Biking Begets More Biking (Guest Post)

No one who bikes on the regular is surprised by the title of this post.

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Last weekend, Catherine talked about minimal versus multiple approaches to sports. I agree with her that the benefits of more and different sports in my life outweighs the detriments to my performance in any one sport. I’m not in it for the medals at this point. I’m in it for the fun.

And to that end, the first social for our Bike Rally team this year was an adventure in Fat Tire Biking out at Horseshoe Valley in North Central Ontario. Sam has already blogged about her first few experiences with the sport and I will repeat the sentiment. . .that was one fantastically fun time. It is basically mountain biking in the snow, slowly, on really big tires. That meant it was a new skill for me because I have never mountain biked. It was mildly terrifying which means enough adrenaline to keep my interest but not so much as to put me off. It was hard work at points and there was much falling and hitting trees. However, we were going so slow that we didn’t so much damage to any one part of my body.

I brought my partner along with us and, being the type A thrill seeker that he is, he loved it. It turns out we could have even brought the dog. Next time!

It was a great first social and I hope it sets the tone of the team. Hard work, lots of laughs and no one taking ourselves too seriously.

As will become usual in posts that mention the Bike Rally, I end with a request for sponsorship. Our team page is here. If you scroll down, you can see a list of all the members of Switchin’ Gears. Pick a person and toss a few bucks their way. People With AIDS Foundation Toronto is a fantastic organization and this is their primary fundraiser. Most of the money goes directly to services to clients including medicine, food, counselling and other supportive therapies. Their aim is to help HIV positive folks thrive.

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Less is More… Or is it?

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Minimalism (or at least talk of minimalism) seems back in fashion now. Probably everyone has heard of Marie Kondo’s wildly popular book on decluttering one’s house (and life). We are advised to keep only those things that “spark joy”. In other words, it’s out with this:

 

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and in with this:

 

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But what about sports or physical activities?  Should we embrace minimalism in our physical regimens?  Or variety  as the spice of fitness life?  Is less really more, or is more more?

I’ve recently taken on 3 additional sports/activities to my movement regimen. Last year I restarted kayaking, and have really enjoyed it. In January I joined a yoga studio and have been going once or twice a week. And after impulsively doing two recreational scuba dives in Australia, I decided to get certified in scuba, so am taking a course now (to be completed in Puerto Rico in a week).

Of course this is fun, but it is making my schedule much more crowded, giving me less down time, and causing me to think: what am I doing here? How may different kinds of activities do I want to juggle in my life? If it feels like juggling, should I be doing it?

I decided to put together a list of the pros of each position in the hopes that it might help at last clarify the conflicts within us (or at least me ).

Less is more pros

1) Lighter–with fewer sports, there’s less to think about, and less gear to haul around, store and maintain.

2) Potentially cheaper — it could mean fewer expenditures on a variety of lessons, memberships, and gear.

3) Simpler– workout schedules are less complex and hectic, with fewer logistical struggles (e.g. Collecting, packing, loading and hauling a variety of gear around– is anyone sensing a theme here?)

4) More focused– Time can be devoted to immersing yourself in a few favored sports or activities. And you can really master the maintenance and repair of all that gear.

More is more pros

1) Thrilling– the exhilaration of trying a new sport, with new sensations and feelings (even new sorenesses) can be stimulating.  And there’s all that new gear to play with.
 

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2) Social—it’s a chance to meet people whose passions are the sport/activity you’re dabbling in (this is my favorite feature).

3) Motivating—because you’re participating in a variety of sports, if you’re having a tough time with one of them, you have the others for helping boost self-confidence or relaxation.

4) Knowledge-conferring (pardon the philosopher talk)—doing sports/activities that use different systems, muscles, skills, and talents can tell you a lot about what your body is like and what your body likes.

Well, at the end of composing those lists, I now think I’ll keep to more is more. But it’s worth revisiting from time to time to see what I am liking doing, what is causing too much stress, and what I can lay aside (including boxing up gear and storing it in my basement). For now.

What about you, readers? Are you going through a more-is-more or a less-is-more period? How are you feeling about it?

Stress and slumber

My beloved was away for work this past week. We’ve slept in the same bed so long that when I sleep solo I need to build a pillow person to keep me company. Otherwise I find myself waking up with a start while groping around looking for my partner. 

Sleep is a funny thing for me. If I get horribly stressed I have trouble falling asleep and often wake up in the night. If I’m feeling moderately overwhelmed or lonely I’m very sleepy. 

Sticking to my routine while my partner is away helps me sleep better. I found myself heading to bed about an hour earlier than usual. I’m stil feeling a bit wooly headed from some congestion and I felt tired. It’s hard for me to know if that was just loneliness masquerading as fatigue or that I successfully fended off a nasty bug that’s been going around my office. 

It was very busy at my paid work and parenting my teenage sons seems to take a lot of emotional heavy lifting. I was thankful for the solid nights of sleep. 

I’m spinning indoors, walking to work and practicing yoga. I’ve also kept going for massages and Chiro appointments. Getting enough sleep has been a key part of my resilience to stress. 

I’m thankful of this period of quality sleep. What do you do to get your best night’s sleep when you are feeling stressed? 

no one knows what the pillow person did to me while I slept


Turns out even when I’ve had a good nights sleep I don’t really like mornings!

 

Playing in the snow! Sam makes peace with winter

kidCate’s recent post  got me thinking about my approach to winter exercise, balancing training for the summer, with playing in the snow. Each year, I pledge to spend more time outside. The indoors makes me miserable. After a few days of indoor only time–like when I’m at an academic conference–I can feel my spirits lowering. Time spent sleeping and living outdoors, like canoeing and camping in Algonquin Park brings me back to life.

But I don’t do cold all that well. Especially my hands. And Canadian winters are long.

This year though I think I managed my goal of playing outside in the snow more often. And I loved it.

The biggest thing that’s made a difference is flexibility.

Canada has winter but winter isn’t a reliable snow filled playground. Snow comes and goes and with climate change, we’re having a lot of ups and downs to deal with.

This winter I’ve done lots of different outdoor things. I’ve been ice skating and fat biking (here and here) and snow shoeing and cross country skiing.  I might even try downhill before the winter is out if Sarah has her way.

The nice thing about being flexible is that I haven’t needed conditions to be perfect. I love cross country skiing but the past bunch of winters have been rough. Too warm, too cold, not enough snow, snow, and then melting…This time I haven’t been serious about any of it. It’s all felt like playing in the snow.

I’ve also been playing in the snow with lots of different people. That’s helped too. Jeff and I went skating, Sarah and I went skiing, and one of the fat biking trips was solo. I’ve gotten better about going it alone when I have to.

 

I’ve been serious about the bike trainer and about Aikido, as my indoor things. But outside, I’ve just been having fun. It’s made for a good balance and I hope to keep it going once spring arrives.

Oh, and that’s the other thing that’s helped–a late start to winter and an earlier, and warmer, than usual spring.

But warm and sunny or cold and snowy, I love the outside.

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Sam does origami with people

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I learned a new expression today about Aikido. All that bending and folding of people. It is like origami.

I usually think of Aikido as throwing and pinning people but today our dojo was too hot for throwing. We were sweaty just standing around and so no one wanted to move much. Instead we worked on joint locks to move people around and pins for when we got them to the mat.

As usual I start out pretty stiff and have to work to relax into the pins. By the end of the class I’m a lot more bendy and flexible. My shoulders are the worst. Luckily I got to work with people who are about as flexible as me and we each gradually applied the pins giving our partner plenty of time to work with it before tapping. Likewise, when taking a pin off, you take the pressure off gradually. It’s like a good, painful, massage.

For some of the joint locks there’s no pain involved. When it’s properly applied you go where your training partner wants you to go. It’s like magic–painless but somehow inevitable.

Yes, you could resist but as they joke, resistance is futile. You’d risk breaking something or hurting a joint and there’s little temptation to try. There are times in Aikido when it makes sense to resist a bit, to make sure your partner actually has your balance for example but joint locks aren’t one of those times. We like our wrists, elbows, and shoulders, thank you very much.

But the pins? They can be painful. And some of them are painful no matter what. There’s one that involves holding a person’s hand such that they are looking at their own palm. Each time, and the joke never gets old, Sensei says “Oh, look I see pain in your future.”

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I see pain in your future.

We joke about being masochists but really it’s no joke. You have to find a way to get comfortable with pain. Yes, you tap. Of course, you tap. But some of the pins hurt from the moment they’re applied and you want to be a good training partner and allow your partner to see what it feels like to have someone in the pin when it’s applied properly.

I like being able to pin people with one arm so that, in real life, the other arm is free to get out a phone to call for help. Doesn’t do you much good pinning someone in an empty parking garage, for example, if you have no way of getting help. It could be a long night.

As the recipient of a painful pin, you learn to relax into it, to breathe, not to panic, and to trust your training partner. Once you know you won’t actually get hurt, it’s just sensation, and you can learn to deal with it. It’s a good life skill to have.

Here’s me, below, smiling before doing some origami with people.

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Help Serene Raise Money for Real-Life Strong Women (Guest Post)

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If there’s anything I’ve learned from the sport of powerlifting, it’s to admire grit. Yes, feats of strength are inspiring. But what lifters know from the inside is that behind any feat of strength are hundreds or thousands of hours punching the clock. Progress doesn’t usually come fast or at a rate we can predict. We fail, a lot. But we learn that we have to come back anyway.

Grit matters in life more than it matters on the platform, which is why I’m lifting in the Iron Maidens Raw Open next week to raise money for the Grace Outreach Iron Maidens Stay Strong Scholarship. The Stay Strong Scholarship, unlike traditional scholarships that focus on achievement, rewards perseverance in the face of adversity. The scholarship assists women in the South Bronx who face barriers to college continuation because of documentation status or experience with predatory lenders.

Last year, I placed first my in weight class in this unique women-only powerlifting meet, by lifting a combined total of over 800 lbs in the Back Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. I’m hoping to raise more than $800 this year to support the Stay Strong Scholarship.

If you’d like to donate to help me reach my $800+ goal, click here.

Hot Soak after a Long Run? Not Recommended but I Do It Anyway

soaker-tub-500x246I’ve long been a fan of soaking in the tub. When I was a kid, we used to bath way more than shower, and it was always something I associated with relaxing and winding down.

So when I go for a long run on a cold winter day, there is nothing I like more than to run a hot bath with some bath salts or epsom salts. I love it so much I’ve been recommending it to my running buddy, Anita. She’s perhaps the only person I’ve ever met who literally does not enjoy baths. I don’t even get it. What could be more soothing?

The fact is, after a long run, heat is not recommended — they say that if anything is inflamed, the heat will just make it worse.

But I’m sorry, I will never be opting for the recommended tub option for post-long run recovery: the ice bath. Apparently, the ice bath is a great way to offset “the damage done on a run:”

In “Should I Soak in Hot or Cold Water for Best Post-Run Recovery,” Christine Luff writes:

An ice bath will help reduce inflammation of tissues and joints, relieve soreness, and speed up your recovery. Just fill your bath tub with cold water and get in, so your body can adjust to the temperature. Then dump in one or two 5-pound bags of ice (as tolerated). Stay in the tub for 10 minutes.

Nikki Kimball says this of her post-run ice bath:

Over those years, I’ve discovered tricks to make the ice bath experience more tolerable. First, I fill my tub with two to three bags of crushed ice. Then I add cold water to a height that will cover me nearly to my waist when I sit in the tub. Before getting in, I put on a down jacket and a hat and neoprene booties, make myself a cup of hot tea, and collect some entertaining reading material to help the next 15 to 20 minutes pass quickly.

You can do what she recommends, or you can defy the research about inflammation and go for what feels good. To my mind, that’s a hot bath on a cold winter’s day.  It’s about so much more than just getting warm. Dim the lights and light some candles. Play soothing music. Pour in some oil or fragrance that makes the water smell good. If there’s anyone home, tell them not to interrupt you.

See this Wiki-How on “How to Relax with a Hot Bath.”  Anita, that’s for you.

If you need more tips, check out this. (I personally am not one for snacking in the tub, but it might work for some).

What about you? Do you like a hot bath? Do you associate it with any sort of post-workout routine? Or are you partial to the therapeutic benefits of an ice bath?