fitness · training · weight loss

High intensity interval training and weight loss: Yawn!

It’s all over the fitness media this week. For weight loss, you should go for high intensity interval training over other forms of exercise.

According Runners World, “Interval training could help you lose more weight than a continuous moderate-intensity workout, according to a new review and meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Interval training may make your body more efficient at burning fat, the researchers believe.”

But why is weight loss even the question? Why not sports performance or other training goals?

I confess this was my reaction: Yawn.

I shared the story with the other bloggers and Catherine chimed in, “Also, for those who are not actively competing, there’s the issue of what we LIKE to do and what we can sustain over time. I’ve done plenty of HIIT, but these days I’m not up to it mentally. We shall see as the weather improves– hill repeats do have a certain masochistic appeal– but right now steady state is a happy place for me.”

Then Mina, “I don’t even like the phrasing “not up to it” in this context, because it implies a shortcoming or deficit. No activity is sustainable, unless we like it. In fact, I’d Kondo-ize that statement and say that maybe we shouldn’t do activities that don’t spark joy. Recognizing, that we will need to sweat a little and experience some false starts to find what activity that is. Even if our goal is competing, we better be loving the training to get there. Basically, I think we feel best when we are pursuing our personal version of excellence and when that excellence has meaning to us (which likely involves some meaning for others, too).”

What’s your response to this report?

Also, I then ran into an interesting critique of the headline version of the review’s results. Read the whole thing here.

Yoni Freedhoff writes, “Last week saw the publication of a new study in the BJSM entitled (highlighting mine), “Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT)“. Understandably intrigued given a prominent medical journal was suggesting there was a magic bullet for fat loss, I clicked through, and then reading the piece I learned that the amount of fat lost that the BJSM was calling a “magic bullet” was a 1 pound difference, one which the study’s abstract’s conclusion described as, “a 28.5% greater reductions in total absolute fat mass (kg)”. Duly surprised, I then took to Twitter to poke around and found that one of the study’s authors, James Steele, was tweeting out a corrective thread to his own study’s hype – hype which understandably and predictably led to an onslaught of media overreach.”

That post is worth reading. It’s totally not boring.

cycling · family · fitness · Wordless

Sunday cyclists in East Potomac Park, Washington, D.C, #WordlessWednesday

From 1942, from the Library of Congress, free to use and reuse photos, https://www.loc.gov/free-to-use/bicycles
Collins, Marjory, 1912-1985, photographer
body image · diets · fitness

The power of a pound or two

Content warning: talk about weight loss and body image.

About two weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling so great– less peppy and more draggy walking around and going up the two flights of stairs to my office. By the weekend, I was clammy and nauseated, with abdominal pain on my left side. It didn’t get better, and I found myself reluctantly heading to the hospital emergency department on a Sunday morning.

At the end of five hours there (including lots of testing, waiting around, and generally watching the show which is an ER over the weekend), the doctor wasn’t sure what was wrong, but had a concerned urgency in his tone that I must say I didn’t like. He insisted I go to the GI specialist the next morning.

Long story short, I have a mild-ish case of pancreatitis, with no clear cause. There are some very clear risk factors for it, but I don’t have any of those. I happen to fall into the 20% of cases classified as “misc other.”

Great, I’m officially in the junk drawer of medical causes… Sigh.

It turns out that the main treatment for pancreatitis is not eating food for a while. Three doctors explained the technical details like this: “the pancreas needs to rest”. Well, okay then. Let’s be very quiet. Shhhhh…

I was on a liquid diet for 3 days, transitioning to jello, popsicles, and finally– apple sauce! By day 5, I could have chicken noodle soup. Oh joy! One key feature of this diet is severe restriction of fats. Much fat intake would cause me abdominal pain (I discovered this when I accidentally ate some ramen noodles, which apparently are high in fat. How did I not know this?)

As you can imagine, I soon noticed that I had lost a little weight. I don’t weigh myself, but I could feel the difference in the way my clothes fit.

Despite the medical circumstances and the knowledge that this weight drop is temporary (it’s water weight which will come back when I start eating properly again) I felt a small thrill. Oh boy, weight loss! Oh boy, looser clothing!

I also felt a rush of irrational hope: maybe now, maybe this time I’ll really lose that extra weight I’ve been dragging around. Maybe I can keep this going, and who knows how far I can go?

Yes, it’s understandable that I would have these feelings. I have been unhappy with my body off and on (more on than off) for almost as long as I can remember. This is so sad, and I wish it weren’t true. But it is true.

When I was 13, I had mono. I went from 115 lbs to 105 lbs in a few weeks. Of course this wasn’t good for me. But boy did I feel like I’d gotten this huge gift– a slightly lighter body, which to me looked and felt transformed. Of course it wasn’t transformed– it was undernourished and dehydrated. Over the next month I gained the weight back as I regained my health.

This time I’m paying closer attention, and I’m on to these beliefs– that this sickness-induced weight loss is a sign of what I can/should/will do to change my body weight.

These beliefs are a cheat and a con.

These beliefs are not reflecting anything true about my body. They’re reflecting my continued struggle with body image and self-acceptance.

For the next month or more, I will need to adhere to a low-fat diet. It’s possible that I will experience more weight loss. That’s fine– it won’t harm me to weigh less. What does harm me, though, is the weight I give to these small changes in my body– what meanings they have and what power they wield over my feelings of well being and self image.

These messages I send myself are a cheat and a con. Why? Because I know that my weight goes up and my weight goes down. I am still here and I am still me, in my gloriousness of intelligence, disorganization, enthusiasm, friendliness, beauty, procrastination, athleticism, and vulnerability.

Everything changes. Including weight. I don’t want to be held hostage to fluctuations, regardless of whether they cause panic or glee. So I’m sharing it with you all. Thanks for reading.

walking

Sam is all sore feet and smiles in Spain

Image description: A photo of Sam taking a photo of a Mimosa tree. She’s wearing her “FEM-IN-IST” hoodie.

 

Image description: Sam next to a stony, scaly arch in Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Image description; Google FIT tells Sam that she has 269 move minutes and 21,608 steps in a screen capture.

I confess I was nervous visiting Europe with my less than fully functional left knee

I’m here partly for work and partly for a couple of days of vacation. Sarah’s along for the vacation part. We flew into Barcelona, taking the train to Perpignan for a meeting of the Crossways in Cultural Narratives program, stopping in Girona along the way. (Guelph is one of eight partner institutions that offer the program along with the University of Perpignan Via Domitia, France ; University of Bergamo, Italy;  New University of Lisbon, Portugal; Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland; University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain; University of Saint Andrews, United Kingdom; and University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.)

I love Barcelona. It’s one of my favorite cities. But what I love to do in Barcelona involves lots and lots of walking. I’ve blogged lots about European cities and walking. But this time with my sore left knee I wasn’t sure how it would go. I couldn’t imagine getting around without lots of walking.

But friends, I have terrific news. I did it! We walked all day, up hills, down hills, through streets and through shops. The main event was walking up Carmel Hill to Gaudi’s Parc Guell. There were aches and pains, sure. My knee is almost never sensation free but I enjoyed myself and it didn’t hurt too much. At the end of the day it wasn’t swollen or particularly sore. In fact, I broke into a grin late in the day when I realized my feet hurt. It’s been ages since my feet have hurt from walking too much. For the past year or so, my knee has been the limiting factor in walking. 

Thank you Barcelona for the elevators down to your subways. I know I’ve worried about cities in Europe and disability access before. See here. But Barcelona was a very pleasant surprise. 

Anyway, I don’t have a lot to say except that I’ve never smiled so much because my feet were sore. 

Image description: View of Barcelona, including Sagrada Família cathedral, from the top of Carmel Hill.

 

Image description: Sam pauses halfway up Carmel Hill in Barcelona. She’s flushed but smiling, wearing a grey t-shirt and hoodie, black yoga pants and bright orange running shoes. There are lots of Barcelona homes and apartments in the background.

fitness · rest · self care · sleep

Sleep and other forms of rest

Image description: against a yellow background the words: “You are exhausted physically and spiritually because the pace created by this system isfor machines and not a magical and divine human being. You are enough. Rest. The Nap Ministry”

We blog about sleep and rest quite a bit around here. I’m keenly aware of this topic right now because I’m 10.5 time zones away from home, with disrupted sleep, and I’m taking a time out from my Around the Bay Training to go easy on my knee/IT band issue.

Approaching my trip to India last week I had an empty tank, a backlog of work I couldn’t get done even if I’d had no sleep, and my left knee was bothering me because of an IT issue from my long distance runs for Around the Bay training. The unsettled weather (freezing cold, then snow, then freezing rain, then rain) didn’t help. I hadn’t felt that run down since last winter. I literally couldn’t wait to get on the plane so I could zone out for the next 20 hours while enroute.

This is why the above message from the Nap Ministry speaks to me. The pace. It’s not human. And yet I can’t seem to slow down for any appreciable length of time unless I get sick, travel (and even then, it’s not always to a slower pace), or hit the wall in such a way that I get a case of the “eff-its.” India happened as a convergence of the second and third of these possibilities, with “sick” likely to follow soon if I hadn’t taken off.

What causes me (us?) to go go go like this when we know it’s too much? I know I fall prey to the idea that I have to do it or I’ll let people down/be a failure/reveal myself to be a pretender — pretending to be on top of things, pretending to be good at what she does, pretending to be smart and effective, pretending… I try to keep up so I won’t let people down and won’t let people see me down.

But we’re not machines. The Nap Ministry has reassured us that we are enough. We get to rest. And in that spirit, after a very long day of sight seeing yesterday that included the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, with a combined time of over four hours on our feet, I took a time out this morning to stay in my hotel room. Granted, I stayed in to do some work, but I also needed a bit of a retreat.

It felt self-nurturing and right to come back to my room after breakfast, read a few student papers, and then curl up under my covers for another hour before meeting up with people at 1:30.

My knee hasn’t bothered me since I left. I’ve had enough sleep the past couple of days. I’m still behind on work. But I’m feeling more rested today than I did the day I left. To me that’s a win.

Namaste.

Are your sleep and rest adequate? If so, what’s your secret? If not, what holds you back from getting enough?

Image description: Tracy walking towards the camera wearing low boots, slim fit pants, a black long sleeved jacket, two scarves, sunglasses, and carrying a camera. In the background Taj Mahal, blue sky, green grass, and throngs of people.
Fear · femalestrength · gender policing · Guest Post · weight lifting

Watch your step (Guest post)

John getting a piggyback from Vicky

You know how (if you’ve ever worked retail) there’s a clichéd ha-ha customer joke for when something scans and isn’t in the system? “Oh there’s no price on it? It must be free!” From the customer’s angle, it’s mildly funny because they use it once every couple of months. Clerks in stores hear it multiple times an hour sometimes. (It’s not so funny after the first 383 times.)

There is a conversationally-equivalent bad joke for male partners of strong women.

I cannot tell you how many times a man (it is always a man, never a woman) has broached a conversation with, “So you’re a powerlifter?” with a look from John me, followed by “You can lift HOW much? Wow. That is something…,” with a tone that sounds like a mixture of admiration and awe. 

At this point it goes one of three ways. Either things segue to the details of lifting, we shuffle on to another topic, or……

…they turn to my husband and say, “You must have to watch your step at home.” or “Wow, I’d be careful if I were you.”

There’s always a moment of silence in which you can hear both of us frantically hunting for something pithy to say in response. Often these conversations come up at professional gatherings and what we WANT to say isn’t polite or appropriate.

It’s insult masquerading as compliment to subtly prevent rejoinder, a backhanded slap across both of our faces but done politely enough that a “fuck off” cannot be handed in return. 

It’s also just not funny. 

The initial praise of a woman for an ability for which she has worked hard is the veneer, but underneath it’s actually an inelegant way of saying, “Dude, your wife is stronger than you, which I believe means that you are relatively weak of body and spirit, also I am intimidated as hell both that she probably can pick me up and throw me (side note: buddy, I’m thinking about doing just that)  AND I do not understand the strength of character that you must have to NOT be intimidated by this so I will pretend that you are both weak and hen-pecked because I feel more manly that way. Also, lady, you are too strong for a woman and the way in which that is determined is my comfort level, so there’s clearly something wrong with *you*.

Vicky picking up a deadlift at the 2018 World Championships

Firstly, yes, I am pretty fucking strong. That does not require that I be compared to anyone, male or female. It’s a simple fact. The almost-daily battle of Vicky vs The Weights currently sits at 1045 to 184 in my favour (most days I don’t get my ass handed to me, but they occasionally happen), based on training days over the last six years. The fact that I can lift more than John or any man is irrelevant to both of us. I never set out to be stronger than him and my strength doesn’t have anything to do with his self-esteem. Each of our respective skills and hobbies is not something that pits us one against the other, it’s an attribute or asset that we bring to our team. Also I have worked harder for this than most people know or could understand. I will never apologize for it or downplay it. I am well past the point in life of dumbing myself down for social acceptability.

I am and have always been a strong and intelligent woman. There are a lot of us around and I count myself incredibly fortunate to have become a part of the community of powerful women locally, nationally and world-wide. When you become strong, you tend to congregate with folks who are equally strong because they understand both who you are and what it takes to get there and they support that. I am not a gentle personality and I don’t want to be. My grade three report card says, “displays leadership qualities” on it and god bless you Miss Roche for writing it that way because most of the time people called smart and decisive girls “bossy”, “pushy”, or “know-it-alls”. Men (and women) are sometimes intimidated by me.

Most of the women I coach have similar personalities, strength of character, and intelligence. 

None of us apologizes for it anymore. 

We just throw another plate on the bar and lift that shit, with the knowledge that someone else’s weakness of character is not our problem.

We are under no obligation to be less physically powerful, less intelligent, less forthright, or less confident than any man. And we are not responsible for someone else’s self esteem.

Further to this, men are under no obligation to spend their free time lifting. There is no law that obliges my husband to enjoy strength sports (thank heavens – one lifter in the house is hard enough during comp season and expensive enough to feed!).

We are allowed to make different choices based on preference and talent regardless of sex or gender. John enjoys bushcraft, hiking, triathlon, trail and ultramarathon running, and kayaking. He is able to tackle tremendous distances which are impressive as hell. He is also my best friend, someone I love for exactly who he is and whom I respect immensely.

So does John have to “be careful at home”? No. Because he is my equal in worth and value and he knows and is confident in this. And I am his.

Vicky Taylor-Hood is a powerlifter, lifting and fitness coach, mother, wife, dog-wrangler, kayaker, hiker, and likes to pick things up just to see if she can.

cycling · fitness

One bike?

If you could only have one bike, what would it be? Around here the cyclists tend to have multiple bikes each serving its own purpose. I have a gravel/adventure road bike, a road bike, an aero road bike, a track bike, and a fat bike.

See  Folding bike for fun and convenience: An addition to my dream fleet? and My dream fleet

and How many bikes is too many?

See also Catherine’s My optimal number of bikes right now is (N+1)-N


But it’s not cheap owning multiple bikes and they take up space. I often wonder if I could get by with one bike and if so, which bike would it be?

Of my current fleet, hands down it would be my adventure road bike. What’s that mean? “Adventure Road Bicycles are one of the newest categories of bicycle. They are sometimes called all-road bikesany-road bikes, or gravel bikes, and are the most versatile sub-category of road bike. Similar to cyclocross bikes, they have drop handlebars and the ability to use wider tires. The frame geometry is longer and more upright compared to a cyclocross bike, however, making these bikes more suitable for long days in the saddle, light touring, and commuting. “

Here’s Century Cycles’ list of bike types.

Mine is a Giant AnyRoad which was bought at ToWheels  in London, Ontario for my birthday a few years ago.

It can have fenders unlike my racy road bike. I’ve installed a rack for panniers. For winter, it’s got snow tires and if I was planning a road trip just on pavement I’d get slicks. It’s solid and comfortable and on its all purpose tires can ride just about anywhere.

Well, it’s not good for technical mountain bike routes and it’s not the fastest thing on two wheels on the pavement but if you can rule out those two things, it’s pretty amazing. It rides well on grass, gravel, unpaved bike paths of various surfaces, and on pavement, too, just not as fast as my other road bikes.

Here’s my bike:

Well lit bike