fall · fitness

My fall fitness plans, pt. 1– incorporating everyday movement into working from home

This fall, I’m working entirely from home, zooming for my classes and all manner of meetings. Who knew that the pandemic would bring with it even more meetings? Sigh.

Three things I miss about being at my workplace:

  1. seeing my students and colleagues in actual person
  2. the transition time of my drive to and from school (although I am thrilled to be temporarily shed of late-day traffic!)
  3. the everyday movement I get from walking and standing while teaching and tooling around on campus

With respect to 1, I’ve made camera use for my zoom classes optional, but told them I really like seeing their faces when they’re up for it. Many of them have cameras on various times, and some never do. But we’ve getting to know each other despite the limitations.

For 2, I’ve been meditating first thing in the morning (after coffee, of course). It’s helping me in a hundred ways, of which #46 is: provides transition between getting up and getting to work in the morning. It’ll do.

But for 3, I’ve had more trouble figuring out a plan. Standing with my laptop perched somewhere doesn’t feel comfortable for teaching. I’m sure there are lots of other options, especially with extra A/V equipment. But for now, I put my laptop on my yoga bolster (which is on top of my yoga blocks) and sit in front of it. It’s working well enough.

But that still doesn’t address the everyday movement problem.

Enter short yoga/qigong breaks. After class and in between meetings, I’ve been doing short (5–10 minute) yoga breaks, aided either by Adriene (of Yoga with Adriene fame) or Bad Yogi (another fav of mine) or my own memory of qigong classes I’ve taken (boy do I miss in-person yoga and qigong!). I also have some DVDs, obtained during a bout of late-night online shopping. Usually I do hip openers (to deal with all the sitting), but any movement feels good.

On days when I’m not teaching, I’m using a Pomodoro app to remind me to stop working and get out of my chair every 25 minutes for a 5-minute break. Tracy has used this technique and wrote about it here. Others among our bloggers like it, too.

For these breaks, it’s my choice. Sometimes I use the break to do something practical, like take out trash or recycling (which involves two sets of stairs down and then up). I’m right now thinking about other quick-ish fun exercise-y things to provide some novelty. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

One idea I had yesterday that’s coming back is incorporating the New York Times so-called 6-minute workout more often as a mini-break activity. I wrote about the skepticism and criticism around it here for the blog. But, this post also contains the list of all the exercises, in case you can’t get to the actual NY Times article. The workout takes longer than 6 minutes– more like 15 or so– but that’s still in the mini-category. I’ll report back on how smoothly it gets incorporated into the daily movement plan.

One final idea: set up my bike trainer to do short spins (10–15 minutes? Not sure). For this one, I’m not sure if I want to do this, or what I would do for a short amount of time. Ideas, anyone? Have any of you done short (say 20 minutes or less) workouts on a spin bike or trainer? I know, I can look this up. But I value your experience. Let me know if anything has worked for you.

accessibility · yoga

Lululemon might still be a little bit evil but now they are also plus sized evil!

Scrolling through my social media newsfeed, I saw this ad. With this picture.

cerulean blue Wunder Train High-Rise Tight 25"

I was shocked when I clicked and discovered the leggings were made by Lululemon. At that size? It seemed so unlikely.

I’m only sort of joking about the evil

Over the years I’ve gone from thinking that Lululemon is BAD ( Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants) to thinking they are an annoying company (Is Lululemon trying to annoy me?) to buying their leggings when I could find my size online. Sell-out, I know. But I love their high waist Align. In black. Size 14 please. Thanks Ann!

And now you plus sized friends can have them too. Wow.

When did this happen?

I searched online and saw news coverage from about a week ago. Lulu spokespeople saying smart things. Like “Inclusion is a journey, and we know we have work to do.”

See Lululemon Is Expanding Their Sizing & I Can’t Wait To Finally Try Their Leggings.

Under its old CEO Chip WIlson Lululemon had shunning larger women as part of its brand strategy.

I’m glad to see that’s changed.

They’re still not perfect if you prefer your capitalism with consistency, see here: ‘This is peak 2020’: Multi-billion dollar sportswear company Lululemon is ridiculed for promoting a ‘woke’ class on ‘resisting capitalism’ while selling its signature yoga pants for $128.

But they are lovely leggings and yoga pants and I’m glad they now go up to size 20.

aging · athletes · fitness · racing

On turning 56 and thinking about age and speed

I’ve been 56 for almost a month now! And as is the case when each year ticks over, I seem to spend some time thinking about aging and what it all means. Today’s musings are about speed.

There’s a thing that people say about older athletes. They say you lose your peak performance, your top end speeds, your ability to sprint.

You keep your endurance. The older athlete can go forever. We just can’t go as fast.

That’s the received wisdom and you hear it from masters athletes themselves.

But the problem is that this isn’t quite true. Studies show that older athletes who lose top end speeds do so because because they stop training for performance at those speeds. They keep the long rides and long runs but drop the speed training. Almost nobody keeps training at 60 as much as they did when they were younger. When they conduct studies and test older athletes responsivity to training, older athlete do make the same kinds of gains they did when they were younger. They just don’t feel like doing it.

What’s missing, it turns out, isn’t the phsyiological ability to respond to training. What’s missing is the desire to train hard.

As I’ve noted elsewhere that doesn’t necessarily make it an easier problem to solve or understand.

In one of my very first blog posts–Is Aging a Lifestyle Choice? (written 8 years ago!)–I reviewed Gretchen Reynolds’ book The First Twenty Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer.

In discussing her chapters on aging, I wrote: “What exactly is the connection between exercise and aging? The old view was that muscle loss and a decline in aerobic  capacity were inevitable with old age. We slow down with age and become more frail, starting in our 40s, it seemed. But new research suggests the connections may run the other way. We become slower and more frail because we stop moving. Older athletes get slower and less strong, not because they’re older, but rather because they train less than younger athletes.

We age because we stop moving, on this way of thinking about the connection. It’s as if aging is something we choose to do. That’s a very intriguing idea. What’s positive about this is we could choose differently. We could choose to keep moving and avoid some of the physical decline we associate with old age. But what’s less clear is why older people slow down and take to their rockers. It may be that the psychological urge to rest is stronger than Reynolds and the researchers think. If aging brains are the problem, then slowing with age still might be inevitable.”

But lately I’ve been wondering more about aging athletes and what gets in our way. I don’t think the psychological barriers aren’t real. I just think they’re not the whole story.

Our older bodies are just more demanding, higher maintenance, fussy! Cate described some of this in her post on generative aging. Reading about her aches and pains, I felt recognition. Oh, me too! I’m not alone in this.

I need the right amount of sleep, the right kind of sleep. I have to eat a certain way before I ride my bike. I need to stretch. And most annoyingly, I need to rest after riding hard before I can do it again. It’s a scheduling nightmare. I’m only sort of joking.

In addition to the onging saga of my knees, I am always nursing small aches and pains. Goddamit, I even have arthritic toes and toe physio. In the before times, I had physio appointments and massage therapy appointments. I still have daily knee stretches I need to do to feel okay just walking the dog.

I can’t just do what I want when I feel like doing it. I laugh when people say, listen to your body, as if it spoke with one voice. There’s an order, a schedule, and lots of moving pieces. My toe wants no pressure on it. My knee needs movement. My stomach wants food an hour before I ride, not twenty minutes before, and two hours before won’t do either. Part of me wants yoga but it has to be the exact right kind of yoga to match my aches and pains!

So while it’s true that age shouldn’t be the only factor determining what exercise you do, it definitely plays a role. Age complicates things. Sports training won’t be tucked into the corners of your life. If you take it seriously as you get older it takes a lot of time and mental energy in addition to the physical exertion. It’s why I think middle age is extra tough. We can envy the resilience of the young who barely need to sleep or eat and the older folks who are retired and who have time to train. Guest blogger Mary Case makes it look tempting.

A good guide to speed after 50, by the way, is Joel Friel’s Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of Your Life. It says “racing” and the cover features a bike but that’s bad marketing. It’s really about peak performance across endurance sports and it’s not just for those who keep racing.

Why care about speed? That’s a different question, of course.

There’s the health argument that interval training and intense efforts are good for us, at all ages. But you can aim for intensity without caring about speed.

Let’s just take it as given that some of us do care about speed, that it’s an aesthetic thing that doesn’t need an explanation, like preferring chocolate ice cream to vanilla ice cream. You can say what you like about chocolate but that doesn’t give reasons for the vanilla ice cream lover to switch.

That said, lots of us do care about speed and keep caring about speed as we age. From that point of view, this is mostly good news. Training still works, you can keep your speed, and slowing down isn’t a physiological necessity. Yay! There are bad news bits. Getting in that much training and the right kind of training becomes a lot more complicated. You don’t just have to care, you have to REALLY CARE. And there’s the rub.

I’m going to blog later about what I like about racing and speed. My pitch for chocolate ice cream as it were. I want to be clear what it is I’m doing when I do that. I’m describing what I get out of it, and what you might like about it too, but there aren’t reasons or arguments. It’s totally okay not to care and like what you like.

Boy riding on bike near shore

All We Have Is Now

Times are uncertain. They can be stressful and anxiety-ridden for many people. We don’t know when the pandemic will be over and when we’ll be able to hug our loved ones on a regular basis. People don’t know if they are going to catch the virus. We don’t know if our friends or co-workers are going to remain healthy. We don’t know what work life will look like a year from now. People have plans on hold. Weddings, honeymoons, studies abroad. We don’t know what family holidays will look like for the foreseeable future. We don’t even know if school will still be in session next week.

This all sounds dire, but that is not the reason I am writing this. It’s the opposite. We don’t know what we don’t know. So in the meantime, all we can do is make decisions with what we know right now.

On one of our daily walks, Gavin and I were walking through the Distillery District in Toronto, and I noticed these signs in different locations “All We Have is Now” and “All We Ever Had Was Now”. They are gimmicky signs in a touristy historic site in Toronto. But gimmicky or not, it resonated with me. All We Have is Now.

Even without the pandemic it resonates with me. Middle age has me wondering a lot about the future. What it will look like. But I don’t know. Nobody ever really knows.

All We Have is Now.

A picture of Rihanna and the embedded words “KEEP CALM All We GOT IS RIGHT NOW”

How can this idea play out in my daily life?

There’s a meme people share sometimes that says variations on “If you eat well, get good sleep, exercise and drink plenty of water, you’ll die anyway”. The idea that it doesn’t make a difference is questionable for a number of reasons, but my main argument against this line of thinking has always been that exercise makes me feel better TODAY. No, I can’t predict the future. I may not live long enough to see if it helps me in old age. But it makes me feel so much better every day, right now. That’s enough for me. All We Have is Now.

If I have plans to meet someone for a socially-distanced meal or walk and we’re wavering because we are not sure about the weather. Worse, we start lamenting that the weather is going to get dreadful and the winter is going to be depressing without these activities. Dress appropriately and go. Worry about today’s plans. Take the opportunity to talk and vent and laugh. All We Have is Now.

When I’m doing a HIIT workout in the park and I am not feeling like speeding up on a sprint or challenging myself on a step-up lunge. All We Have is Now. Move those legs the best I can. Act accordingly.

If I’m feeling a little slow on a Sunday morning and not sure if I should go for my run, even though I always feel better for it. All We Have is Now. Run Nicole Run.

If I’m noticing the softening of my jaw in the mirror and the deepening of the line on my forehead, wondering what will be years from now, be grateful for the day. For the life experience that is giving my face lines and softening the edges. Hope for many more lines. All We Have is Now.

A photo of Lauren Bacall with the quote “I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.”

When I feel like I need to rest and savour my coffee and snuggle with my husband a bit longer. All We Have is Now. Savour. Snuggle. Rest. Be grateful I have the time and choice to do so.

When I’m hesitating about taking new courses that interest me but I’ve thought about it enough that I am convinced it’s a good idea and I can afford to take them. All We Have is Now. Take the courses.

I agree when people say that it’s OK to be easy on oneself during this pandemic and that if you are not achieving things you normally would, that is absolutely fine. Cut yourself some slack. But at the same time, if people feel like doing new things, or more of the things that have given them joy in the past, they should go ahead. This pandemic and the aftermath can go on for years. We don’t know. Within safe parameters, we should do the things that give us hope. Make us feel healthy. Help us take each day at a time, without worrying too much about the future.

When I’m streaming endless shows these days, or reading a new book, I’m often reminded of how recently people could congregate closely, get in each other’s personal space more often (when appropriate), sit and laugh and argue and stress, while eating in a restaurant. When will the way people interact on shows we watch and in the books we read resemble our current situation again? Sadly, I don’t know. But I do know, that All We Have is Now and I am grateful for it. I hope I make decisions daily that make the most of it.

Dear Readers, what does “All We Have is Now” mean to you?

Nicole P. is focussed on the day-to-day. The Right Now.
Book Club · fitness

FIFI Book Club: Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, week four–Lovingkindness

Hi readers, and welcome to the sixth installment of FIFI book club’s reading of Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness: a 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation. Each week we’ll offer some reflections as we move through the chapters, and maybe do some of the exercises, too. You are invited to join us, and we’d love to read and respond to any comments you’d like to share.

Last week we blogged here about week three. we blogged here about week two. We blogged here about week one, Concentration. We blogged about Chapter 2: Why Meditate, here. You can read about the intro and chapter 1 here.

This week is week four of meditation practice techniques and exercises, called Lovingkindness: Cultivating Compassion and True Happiness. Here are our reflections.

First up is Mina:

I love the encouragement the lovingkindness meditation gives me to be my best self. And by that I don’t mean some perfectly, implausibly love-everybody, angelic version, but as Sharon Salzberg writes in this Week 4 chapter, “extending friendship to ourselves and others—not in the sense of liking everyone, or dispensing universal approval, but more as an inner knowing that our lives are all inextricably connected.” A couple paragraphs later she writes, “to look at ourselves and others with kindness instead of reflexive criticism.”

The lovingkindness she describes is gritty and takes a lot of presence. But since, as she points out in her description, the first person to whom we are extending our kindness is ourselves. When I screw up and get my kindness toward someone else wrong, I need to be kind to myself, instead of taking that easy refuge in reflexive self-criticism. Berating myself that I’m not a nice person is a lot less likely to improve my behavior than paying attention to where I went awry and reminding myself of our inextricable connectedness.

In the Ten Ways to Deepen Your Practice section, number 9 suggests we refrain from speaking ill of others. So … that is a practice that I’ve been wrestling with for a few years. Unsurprisingly, it’s a work in progress. I’ve gotten better than I used to be, but boy is it hard. All those moments of gossip, righteousness and schadenfreude that slip into conversations. Can you believe she …? I wouldn’t have done … What did she expect … ?

In my efforts, I’ve discovered that it’s easier to bring my attention to the moments I’m about to write, in an email or text, something not-so-nice about someone else. As soon as I notice, I stop. I think about how I’d feel if the person saw what I’d written. I stop writing or delete. I have noticed that some friends are frustrated if I don’t want to participate in these kinds of conversations. But they’re so fun, a friend once said to me. Are they? After paying some attention to how I feel after such exchanges, I’ve noticed that my ego might feel temporarily better (as in—I’m doing better than that person). But I’ve also noticed, when I take the time, that I feel some level of nausea, too. As if the person actually heard what I said and was hurt by it.

Of course, I only notice these responses, if I’m paying attention. Thank you, Sharon Salzberg, for reminding me how to use the lovingkindness meditation for just that!

Next up is Christine:

I enjoyed the process of reading and reflecting on this section.

I am still not doing the practices as often as I had hoped to be but I am being patient with myself as I figure out how to make meditation a regular part of my life. And, by doing that, I guess I have been practicing one part of lovingkindness.

I find lovingkindness meditations a little bit of a struggle. I don’t object to them in a philosophical way, I don’t argue with the ideas involved. I just find it hard to focus because I have trouble letting go of the idea of a list of people to think about. So that makes me aware of the possibility of forgetting someone. And I also have trouble holding the image of someone in my mind. Well, I’m sure you can see the spiral I end up falling into from all of that.

But that being said, I love the idea of changing how we pay attention to the people around us. Lovingkindness is not about learning to let people walk all over you and it’s not about learning to adore them, it’s about learning to see them and yourself differently – with more compassion.

This change in approach doesn’t necessarily affect the other person, you aren’t doing it ´for’ them, per se. It can, however, change how you see and interact with them. That definitely makes your interactions a little smoother and creates some ease for you. (That may or may not create changes in your dynamic but that’s not the point.)

So, as she has mentioned throughout the book, changing the way we pay attention affects our experiences and this one seems to have a more tangible result than some of the other practices. Meanwhile, I love how she keeps emphasizing that it doesn’t make us like difficult people and that we don’t have to try to like them, we just have to learn to understand that they too are struggling and that we can be compassionate about that.

I am very intrigued to continue my practice with meditation for quieting the inner critic. The inner critic of people with ADHD can be particularly chatty and I like to have many tools for managing that chatter. My ADHD meds have already helped a lot with that particular issue and they give me the space to make good use use of tools like the meditation she shares here.

Even though this whole chapter was interesting to me, I found the final section ´Ten Ways To Deepen Your Practice’ especially useful. Even just the first two recommendations ‘Think of kindness as a strength, not as a weakness,’ ‘Look for the good in yourself,’ bring me a kind of restful feeling, and that’s pretty good for a few lines of text.

Side note: The personal timing of this topic is interesting to me considering that I had a revelation this weekend that one of the reasons I feel tired when I open FB is that I feel like I am trying to maintain too many friendships at once – like there are extra things to remember all the time. I wonder how exploring and practicing lovingkindness meditation might help me address that feeling?

Here’s Martha:

So far this has been the hardest week for me. I’m not sure why. I think I have looked upon meditation as a way of emptying my brain or jumping off the hamster wheel. I don’t object to the concept of loving kindness. However, I don’t much enjoy focusing on people in my meditation. Perhaps it is because I already spend some time each week connecting with people purposefully in loving kindness through chats, messages, or online.

That said, I took this book as an opportunity to learn new things about meditation and I have. I’ve enjoyed exploring mindful attention not just in everyday life but as a form of practice. I realized I need to look at meditation practice as a form of kindness to self, and as such it should become one of my big rocks if I want to keep at it. I like lists so “Ten Ways to Deepen Your Practice” spoke to me in ways other parts of the chapter did not.

Here’s Tracy:

This week I fell back into doing what I know, using the weekly theme more as a guide than following the chapter in all of its detail. I know and love the loving kindness, or metta, practice. It can have a dramatic effect on my feelings towards myself and others, especially when I imagine extending my metta towards people with whom I experience difficulty.

My favourite guided version of this practice is the Metta Bhavana practice by the Buddhist teacher Bodhipaksa, which I first discovered on a CD of his that I bought about 15 years ago. That was my first encounter with the four stages of lovingkindess, where you direct it first towards yourself, then to someone you feel good about, then to someone you feel neutral about, and then to someone you have difficulty with. When coupled with the mindfulness we have been practicing over the past few weeks, I was able have keen awareness of how resistant I was to extending lovingkindess towards someone I have difficulty with. But I did it anyway. As outlined in Real Happiness, we extend loving kindness in meditation by wishing someone well with a few positive phrases. My phrases, taken from Bodhipaksa, are “May [I/you/we/they] be well; may [I/you/we/they] be happy; may I/you/we/they be free from suffering.” But you can insert “peaceful” or “safe” or “healthy” or “live with ease” or whatever resonates as well-wishing from your heart.

What this practice done consistently does for me is make me more compassionate towards myself and others. I confess that a couple of times this week I focused on myself because, what with getting back to work after a long absence and all, I found myself being hard on myself for having some difficulty staying on top of things. Introducing this loving kindness into my meditation every morning, I was able to accept that there’s nothing wrong with a slow start. Not only that, I was even able to recognize that I am feeling energized and happy to be back at my regular role.

But it also made me more able to extend a quick olive branch after I acted poorly towards a server at a restaurant that I frequent. I was snippy because our reservation for an outdoor table had not been noted, so we had to wait quite awhile. It hadn’t been noted because they hadn’t checked their voicemail. So I said, “does your voicemail say we don’t take reservations by voicemail; you have to speak to a person?” in a not-nice tone of voice. Maybe not the worst thing but the interaction left me feeling like I had been unfair and mean. So I approached her later and apologized, expressed that she didn’t deserve to be spoken to like that, and admitted that my behaviour was uncalled for and that she always does a great job (it is the only restaurant patio I go to on a regular basis since COVID). I don’t know if I can attribute my entire ability to do that to this week’s meditation theme, but part of what motivated me was a quick awareness that she must not have enjoyed that interaction any more than I did.

Next week I will continue with the loving kindness meditation, maybe doing a few more of the suggested practices from the Week Four Chapter. Since we started, I have consistently managed to meditate for at least 20 minutes every day and I feel as if this book club was just the kickstart I needed to get back on track. 

And here’s me (Catherine):

For me, this past week has been more difficult for focusing on daily meditation. My semester is in the middle of its third week, and I’m running on all cylinders all the time. I haven’t been doing meditation first thing in the morning, instead using that time for class prep and assignment grading. This is not good for me. When meditation gets pushed into some other TBA slot, I feel like it diminishes the specialness of the time spent. Meditation isn’t like throwing that last load of laundry in the dryer; I need some dedicated space around sitting for contemplation or just peace.

Enter Sharon Salzerg and lovingkindess meditation. I’ve done this meditation before, and (like Tracy), use different phrasing depending on what I’m focusing on. Like Christine, my inner critic needs a lot of attention, and offering up gentle awareness and open-heartedness toward those feelings and thoughts is always welcome in my mental universe.

One of the Ten Ways to Deepen Your Practice suggestions I really like is “include those who may feel left out”. Salzberg suggests trying this in conversation, asking quieter people what they think. Here’s a story of how suggestion played out in my life this week.

My department puts together a student curriculum committee to work with us to review and offer feedback on new and revised courses, and suggest changes for existing offerings. We were talking about who should be on the committee, and I suggested K (one of my students). In describing K, I said that they were in need of a little polishing in terms of student-faculty interactions. In a talk with K recently, they said that they thought they needed to be aggressive as they wanted “to be a lawyer, and I hear that lawyers are aggressive”. K has acted on this by being a bit annoying, I admit.

After telling my colleagues about this, they said, “well, then, why would we want K to be on this committee?” I said, “because K needs to learn how to act around faculty, and they will definitely learn from us.” My colleagues agreed, somewhat reluctantly.

I talked with K today to encourage them to join this committee. K is pleased, and I think it’s an opportunity for growth for them. It’s not going to be easy, navigating this relationship. But, I know it will give all of us (K, me, the rest of the students and faculty on the committee) a chance to practice forms of lovingkindness toward each other and ourselves. Thank you, Sharon Salzberg for putting this practice front and center at a good time!


What are you doing for your soul?

This meme popped up for me a few times last week, and it made me literally laugh the first time I saw it.

I mean, it made me laugh in that kind of slightly nervous, rueful, what-an-absurd-world-we-live in kind of way.

Where I live, the signs are certainly starting to point to the high possibility of another lockdown of some kind: cases rising, it’s getting dark, and in a few weeks, it will be too cold to eat outside. And this when the western part of the US is still on fire, structural inequities are starker than ever, US authorities are removing women’s uteruses without consent, and democracy itself in the US is in peril.

Sigh. I wanted this post to be more lighthearted, maybe all jigsaw puzzles and homemade biscuits, but the death of RBG this weekend is making it even harder to see much light ahead. So as the days get shorter, I look for some light, to sustain joy, connection, trust in humanity. And I know I’m not alone.

Here are some of the things giving me some lift — and I want to know what you’re doing to keep your soul filled right now.

  • Go for a walk in nature: Susan, Kim, the old lady dogs Shelby and Emma-the-dog and I went for a delightful wooded hike on Sunday afternoon. Another friend texted me that were also seeking the woods because they needed fresh air to process the sadness about RBG. The dogs were happy. And dirty.
  • Do something completely non-professional with your hair. Kim commented that Susan and I “looked like teenagers” from behind. I think she was talking about our hair, pulled up, both with purple stripes in different ways. Mine was in little lopsided pigtails. Clearly, any fucks I have ever given on maintaining certain “standards of appearance” have left the building.
  • Watch Schitt’s Creek from the beginning. And if you’ve seen it, watch it again. Bask in a world where homophobia doesn’t exist and people love each other for who they are, no matter how bonkers. Find it for free on CBC gem. And while you’re there, find some other hidden Canadian joys.
  • Eat outside with someone you miss. Observe distancing protocols, wear a mask when you are not actually eating, but take advantage of the last days of patio season. Remind a friend you love them.
  • Go for a walk with someone you miss. Ditto the smart protocols and taking advantage of the opportunity to be outside. Bonus points if they have a cute little dog.
  • Go to outside spinning or yoga in the park. Support your local independent fitness studio and — if you are lucky enough to be in a place with decent air quality — notice it and appreciate it.
  • Go look at some kittens. Tracy has the sweetest babies. Just poke around. Or look at grown cats who’ve taken over your new couch. Smell them if you can. They smell like a bag of oats. (Except for Georgia, the little one, who smells like rancid wax after a Candle Incident the other day).

Let her memory be a revolution.” If you’re in the US, donate to someone from Gretchen’s list. If you’re not legally able to donate to an American political candidate, support organizations helping the victims of the fires or reproductive rights or the ACLU. Or just be supportive to your US friends.

In other words: be playful; move your body; make connections; breathe deeply. And act.

What are you doing to get through this time?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is glad she went to outdoor spinning last night.

advice · body image · fitness

Does being body positive mean you have to like your own body too?


A friend recently posted the following on Facebook, “pro tip- when you shit talk your body, you are shit talking everyone’s bodies. lay off that shit homies, it gives me the sad/mad/bads.”

The basic idea is that body love requires self acceptance. It’s not enough to love the bodies of others. It’s not enough to embrace diversity where others are concerned. Loving all the bodies includes your own body. Because even if you are just holding yourself up to some higher standard than you hold other people, you’re still holding that standard.

I had a friend once detail the exact way her abs needed to look for her to feel comfortable wearing a two piece bathing suit. I felt the need to tell her that I wore a two piece bathing suit. She said, “Oh that’s fine. I don’t care how other people look. This is just about me.” But that didn’t make me feel any better. I looked awful, no doubt, by her standards, she just didn’t care.

I have some thoughts about this:

Surely, one might say, it’s okay to set high standards for oneself? To ask more of oneself. But no actually. Note the language.  Listen to what you’re saying.  By using the word “higher” it’s clear that you’ve still got a metric, and probably, honestly you’re still applying it to others too.

Suppose you’re not though. Suppose you really do think that a diversity of body shapes and sizes are fine for other people but for you there’s just one way it’s okay to be and unless you’re there, things are awful.

It’s possible to hold both of those ideas.  But probably you still ought to be quiet about how you feel about your own body, knowing it will make others feel bad. Need to talk about your body shame and self-hatred? Check in with friends to make sure it’s okay. But it’s probably best to find a trained listening and helping professional.

Some more thoughts:

Maybe we could come to feel better about our own bodies by recognizing that in the bodies of others it’s not perfection we’re attracted to.

Maybe it’s better to think neutrally about your own body and the bodies of the others. Body neutrality is Tracy’s preferred position.

Maybe we’d also all do better just caring less about looks.

Maybe we ought to think of body image as a group project, a community commitment.

Also, you might wonder why a fitness blog spills so much ink on body image. Here’s why.

The pictures here are from Emm Roy. You can follow her positive art on Patreon.


covid19 · fitness classes

Seeking research participants

Professor Ann Barnfield is trying to find research participants for a study on the effects of participation in online exercise/physical activity sessions. She wonders the fit feminist blog community can help.

Here is the description of her project: “There is now much evidence that involvement in in exercise/physical activity has benefits both mentally and physically, and group activities can have social benefits. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, such activities have been severely restricted, and even banned outright. Physical health would be maintained to at least some extent by solitary exercise, but the social and psychological effects might be affected. There is some information showing  that being able to see, and maybe to speak to, others (instructor, fellow participants), during exercise/physical activity sessions is of benefit to individuals, but there is at present little actual research into the effects of socially/physically distanced sport and exercise sessions. I propose to survey online physical activity/exercise session participants to see what the effects of such participation are, and thus am writing to you.”

Here’s the official request:

Dear Activity Participant,

You are being invited to participate in a study that Anne Barnfield, a researcher from Brescia University College, at the University of Western Ontario, is conducting to investigate the effects of participation in online exercise/physical activity sessions for those who take part in such sessions.

Briefly, the study involves completing an online survey about your experiences with participation in online exercise/physical activity sessions. It is anticipated that it should take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete the survey. If you would like to participate in this study, please click on the link below to access the letter of information and survey link.

Survey Link

Thank you for considering this request.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Barnfield, DPhil.

School of Behavioural and Social Sciences,

Department of Psychology,

Brescia University College

cycling · fall · season transitions

Fall noodling in the countryside

Big Island Bike Ride

I’ve written lots about how much I love fall riding. See here and here.

Fall is my very favorite bike riding season. All those beautiful colours, all that summer fitness, and sunshine-y cool weather. So much fun. See Reasons to start riding in the fall and Looking ahead: The quiet season and the joys of fall riding.

This weekend Sarah and I were at her family farm in Prince Edward County. We frolicked in the swimming pool. I did swim some laps but mostly I enjoyed splashing about.

We had friends visit for physical distanced BBQ dinners. We ate outside with lap blankets and toques!

This year I want to make sure we squeeze every last drop of pleasure and togetherness out of summer since we know we’re heading into a tough fall and winter.

We also made sure we got out for a Sunday bike ride. Our plan was to noodle around Big Island. What’s “noodling” on a bike? The dictionary says it’s the action of improvising or playing casually on a musical instrument. How does that translate to riding bikes?

Well, we had no speed goals. We went just as fast as we felt like. We were open to route changes.We stopped to adjust things on our bikes. We also stopped several times to take photos (see some of them above.) We smiled and waved at children and dogs. We chatted lots about houses and plans. We also created a new Strava segment, one that reflects the playfulness of the day. It’s called “Osprey2Osprey” and it’s from one osprey nest to another, It’s about 3.5 km. Later we’ll have fun sprinting that stretch and racing one another home but today was all about noodling.

We’ve got two more weekends with bikes planned, one more with road bikes at the farm and another, with our gravel bikes, on the Guelph to Goderich trail.

Here’s what our noodling looks like by the numbers!

advertising · fitness

Will 30 minutes a day of anything change my life? What about 10?

CW: mention of 30-day challenges promising weight loss and changes in body shape, strength, fitness, health– all being critiqued here.

30 is a very popular number among health and fitness writers and vendors. In 30 days, if the internet is to be believed, we can:

  • become runners– sprint, marathon, you name it;
  • revolutionize our core/quad/lat/fill-in-the-blank muscles;
  • do a jillion squats/crunches/pullups/pushups/dips– whatever your pleasure;
  • perfect our posture (that was a new one for me);
  • and the list goes on…
A veritable buffet of 30-day programs, all dedicated to change you from head to toe. Allegedly.

30 also figures prominently in self-improvement programs, as 30 minutes seems to be the magical amount of time needed per day in order for complete and total transformation from shapeless, hapless, and amoeboid to ship-shape, sharp, and sure of ourselves.

In 30 minutes a day, you can get better health, fitness, grammar, intelligence, and even reverse aging. Allegedly.

What is it about 30? Is it true that we really need to do something 30 minutes a day for 30 days in order:

  • for us to see any results?
  • for it to be worth our time/money/effort?
  • for anything to happen at all?

What if, some days, we only do 15 minutes of whatever feat we are attempting (be it plank holding or meditation or watching Russian language videos)? Or 10? or 5? Is it all for nothing?

Of course the answer is no. Every minute counts. How do I know this? Easy, I looked it up. Check out this 2017 article, cited in a Harvard Medical School online publication, that:

found that inactive older adults who added just 48 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week lowered their risk of major disability compared with sedentary people.

Wait, there’s more:

Another study, published in the January 2018 American Journal of Preventive Medicine, involved almost 140,000 older adults, average age 71, almost half of whom were men. It showed that doing moderate-intensity workouts totaling less than 150 minutes per week still was enough exercise to lower the risk of early death when compared with inactivity.

30 really isn’t a magic number. We don’t have to do something 30 days in a row for it to be meaningful, and we don’t have to spend 30 minutes a day doing it for it to count. Every day we devote to whatever activities that figure in our goals– physical, intellectual, creative, philanthropic, gastronomic, you name it– counts. And every minute counts, too.

In case you prefer a diagrammatic explanation, here’s one:

The number line. Positive numbers are all those to the right of zero. And they all count.

Readers: do you feel like you need 30 minutes a day in order to get up and running (as it were) in a new activity? Does doing a few minutes a day here and there suffice? I’d love to hear about your experiences with 30/less-than-30 programs.