Sailing: A non-activity activity 

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean about 75 miles offshore north of New York.

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean about 75 miles offshore north of New York.

I’ve been on the boat since last week and have discovered something: if I want to get my steps (current target: 13000) each day I need to get off the boat. But if I’m not going to land, forget it.

We were underway for 54 hours recently and during each of those days I barely managed 3000 steps. I did a little walk around the catamaran deck and discovered it gave me about 50-60 steps. No problem! 10 rounds for (let’s estimate high) 600 steps. 100 round for 6000. 200 for 12000 and I’m sure the other 1000 would come out in the wash.

I can say with complete confidence that doing 200 rounds of the deck is not something I’m about to do. So for three days (because day three was a bit of a washout too after 54 hours at sea, with a harrowing night watch offshore from New York where I spent 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. keeping an eye on fishing boats and enormous cargo ships and tankers–I slept a lot when we dropped out anchor in Newport), I submitted “no activity” as my GCC entry.

I like that they give the option. What happens on a no activity day is they give you your average minus 2000 steps. So, more than you did but less than you usually do. It seems fair enough to me because heaven knows I’d never be that inactive by choice.

When I got my rest and had a full day where I felt human again I hit the pavement to explore Newport, Rhode Island, which is an awesome seaside town on a gorgeous harbor full of the prettiest sail boats I’ve ever seen. Some of them are spectacular. That day I had no trouble exceeding my target, with Renald right alongside me (and we even went to a movie).

Visiting the International School of Yacht Restoration in Newport. The Coronet restoration project.

First day back on land: Visiting the International School of Yacht Restoration in Newport. The Coronet restoration project.

More from IYSA. First year project (the Beetle Cat restoration). Before.

More from IYSA. First year project (the Beetle Cat restoration). Before.

The thing is, it’s really not all that difficult to get over 13000 steps in a day but you have to walk somewhere or make a point of going for a walk. It doesn’t just happen.

Being on the boat is not much different from working at home. If I don’t leave the condo I won’t get the steps. It’s that simple. I mean, I can squeeze in an extra 800 or 1000 if I’m short at the end of the day by walking around the place, watering plants, tidying up, that sort of thing. But 13000? Not likely.

Beetle Cat restoration. After.

Beetle Cat restoration. After.

Newport is also a great place to run. I went for a leisurely 10K out to Fort Adams, a state park area on a peninsula across form the town on the other side of the bay that forms the harbor, and then back into town, mostly along the water. That secured me over 12000 steps first thing in the morning so put me well on my way to exceeding my daily quota again by the end of the day.

Newport's main harbor.

Newport’s main harbor.

And I do similar things to keep active wherever the boat may be. Yoga, swimming, kayaking and amazing walks on the beach in the Bahamas. Walking /’d running in Annapolis. Hiking when we are up in the North Channel.

But longer passages will need some tweaking. Resistance training and yoga might be good alternatives. And here we might be at one of the limitations of counting steps as a way to fitness. I wore my step counter to a yoga class recently and it hardly recorded anything even though class demanded a lot of me that day. And I get more steps walking to personal training than being at the training even though the workout is way more taxing than the walk. So even though sailing is a big fail when it comes to steps, there are things I can do. Not only that, sailing challenges the body in its own way too. You work on balance, for example. And you’ve got winches to turn and lines to haul. So there’s that.

But it’s also okay to take a time out. A missed few days doesn’t have to translate into a big disaster.

So there it is. Sailing is a non-activity activity if you only count steps. And it’s not the only one.

Outdoor Aikido brings out the women and girls? 

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Photo by Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

As martial arts go, Aikido isn’t bad for numbers of women and girls. But still, I often think, we could do better. Usually in a given night in the dojo there’s twenty people training, and three or four of us are women. 

Something happened that was interesting the other night though. The gender ratio was reversed, way more women than men. What was different? 

We were playing outside on the grass. Our dojo is located in a community centre and it’s under repair. The room we use is closed for maintenance. Instead of cancelling classes we’ve moved outside, practising in the park next door.

What difference does that make? 

I think we’re more playful, less formal. There’s fewer people in uniform, fewer people wearing belts. Certainly we looked more approachable, less intimidating.

We’re also pretty visible, practising in the park on the corner of a busy road. People out walking their dogs stop to watch and ask questions. 
We don’t do any throws or rolls. (Grass stains, stray dog poo.) Instead we’ve been doing more weapons work and more practical self defence. Last week, we practised what to do if someone attacks you in the park, in the park. Last night we worked on responses to hair pulling and grabbing. 

I’m not sure if there’s a connection between our excellent gender ratio (last night, 8 women, 4 men) and playing outdoors. Maybe it was just a coincidence. But it was a lot of fun. One of the reasons I don’t train as much on the summer is that I really like being outside. Maybe next month we can take it to the beach. Aikido in the waves! 

Strawberries, Swans, and Soaking Mist – Cycling adventures in Scotland, Part 2 (Guest Post)

by Sarah

Sam at the Innocent Railway Tunnel entrance

Sam at the Innocent Railway Tunnel entrance

In her post about our cycling adventure, Sam makes me sound organized, but in reality all I managed to do before we left for Scotland was a little research on hiring (renting) bikes. I did learn some interesting things, though! For example, many of the cycle hire companies in Edinburgh don’t have a storefront, but will actually come to you in a van (or should I say lorry?) with your bike and fit you out on the spot.

Coincidentally, though this shouldn’t be entirely surprising in the city of festivals, our time in Edinburgh managed to overlap with their Festival of Cycling, which had many wonderful and exciting events, including talks, exhibitions, and rides. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fit any into our tight schedule, but we did manage to get out for a day on two wheels.

We ended up finding road bikes to hire the old fashioned way : one morning while Sam was busy at her conference, I wandered into a bicycle shop down the road from the hotel and asked if they hired bikes. They didn’t, but the friendly staff did send me on to the place they said they would go if they needed one. As it turned out, there was a wonderful shop just around the corner that just happened to have a pair of road bikes available on the same day we were – and so £50 later we were all set!

Bike store map

Bike store map

Besides festivals, Edinburgh is also known for its green spaces, and its network of cycle paths snakes its way along the edges of its many parks. Outside of the green spaces, though, the cycle “routes” are a bit of a mixed bag – sometimes they are fully separated bike lanes with separate signaled crossings, sometimes they are well signed shortcuts through residential streets (even housing estate parking lots!), and sometimes they dump you unceremoniously out onto a stretch of arterial road with no signage at all (yikes!). This last type took a fair bit of getting used to, and our Canadian cyclist instincts had us back-tracking a lot, wondering if we had missed a sign directing us onto another safe path. We eventually gave up looking for signs and leaned on our data plans by studying the map whenever we were on the dreaded dotted green (according to Google) stretches of cycle route, which appear to mean “yer on your own, lasses!”.

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That said, we had a magnificent ride through the countryside on Cycle Route #1, the John Muir Way, to the seaside town of Musselburgh. We arrived in perfect time to enjoy a strawberry social at the church (yum!) and then adventured our way back, stopping to watch so many swans a’ swimming lazily down the river as the tide went out, and other local sights as we followed our noses home along the coast.

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Once we got back into Edinburgh, though, I chose a special route home. After watching Sam admire the racing cyclists do hill repeats on the road around Arthur’s Seat, we rode through Holyrood Park. While without clipless pedals we couldn’t take the short sharp route up and over the shoulder of the crag, we instead took the long way round – which still ends with a long steady climb. It was a great workout to cap a lovely day of touring and the views of the old city were magnificent. Sam handily beat me to the roundabout at the top of the hill (I don’t even think she knew it was a race!) but I think we were both happily tired as neither one of us remembered to stop to take a photo of the scenic vista.

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Sarah Hinchcliffe is an engineer who participates in many sports. She is renewing a life-long love of cycling to join the feminist bloggers on this year’s Friends for Life Bike Rally. Please consider sponsoring her! Friends might say she is a primarily bacon-fueled athlete but the truth is she doesn’t discriminate between delicious foods and did enjoy a full Scottish breakfast before setting out on this adventure.

Futsal for life. For everyone. (Guest Post)

When my son was four years old I kicked the soccer ball around with him in the park every day.

I have played just about every sport known to humanity since I started winter softball at the age of eight.

Turns out I am a positive deviant in this regard (as in others, but one issue at a time). I was the  youngest of four children, and my parents had a shared belief in the salvation of team sport for their children. This was the nineteen seventies.  Not bad for two people who met on a tennis court.*

So I was happy with my little boy: kicking and kicking and passing and chasing and thinking – “this is a great game – one ball, two people with little ability, still having fun and getting puffed”.

At a playdate, one of his friend’s mums told me about a new business that had started in our area that ran indoor soccer training for little kids. Funny name – Futsal. Five-a-side indoor soccer brand from Brazil.  Half an hour sessions for the short in concentration span and the time-poor.

Maxie loved it!

My son at age 5

My son at age 5

Ten years later my (now) fifteen year old son is still playing with his original team – the longest running one in the competition – the Flying Foxes [they won their division on the weekend].

And then.  Early on, the wife part of the husband and wife team that started the futsal business (and still run it – thought they have three centres now), asked me to play. I laughed it off – nah.**

When I think back I can’t remember what got me along to the first open training session on a Saturday morning. There were a mixture of women and men and quite a few newbies. My cardio fitness was pretty good at the time, but this was fun exercise – and hard work!

I kept going to training and maybe only a few weeks later, one of the women who was training asked me to join her new women’s team – Medusa. We were women in our forties – some of us had played organised sport before – others not. One of the women was in my new parent’s group when our daughters were babies, another woman lived in the next street. Most of us had kids playing too.

And boy oh boy, were we ordinary?!!

It took us a few weeks to actually score a goal. It took a whole season to win a game. But onward we plugged, every Thursday night and training when we could.

We got better and we had moments of elegance and even some one-two passes in triangles (sorry technical talk there – triangle formations are often the key to the game – it disrupts the defence and involves lots of running and receiving the ball while moving – doesn’t look difficult, but is difficult).One season we made the finals.

So why am I still training twice a week and playing most days?

The bottom line about playing team sport (futsal for me) is that it’s a really fun way to exercise, you lose yourself in the intricacy of the game, you have to concentrate in a way that is different to work and other bits of life.  The game takes 40 minutes. It makes me happy!

Also – when you make a mistake in futsal , the game moves on immediately  – no time for regrets – you literally have to move on.

Hooray for that.

I think that’s especially good for us women. One of my  teams joked about having a “sorry jar”.  We also worked on having a “no sorry” team policy during the game. Plenty of time to apologise later – if you could even remember by then what you were sorry for.

Futsal is especially wonderful for active participation. There are only four people on the court (as well as the goalie – who can actually take a pretty active role too) so we often say that in futsal there is “no-where to hide”. There is no doubt that the best teams make the most use of all their players on court. Regardless of skill level or gender. Everyone has a role to play. Even me. Still. For life.

 

 

 

Jen is a midwife and a PhD student who lives in Melbourne Australia. Her research is about breastfeeding support. she blogs on midwifery, breastfeeding and mothering at http://jenhock.com Jen is also the mother of two teenagers. She has always played sport and took up soccer and running in her forties. She has a mild addiction to the game called Futsal which she plays most days. She thinks about sport as a metaphor for life most days too.

Jen is a midwife and a PhD student who lives in Melbourne Australia. Her research is about breastfeeding support. she blogs on midwifery, breastfeeding and mothering at http://jenhock.comJen is also the mother of two teenagers. She has always played sport and took up soccer and running in her forties. She has a mild addiction to the game called Futsal which she plays most days. She thinks about sport as a metaphor for life most days too.

 

 

 

 

Not rain, just a wee Scottish mist: Edinburgh adventures on rental road bikes

When you’re away, traveling, for two weeks, the month before a duathlon and a 600 + km bike ride, your thoughts naturally turn (in a bit of panic, especially if you’ve had a cold spring and less riding than you’d planned) to getting at least one ride in. I also love cycling holidays and while this wasn’t strictly speaking for me a holiday, I love seeing new places by bike.

Sarah was the organized one of us, also the one not attending conferences, and so a little more free to round up all the information. So she took on the responsibility for looking for rental road bikes.

Initially Edinburgh wasn’t that inspiring. Hills! Also rain!

The local cyclists had my complete and utter admiration. Not just the commuters but the racing/training cyclists too. One afternoon we watched them in team kit doing hill repeats of the road around Arthur’s Seat. It was about 10 degrees Celsius and alternating heavy mist with actual, umbrella worthy, rain. They looked committed. And a little bit fierce.

We decided that if you waited for a day without rain you might never ride. Scottish cyclists are tough. Did I mention that they were wearing just shorts and short sleeved jerseys?

So on the day after the conference ended we picked up our rental bikes and off we went. There were three challenges. First, riding on the left. I actually find it easier driving on the left as the car is set up that way. On the bike path when another bike comes towards you it’s hard not to veer off to the right. Second, the brakes are reversed and the rear brake is on the left. Tricky. Third, I hadn’t brought shoes and pedals so I was riding with flat pedals and running shoes.

But it was totally worth it. We stopped at a church’s strawberry tea social in Musselburgh. We watched hundreds of mute swans in their nesting/mating grounds in the Musselburgh Lagoons. We looked at all the beaches.  The one in the picture below is Portobello Beach. (Here’s what Portobello looks like on a busy day.) And ate ice cream in the rain.

Sarah’s side of the story: Coming soon!

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Adding Cold Inside and Out to Manage Heat During Exercise

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Last week I blogged here about my upcoming family vacation trip to Arizona and Nevada with my sister and her three kids. This week has marked a serious heat wave there—and trust me, when they say “heat wave” in the southwest, they’re not playing. It was 116F/47C on Tuesday in Phoenix, AZ. A mountain biker, five hikers, and at least one other person have died in the past 5 days as a result of the extreme heat.  Local authorities have tried a variety of ways to try to convince people (locals and visitors) that it’s not safe to hike in such hot weather.  Signs like these are an obvious choice, and signage designed to convey messages to non-English speakers are also in progress.

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The weather outlook for next week in northern Arizona and Las Vegas looks slightly cooler; by this I mean highs ranging from the low 90s at the Grand Canyon to 110 in Vegas.  Some very nice blog readers from AZ alerted me and offered tips on places to go and how to deal with the heat– thanks, readers, y’all are wonderful!

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I will certainly heed everyone’s advice.  We will:

NOT hike except in early morning (good luck to me on getting folks out of bed..);

Go to some of the famed Arizona swimming holes that the internet told me about here;

Cool off at unfamed but sufficient-unto-the-day swimming pools at our various motels;

Do more scenic drives like this and this, with stops for nature walks and photo ops.

Surely, though, science and technology have something more to offer us in the way of keeping cool(er) in the heat.  As usual, the New York Times was very accommodating in covering recent studies on keeping one’s body temperature cooler.  Here are three ideas.

  1. Drink sugary slushies before exercise.

Here’s a quote from the NYT article:

…young male recreational athletes who drank a syrup-flavored ice slurry just before running on a treadmill in hot room could keep going for an average of 50 minutes before they had to stop. When they drank only syrup-flavored cold water, they could run for an average of 40 minutes.

The article goes on to say that this test was for endurance, not performance, and it has other limitations, among them the lack of knowledge about the underlying mechanisms involved in the interactions between cooling and athletic performance.

I must add that every study I found used 20-something male athletes as participants.  There are loads of reasons to think they are not at all a representative sample of the athlete population, the population of those who exercise, or the population of those who get hot in the summer.  Just saying.

Okay, that’s fine.  I just need to get three kids through a few national parks.  If it takes a few of these, so be it.

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2. Apply cool/cold directly to your body– preferably your neck, head, or torso.

There have been various studies on the use of cooling neck collars suggesting they increase the amount of time people can tolerate hot-weather exercise.  One potential problem is that they don’t actually keep the body temperature down, but rather dampen the conscious response to the heat.  Also, they need to be frigid in order to be effective.  I’m not sure that sounds like a good plan for my sister’s children (or my sister and me, for that matter.)  Still, there are loads of such vests and neck wraps available online.

3. Cool your underwear.

There’s another NYT article with the great title,“Slushies vs. Frozen Underwear for Hot-Weather Workouts”.  In it, the study is described below, comparing performance on 3 different 30-minute runs in hot temperatures (in a lab) for 12 male experienced runners:

Before one of these runs, the men sat quietly in the heated lab for 20 minutes, sipping a room temperature, sweetened beverage.

Twenty minutes before another of the runs, they drank about 16 ounces of a sweetened slushy drink, which quickly and significantly lowered their core temperatures.

Finally, 20 minutes before a third run, the volunteers elaborately lowered their skin temperatures by draping cold, wet towels around their neck, sticking one arm into cold water, donning a frozen cooling vest, and slipping on underwear equipped with frozen ice packs at the thighs. Not surprisingly, their skin temperature fell considerably.

I wonder if they used these to cool their underwear– a product called Snowballs (I’m not kidding):

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According to the researchers, the effects of icing the skin lasted longer than the internal cooling provided by the slushies.  But none of the effects lasted very long.

Probably my low-tech, common-sense strategies (aided by reader advice) will stand us in good stead in the week to come.  I am insisting on us doing a bike tour of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, so I guess I’m buying the slushies.  Does anyone know if they come in non-nasty flavors?  I hope I’m not going to be stuck ordering from the menu below.

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