New bike, new attitude

At the end of my last post I left all y’all with a teaser – photos of my smashing new grey and orange bike, Freddie. I’ve been waiting for a new bike for a long time, and this was the year the stars aligned: I’d saved up, I knew I was at a point with my strength and fitness that my old bike was working against me more than anything else, and my club friend L had been surreptitiously sleuthing around one of our top local bike shops with my list in hand: racier than my beloved Roubaix, mostly orange.

(Two photos of the bar tape and top bar of my new bike, Freddie. The orange tape and highlights will feature prominently in the following post!)

So one day in April, after term ended, L and I headed for TO Wheels and had a nose around together.

It took a good while for me to settle on the right bike with the right group set and the other bits and pieces you don’t think about until you’re actively shopping for a new bike. But once I had done all my fussing and reading and testing and more fussing, I ended up with the best bike I’ve ever had, and I’m not just thrilled – I’m faster.

No, really.

So, this is my “top five things I learned in my first month with Freddie” post; it’s mostly about how to buy the best bike you’ve ever had, too.

Spoiler alert: it ends really well, with me loving every minute on this great new machine.

1. Buying an expensive road bike is a big deal! Take your time, do your research, insist on helpful and supportive service.

I know lots of folks who turn up at club rides, or at the office, or in the bedroom (!! *eyeroll*), to say, “hey! I just bought a new bike! It’s got $$$$$$$$ on it and cost a million dollars!”

But that’s not me. I’d thought long and hard about a new bike since returning to Canada from the UK in 2014, and I set my budget at $3000 all in, or as close as I could get (given Ontario’s somewhat onerous 13% HST). I planned the spend and knew I could afford it this spring. I chose TO Wheels, our (I think) top local indie shop, because I knew the folks there (it’s owned by a woman, yo!) and knew they’d be helpful, supportive, and would match me to the best bike I could afford without up-selling.

When L and I got there one busy Saturday afternoon, the lovely and talented Andrew was awash in stuff to do, but still he took almost an hour to talk me through options, look at my bike fit data, put me on the Retül jig (see below!), set it up to my bike fit spec, and then we tweaked it together. We worked out that I’d fit the Cervélo R2, or the Liv Envie, almost exactly. (A pro bike fit – see below – is fantastic, and works especially well if you are having a bike custom built exactly to your spec. That’s really pricey, though, and beyond me at this point. Maybe next time.) I took that info, plus the new jig data Andrew had generated for me, away to do research on my own. I told him I’d be back, but he was not fussed; for him, an hour helping a customer discover important information about her bike needs, sale or no sale, was an hour well spent.

At home I read around the net to learn more about the bikes on offer. The R2 – the bottom of the line item from one of the best manufacturers in the world, sort of the cycling equivalent of the least impressive house on the best street – got superb reviews and sounded like a really ideal buy for me. The Liv, as a woman-specific frame, interests me, but truthfully I’m tall, stocky, and weigh as much as a fit guy my height, so that detail mattered less to me physiologically. While researching I also read a bit about Felt, a fantastic race bike series from the US; I got in touch with local dealers in nearby Dundas, Ontario and they chatted with me about custom group set options over Facebook.

In other words: I took my time. About a week, to be precise. Then I headed back to Andrew, and asked to take the R2 for a test drive.

2. Buying an expensive road bike is a big deal! Take it for a test ride. Take it for two test rides, in fact: one that mimics your commute, and one that mimics a training ride.

My first spin on the R2 was along the cycle paths that line the river between my house and my office. They are often busy with pedestrians, and they have some short, sharp hills that are great fun to punch. It was another sunny Saturday when I took the floor model R2 out onto the path and spent maybe 20 minutes in a commute-like doddle. I ended up having to portage around a small flood, to fight off some angry Canada geese, and then I punched the hill at the private school that leads back up to downtown and to the bike shop.


(A shot of a sunlit bike path in London, Ontario, with a yellow line dividing traffic and trees on either side. Think this, but more geese.)

I loved the feel of the bike on the hill; the compact cassette gave me all kinds of power, even in the big ring, and I knew this bike was a fab climber. But I found the reach awkward; I wasn’t sure the fit was as it was meant to be, based on the jig work we did in the shop. I queried Andrew; he dropped the handlebars further and I went out again. Again, it felt great. Again, the reach worried me.

I told him I needed to think a bit more and that I’d be back.

Our next club ride saw me spend some time in the peloton with the always lovely and helpful Paul and Allan, who reminded me that to know a bike is YOUR bike you need to really test it – take it out for 40, 50, 60km at least. Don’t rely on a commute test run, they said; take it for a proper spin. So, shortly after, L and I did just that. I grabbed the R2 from Andrew and we headed North-West out of town. The ride was hard into the wind, but fantastic on the way back. I was still having reach issues, but L assured me I was both looking much more comfortable on this bike than on my Ruby, and that I was obviously accelerating faster and more smoothly. This came to pay dirt on our local “heartbreak” hill, where I accelerated up past L and held him on my wheel until the summit. Normally, he’d be off like a flash past me; he’s four inches taller than me, and rides with a substantial drop, making him a very quick puncheur.

The next business day at the shop I told Andrew about the reach issue; he didn’t need to hear it, in fact, because he’d already talked to L and had a plan. We set the jig again, and he showed me what a difference a shorter stem would make; it felt great. We then ordered the bike: the colours I wanted (groovy grey and orange highlights!), the group set I preferred (the Shimano 105 – basic but solid, and it will allow me to upgrade as I wish, to whatever brand I wish, in a couple of years), a 90mm stem, ORANGE BAR TAPE (OMG!), and a gorgeous black Shimano crank. I paid, hugged Andrew wildly, and prepared for my new road adventures to begin.


(Time from first shop to arrival of bike: 3 weeks, all well spent. I left secure in my decision, and delighted with my new friend. Shown here: Freddie, complete, at the shop on the day I took her home.)

3. A new bike should fit like a glove. Take the time to get yourself a bike fit.

Remember above when I mentioned this thing called the “Retül jig”?

This is a Retül jig:


(Image of a black bike fit machine, with tall central saddle, handlebar jig, rear tire and chain set. Sort of like what they might ride in The Matrix…)

It’s a tool bike shops use to help you figure out the very best position for you on a bike – and thus the ideal specifications for any bike you buy. A custom bike fit can be expensive, but it’s worth it. Good bike shops like TO Wheels will put you on their jig and help you find an ideal, comfortable position with good power, but a custom fit is more involved: it’s usually up to 2 hours with a pro or two, and it’s designed to assess your current power output, position, and comfort level on your existing bike, and then it compares that against ideals.

I did my custom fit in March 2014 at Le Beau Velo in Shoreditch, London with Mal Pires and Jo McRae; they took loads of photos of me on my bike, on the jig, and in different positions, and afterward set my existing bike up as close to the ideal measurements they’d taken as possible. Then they sent me five pages of photos and data to use when purchasing a new bike.

This is the data Andrew used to set me up on the jig and tweak things for Freddie, and it’s the reason why my new bike is perfectly fitted to my body and to the ways I produce power. I’ve got a much, much more significant drop on this bike (drop = vertical distance from top of saddle to top of handlebars), my quads are positioned more vertically in relation to the pedal stroke, and the top tube of this bike is flatter, meaning my reach when I hold the hoods (the very top part of the handlebars, where you access the brakes) is shorter and easier on my mid-back and shoulder blades. When I stand to climb I can get up in one smooth movement, without having to heave up onto my quads, and I sit equally smoothly in one swift movement. I feel powerful and yet also easy and free on Freddie, and I move visibly more quickly compared to what I could do on Ruby. All thanks to custom data and a careful fit at purchase time.

4. A new bike should make you feel good in your heart. Pick the accessories you want so you can admire it!

ORANGE BAR TAPE. I asked, Andrew delivered. I love orange; it makes me happy on the greyest day. I knew I wanted orange, but it’s not the easiest colour in the world to get hold of for a frame; when I was cruising the options at TO Wheels it wasn’t lost on me, even before we talked data and options, that the R2 was available in a grey-orange combo.

Would I have turned the R2 down, after all that research, if I couldn’t have had the orange? Probably not. But the nice part is I didn’t have to worry; I realized I could accessorize the bike the way I wanted, adding colour at will. Andrew found me the gorgeous bar tape (EVERYONE compliments Freddie on her bar tape!), the mat black crank and water bottle cages for complementary styling, and now I am in the market for shiny orange bike shoes. When I climb onto Freddie with my Foxy Moxy gear on, lime green helmet, and orange vest, I feel terrific: stylish and fast and strong. That feeling carries over onto the hills and the flats, and I love it.


(Orange Giro cycling shoes with black accents. WANT.)

5. A new bike may give you the mental boost you need to say: yes, I CAN go faster. Embrace that!

My first club ride on Freddie was a windy, grey May Saturday, but wow did she attract attention! My pal Sue, the only other woman in the club who is a regular on Saturday tours, grabbed me and said, let’s go with the fast guys. Come on.

I said: ummm……

Freddie said: let’s do it!

So we did. Hard work into the wind on the way out but I did my turns at the front and hung on when at the back. At St Mary’s, we grabbed a quick bite and took right off again. Then it was tail winds the whole way home, and that’s when the fast guys opened it right up. Time for anxiety.

Brad, my Tuesday night ride friend, took care to make sure Sue and I were riding efficiently, drafting a lot and surging only when needed; Sue and I found it was not nearly as hard as we thought to stay with the guys. We made it the whole 95km, our average speed well above 30kph – a new record for me. And one I repeated two weeks later, when we barnstormed with the speedy dudes home from Ingersoll, riding an average of 40kph on the back 35km.

I KNOW. Like, insane fast.

What can I say? Freddie made me do it! Or, rather, Freddie showed me I had it in me all the time.

All I needed was a bike that was properly fitted to my frame and power profile, a heady new attitude, and the all important orange bar tape.




Last Half Marathon with Anita for TWO Years!

Tracy (left, short blond hair and sunglasses on head, smiling) and Anita (right, short brown hair, sunglasses on head, smiling and holding a water bottle) doing their medal-biting ritual after the Key West Half Marathon in January. Palm trees and people in background; scattered clouds in sky.

Tracy (left, short blond hair and sunglasses on head, smiling) and Anita (right, short brown hair, sunglasses on head, smiling and holding a water bottle) doing their medal-biting ritual after the Key West Half Marathon in January. Palm trees and people in background; scattered clouds in sky.

On Saturday morning Anita and I are doing something we pretty much never do: a local half marathon. It’s the MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op) race series race #3 out of Pottersburg Park in London’s east end.

Why don’t we do local half marathons? One of the main reasons is that if you live and train in London, Ontario, you are more than likely going to be running your half on the same path (or at least part of it) that you run all the time. One of our greatest assets is a long network of multi-use pathways along the river. They’re excellent for training. They’re also excellent for races. So it can get boring. Out of town races are more of an event. Careful packing. Road trip. Pre-race dinner at an Italian restaurant for the (apparently not recommended for women) traditional carb load. Unpredictable sleep in an unfamiliar bed. It’s all part of it.

You don’t get any of that in a local race. Well, it’s possible to do the carb load dinner out, but since we’re in town and the night before is a Friday, we didn’t even think of that until we both already had other plans with other people.

So why are we doing this race? It’s all about scheduling and wanting to squeeze in one more event together before Anita leaves for her sabbatical in the UK on July 31st. She’s going to be gone for a whole year. And then when she gets back, my leave begins and I’ll be gone for a whole year. That’s TWO YEARS without Anita. It’s almost unfathomable. We have been training partners for a few years now. We pace about the same as each other for all types of runs, from tempos to intervals to slow, long runs.

Because of our respective travel schedules, an out of town trip was not going to happen. So we decided to look locally and landed on race #3 in the local MEC series. We jumped on it right away after our Around the Bay relay, as a way of giving us a training goal and a swan song event together.

Yes, about half the course is in the familiar territory of the multi-use path from The Forks of the Thames into Springbank Park. But it starts and ends further east than we usually go, so there will be some new scenery even if no pasta dinner.

The MEC series is great and deserves support for a few reasons. First off, lest you think you can’t take advantage because you don’t live in London, there are MEC series all over Canada.  Check out the website here.  For our London events, you can find them by clicking here.

If you check out the website, you’re likely to notice how incredibly cheap it is to sign on to the races in this series.  Whereas we’re used to paying $75 or more for a race–where you get an official time, a t-shirt, and a medal–MEC is more like $15-20, depending on your distance. You can do a Boston qualifier in the MEC series for a mere $25!  They have trail runs, road races, and ultra-marathons.

You don’t get a t-shirt or a medal. But your registration does include:

  • A fun family friendly time
  • Certified route, timed and posted
  • Post race massage (first come first serve)
  • Post race freshly brewed coffee, bagels and spreads, bananas, NUUN and CLIF bars
  • Special in store discount (invitation is included in race kit)
  • Aid Stations along the course
  • Medals for the top 3 Men and Women finishers in each distance.

And really, what more do you need from a local race? For all these reasons, I’ve always admired the MEC series and believed it should be supported. Despite that, I’ve not taken part in many of their events in the past. But I’m keen to try their trail running clinic and experiment with trail races at some point.

Meanwhile, I’m excited about this half with Anita on Saturday. We have trained well for the race, both of us working with our coach, Linda (from Master the Moments). The training plans have been amazing and, at least in my case, have helped me achieve advances in my running that I had not thought I was capable of. These have all been over shorter distances, so we’ll really put our training to the test on Saturday.

Here’s the route in case you’re interested:

Map of MEC marathon and half marathon routes for the May 27, 2017 race (#3 in the series). Indicates race course along the Thames, with the half marathon in light green, full marathon in red, water stations indicated as blue dots, bathrooms as yellow dots.

Map of MEC marathon and half marathon routes for the May 27, 2017 race (#3 in the series). Indicates race course along the Thames, with the half marathon in light green, full marathon in red, water stations indicated as blue dots, bathrooms as yellow dots.

Are you a supporter of local race series’ in your area?

Where it all began….

Nat reminded me today that her Facebook memories included the note that was the seed from which the blog grew. In May 2012 I wrote about turning fifty and wanting to make fitness a priority. I shared it with friends and asked for feedback.

That’s when Tracy chimed “me too, me too” and suggested we start a blog about it.

Here’s the note:

Fifty is for fitness

May 23, 2012 at 12:40am

As I approach the two year countdown to 50 (I turn 48 at the end of this summer) I’d like to set an ambitious fitness goal. Roughly, I’d like to be the most fit I’ve ever been at 50. Fifty seems like a good time to peak and it’s doable given that I’m an adult onset athlete (no childhood sports trophies collecting dust in the cabinets for me!) There is a bit of a challenge given that I had a similar goal at 40 and I was 10 years younger then. But then I was starting from close to zero and my goal was to get in shape. Now I’ve got a pretty good basis on which to build. The big problem is how to measure. Not weight. That’s silly. I was my thinnest when I smoked and drank a lot of coffee and didn’t eat much actual food. Looked  great but was winded walking up stairs. Those days are gone. I’m strong, fit, robust, resilient but ‘thin’ I’ll never be.

Body composition? Not weight but per cent body fat….maybe. Hard to care about that though and not focus on numbers on a scale, even if they are different numbers.

Running? Maybe. I know my PBs for 5 and 10 km. But I’m also anxious not to invoke another stress fracture. Certainly more than 10km just isn’t doable.

Strength? I do know what I’ve been lifting through the years so maybe. Might work. I’m loving the intensity of crossfit and they are good at measuring progress….

Cycling? Hmmm. Flying laps or centuries? Time trial times are a pretty good measure of fitness.

Aikido: I could aim for a brown belt by 50 but that might be too ambitious.

Yoga: No goals there. I just like to melt and stretch in the heat.

Soccer: My only goal is to have fun….

Suggestions, fitness friends?

Think I was forty that year--Waterloo duathlon

Think I was forty that year–Waterloo duathlon

Skiing with Mallory

Skiing with Mallory

Wow--Miles has changed since then.

Wow–my son has changed since then.

Love Aikido

Love Aikido

Beach me!

Beach me!

Team tri with Susan (run) and Mallory (swim)

Kincardine Team tri with Susan (run) and Mallory (swim)

It’s day 1 of the 100 day workplace step counting challenge, I’m in!

Tracy has blogged about doing it again. This time I’m in too, counting steps as part of the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. I’ve got my reservations about the trend to share health data with employers and about corporate healthism that’s part of these workplace fitness challenges. Still, I thought better to give it a go and see what it feels like from the inside rather than worrying from the outside. I don’t expect any big lifestyle changes frankly but we’ll see.

Like lots of people who exercise regularly I suspect I don’t move as much as I could when I’m not working out. I’ve got the walk to the subway these days when I’m in Toronto and bike commuting and dog walking when I’m in London, but there’s room for improvement, I’m sure.

I’m on the team NASTY WOMEN & BAD HOMBRES. My team is a bit intimidating since it’s made up of multi-sport athletes training for Ironman and half Ironman distance events. I’ll be riding a lot though so I’ll keep on the bike side of the equation.

This morning I went to the grand kick-off which was good for a healthy mid-morning snack. Apples! Birdseed bars! There was also lots of nutritional info there and I think I will focus on food tracking for the 100 days.

As you can see from the photo below, I brought my commuting bike into the event. I figured they couldn’t very well say no to my bike at a healthy movement challenge kick-off.

Anyway, I’ll report back and I’ll let you know how it goes. And as Tracy says I like counting things. Tracking doesn’t bug me at all. So who knows, it might be a good fit.

Skeptical, mildly enthusiastic, I’m in.


Your first metric century: Some suggestions about your first 100 km ride

Americans say that a century ride is a bicycle ride of 100 miles. Americans call what we ride, 100 km, a metric century. But given that the rest of the world uses kilometers and that cycling in particular is a Europe based support, I say 100 km is a real century and what they ride is an “imperial century.” See Rule 24. Whatever. Ours is easier. It’s often a new rider’s first big distance and that’s what I’m talking about today.

There are quite a few people associated with the blog doing the 1 day version of the bike rally (you can sign up, there’s still time!). Hi Catherine! Hi Sarah! Hi also to readers Serife and Judy! Since the one day version is Toronto to Port Hope (108 km) a post on riding 100 km for the first time seemed apt.

Want to come with us? See Ride with the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers! Consider the 1 day

It’s been a slow start to cycling this spring and I know some people are feeling nervous about the distance.

100 km is nothing to sneeze at. But it’s totally doable if you regularly ride your bike.


Suppose you’re just starting training now. We leave in 9 weeks and 3 days. Where to begin?

Most training plans recommend riding 3+ times a week. They also recommend a longer ride on the weekend.

How much do I ride when I’m actively training? I usually commute by bike (just 10-15 km a day) and then do longer, faster rides (40 km) Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the weekend I do a longer ride at a more relaxed pace. That’s a pretty normal sort of schedule for cyclists.

But what I do doesn’t matter really. You’re just starting out. This is your first 100 km ride.

The pattern remains the same though, regular weekday riding and a longer ride once a week. Each week the longer ride gets longer.

Right now with 9 weeks to go you might want to start out with a 25 km long ride on week 1, a 30 km ride on week 2, a 35 km ride in week 3, a 45 km ride in week 4, a 55 km ride in week 5, a 65 km ride in week 6, a 75 km ride in week 7, an 85 km ride in week 8, and a 100 km ride in week 9. Most people to their long rides on Saturday and Sunday and if you’re in Toronto you’re welcome to join in on the bike rally’s official training rides. See details here and here.

Some notes:

  • Now you don’t actually have to ridden the full distance before the actual date. Lots of people train for marathons and don’t ever run the full distance before the race. Riding a century is the same. Before I  rode 100 km the most is ridden was about 60 km. But it turned out that stopping for lunch and resting made it easy to get back on the bike.
  • When you’re riding each week trying to increase your mileage you need to find routes. A good resource is Ride with GPS. Local bike clubs often share their maps too. Print out a route map and/or load it on your bike computer.  Vary your route to avoid boredom and to get used to riding on a variety of terrain.
  • Once your rides start to get longer, don’t go it alone. Ride with friends, ride with a training group, ride with a local cycling club. You’ll need someone to talk to and it’s more fun and safer not to be out there alone.
  • If you’re riding in the city you might get downhearted thinking it takes forever to ride 20 km. You’re right. It does take forever to ride 20 km in the city. But without traffic once you hit country roads you’ll find the kilometers go by a lot faster. It’s hard work stopping and starting on a bike.
  • Speaking of stopping, there are rest stops on an organized century rides. The bike rally has rest stops and a lunch break. You can stop at the rest stops. Eat! Drink! It feels good to get off your bike and stretch. Don’t sit still for too long though. It can be hard to get back on the bike.
  •  One of the things that makes a long ride easier is maintaining a steady pace. There’s no need to speed up and slow down. Pick a pace you can maintain and maintain it. Later, when you’re sure you’re good to ride 100 km you can speed up, zoom zoom!, but for now take it easy and be consistent.
  • Pack snacks and eat and drink a lot on the ride. Enjoy.


How To Prepare for Riding 100K

Training & Preperation for Your First 100km Ride

Preparing for your first ‘Big One’

How To Train For a 100km Bike Ride

Also here’s a cute short film about training for a century. Read about it here.

“Based on a true story, a father and son set a goal to complete a 100 mile bike ride (a century ride) together. Months of rigorous training lead up to the final ride in Lake Tahoe. As the ride progresses, the viewer is immersed in the beautiful scenery of the lake, and we see how the father and son are brought closer together by the shared experience.”

Have you ridden 100 km in a day before? What advice would you give to people trying it for the first time?

My Fit Prime Minister (Guest Post)

So Justin did it again and “photobombed” an event. This time, he was “caught” running through a group of teens taking prom pictures in Vancouver. Another time, and as referenced in that CBC article, he had “photobombed” wedding pictures, shirtless that time (why not in Vancouver Justin? Oh well).


Why all the quotation marks you will ask? Well one line caught my eye in the CBC article. Adam Scotti, photographer to the prime minister, tweeted his pic of Justin running through the crowd, supposedly unnoticed by the teens.

So this was not as impromptu as it is meant to look. It is not as if Justin just decided to go for a run, on his own (which is what the earphones are meant to suggest), just like you and I leave the house and may run into a gathering of teens or a wedding photo shoot. The photographer to the prime minister was there and probably some security people, or one would hope. This is all part of an operation to make us swoon over Justin and how much of a people person he is. That he is that is not debatable especially if we contrast with many other politicians, including our previous prime minister. But there is a lot of fabrication that goes into these images.

However, that is not my point today. I have been meaning to write on how public figures, including politicians and country leaders, impact our perception of the importance of exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This article in my Twitter feed this morning made me do it. So here it is.

Yes I will continue to swoon over Justin, not because of his good looks and charm, but because he keeps healthy habits and does look fit. He exercises regularly and obviously values a healthy lifestyle. His yoga buff wife, Sophie Grégoire, also appears to hold the same values (why the shoes Justin?).


Our prime minister runs, boxes (Guest blogger Rebecca Kukla even boxed with Justin as reported here), does yoga, planks on random counters or tables, etc. He is one active guy!


I swoon over Justin for such things just like I did for Michelle and Barack Obama when I would come across pictures of them engaging in fitness activities. I certainly aspire to be as strong as the former First Lady.


In Quebec, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, the minister of health, was quite heavily criticized and very badly mocked for his weight. The amount of fat shaming that occurred was simply appalling. Since 2012, Barrette has lost a lot of weight. He has explained that this was a challenge he took with his son who appeared to be following his path toward obesity and they both engaged in a radical lifestyle change involving changes to nutritional habits. The change is major as one can see.


People have congratulated the minister of health over this change. He appears to be healthier and this may be even more important for him in a leadership role as minister of health. Now we know that size is no measure of health (many posts on this blog have discussed this).

But that a leader would appear to value a healthy lifestyle by adopting an exercise regimen and good nutritional habits seems to matter to people. When one does not, as Barrette presumably used to and especially in his role, he became a target of criticism. Now fat shaming is never right and he was the victim of a lot of that. I am happy to read that he did not engage in his lifestyle change in response to that. But this example can inspire others.

I use the word example with caution here. “Before and after” pictures often serve to shame individuals who appear more like the “before” picture and serve to point to their “failure” to achieve an “after” look. But I do think that active, fit looking and presumably healthy leaders can serve as role models to populations who are subjected to the flow of pictures of these leaders. It may inspire people to engage in a bit more activity, even just for the fun of it.

I would be interested to read a study that would look into the correlation between the level of physical activity engagement in the population and that of their political leaders and whether a fit leader directly impacts fitness choices by the population. Similarly, a study that would also correlate the pursuit of healthy nutritional habits between the population and its leaders would be interesting as well. This, in light of reports of Trump’s predilection for junk food, may be worrisome for a population that has been struggling with health issues for a long time.

Did things improve under the Obamas? I don’t know and 8 years might be too short a period to tell. Will a fit Justin make us all fitter and possibly healthier Canadians? Maybe. In the meantime, I will continue to swoon and be inspired.

Sam starts to swear: “That’s bulls**t”

When social media quizzes ask for “unexpected facts about you” or “10 things about me that would surprise my Facebook friends” one fact I’m often tempted to supply is that I don’t swear.

I mean, on a very rare occasion it does happen that I swear, when something really bad happens, yes. Then I can and do swear.

For example, on a certain evening in November 2016 things looked they weren’t going very well for the Democrat’s candidate for President. I thought it was just a blip. I needed to get some rest. So I said to Jeff, “Just wake me when Hilary’s won.” He didn’t wake me. My alarm went off in the morning at the usual time. I woke up and looked at my phone and the news of Trump’s election greeted me. I swore then.

That gives you some idea. Things need to be “Trump election bad” before I swear.

Why don’t I swear? There’s some background here, of course. I was taught by nuns, educated in Catholic school. My father didn’t think swearing was ladylike. I’m from England. (An aside: A younger me was once cut off from drinking in a pub in my home town in Northern England for swearing. The bartender said, “What did you say, young lady?” I genuinely thought he didn’t hear me so I repeated it loudly. “It’s f**king cold in here.” Also, it was.)

And I know people who share a lot of these traits and who swear up a storm so it’s not a complete explanation. But it’s a start.

There was a brief swear-y time of life. I also had an 80’s punk haircut and tried to scowl. It didn’t take though. I’m an inveterate smiler and I don’t swear.



I even have a philosopher’s explanation about why. One day the CBC radio show DNTO (Definitely Not The Opera) called the philosophy department looking for someone willing to go on air to talk about what, if anything, makes swearing wrong. I couldn’t think of answer and so passed but I kept thinking and came up with an answer.

My answer is connected to the problem tenants in my house at that time. We had just bought a side-by-side duplex with plans to take over the whole thing but it had tenants in one half. They were a group of young women who all worked for the phone company and who liked to have parties on the weekend. I didn’t mind them but I did mind their boyfriends. In particular what I minded was the drinking on our front lawn that involved yelling and swearing.

So what makes swearing wrong? It signals to people that you’ve crossed a line. You’re outside the norms of polite discourse. What’s next? Threats? Actual violence?

If you have a background where you associate swearing with alcohol and loosened attachments to rules and norms, swearing might make you flinch.

It signals a willingness to break rules of polite interaction.

I’m still thinking about this. If you’re a male professor reading this and you think swearing in the classroom makes you seem young and hip and rule break-y keep in mind that not all of your students hear it the same way.

So that’s my history and a brief bit of ethics.



Next up: Why does a fitness blog care?

This story:  Could swearing make you stronger at the gym? Maybe.

See also Swear More To Boost Muscle Power In The Gym, Study Suggests.

And  Swearing makes you stronger so stop f***ing around and start lifting.

You get the idea. Dozens of blog readers and Facebook page followers and friends sent it to me.

Here’s the study:

Psychologists at Keele University conducted a series of experiments, including putting two groups of participants on exercise bikes. One group cycled for 30 seconds while yelling out all kinds of profanities while the others were only allowed to let out neutral words.

And they found that the swearers’ peak power rose by 24 watts on average.

The next task they got everyone to perform was a single hand-grip test.

Again, those who muttered obscenities throughout upped their strength by the equivalent of 2.1kg.

‘In the short period of time we looked at there are benefits from swearing,’ said Richard Stephens – one of the psychologists from Keele.

Swearing has also been found to lessen pain.

I’ve looked for detail of the study. Most of the stories tell us that the participants are volunteers and they are at a university. They are said to be 21 years old.  I assumed they were male. And I worried about that as a weakness of the study.

But no, there were roughly equal number of men and women in these studies.  And you got to choose your favourite swear word. Nice!


Oh and then there’s the “smart people swear more” stories that friends love to share.  See Intelligent People Use More Swear Words, According To Study.  And stories about women swearing more than men, Women use the F-word more than men, according to new survey.

So I’ve been curious about whether I can get over my aversion to swearing. My teenagers occasionally try and they love to laugh at my efforts.

Recently, spending time with Sarah in Toronto, I’ve noticed that she often says, of traffic, of other peoples’ parking, of contractors who don’t follow through, “that’s bulls**t.” It turns out that’s one I can manage. The other day I was describing the traffic on a stretch of road on a bike rally training route where cars were whizzing by too fast, too close and I said it was “bullsh**t.” Since then Sarah’s been prompting me. “What would you say about the lack of vegetarian food in this restaurant?” Turns out that there are many of these opportunities.

Also, Cate and I agree: Gaining 8 lbs over the winter while working out lots and eating the same as usual. That’s bulls**t!

So, progress?

I’m pretty sure it won’t help my cycling or my lifting but maybe I should try it the next time I go in for fitness testing on the bike.


How about you? Do you swear? Do you swear when you’re racing or lifting or trying to do physically hard things? Does it help?