Playing with the brown belts!

I’ve been attending, by invitation, the Thursday night class for advanced belts, at our Aikido dojo. I’m sometimes the lowest ranked person there and so I’ve been playing a lot with the brown belts. My current belt colour is green. I hold the rank of 4th kyu in Yoshikan Aikido.

There’s nothing like spending time with people who are much better than you at something to see just how much you have to learn. I feel like a complete beginner all over again.

Aikido is a defensive martial art but part of what I have to work is attacking. Let me explain. I need to be a better uke.

What’s the role of the uke?

The uke’s attack should be clean and with full intent, although slow and deliberate at first. You should not be stiff; a stiff uke is a brittle uke. Nor should you be a wet noodle; a noodle is an uncommitted uke. You need to find a balance point between being stiff and being a noodle. This balance is best described as being a physical state of “living relaxation”, i.e., relaxed but extending Ki strongly.

As mentioned, it is important to have clear intent and focus in your attack. After all we are trying to simulate, in a controlled way, a real attack. A real attacker predetermines the point at which his attack is going to land and does not know what you are going to do. Hence, as uke, you need to try and simulate a real attack, although slowly, by being focused on your target and having full intent of hitting your target.

From Mountain Spirit Aikido

In order to train to defend yourself, one person has to play the part of the attacker and I’m not very good at that. It would be easy to defend yourself against my gentle feeble not particularly heart felt punches. I find myself thinking, “He’s 6 ft and weighs about 250 lbs. Why on earth would I punch him?” But then my light hearted punches don’t give the person enough energy to make the response work. In Aikido, the idea is that you use your attacker’s energy against them so that really they’re doing all the harm. You’re just redirecting the force.

Osensei says, “To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace”.

But if there’s no energy to redirect, Aikido won’t work.

So I’m learning to throw myself into the role of the attacker. Outside my comfort zone but here we go.

The flipside of that though is that I also need to more resilient in terms of receiving my partner’s response. Lots of Aikido techniques involve throws and I can usually roll pretty well but when things speed up, I need to speed up my responses too. I want to be a good training partner so that the people who work with me really get a chance to practice their technique.

Learning lots these days!


Boxing Shorts - Leminor Sports

body image · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #27


This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

By the way, Facebook recently clarified its stance on nudity, writing, “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures.” For the full story see here.

Nipples! Scary!

Why does a fitness blog even care about body image? You can read about that here.

Google Search Trends Reveal Unhappy Preoccupation with Weight Loss

Weight loss is a huge issue on the minds of millions of people around the world, and a new study into weight-related search terms shows just how negative those thoughts can be.

The team at, a site dedicated to providing information and treatment options to men and women battling eating disorders, took a look at which weight loss terms were most searched for on Google in the United States.

The site used Google Trends to look into the popularity of several weight-related searches over the past 12 months. The results are startling.

Searches for weight loss-related terms generally increase at the beginning of the year, likely due to the fact that “getting in shape” is on the top of many New Year’s resolution lists. However, the terms people use when Googling aren’t quite as body-positive as we would like.

The most-searched for term related to weight loss was “how to lose weight fast,” which was Googled 80 percent more than just “how to lose weight.” Additionally (but not surprisingly), searches for “how to lose weight fast for women” are much more prevelent than “how to lose weight fast for men.”

7 Things Women With Stretch Marks Are Tired Of Hearing — Because Our Bodies Aren’t Ruined, Thank You Very Much

Even though it’s estimated that 80 percent of Americans have stretch marks, those familiar lines on our tummies and inner thighs still receive a lot of unnecessary attention — and discovering how to love your stretch marks subsequently becomes even more difficult. I’ve had stretch marks since junior high, and over the years I’ve come across many a stretch mark “expert,” selflessly offering unsolicited advice about natural ways to get rid of stretch marks or dropping some serious knowledge about what causes stretch marks. While I’m sure we can all agree that it’s interesting to hear other people’s ideas about how to “fix” our bodies, it would be nice if everyone could take a 2007 Chris Crocker stance and leave stretch marks alone.

Teen liposuction and busty pinatas: narcoaesthetics in Colombia – in pictures

In Colombia, girls grow up in a world where they are seen as decorative objects – and where plastic surgery rules. For her new photoessay Beauties, the 2014 Joan Wakelin bursary winner Manuela Henao captures the teenagers shelling out fortunes for buttock implants, nose jobs and new breasts

The Simple ‘Secret’ to Making a Woman Orgasm Way Too Many People Still Don’t Get

A new documentary called “Science, Sex, and The Ladies” is a fun and educational film about women getting off.

31 Plus Size Women In Bikinis Who Prove That Fatkini Season Is The Best Season

When you’re in the plus-size community and part of the body positive movement, it’s really not a big deal to see a fat woman in a bikini. In fact, it’s common. But as evidenced by the viral explosion of Skorch Magazine publisher Jessica Kane’s beach photo, it’s still major mainstream news that a fat woman wears a swimsuit to the beach like a “normal” human being.

I realize that most people are still not exposed to so many beautiful fat babes in bikinis enough on a regular basis to find it “normal” yet. So even though I’m still not sure if I should be wearing my winter jacket some days or not, I wanted to share just a few of the many gorgeous bikini photos that I’ve seen already this year on the ‘gram in anticipation of summer, to remind you that bikini season doesn’t have a size limit.

Weekends with Womack

Cycling (not) by the numbers

I love cycling, and finally the weather here in New England is conducive to regular bike riding. Commuters are everywhere, and road cyclists and mountain bikers are out and training. There’s even a Spring Bike Wash this weekend in Boston, co-hosted by the Boston Police Department and the Boston Cyclists Union. I wish I were attending—my bikes could certainly use a little of this:


The racing season is also well under way, and lots of people are already competing. My friend Cathy is below, along with some racers for the unsanctioned but very well-attended Rasputitsa race in Vermont:



Cycling is more than just a sport of endurance, coordination, strength, and grit. It’s also a sport that loves numbers, in particular those involving weighing and measuring.

What do we measure? Just about everything:

  • Distance traveled on rides
  • Distance traveled each week, month, etc.
  • Hours in the saddle
  • Heart rates—average, highs, etc.
  • Watts expended—average, highs, etc.
  • Amount of climbing per ride
  • Personal bests for each of the above
  • KOM and QOM (King and Queen of the Mountain) records for hill climbs

Just to name a few. To make all this data gathering easier, we have heart rate monitors, bike computers, power meters, and software like Strava to analyze our progress.


And there’s the weighing: we weigh ourselves. We also weigh our bikes—in particular every part of the bike. There’s even a term for persons who attend obsessively to the weight of gear: weight weenie. If you want to know the weight of any and every component of a bike, the internet is at your disposal—you can go here.

In the cycling community, there’s an assumption that all this weighing and measuring is important for assessing one’s progress in training and making progress towards goals—for racing, planning long bike tours, doing century or charity rides, etc. I’ve done plenty of training, logging miles and time, worn my heart rate monitor for specialized workouts, and certainly weighed myself a lot.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been working more and riding less, and I’m less fit than I was. This translates directly to less power and endurance and speed on the bike. The bike doesn’t lie. However, I’m on the brink of a sabbatical—8 months of research leave to work on academic projects (related to eating, health and behavior change—more on this in posts to come!), and I will have time to get some of that fitness back. And this is something I want very much. I miss riding with fit friends, riding comfortably for long distances, and having biking be the default mode of local transport and the default weekend activity.

But the thought of all that weighing and measuring is feeling too much of a burden—knowing how slowly I’m riding, exactly how hard I’m working does not feel like the right thing to do now. I do have some goals this year: I’m doing 50 miles in the Bikes Not Bombs charity ride again this June (I blogged about this last year here ) and The NYC Century in September (the 75-mile route). I also want to do some multi-day bike trips in New England. And I want to do some organized club rides as well.

These are all reasonable goals, as I’ve met all of them before. But this year I’m feeling a little fearful and a lot rebellious. It’s been a very work-intensive school year, and I haven’t been able to really relax mentally or physically. Right now, the last thing I want is another set of reporting requirements for leisure time activity.

So what’s a stubborn cyclist to do?

Get out and ride—no expectations, no goals, no numbers. I want to rediscover the fire inside, the motivation, the joy, the pain (yes, that too) and the satisfaction that comes from getting sweaty, gritty, greasy, muddy and happy on a bike. I’ll report back (with no statistics, though). In the meantime, I should buy some more degreaser, as I’m expecting to be sporting a chain tattoo pretty often.

chain tattoo

diets · eating · eating disorders

Disrupt your Diet Offers a Beginner’s Guide to Eating Right


What prompted the creation of the advice graphic? This! (And the hundreds of others like it.)



For Tracy’s take on “clean eating” see Living Clean without Eating Clean.

Sat with Nat

A year in review: A wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey journey from crisis to pleasant plateau


It’s been a year since I had to confront the fact that my blood pressure was dangerously high and I had to make some important choices about my wellness. If you aren’t familiar with my story, check out my posts starting with I can’t fight genetics?

I’d love to say it’s been this linear progression of thoughtful action followed by measured results. If you plotted one point from April 2014 on my weight, blood pressure, heart rate, distance and speeds cycling/running/walking and one point for each of those today there’s clear improvement. But if you, say, increased your sample rate and plotted those changes weekly or even monthly, there were major ups and downs. Times when I thought, surely, I’m wasting these efforts and this money on therapy NOTHING IS CHANGING.

Then I look back on this video from an interview I did October 2013. I watch how I walk:

This was the visual benchmark I chose to help me see change. I’m aware that focusing too much on the visual (see Sam’s posts Athletic versus Aesthetic Values and The Power of Pictures) and not the metrics is a problem AND that rubs up against the fact that I’m a highly visual creature. When I self sooth with meditation or facing my fears I need an image to draw on. This video helps me remember that things have, in fact, changed a great deal for me.

My workouts lately have been inconsistent. I’ve had some of the most difficult emotional situations in my life over the past few months. Actually, if we mapped those, it could be argued things are worse now for me than a year ago, yet I’m feeling confident I can handle the challenges before me.

I’m mindful that a big part of my well-being has been the network of social support I’ve tapped in to. I’m in the privileged position of having benefits that cover therapy, massage and chiropractor. I also get to tap into YOU, the readers of my posts and other writers for this blog, who have great advice, feedback and sometime commiserate on shared challenges. What I fortunate person I am!

When I read through my posts this past year, I’m struck by that fact that I’ve often written about crying and anxiety as part of even positive experiences. I’m naturally inclined to be a bit maudlin but I often shield that part of myself from everyone but my immediate family. So I’m sure, were you to survey my friends, they’d report seeing a laughing, joyful person. I certainly try to stack the deck to be happy by doing things I enjoy with people I love. However, I’m much more aware of the eddies of anxiety and sadness now that I’ve stopped self soothing with overeating food and drinking a lot of alcohol. My posts reflect that as I dialogue with my fears instead of flipping them the bird.

I have a new visual benchmark now, an interview I did last week:

My face is comically expressive. I think I look healthier and more vibrant than I did in 2013. I certainly feel fitter and more confident, a little more bad-ass and a little less deflating skin suit.

Things have changed, are changing, even if it seems I’m at a plateau with workouts, weight and blood pressure. It’s a pleasant plateau where I’ve time to regroup and re-asses at my leisure, not because of crisis, and that is pretty dang awesome.


Counting steps is hard

Forerunner® 15Well, counting them is easy but getting enough is hard work!

The other day I ran 3 km, I rode my bike, and I did a bunch of housework yet when I looked at my Garmin it read a measly 5574 steps. Short of my modest 7,000 step goal. And much short of the 10,000 step goal many people set.

I confess I’ve been skeptical about the step counting thing. I walk a lot. I have a standing desk. I live in a 3 story house, filled with teenagers, and I feel like I go up and down the steps all day.

But apparently not as much as I might think and especially not on the days I run.

It seems that one the days I run, I become, like my son, a sedentary athlete.

I’ve only been counting steps because I bought a Garmin watch for running. I wanted some way of tracking my pace and heart rate while I run and the one I chose also acts as a general activity tracker, keeping track of steps and reminding you to get up when you’ve been sitting too long. I like the MOVE! reminder.


But I’ve become extra conscious of my sloth like behavior on days that I run or ride a lot. Today, finally, I made it. I ran and I counted 10,133 Steps | 100% of Goal. Phew.

See Nat’s post on fitness trackers, Count what matters and make what matters count.

body image · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #26

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

By the way, Facebook recently clarified its stance on nudity, writing, “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures.” For the full story see here.

Why does a fitness blog even care about body image? You can read about that here.


We met a couple of months ago in NYC along with a dozen other bloggers and your Chief Marketing Officer. We gathered to discuss how Lane Bryant can better serve the plus-size community and it turned into a passionate discussion where those in attendance openly requested more diversity both on the catwalk and online. That, and less Sharkbite dresses, wink wink. I left the lunch inspired and looking forward to what Lane Bryant would produce next. Truthfully? While it’s absolutely gorgeous, I expected more than the #ImNoAngel campaign.

Even though I was disappointed, I’ve been reading the responses with great interest since your launch; observing those who applaud the images saying FINALLY, and others who are saying We want more. It’s been fascinating to say the least. What has interested me the most though, is watching some individuals quickly become frustrated with those who demand representation. Individuals asking “for more” are often told to stop “whining” about a “first world problem” and many defended the campaign saying that fashion figures are supposed to be aspirational and not necessarily representational. Many of these comments were visibly supported by your company via social media.

This seems to conflict, however, with your ultimate intention. You were quoted as saying:
“Our ‘#ImNoAngel’ campaign is designed to empower ALL women to love every part of herself. Lane Bryant firmly believes that she is sexy and we want to encourage her to confidently show it, in her own way.”

Personally, I question how empowering these images can be for “all women.” #ImNoAngel only shows ONE shape while redefining the sexy plus women; that shape being the traditional hourglass: a body with a waistline considerably smaller than a larger bust and hips. This is almost always (and is, in this case) accompanied by a flat belly.

21 women who shut down their body shamers

Body shaming doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re a celeb in the spotlight or a new mom breaking out an old bikini, no one is immune to hateful comments, whether you’re “too fat,” “too skinny,” or even “too pregnant.” Take inspiration from these 21 strong women to shut down the haters and embrace your unique and beautiful body, no matter your size.

Body positive mantras

As babies, we’re fascinated with our bodies—we can spend hours just checking out our toes. (Wow, there’s so many of them! And they fit in my mouth!) And as children, we confidently attempt handstands and skateboard ollies, and launch into impromptu dance parties, having fun and not thinking much about our appearances.

Yet somehow on the path to being a bill-paying, job-working, relationship-having Official Adult, instead of appreciating how strong our legs are or how hard we can kick a ball, we fret about how our legs look in our shorts and whether they jiggle when we run.


Instagram, enough with the fat shaming!

This morning I woke up to the news that a picture (the one you see above), which is part of a series of nude and semi-nude photographs that Montreal photographer Julie Artacho had published on the This is Better than Porn  Tumblr account had been promptly censored and removed by Instagram.

Instagram had already gotten on my nerves when it decided to (twice) remove Rupi Kaur’s blood-stained period picture from its account because the sight of ONE DROP OF BLOOD might somehow be too much to handle for people living in a world where videos of ISIS decapitations are shared on social media and where game hunters get to post their smiling smug faces next to the carcases of dead animals they just killed for shits and giggles. After all, we need to draw the line somewhere, right? And let’s face it… a period seems like the right place to start.

Julie, as you can see from the picture is a bigger girl. She’s a beautiful, talented young woman, but based on today’s beauty standards she would never be confused for a top model. She’s heavier than the standard anorexic-looking females that grace the covers of most magazines and from what I can tell from the pictures, her breasts are real. Two strikes against her already.