Swim Practice

For the first time in just under a year, I swam at a pool today. It was glorious. The safety protocols were great. We go to the pool already in our suits, and enter through a separate entrance that leads directly to the pool (to avoid going through the community centre). We had a COVID questionnaire before going into the change rooms. We wore masks except when actually in the water. There were three double lanes, with eight swimmers; my lane had three people. We were never less than 6 feet away from the others. Our coach had pre-printed workouts laid out at one end of the pool, so we just read what to do next and swam, rather than having the usual huddle for instructions between sets. Afterwards, a few of us grabbed a quick shower though technically I think we supposed to just change and go. The two women’s change rooms at this pool are huge, so it was easy for the six women to maintain our distance.

Woman in an orange bathing cap and blue mask, with a swimming pool in the background

I was so excited to be back in the water I forgot to take off my glasses and put on goggles before taking a picture.

My last practice with the club was March 14, 2020. Then the pools closed. I swam outdoors until October 26, but then the water started freezing up. The pools were open in the fall, but I was nervous and dithered about registering with my club until all the spaces were gone. I did sign up for January, but much of the city (including pools) has been locked down until this week. Despite doing lots of other activities, including dryland workouts for swimmers, I had to work hard! I could barely do 25M of butterfly, and I needed a nap after lunch. Did I mention yet that it was glorious?

As I swam, I noticed something that reflects a real change from my own days as a lifeguard. One of the guards was a hijab and burquini-wearing black woman. You can just see her on the right in the picture.

Diane Harper has has loved swimming for over 50 years.

covid19 · fitness

Catherine arrives late to the pandemic party; banana bread, anyone?

Hi there—sorry I’m so late to the pandemic party! Yes, I know the invitation said March 14, 2020; I got it. What kept me?

No, I didn’t get stuck in traffic, because there wasn’t any. At all. For months.

No, childcare wasn’t an issue, because I don’t have any kids to look after and school from home while also working.

No, I wasn’t out in the scary, contagious world, treating sick people, feeding them or supplying them with their essential needs, risking my own life and health in the process.

Nonetheless, I was pretty busy.

March: yoga-zooming like there was no tomorrow (which was definitely a possibility then).

March-April: showing up to teach-lite on zoom and respond to a mass of emergency emails from students in crisis.

May: more zoom work; attending rough-and-ready pandemic-approved substitutes for church, socializing, movement, events e.g. (a friend’s 90th distanced birthday party, everyone shouting their good wishes to the birthday girl).

June: more school zoom events, as if the term had never ended. The work days/weeks went on and on.

July: respite! A defiant, risky but worked-out-in-the-end trip to South Carolina to see family, and a North Carolina mountains distanced family vacation; yes, I’m lucky and grateful for the privilege that afforded me this boon.

August: no idea; maybe pre-semester paralysis? Sadness? Too much time inside.

Sept-Dec: head down, more zoom teaching-lite (no one fails this term); more distraught student emails, more zoom events.

Dec-Jan: another defiant, somewhat risky, but this time with genuine quarantine and rigorous distancing and testing, visit with family.

Feb: Was that last month? Who knows?

There’s this idea out there in social media-land that the pandemic has been an opportunity for people to make use of the shift to time at home (for those whose jobs and lives allow it) to do all sorts of things, like:

  • Bread baking
  • Home renovating
  • Zoom eventing with friends, family, community
  • Outdoor exploring
  • Pet adopting

Yes, some of us have done some of those things sometimes. We’ve also experienced sickness, loss, grief, paralysis, anxiety, depression, isolation, fear. Speaking for myself, I’ve had my share of all of them. And, I’m a lucky person who still has a job working from home and family who are either well or recovered/recovering from COVID.

Now we are on March 7, 2021. The pandemic is still with us, the vaccination roll-out is happening, but very slowly. People are talking about return to normal, or return to new-normal (don’t get rid of those masks, people; they’ll be with us for some time to come).

What do I want to do, now that I’ve finally arrived at the Pandemic Party?

More home improvement:  Last summer I fixed up my back porch for outside safe-socializing. And it was so much fun having people over. I want more of that this summer—more plants, more nice places for people to come to visit me (regardless of pandemic status). I have a front porch that I want to set up as another nice gathering place, replete with flora.

More cooking: During the pandemic I got a lot of takeout, and fed myself as best I could. But there was no joy in it at the time, nor much energy or creativity. Now that we’re maybe seeing an upswing, I’m yearning for new tastes and new domestic activities. I’m currently in love with sheet pan bakes. Boy, I can’t wait to cook for my friends—but that can wait until summer…

More riding and walking and swimming and kayaking and hiking, all outside: over the past year, it’s been so hard to leave the house. Friends help a lot (thanks, Norah!), and many of us have plans. Some involve resuming previous rides (hello, Friday coffee rides with Pata!), and others involve developing skills for bikepacking (hello, Michele and Pata! You said you’d help with this…). I’m planning to commandeer one of my sister’s recreational kayaks next time I’m in SC, bringing it back with me to use in rivers and ponds and flat coastal water. It’ll be a process, getting the routine down. But there’s time.

More writing: this winter, I took a 6-week personal essay writing class online with a great place for teaching creative writing of many genres, Grub Street in Boston (which is all online these days, so check them out). I’ve signed up for a 6-week op-ed class starting March 10, so be prepared for more op-ed-y blog posts to come…

All of these goals and desires and needs of mine pre-dated the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, it seemed to me like I should now use this time to work on them. But I was too busy being upset and paralyzed to do much then. Even though the pandemic is shifting and life-as-it-was may come back in some ways, I am not shifting back to life-as-it-was. I want life-as-it-can-be, focusing on what’s most important to me—friends, family, movement, meaning, community, vocation.

Will I get on a plane again? Yeah (although probably not without a mask for the foreseeable future). But has my view about what kind of life I want changed? Yeah. Like I said, I’m late to the pandemic party, but I’m here, and I made plenty of banana bread to go around.

What about you, dear readers? What features of the pandemic party do you want to keep going when the virus dies down? I’d really like to know what you’re thinking.


Nicole is paying attention to her pelvic floor

A couple of months ago, I started feeling a dull pressure on the left side of my body. Not my hip or knee or shoulder. No, I felt a weird pressure on the left side of my vaginal wall.

After a quick mind scan of what could be wrong with my body, a few ill-advised internet searches, and a reigning in of “jumping-ahead-of-myself fears”, I made an appointment with my doctor (GP) to make sure there wasn’t anything concerning going on.

As is common these days, my initial appointment was held virtually. My doctor went through typical questions and then confirmed I would have to come in for an internal exam. Thankfully, nothing concerning was noted. I mentioned that I had been doing my own internet searches (apologetically, as I feel I need to be when saying this to my doctor) and that it seemed that my discomfort may relate to my pelvic floor and maybe a pelvic physiotherapist would be a good next step. I was surprised when she agreed with me (this isn’t how those conversations typically go – eg, I’ve read about estrogen dominance and I seem to have some of those symptoms, what do you think? I don’t believe in that).

After some investigation, I made an appointment with a local pelvic floor physiotherapist. Again, the first appointment was virtual. I have heard other women talk about their experiences with pelvic floor physiotherapists. They were usually women who’ve had a baby or two. I had a pretty good idea what they do and wasn’t sure how effective a virtual assessment would be. But, the physio quickly put my mind at ease. She was extremely thorough. Between questions, watching me do certain stretches and movements in my living room (fully clothed – phew!) and answering my questions, I left the consultation confident that she understood what my issue was, and that she could easily provide some assistance. The session was ended by making an appointment for the following week – in person – and with homework for me – stretches – no nothing like that yet.

Like a lot of people I know who are very focused with their workouts, I am not so focused on my stretching. I know it’s bad, but I am mentally done after a run or other workout and give a half-assed nod to a few stretches. So the stretches she gave me as homework, were a good reminder to do these more often. And that was part of our conversation, that in addition to my specific issue that I was contacting her about, I wanted to know if there were maintenance things I could do, to prevent further issues with my pelvic floor. One cannot reach their late 40s without knowing that there may be issues with their pelvic floor in the years ahead.

The exercises she prescribed pre-in-person meeting were: quad stretches, runner’s lunge, seated clam shell stretch, seated one-leg hamstring stretches, the glute one where you are lying on your back and have your foot in front of the other folded leg and pulling your thigh towards you and then another one that is similar, but kind of like a “half-baby pose”. As the physio explained, these muscles are all connected to your pelvic floor. And, as any of us who’ve experienced a muscle injury knows, it’s rarely about the one muscle. Weakness in one, will typically lead to injury in another. In my case, I have no doubt, everything is connected to my tight hips and hamstrings.

A poster showing a number of lower body stretches. Nicole has circled the ones prescribed by her physio.

On a relatively nice, sunny, February day, I walked to my physio appointment with my double mask and open mind. It probably helped that I had “met” the physio prior to this appointment that was about to become much more intimate. After asking me a few questions, she handed me the typical doctor’s office drape for the part of me that was about to be naked and I waited on the table until she returned for the exam.

This type of exam is never going to be completely comfortable, but she was very professional and had a confident manner that made me trust her. It wasn’t uncomfortable, from a pain perspective (I used to have painful Pap smears so it’s something I always prepare myself for in these situations), but I’m sure that can vary, depending on what the issue is. As she prodded and felt around and asked me to put my legs and feet in different positions, she explained what she was doing and why and what was likely the problem. She also started giving me my main homework. Reverse kegels.

We’ve all heard of regular kegels. Cate has written about tools for this purpose before on the blog. Many of us do them incorrectly. I have had other professionals explain to me how to do them. Not as “invasively”, but very specifically and it helped. This physio confirmed, with her hand in my vagina, that I was, in fact, doing them correctly. What I needed to learn how to do was “reverse kegels”. I was not a quick study in this regard.

With regular kegels, you essentially “zip up” your vagina, up as high as you can, to your navel, by strategically squeezing your vaginal muscles. With reverse kegels, I am to practice imagining that I am “opening my vagina”, at the same time that I am inhaling. These two things do not naturally go together. And, I am not naturally coordinated. It took me many tries and with her giving me different prompts – try with your mouth open, try in “baby pose”, when you practice at home, perhaps try in squat position – before she was satisfied with my efforts that I could practice on my own at home.

From a physiological perspective, the issue I am working on correcting or preventing from happening again, is my tight coccygeus muscle. The pelvic floor is a ‘sling’ of muscles, a bit like a small muscle hammock that runs between the pubic bone in the front, and the tailbone at the back. 

A picture diagram of the pelvic floor. It shows the puboccygeus and illiococcygeus.

Armed with this new knowledge, I set about practicing the reverse kegels, along with the other stretches I was now doing daily. This was a few weeks ago and the pressure I was experiencing has greatly improved. I went back for a follow-up appointment, where she confirmed the muscle was less tight and practiced the reverse kegels with me again to make sure I was doing them right. I have a follow-up appointment scheduled for a few weeks from now, but she said if I’m still feeling better, I can go ahead and cancel it. It’s just a placeholder in case I need it. I appreciate that she is not asking me to come back for more follow-up appointments if they are not necessary.

Why am I telling you about this experience? Because I think there is room for women to share more of these experiences, so that we normalize pelvic floor health. It’s an important part of overall health, including ability to engage in regular exercise, as we age, and we should feel comfortable talking about it. Also, if you’ve been thinking about going to a pelvic floor physiotherapist and were nervous about it, don’t be! I recommend it.

Nicole P. lives and works in Toronto, currently doing both at home, with her husband and two dogs. She loves fitness, learning and being with friends and family.

equipment · Sat with Nat

Seasonal Maintenance

Recommended listening: Just Dropped In (to see what condition my condition was in) by Kenny Rogers

Approaching the end of winter I noticed my gear and myself look a bit haggard. So I took some time to mend coats, darn mittens, and put mink oil on leather footwear.

Two mid calf brown leather boots are laying sideways covered in dirt and salt
These eight year old Blundstones are looking a bit rough.

At the beginning of winter and mid-season is a good time to take care of winter gear. It is a nemonic for me to check in on myself and reflect on movement and nutrition.

After the mink oil is applied the boots are supple, waterproof, and looking like they are good for a few more seasons.

I’m grumpy but no more so than is usual for me this time of year. I’m achy and that is educating me on why so many Canadians seek warmer places each winter. Overall, I’m doing not too bad.

This past February, thanks to the right gear and work-from-home flexibility, was the first February my step count didn’t take a major hit. With our dog Lucy motivating us and my beloved’s devotion to his step goal we sloshed through slush and tip-toed across ice to keep our 10 km daily treks going.

Our routine needs little maintenance as inertia keeps us rolling. I have noticed I’m slipping on keeping a lunchtime free of meetings. Some days I work later than I mean to. It’s easy to get pulled in to taking boundaries for granted.

So I took a vacation day yesterday and finished up small, lingering household to-do things like conditioning leathers. It was grounding and soothing. I thought of my dad and how he taught me to sharpen knives and maintain my garden tools and footwear. I look forward to seeing him in person (hopefully soon!).

These are small things that mean my gear and myself will be our best and be around for a good long time.

Natalie stares at the camera half smiling  Michel peers over her shoulder   The sun is bright behind them but they still have toques and thick coats on
Sunny day selfies are my favourite, especially when I don’t need a parka!

Do you do specific things this time of year?

fitness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue Friday Link Round Up #93

5 ways to address negative body image during COVID-19

“For many of us, this past year has been full of stress, uncertainty and rapid changes that make it hard to adapt. These factors can affect the relationships we have with food, our bodies, physical activity and the way we see ourselves. One way to combat negative self-talk and negative body-image is to practice body acceptance. Body acceptance is about more than just accepting how our bodies look at this moment in time. It’s also about accepting that our bodies are meant to change. Our bodies are meant to age, change shape and change size. It’s also important to remember that it’s okay and normal for our eating habits, activity levels and body weight to change over time and in response to stress.  Showing our bodies appreciation for everything they’ve gotten us through can help us cultivate a more positive relationship with ourselves. Here are 5 ways you can honor your body and show yourself a little appreciation.”

Influencer Natalie Noel, 24, bringing body positivity to Sports Illustrated Swim

SI Swimsuit, led by editor MJ Day, has become known for representing inclusive body types as women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ages appear across the magazine’s pages. Day has also made a point to select women with empowering stories to tell. In a post revealing this year’s first rookie, she said that Mariduena’s entrepreneurial spirit was one of the biggest reasons that the influencer was selected. “She recognizes the importance of changing the industry, using her following and her notoriety to help others,” Day wrote.”

The Gist Podcast: Ep #57: NBA drama, Aussie Open action, skier Mikaela Shiffrin besting the me‪n

“This week co-hosts Ellen and Steph break down all of the NBA drama including Golden State Warrior Draymond Green calling out the league for their unfair double-standard on how they treat teams and players when it comes to trades. Juicy. Add that to a woman worth watching moment of the week featuring alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, and this podcast has everything you need. Tune in, won’t you?”

The Master Cleanse on Maintenance Phase

“Are your moods too stable? Is your face free of cold sores? Get your lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper ready, because this week we’re talking about celebrity favorite THE MASTER CLEANSE!Along the way we roast New Atheism, praise Gwyneth…”

Photo by Anna Shvets on

When you zoom, you can zoom zoom

I don’t know how many people remember the car ad from a few years ago where an adorable little tyke watching a sleek car drive into the distance whispers with awe “zoom, zoom.” I think of the kid a lot as I log into yet another Zoom meeting and imagine our teams zooming along the Internet highway.

Recently I facilitated a two-hour session on line and the next day I got a note from one of the participants who thanked me for including a ten minute break in the session. It was the first time they had attended an online session with a break built-in. I was shocked. I asked a few of my friends and several confirmed it had been their experience too with some meetings.

Now we are almost a year away from the anniversary of the WHO calling the pandemic. I don’t know about you, but even when we had face-to-face meetings, we had breaks to refresh, refill beverage containers, or get a snack.

Online meetings aren’t any different, even if you are wearing pyjama bottoms or leggings for most of them. Here are some ideas on how to make your next meeting more energetic and less draining:

Think about your meeting format — Does it have to be an online video call? If there’s only one person and it’s someone you see regularly, consider picking up the phone instead. You’d be surprised how much shorter telephone chats can be compared to online video calls. You can always take your call standing up too. Consider using chat, texts, emails or direct messages to focus your conversation. Having to type or dictate can also make meetings brief.

Consider how long your video session should be — If your meeting is an update on project activities, consider a walk and talk if people are able to do do so and it’s not chucking down with rain or snow. Assign each person five minutes to focus their update. If you can’t get outside to walk, have everyone stand for the meeting if they are able. Heaven knows we sit enough through the day. There’s an added benefit: meetings where people stand are shorter by 25% according to Forbes. Just because you are online doesn’t mean you have to sit for the whole of it.

Turn the camera off — Last month I started work with a new group and we don’t use our cameras at all when we have our meetings. It’s been quite freeing as no one knows if I am standing, stretching, or lying on the floor with my foam roller.

Build in different kinds of breaks — If your meeting will go for an hour, build in a stretch break at the 30 minute mark. If you are planning a working session between two and three hours, build in a five minute break for every hour online, and make the break at the halfway point at least ten minutes and up to 20 (depending on how many time zones you are working with).

Breaks can be anything you like. Most people want to refresh their coffee, tea or water; grab a snack; or have a bathroom break. I sometimes play a song for the break; that way, people know when the music stops, it is time to come back to work.

I like including a specific activity break because it reminds people that they need to move in a conscious way and not just to fetch something. A group activity can bring people together by boosting energy and shifting gears from one agenda item to another. Here are some things you can try:

  1. Chair yoga (doesn’t require standing). This video (Chair Yoga with Adriene) is an especially nice one to do and at six minutes is a good length for a mid-session break.
  2. Shake it out (can be done standing or sitting). Have participants turn their camera off. Starting with your right arm, tell people to shake it out five times, then move to the left arm and do the same. Repeat with each leg. Then repeat each cycle, counting down from four to one and picking up the pace with each number.
  3. Play a happy bouncy song and ask people to move in whatever way they like to the music (again with cameras off). This is one of my favourites.

Finally, think about blocking out parts of your week as meeting free zones. Or limit yourself to only one or two online meetings a day if you can. Look at your energy levels and your productivity. If you can’t avoid online meetings, make sure the agenda includes breaks including one using movement. What are ways you are incorporating activity in your online meetings?

MarthaFitat55 lives and works in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.


The one year COVID-versary: reflections on adapting

Did you know you were as adaptable as you’ve proven to be this year? I sure didn’t.

Georgia’s preferred morning snuggle zone

With the anniversary of the Toronto COVID lockdown looming, I started thinking back to a year ago. I found this post I wrote last March, about doing workouts with bags of books instead of weights, with this deeply anxious sense of Having to Make Do. Our posts for that springtime lockdown are just stuffed with fear, tension, sleeplessness, agitation, fatigue, worry about Doing the Right thing. Agonized discussions of whether it was really okay to go for a run or a walk outside. Baking and hoarding. People yelling at joggers, or insisting that virus could stay on your groceries or packages for days, turning a head of broccoli into a killer.

I was working out with our Virtual Superhero group the other day, as I do at least three or four times a week now, and I thought about how quickly an online workout community has become something I deeply value and am not going to give up in a hurry. These morning workouts with the remarkable Alex aren’t “making do” — they have evolved and grown to be a more reliable part of my life than gyms — much as I like them — ever were. Our virtual superhero community is real connection, meaningful movement, and it fits into my life — and motivation in a really organic way.

Morning scene in Cate’s house in the BeforeTimes: (alarm goes off, causing cat to jump off arm. Cate looks at phone, thinks about getting dressed and walking to dark loud spin studio or going to gym to lift heavy things, then rush home, shower, rush off to meeting. More than half the time, Cate rolls over, forfeiting not insignificant already-paid class fee, goes back to sleep).

Same scene, CovidTimes: (alarm goes off, causing slightly fatter cat to jump off shoulder. Cate looks at phone, surveys body and thinks I do NOT want to work out right now, reminds self all she has to do is get up, make coffee, pull on clothes, turn on computer and maybe stretch and then can leave if she wants. Grumbles and gets up anyway. Never leaves after stretching. And even if she DOES cancel, fee gets refunded).

This morning, during our workout (deadlifts and lower body plus E2MOM, if you’re wondering), I was using Emmylou’s bed as a glider for hamstring walkouts, chose from a full array of kettlebells for romanian deadlifts, and — as I watched Alex dance around on screen — the most creative, remarkable, encouraging, authentic coach ever — I thought “I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the gym.” And I meant it. I finished my 730 workout, grabbed another coffee and a bowl of muesli and was at my desk, answering email, 5 minutes later. It works.

To a large degree, the same is true of my workouts on my spin bike. I miss my spinning studio, I miss the music, I miss the community. But I’m not gonna lie — I ride four times as much as I would if I had to leave the house to do it. I ride for a quick half hour in the morning when that’s all I have time for, I get on the bike and into the imaginary world of zwift in the darkening evening for an hour or so as dinner cooks to shake off the day of zooms, I do long rides on the weekend. I sweat in my own home, in the slivers of time that work for me. It adds up. (Not to the TRON bike yet, but I’m getting there — I’m above the clouds 😉).

Yoga? As for so many, YWA is the thread that knits my days together, along with live streamed classes a couple of times a week from my local studio — but having my yoga mat laid out all the time means that I often slip in a 15 or 20 minute practice when I have half an hour between meetings. Like Tracy, I really miss incidental movement — but between deliberate walks, the occasional run, yoga, Alex and zwifting, I just logged my 121st workout for 2020.

So what am I noticing? The things that were workarounds a year ago? The things that reminded me of what I’m missing? They’ve actually given me a more organic, self-guided, reliable way to thread movement into my life. Movement I look forward to, movement I love. Somewhere quite early, I reframed my constellation of movement not as a poor substitute but a more seamless set of options depending on mood, available time, energy level.

My business partner commented the other day that I am “winning in the self-care department” — especially with my consistency of movement. I know some people miss the energy of other people, heavy weights, the structure of leaving the house to Do Something Physical. I get it. But for me? My little introverted, self-driven, self-guided self is happy with the array of virtual options that have grown around me.

Today was a glorious, warm, sunny day. I went for a walk at lunchtime. I reveled in it. Another thing I’ll miss if my Life-Out-Of-The-House resumes in full.

What about you? What have been the happy surprises of bringing so much movement into your own hands and home?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who never puts away the yoga mat anymore. No one is coming over anyway.


How A Promising (Young) Woman Gains Sovereignty Over Her Body

(note: this post contains descriptions of situations (including alcohol use) in which there is a risk of or actual sexual violence)

I met my first husband while I was lying on the bathroom floor of his fraternity house. He shook me into enough consciousness to stand me up and then carry me into a quiet bedroom, away from the jam-packed party. I was nineteen years old. I was drunk. I’d passed out for some brief amount of time.

I was in a relationship with him for eight years. After the first month or so, I didn’t even think about that evening. He didn’t live at the frat house. I never went back there for another party. The bathroom floor of that frat house passed (surprisingly quickly) into the nether reaches of my memory.

Until I watched A Promising Young Woman, the Carey Mulligan film about a woman (Cassie) on a mission of vengeance for the rape of a drunken friend. When the film initially ended, I got caught up in a conversational critique with my partner around the unease and discomfort the film created in us (as well as the movie’s flaws). My partner didn’t like that Cassie was portrayed as crazy, when it was the men’s behavior that was so horrible. One of the sticking points, for me, was that all of the men were portrayed as complicit, compulsively predatory and irredeemable in the face of a seemingly vulnerable, drunken woman. That long ago frat party wasn’t even in my mind. Then it was. As I slept, the film knocked on the door of that memory. I woke up. Remembering.

I went to the party with a friend. I was wearing a black and white striped, thin, jersey knit mini dress. We drank a lot of everything. At some point I felt like I was going to throw up and my friend and I went upstairs to an out of the way bathroom. I didn’t throw up. I begged my friend to leave me there and let me “rest” on the cool, tiled floor. The next thing I remember is male voices, joking with each other about what they should do with me. Then I heard one man’s voice rise above the others. Did I notice the slightly nasal twang then, or is that something I came to be familiar with later, when his was one of the voices I’d recognize anywhere? He propped me up enough to get me into a bedroom. I lay down on the bed. He settled in on a chair. The guardian. His Finnish roommate was also there. They chatted, while I swirled around in nauseous, alcohol-soaked whirligigs. Sometime later, I heard my friend outside the door, asking around for me, worried and insistent.

This is the story of a near-miss, something too many women have experienced. Of course, another too many women have experienced the well-aimed, shot to the heart of sexual coercion, abuse and assault, including myself (Tracy wrote about #metoo here). I was so lucky that night. I didn’t even notice my luck at the time. I didn’t really recognize it until watching the movie, just a few weeks ago. I was filled with retroactive terror for the way that long ago evening could have gone wrong, but did not. I cried tears of relief in 2021, for something that happened in 1985. I felt a wave of fear, too, for my lack of respect for the lesson of that close shave and my lack of gratitude. How near did I come to being the absent girl in the movie? Stripped of my physical integrity and mental wellness?   

Despite my almost-immediate forgetting, the party’s impact clearly lingered in my subconscious. I cut back on my drinking, swinging way in the other direction to a level of constant vigilance that’s only ever been disrupted by precarious drunkenness a handful of times since then. I experienced a moderate uptick in my drinking in my 40s, which I considered a positive development. I was relaxing the reins of control. I felt safer, though I wouldn’t have named that then. Until menopause put her foot on the brakes again. Now my body will barely tolerate more than half a glass of wine.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now, for the first time, how I reclaimed agency over the safety of my body by controlling my intake of alcohol. I also see how, years later, discovering running helped me claim even greater sovereignty over my body. Running (and other sports) transformed my relationship with myself (I wrote about that in my very first post here on Fit Is A Feminist Issue, as well as in two books). When sports came into my life, I was no longer only concerned with my physical safety, but also my body’s strength and how I wanted to use it. Through that fresh lens, I looked around and saw other things I wanted to change. I left the practice of law. I left the relationship with that decent and kind man. We weren’t right for each other. There were many reasons. One big one was that he wanted us to have children. I already suspected that I wasn’t interested (I’ve written about being childfree here). Bearing children was not a dream I had for my body or for my life.

The Wife of Bath is one of the narrators in The Canterbury Tales, who tells a story to illustrate what women want most–their sovereignty respected!
image by ToscaSam on

If I was still in touch with my ex, I might have reached out to him after watching the movie, just to say thank you. I do know he has a daughter. I’m glad.

I did reach out to my younger self, that promising young woman in her second year of undergraduate studies at McGill University and gave her a hug across time. At first, I could feel her cowering in shame. I don’t deserve a hug. At the same time, I could feel defiance flaring in her. You’re blowing things out of proportion, nothing happened. Don’t be such a drama queen. If you write about me, people will laugh at you. I acknowledged her shame and defiance. She softened. What else was I going to do? Scold her for her sloppy carelessness? She sees it. Oh boy, does she ever. She feels the wind of that stray bullet whizzing past her ear, missing its mark. She sees a life that could have gone another way.  

All the younger versions of ourselves live on inside us, inextricably intertwined with our current self and the seeds of our future promise. And yes, there are seeds until the very end. Can we be gentle with all the outdated selves? Protect them, but also give them space to have made mistakes and still come home. After all, they are the water and sunshine for the promising women we continue to be (even if we are no longer young). Finding a peaceful accord with our past selves is the key to finding peace in the here and now. We claim ultimate agency by building our relationship with ourself (in all its different parts) and taking on the responsibility for who we are. Is it easy? Not a chance. It’s the work of a lifetime.

Welcome to sovereignty.     

fitness · health · weight loss · weight stigma

6 things Sam hates about seeing doctors, as a larger person (#reblog, #bloglove)

I’ve been putting off making a doctor’s appointment. Don’t worry. I will, eventually. But here is part of the story about why.


None of this is true about my current set of health practitioners. But they took awhile to find. Right now I’m halfway between jobs and cities and I’m looking for a new family doctor to start. It’s tough. And here’s why!

1. They believe ridiculous things about me. See this article about doctors and bias against larger patient. “Much research has shown that clinicians have biases related to overweight and obesity, conditions that affect more than two-thirds of U.S. adults, Dr. Gudzune said. “[With] the magnitude of the effect of obesity in our country, a substantial number of people are experiencing health care disparities as a result,” she said. Studies have consistently shown that physicians associate obesity with such negative attributes as poor hygiene, nonadherence, hostility, and dishonesty, Dr. Gudzune said. “These types of attitudes are pervasive. It’s not just in the U.S. … [but] physicians across the world…

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fitness · flexibility · habits · self care · stretching

Backing it up: Christine treats the symptoms and the cause

My plan for February was to do a little work on my upper back mobility every day.

Alas, that plan did not take into account the fact that February messes with me every year.

A small elderly woman sitting in a living room chair is shrugging with one  arm and holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.
Picture it, February 2021… (Image description: A GIF from the TV show ‘Golden Girls’ in which Sophia Petrillo, a small elderly woman in a stripped dress who is sitting in a living room chair, makes a dismissive shrugging gesture with one hand while holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.)

(I can’t really explain how it messes with me. It’s some sort of mid-winter slump combined with an odd sense of shortened time. Anyway, I have made note in my calendar to take it into account next year!)

But I didn’t get upset with myself about being less diligent than I had intended. I just did my stretches, movements, and yoga whenever I had the capacity and wherewithal to do so.

It turns out, though, that my lack of capacity for daily work on my upper back actually helped me to identify one of the underlying causes of my tight muscles.

Since I was aware that I wasn’t doing the stretches and everything that I intended to do, I really started paying attention to when and how my upper back felt the worst.

And observing that ‘when and how’ led me to realize that not only was my chair in my home office too low and at a bad angle for my back but my monitor was at the wrong height.

An adult man dances in an oversized Adirondack  chair.
My chair wasn’t quite this off-kilter but once I started paying attention it felt like it. (Image description: A man dances while seated in a comically over-sized red Adirondack chair. It’s a sunny day, there is greenery nearby and a few buildings are in the background.)

So I elevated my monitor and I switched out my chair for one that was less fun but better for my back.

Now, I’m not saying that this fixed the problem entirely. My upper back still needs me to do the stretching and yoga. I still need to pay attention to how I’m holding myself and how long I am sitting in one position.

But addressing that underlying cause of at least part of the problem has made an incredible difference.

It’s not just that my upper back feels more mobile and less tight, I feel better overall. I have had fewer of the specific type of headache that generates from a tight upper back and I feel more relaxed.

So even though I didn’t follow my exact plan I still got where I needed to go.

And I’m calling that a victory.

A person in a yellow,tubular costume waves their arms as they walk through booths at an event.
It’s a very wiggly victory, apparently! Image description: a person in a yellow tubular costume with a happy expression on it waves the long skinny arms of their costume while they walk between booths at an event.