fitness · nutrition

The continuing carb-troversy: was Goldilocks right?

Prominent among the Questions Of Our Time is this one: just how many/much carbs should I have in my diet? Is it best to eat low-carb, like the Atkins Diet? Or stick to kinder/gentler/higher-fiber carbs like the South Beach Diet? Or close-to-no carbs like the Whole 30 Diet? What about higher carb diets? Don’t people use those during high-intensity athletic activity? Or is there some happy medium, some just-right amount of carbs that will optimize on my health, longevity, weight, complexion, etc.? Just where is Goldilocks when we need her?

Goldilocks enjoying some soup in a medium bowl, hopefully with quinoa instead of white rice or pasta if she knows what's good for her... :-)
Goldilocks enjoying some soup in a medium bowl, hopefully with quinoa instead of white rice or pasta if she knows what’s good for her… 🙂

A new study in the Lancet is now taking sides with Goldilocks, publishing a study saying that a moderate carb diet is in fact the “just right” amount for optimum longevity. Here’s a summary from the Live Science news website:

The study, which involved more than 15,000 Americans who were tracked for a quarter of a century, found that those who ate a low-carb diet (with less than 40 percent of daily calories coming from carbs) or a high-carb diet (with more than 70 percent of daily calories coming from carbs) were more likely to die during the study period, compared with those who ate a moderate-carb diet, with about 50 to 55 percent of their calories coming from carbs.

For example, based on the findings, the researchers estimated that from age 50, people who consumed a moderate-carb diet would have a life expectancy that was about four years longer than those who consumed a very low-carb diet (with an average life expectancy of 83 years for moderate-carb eaters versus 79 years for very low-carb eaters).

Another of their key findings was when they investigated different types of low-carb diets:  ones with a lot of animal-sourced foods, versus plant-sourced foods. Here’s what the Live Science article has to say about the study:

…the analysis also found that, with low-carb diets, what mattered was the source of proteins and fats. Diets that involved replacing carbs with proteins and fats from animal sources, including beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese, were linked with a greater risk of death. In contrast, diets that involved replacing carbs with proteins and fats from plant sources, such as vegetables, legumes and nuts, were tied to a lower risk of death.

So is the take-away message that we should all aim for moderate (50ish%) of carb intake in our diets to maximize lifespan?

Not exactly.  As I say all the time in blog posts, science is complicated. Just ask these women– they can explain it to us.

African women scientists in a lab, going over procedures.
African women scientists in a lab, going over procedures.

You might be wondering– what about higher-carb diets? They aren’t prominent these days in the popular diet industry, but they are an option and serve a number of nutritional purposes. Also, lots of cultures outside of North America and Europe eat high-carb diets Does the study show that those lead to earlier death, too?

Well,  it depends partly on where you live and what you eat. The primary study participants used in the Lancet article were from the US. For them, the results were a U-shaped curve, which means that the highest risk was at either end— low carb or high carb.  Here it is:

U-shaped risk curve of carb dietary intake, with highest risks at low and high end of card intake (<40%, >70%).
U-shaped risk curve of carb dietary intake, with highest risks at low and high end of card intake (<40%, >70%).

But take a look at the right side of the U– it doesn’t rise as high as the left side does.  That means that the riskiness of high-carb diets in this study is not as big as the riskiness of the low-carb diets. (By riskiness, I mean all-cause mortality risk, but you get the idea here). So, their results suggest that higher-carb diets aren’t as risky (I know, that word again, but humor me) as the low-carb diets.

Later in the Lancet article there is another set of U-shaped curves, with the second one being an amalgamation of many other studies that these researchers analyzed.  These other studies were done in many parts of the world, including places where people eat lots of higher-carb diets with foods like white rice or other simple (vs. complex) carbs. There we see a greater rise in mortality risk as carb intake increases. Complexity enters again, this time at the level of the carbs themselves.  People who eat higher-carb diets but with more complex carbs may (this is still a bit tentative) may mitigate their mortality risk of a higher-carb diet.

Finally, there’s been a good bit of critique and response, of which you readers might be interested in two points:

Point one: There are SO MANY features of our dietary intake that interact with each other, our environment, our genetics and microbiome, etc., that it’s very hard to separate out and identify the effects of one variable on health and mortality. One commentary (in the Lancet) said this:

…this approach should be complemented by large and long-term clinical trials investigating the effects of different dietary patterns (constructed from information about the effects of individual nutrients and foods), because the effect of individual nutrients is likely to be modest.

So we aren’t going to get solid clinical recommendations for people based on the effects of shifting carbs alone.

Point two: The researchers’ findings only tracked mortality risk shifts.  They didn’t track them to any biomarkers or clinically observable features that we could identify that would help in offering medical advice to people. Of course, they weren’t trying to do the latter, but without the latter, the information isn’t so helpful for real-life medicine.

The commentary concluded with this:

When coherent information emerges from different approaches and is replicated, this will form a sound basis for robust public health recommendations.

Or, in other words, “yeah yeah.  Get back to me when you have something that will be useful for clinicians moving forward in trying to identify health issues connected to dietary carb intake, or a more complex but robust view on these interactions with health.”

Here’s the final-final point.  Let’s suppose that Goldilocks is right– moderation in carbs is the just-right path. What do we mean by “moderate intake”? 40–70% is a very big range, and loads of other factors can make a big difference in effects on health, mortality, etc.

If we’re supposed to take nutritional advice really seriously, need more than “just-right” to go on.  Luckily, other studies are working on exactly that. Stay tuned for the latest…

 

 

 

 

 

fitness

I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing?

On August 8th, I officially turned 53 and a HALF.  And yes, I revert to child-like ways of describing my age, because it’s how I think about it when I realize I’m still menstruating.  I’m the oldest person I personally know still having regular periods.  Gold star?

I started menstruating (“menarche,” to be technical) in October when I was 12, so soon, I will have been having periods for 41 years.  I’m old enough that the first period products I used were PADS WITH BELTS.

(For more history of menstruation stuff, there is the Museum of Menstruation; the design of the site is appalling — late 1990s-live-journal-era —  but if you poke around, there are some really fascinating bits of info — but I digress).

057fcc456fff07d41a7142e35997a8d4I had one time last year where my cycle was 42 days, but other than that, I’ve been creepily regular since 1977.  And since I’ve had no interruptions for pregnancy, breastfeeding, hormonal suppression or illness, that means that soon I will have my 533rd or so period.  (A gyne friend reminds me that with a 28 day cycle, we have an average of 13 periods per year). That is a LOT of bleeding and cramps and tampons and hormone swings and whatnot.

I decided a few years ago that I wasn’t going to take advantage of any new menstrual opportunities — I’m a tampon person, not a diva cup or period panties person — those seem like investments in a future for someone much younger.  And I’m not going to get an IUD with hormones that gradually suppress periods — I want to know when I actually stop.  I’m in this strange limbo where I menstruate but feel like the young ‘uns have a whole period culture that I’m never going to be part of.

But generally, I’m kind of neutral on my endless menstruating.  The science suggests that overall, it’s not a bad thing to have a late menopause (the medical definition of “menopause” is used when you have officially stopped having periods for a full year, and “late” is defined variably as after 52 – 55).  There IS an increased risk of reproductive cancers because of the extra estrogen — breast, ovarian and endometrial (and I had to have an endometrial biopsy a month ago because I had spotting and “my age makes me automatically suspicious”).  But on balance, later age at menopause is associated with better health, longer life and less cardiovascular disease.  That “better health” includes lower risk for heart disease and stroke, stronger bones, and a 13% higher chance of living to be 90.  I’ll take that.

But.  This “still bleeding after all these years” thing raise new questions when I think about my whole fit-at-midlife thing.  Like most other people-who-menstruate, I think I’ve learned to sort of pretend that my cycle is something that doesn’t “really” affect what I do in fitness-land.  When I used to run a lot, I did read once that we are at our most hormonally vibrant or some such the week after our periods, and that it might be a good time to schedule a race, but I can only vaguely recall why that might be, and I certainly never took that into consideration in making plans.  (Hello, Boston marathon people?  Could you please change the date?  I’ll have my period that week).

I’ve certainly always operated on the principle that your period isn’t supposed to slow you down.  My late 70s/early 80s adolescence was full of those girls-in-white-pants-dancing-around ads for tampons and pads, and even before that, there was cultural pressure not to let the world define us as weaker because of our uteruses.   When I was pubescent, there were a lot of these already-old brochures around the house, because my mother had taught phys ed and health in the 60s.  I pored over these booklets, produced by sanitary napkin companies.  They all assured me it was okay to dance or do sports — not too “strenuous”, but all the normal things.

There might be weepiness or smelliness, but these could be easily dealt with with enough sleep, the right attitude and the right products.

(That girl weeping at her dressing table has haunted me my whole life.  Maybe I AM being a drama queen!  I never did learn how to Smile, sister, smile!  Maybe when I learn that, I’ll stop menstruating?)

So it was official, periods weren’t going to slow me down — and mostly, they didn’t, despite some pretty hellish PMS for parts of my life.  (I might have been fighting with my spouse, but I was running! I do remember my ex saying to me once, when I came back from a sticky summer evening run all hormonally cranky — “don’t just stand there with bugs on your neck yelling at me!”)

But over the past several years, I feel like I could use some of these little brochures telling me what to expect in perimenopause, the period of time between which your hormones start to change and when you stop menstruating.  I’ve had night sweats and disrupted sleep for at least seven years, which are well known experiences of perimenopause.  Screenshot 2018-08-01 17.54.03But I’ve also noticed that I have almost overwhelming fatigue a few days before my period, sometimes just for a day, sometimes for several.  Like so much fatigue that I think I’m getting the flu and I take to my bed for a few hours.  (See, I am a weeping drama queen!)

This fatigue is a factor in my overall wellbeing, but it’s not something that is widely acknowledged or addressed. My family physician has never once asked me about my whole peri-meno experience, simply ticking off whether or not I’m still having periods.  And sometimes, other women can be reluctant to talk about feeling less … strong or fit or energetic or something — because of our periods.  I had a (female) ex who got irritated when I mentioned it, like it was a sign of wimpy weakness.  And I’ve had moms of teens say that they want to encourage their daughters to stay active and not be tagged with misogynist assumptions about weakness, so they don’t even really want to acknowledge that you might just want to lie on the couch. I get that — and, my own personal experience is that I get super tired and don’t WANT to do anything in the days before my period anymore. 

So… mostly, I don’t.  I think I’m like a Menstruator Emeritus now — with more than 530 periods under my belt, I think I’ve earned the right to do periods the way I want to.  And that means taking to my bed for a big nap if I feel like it, and not obfuscating why.  It means talking about the realities of night sweats and sleep disruption and slower metabolism.  And if I want to go for a 100km bike ride, I can do that too.  The only thing I won’t do is learn how to change a menstrual cup in a public washroom.

IMG_2978

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto and blogs here twice a month regularly and other times when she has something to say.  Here she is on her 53rd birthday.

Guest Post · running

Starting my feminist fitness journey: Early days of couch to 5K (Guest post)

A photo of Cheryl, a white woman with a lime green scarf and a dark sweater and short spiky hair.

Hello fellow feminist fitness folks, this is my first guest post and I’m feeling a bit nervous about it but also excited to share my thoughts and experiences in this space as I embark on my own feminist fitness journey.

I stopped going to the gym gradually over the last year (not that I was going very much at all) for a combination of reasons – boredom on the treadmill when the TV system in the gym was changed to one that I could rarely make work, anxiety about sharing the space and machines with other people, and the fact the my running shoes had developed a hole in the lining that hurt my foot. But perhaps the biggest reason was that I found myself feeling a lot of self-imposed guilt and shame when I didn’t go, which was pretty much all the time, and this was making me miserable. So I decided to let the gym go. This was a relief and definitely good for my mental health, but I found myself wondering “now what?”

I was not and am not in great physical shape, and after quitting the gym I was struggling with how to change this without getting into a repeat of the obligation/guilt/shame cycle. I also thought a lot about the “why” behind my interest in getting fit. How much was coming from a desire to change my body to be thinner and more conventionally attractive? Could it ever be possible for me to want to get fit without some of this internalized stuff coming up? After reading Sam and Tracy’s excellent book this summer I had more tools to approach fitness in a new way and since then I’ve been trying to focus on reasons for getting fit that feel good to me as a feminist (more on this in a future post).

Here’s how I got started: I posted on Facebook about reading Fit at Mid-Life, and my friend Tanya messaged to ask if I ever went running. I told her that I’d run occasionally in the past, but had worked up a lot of internal barriers to it over the years (Anxiety! I will be slow and awkward and people will look at me! Where will I put my keys and water?!). She’d recently started running again using a couch to 5k program and invited me to join her for after work runs. So I decided to give it a try.

Here’s a brief story of my first few weeks, as it involved a lot more than I thought it would “ie. just go outside and start running.”

The first thing I knew I needed to do was buy new running shoes. I’d been feeling annoyed about doing this because it seemed like they wore out much sooner than they should have, given my relative inactivity, and I’d been putting it off because I resented having to spent the money.  But running with shoes that hurt wasn’t going to work, so I went out and got new shoes.

For my first run I had the new shoes, but no place to carry my phone to use the training app as my running clothes don’t have appropriate pockets for this. So I just estimated the times for alternating the 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking that the app instructed.

I definitely started from the couch on this one –I was surprisingly sore the next day. I felt proud of having worked hard enough to feel it, but I also noticed some negative self-talk about how out of shape I must be to feel so sore.

Next I had to solve the problem of how to carry my phone while running. I did some research and bought a money belt/fanny pack sort of thing which has been working well for me so far.

I’ve been running at a local park and in the university area near my home, and also with Tanya at a running track in the east end of Toronto. I think that having some variety is helpful for me in terms of not getting bored.

After a couple more runs I noticed that my breasts were hurting because my old sports bra was not providing enough support.  Shopping for any kind of bra can make me feel like my body is not normal, because I have a really hard time finding bras that have long enough straps over the shoulders. Two stores and about eight types of sports bras later I found one that fit and it’s made running a lot more comfortable.

In the in the first 2 weeks I completed 5 of the 6 sessions from the training program, did a lot of troubleshooting, and spent over $300. I’ve been reflecting on the things that have I have access to that make running easier – money to buy gear, safe outdoor areas to run, and a washer/dryer in my apartment for washing stinky clothes.

I took a break for a week for a family visit in August, and then started up again right after that. It’s feeling good, and on my most recent run in particular I had all the gear I needed, had figured out how to use the music player successfully in the training app, and so was finally able to just get out there and run. At this stage it’s still actually alternating between walking and running, but by the end of week 8 I’m hoping that I’ll be able to run 5K. Stay tuned for more on my progress towards this goal over the next 6 weeks!

 

About me: Feminist, bisexual, LGBTQ health researcher, book lover, drummer, introvert.

fitness

Book Review – Fit At Mid Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey (reblog)

I was looking for reviews of our book online last night and I was so happy to come across this review by a former student of mine Jordan Barnes. I enjoyed it so thought I’d share it here with you. Thanks Jordan!

The Human J

9781771641678

I recently finished reading the excellent Fit At Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey by Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs. Full disclosure, I had Samantha Brennan at a professor in a graduate seminar at Western University and, her class being one of the highlights of my university experience, my opinion on the book might be skewed slightly. That being said, one of the things I loved so much about Dr. Brennan’s class was the way that she seemed to make a conscious effort to buck some of academic philosophy’s most obnoxious trends. This class made an effort to pursue objective fact while at the same time not being presumptuous enough to think we can just fire up our armchairs and will ourselves beyond the vail of subjective experience. This trend is continued in the Fit at Mid Life, which talks data, trends and fact while telling the compelling story of…

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fitness · Martha's Musings · meditation · yoga

When the humidex is high and the will is low

By MarthaFitat55

 

ian-keefe-354195-unsplash
Image shows a body of water with ripples formng a series of circles. Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

We have had high humidex levels in my part of the country we call Canada. Some people think it’s all snow and ice all the time, but nope, we get heat here too. The past few summers we have seen increasing periods of humidity, the kind that I only ever encountered when I lived in Ontario in the mid 80s.

I’ve been lucky too that my training times up to now in previous summers have managed to avoid the periods of extreme heat. This year though, it’s another story.

That’s because the gym has been hotter than the gates of Hades. In fact, several times my trainer has deemed it too unsafe to train, it’s been that ridiculously hot.

When it is so warm that breathing causes you to break out into a sweat, what’s the next best option to keeping the wheels turning on the training train?

For me it has been swimming and yoga. I’ve written about my swimming adventures here, here, and here. But my return to yoga this summer after almost four years away has been a revelation.

My former yoga instructor offered an eight week yin yoga summer program, and despite the heat some evenings, I, in fact, found it quite lovely and rejuvenating.

First off, though, there were no goats nor kittens, nor were there beers or bottles of wine. This was not hip yoga, unless you mean the kind that would help me keep my hips in good nick so I can keep walking and climbing stairs.

Yin yoga is sometimes described as a passive practice because you tend to hold poses for longer periods (thus doing fewer of them in a session), but it is this holding which allows muscles to stretch and fascia to relax.

It is my favourite form of yoga because it brings you in touch on a deeper level with your breathing and your core. It also means you have to focus on stilling the distractions that keep knocking on your mental front door.

The yogi chose a different quotation from her collection to guide our practice each night. One night she chose this one: I am my strongest when I am calm (Yung Pueblo). Even though summer yoga has been finished for almost three weeks now, that quotation still rings in my ears.

Our pace of life is one that is managed by multiple demands on our time from family, friends, work, community. I had returned to yoga because I wanted an alternative for the weight training hiatus. The effort of focusing reminded me how often those demands were like tendrils winding themselves tighter and tighter, sometimes even cutting parts of ourselves off from the whole.

I am my strongest when I am calm. As I write this sentence here, I feel the stress of my day leak away.  It reminds me I don’t have to be buzzing madly like a bee from one flower to another. I can pick a moment, or a pose, and lean into it, think about what’s happening, and noticing the little changes that emerge or arise the longer I hold the pose.

Those eight little words are profound. It’s made me think again about what strength means. For me it’s been about asking for help, stepping back, pausing to breathe, feeling the moment, accepting a change in plans, approach, direction. These days, it has also meant I rest with an idea to see what happens, to understand what emerges from the stillness, and to feel the surety that comes from embracing the balance that comes from both the push and the pull.

I’ve learned that it is also more than figuring out how long I can hold it (hey there dragon pose), or if I can push it (nice to meet you flying dragon), or if I need to release it (thank you child pose). It’s about recognizing the power I have within and knowing it will still be there when I go back into the gym once it is cooler.

I am my strongest when I am calm. Yes. Yes, I am.

— MarthaFitat55 is embracing her best self and best life through movement and fitness.

 

fitness

Who’s up for a challenge with fit feminist support? Sign up today!

Image description: the word
Image description: the word “challenge”, each letter in a different coloured square.

Note from Tracy: There has been an awesome response! Thank you! Sadly, this means we need to set a deadline. If you’d like to be considered for the group starting on Labour Day please contact me by Friday, August 17 at 9 am Eastern Time with your expression of interest. Contact info etc below. 🙂

Hey everyone. Cate, Christine and I have an exciting new thing to offer to a group of willing volunteers! It’s our Fit Feminist challenge group (name still to be determined).

Here’s the basic idea: the group will be an online support and challenge group accessed through a secret Facebook page that only members of the group have access to. There will be a maximum of 20 members plus Cate, Christine and I in the first iteration of the group. Members will be encouraged to develop their own challenge and goals, based on the feminist fitness principles we promote on this website. So we won’t be supporting weight loss and dieting as goals.

The loose model is Sam’s and my “fittest by 50 challenge” that started the blog and that we document in Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey. We spent a bit of time trying to decide what mattered to us, and then we each picked a thing that we were training for. My thing was an Olympic distance triathlon by my 50th birthday. Hers was the Ride for Life from Toronto to Montreal. In between we did lots of other things, but having those big goals helped to focus our training.

Members of the Fit Feminist group can pick something like that, but there are other possibilities, such as a goal of doing something every day (as Cate did in her recent post about her July challenge), or the goal of training 3 times a week, or running a faster 10K (or running at 10K at all!), making it to the pool twice a week, or even of developing a new set of values around your fitness pursuits (athletic over aesthetic!).

In addition to helping everyone develop a goal (or at least providing a space where people can state their goals and have a gentle circle of accountability), the group will be there for mutual support and encouragement.

Cate, Christine and I will offer weekly focal points (possibly more frequent than that, we’re not sure yet). Some of these will be based on the “Try This” suggestions in Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey (by me and Samantha, published by Greystone Books, 2018). We’ll post some materials closer to the start date that articulate our approach, rules of engagement, and some other things.

The first group is a bit of an experiment, so we’ll be looking to members to help shape the process, format, and even the purpose. We’ll want suggestions and will be trying out a bunch of different things, some of which might work and others of which may not.

All three of us also plan to be members as well as facilitators.

We’ll start on Labour Day.

It’s an experiment. If it sounds vague and speculative, it sort of is. But we think it will be fun, and could be the start of something. The first group will probably be carry us through to December, so if you do volunteer you’ll want to be available for a 3-4 month commitment (I think…).

If you are interested, please email me (Tracy) fitfeminist50@gmail.com with the subject heading Fit Feminist Group and a brief sentence or two explaining that you’re interested (and if you wish to indulge me further, why you’re interested /what you would hope for from the group). We’re capping at 20, so if you are interested, please get in touch sooner rather than later.

Tracy

Guest Post

Running Ten Kilometres in the Summer of 2018 (Guest Post)

By Amy Kaler

1. When I first realized I was doing it, that evening – I was running ten kilometres and would finish squarely in front of the building where I lived – I should have had the right music. I had my running mix singing through earbuds and in a perfect world I would have been hearing something triumphant, David Bowie’s “Heroes” or one of Bruce Springsteen’s anthems, or even something embarrassingly dramatic like the Rocky theme. What I had instead was Patti Smith’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Changing of the Guards”. It’s a great cover and I suggest you listen to it, but it doesn’t have the exuberant finality the moment at first seemed to require. “The Changing of the Guards” is a gorgeous, allusive song filled with fragments of enchanted landscapes: banners flying over fields and witches holding flowers and a town of merchants and thieves. It doesn’t really add up to victory and personal best, and that is why, in the end, it was the right song for the moment.

2. The moment was a long time coming. I am not an athlete. I inhaled the Cartesian mind/body dualism long before I had words for it. I knew from earliest childhood that I was a mind (or rather, an avid reader who was good at school, which seemed like the same thing) and therefore I could not be a body as well. I was no good at anything involving dexterity because I am severely left-handed, with poor vision in one eye and a vexing inability to locate objects in space, which I now understand as the proprioceptive equivalent of dyslexia. Ergo, I was no good at throwing or catching; ergo, I wasn’t athletic because I equated athleticism with gym class. I regarded people who were athletic in this sense with a mix of envy and mild fear, like the hearty fun-in-the-sun jocks of high school and summer camp. Later I learned about feminism and cultural critiques of normativity, and somewhere in there I learned the term “body fascism”, which I applied liberally (if inwardly) to anyone I didn’t particularly like who seemed to
be in great physical shape. (It didn’t occur to me that there might be something like “mind fascism” and that I might be doing it). So when I turned into a runner at 52, I was heading into terrain that I had never claimed as my own.

3. I don’t mean to tell this as an uplifting story. If the months when I started running were to be released as a biopic or an Oprah appearance or an Eat-Pray-Love narrative, it would be unsatisfying. There are no aha moments, and no inspiring struggles against odds. I started running for a few reasons: because I was getting really tired of yoga; because I had heard there was a runner’s high or a zone of exaltation and I wanted to get into it; because my life was swelling up with midlife stressors that wouldn’t go away and I’ve always believed that if you can’t do anything else, you can always do something new. And this was new.

4. So several evenings a week I went outside and started to run, and then when I started to feel pretty bad I ran a bit more, and when I felt worse I stopped. I had no training or learn-to-run program, and my only accessories were an MP3 player and a Strava app, which quantified and fixed my runs as little maps and nuggets of data. I was gratified that my first few runs weren’t disastrous, that I could keep asking myself “what happens if I keep going a bit more … and a bit more … and a bit more… can I do another ten steps? Yes I can. Another? Yes”. It occurred to me that if I just kept doing ten more steps, I might never stop. I might run forever. And the more I ran, the more I was drawn to the idea of never stopping.

5. Obviously I didn’t run forever. But one of the reasons I continue to run is to get to that place where it feels like I could run right off the top of the earth, a sort of disciplined wildness that had been within me all along, until my pounding heart and the trees sliding past called it out of me.

6. Before this descends in Women Who Run With the Wolves, I’m going to loop back to Patti Smith and the gorgeousness of “The Changing of the Guards”. I live and run in the eastern part of central Edmonton, midtownish, neither hip urban centre nor suburb. It was built between the 1930s and 1960s and is not especially beautiful. Rows of houses are interspersed with walkup apartments and utilitarian throwbacks to the days when people congregated in the neighbourhood – community league halls, schools, churches, mini-strip malls, now mainly underused. At the peak of midday it’s not full of people,
and by 9.00 on a summer weeknight, it’s very quiet. The streets are wide, the sunset is lit up faintly by the refineries to the east and the elms and conifers are dropping shadows around me. I know – something in the air or the light – that I’m up north and high above sea level. I pass fellow travelers I recognize from previous runs: the orange tabby with half a tail, the lone kid in the spray park, the taco truck parked behind the curling rink, but as it gets later these sightings trail off until it’s just me and a hundred different forms of dying light. No one will ever spin a fable about east-central Edmonton but running transforms it into a strange and marvelous world to inhabit, as vivid to me as Dylan’s images.

7. Is this feminism? Because I am a woman, does everything I do with strength and power become feminist? I don’t know. Certainly not everything in my life is done this way, which makes running important to me. Whatever else I do, I will always be the woman who ran ten kilometres for the first time when she was 52, and who could imagine herself never stopping, running right off the surface of the earth.

 

 

 

Amy Kaler is a professor and associate chair in the department of sociology at the University of Alberta. Her academic work can be found here: https://sites.google.com/ualberta.ca/amykaler/home?authuser=2. Her nonacademic writing about Edmonton can be found here: https://edmontonseries.wordpress.com/