muslims as a time of fasting, began the evening of April 12. What does Ramadan, or being a Muslim, have to do with fitness? Possibly a lot.
Many Muslim women feel that they cannot engage in mixed gender sports and some follow a dress code that is not welcome in certain sports. While there is little statistical data available by religion, some surveys on Muslim women’s attitudes toward sport indicate that women in traditional Muslim countries are actually far more positive towards physical activity in schools than women in Western countries. This was because of requirements to use communal showers and wear clothing considered “inappropriate”. Conservative Muslim men also have these modesty concerns, and some also avoid public gym facilities for these reasons. You can read more about the issues and ways to promote participation here: https://www.womeninsport.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Muslim-Women-in-Sport.pdf?x99836.
The whole debate about access to various sports for Muslim women athletes at all levels of ability is something that could fill many posts. Access to women-only time at swimming pools, with female lifeguards and instructors, women and girls fighting to play soccer or basketball while wearing a hijab, bans on modest swimwear, the media stories just keep coming. But there are role models too: Stephanie Kurlow, the girl who dreams of being the first hijab-wearing professional ballerina, Zahra Lari, the Emirati figure skater who has competed internationally, the 14 Muslim women who won medals at the 2016 Olympics, and all the female mountain climbers, skiers, marathon runners, cyclists, skateboarders, martial arts fighters, soccer players, swimmers, and more in places like Afghanistan – fighting against huge odds to pursue their sports dreams in an ultra-conservative society. My current favourite is Maryam Durani, who recently started a fitness club for women in Kandahar, former stronghold of the Taliban. If you do a search for Muslim women and sport, you will find many inspiring images.
Of course, not all Muslim women athletes wear hijabs, but may still fast for Ramadan. Women are exempt if they are pregnant or menstruating, and everyone is exempt if they are sick, traveling, or if they are a child. So how should they maintain their fitness with no food or liquids for up to 16 hours a day for a month? Devinder Bains, a personal trainer from Dubai, recommends exercising after breaking the fast, but before the main evening meal, or early in the morning so you can eat before starting your fast for the next day. Hydrate often, and focus on resistance training rather than cardio, though a walk before Iftar (the evening meal) is fine. Ramadan is not the time to start a new exercise regime, or even worry about anything more than maintenance.
Ramadan Kareem to all my Muslim friends. I look forward to seeing you walking in the park or riding your bicycles over the next month. And when I do, I will quietly cheer you on for staying active while also carrying out this important part of your faith.
Diane Harper is a public servant in Ottawa. She has worked on women’s rights issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What’s working for me these days? Alongside the noise of frustration about the continued pandemic, fitness is working for me. It continues to lift my spirits and provide energy. Walking and running also give me good reasons to get fresh air and see my neighbourhood.
Strava lets me know that my running pace was recently between 6:45 – 7:15/km and now my average is between 6:15-630/km. I don’t know why I’m running a bit faster, but I like it. I enjoy my runs, regardless of my pace. Especially this time of year, when the mornings are lighter, warmer and I can wear my running shorts. It feels freer than winter running with the many layers. And, much freer than much of the activities that are allowed during the current lockdown. I also wear a mask these days, under my chin if no one is around, but I pull it up if I can’t keep my distance from others. I don’t want others to feel stressed about me running and breathing near them.
Spinning on my indoor bike, has been gratifying too. I’ve mentioned what I like about some of the instructors here. D’Ercole’s “I Am I Can I Will I Do” has followed me on the running path as well. I’ve always said things to myself, such as “this is the best part of your day” when I’m feeling the burn in the later kilometres. Lately, I’ve added “I Am I Can I Will I Do” when I’m trying to keep up a faster pace and my lungs fully engaged. Also, I try to remind myself to smile. Either on the bike or on a run. It really can help when feeling tired and negative thoughts are seeping in. Side note: It’s OK to tell yourself to smile. Not OK to tell another person to smile.
In January I did Yoga with Adrienne’s 30 day challenge and I enjoyed it. Since then, I’ve been less consistent. I’ve done the seasonal 108 Sun Salutations and a couple flow classes with my favourite yoga teacher, Lisa V. Her classes often feel like a combination of yoga and strength training so I should probably do more of them. As I’ve mentioned before, as much as I enjoy yoga, it’s often the first form of fitness I let slide.
Since I can’t workout in the park right now with a group and I haven’t been able to go inside a gym like most people since the Before Times, I have still been doing virtual strength and conditioning workouts once or twice a week. Some days, Zooming in for fitness feels a little too much with all the other virtual meetings. But if I get there, I still get a good workout. I don’t see going back inside a gym until we have herd immunity, so it’s important I figure out ways to get my strength training in at home.
The thing is, I need to find another virtual strength and conditioning workout. The gym that I’ve been going to for about 5 years, and continued with through virtual and park workouts in the last year, has made some choices lately relating to how they are handling the lockdown/stay-at-home order. They are choices that I can’t support. I really love the workouts, am fond of some of the coaches and have developed friendships with other members. It’s been very helpful to see friendly faces at the park and on screen. Making this decision truly saddens me. But, while I see that our ICUs are full and they are opening up adult ICUs in Sick Kids Hospital and critical surgeries may be cancelled, seeing some of the rhetoric posted by one of the coaches who manages the place was upsetting. Cate alluded to it in this post. But, even worse, they’ve now posted this:
I don’t think I need to explain that I feel for gyms that have been hard hit by the last year. But, throughout the year, I have seen many other gyms make hard, but ethical choices. I’m not sure if this is legal or not, but it doesn’t seem ethical to me. Not alongside the conditions in hospitals that I described above. Not while teachers and parents are feeling the brunt of having to continue to go back and forth between in school and virtual learning. Not while young people are suffering mentally. Going inside a gym at this time, with the risk of airborne aerosols in such an environment, with the guise of mental health, is not right. It may not be ideal for some, but they can help address the issues they claim to be concerned about by encouraging more walking, running, sprinting (socially distanced), providing more at-home programming, understanding that there other ways through this. Not to mention the risk to the staff that will be working in this environment. And the frustration of many, including myself that this type of behaviour is contributing to the feeling that we are never going to get our numbers under control and the very thing they are so upset about (lockdowns that are affecting their business) are never going to end.
So, my formerly beloved gym is not working for me right now, while I’m waiting for the world to change.
What’s working for you in fitness these days? For me, even in another lockdown, fitness isn’t cancelled. It’s just a little different. I would add fitness to this list:
Feature photo credit: Girl with Red Hat via Unsplash.
Any good food can be abused into the shame spiral of diet culture. I have no problem with protein shakes, egg white omelettes, or cabbage soup. Well, maybe I have a problem with cabbage soup. Although borscht is good. Anyway, B365 teaches it’s not the things we’re eating that makes something a diet but the mindset we approach it with, so I thought I’d play a game. I have some old cookbooks, many of which are steeped in diet culture, and let’s see if we can take that diet food and make it a balanced, satisfying meal, yes?
Book: Food, by Susan Powter, (c) 1995
Weird diet advice: Thicken soups with dried mashed potato flakes
Recipe: Broccoli Soup, p 373
I’m starting easy on myself. There are actually recipes in this cookbook that I still use, decades after I stopped worrying about keeping my dietary fat below 15%. But this soup seems, well, basically like sauteed broccoli in soup form. Broccoli, garlic, some spices, and a couple potatoes.
So, to make this a balanced, satisfying meal I would add some chicken or tofu. Maybe some cheddar cheese, too? Adds some satisfying fat and some umami flavor. Oh, speaking of umami, some mushrooms with the onions and garlic would be good and add a nice chew!
Book: The Good Goodies, Stan and Floss Dworkin, (c) 1974
Weird diet advice: Wax your cookie sheets and cake pans instead of greasing them to avoid added fat
Recipe: Liver and Onion Crisps (p75)
Ok, I’ve got my work cut out for me on this one. I don’t even eat liver! But, let’s say a person does and they’ve decided to eat it in rice crackers. Seems like we could make it a more balanced meal with a hefty side of fruits and vegetables to make it more filling. And maybe some cheese? Or maybe that’s just so I can hide the taste and texture of the crackers.
Weird diet advice: Substitute mineral oil for vegetable oil when sauteeing.
Recipe: Fish Mold
Yuck. What was it about the middle of last century and savory gelatin things?! Well, it’s high protein, so that’s nice. Now it needs some fruits and veggies and some starchy carbs. Maybe a big green salad? And a pile of rice. I learned living abroad that I could eat just about anything if I heaped enough rice on top of it before I chewed.
And there you go! Three satisfying, balanced meals made from diet offerings. Good foods and bad foods are about what you enjoy and what helps you live your best life, not mineral oil and gelatin.
Do you have a favorite food that others might see as “diet” food, but you eat just because you enjoy it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Unless it’s fish mold. In which case, no. Just no.
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found perusing old cookbooks, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.
This weekend we loaded one of the 50 km routes used by the Tour de Guelph and set out on a sunny Saturday afternoon. When you added on getting to campus, where the ride begins, going for coffee after, and a brief detour where Sarah thought the Garmin directions were wrong but they weren’t, we ended up clocking about 60 km. It was fun and relaxing and I started wondering what felt so different than last summer.
First, I think we have a better sense of what the risks are. I’m riding with one other person with whom I live. Nothing dangerous there. I’m not racing or riding particularly aggressively. And I’m staying away from roads with lots of traffic. We’re choosing routes carefully.
Second, I feel more prepared. I bring a mask. I have people at home who can pick us up if we have a mechanical difficulty. Hi, Miles! It’s year two of the pandemic and I feel more certain about what I’m doing.
Third, I’m partially vaccinated. One shot of AstraZeneca a week ago. My mother is also partially vaccinated–Pfizer at one of the provincial clinics, this one run by the University of Guelph. Sarah is Schrodinger vaccinated. Maybe or maybe not but she will be by the end of the clinical trial she’s taking part in. On the one hand I feel like that shouldn’t be changing my behavior, and it’s not really, but I do feel less anxious. Jeff the boat dweller also got vaccinated this weekend, before taking off on his big boating adventures, the 2021 edition.
Fourth, it’s another summer and I feel like the beginning of the end of the pandemic is in sight. Yes things are very bad right now in Ontario but words like these give me hope: “Countries that have combined a stay at home order with mass vaccinations have wiped out their third wave.” See Third State of Emergency. I’m hoping for a better summer than last, certainly a better fall 2021 than 2020, and a winter that sees us mostly out of the pandemic woods.
This post is delayed due to bad knee news and sadness writing about it. I seriously couldn’t even face thinking about it and I certainly didn’t want to write about it. But the news has kind of settled now and I’m doing okay.
Regular readers will know that these monthly check in posts have focused on my knee and getting ready for total knee replacement surgery.
In general, I’m a big fan of Canadian healthcare. I don’t mind waiting for non-urgent care. I’m pretty stoical about most things. But it no longer feels okay to be waiting for knee surgery.
I saw the sports medicine doctor who first referred me for surgery the other day, for the first time since June 2019. I saw the surgeon in person in August 2019 and we made plans. We talked about December 2020. That was a long time away then but I figured it would give me time to lose weight (recommended for easier recovery) and I could plan to take time off and have an acting dean in place for my medical leave.
Since then, August 2019, radio silence. Nothing. Nada. I emailed a few times. I phoned a few times. I read articles about the hospital in question putting all non-urgent surgery due to Covid. There were, for a time, weekly headlines about the hospital having covid outbreaks on surgical floors and about surgery cancellations.
So just a few weeks ago I gave in and reached out to the referring doctor. They took what seemed like dozens of x-rays of both knees. The diagnosis is unchanged–end stage osteoarthritis in both knees. There’s nothing there–no cartilage–just bone grinding on bone in both knees which feels about as good as that sounds.
The sports medicine doctor asked me what’s changed since we talked about my knees almost two years ago now. Well, the big bad news is that it’s now both knees. It’s no longer clear on some days which is the bad knee. They’re both bad. I used to tag blog posts about this issue Sam’s left knee. Sadly I need a new tag, simply Sam’s knees.
Better is that I’m walking okay. Not very far and not very fast. But I’m walking. I take Cheddar out two or three days a week and we can toddle around for 2 to 3 km without too much pain and suffering. (Don’t worry. He gets lots of walks. Other people walk him too.) And of course, I’m riding my bike lots.
The doctor said I could start again and get on a waitlist somewhere else. But I’m loathe to do that.
He said that the student athletes have been able to get surgeries right through covid. Seniors, however, were put off and now they have a backlog of frail, elderly patients who can’t walk around their house or get groceries. I’m in the middle. I’m not a 19 year old varsity athlete needing ACL reconstruction after injury. I’m not an 80 year old who can’t walk either. I’m just a 56 year old recreational athlete who wants to be able to go on longer walks (and snowshoe, and cross country ski, and skate) and not be in pain everyday.
I want to be able to go and do some of New Zealand’s Great Walks. More urgently, I’d like to be able to walk to work sometimes. I’d like to sleep through the night without knee pain. I’d like to take less ibuprofen.
In the meantime, I’ll be here, doing endless knee physio exercises and riding my bike. There are worse things than delayed surgery that have happened as a result of covid. No one in my house is sick. No one died. Some of us are even partially vaccinated now. As bad as things are in Ontario right now, I see the finish line and even though I’ll be limping over it, I’m excited to have the pandemic’s end in sight.
This week I turned 59. At another time in history I might find myself fretting over the fact that I’m nearly 60, hitting another decade, feeling the need to reassess or reconfirm my identity as still firmly connected to younger me.
This year, though, at this time in history, my feelings on turning 59 are different. They are gratitude that this body made it through an awful year of loss; hope, now that we have a vaccine (I got a J&J shot Friday!); and love for all the people and places that I’m connected to.
In this blog post from 2019, I wrote about some studies on self-image, bodies, and the experiences of aging. Take a look. I still believe what I wrote then. Two years and one pandemic later, though, I’m rethinking what it means to be seen as I age. I’m now including being seen as both vulnerable and valuable—yeah, I want people to see those things in me, too, as well as my contributions to the world.
I hope you all enjoy taking a moment to think about yourselves, your bodies, and what the past two years has meant for you in terms of what you want for yourselves.
Content warning: This post mentions studies on negative body image, suicidal ideation, self harm, and negative self-esteem.
Now to the post proper:
The Mental Health Foundation Scotland released a report recently about body image, which included a poll about how Scots feel about their bodies. It was covered in the news here.
The poll – which was published as part of a report “Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies” – also found that just over on third of all adults said they have felt anxious because of their body image.
And a quarter adults have felt “disgusted” because of their body image in the last year, while nearly a quarter said they had felt “shame”.
The poll found that body image issues affected women more than men, with 11 per cent saying they have “deliberately hurt themselves” because of their body image, compared to 4…