fitness · training

Life Happens, Plans Change, and That’s Okay

Change of Plans Plan A Plan BI’ve done something uncharacteristic of me this summer: I signed up for two Olympic distance triathlons and then I withdrew.  Yep, Tracy of the “if I said I’d do it I’m doing it” mantra has bailed on Gravenhurst in July and Bracebridge in August.  Following my own gut feeling and my doctor’s gentle advice, I had to face up the facts: I just do not have it in me to train for these events.

Changes in my life of late have left me physically and emotionally depleted.  Renald moved away from London to pursue his dream of retiring on our sail boat. That’s great for him, and I’m in theory quite supportive of it because he’s 9 years older than I am and he’s worked really hard for many, many years.  Liveaboard cruising requires good health and physical energy.  Waiting at least five years until I can even think about retiring with him just seems ill-advised.  No one can know what five years out will bring.

So we bought a condo, sold most of our rental properties, purchased a St. Francis 50 catamaran (our dream boat, truly), and in May Renald went down to George Town, Bahamas and sailed the boat up to Annapolis, which is where I am as I write this post. It’s the starting point for my only extended summer vacation (just under two short weeks) and we’re heading up the coast towards Long Island Sound and Martha’s Vineyard and Newport in a few days. But for most of the summer (and the next few years) we will be a part and that is a huge change that is taking some adjustment. So there’s that.

Then there is the new job. As of July 1st I’m officially going to be the Associate Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. I’m on vacation at the moment. My first day in the office is July 6th. I’ve had a few different administrative roles at the University so far, including serving as Chair of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research from 2007-2011 and most recently as Graduate Chair in Philosophy.

I admit that I enjoy admin work. It makes me feel as if I’m making a contribution to the University. And I like that it enables me to work with lots of others who care about making a contribution because usually those people have values that extend beyond caring only about themselves. I can respect that and it resonates with me. And at the same time starting a new job with a lot more responsibility is stressful.

And the book is due at the publisher on July 31st. A book contract with a good press that’s enthusiastic about your project is the most exciting and wonderful thing in the life of any writer. And as the deadline inches closer, my stress over it increases. It’s not that I don’t think we’re going to finish. I’m at the stage in the writing process where I feel as if every word I write is shit. This is normal. It’s as inevitable as the five (or is it four) stages of grief.
As if moving, starting to live apart from my partner, and beginning a new position at the University one month before our book is due at the publisher aren’t enough, I’ve also been feeling exhausted much of the time and sleeping badly. This got so bad that my coach recommended I get some blood work to see if anything was up.

Now, part of this is I think because I planned my spring events badly, doing too much too soon with not enough time in between events. I did the Around the Bay 30K on March 29th after a winter of training with a group. And then just 5 weeks later I ran my first marathon at the Mississauga Marathon on May 3rd. I survived ATB well enough even though I didn’t love it. But with the rest and recovery, I actually didn’t have enough time to feel super ready for the marathon.

I know that everyone says they don’t feel ready and it’s a normal thing to feel jitters before trying something new. But I still believe that, in fact, I wasn’t adequately prepared. I would have had a much better day if I’d down-graded to the half. I contemplated it and my coach even recommended it at one point (because I sounded so tentative and she said that’s not a great head-space to take into a new distance).

The marathon wiped me right out. Not just on race day. Not just for a week after. Or even two weeks. No, for a solid month after the marathon I felt exhausted. Getting out of bed for early morning swims, which used to be a routine thing that I enjoyed, became impossible. Even short runs challenged me.

And the bike? Forget it. My fear of the bike intensified and I looked upon it with dread. That may be a different issue altogether (see my recent thoughts on the bike here), but it factors into the result: I wasn’t doing the triathlon training required to prep myself for an Olympic distance in Gravenhurst in mid-July.

I got excited about the Niagara Women’s Half Marathon and had a fabulous time. But overall, I’m not feeling motivated to train for Olympic distance triathlon this year. The energy isn’t there and the desire has left me.

So when despite the bloodwork coming back all fine my doctor recommended that I ease up this summer so as not to let the stress of these big changes wear me down further by forcing myself to do activities that feel more depleting than energizing right now, I decided to follow her advice.

It’s been difficult for me to feel 100% okay about this since it makes me feel like a quitter in some ways, and I hate that feeling. But at the same time, I’m trying to learn a gentler approach.  I’m an advocate of doing less (see “On Doing Less”) but usually with the hidden motive of getting more done in the long run.  This summer, it’s about doing less, period. Not to ultimately achieve more, not to rest so I can throw myself back into things with a vengeance. No. This summer it’s about easing up because that’s what I need to do. Drop the big races, let up on training, get back to yoga, sleep more, all those good things.

The funny thing is that as soon as I decided to do that, my energy bounced back a bit. I got out for a track workout with the triathlon club last week and have also been doing 3K as fast as possible, since that is the distance of the run portion of the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon on July 11th.

Far from thinking about the KWT with dread, I’m really excited about it.  That is not how I was feeling about Gravenhurst and Bracebridge, both of which are exciting races in beautiful locations.

My new summer goal is as modest as they come: work on getting my 10K as close to 60 minutes as possible.  Other than that, I want to enjoy myself with the swim training, workout with weights, and get to the yoga studio at least once a week. I’ve got the hybrid bike out for commuting, and it’s a pleasant ride on the bike path from my condo to campus.

But this week, I’m on the sailboat. I’ve got my running shoes and my resistance bands, but I’m not forcing anything.  I’m sure that’s not the most inspiring attitude. Those who are into The Grind will be disappointed. I’ve had some grief for expressing this whole “doing less” idea because lots of people think they already do less and need to push themselves to do more. That may be. But if my spring is any indication, sometimes more can turn into too much. And when that happens, there’s nothing wrong with re-grouping and making some changes.

charity · competition · fitness · racing · running

Walking and Running with Pride!

 

This past week was a big week in my life. So big that I couldn’t fit it all in and had to cancel cycling holiday plans. No Manitoulin Island for me this year.

While my father’s illness, badly behaved teenagers (it’s the end of the high school year, we’re all running out of patience) and travel plans on the part of my sister-in-law who usually does back up parenting for us were part of the story of competing commitments, it wasn’t all bad.

Here’s some of the good stuff: My son graduated from the Triangle Program. It’s Canada’s only publicly funded secondary school classroom for LGBTIQ2S youth from grades 9 to 12. That’s exciting. I was thrilled to be there for his graduation ceremony and to get to spend time in Toronto for Pride. Mallory and I also got to do the Pride and Remembrance Run. Guest bloggers Alice and Susan and Stephanie were there for the run too.

Susan wrote about the Pride Run last year: “There is one race, however, that motivates me best, the Pride and Remembrance Run, held each year in Toronto on the last Saturday of Pride Week. It was founded in 1996, The Pride and Remembrance Run has become an annual tradition promoting and fostering community spirit, goodwill, volunteerism and sportsmanship in the LGBT community.” For the complete list of reasons she loves it, read on here.

Stephanie says about this year’s event, “This was my fourth year doing the Pride and Remembrance Run. I love it for so many reasons: it’s close to home, the course is familiar (I run around Queen’s Park all the time), and it starts at a very reasonable 10am. It’s also one of the most fun races to run: confetti at the start, the Pride festival on the surrounding streets, people dressed in costumes and bright colours. It’s become a bit of a traditional race for members of my department. This year, I think we had about 14 people running – what a great turnout!”

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I think between us this community of bloggers had the full range of speeds and experiences! Susan got a personal best for 5 km and Stephanie broke 25 min for the first time in awhile. Alice and Amy had a terrific fundraising year. They arrived late, 14 min after the start due to “toddler issues” and pulled up the rear.

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Mallory and I were in the middle. Mallory wanted to do the 3 km walk and I was originally going to run. But after walking 16 km the day before I had a sore knee and started to worry about running in the upcoming duathlon. In the end I walked all but the final kilometer and started to run only when Susan came past us.

I loved the event. It was probably the best organized run/walk event I’ve ever taken part in. The serious runners got to start first and they were coming back in as the walkers were leaving. The best times were in the 16 and 17 minute range. Speedy!

Here’s how they organized the waves:

I loved the glitter/confetti cannon.

Here’s the start/finish line:

I loved the closed roads in downtown Toronto.

Here’s the route:

I loved the marching band playing Sesame Street and Muppets tunes. I loved all the costumes, of course. These guys won for best costume:

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Glenn Bell photography

But most of all I loved the sense of community and the full range of ages, abilities, and ambitions. I’ll definitely be back, next year I hope without a sore knee, and I hope to run the 5 km. See you there!

 

Mallory and me
Mallory and me!
Susan and me!
Susan and me!

Oh, and I also love that the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, does the run with police escorts on bike!

cycling · soccer

Celebrating the athlete you are now!

Like many of my friends I’ve been taken with the idea of minimizing, of owning less. It’s a rich person’s task, I know. I’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. She dubs her technique the KonMarie method. If you’re interested in tidying, and in organizing, you’ve likely heard of it.

I have a house stuffed to the gills with belongings and I want to own less of it all. Mostly it’s not my stuff and it’s the teens and twenty something’s stuff that gets to me. I’ve tried to persuade them that our continued happiness all living together depends on them treating it more like a rooming house, where your stuff stays in your room, but in a three story house there’s a certain inertia to stuff staying on the first floor.

But I’m doing my bit. Most of my excess stuff falls into three categories: aspirational clothing (not too small, not aspirational in that sense, but aspirational for a lifestyle I don’t have, lots of party dresses, not enough parties), sporting goods, and books. I’m keeping the party dresses and asking for more parties, and the books? Well, I’m a professor and we’re a family of big readers so most of the books stay. But the sporting goods for sports I no longer do? They’re going.

Key to the KonMarie method is the idea that you should get rid of things that don’t bring you joy and that you should celebrate who you are today.

Here’s her advice about the clothes you should ditch:

“I’m not talking clothes that are a little tight, or things that you might be able to wear if you lost five pounds. I mean clothing that you’re hanging onto from years and years and years ago, that you would need a whole new body type to wear. Getting rid of old things is a part of making peace with who you are now.”

“Keeping only what sparks joy helps you realize who you are right now. As you’re saying no to certain clothes that don’t spark joy, you’re also often shedding what and who you were — or who you thought you wanted to be. You get a stronger sense of and appreciation for who you are. It’s a healthy exercise in self-reflection and a gentle but powerful letting go of the past.”

I warmed right away to the “joy test” and the idea of celebrating who you are now.

The athlete I am now doesn’t play soccer. I’ve said goodbye to soccer.

So bye bye soccer cleats and shin pads and socks. Bye bye soccer ball.

A friend who used to row competitively let go of some of her old lists of rowing contacts. She realized she was already still keeping in touch with the people who had remained friends.

I’ve got a full bureau of cycling stuff with my helmet, shoes, and Garmin on the top. That stuff brings me joy, though I did weed out some cycling jerseys, so it (mostly) stays.

Can you let go of the athlete you once were and celebrate the athlete you are now? If you did, what you let go of and what would you keep?

Weekends with Womack

Food Fighting—when we say no to “good” food and yes to “bad” food

This week I’ve been reading and writing about intuitive eating, and thinking more about the meanings food has for us—the humans. I’ve been blogging a bit about this lately here and here.  What we eat, why we eat what we do, and what food does for us are all really fascinating and complicated questions, with no easy or one-size-fits-all answers. Our families, our cultural, ethnic, racial, regional and national traditions, our cooking know-how, our incomes, our biological variations—all these contribute to what we eat and what it means to us.

Lately I’ve been thinking about food as resistance, food as anti-authoritarian means of control, food as a way of acting out against, well, whatever. This reminds me of a scene from 1953 movie The Wild One, with Marlon Brando. The scene is here and the quote is this:

Mildred: Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?

Johnny: Whadda you got?

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Maybe Brando didn’t have this in mind, but food is a prime way of rebelling against whatever they got.

Catrin Smith has a really interesting article on women prisoners’ attitudes about food in prison. They have two sources of food—the prison cafeteria, which serves institutional, non-tasty but supposedly nutritionally balanced food, and the prison store, which sells cookies, chips, and other snack foods, which are high in sugar, salt, and fat content. In nutritional terms, the cafeteria food is “good” and the store food is “bad”. However, Smith found in her interviews with the women prisoners that

“Prison food is frequently defined as ‘bad’, in that it remains symbolic, irrespective of its actual quality, of disciplinary control. Here, controlling a prisoner’s intake of food can be seen as an important means of exerting power in a context in which a woman is rendered a subject to the regulations of the institution. Women prisoners are relegated to a child-like state – told when and what to eat – and food becomes associated with penal authority and denial.

Not surprisingly, prison food and eating practices, in turn, become a powerful focus of frustration and anger. At the same time, ‘bad’ food, as defined in dominant nutritional discourses and the women’s own accounts, becomes a source of pleasure (hence ‘good’), not least because of its taste but also because of its very power and status as ‘forbidden’.

Attempts to control the diet of women prisoners so that they ‘conform’ to the imperatives of the institution, or even, for that matter, to the demands of ‘good health’, may therefore be resisted or ignored in favour of the release offered by ‘unhealthy’ food and dietary behaviour.”

This phenomenon is pretty common—we see “good” food resistance also in students who reject or throw away cafeteria food, resulting in lots of waste and also loss of nutritional intake. What are they eating instead? A la carte items like fries, burgers, pizza, chicken fingers, for one.

friesFor another, lots of schools get revenue from vending machine purchases of sodas, energy drinks, and all kinds of snack foods.

vendingPolicies vary a lot from school to school about student access to vending machines, but they are a part of student eating in many schools. Also, many high schools have policies allowing students to eat off-campus, at places like this.

mcdsI remember well that feeling (for me, starting in college) of freedom to go where I wanted, select my own meals, and control when I eat and how much. It was for me in some ways a vehicle for rebelling against parental authority. My mother denied my sister and me regular access to sugary cereals, snack cakes, chips, candy, etc. Of course this was for our own good, but when I got to college and went to a friend’s apartment, I remember seeing this in his kitchen cupboard.

debbieNow, I don’t actually LIKE this kind of food (probably because I didn’t develop a taste for it, courtesy of my mom’s oversight—thanks, Mom!). But the IDEA of it seemed transgressive, rebellious, bold.

One of the primary tenets of intuitive eating is that no food is prohibited, even Little Debbie cakes or this new burger, recently unveiled by Hardee’s in the US, which features a beef burger, hot dog and potato chips, all housed in a bun.

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I know that for some situations in which I desire some nutritionally “bad” foods, I will want to exercise some external control, follow a rule or nutritional guideline, and not buy or eat those foods. An example of this (for me) would be when I pass by the chips aisle in the grocery store. However, for other situations, I know I will want to go ahead and eat some of the foods I consider to be “bad”. For instance, if I’m at a birthday party, I will always want some cake and ice cream. The difficulty is figuring out how to regulate those processes so to be able to exercise my judgment in accord with my own desires and values and health goals.

Bottom line: it seems to me that I need more strategies than those provided by intuitive eating in order to deal with the issue of when-to-eat-rebelliously and when-not-to-eat-rebelliously.

Readers, do you ever eat “rebelliously”? I’d love to hear any comments you have.

menstruation · Sat with Nat

Period Panties

So there I was, feeling crampy and ornery, when Sam sends me this link:
People Are Finally Talking About The Thing Nobody Wants To Talk About.

They were talking about blood, specifically menstrual blood, and how not having ways to effectively capture that blood is important to gender equality and the eradication of global poverty. A quick search and you can find a lot of articles about global women’s health and access to sanitary supplies.

Here in Canada on July 1st the luxury sales tax is being removed from menstruation supplies. That always irked me, that tampons and pads were considered luxuries instead of necessities. I certainly don’t feel like my period is a luxury.

So I was thinking about writing this post, while I’m on my period walking to work last week when a woman approached  me downtown asking to borrow a pad. I could see her pants were wadded with paper. I didn’t explain that I was wearing a diva cup and luna panties:

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I didn’t tell her that next month pads will cost slightly less. I simply said I didn’t have a pad and kept walking. I remembered wadding paper towel many a time in my underwear, it chafes, leaks, stains your underwear and pants. In one morning I had heard about some of the great ways women are employing strategies to keep their periods from interfering with their lives and I ran into a woman in London, Ontario that knew exactly why this is so important.

When I was a teen I learned that you didn’t wear your best panties when you were on your period, you picked the ratty ones with the holes, stains and slack elastic. GAH. Period panties. Now my period panties are the nicest underwear I own, comfy, great cut and any colour I want. I’m excited to hear that women around the world are redefining period panties to be ones that work for them, that are affordable, accessible and use local materials. I won’t say “have a happy period” but I will wish you, if you menstruate, perfect period panties that are nice to your private parts and that you feel good about wearing. Talk about periods with people, make it a public conversation because these things matter. Let’s get over the ick factor and change the conversation.

fitness · Guest Post · racing · running

Back to running! (Guest post)

Only one year and a half ago I could not run. I had been injured in my right hip for a little more than one year causing me to limp from time to time. This limited the type of exercise I could do. If outdoors, I had to walk or cycle (which I love) and if indoors, I would use an elliptical or stairmaster. But I really missed running. I find it fun and meditative. I started running again in January 2014. I signed up as a client volunteer for a kinesiology class on personal training for people with injuries (I have blogged about my experiences before). My training team was big on interval training and they started me on a program in which we would alternate a few running laps on the 200m track with different types of exercises (core, weights, stability). The first time we did it, I ran and walked only 9 laps, i.e. 1.8km. But I made it and without pain the next day.

Before continuing on my progress, let me mention the shoes. At the beginning of the training sessions I bought myself a new pair of shoes. And this is where I realized what had caused my injury. I found that out when I went shopping in a proper store with someone who knew about the difference between supination, neutral pronation and over-pronation. It turns out that the shoes I had used before getting injured were for over-pronators while I have a neutral foot. I had no idea about such distinctions. I purchased the right kind of shoe: Asics Cumulus is my shoe. It is interesting because I had had that model a few years before and was entirely comfortable with them. Then I had decided to go for a cheaper and different brand for some reason and running with a shoe for over-pronator had injured me. Proper shoes are essential.

So with proper shoes and a patient approach to increasing my running capacity, I slowly brought myself to run 3.2 km. We did intervals up until April. Intervals were a mixture of walking, running slow and sprinting for each lap. I continued with this approach over the summer and fall, attempting long stretches a few times. The first time I was able to run 5km I was so happy with myself. I had been back to running for a little over 6 months. And I felt good about it and felt no pain whatsoever. In the fall, I attempted something new: running down and up the Niagara escarpment at Brock University. The total run was 6km. I was amazed at myself. This was accomplished a little less than a year back into running. Progress has continued over the fall and winter and I managed to run 8.5 km including the escarpment climb the other day. I have said this before: YAY me!

The things I have learned and that have allowed me to progress are really important:

Proper shoes: see above!

Proper breathing: in winter 2014 one of my trainers noted I was not breathing properly. I worked on correcting that by running on a threadmill and focusing on my breathing only for about 2 weeks. Now I do it right without a thought.

Puffer: I suffer from stress-induced asthma and stubbornness. This is a bad combination as it led me to want to run without using my puffer. I foolishly thought that the day I could go through a whole run without using my puffer would be the day I would be in shape. That was ignoring a physiological fact about breathing and my asthmatic lungs. I was unnecessarily putting myself in a situation of respiratory distress with the hope of accomplishing something my body could not. I refused to follow my physician’s advice and use my puffer before the run. This was stupid. Now that I do use it before, breathing is easy. And so is the running.

Patience: there is really no point to try to go back to running by overdoing it. The 1.8km initial runs may appear insignificant but they were not. They were what allowed me to slowly but surely get back into it. The gradual increase in distance and the interval training incorporating slower and faster running have increased my running capacity both in terms of endurance and speed.

One year and a half later, I am strong, fast, efficient and can go as long as 8.5 km. Wow! Patience paid out as did listening to my body’s needs. My goal for the summer is drawing nearer every time I go out, for a short or longer run: 10 km here I come!

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fitness

Taking Care of Ourselves: It’s Not Selfish! #tbt

As I worked on the book chapter about developing an attitude for a sustainable routine this morning, I thought of this post from over a year ago. We’re allowed to do things for ourselves that don’t have a lot of benefit for others! What’s on your list of things you do for no one but yourself? How do you feel about it? How do the people in your life feel about it? If you can pursue your interests without any feelings of guilt, congratulations! #tbt

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

take_care_of_yourself_mediumMore than a few of my friends have told me that one of their commitments this year is to do better in the area of self-care.  It’s not news that women, especially women with families, are more likely to put others before themselves.  Anyone with an inkling of feminist awareness has long known that self-sacrifice is one of the feminine virtues. Sometimes we dress it up as “nurturing.”

Call it what you will, it means that many women need to actively assert themselves to draw lines around the time they protect for self-care. I consider this a significant feminist issue because it has an disproportionate impact on women.  And one area that goes by the wayside when we’re feeling pressed for time and pulled in lots of directions is physical activity.

I see this tendency towards guilt in myself sometimes when I’m trying to schedule my activities.  In the fall…

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Guest Post · martial arts

What (Feminist) Self-Defense Courses Can Do (Guest Post)

(Note: many of the points I make here are developed more fully – and in acadamese – in “In Defense of Self-Defense,” Philosophical Papers Vol. 38, No. 3 (November 2009): 363-380)

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As Sam B. mentioned in a recent blog post, self-defense is a controversial topic, particularly among anti sexual violence activists. There are several concerns about recommending self-defense as a way to combat rape culture. Probably the most commonly voiced one has to do with misplacing the burden of fighting that fight: rather than insisting that women use precious resources of time, money, and energy to protect themselves against an unjust threat, we should insist that men take responsibility for not posing that threat in the first place. But there are also concerns about whether self-defense really protects women against sexual violence. After all, most self-defense courses teach women to protect themselves against attacks by strangers, which are the rarest form of sexual violence. It seems they would be pretty ineffective in cases of violence perpetuated by an acquaintance, partner, or family member.

My take is that the first concern can be pretty well addressed if the self-defense course is explicitly feminist in its approach. Not all self-defense is created equal, and some approaches tend to naturalize the threat of sexual violence, as if it were a necessary part of human society (which it is not). Feminist self-defense courses, by contrast, present sexual violence as an example of injustice, a form of gender inequality that should cause us to be angry. In fact, part of feminist self-defense courses (at least the good ones) is to tap into that anger and give it expression. Such a course would never imply that such a complex social and political situation can be remedied by any one response, and wouldn’t present self-defense as the only or even primary way of counteracting the threat of sexual violence.

But it’s the second one that Sam’s blog focused on, and that’s the one that I want to respond to more fully here. I worry that when we evaluate self-defense primarily in terms of how effective it is in preventing specific instances of sexual violence, we miss some of its broader possible effects. For me, one of the crucial elements of feminist self-defense courses is that they target, explicitly and concretely, some of the bodily habits that a rape culture imposes on femininely gendered bodies. I don’t think it’s an accident that a rape culture like ours teaches feminine bodies to take up less space, to react to physical attacks with paralysis, and to underutilize their vocal capacities. These bodily habits are so deeply ingrained that they are often difficult to perceive (my students are still stunned when I point out gendered differences in how they sit, although the tumblr about men taking up space in trains has helped!).

Iris Marion Young analyzed feminine bodily comportment in her great article, “Throwing Like a Girl,” so if you want to read more about how feminine bodily habits reflect a sexist society, go check that out. I’m particularly interested in how those habits not only reflect, but actually perpetuate, rape culture by encouraging women to experience their bodies as weak, fragile, and expected targets of sexualized violence. All the common ways that women are encouraged to protect themselves against sexual violence – don’t go to certain places at certain times, don’t walk alone, that sort of thing – frame the problem of sexual violence as a problem of women’s bodies. It’s as if when those bodies are in the wrong places, or do the wrong things, suddenly this threat materializes out of thin air. And really, that feminine body should have known better than to cause that threat to show up.

So normative feminine bodily comportment not only renders women’s bodies less likely to be able to respond effectively to an actual assault, but encourages women to see their own bodies as the source of the threat of assault itself. And here’s my general point: this imposition of this kind of bodily comportment is harmful to all women, regardless of whether they are ever actually sexually assaulted. It limits their experience, alienates them from the full range of their bodily capacities, and pits their sense of self against their own body.

When feminist self-defense is done well, it takes this problem of feminine bodily comportment head-on. And it doesn’t do so cognitively, which is how I primarily teach this stuff. In my philosophy classes (although I try to involve at least some bodily experiences), we mostly talk about ideas, read texts, and write papers. But feminist self-defense classes teach women how to move differently. It’s a muscular pedagogy, one that creates new corporeal habits. And these new habits – the ability to kick, or to yell, or to become familiar with the sensation of feeling one’s fist meet someone else’s body with force – contradict what women are usually told about what their body can do and be. And that, in my mind, is what makes it such a powerful tool against rape culture.

Our bodies, as the book title goes, are our selves. So when we change our bodily habits and capacities, we change our way of being in the world (and maybe even the world itself). Now there’s no doubt that a single feminist self-defense course isn’t sufficient to undermine or transform a lifetime of corporeal socialization. And even if one has more extensive training, there’s no guarantee that those skills or habits will be accessible in every instance of sexual assault. But I don’t think that’s where the definition of success should be focused. Feminist self-defense courses shouldn’t aim primarily at reducing incidents of sexual violence (although if they do that, it’s great, of course). They should aim to thwart the cultural forces that keep women from experiencing their bodies as powerful, capable, resilient aspects of their being that do not deserve to be the targets of violence.

Sometimes the political struggle is in our muscles, our tendons and ligaments, and our vocal chords. What I love about feminist self-defense courses is how they take the political fight right to the body. Of course, that fight needs to be taken to the masculine body as well – but that would be the subject of another post.

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 Ann J. Cahill teaches philosophy at Elon University in North Carolina. She likes baking a lot more than running.

cycling · fitness

Biking to church camp: Building a community that cares

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On arrival at camp this year. Thanks to a tailwind, we arrived first!
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Mallory and me arriving at camp a couple of years ago

My church holds an annual family camp at a retreat centre just outside the city. Camp is a nice mix of “do your own thing” or join in on group activities such as music, crafts, and hiking.

You sleep in bunk houses with four sets of bunk beds per room. This year though my daughter Mallory and I got to sleep in the quiet house since there weren’t any loud teenagers with us. We’d been in the bunks since the loud toddler and crying baby years.

The main building has a big wrap around porch with rocking chairs and there are well marked hiking trails that run through the property.

For the past few years Mallory and I have been riding to camp. When I started training seriously a few years ago I was reluctant to go to church camp. Weekends were for long rides and long runs. But then I decided to combine church camp with running and biking. Ride down there Friday, trail run Saturday, ride back Sunday.

It reminds me of when I was chair of my academic department and would schedule department retreats about 40 km outside the city. Perfect distance for arriving by bike. Later when the university organized summer two day retreats for academic leaders I’d bike there too. It was more like 80 km, definitely required an early start, and again I’d send my bags with someone else.

Riding to camp combines a few things I really like: Building community (each year the number of people who’ve ridden has grown); making exercise part of life, not some extra thing that competes for your time; caring for the environment, sure some people have to drive but not everyone needs to.

It’s an easy distance, just 45 km, and pretty much anyone can do it. It’s also on quiet country roads and the advantage of biking to camp is that lots of other people who are driving can carry your stuff and you’ve got a full day to recover before riding back. It’s not as far as Port Stanley, where the feminist fitness bloggers biked a few weeks ago and there’s no long downhill to the water. I love getting people who don’t normally ride their bikes outside the city to experience how quiet the country roads can be. This year 8 people biked one way or both to church camp. I’m hoping for an even larger group next year.

Oh, and there’s an ice cream store at the 2/3 there point. What could be better?

It’s a nice ride. See https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/810406339.

There’s some of photos of camp below and lots more here.

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body image · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #31

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?

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

Forget Brazilian waxes. A new spate of services is taking personal grooming to the next level

The last time I went for a facial, my aesthetician told me that I wasn’t exfoliating enough. She recommended I use a sugar-and-salt scrub two to three times a week and follow it with a deep moisturizing lotion. She also said I would benefit from a clarifying mask. When she was done, she told me to avoid taking a hot shower and exercising for the rest of the day. I emerged from the treatment room feeling a bit sore, tender to the touch and walking a little funny. Did I mention the facial was performed on my vagina?

Dubbed the vajacial and inspired by its popularity in cities like New York and San Francisco, the treatment is now available at Fuzz Wax Bar’s three locations in Toronto. In a nutshell, it’s a revitalization treatment performed 10 or more days after a bikini wax and is intended to beautify the area. With the deftness normally reserved for dental surgery, an aesthetician tackles the delicate skin with a cleanser, exfoliant, tweezers and a needle (to poke out the ingrowns) before applying the mask. And for the finale, a high-frequency electrical wand is smoothed over the area to treat deep-rooted ingrown hairs and to prevent breakouts.

Also in the UK: Vagina Facials Or ‘Vagacials’ Are The Latest Beauty Trend Sweeping The UK

A new craze promising to give women “the vagina of a 25-year-old” is currently all the rage in Britain. Developed by dating guru and “vagacial pioneer” Lisa Palmer, these vagina facials reportedly give ladyparts back their youthful glow using a combination of steam treatments and applying a mixture of coconut oil, egg whites and vitamins.

15 Subtle But Shocking Photoshopped Images of Already Beautiful Celebrities

Flip through any magazine, and you’ll see gorgeous women gracing every page. These celebrities are so beautiful and perfect, you can hardly believe they’re real.

It’s no secret that they’ve had some help to look the way they do — lighting, teams of makeup artists and hair stylists, and of course the fabulous clothes — but it can still set regular women up for unrealistic expectations.

But even with all that help, someone at the top always thinks the images of these women still need to be altered within an inch of their lives. Enter Photoshop…

SENIOR CITIZEN STRIPPERS: BURLESQUE BEAUTIES DECKED OUT AND WORKING IT FOR THE CAMERA

Last week the death of burlesque legend Blaze Starr reminded us all of a far cheekier era of stripper—an anachronistic kind of T and A, with a little more glam and giggle to it than today’s Las Vegas-style bottle service strip clubs. It’s easy to crystallize someone like Starr in our memory as a young bombshell, taking it all off for roaring crowds, scandalizing politics with the Governor of Louisiana (and probably JFK, too), but we should always remember—there is life after pasties! For her book Legends The Living Art Of Risque, French photographer Marie Baronnet captures the fabulous ladies of mid-century burlesque in all their mature glory.

These women are going topless, but it’s for a very good reason! [Uncensored]

Women’s Right To Go Topless In Public Has Become More Critical Than Ever, So Let’s #FreeTheNipple

The Free The Nipple movement has come a long way since the December 2014 release of Lina Esco’s film Free the Nipple, and with summer just beginning, men and women around the world are increasingly supporting it. Free The Nipple demands women’s rights to the same social privileges accorded to men, fighting specifically for women’s right to go topless in public. Public toplessness is explicitly illegal for women in only three out of 50 states, yet across the country, women can face jail time and large fines. For fighting this injustice, Free The Nipple has become a feminist essential as it protests a culture bent on sexualizing women’s bodies without their consent and also empowers women with the long-denied bodily autonomy that men have enjoyed for decades now. This summer, with Free The Nipple protests rising both in frequency and in the media’s attention, the movement has become more critical than ever.

On Thursday, the Association of Libertarian Feminists (ALF) launched a petition against Facebook’s censorship of the female nipple, directly addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The ALF posted a link to an article covering a recent Free The Nipple gathering in Iceland on its page; the post was removed for violating Facebook’s community guidelines regarding nudity. The ALF created the petition to protest the policies that saw their post removed. “Facebook is exercising a double standard, allowing photos of topless men but censoring artful or political expressions of female bodies,” the petition overview stated on its page.