I’ve shared lots of Cheddar participating in yoga photos. But the thing is, he’s my constant companion, especially when I’m the only one home. All of my work colleagues now know him from videoconference meetings.
When I’m riding my bike on the trainer, he’s my number one fan. He sits on the sofa behind me watching the screen, only occasionally nodding off.
I’ve been riding indoors, in a heat wave, in a house with imperfectly operational air conditioning.
Enter the new fan, fan number two.
So last night I was doing the La Bicicletta Toronto Supper Time Trial, a very hard 17.6 km solo effort. Both fans accounted for and I got my second best time on the route. Thanks Cheddar and thanks Heavyweight Honeywell.
CW: talk about personal fears during the pandemic.
I love those lists of X things to do/buy/eat/read/make/etc. that will completely refashion our lives to make them perfectly balanced and full and grounded and happy. Yes, they’re either obvious or impossible or obviously impossible, but I read them all just the same.
These days I’m feeling extra in need of those to-do lists. I’m very lucky and grateful to still have a job that’s paying me my full salary. And I’m grateful for general health, home stability, community and family.
So what’s there to bellyache about? How about I just make a list:
I’m struggling with exercise of any sort after having been so sedentary for months;
I’m struggling with severe self-judgment about the above;
I’m floundering amidst the lack of external structure that usually helps me regulate my sleep, eating, activity, and social contacts;
I’m worrying about the future, both immediate and longer term;
I’m afraid of backsliding so far that I can’t catch up to resume a life that resembles what I had before March of this year;
insert whatever I can’t bring myself to say or even countenance, but which brushes up against me and causes strife.
Okay, you might be thinking: whoa, that’s pretty heavy (while backing slowly away from this post…)
Now that I’ve made my list, let’s start with the first item: struggling with exercise. What sorts of lists can I find to help with this?
be nice to yourself if you can’t stop keeping up with the news;
feel free to wear what you want;
be kind to yourself if your place seems messy to you;
be accepting of whatever sleep schedule you have;
give yourself plenty of time and space to do nothing.
I was looking for self-help lists for dealing with fear about the future, and accidentally came across this article, translated from French, in which several experts comment on my worst Armageddon-type coronavirus fears in great detail. Don’t read that article if you want to sleep tonight.
There’s certainly a theme to these lists. All of them remind us that we are not alone, that for many of us, movement helps us feel better, and that being stern with ourselves is not a good idea (right now, or maybe ever).
None of these is the perfect list. But I’ve found it! I was inspired by listening to the podcast In the Dark’s series on Coronavirus in the Delta, episode 2– inside Parchman Prison in Mississippi. You can read about it and get the link to listen here.
Here’s the perfect self-help list:
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
I think that’s it for right now. I can do this. You can do this. Let’s keep doing this.
What are you doing to deal with what’s causing you struggle these days? I’d love your tips, lists, or any comments you’d like to share.
I was in Collingwood, Ontario on Canada Day. It’s a small town about 2 hours north of my home in Toronto.
I love living in an urban centre. Small towns are perfect for little getaways though. One thing small towns do well, is fostering an atmosphere where people say Hello to strangers. Waiting in line for ice cream. Walking down the street. And runners say Hello to other runners.
I went for a run in the morning in Collingwood. One runner passing by said Hello. Then a group of runners said Good Morning, one by one. So nice.
It is not my experience that runners in Toronto say Hello or Good Morning (I rarely run in the evenings) to other runners. I tried for awhile. When I went to Victoria, early on in my running habit, I noticed this lovely practice. I also remember my Aunt Bev, who lives in Victoria, and who inspired me to start running, saying Good Morning to passersby on our jogs together in Toronto. She would look at them directly, give a big smile, and say Good Morning. Nice, I would think, but Toronto runners weren’t likely to say Hi back. But some would.
I have tried, here and there, to say Good Morning to fellow runners. But to no avail. Perhaps, it’s in my delivery. My Aunt expected a response. I don’t. Perhaps that shows?
To be fair, it’s not just Toronto. I don’t recall people saying Good Morning when I’d run by them in Guelph. Smaller than Toronto, but perhaps not really “small town”?
I understand why it’s not innate to Torontonians to say Hello or Good Morning to strangers. We learn to go about our business. Stay out of other people’s business.
I have found even saying Hi to neighbours, which I insist on doing regularly, is not always reciprocal.
In the beginning of the Covid lockdown, it felt funny to be outside. When we learned that we should stay 6 feet away from others, I noticed that people seemed reluctant to even look at each other on the street. Never mind stay physically separated. It was so nice if someone actually looked up and locked eyes, maybe nodded their head.
It is a treat when fellow runners acknowledge each other and wish them well. Especially in these uncertain, and sometimes stressful, times. Such gracious actions can go a long way to spread goodwill. I wholeheartedly endorse saying Hi, Good Morning, etc. to your fellow runners. Go for it. Give it a try. Even fellow Torontonians! Just don’t ask me to smile. That’s a whole other discussion.
Most cyclists have different kinds of things they wear, depending. When I was riding with Coach Chris, I wore Coach Chris kit on group rides. But I didn’t ever wear it on casual rides with friends. I felt it was my speedy outfit! Club kit is for riding or racing with the club.
I also have other serious cycling clothes for long rides, like my very best (expensive) bib shorts. And then I have the old beat up, worn out bike shorts I wear under dresses when commuting to work or out and about running errands.
Then there is the fun casual cycling variety of clothes. Star Trek jerseys and Simon the cat jerseys (thanks Susan) fall into this category. Their message is that I’m out riding to have fun.
Zwift is sort of the same. You get awarded kit by doing events and by riding certain distances and leveling up. I now have a wide range of virtual jerseys, socks, helmets, gloves, and sunglasses. I’ve even been known to do some events (Hi Betty Designs!) just to get the kit.
I wear club kit when racing in Zwift so teammates can recognize me but if I’m noodling slowly around Watopia on a recovery day, I want to wear something fun and casual, that matches the speed I’m riding.
Last night I was doing the Monday night race series with my team and just off the start I caught sight of my socks. Eek! I was wearing purple Pride socks with my yellow team kit. They clashed horribly. Still, they made me smile. Stealth Pride rider in the race.
I’ve started exercising again for the 8th time since COVID hit. I wrote about starting once in April. I’m amazed at just how incredibly difficult it has been to motivate myself. I keep hovering around the 220 in 2020 accountability group on Facebook hoping I’ll be inspired and while I’m impressed so many are continuing to be fully active, I’m as motivated as I am by watching sports with a bowl of chips on my lap. No matter how much hockey I’ll watch, I’m not going to strap on a pair of skates.
It’s been hard. I have things at home. One of our workouts is done in my garage/lawn where a friend comes over and we do HIIT workouts with ropes, tires, hammers and slam balls and a few other things we switch around. I even suggested to my husband we set up a circuit and leave everything set up so we’re more likely to workout more. We didn’t. The other half of our workout is at a friend’s house where he’s got a full gym set up in the basement and he provides a bit of coaching. We’ve respected the rules and didn’t get together until just the last few weeks. We started with a weekly HIIT workout and this week we’ll be back to a regular routine where we switch up between houses.
I haven’t really worked out since October of last year, between injuries and COVID, other than physio, and even then I’ve had a hard time keeping it consistent. I had my grip strength tested this week at my first in-person physio appointment in months, and while my right hand seems pretty good (31KG), my left hand is barely 15KG. I’ll need to focus my physio primarily on strength now. Two weeks ago I made it through 4 circuits of the HIIT workout, but just barely. I was out of breath and fatigued. I could barely lift the hex bar for deadlifts with about 125 lbs on it. (At peak strength, I dead-lifted 380lbs). Last week I nearly threw up, but I managed to lift the weights a bit more, and cardio was exhausting. I’m astounded at how much my fitness has dropped since October. This week was better. I was a little bit stronger, I was able to increase the volume of lifts and actually felt good after the workout.
Up until now, the mental game was tough. There’s been far more going on in my head than has been going on physically. Everything seems to be getting better and I’m actually looking forward to the group workouts again. I finally can’t wait to start lifting again!
Monday morning. Back to work after a holiday in Prince Edward County. One of the things I loved about my time on Sarah’s family farm was the swimming pool and playing in the pool with her 6 year old nephew who just loved the water so much. I think he could spend all day in the pool and when I wasn’t riding my bike or reading books and patting Cheddar, I could too.
I got home to so much doom and gloom in the news. But also there in my Facebook newsfeed were the happy faces of four London guest bloggers, including my daughter Mallory, all swimmers, all so thrilled to be back in the pool or the lake. I just couldn’t resist sharing their happy stories with you. I know one of the regular bloggers Bettina has written about this too. See her post Fish Back in Water to add to the chorus of happy voices.
There is something about moving in the water and something even more about swimming outdoors, that cannot be replaced. It was with great delight that I was able to book a lane at Thames pool in London Ontario. Social distance, two per lane, advanced booking, for one hour.
The sun was shining, creating magical reflections in the water. It was quiet and I was in my happy place. For one hour, all was well in this crazy world, in my world.
You can read Mary’s past guest posts here and here.
There’s a saying: you’re one swim away from a good mood. In these pandemic times, it’s more like you’re one swim away from…overwhelming happydancing joy! At first I was both excited and nervous. Excited because Swimming! Nervous because COVID19! But once I got to Thames Pool, the nervousness dissipated. Screening, distancing, 2 people per 50 m lane. Everyone was on good behaviour. So I could focus on finding my movement through the water. I struggled through 900m and it WILL hurt tomorrow. And that will feel awesome!
This summer, for the first time in a very long time, I am staying in Southwestern Ontario. Normally I would be spending my summer in Northern Ontario working at Rainbow Camp, a summer camp for 2SLGBTQ+ teens.
One of my favourite camp traditions is morning dip. It’s a wake-up call, a way to start your day feeling fresh, renewed and sometimes cold! Even when no campers join me or in between sessions when we have no campers, I still love starting my day in the lake.
This year, we are running a virtual camp called Rainbow Online Connection. Monday morning was our first full day and it also happened to be the first day of lane swimming at a nearby outdoor pool so guess how I started my day? Morning dip! A little more athletic than I’m using to starting my mornings but still a great start to my day. (And for those of you interested, our first day of online camp went amazing!) See Rainbow Camp for more information.
Summer just isn’t summer for me without getting into the water. Outdoors. At the height Ontario’s COVID isolation, my biggest fear was that summer would come and go, and I wouldn’t get to float in Lake Huron. When they opened the beaches at Pinery Provincial Park, we went up the first day. The water was a brisk 59F, but I still dove in with relief.
We’ve been back to the lake three times since then. On calm days, the sun shines through the blue water and I look up to the sky from below the surface. I bob back up and drift gently, and I feel whole.
You can read Amanda’s past guest posts here and here.
Tuesday mornings are becoming my favourite. I’m not a morning person AT ALL, but my strength class begins at 7:30, so no choice. I get up around 7am to fling the dog around the block; if I don’t she is a right pest all through the class.
Tuesdays are “skill work”, which is Alex-speak for circus tricks. I am not a flying trapeze kinda gal, but I have to say, moderate tricksterness is delightful to try on for size. I’ve learned the key to crow pose (and also fallen on my head, largely because of the sweatiness of the matter), mastered the wall walk, and that means the big fish left to me is… HANDSTAND.
Today in Alex class (if you’re not already familiar with our blog crush on Alex the trainer, go here) skill work practice involved kicking up; half the team on the call were handstand experts, and the rest (including me) had never got up into handstand before (or tried).*
[OK, well, not quite: I have done two handstands before: one with the support of two fellow yogis in an Iyengar class about a year ago, and the other with the support of my teacher in another Iyengar class, using block props against a wall to achieve the correct low back and rib posture for the pose. In neither case would I really call this “a handstand” insofar as I had a lot of help. But it’s true that both helped me envision the experience and record it in my body, which made a difference to my confidence.]
As usual, Alex demo’d all the moves before we got going. She made the “kick up practice” moves look so manageable that my fear began to dissipate almost immediately. After our “practice round” I realized I was feeling mobile in my hips and getting some decent air in my kicked-up leg. And I won’t lie: when Alex shouted at me through the screen, “KIM YOU ARE THERE!!!” it really helped.
It was half way into our first proper round when I did it: I touched the wall with my elevated foot. (This was another Alex tip: don’t stress about getting up! Just try to touch the wall with your free foot. You’ll be totally safe and see what you’re capable of! #besteveradvice.)
Then, just like that, BAM: I was in a handstand.
To my surprise, it did NOT feel that hard to hold. Alex began cueing me, to turn me from woman on right (above) into woman on left; this will be a work in progress. But the reality is, Cate and Alex and everyone else was right: I absolutely have the upper body strength to hold myself in a handstand. I do pull-ups and push-ups and all kinds of things. I can row a boat (strongly enough to pull it off course – not very well, in other words, but pretty powerfully). OF COURSE I CAN STAND ON MY HANDS.
Why did I think I couldn’t? Being upside down has always been a source of fear for me; it may be for you too. Slowly, I developed a sense of my own strength, and that happened primarily right-side-up. With good teaching and coaching, in both yoga and personal training, I began to nudge the edges of the possible. Working with people I trust to protect me and – crucially – to help me focus on good form, I got further and further into “hey! this is possible I think!!” territory.
And then one day, alone in my kitchen, with the dog on the rug and Alex on Zoom, I pushed through that barrier into a whole new fitness place.
I’m not here to tell you to try a handstand right now; if it’s not your thing or in your wish-box, do not worry – you do you! But I am here to say that the barrier you perceive is not impermeable; if you want to knock it down, you got this.
Step one: identify it, and the fear you feel around it.
Step two: find some supportive, skilled humans to help.
Step three: give it some time. I promise it is possible!
[Insert future photo of me in handstand. I tried to take a few, but the one that actually included my head also saw me totally falling out of the pose. Which is a great lesson, too: I fell out of handstand, and survived!]
What about you, friends? Have you made any surprise fitness breakthroughs lately? What fears did you have to push through to get there?
What I like best about Fit is a Feminist Issue is how body-affirming and movement-positive it is. I love reading and writing about new and familiar ways to reward, challenge or nurture myself through taking good care of my body, whatever that means to me, in whatever ways are open to me.
walking was out (sprained ankle and physical therapy)
the gym was in
weight training, too
and of course cycling
Now it’s officially mid-2020 and mid/early-mid/late-early coronavirus pandemic. Staying home starting in mid-March, I slowed down in almost every way: less productive, moving less, sleeping less and less well, feeling less peppy, thinking less clearly.
Now in mid-summer (and what a strange summer it is), my goal is to identify what helps me feel good IN my body. Thoughts ABOUT my body are secondary these days; they will have to wait their turn. Right now, it’s all about getting some physical sensations of pleasure, well-being, security, accomplishment in movement, stillness, nourishment, rest, routine.
So here’s my list of 6 things that make me feel good in my body during this pandemic:
1.Sleep. Hands-down winner. I’ve struggled the past few months with insomnia. I don’t even realize how bad it is until the morning after a night I get 8.5–9 hours of sleep, and I feel like Wonder Woman. Wow. So this is what rested feels like. I want more of this.
2.Yoga. No matter how I feel– tired, agitated, creaky from sitting in too many zoom meetings, or just blah, there’s some yoga for me. Even rolling around on my mat, or swinging my arms from side to side and raising them over my head feels good to me and good for me and good in me. Yay yoga!
3.Nature. There’s a reservoir near my house and a lovely walking route around it, with some woodsy paths, too. It’s great just to see trees, pine straw and low-growing plants. Even people’s yards and gardens cheer and hearten me. And my back porch is on the second floor of the 3-family house I live in, and it feels a bit like a tree house.
4.Walking. After so much inactivity, walking feels like doing something. And wearing a mask makes me more aware of my breathing. All of this puts me in touch with the functioning of my body– it’s doing its thing, in a simple and miraculous feat of engineering. Yeah, walking rocks.
5.Cycling. Yes, I can still do that, too. My legs still know how to turn the cranks, and my hands do the shifting without asking my permission. The instincts are all there, and the scenery–even the most mundane scenery is a treat.
6.Water. This is an aspirational item, as I haven’t been swimming yet this summer. But I’ve got plans for lake swimming this week and some ocean swimming this month and next month. My body in water does miraculous things: it floats. And moves and glides and splashes.
Readers: what is making you feel good in your bodies these days? Have any of those things changed since the pandemic? I’d love to hear from you.
We watched Stage 2 this morning. If you’ve ever been curious about Zwift this is pretty realistic. Well, except for their watts per kilo. Wow!
STEEP CLIMBS AND FLAT SPRINTS
Stage 2, July 5
Racers start at sea level, breathing that salty oxygenated air before going under the sea via the Ocean Tunnel. After the competitors exit the ocean, keep an eye on the climbers. During the next 5.8 miles (9.4 km), they’ll ascend a 3.9% grade. And the final push, AKA the Radio Tower Climb, is brutal.
Here’s the stage winner, Lauren Stephens. And here’s commentary on the race.
And here she is, in world, crossing the line.
Thing 2 is Ontario Women’s Cycling Week.
I’m away next weekend but if I was at home with Zoom and Zwift nearby, here’s what I would do:
SATURDAY JULY 11TH AT 9:00AM ON ZWIFT
Zwift No-Drop Social Ride – Hosted by the Toronto Hustle Women
Join us for a social Zwift ride led by the Toronto Hustle Women from 9:00 – 9:45am.