riding alone, advice, motivation?

I wrote yesterday about missing my bike. I haven’t been riding much since the bike rally. This year there was no Gran Fondo, no Three Port Tour. Instead, August was about boats not bikes though one day Sarah and I managed to combine the two. That might have been my last ride on my road bike of any distance and it was more than a month ago.

While there isn’t snow on the ground. Weird.

Since then though I’ve been faced with the challenge of riding alone and in the face of that challenge mostly not riding.

In the past Tracy had loved doing things alone. Not me.

I work alone most of the time and I like to combine socializing with fitness activities. When I’m feeling more competitive I like to work out with others because I find it’s much more likely to motivate me to go fast and ride longer.

I find riding alone lonely, not particularly motivational, and frankly, a little bit scary.

When I look for cycling motivation, this is the sort of image that speaks to me.

Who wants to be out there alone?

Well, not even Tracy now. But Past Tracy.

But given the new big job and extra demands on my time, I’m finding I’m not free to ride when others are riding and then when I have time, there is no one to ride with.

I’m a bit bummed out about it.

But I’m trying to think of the bright side.

Here’s one thing: I can do my own thing. I can ride at the speed I want to ride that day and not worry about dropping people or worry about keeping up. I can do intervals and hill repeats.

Further, there’s no need to compromise my schedule. I can just go when I want to go. I’ve got some free time during the daylight hours in the week. I should just ride.

And I will.

I’ve been thinking though about safety. Yes, I’ve got ID with me at all times. I can fix a flat and I’ve got the stuff to do that. I’ve got my phone. I’ll keep my rear light on.

Anything else?

I’ve thought about using either Google or Garmin’s Beacon service to allow family members to track my rides.

So what’s your advice? Assume I need to ride alone at least some of the time. I can’t just ride with other people every few weeks to stay fit enough. It needs to be a regular thing.

What’s your motivation?

So you have any safety tips?

Here is a short film I love about a woman riding alone in the fall.


Sam misses her bike and needs to start riding again

This happens each year with the start of term. I get busy. I stop having long bike rides. I feel like I am ready to kill people or sob quietly in my room.

It’s September to start with, not my fave month: Struggling with September Sadness.

And there’s the hot flash thing. I’ve got to do something about it. Thankfully, Exercise during menopause could reduce hot flashes, study says

I need to start riding again. I know this.

Self, don’t do this. Ride.


(Guest Post) Embracing life on bike

by Susan Fullerton

I spent last weekend, the hottest of the year so far, biking 100 km over two days with my friend Susan Murdoch. The mini-tour, organized by Ontario by Bike (“OBB”), involved biking from Uxbridge to Lindsay, an overnight stay at a hotel in Lindsay, and then biking from Lindsay to Lakefield (or Peterborough if you wanted less distance), all along the Trans Canada Trail, with a group of 25 like-minded people. The biking was better on day two as there was much more variation in scenery, but both days, I thought the trail was well-maintained and there was lots of signage.

OBB is a project of Transportation Options, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering sustainable mobility and tourism solutions across Ontario. For cyclists, OBB offers a variety of information on cycling in Ontario, inspiring visitors and residents to explore more by bike. For tourism industry partners, OBB is a program certifying and promoting bicycle friendly businesses and cycle tourism in a growing number of regions across Ontario.

While on the trip and over the past few days, I’ve thought a lot about the privilege of being able to participate in the ride – both my own privilege and those of the riders around me. I observed that all of the riders were white, and those we spoke to were well-educated and well-travelled. Most rode expensive bikes. All appeared healthy and able-bodied, although there were all shapes, sizes and ages (14-84).

I’ve often acknowledged in the past how lucky I have felt to have the time, money, and health to visit some fascinating parts of the world. That’s changing for me – many of you will know that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five months ago. In fact, some of my biker chick friends immediately said, “Let’s plan another big bike adventure while you still can come with us”.

The diagnosis has definitely changed my perspective, especially about my body and what it can do. Now don’t get me wrong. I still whinged about my tender bits and my sore shoulder last weekend, but I’m sure that a year ago, I would have obsessed about what to wear on the trip, and I definitely would have been super self-conscious of the belly bulge over my bike shorts all day. I might have even worried about how fast I could bike compared to others around me. Not this year though. Instead of worrying about being judged by strangers, I had a great, relaxed weekend chatting with Murdoch, meeting new people, and seeing new parts of our beautiful province by bike.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I’m realizing all the things I can (still) do with my body and celebrating them without fear or judgment. Facing potentially significant changes to my mobility, I’m embracing life as never before.

A selfie, Susan Fullerton left and Susan Murdoch, right.

Susan Fullerton, a lawyer working for the government, lives in Toronto. She is an avid traveller who has had varying levels of fitness throughout her life. These days, she’s focused on being a reformed hoarder, trying to make better choices about how she spends her time and money.


Sam dislikes cooking (and she’s not alone)

You know that thing when you discover that you’re not alone? Today I was relieved to find out that I am not alone in my love of good food and dislike of cooking. See Only 10% of Americans love cooking.

I’ve come to think of cooking as being similar to sewing. As recently as the early 20th century, many people sewed their own clothing. Today the vast majority of Americans buy clothing made by someone else; the tiny minority who still buy fabric and raw materials do it mainly as a hobby. If that’s the kind of shift coming to the food industry, change leaders and corporate strategists will have their hands full.

And I think there is something right about that. The people I know who like to cook really like to cook. It’s a big deal. Like knitting. Or artisanal anything.

Or they’re the serious food fitness people who meal prep and track macros and who cook all their food on Sundays.

Without so many kids around to cook for I thought I might rediscover the joy of meal planning and cooking. But no. It’s not to be. Like choosing drapes or selecting dishes that match, this falls into the class of things I assumed I’d grow up and care about some day but I don’t.

See you at the prepared food sections of the local grocery store, or microwaving bags of broccoli, grilling the occasional cheese sandwich, scrambling some eggs, boiling pasta….all food prep that falls just shy of actual “cooking.” Except Christmas. On Christmas, I cook.

See past posts on my “meh” about cooking:


Trains, Planes, Automobiles, and Jet-lag #tbt

Despite that when I wrote this last year I ended with, “But unless there are ways of minimizing the impact of crossing time zones, I think my days of the five-day jaunt across the Atlantic are over,” here I am again in the UK for less than one week. I modified things a bit by trying something new: a day flight across the Atlantic instead of an overnight flight. Instead of arriving in London in the morning, I got to my hotel by 10:30 at night. Bedtime! Except my body didn’t feel quite ready yet. It’s an experiment that so far isn’t going all that well. Conference sessions start today. We’ll see if the adjustment period goes any better! Cheerio!

body image · fitness

You can run but you can’t hide: fat phobia in the dictionary

As an academic who works on public health ethics, body weight and image and health behaviors, I spend a lot of time thinking and reading and writing about fatness, fat phobia, body image and discrimination.  But sometimes, a girl’s gotta go teach logic.

I teach introduction to logic and critical thinking at my university, and have been doing so for a long long long long long time.  So, in order to try to keep things fresh and at least moderately interesting, I add new modules to my class.

There I was, working on a new module on types of definitions and terms.  There are a ton of them (if you’re interested, we meet Tues/Thurs at 12:30).  But one important contrast I teach the students is between lexical and persuasive definitions. Here’s an example:

  1. democracy: control of a group or organization by the majority of its members
  2. democracy: government by the weak and less-qualified parts of society

The first is a neutral definition (lexical), which I got from a dictionary.  The second is a persuasive definition, designed to make you disapprove of democracy.  It imparts an emotive message in the purported meaning; it’s designed to distort.

In the course of looking for interesting examples for my logic slides, I came across the term “overweight”.  Great, I thought– I can compare lexical and persuasive definitions!

graphic of the words "But Wait!"

Tried though I might to find a neutral, dictionary-type definition of overweight, I kept coming up short.  Here’s an online dictionary definition:

A shot of google's dictionary definition of "overweight" which says "above a weight considered normal or desirable".
A shot of google’s dictionary definition of “overweight” which says “above a weight considered normal or desirable”.


So “overweight” means “a weight that’s so high that it’s not normal, not desirable.”  It’s conveying the message that anyone who is overweight weighs too much to be considered normal, and that such a weight is not one that anyone would/should ever want.  Okay– that was conveyed efficiently.  Check.

Well, maybe google is a little fat phobic; I’ll try Wikipedia.  Here’s what I found:

The Wikipedia page for "overweight". It's chock-full of normative words which I discuss below.
The Wikipedia page for “overweight”. It’s chock-full of normative words which I discuss below.


Well, it is more thorough– in its fat-shaming through claims about health and body weight.  If you’re overweight, you’re not optimally healthy (sez Wikipedia).  And the healthy body, if it accumulates too much storage fat, becomes impaired with respect to movement and flexibility.  And– the appearance is altered.

I can see that the writer of this page tried a little harder to be neutral, but they failed.  Being overweight is sub-optimal for health, and impairs movement and flexibility.

Apparently this woman didn’t read the Wikipedia page about impaired flexibility.

Jessamyn Stanley, a large-sized brown-skinned yogi, in a triumphant split on a boardwalk.
Jessamyn Stanley, a large-sized brown-skinned yogi, in a triumphant split on a boardwalk.


I can’t keep myself from posting another photo of her.

Jessamyn Stanley in a modified triangle pose (maybe), legs apart and straight, torso bent overleft arm over head on calf, left arm holding other thigh.
Jessamyn Stanley in a modified triangle pose (maybe), legs apart and straight, torso bent overleft arm over head on calf, left arm holding other thigh.


Okay, I’m done now with the pictures.  But you can check out more Instagram images of her here.

I looked at a bunch of different dictionaries.  Here’s Merriam Webster– a standard one.

Merriam Webster's definition of "overweight"-- weight over and above what is required or allowed, and excessive or burdensome weight.
Merriam Webster’s definition of “overweight”– weight over and above what is required or allowed, and excessive or burdensome weight.


Wow- it just keeps getting worse.  Now I hear that I’m required not to have a weight above some standard, so I’m not even allowed to be overweight.  And furthermore this amount of weight that I have is burdensome.  Good lord.

Is it any wonder that fat phobia is so pervasive?  It’s even in all the dictionaries.

I do have a proposal for dealing with the term “overweight”, and it comes from my intro logic class.  There’s something called a “precising” definition, which is a definition you use when you need a very precise term for some context.  So for instance, to define “adult” for purposes of registering to vote, regions have specific guidelines and requirements for when the person has to be at least 18 years old.  We use precising definitions in law, medicine, and other fields where we need unambiguous terms.

So how about this?  “Overweight” means “has a score of 25 or greater on the BMI scale”.  We still need to futz with this to make it perfectly precise (there are different BMI scales for different demographic groups and age groups, etc.), but this is a neutral way to deal with it.

Please know– I’m not endorsing the BMI scale as meaning anything particular about us, our sizes, our health, our attractiveness or anything.  But it’s a way to bury the term “overweight” in a pile of technical medical terms, where it belongs (if it indeed belongs anywhere).

The cool thing about language is that it turns on a dime.  We can change it by changing our usage.  The dictionaries work for US– they pick up on that usage and change their entries accordingly.

So do you use the term “overweight”?  What does it mean for you?  What descriptive language do you use about bodies?  Or do you not tend to use it at all?  I’m interested in your usage and your thoughts.






Rational dread, existential lullabies, hot flashes, and the changing of seasons

I posted on Facebook the other day that while sleep may be my super power, hot flashes are my kryptonite.

“So hot flashes, I’m not a fan. Usually I’m too cold so I thought they might not be so bad. But flinging off the blankets doesn’t help. Cold water doesn’t help. It’s like you’re heating up from the inside. I also had hoped this might miss me. I pretty much survived pregnancy three times with no bad effects. But peri-menopause, you win.”

Nat chimed in, “Ugh. Sorry. They totally suck!! Mine also come with a feeling of dread/panic. Good times.”

You see for me they are also accompanied by dread and panic. But it’s hard to tell how much of that is hot flash related. Yep. I keep waking up thinking the world is ending. Okay, the world, the planet, will be fine. It’s human beings I’m most concerned about.

Doesn’t help that I am actually worried that the world is ending. Rational dread. My fave.

It’s also the fall, my sad season.

Here’s a Kathy Bates lullaby to get us back to sleep, Nat.

One of the things that kills me is that all the usual medical websites say they really don’t know what causes flashes. I read that and thought, really. Really?

The Mayo Clinic unhelpfully says,
The cause of hot flashes isn’t known, but it’s likely related to several factors. These include changes in reproductive hormones and in your body’s thermostat (hypothalamus), which becomes more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature.

It’s one of those things where I find myself thinking, there’s no way men would put up with this. There would be research institutes, public awareness campaigns, and an urgent cry for a cure. They just wouldn’t put up with it.

It also put me in mind of a great piece over at Hook & Eye about breaking our feet and walking anyway. Don’t do that!

Finally, I’m also reading Susie Strachan’s piece (she’s an old friend from my Canadian University Press days) Managing Menopause.

You can tell me what worked for you. I’ll listen. Your stories interest me. But I’ve got a family history of breast cancer that makes hormone replacement therapy unlikely. I’m also still the woman menopause forgot because it’ll be months before I’m officially menopausal.


On running with friends

It amazes me when I reflect back on when I first got back to running over five years ago that I used to prefer running alone. Or at least that’s what I said. I liked the alone time. I said:

When I see packs of runners going by, I occasionally feel a bit of envy for the camaraderie, but my more visceral reaction is aversion. Why? Because I love this time alone. I have always sought solitude and silence, and running is a perfect opportunity for it.

I think in fact I didn’t want to run with anyone because I thought I would hold them back. Because now I love running with friends. Anita, Julie, and I got really comfortable running together most Sundays, sometimes for a couple of hours when training for a long event.

With Anita gone to England for the year and Julie and not quite yet into our fall rhythm (because I’ve been traveling and she’s still paddle boarding because it’s so hot out!), it’s been challenging even to get out the door. That’s how accustomed I’ve become to running with people.

Last week I made a plan with Linda, my coach. She’s a speedster but she is also committed to running at a variety of paces. She’s also a great coach, so when I said I’d like to get out with her some time so she could give check my form and help me a bit with cadence, she happily obliged.

I met her at the park at the end of one of our unseasonably hot days, right after personal training with Paul (not the best scheduling but things were tight last week). Linda strikes a great balance between being forgiving and exacting. She motivates me to push harder and at the same time makes me feel okay about things when I don’t fit in all the workouts or complete them as assigned. She’s one of the most positive people I know and I was excited about getting together with her for my speed work. 

I also wanted her to take me through the warm-up. Linda is extremely dedicated to the warm-up. It’s about five minutes at an easy pace followed by some dynamic stretching and then a few very short sprint-recovery bursts of about 60m each. It was raining a little bit when we started, but considering the heat it was welcome and refreshing. 

After the warm-up we started in on my 8x200m intervals. Linda had her garmin set for the distance (as did I) and also to tell us when we were on (my) pace of 5:34 minutes per K. It’s a do-able exertion for me. I can maintain it pretty well for 200m and managed to do so for almost all 8. 

Here’s where running with someone can make all the difference. If I hadn’t had Linda there telling me when to speed up or slow down (amazingly that was necessary a couple of times), I don’t know if I would have completed the workout as prescribed. I’m not even sure I would have gone. I doubt I’d have done as thorough a warm-up and I wouldn’t likely have taken five minutes of a cool down either. And all the while chatting (mostly Linda because I was feeling too exterted to say much except on the recovery intervals. 

I’m heading to England for a conference now and I will be seeing Anita. Yay! Not sure if we will get out for a run together. Maybe. We will see. Either way, I’m pumped to get back on track with Julie when I return, and Linda and I are going to go out together again. 

I don’t have a very recent photo of a real run with friends, but here are Sam and I running together during our book photo shoot (photo credit: Ruth Kivalahti of Ruthless Images).  We don’t actually run together because on Sundays, when I’m most likely to want company for a long run, Sam is out biking (and she doesn’t do long running distances anymore). 

See how much fun we are having? Running alone is all fine and good. I still appreciate it and I do more of it than with friends. But I love getting out there with friends and sharing the fun (and sometimes agony), talking each other through the tough bits, and connecting and catching up. 

How do you feel about running with people versus running alone? What’s a happy balance for you? 😊


Using the carrot app to reward movement

Sam wrote this morning about replacing her fitbit with a garmin and noted all the “ink that’s been spilt” on this blog about tracker apps.  I personally giggle constantly at the way Tracy hates counting steps but keeps getting drawn in.  But really, how much does step counting or any kind of tracking motivate us?

Like Sam and Tracy, I have a history of getting bedazzled by devices, as the tangle of charging cords on my desk attests to.  I like to keep track of things — I have annual running and riding distance targets Strava tracks for me, and last year, I really did make an effort in the last three days to hit my riding target (it helped that I was on a bike trip at the time).  I’m doing the “217 workouts in 2017” challenge on Facebook, and I find that if I go a couple of days without posting anything, I do get my butt out for a run or to the gym.  I have every intention of hitting my annual target there.  (I’m at 169).

So on a macro level, keeping track of my fitness seems to motivate me to Do Things. But even though my garmin that I wear all the time as a watch keeps track of my steps, I rarely find myself trying to make a particular target on a daily basis.  I like to see a high number if I happen to hit one by walking around a strange city, but it’s very rare for me to go downstairs and walk around the block if I haven’t hit my basic target by 9 pm.

IMG_9881That changed when the Carrot Rewards app came along.  Carrot is a partnership between the Public Health Agency of Canada, various health promotion agencies and private sector partners.  Basically, you pick the rewards you want — points for Air Canada miles, movie tickets, gas or Drop or More (which seem to be usable for things I don’t use) — and for every day you meet your step target, you “win” 2 points.  Once a week they send you little quizzes about health and wellness and you earn more points by answering them.   Mallory wrote about this when it first came out.

The Carrot app is wildly imperfect.  It counts steps by connecting either to your fitbit or health app on your phone, IMG_0408and at this point there are no links for garmin.  There are often huge discrepancies between what my garmin watch shows as my steps vs. my phone, with my watch showing usually 3000 – 4000 more steps per day.  I went for a run a couple of weeks ago and had my phone tucked into my hip belt, and my gait must have been too steady because the phone showed about 3km when my GPS tracked 8km.

And unlike some fitness trackers, Carrot doesn’t “convert” different activities to steps — I rode my bike 35 km around the city last Friday, but I didn’t meet my modest daily step goal.  My strava and garmin are linked to my apple health app on my phone, but the translation is imperfect — I have found that unless I sync my garmin twice a day (hard, because no bluetooth), the steps never show up retroactively on the carrot app.  And conversely, yesterday I went for a 100 km bike ride, and my phone app tracked a mysterious 201 km ridden, nearly 13000 steps (and 147 flights climbed, lol) vs. the 6500 steps on my watch.

Apple health app yesterday — I did not ride 200 km!

In other words, the apple health app is wonky and the Carrot app is kind of merely notional.  If you are an avid and meticulous counter of steps, it will probably piss you off.  I can’t speak for androids, but the way the apple health tracks steps is buggy.  And — I love it.  I love to travel, and getting aeroplan points for doing what I do most days anyway gives me a tiny twinge of pleasure at the end of every day.  I love the extra boost I get from the weekly quizzes where I get to feel smug about knowing most of the answers, and then getting 5 – 10 aeroplan points.  And — unlike every other step tracker I’ve used — it actually motivates me to get up, leave my house at 9 pm and walk the additional 1500 or 2000 steps I might have missed earlier in the day.   Although I might get an ice cream cone on that walk :-).

Me riding my bike ridiculously far yesterday on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year.  Note all the dead bugs on my forehead. 


Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, a regular contributor to this blog.  She lives and works in Toronto.  


Stress tracking and not screaming at my Garmin

As blog readers know I recently swapped my dying FitBit for an alive and well Garmin. Other than sturdy, I wasn’t expecting much difference between the two. Neither has a GPS. They both track sleep, exercise minutes, and heart rate.

Now the bossy MOVE! notifications bother me but it turns out that so too does the stress advice. See below reports for low, moderate, and high stress days.

How does this work? According to Garmin stress tracking mode gives you a score (1-100) and ranking (low/med/high) and monitors your stress levels constantly.

But for when I’m told that I’m experiencing too much stress my response is to yell or mutter at the Garmin.

Do you know there’s a category 5 hurricane out and about? You do realize, Donald Trump just threatened to blow up North Korea, right? And I have to sell my house and but a new one. And I have young adults in my life mid launch.

When it occurred Wednesday, the day I teach five hours, I just laughed. It has occurred to me that maybe a new Dean needs some help with stress management!

(I do have the option of removing this information from watch. You get to choose what you track and I like that.)

However, so far I’ve been refusing the Garmin’s offer of help. People who review the device like its stress relief prompts. My new watch also offers a stress cure, breathing exercises to calm you down.

Maybe I’ll try them.

Have you used a fitness tracking device that monitors stress? Do you like it? Do you use the exercises?