Make your day harder! (Guest post)

On the weekend, Sam and I found ourselves on this giant escalator ramp called a MOVATOR.  We were picking up a cake and samosas for a baby shower for mutual friends, and the grocery store we went to is on the second floor.  This MOVATOR locks you and your cart in place to go down to the ground floor.  (How do you say this?  Moo-va-tor?  Moe-vay-ter? moo-va-TOR? Try saying it without sounding like an ominous robot).



Both of us tend to scoot around the world at a fast clip, and being on the MOVATOR ground us to a halt.  Which got us talking again about the discussion Sam blogged about a couple of weeks ago about  walking on escalators. That conversation started out as a bit of good-natured griping on Facebook about our preference for scooting up the left side of the escalator and wondering why everyone doesn’t walk.

Well, as Sam captured in her post, people told us a LOT of reasons why many people don’t walk on escalators, and we were reminded, again, that we have a lot more capacity and health than many people.  And that no one should ever be judging anyone else’s mobility, hidden disability, pain, fatigue etc. by their external appearance.  Absolutely true. And… I was still feeling nagged by my original sense that escalators (and MOVATORS!) are, for me, an overall cultural trend where we gravitate effortlessly to doing the things that make our lives easier, that make us move our bodies less.  And I am a big fan of doing things to make my life a little HARDER whenever I can.

I’m very clear that there are many people whose bodily limits make all sorts of functional assists important and necessary — that’s not what I’m talking about.  And, I live on the third floor of a condo building with two easily accessed staircases — and almost every single person in my condo building takes the elevator down from the third floor to the first.  Of course sometimes you’re carrying things, or are fatigued, or it’s painful to take the stairs.  But half the time, it’s literally people in gym clothes, getting ready to go work out, who take the elevator. Because they can.

There was a good piece last week on CBC Radio’s The Current about treadmills, and how they were originally instruments of torture for prisoners, the ultimate hard labour with no satisfaction of producing anything.  Fascinating, and funny.

They also interviewed researcher Dan Buettner, who has studied what he calls “Blue Zones,” the places in the world where people live the longest.  He says that people with the longest life spans stay healthy when they integrate movement organically into their days — not carving fitness off into a category of activity on its own.  The people who live the longest, he says, live in environments that “nudge them into physical activity every 20 minutes or so.”  This nudging doesn’t have to be something big — it’s small things like gardening, or walking down the street, or hanging clothes outside instead of putting them in the dryer. He advocates for getting rid of things that make your life “easier” so you can add more organic movement — like taking transit instead of driving, for example, or who using a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer while cooking.  Leaving your laundry set up in the basement instead of moving it to the second floor so you have to carry clothes up and down a few flights of stairs a few times a week.

There’s a great video from Dr. Mike Evans about how these moment-to-moment choices that make us move can make a huge difference to our health. Sam blogged a little bit about this last month.



The world absolutely needs automation and supports so that people who need them can have them.  I am personally trying to get my condo board to install automatic doors right now to make our building more accessible.  And, for many of us, there are a lot of opportunities to integrate more, small movements into our lives if we look for them, if we don’t just punch the button for the elevator because it’s there.

img_2485In one of my roles, I teach in a newish building in downtown Toronto attached to a major hospital.  The designers of the building wanted to encourage people to connect to people in other departments and on other floors, along with promoting health. So they put a beautiful staircase right in the centre.  It’s one of my favourite features of all of the places I work.

And one of the things I love about this staircase is that it’s such an unusual thing to do that the fire code required that the builders put a *second* staircase, right beside it, behind a sealed door.  Because it’s so rare to put a staircase in the centre.

So that’s my mantra.  Put the stairs in the centre and take them when you can. Push the cart yourself.  Carry a backpack.  Walk to the store.  Shovel instead of snow-blowing. Leave your laundry in an inconvenient place. Ride your bike to work.  Make muffins using a wooden spoon, not a mixer.  Make your life just a little bit harder — and make your own “blue zone.”


“Mindful drinking” anyone? Bonus: Mocktail Recipes

image description: this colour photo has three separate panels, each with a mocktail. The first is a light pink drink over ice in a frosted glass with a garnish of five blueberries on a clear plastic skewer and a spring of rosemary. the second is a red smoothie-style drink in a clear glass with a frosted floral pattern on it and a garnish of watermelon; the third is a low glass with a yellow drink over ice, garnished with lime and rosemary.
image description: this colour photo has three separate panels, each with a mocktail. The first is a light pink drink over ice in a frosted glass with a garnish of five blueberries on a clear plastic skewer and a spring of rosemary. the second is a red smoothie-style drink in a clear glass with a frosted floral pattern on it and a garnish of watermelon; the third is a low glass with a yellow drink over ice, garnished with lime and rosemary.

When I first read the headline about “mindful drinking” thought geez, there’s mindful everything these days! As someone who practices total abstinence, it almost seemed to trivialize the idea of mindfulness to think that it could be applied to the consumption of alcohol. But when I read further, it turns out that mindful drinking is closer to not drinking than anything else. And I like that.

According to the article, “Forget the hangover, under-25s turn to mindful drinking,”

Forget pub crawls – increasing numbers of young people are replacing beer and wine with “mindful drinking” – where abstinence, not alcohol, is all the rage.

A fifth of British adults under-25 are teetotal, according to the Office for National Statistics, and numbers are on the rise. Motivated by health and income concerns, this new generation are bucking the trend of their parents, and choosing to drink in moderation, or not at all.

To me, who knew only one non-drinker when I was in that age-range, the stat that one fifth of Brits under 25 are hardly drinking or not drinking is quite something. It’s certainly not thought to be the norm.

Often when I am at conferences or academic events, it’s more difficult to accommodate my  non-drinking than my veganism (yes, I am that guest — the horror!). What I liked most about the article about mindful drinking was its report that this trend is making pubs stand up and notice. They’re starting to offer a wider range of interesting mocktails and other non-alcoholic alternatives. That’s good news for more than the under-25s.

What is mindful drinking? According to the article:

“It’s about changing the way you think and feel about alcohol. For a lot of people, mindful drinking means switching to a lower percentage drink, cutting down for a week, doing a sober sprint, or trying out an alcohol-free for size…”

I realize not everyone has a problem with alcohol, but I do think that the default in our social world is that people will be drinking. And while drinking may have some social value and, for those who do not have a problem, might contribute to a pleasurable time, it’s hardly an essential ingredient without which it’s impossible to have fun.

So the idea of a more mindful approach that encourages moderation or even abstinence strikes me as a positive step and I applaud the young people who are stating to think differently about the place of alcohol in their lives.

Is moderating or changing your approach to alcohol something you ever think about? If you’re thinking of trying a more mindful approach to drinking, here’s a link to some delicious looking mocktail recipes. Cheers!

body image · fitness

Biggin’ your booty? Because whatever your body looks like, it’s not good enough

You might think that if you are blessed with a naturally slender physique, or if you’ve exercised and dieted your way to a thinner shape, that your work is done.

Sadly, no.

The “problem” is that most women who are small, thin, or have a low percent body fat, also have smaller breasts and smaller bottoms. Until now society had focused its pressure on breast size. Breast enlargement by surgery or by padded bra is the usual route to being thin and having large breasts.

But now it’s not just breasts, it’s also bottoms. There’s pressure on women to be thin and to have a shapely bum. We read about this a lot when it comes to fitness trends.  Some women worry that treadmill running leads to flat butts. Other women do all squats all the time. I’ve written before about body shaming endurance athletes. See Fear of frail? In which Sam pledges not to body shame skinny runners.

I am thinking about this while I am watching the Oscars. Rail thin women in beautiful gowns with substantial bottoms. How do they do that? Turns out it’s not just avoiding the treadmill or doing squats.

See The Case for a Bigger Ass.

“When Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses hit the red carpet at Sunday’s Oscars, their bods will be made hotter with an arsenal of enhancers, from “chicken cutlet” bra inserts to Spanx. And in some cases, the ladies will be packing another concealed weapon: butt pads.

The caboose boosters are the latest awards-season essential, creating curves back there without the pain, expense and risks of surgery or endless reps in the gym. “Butt pads are a tool for a specific look — they work best to emphasize your body with a very slinky body-hugging gown or pants,” says fashion expert and television personality George Kotsiopoulos.”

Butt pads?

The idea is that you get super skinny by dieting, or you are already super skinny to start, but then you need to look curvy. So you selectively add fat back to the body bits that matter.

The staff at BuzzFeed tried wearing them and writing about. See We Tried Wearing Butt Padding and This is What Happened.



As if that weren’t “bang head against desk” inducing enough it turns out you can also worry that pubic mound is too small. A click bait-y piece appeared in my newsfeed about it. I won’t link to it here since an astute reader noticed that in addition to all the other ways that it could be offensive, the piece was also really shitty to transwomen.

It’s increasingly the case that no women can rest, all bodies are in need of constant improvement. We’ve written before about women who worry that their pubic mound is too fat. See “My boyfriend says my vagina is too fat.”

Others worry that their labia are too old.

It’s a fact of life: The appearance of your lady parts may change with age. “The labia may become less plump as estrogen levels wane, fatty pads in the labia shrink and less collagen can lead to more sagging,” says Dr. Rankin. “The skin of the vulva may darken or lighten and the clitoris may shrink. It’s normal either way.”

Too skinny flat bottom? Too thin shrinking wrinkly labia?

Really? Really? Really?

[Image: 5736081.png]

Actually, I do have words. It’s this, “Life is very short. Too short for this. Love the body you have.”

And if you can’t love your body, Here’s an Idea: Body-Neutrality.


fitness · yoga

Beginner’s mind– hauling it from the mat to the boat

This weekend was all about being a beginner again.  Which is supposed to be a good thing, if the story about the beginner’s mind is to be believed.

In yoga and meditation, teachers often talk about “embracing the beginner’s mind”.  This means something like cultivating increased awareness of many of the features of your current experience (including features we tend to ignore or take for granted), in order to learn and grow.  It also teaches us that life is in a constant state of change, and accepting, even incorporating this acceptance into our practice (of yoga, meditation– anything really) will enrich it for us.  Here’s what The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Wellness says about beginner’s mind:

In yoga, we’re often told to approach poses with beginner’s mind—to seek spaciousness or find the nuances that allow us to discover more about a pose and our relationship to it. [It’s easy to lose] sight of that and focus… simply on completing the flow, hitting a pose, or making it to Savasana. That’s when yoga becomes less about “skillfulness in action” and more about calisthenics.

Beginner’s mind is tough enough in yoga class, let alone embracing it off the mat. An open state of inquiry can be no match for the larger voices of our everyday expectations and demands…

Steven [Leonard, meditation teacher] says, “To truly embrace beginner’s mind, we must soften around our tendency to assume. We’re always assuming what our experiences will be, assuming we know what we like and dislike, assuming our view is the same as it was yesterday. To assume that anything stays the same is to be caught in delusion.” When freed from the fetters of assumption and judgment, our experiences become truer reflections of what is. And what is in one moment is not exactly the same in another. The space between is where learning and growth occur.

Okay, got it.  Let go of assumptions, take what comes.  This plan went really well in my Saturday morning yoga class with Cathleen, my favorite yoga teacher at my favorite yoga studio, Artemis Yoga (please forgive my plugging this place, but I have a soft spot for small business owners at places I love).  She uses fun and funny metaphors (often involving us driving our own car, parking, traffic, etc.) which help us disengage from judgment, in part because we are smiling or laughing.  And in her beginner classes (this was one such), everyone gets  a chance to rediscover beginner’s mind through the gentle pace of the class, variations on basic poses, and holding basic poses longer (if we want).  I was able to reconnect with downward facing dog in a new way on Saturday– using blocks under our hands, I sank into the pose much more, with heels on the floor (which doesn’t happen usually for me).  It reintroduced me to the pose, made it fresh.  I felt reinvigorated, ready to face the world with a new perspective.

Until I arrived at my second activity of the day:  kayak rolling class.  This is taught in a local YMCA pool by the marvelous Kevin of Rock Paddle Surf in Salem, MA (yeah yeah– I’m doing the small business booster thing again) and his marvelous wife Gillian.  I took one rolling class last year, but for me it’s going to take a whole bunch of instruction to get close to rolling a sea kayak (FYI– they’re looong; like 16ish feet long, okay?).

So my beginner’s mind and I pulled up to the parking lot, where everyone else was unloading their boats.  The session is for instruction for noobs like me, and also for folks to practice their rolls and rescues in their own boats.  And of course there was the one guy who tried to paddle standing up in the cockpit.  He went splash!  a lot.

I was very nervous about this class.  In my last rolling class I didn’t feel settled in my boat, and kept worrying about being able to get back in it (getting out of it just happens spontaneously, which is fine).  I tried to remember what I’d learned earlier in the day:

rocks with inscription "In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”

Frankly, I wasn’t sure how to translate this bit of wisdom into my current situation.  I figured that embracing my current state without judgment might help calm my waves of panic, but on the other hand, sometimes my current state was underwater, which provoked the perfectly reasonable judgment “Whoa! Time to get out of here!”

Except I was wrong.  Turns out,  beginner’s mind is EXACTLY what you need when you’re in the water, upside down in the cockpit of your boat, holding your paddle and trying to figure out how to do that hip snap to get you topside again.  Luckily for me, I don’t mind being underwater in a kayak– it’s actually kind of interesting.  But I kept trying to analyze the situation and make some decision about which way to move my hip (and which hip to move) while down there.  It was very confusing, and I kept moving the wrong way.  Of course, either Kevin or Gillian was right there to haul me back up, so I wasn’t scared.  But I was frustrated.

I’ve got two more rolling class sessions scheduled for March, and then a weekend-long kayak workshop in Charleston, SC in April.  Maybe I’ll get the roll, maybe I won’t.  I don’t have to have one in order to be a sea kayaker (although it comes in handy).  But I want one.

It’s clear to me now that I’ll need to leave judgment and assumptions and expectations (with their accompanying fears) behind in order to be in a proper state to hear what my body, my boat, Kevin, and Gillian are telling me.  After all, kayaking is like life.  Sometimes, we’re right side up, looking to the horizon.  And sometimes, we’re here.

person in a sea kayak underwater in a pool, sweeping a paddle to come back up


Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #82

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on our 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?

Plus size women face their fashion fears

Sheridan: One of my best friends once described my style as “Olympic athlete going to a club in Europe.” It’s been five years and I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a compliment, but I’d say I lean toward clean silhouettes and am almost always wearing pants. And as someone who’s 6 feet tall and wears a size 13 shoe, I’ve had a long-lasting affair with sneakers.

Kristin: In my insecure mind, the First Commandment of having a tummy has always been “Thou shalt own 15 or so A-line skirts,” because it emphasizes your boobs and then yada yadas the rest of your body. It’s basically my uniform; my wardrobe looks like I’m the lieutenant in some sort of vintage pin-up army.

Jazzmyne: I would say that my style is unpredictable. Some days you can find me in a tutu and a huge cat eye, and the next day I’ll be wearing a backward hat and a baseball jersey. I also have a reason why I look the way I do and most of all it is for my satisfaction.

Artist’s Unapologetic Vagina Paintings Are A Force Of Body Positivity

Initially, artist Jacqueline Secor didn’t intend to show her series “The Diversity of Nature” to a public audience. Rather, she created her unapologetic paintings of vaginas (or, if you prefer the anatomically accurate term, vulvae) as a personal coping mechanism, part of her ongoing fight with body dysmorphic disorder.

After relocating from North California to Salt Lake City, Utah, Secor says she felt overcome with insecurity and shame, especially with regards to her physical appearance. “Living in Utah, there is still a widespread unspoken rule that women should conform to this really narrow little definition of ‘perfection,’” the artist, a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told The Huffington Post. “There is a really dark undercurrent to all those picture perfect Mormon mommy blogs and Instagram accounts,” she added.

Five years ago, Secor removed herself from the Church, but the impact the religious experience left on the artist was not so easily displaced. She began to channel the overwhelming mix of emotions ― pain, powerlessness and possessiveness ― into artworks that celebrated female beauty removed from any one idea of perfection.

Swimsuit Model Rocks Stretch Marks In Lane Bryant’s New Unretouched Ad

SI is making what some feel is another big leap this year, by again allowing a woman with a body you don’t normally see included in their coveted spread to appear on their pages. Once again, it’s an ad for plus-sized swim wear. This time, the model is flaunting an un-retouched body and stretch marks. But let’s give kudos where the kudos are due, shall we? Sports Illustrated may be accepting money from a purveyor of plus-sized suits. Big deal. It’s the company behind that ad that’s really making waves: Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant keeps kicking ass, and showing women in a real, positive light.

Lane Bryant’s Cacique swim line is being featured in SI’s swimsuit issue for the second year in a row. This year, model Denise Bidot stars in their ad. She slays.

Bold Nude Photos Celebrate The ‘Fat Love’ Affairs That Go Unnoticed

Since 2007, photographer Substantia Jones has celebrated Valentine’s Day by taking pictures of couples in love ― often in various states of undress. What separates her work from the barrage of lovesick images circulating the internet around this time of year, however, is that Jones’ subjects are fat.

“There’s this curious misconception that fat people don’t experience love, sex and romance,” Jones explained in an email to The Huffington Post. “Or perhaps that they aren’t worthy of having satisfying relationships.”

Jones’ ongoing photo series hopes to do away with this false impression by generating stacks of images that too often remain invisible ― images of fat people in love affairs. The series is called “The Adipositivity Project” (adipose meaning “of or relating to fat”).

competition · cycling · fitness

Kim steals Sam’s QOM and you’ll never guess what happens next…

(Nothing too dramatic. Sorry. I’ve just always wanted to write one of those headlines.)

As you might have read yesterday morning Kim kicked off the cycling season by stealing another of my QOMs!

Of all the comments on Facebook when I shared this news, as one does, I liked my partner Jeff’s response best, “it’s early days.” It’s the start of the cycling season and time to rebuild fitness  I’m not going to worry about QOMs just yet 

Later, I’ll worry. Here’s my post about end of season QOM hunting.

There are two ways to be best on a particular segment of a ride on Strava, all time best and best so far this year. I laughed yesterday because I’m currently the fastest woman riding up the hill to campus in 2017. That’s because so far this year I’m the only woman who’s ridden up the hill and who uses Strava. My time is 1:14, not even close to my own personal best of 44 seconds. That was in October 2015 

It’s not bad overall, 7th, but I plan to move up the list this summer. Kim currently holds the all time QOM at 29 seconds. I think that one is safe in her hands 

You need to get a good run at it, have the traffic light timed perfectly, and not have any students or geese walk out in front of you. I’m usually too fearful to go all out. But maybe on the weekend, or early in the morning, maybe…

Wish me luck!

Here’s how I feel end of season about Strava QOMs.

But this is more how I feel right now.


This Girl Can!

“Sport England’s ground-breaking “This girl can” campaign returns with a new ad that broadens its scope to get more women exercising.The 2017 campaign focuses on a wider age range and variety of women, as well as sharing new messages such as it’s okay to take a break from sport. It is set to a voiceover of the late Maya Angelou reciting her poem “Phenomenal Women”. The ad was once again created by FCB Inferno and directed by Kim Gehrig through Somesuch.” Read more here.

I have nothing else to say other than “I love this.” I might just watch it on repeat for awhile. You can find the 2015 original This Girl Can ad here.

Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

A Controversial Jersey (Reblog)

Originally posted at

by Jenny Ellison

Hockey Canada created a national women’s team in 1990, and the first official Women’s World Hockey Championship was held in Ottawa that same year. Organizers of the tournament initially struggled to sell tickets. As a publicity stunt, the tournament committee decided to have Team Canada wear pink jerseys and white satin hockey pants.

Many female players and organizers were angry. They felt that pink uniforms trivialized the athleticism of the new national women’s team. The controversial decision paid off, however, in publicity and ticket sales. Team Canada won gold at the tournament, and the pink jerseys were retired.

The pink jerseys were not the first time a women’s hockey uniform had been controversial. In 1938, members of the Preston Rivulettes were forbidden to wear their jerseys in the national women’s championships, because the jerseys bore the name of the team’s sponsor: the Preston Springs Hotel. The team had agreed to add “Springs” to their jerseys, in exchange for money to buy new equipment.

The problem was that sponsorship was prohibited by the Dominion Women’s Amateur Hockey Association, sponsor of the tournament. Taking any kind of sponsorship or money was regarded by the public with suspicion, and players were expected to play simply for the love of the game. Members of the Rivulettes certainly loved hockey, but they also needed help to pay for new equipment.

Read the rest here.

2.Hockey uniform and skates that belonged to Hilda Ranscombe, star player with the Preston Rivulettes. Canadian Museum of History, IMG 2016 0253 0021-DM
Hockey uniform and skates that belonged to Hilda Ranscombe, star player with the Preston Rivulettes. Canadian Museum of History, IMG 2016 0253 0021-DM



cycling · fitness

Three gorgeous days, three fabulous rides

Winter has lifted! Temporary reprieve, maybe, but Southern Ontario basked in sunshine and double-digit (celsius) temperatures this past (long) weekend, allowing previously S.A.D. friends, neighbours, and sport aficionados to come out of their dens, stretch their arms into the sky, and see light at the end of the seasonal tunnel.


[This photo shows a group of my students from Western University playing and jumping in the leaves. In the foreground are a young woman and a young man, arms and legs in the air, smiling in a happy, goofy way. The woman is wearing a turquoise top and a black skirt and boots; the man is wearing a striped jumper, jeans and loafers.]

As soon as I saw the forecast, I knew what was coming: a text from my riding friend Sue, copied to many of the hard-core touring members of my cycling club (the London Centennial Wheelers), to plan unofficial weekend club rides. In the end we did three: two very well attended tours Saturday and Monday mornings, and a smaller, even more hard-core, long ride north on Sunday for the keenest of the keeners. I decided to join Saturday and Monday, and Sunday I rode on my own in order to get a more controlled workout in.

Now, I’m not normally the kind of person who rides three days in a row. Unlike some of my club mates, I’m a voraciously eclectic sportsperson, and in addition to riding I row, I swim, I train, and I do yoga. I also walk a lot with my companion animal, Emma, and frequently that produces spontaneous hikes with friends in the back country around London and the GTHA. So typically I’ll do one club ride on a (spring, summer, or fall) weekend, sure – but one is enough. There’s lots of other outdoor activity to cram in!


[This photo shows me and my cycling club friend Suzanne in a close-up; we are wearing winter riding gear and I am covered in mud. We are both smiling into the camera; our clothing is reflective neon and Suzanne wears her cycling glasses. It was taken last winter on a (messy!) unofficial club ride.]

Not this weekend, though. First of all, the weather was, put simply, a gift. We hadn’t seen sun in so long that I was starting to think the heavens were as sad as I was about recent events in the U.S. and around the world! When the sun came up and the temperature rose on Saturday morning, I just could not resist the thought of getting out on my bike over and over again. After several months of sitting in a basement on a trainer, well – what a blessed change!

Beyond the lure of spring, though, was the looming pressure of something else: in three weeks’ time I’ll be in South Carolina, at Table Rock state park, riding for six days straight with friends connected to Sam’s cycling coach, Chris. We will be doing 70-100km a day, and there will be a lot of climbing (mountains!). I’ve done multi-day cycle trips before and I know what it feels like to ride hard, eat, sleep, wake up, and ride hard again: it’s, well, HARD. It requires some preparation on the routine and endurance front, regardless of how much base fitness I’ve amassed over the winter on my trainer and rollers. So I knew getting out all three days this weekend would be essential preparation for that journey.

How were the actual rides, then? Glorious, warming, instructive – though they were not easy, I know now that I am where I need to be fitness-wise and will be fine in South Carolina.

Here’s a quick play-by-play of what we did and what I learned.

DAY ONE: Saturday 18 February. There were probably 20 of us at the regular club meet-up  point in downtown London at 9am; I saw friends I’d missed all winter, as well as a few I didn’t expect to see (including Cheryl, who will be with me at Table Rock!). Although the ride was unofficial, our tour director, Jeff, had a loose plan: the wind dictated we would go south and west. We set off as a bunch, but by the one-third point it was becoming clear who had been keeping fit over winter and who had not spent as much time on the trainer; some were struggling to keep up, and others were keen to push the pace. As we sailed south of the highway and west of the indigenous Oneida community nearby, we were starting to break up; one group member, a very keen, fast racer, was making things harder for the slowest in the group as he sought to pull beyond 30kph.

So, like, I was holding on, but still: that’s not ok. As many of us noted, it’s February! Nobody should be racing – or pushing a race pace – right now! When Jeff started to really press the rogue racer to slow down, we tacitly agreed to let him go off on his own. The rest of us regrouped and happily stopped for a snack and a coffee in Delaware, a little town just west of London. Then we did the short, sharp hill out of town, followed by “heartbreak hill”, our local long climb with the trick ending. A few punched it; Cheryl and I decided that slow and steady wins the race – and better prepares us for the climbs in Table Rock too. After all was said and done I’d logged 72km and 351 metres of climbing, and was feeling absolutely fine the rest of the day. A great start to the weekend’s riding.

DAY TWO: Sunday 19 February. Today I decided to skip the group ride and do my own thing. I got my period overnight, and was feeling crampy and groggy in the morning; I slept in rather than jumping out of bed at 7am, and when the sun reached its peak I pulled on some shorts (SHORTS! IN FEBRUARY!) and a light winter jersey and went south to the town of Belmont. The wind was brisk from the west – aka the opposite direction – but I decided not to care; again, it’s February. I’m not looking for personal bests, and I don’t so much care when I ride into the wind as long as I don’t let my heart rate spike too high when I do.

Plus, I felt the siren song of riding straight into the warm, welcoming sunshine.


[This image shows a water tower with the word “Belmont” in blue letters at its top, to the right of a two story yellow brick farm house. The sky is blue with a few clouds. The Belmont Strava segment is ironically – maybe? – called “city of wonder, city of light”.]

The tailwind blew me into Belmont. I worked at a low aerobic pace for most of the first half of the ride, and STILL managed to steal the QOM from Sam (sorry, Sam!); I paid for it on the way back, though, with the headwind holding me at around 24kph. I used that as an excuse to just stay aerobic; I tried to ignore my bike computer and stay low on the hoods and in the drops, enjoying the sunshine and feeling the mid-range work in my legs. At the end of it all I’d done 52km, and finally held a nice 27.5kph average, even with the headwind for the back 25km. A nice day’s work, and a welcome chance to be out in the sun, alone with my thoughts.

DAY THREE: Monday 20 February. Another big, unofficial LCW group met at 9am, and this time we rode east into the wind, to the town of Thamesford. The group was a bit more evenly matched than it had been on Saturday, and we worked pretty well together all the way to the coffee stop. After two days of riding, and 124km (a good amount for February, after a winter in the basement, I think!), I was still feeling happy, keen and strong; I took a lot of turns voluntarily at the front of the pack.

I have to stress that, usually, with my club, I’m a mid-range rider and just as happy to get off the front: I’m not the strongest and not the weakest. On today’s ride I could really tell my trainer and ergometer fitness was solid, though; I was feeling the benefits of some real endurance over the weekend and I was holding the front of the peloton longer than some of my usually stronger club-mates. I know by mid-season they will have overtaken me again, but right now I think I’m in a great place, fitness-wise, and am happy about that and looking forward to South Carolina!


[This image shows four Ontario alpacas in a farm field; the two on the left are white, and the two on the right are brown. One of each colour is a baby. The adult brown animal has its head down, grazing; the baby brown animal is looking into the back distance. The sun is shining although the sky is not blue.]

After today’s coffee stop I veered off course with my friend Leif, and we headed down a side road to visit one of our local alpaca farms. So wonderful to see the animals out and enjoying the sunshine! We gossiped and talked politics, gear, and cycling fashion. It was a really nice end to three glorious stolen days of riding.

Wherever you are, I hope it’s sunny and warm! Happy riding!



Sam feels wishy washy about the warm weather

I don’t know about you but as a resident of North America enjoying unseasonably warm weather, I’ve got mixed feelings. Sun! Warmth! But also it feels a bit doom like.

After all while Canadians are enjoying a very warm end to winter, Australians are roasting. Our country gets slightly more liveable while their’s gets slightly less.

This piece explores the ethics of enjoying the warm weather when we know it’s linked to an impending global catastrophe. 

They conclude that it’s okay to see the effects of global warming as a mixed bag. No guilt needed.

My day included a long dog hike without the Fitbit, then 10,000 steps after putting the Fitbit on, and bike commuting with bonus errands. Somehow the nice weather makes this easy.

Here’s my hiking companion, Cheddar.

How do you feel about this warm weather in February? I sighed when I put my skates and skis away. But mostly I’m happy to get back on my bike.