December 1st or January 1st? I know which I choose


Tomorrow is December 1st and for lots of serious cyclists that marks the start of the return to serious training after a more relaxed autumn.

Cycling coach Chris Helwig posted on Facebook, “Tomorrow is December 1st. Historically, especially when I used to race seriously, December 1st would mark the end of the off season and the start of more diligent and structured training for the next season. The start of December is a great time to start training harder for the next season assuming you didn’t have a really hard Cross season. Gives you a head start ahead of the holidays to build some base and fitness.”

There’s lots to like about that. I love having a fitness focus during the holidays. It feels better to me than facing January 1st after a month of indulgence.

I also have a more relaxed schedule once classes end and a bit of extra time to put towards fitness.

It’s not that I want to avoid all the holiday good stuff, the food, the presents, and the music. This isn’t a December 1st diet resolution.

In fact, it’s not a resolution at all. Think of it more as the change in seasons and change in focus. In the rhythm of the cycling year December 1st is the start of getting serious about training. I like that thought.


Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #63

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.

Oh, so scary. Nipples!

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

7 Nipple Pasties To Try If You’re Feeling Especially Body Positive — PHOTOS

I’ve recently been feeling especially sex and body positive, and have been trying to find ways to celebrate my nude bod. So when I came across a huge selection of fun nipple pasties at a random sex shop in Manhattan last month, I became enthralled with the idea of dressing up my nipples with some seriously adorable (not to mention incredibly sexy) accessories.

My fascination with nipple pasties stems from a personal and individual place. Even though I know they could be great for mutual enjoyment in the bedroom (I’m sure they’re a cutely innovative way of enticing your cutie), I have grown invested in getting a pair purely for the body positivity and empowerment of it all. I want to take precious nude photos of myself wearing them, feeling free and totally comfortable along the way. And when I feel bold enough, I’d even love to wear them under a sheer or open top.

Women Trying Boudoir for the First Time

As a plus-sized woman, I have a right to buy clothing that fits my body

When I am out at the mall, shopper’s fatigue sets in quickly: the exhaustion from walking miles on cement flooring; the overstimulation from noise, smells, colours and the seemingly endless supply of clothing designed for prepubescent girls with the sex lives of call girls.

I am short and plus-sized. Clothes made for my size are designed to make me look like a toddler with the face of Grandma Moses. Or a low-class hooker. They are shoddily designed and executed with poor fabrics.

I am in contact with a large number of women through Yahoo interest groups. Many of us are my age (early 60s) and plus-sized. We often chat about clothes shopping and its pitfalls. We all share a loathing for polyester, though we embrace spandex.

Is it too much to ask that clothing be designed and put together in styles and fabrics that would appeal to us?

(Irma Kniivila for The Globe and Mail)

Faith: a plus-size superhero drawn from real life

It may be something of a niche concern, but I do often fret that if the radioactive spider bites, I just wouldn’t look good in the primary-coloured skintight Lycra that convention dictates a superhero must wear. So it’s a breath of fresh air to see a new comic whose leading character is not only quite sensibly clothed, but also happens to be plus-size.

Faith, debuting in January from US publisher Valiant, features the teenager Faith Herbert, whose alter ego is the high-flying Zephyr. She’s been around in the Valiant universe for quite a while, but this is her first solo book. And as well as having a body shape more representative of many women than the pneumatic stick insects of comic book tradition, Faith is something of a geek too.

According to Valiant editor-in-chief Warren Simons: “Faith is one of the most unique characters in comics – a sci-fi loving, Firefly-quoting fangirl that wound up standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the most powerful superheroes on Earth, who, at the end of the day, might just prove herself to be the bravest of them all.”

16 plus-size models Victoria’s Secret should hire

Victoria’s Secret is under pressure to feature curvier models.

Last year, an online petition, launched by Brittany Cordts, asked Victoria’s Secret to use bigger models in its famous annual fashion show.

“My petition is to encourage them to send models [that are the same size as the lingerie] that they currently offer … 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 — just so there’s diversity, so it’s not all size zero and two,” she said.

“If they extend their sizes in the future, great, but right now I’d like to focus on stopping that negative image that they send to all these women and teens,” Cordts said to Business Insider in an interview.

Make It Stop: “I Used To Be Sex Positive, But I’ve Lost My Mojo”

I used to be a very sex-positive person. I never felt regret and happily owned my sexual decisions. I loved talking about sex and having it and reminiscing in it. I was confident under the sheets … and in the back of taxis … until now. Six months ago, I ended my most serious relationship to date. During our relationship, I stopped feeling sexually confident. I would zone out during sex, stopped initiating, reluctantly pulled my panties to the side when I knew I wasn’t feeling it. I hated being on top and being on display. Now, in the wake of our breakup, my mojo is gone. The freedom, confidence and enjoyment I felt so easily with others and alone is nearly nonexistent. I don’t feel like myself and I don’t know what to get it back. I’ve been dodging friends, ignoring mirrors, and putting off dating attempts. This is not me. My sex-positivity mirrored my drive for life, and I miss it. I told myself I’d jump back on the horse in six months, but as that deadline nears, I’m pretending horses don’t exist. Who is this person? What do I do? Have you seen my mojo?

My Husband Didn’t ‘Settle’ For A Fat Wife

Most humans are taught from a very young age that in order to be worthy of a fairytale ending, we must remain as thin as possible. It’s likely why we don’t see plus size women with thin men in our media streams, because thin, conventionally attractive dudes should only be paired with thin, conventionally attractive ladies. There are no plus size cartoon princesses riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming. There are no Rebel Wilson’s starring in films alongside Brad Pitt as the love interest. Fat bodies go with fat bodies; thin bodies go with thin bodies. And that is all.

Most of us can agree that first world cultures tend to perceive plus size people as second class citizens who should hate their bodies. We’re constantly bombarded with weight loss campaigns, commercials for slimming pills and surgeries, and mocking by fat-phobic groups like Project Harpoon and Thinner Beauty. Sadly, this means that when a lot of plus size individuals are approached by a conventionally “good looking” counterpart — both in real life and on-screen — it can be difficult to believe that the attraction is legitimate. From my experiences, I know that compliments from a potential S.O. are often regarded with suspicion. But I also know that this self-hatred and doubt are toxic to any relationship, and especially the relationship you hold with yourself. My conventionally hot husband taught me this.



My sport is harder than your sport?


Jokingly a friend asked the other day why I only liked hard sports. Actually, that’s not the way she put it. She asked if I’d considered anything easier than road cycling.

I said I also liked rowing. She laughed. Then we both laughed.


At Aikido, we often talk about Aikido’s status as a “lifetime to learn” martial art. Progress is often slow. You can stay for a long while at a certain rank and not everyone who trains every week, for years on end, makes it to black belt. I’m finding that Aikido requires a lot of patience and steady dedicated practise to progress.

So yeah, I like challenges. And all the tough things. And different kinds of tough.

I especially like tough grueling workouts. See Why are painful workouts so much fun?

But I don’t usually mock other activities as easy. For me, it’s true I think that walking as a fitness activity is something I’m saving for my later years. I often talk about switching for Aikido to Tai Chi when I’m a senior citizen. But to each her own. I saw the image below, comparing road cycling to football, come through my newsfeed. I smiled. But I didn’t share it with friends. That’s not my kind of competition.

How about you? What do you think of these sorts of comparisons?


Aikido · fitness

Aikido Love


I’m not sure what it is, what’s changed, but I’ve been loving Aikido lately. It’s making me smile big goofy grins. Sometimes I’m still sort of smiling hours after.

What’s up with that?

Partly, it’s been a change in training partners. I’m getting to play with the brown belts a lot and they’re fun.

Why? Well I think the influx of new white and yellow belts means that I’m often one of the more senior people on the mat. Twice now I’ve had to call the bow in. So it clearly puts me on the senior side of the mat when we divide up.

Partly, I think I’ve made peace with training forever as a green belt. I can’t test for brown until my rolls improve even though rolls aren’t on my test. And that’s okay.

I’ve also gotten lots better at some things so I no longer feel like a green belt imposter. I never thought they gave me the green belt to be nice to me but I did think it might be respect for my determination more than my abilities.

These days though even I’m a beginner when it comes to rolling I feel I’ve got green belt skills when it comes to lots of the techniques.

4th kyu

I’m working my way through the brown belt review with no expectation of testing. It’s also so huge, the list of techniques, that there’s no point in even trying to memorize them. Just relax and learn.

And smile!


fitness · motivation

Taking a plunge: surprise scuba day

The ocean is a big place. I’ve always been drawn to it but also a little intimidated. Offshore ocean swimming has never been something I’ve been able to do with comfort– worries about rip currents or concealed sea creatures have never let me get into the zone of distance swimming for any length of time.

Right now I’m in Cairns in Queensland, Australia– on the east coast in the tropical north. And when in Cairns, one heads out to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling, to see for oneself the incredible variety of sea life there. I signed up for a trip to the outer reef (30–40 miles from shore) with a small and superb outfit called Seastar cruises.

Unlike lots of reef trips, which ferry 200 people out to floating pontoons where they all snorkel en masse, Seastar takes no more than 36 folks at a time to a couple of lovely locations for snorkeling and diving. The staff are young, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and really supportive. They had all the worries covered– from sea sickness to fears of the water, they had ways to make us feel comfortable.

I had been planning to snorkel on the reef; I’ve snorkeled several times before on reefs and found it lots of fun. As a pretty comfortable swimmer, snorkeling isn’t so hard– you have to play around with getting the right fit for the mask and learn how to clear water out of the breathing tube, but that’s about it. My friend Rachel and I snorkeled off the northwest coast of Bali and really enjoyed it (even if we both got a bit seasick from swallowing salt water– hence the importance of clearing the breathing tube).

When I told friends back home I was planning on going to the Great Barrier Reef, several said, “oh you should do a recreational scuba dive.” I replied, “no thank you.” Scuba has never appealed to me. I thought the weight of the tanks plus the water above me would feel claustrophobic. Then there are all those critters, swimming and slithering and squishing around. Nope. Snorkeling will do me just fine. You can see a lot, and that’s cool.

Well, as we were boarding for our trip, I spotted a bunch of scuba gear sitting out.


Bridget, one of the dive instructors, asked me if I was diving that day. I said no, that I hadn’t ever had any instruction. She responded cheerily that they could do that today and take me for a dive. I said I’d think about it.

Then to my utter surprise I found myself, one minute later, saying “yes, I’ll try it.”

Why did I do this?

I have no idea.

But as we approached the first stop at Michelmas cay, I didn’t feel dread or regret, just curiosity. This was downright odd.

We all got geared up in our stinger suits to protect us against the actually deadly box jellyfish that prowl/squish their way through these waters (although mainly in the shallows along the beaches– great, huh?). Here’s me in mine, which includes a hood and mitts to hold over your hands.


I still had the chance to pull the plug if I had a change of heart. But instead I put on the vest with tank, regulator, gauge and other doodads we didn’t have to worry about today. We practiced breathing, clearing our ears, clearing our masks and a few other things, and then we stepped into the water. Splash!

Immediately I felt awkward and panicky. Buoyancy is something you have to adjust and I didn’t have much control over my limbs or orientation in the water. Then we had to go under, hold onto a rope that was tethered to the bottom (about 25 feet down) and breathe, clearing our masks of water and clearing our ears. There were three of us newbies and Bridget. We were all in various stages of shock, and she glided from one to another, futzing with weights, signaling to clear ears, checking to see we were okay. Still, the first five minutes I was dying to bail on this whole enterprise. I really didn’t think I could do it.

But then the five minutes passed. I calmed down and made my way along the rope down to the corals and fish in that incredible seascape. We saw a giant clam– this guy was a meter in length, with bluish purple photosensitive spots. If you put your hand near its opening, it would, well, clam up. Cool…

In short, it was an incredible feeling– gliding along almost weightless along coral rock walls, through schools of fish. I loved the feeling of swimming under a lot of water. It wasn’t scary. It was exhilarating.

So when we went to our second reef spot, I did it again– my second dive, this time in 45 feet of water. There was the same unpleasant five minute period of disorientation and panic, but this time I knew it was coming, so I hung on until it passed. And it did. We visited a lion fish, some gorgeous lavender corals and a zillion beautiful creatures. Before resurfacing, Bridget was doing backflips in the water. I tried some synchronized swimming twisty moves. Here’s a shot of us doing a cheerleading number under water.


So what’s my message here? Go to the Great Barrier Reef? Try scuba? Try what you fear? All these are good advice (in my humble opinion…). But what I want to share here is two things I learned:

1) letting yourself be impulsive about some new activity sometimes is a good thing. And the delight that comes from the impulsive act exists on many levels.

2) many new activities are unpleasant at the start. I’m always unhappy the first 10-15 minutes of a road ride. This wasn’t all that different. Realizing that such feelings were part of the deal reminded me that they also pass into other feelings, like absorption and pleasure in movement. And enjoyment of the scenery as you glide on by…

So readers, have you ever tried some activity on impulse? What was it like? Did you go ever go from fear to pleasure?

accessibility · clothing · fashion

I’m a super fit hero and the gym is my phone booth



Yay! My superfit hero leggings arrived and I took them for out for a short run on Friday.

I supported the size inclusive leggings on kickstarter and was very happy to see them arrive. They’re described as ‘fashion-forward, body-positive performance clothing for women size XS-3XL.’

Also, fun.

Love the “the gym is my phone booth” t-shirt which I got also.

So far so good. The tights fit nicely. I got the size L which fits very well. Large can be a tricky size because it can often be too big. How’s that? Well, for companies that only make S, M, and L, large is often meant to fit the whole range of big people and while I’m big, I’m not the biggest person out there.

It’s the other way in road cycling clothes made for people who race. There “large” means the “the largest competitive road cyclist” out there and she’s not large by my standards.

But I usually wear a size 12. That’s unless calves, quads, and shoulders count and then I’m a size 14. The super hero tights fit well with the right amount of compression. They stayed up without any problem (that’s my usual issue because if tights are big enough to go over my legs they drown my waist and fall down) and I didn’t feel totally squished into them.

A friend asked the other day why I cared about size inclusivity given that I do actually fit within the usual range of sizes of most clothing manufacturers. I guess I don’t think I’m actually ethically required to shop at places that fit me and my larger and smaller friends. But I sure feel better about doing it. A very limited size range is part of why I think Lululemon is awful. (See Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants and Is Lululemon trying to annoy me?)

I mean, I’m not perfect about it. I bought and love a couple of Oiselle bras (see review here) as part of my quest for a non-padded sports bra. Several readers gave me flak for it as I’m at their top end of sizes.

But I’ll do the best I can to send my money the way of companies that support plus sized athletes.

Superfit Performance™ Capris - Diamond Silver


FEM-IN-IST muscle tee

Sat with Nat · Uncategorized

I won’t be happier when I lose weight. 

It’s a flippant comment from an acquaintance when I say I’m taking part in the wellness pilot at work. I’m a little bummed out it is largely weightloss focused. They reply that I’ll be happier when I lose some weight. 

Oh dear. They don’t know I’m a feminist killjoy. That I define health by metrics I can control: the steps I take, the choices I make rather than my weight or even my blood pressure. Sure. I can influence my weight & blood pressure but really I control other things like movement and food. 

The acquaintance doesn’t know I lost 40 lbs last year and gained 10 back since I started my new job. Or that since I started tracking my food carefully I’ve lost those same 10 lbs but also started obsessing about my food intake, steps taken and my daily weigh in. I’m teetering on the brink of a precipice I know too well. 

This is all going through my mind as I reply “Gee, I don’t know, I pretty happy right now.”

I’m pretty happy right now is the best thing I can say. I want to say not one woman I know is happy about her weight because our culture teaches us to constantly criticize our bodies, identify our “trouble areas”, lose those last stubborn pounds or worry about “skinny face“. I can’t win the oppression game so I try to opt out whenever I can. 

So no matter what my weight I will likely be critical of my body to some extent. 

As for actually being happy, I really can’t imagine being happier. My new paid work is gloriously contained Monday to Friday. My colleagues are lovely. So many folks checked in on me this week when I got back from being sick I realized how welcoming my workplace is. 

I have great kids and a loving partner. We live with giant ridiculous dogs. I have great friends and neighbours who help me when I need it. 

My body gets me where I need to go and I’m gearing up my training for awesomeness next cycling season. 

I won’t be happier when I lose weight because I’m perfectly happy right now 🙂

feminism · fitness · Guest Post

Amanda Lynn hates exercise but she also thinks walking might be a feminist act (Guest post)

Photo by Keith Ford

by Amanda Lynn Stubley

I didn’t want to write this guest entry. Not at all. The first time this blog appeared in my newsfeed, my thought was “that’s not for me.” As I kept seeing entries on the blog, I started to wonder at the questions they posed: What would it be like to feel strong? What are the feminist implications of fitness, especially women’s fitness?

To say my relationship with exercise has been difficult hardly begins to tell my story. I grew up in a family where working hard was a required survival skill, and ‘exercise’ as leisure activity didn’t exist. When my family’s material comforts improved and physical job demands eased, exercise didn’t get added to our lifestyle. When I was six we moved from northern BC to a rural BC coastal town. It was the 1970s West Coast, and fitness and “Particip-Action” were in.

I moved from a tiny Alaska Highway town of 800. In my new town, we did a “morning run” of a couple of kilometres starting in grade 1. To me, it might as well have been 1,000 miles. I had never moved like that, and I quickly found myself falling behind my classmates and gasping for air. No one helped me figure out how to handle these new activities, explained pacing or endurance. I concluded they were just not for me. By grade 4, I was regularly spraining an ankle on tree roots in our school’s woodchip trail. Frequent were my trips to the hospital for an x-ray, and equally frequent were eye-rolls and quiet looks from the doctors, physiotherapists and other adults. I was living out the lesson I quickly learned in grade 1 – I was not built for exercise.

My parents, bewildered themselves by this exercise craze, did their best to support me. To the doctor, then the hospital for an x-ray, and then physiotherapy we would go for my ankle. “You must be a ballerina, you’re so flexible!” the physiotherapists would remark, measuring the extreme flexibility of my ankles. “No,” I’d say, basking in at least this one kindly remark. In grade 6 a specialist in the city explained. I had an extra bone in my left foot. It was causing instability and tendon troubles in my ankle. Later that year I broke my right arm in a fall at a swimming pool. That too proved to be problematic, taking 4 days to successfully diagnose. The following year, I slipped while running and injured my ‘good’ ankle. Unlike my typical sprains, this was instantly, massively swollen. Back to the hospital, the x-ray was negative and they presumed torn ligaments. I was to stay off it for 6-8 weeks. Four months later it was still swollen so we went back to the city. It turned out it was a significant fracture, and although it had healed, the doctor was quite upset it hadn’t been casted.

Both of these fractures happened in early spring, and their net effect was that I was inactive for two springs and summers. By the following year I was in grade 8 and had gone through puberty. My body, already difficult to deploy for exercise, seemed entirely foreign to me. Thus ended my attempts at engagement in sports. I had played softball, but no longer could throw and hit a ball. I had swam in our little town’s synchronized swimming team, but the fees went up significantly so I stopped.

Like many folks, I suffered through highschool gym classes. I quit at the first available opportunity, grade 11. I actively avoided anything that might possibly be considered exercise for the rest of my teenage years and well into my 20s. Kids were cruel, and I didn’t need the humiliation. At some point my physical fitness, which looking back had been just fine, deteriorated and I started huffing and puffing up stairs and hills. It wasn’t all bad though. I went canoeing with a boyfriend and I LOVED it. When we broke up, I took a course, so I could steer the dang canoe without needing a man. And now I can stern a canoe like nobody’s business.

But my relationship with fitness and exercise is still a painful one for me. I struggle to face the most basic activity, and not because I’m out of shape. For me, just going for a walk can bring demons. Inner voices, imagined eye rolls, they all send the same message: ‘this is not for you, this is not who you are!’

In my 20s, I gave myself permission to not do stuff, but that solution is no longer the best one for me. I want to enjoy activities like hiking, biking, walking, without an impending sense of dread. And to the point of this blog, it is a feminist issue – women find power and agency in various ways, not the least of which through using our strong bodies. And as I solidly settle into middle age, it is becoming abundantly clear that if my body is going to remain strong, I need to maintain it.

I am a singer and I play guitar and banjo. After each performance, my exhaustion reminds me that playing and singing for 3 hours is rigorous. Yet, the ‘exercise demons’ don’t come out when I perform….

These days, much to my surprise, I’m feeling like walking. After years of fearing and avoiding “exercise,” my body is sending me a message that it wants some activity. I’m not very comfortable with this. I don’t always listen to the message, and I often refuse to take a walk. But sometimes I do actually walk. Last year I bought some yak-traks for my boots and walked in winter. As winter approaches, I’m wondering about starting a walking regime. It’s scary, but my inner compulsion to move is starting to compete with the demons telling me not to. It may be a simple act, but walking may be one of the most feminist things I can do this winter.

Amanda Lynn Stubley is a folklorist and radio DJ. She plays in the band , The Heartaches, and is the proud mom of two young boys.

fitness · Guest Post

Forget Commitment, Just Go


I had an interesting moment in my work the other week that got me thinking about how we get ourselves to consistently work out or do a class or go for a run etc.

As a Psychotherapist, I am always advising my depressed, anxious or otherwise less than content clients to exercise. The data is absolutely clear that exercise regulates mood as well or sometimes better than drugs in most moderate cases of negative feeling mood disruption. (as a side note: it is amazing the verbiage I will spew to avoid pathologizing states of anxiety and depression)

When I “prescribe exercise”, I set the bar pretty low. Sweat isn’t necessary. All I want people to do is move a little every day. In these discussions, I always encounter the intense self-judgement that failing to exercise creates. I have noticed that the narrative is pretty similar across a broad range of people and it resonates personally too.

We all know what it’s like to set an intention around regular exercise. We feel we need to commit and most programs (although not all programs, see here) encourage or even demand statements of commitment. They say that commitment is essential to the success of the program. Often that involves an outlay of money. But inevitably, like for everyone. . .EVERYONE, we miss/cancel/skip/don’t show/walk out of one or more sessions in the course of our commitment. I have come to understand that it’s what happens after that “miss” that both determines and reflects so much about ourselves. When we look at it as a failure to commit, we are liable to become a failure in our own minds. We are people who can’t follow through and aren’t good at forming good habits. From there we easily access all available self loathing. I guarantee you, that mind frame is not facilitative to exercise. Even if I tell you exercise will get you out of that place, you no longer care, because you hate yourself. Nice.

Okay, so. . .don’t do that. I have changed my language around exercise commitment and failure, as inspired by my client. Don’t commit. Don’t ever commit again. Just go. If you don’t go today, that’s fine but it isn’t a reason not to go tomorrow. It isn’t a failure or a breach or a great reveal of your inner slovenliness. You just didn’t go and here’s the super cool thing, you can always go again.

When we are aware of the judgement we create and we challenge that judgement, we free ourselves a little. That freedom can be used to access the same good reasons and feelings that we decided moved us to running/swimming/boxing/spin-class to begin with. We didn’t fail, we just didn’t go. . .and now we can go again.

Guest Post

The Deaths Are Pretend but the Bruises Are Real (Guest Post)

by Abby E.

So I did it. I joined a Viking re-enactment group, and holy cow do I have a lot to learn.  I still have to buy my own weapons, finish creating a character, and get some clothes ready. Also, I need women’s clothes for the village and men’s clothes for fighting demos. (Grrr.)  I may hold off on the public fighting demos and stick to the village for a while until I can accumulate all the necessary goods. In the meantime, I can still practice swinging that axe!

The first two times I went to practices, they were open to the public. Anyone could join in, try it out, see if they might want to be part of the fun. Now that I’m a member, though, I can go to the regular practices to work on things like fighting and dying in ways that will thrill the onlookers.

Recently, I attended my first closed practice, and it started off with a bit of unstructured sparring. When I arrived, several members were having an executive meeting on the spot, so there were only four of us fighting. we did a bit of two-against-two, and in this scenario you just fight until only one person “survives.” This process really doesn’t take that long. Those Hollywood movies are full of crap.

Once the executive meeting was done, people showed up on the battlefield one by one. With five people, we started working on the “circle of dishonour,” where it’s every fighter for themselves. Once again, you hack and slash until one person is left standing, but this time the killing is indiscriminate.

Now, I was busy using a big, long spear rather than the usual weapon (often sword or axe) and shield combo.  The spear’s length can give you some advantages in head-to-head combat, but if your opponent manages to get up close and personal, you start losing options fast. However, the spear is awesome in group combat, where the spear fighters can get behind the “shield wall” and pick off the enemy fighters from a protected position and help break through the enemy’s shield wall.  Just note that spearfighting requires you to really put your back into it. During the previous practice, I spent probably almost an hour or so fighting with a spear for the first time ever, and the lower half of my back was stiff for several days. In sparring, we keep our spears positioned relatively low (this is playfighting, remember – we don’t actually intend to smash each other’s faces in), and the motion is kind of like raking leaves, except that the leaves keep moving so you can’t kill them and they’re also armed and trying to kill you back.*

Later on, we started rehearsing “eights”, where you practice hitting or blocking hits from eight directions: shoulders, hips, knees (both sides), overhead swing, and torso stab. A spear isn’t a good weapon for this practice, so I borrowed a sword and one of the other members offered to take the spear. I made a crack about having a guy hold MY spear for a change, and the looks on the other guys’ faces were absolutely priceless.

Afterwards, we did a couple of rounds of fighting (sort of an endurance training exercise) and practiced the screaming and the limping and the dying for the pleasure of a bloodthirsty crowd. I died a lot. A LOT. I seriously need to do something about that dying thing, but I didn’t get disemboweled as often I did in my first practice.

Of course, dying dramatically often leads to hitting the ground fairly hard, and I certainly did my share of that. I have some bruising and a small cut on my left knee, and I didn’t feel either of those occurring, but that seems to be the norm. I always come home with bruises whose causes can’t easily be determined. And I’m cool with that.

Frankly, I was a little more embarrassed about the fact that my knees were covered in mud and I had to take the subway home. I wondered if some jerk would try to make gross comments to me, but I couldn’t easily get all the dirt off.  So I decided to prepare for possible harassment and was ready to respond to unfriendly remarks with “I got killed by Viking warriors AND IT WAS AWESOME. WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?” but no one decided to try my patience. Dammit. The looks on their faces would have been priceless, too.

*This probably makes you want to never rake leaves again, but there’s  scientific evidence that says you shouldn’t rake leaves anyway because it’s better for the environment, and not getting murdered by armed leaves is probably better for your health anyway. Everyone wins.

We wear helmets to protect our heads, but those soft tissue injuries sure do smart.
We wear helmets to protect our heads, but those soft tissue injuries sure do smart.


Abby E. is a Toronto-based freelance editor who loves science, philosophy, and speculative fiction. She isnot a crazy cat lady, just a crazy lady who has cats.