aging

Sam wonders what’s old and who’s a senior anyway?

Sitting in a deck chair beside the pool on the cruise ship, I made a comment to Susan about some of the very fit seniors running on the track on the level above the pool. The running track circled the pool and there were all manner of silver haired walkers and runners.

Nice!

There are also people on this cruise younger than us, in their twenties and thirties. We are 53 (me) and almost 53 (Susan). I’m still thinking of us in the middle years, not seniors yet.

Still, Shoppers Drug Mart here in Canada starts seniors discounts at 55. I’m 54 this summer so cheaper shampoo and toothpaste is within sight. A few years ago when we were on sabbatical in Dunedin, New Zealand I was slightly alarmed to see that the seniors price at the movie theatre started at 50. I wasn’t yet eligible but it was close. Likewise, my favorite local swimming pool sets the seniors discount at 50.

Prior to this I had thought there was a hard line. When mandatory retirement was the law in Canada you worked until 65 and then retired. I thought the move was from working person to senior citizen. That never did fit everyone. Some people retired young. Others, like stay at home parents, might not have worked for pay outside the home.

Now though with the end of mandatory retirement, retirement ages are all over the map.

I remember, years ago in my bike racing days, debates about who counts and who should count as a master’s athlete. Likewise with rowing. In some sports it’s quite young, after 35 you’re a master. Other sports such as laser racing have added extra categories like grand master.

Where do you draw the line? Who is a senior citizen and who is not? Do the labels matter to you? Why/why not?

fitness · Olympics

Women’s Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Goes to USA, Silver to Canada

Always, always my favourite part of the Winter Olympics is the women’s hockey, especially the rivalry between Canada and the USA. As I write this, the gold medal game between these two stellar teams is starting in two hours.

And I’ll be sleeping by then. So for the first time in a long while, I’ll be missing the game.

The women describe it as the equivalent of their Stanley Cup, the biggest trophy in North American hockey. And that’s huge. And exciting. And most days it’s worth staying up for. But I just got back from India and I’m almost adjusted to Eastern Standard Time again, so I don’t want to mess with my re-entry. As much as I love women’s Olympic hockey, it’s a calculated decision for my health and well-being.

I may have missed the game, but here’s what happened:

Actually, Renald is home and he live-streamed it on his laptop beside me in bed. I woke up just in time for the US to score for a 2-2 tie. And then a Canadian penalty turned it into even more of a nail biter. Canada killed the penalty but the game still went into overtime.

Overtime is so hard to watch. In 2014 I was visiting my parents in Mexico during the Sochi Olympics gold medal game. It too went into overtime after Canada came from behind. It’s almost unbearable watching overtime in a key hockey game because the first goal in wins the gold. So there was just no way I was going back to sleep.

From overtime to a shootout when Canada couldn’t deliver on a power play with less than two minutes to go in the 20-minute overtime period. So tense. And they kept showing the players’ parents, who were understandably freaking out!

So for the first time in Olympic history the gold medal gets decided in a shootout.

And after a very tense shootout it went to one on one and the US won their first gold in 20 years. Silver is hardly slouching but you lose for it as opposed to winning for the bronze. It’s always been like that and I hope the layers remember that silver is also amazing. As a proud Canadian it is a disappointing result but team USA played an awesome game, Canada was good last night too, and both teams delivered outstanding hockey. Even if it was in the middle of the night.

Image description: action shot of a Canadian and US hockey player with Canadian goal tender Zabados in the background and the puck bouncing up into the left corner of the frame.

Guest Post

Finding my Inner Femme with Circus (Guest Post)

As far as I can recall, I’ve always been a tomboy. I don’t think I really had much of a princess phase, except for Princess Leia and Wonder Woman. I was also a short Asian-Canadian teenager in the 90’s, where pale skin and waiflike looks were in. So I’ve never really thought of myself as one of the pretty girls, which is fine (ok, so my teenage Ani DiFranco soundtrack is also coming out here). It means I don’t worry much about my clothes, hair, or eyebrows, and the only makeup I own is probably expired (does makeup expire?). Cool, less effort.

When it comes to sport, it also means that most of what I do hasn’t asked too much of my appearance. Sport taekwondo has me covered up in a loose white uniform and padded up with protective gear. And rock climbing, well, I don’t know how good anyone looks in a climbing harness, much less when you’ve been living out of your car camping out at the crags.

Still, I’ve always loved Cirque du Soleil, and the awesome athleticism of aerialists. I took the odd drop-in class in things like aerial yoga and hoop, but most of the places I found that offer those kinds of things are places primarily for pole, burlesque, and other types of sexy fitness. Which I certainly have no problem with in their own right, but they are really really not for me. I did wushu for a few years in school, and loved the acrobatics and aesthetic – but even if there was a school I could find to train at, I don’t know if these 38 year old tendons would take it well any more.

But here’s the good news. A circus school, just 10 minutes from home, opened in December, offering classes on aerial apparatus for all ages. I talked a friend into doing a drop in introductory class with me, and was hooked. The instructor at The Rising is an aerialist and former gymnast, and doesn’t seem to care if I’m a scruffy dog-hair-covered tomboy who probably couldn’t do a sexy hip thrust if my life depended on it. In fact, my general willingness to hang upside down like a monkey from things has turned out to be an asset after all. It also turns out that many many years of a sport where I get kicked by people has helped to desensitize my legs so they don’t get bruises from the apparatus.

doing an arabesque pose on a static trapeze

But most of all, what I’ve found interesting is that it’s helped me find a little sense of femininity through strength. A lot of really pretty poses are things that require non-trivial arm and core strength to do gracefully. And while I’ve always found muscles attractive on other women (I know, I know), this is one of the first times that I’ve started to approve of the way they look on me too, and of the cool tricks they can let me do.

hanging sideways from a strands of silk

Obviously I’ve only just started, and who knows where I’m going to run up against the limits of my gendered comfort zone. But so far I’m loving doing something that I’ve always admired, and finding that these muscles let me do pretty things after all.

fitness

Resting, recovering and incredibly impatient

R&R– rest and relaxation.  These words are designed to provoke an “aaahhhhh” from all of us.  We work hard all the time, juggling work, family, friends, money, home, etc.  Like so:

A woman in a suit juggling animated laptop, alarm clock, baby bottle, cell phone and home.
A woman in a suit juggling animated laptop, alarm clock, baby bottle, cell phone and home.

What do we yearn for?  R&R.  Rest and relaxation.  Just saying it can make us breathe easier.  Try it now, and to help even more, look at this picture:

Two wooden chaise lounges on a white sandy beach.
Two wooden chaise lounges on a white sandy beach.

For me lately, though, R&R has meant rest and recovery.  Maybe this sounds good too– after all, recovery is a hopeful word and optimistic process.  I posted about having gotten pneumonia at the beginning of January.  I rested a ton– there was really no choice, as I was flattened– but then started my teaching semester.  I tried to take it easy and rest for a while.  But then I was ready to resume my regular schedule of (among other things) exercise, training for cycling, occasionally vigorous yoga, and cross country skiing when the conditions cooperated.

Well, no.  That just hasn’t happened.  I’ve found myself repeating the following cycle:

  1. becoming bored and frustrated with not doing much physically and doing less socially;
  2. forcing myself to do a regular schedule one day with teaching, errands, maybe a yoga class or other physical activity, or an evening social event;
  3. feeling completely exhausted from that one so-called regular day;
  4. noticing my cough coming back and blaming myself and the world for feeling sick still/again;
  5. canceling whatever social or physical activities I had optimistically planned for the next few days;
  6. resigning myself to resting a while longer.

Last week this happened.  It was a relatively warm day last week, and I decided to ride my Brompton to an appointment that was a 20-minute ride away.  Easy-peasy.  Uh, no.  5 minutes in I started coughing.  I should’ve turned around.  But I stuck it out.  When I got to my meeting, I coughed for the next 25 minutes.  My friend said, maybe you should take an Uber/Lyft home.  I agreed.  But did I?  No.  I thought, it’s only 20 minutes– I’ll ride slowly.  Bad idea!  I felt horrible and had to cancel more events I had planned.

Today is a beautiful unseasonably warm day in February here in Boston.  I’m feeling really antsy and ready to get out there on my bike.  I had tentatively planned to cycle with my friend Pata.  However I’m going to wait just a bit longer.  I’m still coughing, so this time I’ll do a nice walk.  It’s not as fun for me as cycling, but I need a little more recovery time.

Argh.  Sigh.  Hmmmphf.

Sign saying patience is a virtue. It's just not one of MY virtues. A woman is sitting in a long dress on a couch next to it.

fitness

#lovethegymagain (part 1): communal spaces

There’s a fancy gym on the way to my not-fancy gym that has the hashtag #lovethegymagain in the window. I was stopped in front of there on the streetcar the other day and I thought, You know what? I DO love the gym again.

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I’ve written a lot in the past year about the different things that help me get energized about working out, ranging from my weird joy in counting things and acquiring FitBit badges to the motivation of the 218 in 2018 workout group. And right now, I’m enjoying my actual GYM more than I have in a very long time. I’ve belonged to my local YMCA for about 18 months and I found myself striding around the equipment a couple of weeks ago looking around at the incredible variety of people working out and just beaming at being part of this communal enactment of fitness.

When I was in my early 30s and was starting to become a long-distance runner, I loved working out at the U of T athletic centre. The seriousness of sharing a track with elite runners made me train harder and it helped me actually think of myself as an actual athlete for the first time. Now, as I explore the whole notion of fitness as part of aging well, I find I love working out in an environment filled with people across the entire spectrum of mobility and fitness.

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This Y was built as part of the 2015 Pan Am games, and it’s actually the legacy building of those kinds of games that communities always hope for. It’s a shiny, clean, well-designed and open space. It was built as a family-oriented and accessible space, and while there are certainly serious and pumped guys in the weights area, and super-fit runners on the track, they are threaded through with kids and people doing every manner of things to move their bodies.

The first clue to the diversity is the pile of wet boots you trip over when you  go into the women’s change room. Toronto, January. But the thing is? Half these boots belong to kids. Many of those kids are here for the excellent pool, or for the kid-specific programs like indoor soccer. But while I’m toiling away on the treadmill, there are also kids running around the track with their parents.

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A couple of weeks ago, on one of those “you have to be kidding me” weather days, there was one kid running around the track wearing a superman cape, his dad carefully shepherding him into the slow lane. On the mats outside the studios, there were two dads with three little kids doing planks and downward dogs. The two older kids worked hard to do the planks properly while the littlest one crawled underneath his brother. When I was feeling like a Super Serious Runner, all of these kids might have made me anxious that they were going to Get in my Way. Now, I find it absolutely delightful. Even when one of the parents walking around the track with her kid is a woman I went on one not-great date with a few years ago ;-).

In this gym, mostly I use the treadmill, the track, the elliptical and the weights. There are a ton of classes but I rarely take them — I just like the gym. I like the natural light and the way the machines overlook the gymnasium and the pool, and the fact that the weights/conditioning area is in the middle of everything else so never takes on the weird boys-only exclusionary tinge those areas often do at the gym. I like the way there are stacks of mats and small dumbbells in different places so you can use every inch of the space but it never feels crowded. And I like that it all feels so inviting.

IMG_2944

As I’m toiling away, I am grateful for my body, and I’m grateful that I’m part of creating a space that is accessible and welcoming to people using wheelchairs, women breastfeeding, people of all body sizes and fitness capacities, women wearing hijabs, and parents who either want their kids looked after while they work out or who want to work out with their kids. On the 218 in 2018 group, we often end up talking about how parents can make time to work out and we usually end up talking about how to get time away from kids — this gym challenges that paradigm.

While I was doing my upper body workout last week, there was a yoga class going on in the bigger studio. There was a young girl — about 10 — next to the window, doing the class with her mom or another adult person. She was super intent on doing the postures well. I paused for a moment and watched this little girl doing a powerful warrior pose. My heart swelled. It was everything I ever hoped for from a fitness space.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives, works and works out in Toronto. She is a regular contributor to this blog.


 

traveling

Sam discovers compression socks

For years I’ve been struggling with swollen ankles after long flights. Not two hour flights or even four hour flights but six or more, yes.

After my last trip to Europe it took a long time for my calves and ankles to get back to normal. Sarah has a bit of a problem with this too and jokingly suggested that now that compression socks are cool among endurance athletes (thank you ultra marathoners!) we could buy some and try them for flying.

The first bunch I bought didn’t fit me at all. I’ve got very serious calves. And they weren’t tight enough to work as compression for Sarah. They’re funky though.

This trip I actually bought the kind of compression socks I’d previously thought were too impossible old and nerdy to wear. No cool sayings. They’re just black tight and stretchy.

However, low and behold, they work. Fourteen hours of flying to Tahiti and no swelling at all. I’m amazed. And I’m also feeling a bit like an idiot for letting considerations of cool get in my way.

I’ve become that person, flying in yoga pants, compression socks, and bright orange running shoes. On the bright side, I felt great after flying. Whatever, I’ll take it. Bring on the compression socks. They work.

See Try compression socks to relieve circulation problems while flying.

See also How do compression socks work?

fitness

Challenging the clothing police

Last week former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell caused a reaction when she tweeted that female newscasters who go sleeveless lack credibility and “gravitas.”

According to the Toronto Star, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Advanced Education Minister Mitzie Hunter responded by removing their blazers during an official function to reveal their arms with sleeveless tops.

Kim Campbell responded to the twitter backlash by saying people should check the research.

The research may well show that women who show their arms are taken less seriously. But should we let it go at that? I mean, everyone wants to police women’s clothing choices and bodies. What the research actually shows is that women can’t win. They have to work extra hard to be taken seriously and even the slightest most harmless thing can work against them.

Rather than accept the research we would do better to engage in acts of resistance like Premier Wynne. By doing it anyway, we stand a chance of undermining ridiculous social norms and expectations. But then again Kim Campbell was a conservative politician so her uncritical acceptance of the status quo is not surprising.