Yes, your yoga pants are destroying the planet but so too are hockey clothes, cycling kit, and climbing gear

The following story keeps appearing in my newsfeed: Your yoga pants are destroying the planet. 

Every time you wash your yoga pants, gym clothes or any other garment made from synthetic material, you’re shedding microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers” into natural waterways, which eventually make their way to the ocean.

University of Florida researchers are now discovering that more than 80 percent of the the micro-plastics found in the ocean are actually micro-fibers from synthetic clothing:

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the researchers launched a two-year study earlier this year to discover the source of the micro-plastic pollution accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico.

When they set out they expected to find mostly micro-beads, tiny brightly-colored plastic balls found in body washes, face scrubs and other bath products, until the U.S. Government banned them in 2015, because they were harming fish and other sea life.

Instead, they found the majority of the pollution, 82%, is originating from our closets — stretchy yoga clothes, sweat-wicking athletic wear and synthetic jackets.

Now this is bad. It’s awful. We’re killing the planet. I teach a course on Fashion so the clothes link is no big surprise. Fashion is pretty high on the list on polluting industries, equal to livestock. We watch the movie True Cost in my class and it shocks my students.

Still, there was something about the yoga pants story that was bugging me. I couldn’t put my finger on it until a friend on the internet shared it with this comment: “Wow, that’s horrifying. It’s also depressing, though, that the headline and the article repeatedly go on about yoga pants in particular when, as it also says, the problem is simply “anything that’s nylon or polyester.” It has literally nothing specifically to do with yoga pants. Someone would have to own an impossibly massive yoga pant collection to be a bigger problem than me, with my hockey stuff, cycling clothes, gym clothes, thermal fleeces, etc. It’s kinda gross how concerns about plastic pollution still have to be wrapped up in a handy single reason to both use a hottie pic as the cover shot and have a central theme that shames women for their pretensions to fitness and activity.”

Right? Right! Why pick on yoga pants? The story combines environmental concern with mocking women for fitness pursuits and uses a photo of a conventionally attractive woman doing yoga on the beach.

Also, how shocking is this?

Another friend chimed in: “Yes, and you’d also think they wouldn’t write in such a “plastic turns out to be plastic!” tone. No, I would NOT think that spandex and lycra clothing would be made of recycled organic etc. The credulity makes my eyeballs itch.”

I’m no great fan of yoga pants. See Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants. 

But picking on yoga pants and leaving out all the other sports gear strikes me as picking on women in particular when the point is a general one about synthetic fibers.

Silhouette of a person doing yoga at the end of a pier
Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash


Fear · fitness · Martha's Musings · weight lifting

Embracing the fear

A couple of months ago, my trainer bought a Halloween skeleton as a joke. She posed it in different machines with appropriate captions. One of the pictures featuredfilippo-ruffini-427590 the skeleton on the Jacob’s ladder, a climbing machine that can go at different speeds.

I don’t like the machine; in fact, I avoid it at all costs. When I learned it was not working, I expressed an immoderate amount of happiness. My trainer, who is as perceptive as she is focused, asked what the issue was. I told her I despised the jake and furthermore I was afraid of it. Her response: If you genuinely hate it, we can leave it out. If it’s fear, then when we face it is your call.”

That comment stopped me in my tracks. While I might not like a particular exercise (go away Bulgarian split squats),  I usually complete them and do the best job I can. It never occurred to me to think about why I was afraid of that machine and why I hid the fear behind the more innocuous phrasing of “dislike” or the even stronger word “despise.”

My dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” I’m not afraid of many things, but two I know for sure: heights and small spaces. The first is a consequence of mid-life hearing loss but the latter I have always had as did one of my parents. My claustrophobia is not limited to small spaces, but also includes masks which cover my face.

While I haven’t figured out what is at the root of my fear of the Jacob’s ladder, I know it is more than dislike. It is also not a function of mechanics. Once I am shown how to do something, I am usually pretty good at managing the parts involved in executing the action.

I know I am not ready to train on the bar by myself without a spotter, and that’s a safety issue. My arthritis sometimes makes my grip weak; with the greater weights I’m using now, I am not confident I can hang on to them, especialy when I get tired.

Fear is a pretty complex emotion. It can stop you from trying new things or maintaining others. While I am not ready to tackle the Jacob’s ladder, I do have other cardio-intensive activities I can choose to replace it.

Since I have started thinking more about the difference between disliking something and being afraid of it, I wonder what role fear plays in women choosing certain forms of activity compared to others. Last month in my column for our daily newspaper, I looked at how our fear of assault and harassment can limit our activities:

“…  how we live our lives as women is very different from how men live their lives. Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, Durham University (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-41614720) has spent the last five years looking at the choices women make to manage their fear of sexual harassment and assault. Her work is echoed by another piece of research in which more than half of the 42,000 women surveyed reported limiting their activities out of fear.

Another researcher, Liz Kelly, talks about this as “safety work”, the conscious and unconscious strategy development we do every day to make sure we don’t put ourselves at risk. As Ver-Gray puts it, “Despite how common it is, or perhaps because of it, we rarely even think about the routine choices and changes we make to maintain a sense of safety.””

But I’m also thinking about my trainer’s comment that when I am ready to tackle the ladder, we will do it on my terms. That the decision is in my hands makes the fear more manageable. I can approach it when and where I choose. Having that element of control matters hugely, even if it also seems contradictory. After all, I go to a gym and work with a trainer precisely because I want someone to tell me what to do and when.

I’ve concluded the best thing I take away from incorporating fitness in my daily routine and gaining strength through powerlifting is how I maintain my own sense of power and agency. It also means learning how to face your fears and embrace them for the teachings they offer.

— MarthaFitat55 lives and works in St. John’s.






Vegan for Weight Loss? Not Necessarily but Don’t Let That Discourage You! #tbt

We hear all sorts of things about plant-based diets and how if you follow one you’ll lose weight. That’s not necessarily true. But that’s not a reason not to do it. People ask me all the time whether it’s an easy transition. My answer is always, “It’s easier than you think it will be.” That’s not to say it doesn’t mean making changes that take some thought and sometimes planning. But all in all, despite it not being a miracle diet, it’s a good way to eat and it’s not difficult to do.


Everyday Pad Thai. Photo credit: Vanessa Reese.  http://www.theppk.com/2013/09/everyday-pad-thai/ Everyday Pad Thai. Photo credit: Vanessa Reese. http://www.theppk.com/2013/09/everyday-pad-thai/

It’s making the rounds again–the idea that a vegan or at least vegetarian diet is the best way to lose weight.  According to this article:

Overweight and obese adults who wanted to lose weight were randomly assigned to one of five low-fat and low-glycemic index diets: vegan (no animal products), vegetarian (dairy products included), pesco-vegetarian (dairy products and seafood included), semi-vegetarian (all food included, but red meat no more than once a week and poultry no more than five times a week), or omnivorous (no restrictions on food type and frequency).

Participants were told they could eat small amounts of nuts and nut butters, avocados, seeds, and olives in their diets but were encouraged to focus on lower-fat food options. The dieters were not given goals for limiting the number of calories they ate. As the researchers put it, “participants were free…

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On the home stretch!

I entered my 202nd workout of the year in the 217 in 2017 Facebook group.

There are 19 days left in the year and I have 15 workouts left to complete.

I’m on the home stretch. I can do this.

Yes, the injured knee means no snowy dog hikes, no winter bike commuting, no cross country skiing, and no fat biking but it does mean an awful lot of physio and spinning.

My Facebook friend Jason Breen is at it again for 2018.

Jason asks,


For the past two years, I have been hosting a fun and free fitness accountability group. We each did 216 workouts in 2016, we are on track for 217 in 2017.

I would love for you to join us for 218 in 2018.

LEAVE YOUR NAME and “I’M IN” in the comments and I’ll add you to the 2018 group.

You can read below for more info.

WHAT: The idea is simple. In 2018 there are 365 days. We are going to challenge ourselves to workout 218 times in those 365 days.

WHY: (1) Consistently doing deliberate exercise is one of the most important factors in developing good health and fitness. (2) Choosing to complete a workout or not is something we can control.

HOW: (1)Workouts are defined as any form of deliberate exercise/movement. Some examples are, lifting weights, doing gymnastics, a CrossFit WOD, a hike in the great outdoors, practising a martial art or yoga. Taking a dance class or playing rec softball with the folks from work also count. Do what inspires you to move your body. (2) Use a spreadsheet, a habit tracking app, or a notebook and give yourself a check mark for every workout you complete. (3) Share your progress with the group.

Let’s get cracking!


Violin hips and arm pit vaginas, oh my

It’s been three years since I’ve blogged about names for badly behaved body parts. You know, muffin tops, dinner plate arms, and cankles.

I just hate it.

Some poor innocent body part that has hitherto escaped public and private scrutiny now discovers that there are standards and its lacking.


What are violin hips? Do you really want to know?

There’s articles about how to recognize them, articles about how to get rid of them, and now articles about reclaiming them in a body positive fashion. I feel old and lucky not even knowing what they are.

Here’s the positive:

“A bunch of body-positive Instagrammers love their “hipdips,” and they want you to love yours, too (if you have them). “Hipdips” or violin hips” are indentations where your hips meet your thighs. … But no matter what they look like, your hip dips—or violin hips or whatever you want to call them—are totally normal.

Jun 22, 2017, see more in Self

Last week we were all laughing on Facebook because we couldn’t figure out arm vaginas. Like what they were and whether they were good or bad.

There in various comment threads were very smart women and some men looking at photos of arm pits trying to recognize arm pit vagina and failing.

And in the end I think we all felt a bit silly but also like it didn’t matter at all.

I’m thinking this is one of the advantages of being in midlife. I’m not up on the cool lingo. That’s true. I had to ask my son today what “hundo p” meant. (One hundred percent, obviously.)

But the upside is that I’m no longer in the loop about badly behaved body parts. That suits me just fine.

I confess that is occasionally tempted to try and create one. Write a post about it. “Worried about potato knees?” But that would be cruel if it worked so I won’t.


How many bicycle ornaments does one Christmas tree need?

Here’s the tree!

Sam’s Christmas tree, next to the family piano

Here’s the bikes!

A red tricycle Xmas tree ornament
A red bike tree ornament
A silver tandem bike tree ornament

The answer is n+1 of course. I’m going shopping. Let me know if you see any good bike themed Christmas decorations.

running · winter

Bracing myself for winter running…again

winter runningEvery year it seems as if, despite the inevitability of winter, the running outside in winter thing comes as a sudden shock. I had to laugh when I sat down to write this post because I did a little search of the blog for past posts on winter running. That yielded not one, not two, not three, but four posts of my own on running in winter, plus posts by Susan and Sam.

The annual winter running post idea (brilliant and original, I know!) came to me because Sunday was my first real winter run of the season. The kind with snow and wind and cold. And it wasn’t even a lot of any of them. But still, brrrrrr. Because even as a Canadian I have to acclimatize every single winter.

Once I do, it’s brilliant really. I mean, you can dress for most winter running conditions and be quite comfortable. The worst part of it is if it’s icy. But with the right gear I can handle cold and wind and even snow. It’s just a matter of getting my head in the winter game after what I think of as the perfect conditions that fall presents. And whether because of global warming or good luck, we have had extended fall conditions this year. That always lulls me into a false sense of “this is going to last forever!”

If you’re in a part of the northern hemisphere that is about to force you to get your head in the winter running game, here’s a list of all of our winter running posts in one place. Enjoy!

Winter Running Plans. Check! (Tracy I)

Hitting the Winter Running Wall (Tracy I)

Plantar Fasciitis! Way Worse than Winter Running (Tracy I)

Getting Over the Fear of Winter Running (Tracy I–it’s odd to think back to a time when I was afraid of winter running)

Gearing Up for Winter Running (Tracy I–about my very first winter of running outside)

Running in Winter (Outdoor or Indoor…Ice or Monotony) (Susan)

I Like It in the Dark: Winter and the Joys of Night Time Riding and Running (Sam)

Running: My Winter Plan (Sam)

How do you feel about winter running? Let us know!