athletes · fit at mid-life · fitness · Martha's Musings

Medals, recognition and being fair to all

matteo-vistocco-240766-unsplashBy MarthaFitat55

I have a box that I keep sentimental bits and pieces in for safe keeping. There’s the usual flotsam and jetsam of life: a ticket to my first Broadway musical, the tassel from my high school graduation mortar board, a funny postcard from my mom, a plastic Mickey Mouse, my girl guide pins and so on.  Hiding in the box are also two mementoes from two sporting events I participated in: my first ten mile road race and my first (and only) rowing medal.

I hear a lot about how everyone wins these days, from school yard sports days to intramural sports. But what if you signed up for a race and no one was there to see you cross the finish line? What if you forked over your cash, and there was no medal because they ran out? What if you registered hoping for a personal best and the timing mats were gone so no one, including yourself knows your official time? Or the most most worrisome, you were promised water stations and sign posts, and neither were available by the time you reached the designated areas?

Hard to believe but these are all true stories as reported in this open letter to race directors published a few days ago. That ten mile road race I ran back in 2003? You do run on a road, and for the first two hours, the race route is closed to traffic. Go longer, as many walkers and some slower runners do, and you have to hope for the best as the road re-opens and the cars move in. But is it really fair though that only the elite athletes get all the perks — the water, the cheers, the medals, the time chips etc?

I understand time limits and I know many of these races depend on volunteers and the goodwill of the residents in the neighbourhoods these races go through. I really do. The first year I ran the Tely Ten, back in 2003, there were about 1400 participants. In the 2018 race, there were almost 4100 runners, walkers, and wheelers. That’s a whole lotta people getting their fit on.

Even though there’s three times as many people, the actual time difference for the back of the pack has gone from three hours and 17 minutes to three hours and 33 minutes. That’s only a 16 minute difference. So why are the water stations packed away, the roads opened, etc?

Part of me suspects this is the kind of anti-amateur athlete bias we see in other sports. I still remember the dismissal female rowers got for their Regatta efforts in some media coverage. They were only in it to lose weight or look good opined a few, both on and off the record.

Perhaps the feeling is if you can’t train enough to keep up with those who can run a 10 mile race in under 90 minutes, you aren’t a real athlete? Maybe people think you aren’t committed to your fitness goals  or you aren’t training hard enough to keep up.

Whatever the reason, there’s a growing chorus out there saying every participant should have the opportunity to finish a race on equal footing with the same treats, water, supports, medals and timers whether you lead the pack or bring up the rear. Especially if you have paid for the privilege of being in a particular competition.

While I wasn’t best pleased to discover there would be cars in the roadway as I headed into the homestretch of my first real race, I did get my official time. I cannot imagine the feeling of having run a race and learning I had been bumped from the chip because I wasn’t fast enough. I can’t imagine not having water on a super muggy race day and having to depend on the kindness of strangers or making sure I could carry enough to keep me going. I cannot think how I would feel if I lost my way on a race course because the signs got picked up sooner rather than later.

We talk a lot here in Canada and also in the US about the need to become fitter so we can reverse the trend of fatter kids and obese adults. We have started having conversations on how we can best support access to affordable modes of exercise and sport and make them safe and inclusive spaces as well. And yet, when it comes to events that help us set benchmarks and allow us to compete with others, why do we have to treat the back of the pack with less respect than those at the front?

As race planners look ahead to 2019, we have to find a way to make sure everyone has a chance to compete on a fair playing field. From rowing, I learned we all have to pull together to make the boat fly. It’s time we pulled together so everyone, including those at the back, get a fair shake too.

Martha gets her fit on through powerlifting and swimming.

 

 

 

 

hiking · menopause · running · training

Now That Getting Stoned Is A Legal Training Option

Before I dive into this post, I want to put a caution up front. This represents my personal views. I’m coming from a cannabis-positive direction and will not look at the risks and downsides. Others will represent that perspective, to be sure!

Yesterday the recreational use of cannabis became legal in Canada. As if I needed another reason to miss my homeland! By way of celebration, I considered getting stoned this morning before my run, but I’m only a baby stoner and consuming cannabis straight out of bed (and by myself, since my partner is away) felt more than a wee bit outside my comfort zone.

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lush green cannabis plant

This article in Canadian Running about the potential benefits of cannabis on training might change my mind about running stoned.

By way of background, I consumed virtually no pot until I was into my thirties. Then a few years ago I became intolerant of alcohol, likely related to the onset of menopause. I was never a big drinker, but I enjoyed the social aspect. I miss the festive feel of a cocktail or the last glass of wine around a dinner table littered with the debris of a long meal. I’m glad that I have access to edibles (products like candies or brownies containing cannabis) and enjoy them as an alternative that never gives me a hangover.

Cannabis products didn’t really figure in my athletic life. Sure, there was the marathon I finished where a friend with a joint was at the finish line, touting the anti-inflammatory benefits. I can’t remember if I recovered more quickly from that marathon. Until recently, I had not used cannabis specifically as a recovery tool. Yes, I am likely to consume in the evening after a long effort, but that’s a reward, a celebration. The pain relief is a bonus and I haven’t tracked the efficacy.

Then, about a year ago, I had a period where my hip flexor started bothering me out of the blue. Putting on a pair of pants was uncomfortable. Running got hard and slow, because lifting my leg invoked the pain. My partner counseled me to use the CBD oil he’d bought a while back. I was skeptical. Then I was a grateful convert. Since then we’ve bought a couple of other CBD products for muscle pain, and my acupuncturist uses it. Wow. Nothing topical has worked so well for me. This summer when I was training for a 30k mountain run, I would mix CBD cream with foot salve, to my feet’s delight. I used it on my sketchy hamstring and my cranky shoulder blade muscle. All were happy.

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White plastic bottle labeled Muscle Melt Active Cannabis Heating Rub, beloved by Mina’s muscles

While training for that long run, I did a couple of runs with some younger folk. They were mountain goats with incredible endurance, agility, quite a bit of speed and a lot of good cheer. I also realized that two of the three of them were stoned. That gave me pause. I had never thought about the potential training benefits of cannabis. If anything, I assumed that being stoned would diminish my ability to work out.

The day after one of our four-hour training runs, my partner and I decided to do a 10-mile, steep hike, as a way of being on our feet, without using the exact same muscles. I suggested we follow our mountain-goat friends’ example. We had a cannabis candy as we started up the trail.

I was curious to see how it would feel. Would we be slower? Would we lose the thread of the hike? Would we just sit down and admire the forest? Nope. We charged up the mountain and got to the top as fast, if not faster, than we usually do. We were so jazzed by our ascent that we run-hiked back down. We were so focused on whether we were having a “better” time on our hike, that we didn’t even notice our performance. We concluded that the forest had seemed just as spectacular as always, the view from the peak as breathtaking, and the high meadows of wildflowers as eye popping. With or without cannabis enhancement, we got the same joy out of the experience. It was only afterward that the performance side sank in. Hiking stoned was hiking strong.

That one anecdotal event was not enough to change my training habits. I didn’t overcome years of a strict church and state separation of the workout part of my day and the relaxation part; that prude in me who clucks her tongue at having too much fun when I should be working. I thought of that hike as a one-off. But when I add in the new information from the Canadian Running article about the potential benefits of cannabis during training runs, well, I can feel my no-no stance crumbling.

I’m always curious about new training modes, so why not running stoned? Have you tried it? What are your experiences with cannabis and training?

body image · clothing · fitness

Gym dress codes…again

Image description: Kylee Graham taking a selfie with a red smart phone. She is smiling, hair in a pony tail, and wearing the "offending outfit," a black sport top that stops an inch above the top of her black leggings.
Image description: Kylee Graham taking a selfie with a red smart phone. She is smiling, hair in a pony tail, and wearing the “offending outfit,” a black sport top that stops an inch above the top of her black leggings.

A couple of years ago Sam had a change of heart about gym dress codes at the University gym. In “Sam changes her mind about gyms and dress codes,” she explained how she initially thought that if the dress code is gender neutral and gender neutrally applied (e.g. everyone has to wear proper footwear or everyone has to wear a shirt), then there was no problem. But that led to a huge outcry from readers, who basically objected to any dress code in a gym, particularly when the reason is to make others feel more comfortable.

The gym dress code issue came up again when a student at the University of Prince Edward Island wore a short top (I wouldn’t even call it a crop top) that didn’t quite reach the top of her leggings, thus exposing a little bit of midriff. The staff at the gym told her it violated the code — no sports bras or crop tops. When she drilled down about the reasons for the code, it came down to this: they are too distracting because they show abs and cleavage. The staff said they were trying to “find a happy medium where girls can still work out with men” (don’t get me started on referring to the women as “girls” and the men as “men”).

If this is the rationale, then we can file it in the same folder as all the other advice we give women to protect themselves from assault and harassment — cover up, don’t walk alone after dark, don’t go in the elevator alone with a man/men, take your drink with you when you use the bathroom at a club or bar…

Why can the women not “still work out with the men” if wearing crop tops? It has zero to do with the women. They’re just there doing their thing with body confidence, wearing a thing that’s designed for working out. So it’s a terrible reason. And if that’s the reason for a dress code, then definitely there should be no dress code.

I think there may be some legitimate reasons for some restrictions — shoes, for example. And I can even think of some gender neutral reasons for wanting everyone to wear a shirt — sweat on the equipment, for example. What I doubt, however, is that those reasons will be gender neutrally applied. Lingering in the background is this idea that women’s bodies should be covered because if they’re not, straight men will be distracted and unable not to sexualize them.

This assumption does both men and women a disservice. My best example of a fitness community where many people wear as little as possible and in my experience no one sexualizes the others in the room (or if they do, they keep it totally to themselves) is hot yoga. Women wear tiny shorts and crop tops. Men wear shorts and frequently go topless. And it’s just fine.

Do you think it’s out of line for gyms etc. to have dress codes?

 

athletes · training

Trying the tri-adventure in its last year… Join us!!!

This year for the first, and last, time I’m joining this blog’s Cate Creede in the tri-adventure. You can read about Cate’s connection to the event here.

I’ll have more to say later about my specific plans and my training and also about fundraising. I’m not asking for money just yet but I am asking you to join in.

What kind of event is the tri-adventure? “The TriAdventure is not a typical triathlon. Our activities are not timed, and there are no prizes for finishing first. Our participants challenge themselves with the physical activities involved in the event, but are also challenged to raise over $1,200 for 51 vulnerable children in Kasese, Uganda who have been left without family support through poverty, HIV/AIDS or violence. The reward is knowing that your effort helps fund a program that begins with food, shelter and education and aims to help these children become self-sustaining citizens who contribute to a vibrant, diverse global community.”

When is the Tri-adventure? It’s August 16-18, 2019.

Where is it? Camp Wahanowin. That’s on the north side of Lake Simcoe, about 2 and 1/2 hours drive from Toronto.

Can you tell me more about it?

From the website: “Join an amazing community of people for ONE LAST TriAdventure weekend where we will acknowledge, as a community, the incredible work we’ve done together over the past 15 years to create, sustain and bring a dream to life. This will be our final massive fundraising push that will take the whole project to the finish line over the next 5 years.

Whether you were engaged in a whole series of Triadventures or have only been part of one, we would love you to be part of this amazing final event with all the familiar elements you know and love and a few special additions.such as the two recent Nikibasika graduates who will be joining us!

In this final year, we are thrilled to announce that two of our recent graduates Phionnah and Smith are coming to Canada to bring first-hand thanks and messages from the 52 young adults of Nikibasika community. They will be with us throughout the weekend sharing their stories and meeting the community of supporters who have taken a stand to support them. They will also be participating in internship programs while here. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to celebrate together.

Also, each and every person who signs up for the Triadventure Finale will get a commemorative cycling jersey or hoodie to mark this great moment.”

You can read more about it here, https://www.facebook.com/TriAdventurePage/

http://www.triforafrica.org/

And you can register here, https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/triadventure-2019-the-finale-tickets-37787495416

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I’m hoping we can gather a whole crew of fit feminists to mark the occasion of the last tri-adventure. Join me! Join Cate! Join Sarah! Join us! It’ll be fun. It’ll be rewarding. I promise.

athletes · inclusiveness

She’s got game (at Guelph)!

A new initiative at Guelph, my new university home, is starting and it’s right up my alley and so people keep talking to me about it. I like that. She’s Got Game will officially be launched on October 18th, extending our school’s ethos of diversity and inclusion to sports.

See https://twitter.com/uofg/status/1052242772244217857?s=19

“Join us as we celebrate the exciting launch of U of G’s She’s Got Game initiative! She’s Got Game is committed to fostering gender equity and encouraging women and girls to excel in sports. It aims to help girls and women acquire tools to succeed on and off the field of play by engaging the community, informing policy and fundraising.”

There are lots of different pieces to this initiative. Some of it I’m indirectly involved in, like developing experiential learning opportunities for university age student athletes who will partner with the girls. Other bits I’m just a consumer. I love that Planet Bean partnered with them to make and sell Gryphon Blend coffee which benefits girls and women involved in athletics at Guelph. It’s great coffee and a great idea. 

Learn more about the initiative at www.shesgotgame.ca.

body image · fitness

What’s going on when even the Europeans are starting to cover up? Poor body image crosses the pond

Image description: wooden sign on wooden post with
Image description: wooden sign on wooden post with “NAKED BEACH” handcarved into it, on a white sand beach, shrubbery, sand, surf, and blue sky with scattered clouds in background.

We’re long known to be all messed up about bodies and nudity here in North America. But even as a teen backpacking through Europe I grasped that sense of freedom and body positivity on the topless and nude beaches from France and Switzerland to the Greek Islands. Bodies of all shapes and sizes. Men and women in skimpy bikini bottoms or naked. It wasn’t “for adults only.” It wasn’t sexualized. It rarely (though not entirely never) involved leering and creepiness. It was just an accepted way to be at the beach or poolside or in the sauna.

Flash forward to 2018. More and more people are covering up. The Economnist article “Naked Europe Covers Up,” says: “In recent years, commentators across the continent have remarked on a new prudishness.”

And while some would blame it on immigration, there appear to deeper reasons than cultural difference in attitudes about nudity.  According to the article:

The rise of social media has made young people more body-conscious, reluctant to display anything less than perfect abs. Smartphones with cameras make risqué undress riskier. The #MeToo movement has forced a reassessment of even fully clothed interactions between the sexes, let alone naked ones. And the increasing ubiquity of online pornography is making it difficult to de-sexualise the naked body, a prerequisite for nudist beaches and unisex saunas.

People are worried about being captured naked and unawares on someone’s smartphone camera. Between that, #metoo, and the (purported) difficulty people are having separating nudity from sex make it difficult to regard a naked body in a sexually neutral way. This isn’t a huge shock to those of us in North America, who are so game to conflate nudity with sexuality that we can’t even deal with women breast-feeding infants in public spaces.

But it’s sad and true. Quite a few years ago I wrote about the way a week at a nude resort actually helped me break through a lifetime of issues with poor body image. I don’t love that post as much as I used to because it links to a radio documentary of that experience in which I made some judge-y body-shaming comments that I would not make today. But it is absolutely true that being surrounded by nakedness and people of all shapes and sizes, it took me mere days to gain a sense of comfort with my body that I had never had before.

And that’s why it’s a shame that the need to cover up is spilling over into Europe. The article contains an interesting discussion of mixed sex saunas and how it used to be thought inappropriate to wear a swimsuit because it indicated that you were sexualizing bodies.  Now, however, many Dutch saunas have introduced clothing optional hours and even swimsuit days to cater to a new sense of modesty among clientele.

I’m not sure if “modesty” is code for prudishness, poor body image, or the sexualization of nakedness, but if things continue to develop in this direction, next thing you know they’ll be hiding behind towels in European locker rooms the way they do at my hot yoga studio. (See “A Tale of Two Locker Rooms” for a years-old discussion of the difference between the young more modest vibe at hot yoga and the older, more body confident vibe in the locker room at the Y).

One thing I know for sure, when other people are covering up, it’s harder to feel comfortable naked. At least that’s been my experience.  Here in Ontario, for example, women are legally allowed to go topless. But hardly anyone ever does. And the more hardly anyone does, the less likely anyone is to do it. But when everyone is naked (or if most Ontario women went topless at the beach), it’s not such a big deal. It soon starts to feel ordinary and unremarkable. That’s why some naturist (not to be confused with naturalists) communities insist on nudity, not on “clothing optional.”

Have you ever been to a nude beach, resort, sauna, or any place where everyone was naked yet not sexualized? What did it feel like from a body image perspective?

accessibility · disability · fitness

Immigration museum and the fitness test: Sam wonders about failing

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Walking in Central Park (Sam) #fitisafeministissue

A post shared by Fit is a Feminist Issue (@fitisafeministissue) on

So I was the fittest I’ve ever been in my life at 50 but I am still wondering about the various meanings of “fitness.” I’ve been thinking about it lots in light of arthritic knee, recent limits on my mobility, and my knee brace. (See snazzy knee brace photo above.) Am I really fit if I can’t run? What if I can’t walk very far at all? My body performs pretty well, given its limits, but sometimes I am not so sure how to think about those limits.

What prompted it most recently was a trip to Germany to visit the University of Bremen, a university with which Guelph has an exchange program. I blogged about biking in Bremen here.

But it wasn’t all bike riding and meetings and dinners. We also had one day for group tourism and so took the train to Bremerhaven with an exchange student from Guelph to visit the German Emigration Center, a museum dedicated to the history of German emigration, especially to the United States. It is Europe’s largest theme museum about emigration.  Here is a NYT piece on Bremerhaven.

In the museum, visitors can experience the emigration process through interactive exhibits.  We walked through the docks and visited a ship and could see all the various classes of rooms. We then exited in New York. In New York immigrants were examined on Ellis Island. Part of the test included climbing a steep flight of steps. Potential immigrants were observed and given a score for “fitness.” I thought about that while visiting the museum and climbing the steps because my knee was particularly sore that day. I could barely put weight on it and stairs were a real challenge. There was an elevator but you had to leave the interactive tour to go find it. Instead, I took the steps slowly, one at a time, and thought about almost certainly failing the immigration fitness test. I’d be seen as a burden.

Of course, it’s not just history the link between disability and immigration. It was only this year that the Canadian government ended barriers to immigration for disabled immigrants.

From the article linked above: “After four decades, the federal government is getting rid of rules that turned away would-be immigrants with intellectual or physical disabilities, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Monday.The government will no longer be allowed to reject permanent resident applications from those with serious health conditions or disabilities. Most of those impacted by the policy have been economic immigrants already working and creating jobs in Canada, but whose children or spouses may have a disability, Hussen said.”The current provisions on medical inadmissibility are over 40 years old and are clearly not in line with Canadian values or our government’s vision of inclusion.”

And lots of countries still have limits on immigration that rule out people with disabilities. It’s unlikely they use the “observe the person walking upstairs” test but it doesn’t matter. It’s still unjust.

 

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