Feeling proud of my year in review: Top 12 of 2016

When I come to the end of the year’s fitness related activities, I’m often ending on a low note. Really I’m an outdoor fitness person (but for weights and Aikido) and the end of the fall is tough for that. There’s not much light, there isn’t any snow yet usually, and it’s too cold to ride a bike. Add to the mix all the end of term grading and it can feel like things just peter out. I start to wonder, “Did I do anything this year?” And yet I know I did. The blog is great for keeping track.

So as much to remind myself as you, here are my highlights from 2016:

1 and 2. In 2016 I enjoyed taking part in not one, but two, social media encouragement and accountability groups. I enjoyed sharing with the 20 minute daily groove group and 216 workouts in 2016 group.  That was new for me, this sort of social media checking in. I liked it! See Checking in with my Facebook fitness friends: Online communities, support, and defining what counts as exercise.

3-6. I also met my goal of getting outside more in the winter. I went fat biking, ice skating, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing. All the snowy things! See Sam does the most Canadian thing ever and Playing in the snow! Sam makes peace with winter. I’ve bought new skates and I’m keen, this winter, to give downhill skiing a go. I’ll report back!


7. And then there was the Kincardine duathlon in June.

8. And the Friends for Life Bike Rally in July. Doing the bike rally isn’t the big thing that I’m proud of this time around. It was team leading with Susan, and dragging new people along for the ride. Hi Nat! Hi Sarah! And Joh! And Cate!

9. In August it was the Three Port Tour.

10. I said I was taking a year off the Halton Gran Fondo but at last minute Sarah and I got free passes. Off we went. Whee!!!


11-12. I tried some new things–axe throwing and boxing–probably not a bad thing the year the United States elects Donald Trump to get some zombie apocalypse training under my belt.


How about you? What fun, new things did you try in 2016? What are you especially proud of?


All I want for Christmas is…favorite gear/fitness gifts

On Christmas Day in 1974 I received a powder blue Schwinn Varsity 10-speed bike.  I couldn’t believe it was mine.  My dad presented it, rolling it out from the bedroom, and joked to me, saying he got it for himself for Christmas.  I actually believed him, and was trying to be brave about him having MY fantasy bike.  Then he felt bad, and said, “Catherine, it’s for YOU, silly!”

I loved that bike.  I rode it to school, around town, everywhere.  And I kept it until grad school (whereupon it was stolen at MIT.  I’m still not completely over it).

This year (as readers of last week’s weekends with Womack post already know) I presented myself with an early Christmas (and all self-gifting occasions for the foreseeable future)  brand-new two-tone Brompton foldable bike.  Because I love it so much, here’s a picture of it again.


Catherine's new sea green and orange Brompton foldable bike


This year, several of my relatives are receiving fitness-related gifts.  My nephew Graham, who is an ultimate Frisbee enthusiast, is getting not one but TWO cool Frisbees.  My aunt Pat will have a Simply Fit balance board under her tree.  They come in lots of pretty colors:


Curved plastic balance boards, in pink, green, blue and red


Apparently these boards were made famous on the show Shark Tank.  I admit I’m not a big fan of TV-promoted fitness gadgets, but let a thousand movements bloom.  However, I don’t think I’ll let my niece and nephews convince me to buy them these rocket skates.



Although it would far too unwieldy to fit under a tree (much less fit down a chimney), I’d be most delighted if Santa brought me the following:




It’s a Nigel Dennis Romany classic fiberglass sea kayak.  It handles well and is high performance but not too tippy for me.  It’s also probably in my far-off gear future, but a girl’s gotta have her dreams.

For those of us who observe Christmas, it is a holiday for giving as well as receiving, and also a holiday celebrating beginnings of spiritual stories.  However, this time of year does, in many parts of the world, get associated with gift-giving for all sorts of reasons.

So, readers, let me ask you:  what would you wish to see under/beside/around the corner from your tree (either actual or metaphorical) this year?

I’ll close with wishing all of you– bloggers, readers, friends and family of readers, Facebook and WordPress followers, and anyone else who has come into contact with Fit is a Feminist Issue– Merry Christmas!

PIcture saying "May your holidays be balances and bright" with a reindeer, Mrs. Clause and Santa doing yoga



Riding in Sri Lanka 2: It’s harder than I expected!

(This is part 2 of my posts about a bike trip in Sri Lanka.  Parts of this were written real-time, diary-like.  I started this on the morning of Day 4 of riding, the day we were told was the hardest day of the 12 day trip.  This trip is harder than I expected it to be, and I’m struggling with the heavy mountain bike, so I thought I would capture the lived experience.  This trip is making me ponder “how hard is too hard?”).

Part 1: the dread 

It’s 6:50 am and I feel like I’ve been awake for most of the night. It’s a … modest… hotel near a national park, and the bed is hard and the walls are thin. The AC was too cold, and I’m sneezing and congested. Even with the loud AC, I could hear my neighbors peeing, and people shouting at each other, and a swirl of barking dogs right outside my door. A surreal dream soundscape.

We ride day 4, “the hardest day of the trip” today.  We’re riding mountain bikes with fat tires, which makes sense on the rutted and muddy back roads. But I find manoeuvring the heavy bike uphill a struggle. On my roadbike, facing a 55 km day that apparently has 20 km of ascent, I would take a deep breath and feel a secret thrill about the challenge. I would feel confident. Now I’m anxious — will I hurt my knees? Will I grind to a halt and fall over still clipped into this unyielding heavy pile of bike?


If dinner last night was any indication, coffee will be Nescafé and breakfast will be leftover, lukewarm dhal. My riding gear is almost all soaking wet from the monsoon rains that hit us every day. (Yes I didn’t quite clock the implication of wet season when I booked the trip).

My alarm just went off.  Shower.  Go.

Part 2: the bus transfer 

We ride a bus from the hotel to the start of today’s ride. At the start of the trip I was impatient at being on the bus. Now I welcome it.

I’m worried about my knees on these hills with the heavy bike. I tried to get hybrid wheels put on but the driver forgot to put them on the truck.  The 32 year old Aussie woman who eats 15 bananas a day thinks it’s all about a positive attitude. My 51 year old knees silently rebuke her.

Part 3:  The first break

img_041613.5 km into the day and I’m already feeling like this is the hardest thing Ive ever done.  It’s steep and hot and we are only partway through the first 9 km climb.  A serious climb with suddenly super-steep grades. I resent the Aussie girl for eating all the bananas and being so cheerful. I resent the American guy for being 35.  I’m drip sweating and I hate everyone. Quietly.

Part 4:  up up up

I’n wearing my road bike cleats because I thought it would help with climbing, but they are insane.  They make it theoretically easier to climb but when the steep hills grind me to 4 km an hour I worry about falling over, and they make me look like some kind of clumsy bear on a unicycle when I try to get going again.  It’s a mountain pass and there is only up. I’ve forgotten my gloves at the break and my hands are sweaty on the grips.

We finish the 9 km of climbing, and there is a downhill I don’t cherish because of the sweaty hands, and then I think there is respite and lunch, when Nishan the guide says “here is the next 11 km climb.” I almost start to cry.  I begin pushing up, and have to stop because there is a bus from another cycling group who were at our hotel last night and it keeps stopping and then passing me.  The roads are 7 feet wide. I hate this red bus, and I can’t find joy in this jungle mountain.  After stopping for about the 20th time this morning, I say wildly, “I can’t do another 10 km of this, I’m getting on the bus.”  Luba, the lovely Russian woman who lives in the UK, says “just get your gloves, you will be fine.”  The woman who comes from a gloomy pessimistic culture is my cheerleader.  It’s a low point.

Part 5:  lunch

I am very quiet and drained, but I still want to take a photo of the unbelievable landscape we’ve ridden into.  It’s the centre point of a park, and many local people are picnicking happily. They drove.

We’ve done about 7 of the 11 km climb, and I am drained.  Everyone else is chattering and I leave the group and go lie on a bench.  Change my soaking wet shirt and try to figure out if this is just hard or if I’m going to seriously hurt myself.  Decide to keep going.

Part 6:  up up up

I hate every revolution of the wheels.  I’m going so slowly my GPS keeps auto-pausing because it thinks I’m not moving. On a road bike, this would be challenging enough and I would worry about not getting out of the pedals fast enough.  I seem to be able to hop out when I get winded, but getting back in is a a tangled feat.  The driver of our truck offers to POOSH me at one point and I consider it. I walk the bike up one terrible grade and my cleat starts to fall off. I’m grateful for the excuse to get on the bus, but then here comes Luba gamely walking her bike, and Sampat offers to fix my cleat and I keep riding.

There are many people on this mountain top, busses of soldiers and a car full of young mean who stop in front of me and give me a good natured cheer and big waves.  Everyone is kind and encouraging and I am deep inside my own effort. All around me is a deep green deeply storied mountain range and I am only absorbing it through osmosis.

Part 7:  the top

I pushed the bike about a kilometre in total I think, of this 30 we’ve ridden.  But I got up to the top on my own steam. The hardest thing. This is a 1200 m point, but we’ve climbed more because there were ups and downs (Luba’s GPS at the end of the day says we did more than 2000 m of ascent). 

I drink a cup of tea with ginger and sugar from a woman at a little stall, and Luba and the Aussie woman eat corn on the cob.  I buy a packet of cardamom seeds from the woman in the stall and imagine what I will cook with it.

Part 8: the last 20 km

Down is luscious, and dangerous, narrow winding roads through jungle and wide open edges, trucks and tuktuks coming at us. They beep, we shout TRUCK or TUKTUK.  We roll down, and out of the mountain and jungle, and at a fork, Nishan says “this is a choice — this is our usual road, through tea plantation villages.  It’s about 12 km of undulating. This Is straight down and then a bus transfer to the hotel.”

The Aussie girl is already up the hill, and Luba and I look at each other and shrug.  We’ve done the worst bit, sure.  Undulating.

The first half is the most peaceful, glorious thing I’ve experienced in my life — mostly gentle ups and downs on a road the width of a sidewalk at home.  Green lush fields of tea all around us, palm trees.  Little villages of Tamil people who work in the plantation.  Tiny Hindu temples in every village.  I feel ridiculously privileged riding my bike hard for “pleasure” in the face of their lives, but everyone smiles, waves, laughs, greets us. Except for the old man we catch bathing in the river, who scowls.  I understand that.

Then we pause, and Nishan says “be careful, broken roads.”  The next 4 km are the craziest thing I’ve ever ridden on.  Totally destroyed pavement with lumps of cement everywhere, gravel, mud, dirt.  It’s like a logging road went on a drinking binge with a monsoon and a destructive god.  And I’m on a mountain bike in cleats going steeply downhill. I dangle my right foot off the pedal and hang on, walking the bike up every incline. Around me it’s beautiful, but it’s just me, the bike, survival.

The road finally evens out, and we come to a hairpin turn, and Nishan says “okay, 3 km up and then we are at the hotel.”  I laugh the laugh of a maniac and pedal on, stopping about every 400 m for a moment.  My cleats — which were new before this trip — are so trashed I can’t clip in anymore.  On a steep bit, I stop and push, then hop on the bike and then there we are.

The most glorious little hotel, a former colonial tea plantation estate.  Graceful lines and gardens and polished wood and a man offering us juice and wet towels.  I love everyone again.


We watch the sun set over the mountains, a flow from light to haze to focused orange energy to pink soft glow.  Every part of my body hurts, including my elbows, and I’m so tired the ancestors wedged in my DNA are asking me what the hell I was thinking. I ponder the relationship between my identity as an intrepid person and what my body can actually do.  I have found the line.  

And, the tea on top of the mountain, this sunset, are the moments where effort is suffused by gratitude, where the world is completely narrowed to the moment of now.  Elemental sustenance:  thirst, time, presence.  And prescription grade ibuprofen.


Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, a regular contributor to this blog. She lives in Toronto and explores the world whenever she can. She also blogs at


Our most popular posts ever!

Last week I shared our top posts of 2016. This week I’m sharing our top posts of all time. All of these posts have been read (ok, well looked at, or clicked on) more than 10,000 times. That’s pretty exciting for academic authors. We’ve also come a long way. When we first started writing, back in September 2012, we didn’t expect more than family and close friends to follow along. But our writing struck a nerve, it seems.

She May Look Healthy But…Why Fitness Models Aren’t Models of Health
Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program: A Year in Review
The Shape of an Athlete
Finding clothes to fit athletic women’s bodies
Padded sports bras and nipple phobia
Why the “Thigh Gap” Makes Me Sad
Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies
“You’ve Lost Weight! You Look Great!” Isn’t a Compliment
Intermittent fasting and why it might not work as well for women
Raspberry Ketone, Pure Green Coffee Extract, Garcinia Cambogia, Weight Loss, and the Fallacy of Appealing to Authority
CrossFit and women’s bodies: It’s complicated
Bike seats, speed, and sexual depravity
I hate you Weight Watchers
Fit, Fat, and What’s Wrong with BMI
On going commando and athletic clothing
The women of CrossFit


body image · fitness · objectification · sex

Wellness tips for women online

Almost two years ago I split up with my husband. We had been together for over 15 years, and had been living in England for two, when I made the difficult decision to return to Canada (partly for work, partly to help support my ailing mother). After six months of draining and expensive transatlantic commuting, he left me. Or, rather, the relationship fell painfully apart, as distance, time, and sheer exhaustion broke its back.

Losing my long-term partner was hard for loads of reasons, but perhaps the worst of all was knowing I’d need to get back to dating again. I wasn’t done being in love, being cared for, or having sex – but to be honest, I barely remembered how to get myself these things.

I was an awkward kid with some body dysmorphia issues, and through my teens I was fat. I hated when people looked at me, and I did not like putting myself on the line for fear of teasing, bullying, humiliation – all the stuff I’d been trained in middle school to expect when I allowed my vulnerabilities to show. How I managed to date at all, let alone find a loving partner of many years, still seems slightly miraculous to me.

Almost a year on from the break-up, I met somebody. He seemed wonderful and at first I was over the moon. But it was short lived: he had lots of mental health issues, and they intervened before we could really get started. Needless to say I was disappointed; quite apart from the fact that I genuinely fancied him, I also thought I might have had a narrow escape!

I thought I might be able to avoid online dating.

Naive, I know. What do you do when you’re over 40, a smart professional woman with a bunch of impressive degrees, a nice house and a proper salary? If you’re lucky you live in a big city and have the chance to meet folks at great bars, restaurants, or local cafes. Or maybe there are lots of prospective partners at your gym/in your cycling club/amongst your friends’ friends.

Maybe you’re one of those people who routinely gets lucky on public transit.

Nope, me neither.

I live in a small city where the majority of the population is a) my colleagues, largely partnered; b) my students, and therefore off limits; c) folks who generally don’t share my values. (My university, and the town it’s in, are both pretty darn conservative. I am not.) Which means the in-person decks were stacked against me from the start.

Having dating issues? Phoebe Waller-Bridge (as Fleabag) will help.

This is the story of what happened when I decided to embrace the inevitable and head online. It is not meant to be a “use this site, but not this site!” how-to guide by any means; rather, it’s about self-care during the online dating process, especially for women.

Because holy cow, does online dating ever require self care.

STEP ONE: Match me. No, really.

I started with Match on the advice of a friend. It’s relationship-friendly, so that was good; I’m more into relationships than hookups. It wanted a lot of information from me, so I gamely gave details. I tried to include fun, flirty photos and information, but let’s face it: I’m a brainy geek with a cycling habit. It’s all relative, and, relatively speaking, my profile probably made me a niche product at best.

Result? Crickets.

Note: searching for memes for this post is among the most fun I’ve ever had online.

The site kept prompting me to “like” and “wink” at men’s profiles (I am straight, and shopped for men only), and it kept encouraging me to send messages to them to boost the chances of a reply. I did that – a lot. I got nothing – literally NOTHING – in return. I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Did these men get my messages, look at my profile, think “ew! brainy cycling geek! RUN!” and do just that? With no positive feedback (heck, no feedback of any kind), plus the irksome website constantly prompting me to make my profile more seductive and my images more enticing, I grew more and more sure (despite, once more, I repeat, no actual, real-world evidence) that I was simply the most undesireable woman on earth, and was just going to have to accept that.

Result? I felt like utter shit. Every single day.


How’d I get through this? Well, for one thing, I sought the help of friends. This might sound like an obvious strategy, but it didn’t seem obvious in the moment.

Let me reiterate here that my experience online thus far had been entirely isolating and a painful trigger for every ugly fear I’d ever nourished as a young woman about my physical inadequacy. No number of degrees, salary points, or QOM victories in my pockets could make up for the way Match’s structure encouraged me to locate my self-worth in being “liked” or “winked at” by random guys on the internet.

I’ve not hit a lot of glass ceilings in my life, but every morning when I woke up to check my empty message box I felt the painful banging.

Because, as I think we all know by now, the patriarchy is alive and well and breeding like rabbits on the web.

So reaching out to friends was tough – not obvious, but essential. I felt like I was admitting failure, but Sarah and Hillary, to whom I turned for support, sat me down and walked me through the ways in which the site was designed to infantilize users and create unreasonable, heteronormative expectations.

We talked about strategies for creating super-cute winky-winky profile images, sexy but not too OTT; we worked on profile language that would be clever and inviting but not confusing or intimidating for guys not in on the geek culture that feeds me. We talked about the pros and cons of listing/not listing my doctoral degree, or my salary. (Match asks for info on education and salary. Thanks, Match.) Most importantly, we talked about all of this as a strategy, not as reality. We talked about the problems inherent in the structure of the online game, but also about why we were playing it – what results we wanted it, for better or worse, to yield. We talked about the difference between the perceptions we were creating, the reality we were living, and the injustice of the two not being able to match, and still earn a Match.

In other words, we had a genuinely feminist conversation (over killer burgers and fries, y’all – because internet dating requires sustenance), and that conversation really buoyed me, lifted me up out of the sense of despair and identity confusion the online experience had been germinating for me.

The changes Sarah and Hillary helped me make to my profile did not improve results, but the time we spent together helped to improve my attitude tenfold: I was reminded I could remain firmly feminist, my whole, powerful self, and still do this, if this was a route to a relationship and a relationship was what I wanted. So when my paid three months on expired, I decided to take a risk and head for Tinder.

My genuine apologies to the two men in this photo, but: WORD.

STEP TWO: is that a dick pic I see before me?

My goodness, yes it is. I was in theory prepared for the onslaught of purely sexual interest I knew would arrive with Tinder, but I wasn’t prepared for how bad it would make me feel. Once again, I was hit in the gut: a year ago I’d never have believed that an excess of interest in my body would feel as wrenching as *no* interest in my body, but there it was. Being asked for sexual favours, for photos of breasts or “pussy”… let’s just say Donald Trump was simply citing the zeitgeist, not saying anything particularly shocking.

The result? God, I felt degraded. SO. DEGRADED.


Not because I don’t love my body, but because I unabashedly do! Because my body is so much more than its parts, isolated and fetishised; it is rich, dense, historical terrain. It is the sum of my achievements, written in its scars, in my (I think really sexy) laugh lines, and in all the ways the sun and the light and the rain colour my skin so I need not wear makeup (which makes me itchy – I’ve never liked it).

This problem was trickier to solve than the one Match had thrown me. Being asked to forget that my body is MY body and nobody else’s, being encouraged to turn it into free, animated porn on demand was possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face head-on (sorry). I was socialised as a “good girl”; I’ve been programmed to please everybody all the time. But I couldn’t do this. I did not want this.

On Tinder, I had to face the shocking disjuncture between two versions of “good”: the “good” girl who tries to please the men around her, and the “good” girl who wants to take proper care of herself.

And then, of course, there was the spectre of the OTHER girl inside me: the girl who knows “good” is total bullshit, one of a million ways our culture tries to keep us from our most powerful selves, and our most powerful desires.

Thank you, Mata Hari. Check her out on DocZone at CBC.CA.

Ironically, I came to terms with Tinder when I realised that nope, I didn’t want to be anybody’s pussy shot – but likewise, yup, I really did want to have some hot, random sex, and that there was nothing not “good”, not healthy, not wonderful about that.

So I swiped with abandon. I chose to be as direct and clear as I could be once a conversation started. No, I won’t invite you over if we’ve not met yet. Yes, I’m up for lots of things but safety comes first, including having an in-person conversation with you, and insisting on condoms every time. If you get demanding I’ll be leaving; I far prefer to share. Honesty is rule #1.

I’m not entirely sure how I got to this place; it’s in many ways the opposite of where I started. I began with Match in the firm belief I wanted a relationship, and felt instantly like I was back in junior high school, alone in the hall with my baggy clothes and self-loathing. I had, then, to find my way back to myself; I did that by reaching out to my network of feminist comrades. Next I lived through the experience of being sexualised and objectified, then realised with a fair bit of humility that I wasn’t going through anything that MOST women haven’t been through, pretty much daily, for, um, thousands of years. I remembered that together we’ve grown much, much stronger – and that I, too, am strong, proud of my beautiful body, and excited to honour it whenever I can.

That, I think, is when I realized that I can honour and celebrate my body by owning my sexual desire, and by asserting both my desire as well as my body’s human rights in equal measure online. The web dating world looks at first glance like either a grammar-school gym or a pussy-grabbing free for all, depending on your particular patriarchal filter, but it doesn’t actually need to be either.

Because man, are there ever a lot of strong women out there on the internet! Let’s own our needs, lusts, and urges, ladies, and not be afraid to assert our hard-earned power.



How martial arts have changed me. (Results may vary.) (Guest post)


I’m reflecting on my life at the moment. Maybe it’s the impending New Year, maybe it’s that a dear friend has just died, maybe it’s that a family member has recently had a life-threatening health scare, maybe it’s that the most recent chapter of my life has been one of huge changes – including my own breast cancer treatment, job loss, and ongoing career flux.

Whatever the reason, when I compare the woman I am now to the woman I used to be, I can see that “Now Me” is very different from “Then Me”.

“Then Me” was timid and afraid, always anxious, always worrying, nervous in crowds, afraid of public speaking and performing, a perfectionist who never measured up to her own impossibly high standards, and who avoided uncomfortable feelings at all costs.

“Now Me,” in contrast, is more at ease in social situations. She can get up in front of a large audience and speak without fear. She worries less – even when there’s more (like breast cancer) to worry about. She can let things go without ruminating too much. She does things that scare her, and isn’t fazed when they sometimes don’t work out.

I’ll give you a few examples.

In August 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and was strangely (to others) calm about it. Even when I first found my lump, I didn’t worry. I’d had mammograms in the past that had led to a breast biopsy, and nothing bad happened. So I decided not to worry until I knew there was something to worry about. And when I discovered there was something to worry about…  I still wasn’t worried.

In September 2016, I moved to a new community and had to switch aikido dojos. I was seriously anxious about my new sensei (teacher) – I’d heard that he was very strict and old-school. But without batting an eye, I visited the dojo, met him, and signed up to study with him. (In the past I would have procrastinated for weeks before meeting him.) He has a very harsh teaching style – he will yell at you during class if you are doing something wrong, and during most classes I do something wrong. But it all rolls right off my back, and I just keep on correcting and adjusting my techniques without flinching or getting flustered.

In November 2016, I gave a speech to more than 400 people, about how aikido helped me be a happy breast cancer patient, and I was not – NOT FOR ONE MOMENT – nervous about sharing my story. (Contrast that to my 13 years of solo singing, when I couldn’t handle my crippling performance anxiety, and finally quit singing entirely.)

Also in November 2016, I started a temporary seasonal job in a popular bookstore. I had my cashier training on the same day as the beginning of the store’s Black Friday sale. I had a lot of information to take in, in an incredibly fast-paced environment, but rather than being stressed, I actually kind of enjoyed it.

As I look back at those experiences now, I am kind of shocked. “Then Me” would have fallen apart during any one of those situations – plagued by panic (in fact I used to suffer from panic attacks during my university years), self-flagellating thoughts, and fear of unpleasant future outcomes.

To be completely honest, when I was standing onstage giving the speech in November, I suddenly wondered if I were developing the symptoms of sociopathy – I truly had no nerves, and it was very odd. (Of course I realize I’m not a sociopath – if anything, I empathize with others too much, not too little. And I do still feel fear about many risky things – just a lot less fear than I used to.)

So what’s changed? What has given me, to use a popular self-help buzzword, so much resilience?

It’s probably a complex mix of several life experiences, including 13 years of classical voice training, a year of Toastmasters membership, several years of stressful workplace leadership experience, caring for my father through his death from cancer, a lifetime of enduring chronic pain – including migraines, endometriosis, back pain, and sports injuries – and some excellent psychotherapy.

But…  and…  I think it also has a lot to do with aikido.

I recently recorded this video of myself (below), sharing the speech that I’d prepared for the November speaking event. In the weeks leading up to the speech I realized that there were some very specific lessons I’d internalized from my aikido training.


The first was a sense of agency and self-confidence that came from the regular (and frequent) practice defending myself against physical attacks. Even though the real world doesn’t have the predictability of the aikido mat, practising for the worst can be calming. And in aikido, I practised. As in, dozens of times every class, several hours per week, year-round.

The second was learning to fall, and get back up quickly after falling. To be absolutely okay with being really crappy. Embodying a beginner’s mindset. Knowing that I was going to do badly at things when I first learned them, and that even after years of study, there would still be things to correct. I watched brown belts prepare for their black belt tests and leave each practice session shaking their heads, feeling like they knew nothing. I witnessed black belts admit that they felt like beginners, and I watched them diligently work to improve their skills. I learned to admit what I didn’t know. I learned to enjoy fumbling.

The third was learning the thrill that comes from the mastery of acting proactively against a threat. Of leaping into risky situations…  and doing it successfully, enough times to give me an appetite for more.

I really like “Now Me”. She walks, grounded and quietly unflustered, through her life. She’s good in an emergency. She has no trouble committing to a course of action. She can step back and see the bird’s-eye view. She’s happier, even when there’s more to be unhappy about.

I’m not sure that it’s the aikido. But I wouldn’t give back those hours on the mat for anything.


Michelle Lynne Goodfellow works in nonprofit and small business communications by day, and also enjoys writing, taking photographs, drawing adult coloring pages, and doing aikido. You can find more of her work at Michelle has also written about her breast cancer journey on her blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.


Gifts for the feminist fitness fan in your life

Hint: not bicycles (unless these are really big boxes).

In my household we’re not big on gift-giving on special occasions, but we’ll often surprise each other with unexpected gifts for no reason at all. Whether your gift-giving is seasonal or all-through-the-year, here’s a list of gifts that might appeal to the feminist fitness enthusiast in your life.

Of course, to know whether any one of these will pass muster, you’ll need to be at least a little bit familiar with the likes and dislikes you’re dealing with. But there’s bound to be something on this list that will do the job.

1. Comfortable clothing that fits well and is easy to move in. No fit feminist lives without them. And I’m not just talking about workout wear. Fit feminists love themselves enough to want to feel good about, and in, the clothes they wear.

2. A Journal. For tracking if they like to track; for recording feelings if they like to record feelings; for writing down goals if they like to write down goals; for collecting inspirational sayings if that’s what gets them going. Nothing quite captures that swell of hope and about-to-be-realized potential as a fresh journal.

3. Gift card for a favourite running shop, bike store, activewear outlet, or yoga studio. Because new stuff!

4. Gift registration for a favourite event that you know they plan to register for and/or sponsor your athlete when they’re fundraising for an event. The registrations add up and it’s really touching when people know us well enough to take that kind of initiative (you do want to be sure, though, and not just assume, because we also make lots of plans and those plans can shift around a bit). Also, so many events support charities and people are often encourage or even required to raise funds through sponsorship. When someone you know sends you a request to sponsor them, they would very much appreciate your support! Thanks to “johntomboy” for suggesting that this should go on the gift list.

5. Class pass for yoga, ski lessons, karate, or whatever else your feminist fitness fan might be into already or you know they’d like to try.

6. Cookbook by a favourite cookbook author. My two current faves are Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Oh She Glows Everyday by Angela Liddon. (But don’t buy me either because I treated myself to Isa and then my staff bought me Oh She Glows.)

7. FitBit or some other tracking/monitoring device. This isn’t for everyone. But lots of people seem to want this type of thing. See Sam and my “point and counterpoint” on these things from last week: Sam here; Tracy here. My suggestion is to buy this only if you are certain your person wants one, and never to assume.

8. Massage or physio appointment. I don’t know a single athlete, feminist or not, who would turn either down.

9. Gear. Activities can be costly. Even runners, who supposedly just need to throw on a pair of shoes and head out the door (not quite), accumulate gear over time. Whether cross country skiing or snowboarding, cycling or triathlon, ultra running or yoga, there’s gear. From water bottles to fuel belts, buffs to bike helmets, yoga mats to foam rollers, there is gear available for every budget and at every price point. I could write a whole post about gear. But I’ll just say that new gear is usually welcome, especially the kind we would rarely buy for ourselves. For example, I’ve been admiring those special yoga mat bags (that’s all that fits in to them really) but it’s not really the sort of thing I would buy myself because it seems like an unnecessary extravagance (I do fine just carrying my mat around rolled up). But some of them are just so cute.

jaiacj000180323-1_310. And now for the shameless blog promotion portion of the list: Fit Is a Feminist Issue swag (very cool mugs and t-shirts) and the January Issue of Canadian Living magazine, which features an interview with Sam and me on alternative ways to think about fitness in mid-life.

So there it is. Gift suggestions for now or later to keep the fit feminist in your life happy!

What would you add to the list? Let us know, and happy giving and receiving!


My running with music dilemma solved?

jennifer lawrence running the hunger games hunger games

Why do I run with music? It’s fun. I run faster. And I can’t hear my laboured breathing. All good. Also, since I share a house with other people I don’t get that many chances to listen to loud music.

But there are a few issues.

First, there’s the contrast between the music I like and the music that makes me run faster. I like cheesy pop anthems, feel good tunes of all sorts.

But I read an article about music that makes you faster and gave it a try. Sadly it worked. But it didn’t make smile so I’m back to the dance tunes.

See 10 Songs Guaranteed to Help You R un Faster10 Songs That Are Scientifically Proven to Amp Up Your WorkoutThis Music May Help You Run Faster

Second, I’ve been running for years with an old iPod. It’s tiny. I hate iTunes but I tried it for awhile and loaded my iPod with running tunes. Rain, sun, sleet, or snow it’s been me and my little iPod. Until I left it in a hotel in Halifax. They said they had it. They offered to mail it to me. But no iPod appeared.

I’m not going to buy a new iPod. I tried running with my phone but I was unimpressed. I love love love Spotify for running but I hate running with my phone.

What’s a girl to do? David pointed out this device profiled here, Listen to Spotify without a phone using this tiny device

It’s kickstarter campaign is here.

They outline the arguments for not running with a phone even if you love Spotify pretty well. Here goes:

“Every current option for streaming Spotify music on-the-go requires a smartphone. That makes no sense to us. Smartphones are heavy, hard to carry during exercise, have a short battery life, come with expensive data plans, and have fragile and expensive screens. Studies have shown that 24% of iPhone users have a cracked screen, many of which undoubtedly were broken during exercise. In addition, 25% of all smartphone owners in the US incur data overage charges and streaming music is the number one culprit. To make it even worse, streaming services are documented as the most battery hungry apps in the world and can quickly drain your battery in just a few hours. Save your smartphone data, memory, battery, and screens – Mighty is the solution. (Sources: 1, 2)

The iPod Shuffle is an alternative that provides a comfortable music+fitness experience, but it can’t play any streaming music (streaming music services do not work with the iPod Shuffle or Nano). Mighty is the first device ever to play Spotify music on-the-go without any need for a smartphone.”

So I kicked in to their kick starter campaign and I’m hoping the mighty solves my woes.

Oh, for those of you who think running with music is an abomination and that I need to listen to the world around me, to nature, to my own breathing, you can feel better that I don’t always run with music. When I’m running on trails, in the woods, I leave music at home. Ditto when I’m running with dogs.

And for those of you who don’t think running with music is an abomination, what sort of tunes do you like? How do you listen to them? Spotify on your phone, iTunes on an iPod, or something else altogether?


The Greatest Hits of 2016!

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In case you missed them, here’s the top ten posts from the blog in 2016. I know it’s not quite the end of 2016 but these numbers seem pretty settled. They’re not all new posts, but some are. I also like that there is a mix of guest posts and posts by Tracy and me. Almost all are on body image, weight loss, and appearance and we struggle a bit with that around here. We want to be an alternative voice on these matters but we also want to talk about sports, and athletic performance too.
Still, this list makes me happy, and proud. Thanks everyone for reading, writing, commenting, liking, and sharing. It’s a terrific community and our blog makes me smile almost every single day.

Oh, and you can like us on Facebook (that’s mostly me, Sam) and follow us on Twitter (that’s mostly Tracy) and stuff shared from our blog and FB page.

Happy holidays!

Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program: A Year in Review
Finding clothes to fit athletic women’s bodies
She May Look Healthy But…Why Fitness Models Aren’t Models of Health
Fuck Fat Loss, but like, actually (Guest post)
The Shape of an Athlete
not my resolution; thoughts on January weight loss from a cheerful chubster (guest post)
Padded sports bras and nipple phobia
CrossFit and women’s bodies: It’s complicated
“You’ve Lost Weight! You Look Great!” Isn’t a Compliment
Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies

Riding in Sri Lanka (1)

I’m on a mud-encased mountain bike on a rutted, red-mud road in central Sri Lanka.  A red tuktuk selling baked goods, and playing a loud, tinny version of It’s a Small World to attract customers, veers straight at me to avoid a deep red-mud puddle.  I veer off the road, giggling loudly.  That would be an ignominious death. 

I got it into my head that I wanted to ride a bike around Sri Lanka for the holidays. Today was day 2 of a 13 day trip with a company called Grasshopper, with three other people — a Russian woman in her early 40s who works in investment banking in London, a young Aussie woman from Perth, and a big guy from Pennsylvania who is teaching in Mongolia.  It’s a mix of seeing “cultural sites” and riding.  The first day, in the pouring rain, we did about 30 km; today we rode door to door from our hotels and did 75 km.  All of the hotels so far have been unbelievably lovely properties, with pools and good restaurants.  And my room at this place has a rainforest shower that is actually IN the rainforest — the bathroom is technically indoor/outdoor with a tight screen all around.  It’s glorious and unnerving.

On an organized trip like this, the people matter as much as anything else.  So far we’re a group of four, and we blend well. We all like dhal, we ride close to the same pace, we are all non-complainers.  (Well, except for being a bit put out when the guide seems to swap down the distances on the itinerary in favour of bus transfers — I seem to have been designated the Feedback Provider, while everyone else looks at their phones).

No one would choose a trip like this who doesn’t want to ride pretty hard or who would complain about being wet. There are plenty of more luxurious options, like, say, a tour through wine country in France. Everyone here has traveled a lot, but isn’t all one-uppy about it.

Bonding in a group like this is an interesting thing because you have to get along, and you have to ride together, and you are suddenly spending a lot of time with strangers. And you end up in dinner conversations about dissecting cow’s hearts (Mongolia guy teaches biology), or yak curd tea (again, Mongolia), or how the Aussie woman literally bit a guy’s tongue off when she got assaulted in China.  Mostly, we talk about Aussie woman’s love for bananas (she eats about 7 a day), and Mongolia.  We are learning a lot about Mongolia.  (“If you think this road is bumpy, you should see the roads in Mongolia.” “Are they paved with bitterness and yak curds,” the Aussie woman and I joke.)

It’s actually really lovely to only know these random facts about people. And not much else.  The hotels are lovely, full of excellent buffets and men playing odd squeezy box things and attempting O Come all Ye Faithful. The riding is through miraculous landscapes, lush and relatively prosperous, and deeply stories. Children run to the road and shout HELLO. We’ve seen a mongoose, a huge monitor lizard, many monkeys all over the road, and a wild peacock. Many wild or protective dogs, which look the same all over the world.

And it’s surprisingly hard riding for me. I’ve never ridden a mountain bike with full tires before, and I am find it a surprising struggle to heft this heavy bike up hills, and don’t have a lot of confidence yet that I won’t crash in every bump or puddle.  I dreamed a huge anxiety dream last night that I couldn’t get the bike up a hill and I was being chased by ghosts.   (I’m also dirtier than I’ve ever been, and my fancy Castillo technical jersey has huge glob of tar on it accidentally thrown on me by a road crew). A good 20 km of our ride today was a lovely, shady road along a river but bumped me as though I was the toy of a giant, tantrumming child.  I am really happy to be here, and the difficulty is good.

I love traveling like this, and it’s a big reset to a too-busy life, an overheated world.  But for the first time on this kind of trip, I can’t unhook myself from the world.  I’m remote, but every hotel has wifi, and the headlines buzz into my ipad and phone.  I worry about humanity, and I worry about peace and kindness, and I ride.  Because that’s what I can do to feel whole.