fitness · martial arts · motivation

Fighting With Myself (Guest Post)

The hardest fight I have in Taekwondo is the battle with myself. In order to make progress and to improve my skills, I have to fight my concept of time and my sense of ‘good practice.’

An agenda book with a pen

I want to do everything at once and I want to do it at the perfect time. In the fictional world where I can do this, my practice space is tidy, my work is neatly portioned into appropriate slots, and my family is delightfully engaged in their own wholesome pursuits. And, of course, in this world, I know the exact right thing to practice at this point. My perfect practice self has identified a course of progressive work that starts at the ‘true’ baseline and will bring me forward in a logical fashion. This will lead naturally toward my goal of being a super-fit Taekwondo genius with strength beyond measure.

I can hear you laughing at me from here. It’s okay. Go ahead.

I know I am being ridiculous.

I know there is no perfect practice time and there is no perfect practice plan. I know that something is better than nothing. I know that any work will bring me closer to being a 3rd degree black belt.

Yet, I get tangled up in this intellectual exercise of perfect practice at the perfect time. It ensnares me so completely that I have trouble doing anything at all.

This doesn’t just happen to me with exercise, of course. I have the same trouble with all kinds of things. The familiarity of the feeling has indeed bred contempt but it still crops up all the time.

When I make a plan to exercise in the morning, my brain gives me 5 or 6 reasons why it’s really not the best time – it’s better to write first thing, or I should probably focus on getting enough sleep, or, I am not awake enough to have good form, or I might not have time to shower afterward and that will throw off my morning.

When I plan to exercise in the afternoon, the litany goes like this – you don’t want to waste water taking two showers a day so you’ll feel weird all day until you exercise, or you will probably be in the middle of something in the afternoon and you won’t want to stop, or that it will be a hassle to change clothes and put on a sports bra in the middle of the day.

The evening is no better because then my brain says that I am taking away from family time and that if I work too hard, I will have trouble sleeping later.

I would be less annoyed about all of this if I didn’t actually enjoy exercising. No matter what time of day I actually get over myself and start moving, I always like it, but my brain forgets that in the effort of finding the perfect schedule.

After I clear that scheduling hurdle, though, I have to win the battle of the perfect practice. (Yes, I get on my own nerves with this part, too.)

In my post two weeks ago, I identified all of the things that I want to improve as I move toward my next belt test. I want greater strength, I want greater balance, I want to improve my skills, and so on. The trouble is, that I want to do all of those things at once. Any time that I am working on one piece, my brain reminds me that I *should* be working on the others. It refuses to believe that I have to work on one thing at a time.

The problem is not that I want instant results – although, I’ll take them if someone is giving them out. It’s that some part of me refuses to believe that the results will be achieved by doing things one at a time. So, I keep seeking this perfect practice plan that will make it obvious to my brain that I am doing the *right* thing right now and that I am on the road to my goal.

I know better than this, too, of course. I know that I don’t actually need to do everything all at once. I can work on my balance today and my cardio tomorrow and it will all come together in the end, but, yet, I resist getting started. Some part of me fears that I will be ‘wasting time’ on the wrong exercises – and, no, the foolishness of thinking any that exercise could be wasted is not lost on me.

Typing this all out has made me even more aware of how silly all of this is. I am working against my own interests and I need to get over myself and take more action. I have to borrow from the basic tenets of Taekwondo and remind myself to use self-control and perseverance.

So, here’s how I am going to win this battle against myself: I am committing to practicing for at least 30 minutes in the morning for the next seven days. I will design my practice the night before and include a variety of exercises that will help me get stronger and have better balance.

I’m going to give myself the week off from overthinking my exercises and I am just going to enjoy them.

I’ll take this one week at a time for now. I don’t have to solve this all at once.

Here’s to winning this battle!



Happy birthday, Sam!

Image description:
Image description: “Happy birthday!” where each letter is a different colour (yellow, white, purpose, blue, white, green, orange) and it’s surrounded by cartoonish stars and flowers also in different colours, against a blurry coloured background.

I can’t even begin to list all the amazing gifts Fit Is a Feminist Issue has brought my way. But one of the biggest is being able to collaborate on something worthwhile with my longtime friend, Sam.

Happy birthday, Sam! You are awesome!

Lots of love,



Oh Routine, How I Love Thee!

Image description: cartoon of four owls (purple, green, blue, and peach) sitting on branches over the word
Image description: cartoon of four owls (purple, green, blue, and peach) sitting on branches over the word “September.”

A couple of weeks ago I was having breakfast with my friend, Tara, and we said at almost the same time something along the lines of, “Summer is great but I’m really looking forward to getting back to my routine.” For those of us on an academic cycle (and that includes non-academics who have school-aged kids), September gets us back to a more regular sense of schedule.

It’s easy to lament that because it usually means a change of pace. And for many of us September to April is a faster paced time. As an administrator, I’m on campus Monday through Friday for much of the summer as well. But hardly any of my colleagues are (because they’re busy at their research and prepping for new courses), and only a very few students are, and that just makes every day feel more spacious or something. I love campus in the summer. And I love my walk to work, which I seem unable to sustain once September comes. But I do miss the sense of routine that the more structured days of the school term bring.

And I’m consistent that way. I wrote a post back in August 2013 called, “Routines.” There I called routines the best thing about the end of summer. What’s good about routine?

What I like so much about a regular routine is that it establishes a rhythm to my day and my life. I don’t need to think, I can just fall into the beat of that rhythm. A routine at its best is a series of good habits, exercised effortlessly, with little thinking through.

But it’s hard to establish that rhythm in the absence of some structure, at least it was and is for me. It’s like flailing around in the dark or taking the very first arbitrary stab at a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

When I’ve got something solid to work around, things can start to fall into place. But for me (I’m sure others are better at this), it’s hard to create a good routine from dust. And that’s been my challenge this past year. So I am actually excited about getting back at it.

Yes, the rhythm. As I mentioned then too though, too much rigidity in the routine isn’t healthy for me. The routine gives the rhythm but there has to be space for some improv as well. Stuff comes up. Life happens. No routine is ever perfect. But if there is some basic structure to work with, a little hiccup here and there doesn’t bring the whole house down.

I’ve been sailing for over a week and 52 hours of that was a continuous stretch offshore, no land in sight. That’s about as far from my regular life, both literally and figuratively, as I’ll ever get. It’s comforting for a time, but if we did any long hauls offshore, like a Pacific crossing (I can dream), routine would have to take hold at some level to keep me grounded.

When I get home next week I’m going to be back at work. Back to my personal training. Back to regular running, including Sunday long runs with Julie. The blasted 100-day step challenge will be over (Sam wants it over too). The regulars for my Friday night women’s nights will all be back and we can get that going again. The week after that I start teaching again. And all of the committees I’m on will start meeting (I don’t mind — I like constructive committee work). And Tara and I will get together for breakfast once a week again instead of only every few weeks. Maybe it sounds hum-drum, but I like it.

What do you like most about routine?


100 days of counting steps: Are we there yet? #VirginPulse #GlobalChallenge! #GettheWorldMoving #WesternU

It’s Day 97! And like Tracy (see her blog post on wanting this to end any time now) I’m ready for the workplace team building step counting exercise to be over. It ends on my birthday. Yippee! Happy birthday to me!

Mostly I’m frustrated because my FitBit is broken (see Should Sam buy a new FitBit? What’s your two cents?) and while it counts steps it won’t sync with the app and so I have to manually enter my steps each day. Oh the horror! I know. It’s a ridiculous thing to mind but I found when my FitBit automatically uploaded the data and automatically synced with the Global whatever challenge app, I didn’t have to think about it. Steps were tracked and occasionally I just logged in to add bike miles. For some reason needing to remember each night and see what my steps were felt so much more onerous.

What I liked about the automatic counting was that I could pay attention or not. If it felt motivational, I went with it. If it started to feel oppressive I ignored it for a few days and just did my usual thing. Given that my usual thing is still pretty active that worked okay for me.

After 100 days of counting steps, where did I land? My average is somewhere between 18,000 and 19,000 steps a day thanks to dog companions, bike riding, and not driving very much. Also I learned that living in a large house with four stories makes a difference. I get up to 4,000 without even leaving the house thanks to basement laundry and lots of roaming from room to room looking for things. Here Garmin! Here heart rate monitor strap! Sports bras, come out come out wherever you are!

By comparison the average step count among those taking part at my university is 12,548.

But my team’s average is over 25,000 steps a day. Over-achievers! I’m part of a team with serious triathletes all training for Iron distance events. They easily leave me in the dust with all that running, biking, and swimming. They are the three activities the challenge tracks. I like the challenge of running with the big dogs. Being the one who aspires to keep up suits my personally. I don’t think I’d be happy being the top achiever on one of these teams.

I’m glad the challenge included my six bike rally days. You can see them below. Big big days.

I was less happy with the activities I do that it didn’t count, like paddling in Algonquin.

Even the portages only sort of count. I mean, yes it counts the steps but no special credit is given for the 50 lb canoe on your shoulders! Or the balance it takes to walk with a pack through ankle deep mud.

And strength training doesn’t count either.

Neither did all the carrying of patio stones and wood flooring and hampers of laundry I move about the house.

So while it’s one aspect of fitness I did find it shifted the focus away from other things I really care about.

Sam’s short version summary review of the challenge: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot more when my FitBit was working and I didn’t have to think about it. And I’ll be glad come my birthday when we’re done.


Reblog: Big Hill Trail (Yellowknife)

Fit is a Feminist Issue blogger Cate Creede on hiking in Yellowknife…



The trail is more of a route than a demarked trail, twisting through root-y trees, up over lichen covered boulders and down sheer sides, jutting sideways and over any place feet can safely be placed on this pre-Cambrian rock, among these northern trees.  The trail is unserviced but marked by community members, mostly with tape, an occasional cairn.

Everyone who marked it used different tape — yellow and pink trail tape, green painter’s tape, occasionally, white and blue stripes.  It’s the kind of trail where there is no just settling in and walking — after every marker, I have to lift my head and scan for the next marker.  In the 9 km or so I walk (far further than the estimated distance, maybe because of all my back and forths looking for the trail!), there are maybe two straight stretches of 50 m or so, both of these on…

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canoe · fitness · nature

Getting dirty and doing hard things

For the 4th year in a row I did a backcountry canoe camping trip in Algonquin in August. The first year was just me and Susan. That’s how our friendship really began. Hi Susan! Thanks so much for inviting me that first year. I missed you this time!

Then for the next two years we went with an extended group of family and friends including our teenagers and Susan’s mom. This year it was back to another two person trip, me and Sarah.

We’d planned a more adventurous trip with more paddling given that it was just the two of us this time but life, including a late start on day 1, got in the way. I also began the trip pretty tired after a big week at work (more on that later) and I was more ready for rest and beautiful scenery than an active adventure. But we had a bit of both.

See my before and after boot photo below? That’s after a really muddy portage. And guess what? For the first time ever I carried my own canoe. I was pretty happy to learn how to do that. I didn’t quite manage to get it up on my shoulders solo but I didn’t have to. I am going to practise in the backyard though.

I also did a small stint of the trip in the stern of the canoe and got a lesson in steering.

So even though this trip was big on hammock naps and low on endurance exercise, I got to paddle each day and wake up in one of the most beautiful places in the world. There was also delicious coffee. I saw a beaver very close up! One jumped on the rocks while we were star gazing at night. I saw carnivorous plants. And I learned some new hard things.

As Sarah reminded me, “This isn’t easy. If it were there’d be more people here.” True. Especially the hilly, muddy, buggy portages!

fitness · swimming

Water, water everywhere– touring pools on vacation

This weekend I’m in South Carolina at my family’s annual cousins picnic.  My mother and her cousins and their kids (and their kids) have a get-together every year, and people take turns hosting.  Pools play a prominent role in  these reunions, as two of our regular hosts– my sister Elizabeth and my cousin Lee– have in-ground pools at their houses.

I’m a real sucker for pools and hot tubs (and indeed, any watery location for splashing, swimming, and floating).  Whenever I’m traveling, I try to stay at a hotel with a pool.  It’s a low-key way to get a little serenity and purposeful or playful movement.  It’s also a great antidote to the cramped conditions of flying.

Friday night was pool visit number one.  My sister’s family is lucky to have a backyard pool (which, FYI, requires a lot-a-lot of maintenance).  Here’s a picture of it taken by my very talented niece Grace:

View of a blue-water pool, wit two reclining chairs on its patio, backed by a black wrought-iron fence, and lake in the background.
View of a blue-water pool, wit two reclining chairs on its patio, backed by a black wrought-iron fence, and lake in the background.

Here’s a night view, with my nephew Gray:

My sister's pool at night, with blue-green water and underwater lights, with my nephew Gray ready to take the plunge.
My sister’s pool at night, with blue-green water and underwater lights, with my nephew Gray ready to take the plunge.

My favorite way to shake off travel fatigue is to immerse myself in water.  We frolicked and floated and attacked each other with large squirt guns (Gray is an expert at this), and got out of the pool, relaxed and mellow and smiling.

Saturday was our family reunion, and I drove my mother and two of the three kids to Myrtle Beach, SC– a three-hour drive.  Boy, was I ready for another pool experience.

Luckily, there was another pool awaiting my pleasure.  It’s this one:

An L-shaped pool with elevated hot tub, with a large patio, assorted arm and recliner chairs, and dunes in the background.
An L-shaped pool with elevated hot tub, with a large patio, assorted arm and recliner chairs, and dunes in the background.

It’s quiet here, but for most of the party there were a lot of folks (ages ranging from 6 months to 75 years) engaged in traditional pool-party activities.  My nephew Gray (age 12) spent about 7/8 of the reunion in the pool– not a bad call.  Tip: if you end up talking politics at a family gathering, it’s much more pleasant to do so in a pool.  Things just can’t get too heated (ok, that was my attempt at a silly joke.  Forgive me.)

Today I’m at a big hotel on the beach, spending a couple of nights with my sister and her kids before heading back to Boston (and tackling as-yet undone syllabi and other work to-do items).  The ocean is lovely.  However, there’s a coastal advisory about higher winds and rip currents, so actual swimming in the ocean is not advised.

Not to worry–pools are coming to the rescue.  Today (in fact, as soon as I post this), we are headed down to explore pools and hot tubs and lazy rivers.  Who knows, maybe we’ll discover a splash pad?  Here are a few pics of them:

A big patio with a blue-water pool and loads of reclining and arm chairs.
A big patio with a blue-water pool and loads of reclining and arm chairs.
Another undulating shape of a pool at dusk, with one of the high-rises in the background.
Another undulating shape of a pool at dusk, with one of the high-rises in the background.
A hot tub under a roof; there are 5 other hot tubs under the stars. Ahhh....
A hot tub under a roof; there are 5 other hot tubs under the stars. Ahhh….

So readers, what are your views on pools, and in particular seizing the opportunity to take the plunge?  I’d love to know.