You’re not a non-responder, you just need to work a lot harder! Yay?

From death to stock photo
From death to stock photo

I’ve written before about the good/bad news for non-responders.

More research just in confirms what I suggested then. There aren’t any true non-responders. Instead, there are just people who have to work an awful lot harder to see improvements in fitness.

See The Myth of Exercise “Non-Responders.” It’s subtitled, “New research suggests that everyone gets fitter with training… if they do enough.” It reports on a new study which shows that non-response is a function of exercise dose.  Subjects were divided into groups that exercised different amounts each week and while some people who exercised one or three days a week didn’t get any fitter,  there were no non-responders in the 5 day a week group.

Think about this when you’ve signed up for a running clinic, for example, and you see that some people see improvements in running fitness working out just one or two days a week. Other people might do the recommended three days a week and still not get any fitter. It may be that for those people three days isn’t enough. Some people may need to train 5 times a week or more to see improvements. We’re not all alike although you’d never know that from standardized training plans.

Link to actual study: Refuting the myth of non-response to exercise training: ‘non-responders’ do respond to higher dose of training. The Journal of Physiology, January 30, 2017

(Abstract: One in five adults following physical activity guidelines are reported not demonstrating any improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). Herein, we sought to establish whether CRF non-response to exercise training is dose-dependent, using a between- and within-subject study design. Seventy-eight healthy adults were divided into 5 groups (‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’ and ‘5’) respectively comprising 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 × 60 min exercise sessions per week but otherwise following an identical 6-week endurance training (ET) program. Non-response was defined as any change in CRF, determined by maximal incremental exercise power output (Wmax), within the typical error of measurement (±3.96%). Participants classified as non-responders after the ET intervention completed a successive 6-week ET period including 2 additional exercise sessions per week. Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), haematology and muscle biopsies were assessed prior to and after each ET period. After the first ET period, Wmax increased (P < 0.05) in groups ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’ and ‘5’, but not ‘1’ . In groups ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’ and ‘5’, 69%, 40%, 29%, 0% and 0% of individuals, respectively, were non-responders. After the second ET period, non-response was eliminated in all individuals. The change in VO2max with exercise training independently determined Wmaxresponse (partial correlation coefficient (rpartial≥0.74, P < 0.001). In turn, total hemoglobin mass was the strongest independent determinant of VO2max (rpartial = 0.49, P < 0.001). In conclusion, individual CRF non-response to exercise training is abolished by increasing the dose of exercise and primarily a function of haematological adaptations in oxygen-carrying capacity.)

Thanks Sarah for sharing this with us.


Dead of winter is past, bring on spring!

It’s official. Here in southern Ontario at least the worst of winter is over.

See Winter is leaving, for some of us, climatologist says.

It’s the dead of winter and — despite how ominous that might sound — the country’s top climatologist says that’s actually a good thing.

“I always think that should be a national holiday for people who are not big fans of winter,” said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada.

The dead of winter is the point where there “is more winter behind us than ahead of us.

That point is calculated by noting the average temperature for every day of the year. On the day that average hits its lowest, we’ve hit the “bottom of the well.”

“Then it begins its slow, relentless rise to what we call the dog days of summer, which is the warmest moment statistically.”

This year it’s been the lack of light that’s been bothering me, more than the cold. See Toronto suffering through one of the grimmest months in years.  See also  Less than 50 hours of sunlight in Toronto for January. Environment Canada says that the city has only seen 48.8 hours of sunlight, compared to the seasonal average of 85 hours.

I’m looking forward to an early beach appreciation event here in Toronto. You can read about it here.

The third annual Winter Stations design competition winners have been unveiled. They’ll take over the city’s east end beaches starting on Family Day, Feb. 20.

The winning designs include a take on Japanese hot springs, modern lighthouses and suspended trees.

‘The Beacon’ was designed by Joao Araujo Sousa and Joanna Correia Silva from Porto, Portugal. (Winter Stations Design Competition)

“Visitors will be able to touch and feel their way along the beach, experiencing luminous shelter from the wind, warming waters for their feet, and designs that celebrate the Canadian nation of immigrants,” said Lisa Rochon, Winter Stations Design Jury Chair, in a press release.

winter station 4

But mostly I’m really looking forward to getting back on my bike!

Image result for does my bike miss me too


Another win for inclusive sport: Introducing Foxy Moxy Racing

Last week my friend Rachel started dropping hints about a new and exciting venture she was cooking up. Finally, the announcement about her new cycling team, Foxy Moxy Racing, came on social media.


I have followed the development of Rachel’s incredible career as an elite competitive cyclist for some time now. She trains hard and, as any cyclist must, has an amazing capacity for suffering! And she wins. But she has also had to endure challenges to her right to compete and an astonishing lack of support from her former team. Now Rachel is Foxy Moxy’s captain.

We are big on inclusivity in fitness and sport on this blog. And Foxy Moxy Racing, with its commitment to “radically promoting trans and gender non-conforming inclusion in sport, through positive and unapologetic visibility in competitive cycling” is a revolutionary team that deserves attention and support.

To read more about the team, you can visit their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter (@FoxyMoxyRacing) or on Instagram.

You can also help the team out with financial support if you so choose by going to their paypal account.

Rachel has promised to write a blog post later in the season updating us on the team and their adventures!

They are looking to sign new members:

We welcome anyone and everyone who wishes to race under the banner of gender inclusivity, regardless of their own gender identity or expression. We value the wide range of identities, bodies, and ways of being, and we promote the full inclusion of all who wish to compete. We also seek to educate the public on the value of inclusive sport, and to continue dialogue on fair and transparent policies.

Good luck to Rachel and her new team. Not only are they creating a new opportunity for trans and gender non-conforming cyclists, but they’re also committing to advocacy and education.

“The future is foxy!”



Remembering Marion, my favorite fit feminist ninety something friend

Marion on Manitoulin Island, photo by Robert Corless

Recently I said goodbye to an old friend who’s been a wonderful source of fitness inspiration. She was one of the most alive people I’ve ever known.  Marion Corless died recently but not before finishing her guest blog post I’d been nagging her to do for a couple of years. Rumour has it she also completed some crafting and quilting projects in the hospital. She might have been 95 but she didn’t ever really slow down.

You can read her post, Fitness for Women (Old School!) here.

Marion and I traveled together in New Zealand, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and around Ontario as well. Her son Rob always joked, “The only trouble in traveling with Mother was keeping up.”

She’s the only person her age I’d ever met who wanted to do as much as she did when traveling. Her children joked about her pace. See above. But really it was no joke. On our west coast trip we collapsed into the hot tub at the hotel one night after a big day of hiking and sightseeing. Rob stood outside the hot tub to help her in, and I sat inside holding her arm. “Not sure why you’re making all this fuss,” she complained, as she hopped right in. No help needed.

In her blog post you can read about all the physical activities she loved but what I loved best about her was her sense of adventure.

Kayaking in the ocean in New Zealand? Sure! (I heard from her that some of her children were worried about her. She laughed and said, “What’s the worse that could happen? I could die. I’m in my 90’s you know?” I knew!) But what I loved was the idea of getting more adventurous with age. So many people seem to get more fearful. Afraid of falling, afraid of dying. But not Marion.

I also loved that she didn’t let limitations get in the way of adventure. My daughter Mallory and I were doing a triathlon/duathlon once while Marion was in town.  Read about our races here. Marion wanted to come visit and watch. But the event was in a fully naturalized provincial park. In the battle between letting things go wild and providing access for people with walkers, this park had gone for the former.

But no worries as they provided these amazing three wheeled wheelchairs with big tires suitable for off-roading and for the beach. I wasn’t sure how Marion would take to that. She’s pretty independent and called her cane “nuisance.” But she hopped in and had a blast as her son Rob pushed her up and down the dunes. She didn’t just demonstrate staying active into your 90s as a physical thing though it was that. She also demonstrated how much of it is about attitude, about feeling alive, and having fun.

I’d say “rest in peace, Marion” but “rest” never really was your style.

Here are some photos from our 2013 trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island which began in typical Marion Corless fashion with a message, “I hear you’re coming to Vancouver Island for a conference. Have you ever been to the west coast? It’s beautiful. You drive, don’t you? Good.” She’d already booked the hotels it turned out. There was no saying no to Marion’s travel plans.

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Even if you don’t track or count calories, does food labeling affect your order?

I’ve often said I don’t care about calories. I don’t count them. Instead I focus on healthy eating, getting enough fruits and vegetables, eating enough protein. I also focus on making ethical choices and eating food that I love.  So though I do love tracking food–back at it again today, in fact with my FitBit–it’s not calories that are my usual focus.

But Friday I realized that was wrong. I’m not immune to reacting to calorie counts. I was in line at the university cafeteria for lunch and was struck by the numbers next to the prices. Unable to find anything not in the 600 to 900 calorie range, I shook my head and walked away. It was a long day and I was too busy to leave campus. Instead I snacked on some office snacks and then rifled through my gym bag looking for a leftover cliff bar or something. No luck but I did find a couple of gel blocks. I didn’t pass out from hunger. Phew!

I wondered about the effect. Maybe I’ll get used to it? Maybe I’ll never eat pizza or subs again? Monday, I’m packing lunch.

See Will the new calorie labeling law affect what people eat?

“There’s a new item on the menu at Ontario restaurants in 2017: calorie counts. As of Jan. 1, restaurants and food service providers with more than 20 locations in the province are required to list the calorie content of food items on their menus. Fancy a regular popcorn with butter topping and a medium Sprite with your Star Wars Rogue One ticket? That’s 1,100 calories, a shade more than a Big Mac, medium fries and a medium Coke at McDonald’s (1090 calories.)”

According to this story on the CBC, about a third of consumers make use of the information.

“The calorie counts can hit home for consumers, said David Hammond, a professor in the school of public health at the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ont.”On the topic of informing people, it’s very effective and most consumers, about 90 per cent, are interested,” Hammond said. “But it’s really about a third of us that actually use that information to change what we order.””

But is there a downside? When I shared the story on our Facebook page lots of our regular commentators confessed to a dislike of calorie counts. Some people with a history of eating disorders find them triggering.

Here’s some of the responses:

“I really dislike being forced to look at calories. I made a conscious choice to stop counting them. I consciously try to disregard that information when I order, but it does make me feel guilty sometimes.”

“I’ve worked really hard to get over counting calories. I used to allow myself so many calories per hour. Now when I see them, it’s a real set back.”

 “Calorie counting is for eating disorders.”

Others were more neutral in their evaluation.

“Makes no difference to me. I know Big Macs have a high calorie count, but if I want one, that number doesn’t deter me. I’m not going to McDonald’s for healthy choices.”

How about you? What do you think about calorie counts on food labels? Does it affect your food choices?Do you think it’s on balance good or does the danger outweigh the good?

Update: I did eat pizza this weekend, just not Friday lunch. Instead Sarah and I grabbed pizza at Magic Oven on our way home Friday night. Turns out that my memory for calorie counts and the impression they have on me is short. Also, good pizza is different. It’s a treat, not a thing you grab at the cafeteria to make it through the day.

Image result for vegan pizza no cheese


Does protest marching count?

Amid all that’s happening in American politics, I can’t write a regular fitness blog post right now. I just can’t.

So here’s this.

Last weekend, Cate and I both listed our steps in the various women’s marches that were happening in the 217 in 2017 Facebook group. We joked about it but that felt right. It was movement that counted, that mattered.  See 217 in 2017: What counts?

Those marches felt good and the mood was really positive. Now I’m just sad and scared. Another of our regular bloggers asked on Facebook if there was a special category on her FitBit for protest marches.

Today there’s a protest outside the US Embassy in Toronto. You can read more about it here.

“Donald Trump is passing the most racist Executive Orders the world has seen in decades.

Refugees, many of them children, are trapped in airports and being turned back to a dangerous home.. because of their religion, their language, their skin colour.

For all those who believe in a compassionate world, the time to act is now.

This event is open to anyone. We are acting as allies, and not speaking on behalf of anyone, nor claiming to be a voice for this issue.

NOTE: This will be a peaceful non-disruptive gathering. We may do a very short-term symbolic “shut-down” of the building, to remind governments – all governments – that the public will not tolerate racist policies and will stand up. We are in touch with immigration advocates to ensure that we don’t disrupt any activities in the consulate that would harm those seeking assistance with visas and travel. LOCATION: University Avenue, just north of Queen, Nearest subway: Osgoode station.”

I’ll stop by. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Image may contain: 6 people, people standing and outdoor

feminism · fitness

work-life balance: just what is it supposed to look like?

Last weekend my friend Norah and I took off from our busy lives to spend a weekend at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in western Massachusetts.  We are lucky and grateful for the privilege of the resources (time, control, money) to be able to take such a nice vacation.

Kripalu has limited internet access and strict rules against cell phone use in most of the building. The idea is to create an atmosphere in which people can take a break from their regular lives and from the regular stream of information and demands coming in over the airwaves (to use an old twentieth-century expression).

We both took full advantage of the break, enjoying lots of yoga, cooking, eating supremely yummy and healthy-to-us food, meditating, strolling in the woods, resting and reading.

Yeah.  We should all run–not walk– to such places.

three stick figures--standing with no, walking with no, running with yes

But here’s the thing: all of the lovely activities that Norah and I did– the woodsy strolling, yoga, cooking, reading, meditating, chilling and hanging out– can all be done at a much lower price AT HOME.  So why don’t our non-vacationing non-getaway lives look more like this?

Here’s one reason:

graphic of the word "work"

We all work.  We work too hard.  We work too long.  We work at home. We work on vacation. We work at all hours of the day and night.

Contrast last weekend with this week:  Norah went to Florida Monday morning for big work meetings for a few days.  She was steeling herself for having to do regular job tasks on top of these extra meetings.  Let me clarify here:  her job required traveling and going to a bunch of all-day and into-the-evening meetings.  But there was also the expectation, nay, requirement, that she complete tasks that she would be doing normally at her job while not traveling.

And get this:  the schedule for the work meetings included breakfast at 5:30am–7am, whereupon employees would be shuttled to the convention center for the big meetings.

5:30am digital image

Good God.

Some of you who read the blog (and everyone who’s ever met me) know very well that I’m not a morning person.  But seriously?  Starting the work day at 5:30am?  I can see getting up early if the goal is to commune with nature that looks like this:

early morning sunrise over marsh and water

But I suspect Norah’s day began looking much more like this:

people eating breakfast at a convention ballroom

But wait– we forgot about the work tasks that Norah had to be BEFORE her day began.

working on tablet at night, colors in background

No, it probably didn’t look or feel like this.  The image was too pretty, however, not to share.  Likely it felt more like this:

stick figure working at computer

What does my rant about working too much have to do with fitness?  With feminism?

the word "everything"

When work life takes over every waking (and many of the sleeping) minutes, we are unable to cope, to take care of ourselves, to take care of others, to move in ways we love, to sit still alone or with others, to cook and eat food that nourishes and delights us, to think about how to make the world better and then do something about it.

This year I’m paying more attention to when and how and how often I work.  I’ve planned to go to some conferences, but fewer than last year.  I’m planning fun activity trips with friends and family and fun activities at home.  Sam and Tracy have blogged about their approaches to scheduling activity during their week.  I had, over the past couple of years, lost my rhythm, and am paying some attention to getting it back.  Or rather, finding a new rhythm.  I can say now it will not involve getting up at 5:30am (except for special outdoorsy activity occasions), but I am looking for something that can stand as a bulwark against the constant encroachment of work.  I know, something like this might seem like overkill:

a stone bulwark-- defensive wall

But some structural help, to keep me from letting work seep into all the cracks, is needed.

I don’t have concrete plans yet.  But my weekend away helped me wake up to the need to make some concrete plans.  So for now, I’m at this stage:

work in progress

Readers, what sorts of ways do you cordon off time and space for life outside work?  I’d love to hear some of your plans and structures.