Biking Begets More Biking (Guest Post)

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


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.



fitness · Uncategorized

Less is More… Or is it?

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:




and in with this:



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.



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?

Sat with Nat · sleep

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.





Sam does origami with people




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.”

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.







fitness · Guest Post · weight lifting

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

Serene deadlift

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?



cycling · fitness

Sam gets better this winter at going it alone

treeOne theme that’s been running through my winter fitness activities this year is that of bravely doing things alone. That’s  tough for me. I’m not great at meeting new people and I spend most of my time working alone (thinking and writing, it’s what professors do a lot) so when it comes to the evening, the weekend, and physical activities I’d rather have company. People praise me for being good at bringing people together. I’m a social connector by nature and I love to introduce people to other people I know they’d like. I organize group cycling trips, cross country skiing outings, dog hikes, and hot tubbing after too. I know people like my facilitating but it often serves my needs as well. I want to do hard physically challenging things and I want to spend time with a select group of people so when I can, I try to merge the two things.

Existing friends joke when they meet a new friend, “Has she got you riding a bike yet?” Yes, I’m sorry. It’s true. I’m that person. Honestly though, it’s a sure sign I like you. If I really like you, I’ll suggest long rides and bike trips too. Or Aikido. Or weight lifting. Or all of the things.

Really, there isn’t anything fitnessy that I wouldn’t rather do in the company of people I know and love.

But this winter for a variety of reasons there’s been less of the sporty togetherness. Family and friends have their own things on. My teens are growing up. Mallory is in New Zealand. So if I want to do the things I want to do, I’ve had to do them alone.

I’ve been going to the MEC Indoor Cycling class on my own. See On Doing Difficult Things and it’s been okay. I put out a call for friends to come with the first week but no one was having it. Leaving the house before 8 in the morning on a Sunday just isn’t the sort of thing most people want to do. Who knew? Nat was especially opposed to pants. Jeff just had surgery but frankly didn’t want to come before surgery either.

In a different category of brave, I went to a burlesque class on my own. See Sam has fun at body positive burlesque. Way outside my comfort zone! Again, I put out the call but friends declined. Too femmey, it was on Valentine’s Day, and the weather was awful. Fine. Strangers and burlesque–two scary things together–but I went and it was fun.

This weekend it was fat biking on my own. A local bike shop had a demo set up in a local conservation area with a dozen bikes there for the trying. There were trails to go out on but no real organized groups. Jeff came with me for the drive out there through the sunny countryside but riding a bike in the snow holds zero appeal for him. I think it’s a blast but we don’t all have to like the same thing. (As my mother used to say.) When we go there I was ready to not get out of the car but once I did everyone was nice. There were plenty of women there, some even my age. That helped. They set me up on a bike and off I went into the woods. Again, fun.

Each of these things would have been more fun with friends. But faced with a choice between not doing them and doing them on my own, I’ll go it alone.

I’m appreciating these days how small a group I’m in, liking the things that I like. And wanting to do them will mean heading out on my own. I think as I get older it’ll be challenging to find companions with whom to ski, canoe, bike, run, and lift weights. More and more, I’m getting funny looks from my peers when I talk about the things I love to do. Luckily I’m okay with younger people and I don’t always need to be the fastest or the fittest.

Note: It’s also true that I’m not always on my own. I’ve been skating with Jeff, skiing and fat biking with Sarah, and riding the trainer with Chris, Tracy, Annette, and Kim. There’s still lots of fitnessy togetherness in my life.

Another note: This is different than the discussion we’ve had here before about training alone or with others. These are group activities and they’re not alone workouts. But they are strangers, not friends. And the challenging bit is getting there. Once there, it’s all fine. I just need to remind myself of that.

How about you? Do you mix friends and family and your fitness activities or do you train alone or with a group that you only know because you train with them? How does it all fit together for you?


body image · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #69

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?

These Naked Yoga Pictures Are Stunning and Not at All Awkward

On her website, Nude Yoga Girl states that she does all of her own work, from the lighting and camera settings to the Photoshopping (she edits out the “necessary things,” like nipples, for Instagram and puts shadows over other places in question). Her boyfriend takes the actual photos. Interestingly, neither her Instagram nor her website reveals her true identity.

It’s not just her photos that caught our eye, though. Her captions and blog posts contain empowering messages about body positivity and self-empowerment like, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become.” Scroll through some of our favorite shots below, and then hop over to Instagram to view the rest.

These Gorgeous Photos Destroy Ridiculous Stereotypes About Love

Photographer Substantia Jones is gaining a lot of attention for her photo series depicting a broad range of couples in love, from plus-size individuals to LGBT people.

The images were published in Jones’ body positivity photo series,the Adipositivity Project, timed to this year’s Valentine’s Day. People have expressed appreciation for the new additions, which tell the love stories of people of color, people with disabilities, people who are overweight, and people in the LGBT community, to name a few examples.

Your Body Ain’t Wrong, Girlfriend. {67 Untouched Nude Photos

To spread her message further, Jes teamed up with the photographer Liora K. to present images of 98 different randomly selected women (Jes Baker and Liora K. also participated.)

With no use of Photoshop or any other light or camera tricks to give any false illusions, the women were pictured naked, fully comfortable and fully loving their own unique bodies.

Jes begins her campaign with these words:

“Tell me something. When was the last time you opened up your browser and saw a beautiful image of a body shape that looked just like yours?”

6 Signs Body Positivity Is Winning the Culture Wars

It’s finally happening. You guys, it’s finally happening! The body-positive revolution is happening, and it will be televised… andtweeted, Periscoped, and Instagrammed. I’m usually not this chipper about the state of body acceptance and weight stigma in the world, but too many first steps have been made this year for this whole body-diversity trend we’re seeing to be a fad.

None of the things I’m gonna celebrate here adds up to muchindividually. But together? Together they’re a sign that, as model Ashley Graham said in her TEDx talk called Plus Size? More Like My Size, “This is the generation of body diversity. The current is changing.”

The Death of Body Positivity

Like most social movements, it was bound to be watered down to appeal to the mainstream, but I don’t think anyone expected body positivity to lose this many teeth in what feels like such a short amount of time.

A movement that was founded by fat (above a US size 16) women, a movement driven by the efforts of countless women of colour, a movement that encouraged radical self-love and challenged existing beauty standards, has become completely whitewashed.

i-D recently published a list of the ‘new generation of body positive pioneers’, and the majority of women listed are below the average US dress size, and fair skinned. The one woman listed who would actually be considered fat is Tess Holliday — she’s become the token fat woman for mainstream body positive advocates. No longer are fat women the focus of body positivity; instead, we get just the one representative, and fat women of colour get no representation whatsoever.

This is a very powerful quote to me because it just states that society has a big say in how people look at themselves and how society effects our self confidence:




Say “No” to Leakage! Period Panties for Athletes

I love that friends send stuff our way because it might be blogworthy. Last week, I got a tip from my friend, Rachel, about THINX. What are they, you ask? They are “underwear for athletes with periods.”

On its own, that’s not so exciting. I mean, the whole idea of having to skip workouts because of periods is dated, no longer an issue, right? Maybe it’s not an issue in the same way it used to be, where people thought athletes with periods shouldn’t work out because it was too hard on them.

But it turns out there are other things to fear besides over-taxing the menstruating body: leakage! THINX makes a panty for every kind of flow. For medium days, try the Sport or the High Waist, each good for “up to 1 1/2 tampons worth” of flow.  Heavy day? The hip hugger can handle “up to 2 tampons worth.”

And then there are the light days, for your Boyshorts or Cheekies (“up to 1 tampon worth). And for the lightest of light days, you can even get a thong (1/2 a tampon worth). They anticipated my first question, “But like, who wears a thong on their period?” Answer: “You can, friend. YOU can.”

But not my second question: “But like, who wears a thong when pursuing athletic activities?” I mean that as a serious, not rhetorical question, so if you have some athletic reason for wearing a thong when you work out, please share. The THINX thong is”is the sexy little piece of stretch lace that you’re used to, but with a lil’ baby amount of protection.”

These are moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, absorbent, and leak resistant panties that look comfy enough. They take the place of panty-liners and offer “back-up” for the menstrual cup or tampon. Apparently, they stay dry, don’t feel like diapers, and you can wear them all day.

Tennis players might especially like them, since “even your whitest white gear is safe.” I’m not sure I know any other athletes who regularly wear white gear–maybe martial arts types?

Anyway, that’s the literal info on panties for your period. I can see a place for these, though personally I haven’t found panty liners to be all that much of a problem. The biggest issue is that they’re disposable, so adding to landfill (THINX could play up the environmentally-friendly aspect of their product a bit more). For endurance activities, panty liners might chafe in ways that these don’t, though the website doesn’t really play up their non-chafing features.

But there are products and then there are the way those products are advertised/represented. My friend Syd, took one look at the pictures and asked, “What? Are we supposed to work out in our underwear now?” Because yes, the website shows women in action (yay!) but wearing only their underwear (um?). Not only that, she pointed out the picture in the ad seems to defy their slogan, “Keep your head in the game.” Where are these athletes’ heads?


Now, it’s a positive that the women are actively engaged in athletic activities in the pictures. All too often, we don’t see women actually doing anything. And the fact that they’re doing these things while also supposedly menstruating is also a good way to challenge any lingering thoughts that women on their periods need to take it easy. So we’ll give them points for that.

And as Rachel charitably pointed out, it’s hard to show underwear, which is after all, their product, if there’s a pair of pants over them. This is true.

Syd suggested this:

Well, the way they do it in the tampon ads is to put them in white pants. If you want to show that these are formfitting (not diapers or big pads), you could show a woman in white leggings. But… do you actually need to show women running in the undies? I mean, most underwear can be worn when you’re working out, so this doesn’t add any information.

I thought maybe it was like so many ads, where the way a thing is pictured is not exactly the way it’s used (like car action ads where they tell you not to try this at home; or the food ads where they say in teeny tiny print, “Serving suggestion”). They’re giving you the general idea so you can see exactly what the product is capable of even if, in the end, that’s not what they’re expecting you to do with it. Chances are, you will be wearing something over it, right? But here’s what it would look like if you didn’t!

Then there was some debate about whether the pictures did or didn’t sexualize the athletes. It’s not totally clear to me. We live in a culture that associates under garments with sexy, so there’s an argument to be made for the claim that any depiction of women in their undies could be taken as sexualizing. But, in response, we could point out that underwear has a solid utilitarian function as well, so it’s not entirely obvious that representations of women in their panties ought automatically be suspect.

The question comes back to: is there a way of showing women being active in these panties without showing the panties? And if so, is there a reason to seek out that way (as in the tampon ad, which, face it, is a bit different because there is no way of showing an actual tampon in use)? I think if they want to show the panties, they’re doing their best to show them in ways that make them look attractive and functional, and not necessarily sexy (except the thong, which is advertised as such).

If I’m interested in the product, I want to see the panties. And on balance, I like that they’re portraying the women as athletes doing active things rather than simply as models wearing panties. If there had to be a trade-off between representing active women wearing only their panties, on the one hand, or representing women in the panties but not active, I think they made the right choice.

What is definitely true is that they haven’t done much to promote body diversity on their website. The majority of their models are slender young white women. They have one solid, though by no means large, young black woman wearing the hiphuggers, but other than that, no diversity at all. What about inclusive fitness?

I consider that a missed opportunity, since if you’re going to promote a product that is supposed to provide a new freedom to women who work out (I guess that’s its purpose), then why not use it to promote inclusivity as well?

I’ve not tried these panties, though I can see how they might be useful not just for menstruating women, but for women in peri-menopause or menopause, who sometimes have occasional spotting.  At over $30 per pair, they’re something of an investment. And I wonder how many uses you would get out of them. They directly address the “it’s gross” worry on their website, saying:

No, it doesn’t feel wet; no, you don’t have to change them during the day; no, they don’t feel like diapers; and no, it’s not like sitting in your own blood. Boom.

But I don’t know — how many times would you reuse them if they ended up with a tampon or two worth of menstrual blood in them? Of course it would depend how well they clean up. But we’re not talking a Diva Cup here.

Thanks, Rachel and Syd, for your reflections on this product and the way it’s represented on the website.