fitness · yoga

Life upside down: enjoying yoga inversions

Since I posted a week ago about doing yoga 10 days in a row, I’ve been feeling psyched (and yes, sometimes pressured, but it’s also a form of motivation) about doing some yoga every day.  It’s starting to become a routine before I go to bed.

What I love the most about this routine (in addition to how it helps me feel less creaky) is that I get to choose what yoga I do.  When I take classes, I go through a practice that is systematic, or comprehensive, or otherwise well-grounded in views about what a yoga workout looks like.  But when it’s up to me, I feel like (at this point in my everyday-yoga practice) that I can do exactly what I want.  It’s kind of like choosing my favorite dessert each night.  Yes, we should balance our exercise diets, but for now, my only goal is consistency.  So I’m going for the good stuff.

So what’s the good yoga stuff, according to me?

One word:  Inversions.  

What are inversions?  Here is what Yoga Journal has to say about it:

Considering most of our lives are spent with our heads held high, legs below, reversing this arrangement feels like a refreshing change of pace. Plus, it’s got lots of benefits. For starters, inversions build upper-body strength, balance, and confidence, and they prompt you to see the world from a new perspective (literally!). Moving into postures where your head is lower than your heart also helps to prevent lymphatic fluid from pooling in your legs (a result of our upright lives), while increasing circulation to your brain—a combo that instantly boosts energy. Then, there’s the fact that inversions can be just plain fun. They give us an opportunity to get a little playful with our practice and not take ourselves so seriously.

Some inverted postures are considered advanced, as they require some strength and care to prevent injury to neck, back and shoulders.  So don’t try these on your own before you’ve had some instruction.  That said, here are some of my favorites:

In Laura’s post about 100 days of yoga, she talks about doing legs-up-the-wall when she couldn’t do any other pose.  I do this every day, as it’s one of the most restful and pleasurable positions for me.  Here it is:

A woman lying on the floor, face up, with arms spread out in a T, and legs up and against a wall. Her butt is on a cushion against the wall.
A woman lying on the floor, face up, with arms spread out in a T, and legs up and against a wall. Her butt is on a cushion against the wall.

One of my favorite variants on this pose is the waterfall pose, in which your legs are in the air, and your butt is resting on a yoga block or cushion.  It is incredibly restful and also energizing for your legs.  Here’s what it looks like:

A woman lying on the floor, a yoga block under her sacrum (lower spine, near buttocks), with legs in the air and arms spread apart.
A woman lying on the floor, a yoga block under her sacrum (lower spine, near buttocks), with legs in the air and arms spread apart.

This pose may look like it takes some effort, but it is super relaxing.  You adjust the block (or cushion) so that your legs can hang in the air with no effort at all.  I could stay in this pose for hours (well, sort of).

Most of the rest of the inverted postures are pretty active ones.  I love downward facing dog, which is this one:

Yogi Jessamyn Stanley in downward dog, with legs on a mat, hips in the air, head down, and arms on the mat, in an inverted V.
Yogi Jessamyn Stanley in downward dog, with legs on a mat, hips in the air, head down, and arms on the mat, in an inverted V.

It took a while to figure out how to hang out in this pose without lots of pressure on my wrists and shoulders.  The key is lifting the hips up and back, imagining making length in your vertebra.  This process somehow (at least for me) sends the hips and legs back, and the strength of those muscles (which are meant to carry us and hold us up) takes care of everything.  You just hang out and breathe.

Another inverted pose that makes me very happy is forward fold.  Here’s Jessamyn Stanley again, showing it with soft knees (which is protective of our tender joints).

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 1.58.31 PM
Yogi Jessamyn Stanley, in forward fold. She is standing on a mat, bent over forward, knees slightly bent, hands down, with arms hanging down by her sides.


There are also a bunch of advanced yoga inversions– headstands, handstands, shoulder stands, the plow and wheel poses– I could go on.  I hope to do some of these sometime.  But not tonight or tomorrow.  Which is okay, because I get to go upside down in whatever ways I want.

fitness · swimming

(Guest post) Distance swimming– what is it good for? Everything!

Here’s a guest post by Michele M (posted by Catherine W)

Content note: This post contains some talk about eating disorders.

Last week, I swam 10.3 miles in the Tennessee River in 5 hours and 8 minutes. I used the race to raise money for a family with two small boys who just lost their mom, at 34, to breast cancer. She was one of my closest friends. This race was not my first long distance swim and it is certainly not going to be my last. But this one was special insofar as it marked a transition in the way I think about my body, what it is capable of, and how I have been treating it. I also came to realize more than ever that women are badass (duh). More on that later.

Me, pre-race, with my son.
Me, pre-race, with my son.


I have always had a hard time declaring “I’m an athlete” without simultaneously assuming everyone must know I am an impostor. Despite growing up doing ballet and swimming competitively, apprenticing with the Atlanta ballet during college, and today, staring at a shelf full of trophies from numerous races I’ve completed, even ones where I was first or second female overall, I feel like a fraud when I even try to think privately to myself ‘yeah, I’m an athlete.’ I think this is because deep, deep down inside I am still battling the demons of anorexia and bulimia and over the years, I have added long-distance swimming and triathlons to my repertoire to beat those demons down even further. And all those eating disordered voices have been pushed down and out pretty far, so far in fact that they are almost mute and unrecognizable. But I would be a liar if I denied that a huge part of what drives me to swim farther than most humans care to run is a fear of uncontrollably gaining weight. Swimming absurd distances, ironically, lets me obsess over eating for very different reasons. Turns out, that if you are going to swim 5, 6, 10, 13 miles in open water, you need to EAT. Like, a lot. Who knew?

I’ve loved reading the posts on this blog and one written by Megan Dean recently really hit home with me. Responding to Google’s new fat-phobic feature that lets you know how many cupcakes you will walk off on a particular journey, she said she has actively tried to keep calories out of her life, instead focusing on fitness and food for the pleasure they bring her. I couldn’t agree more, and I wish it were an easy thing to do – to simply ignore all that data. But it’s shoved in our faces more and more each day. My Apple watch constantly reminds me I have ‘x’ number of calories left to burn for the day, and I get praised by the myriad of apps I have whenever I complete a workout, with something along the lines of “you burned soooo many calories today! Way to go champ!” Thus, rather than try to ignore it all, I have learned to use this information to remind, convince, and re-convince myself that 1. I am totally burning enough calories and will not uncontrollably gain weight and that 2. Yes, I am, in fact, an athlete.

Data also help me to train appropriately. With endurance racing, the problem often is not getting enough fuel or not getting the right kind. For this 10 mile swim, I really had to focus on my diet, but not in the obsessive calorie-restrictive ways I have been accustomed to as a ballerina. And it just naturally seems to happen that when I train for long distances swims, I pack on a few extra pounds. Training for the first major swim I did – Swim Around Key West, a 12.5 mile ocean swim – I was miserable because the scale just kept creeping up. Same thing happened with the 10k swim I did last year in Tampa. But finally, this year, I decided to just embrace it and see it as a sign that I was training correctly. Besides, the weight always levels back out when I return to a more running-heavy routine.

Moreover, when you gaze out at the array of bodies participating in these absurdly long swims, the variety of shapes and sizes is astounding. I recall thinking to myself as I prepared to hit the water the other day that half the people here look like they eat cheeseburgers and chug beer as a professional job (I think nervous, not-entirely-appropriate thoughts before races). And you know what? Every single one of them kicked my ass. Well, nearly all of them. I came in 85th out of 105 swimmers, even though I averaged 30 minute miles for over 10 miles. I got beaten by a 14-year-old boy, a 65-year-old man, many, many folks who appeared to be in way less shape than I, and, wait for it…a woman who was 31 weeks pregnant (she beat me by about 2 minutes). It is always a strange mix of humility and pride that I feel after one of these races – knowing that I got creamed by so many amazing swimmers, while also knowing I am capable of doing something very few people in the world will ever be able to add to their résumé.

Bodies of all sorts, ready for the water.
Bodies of all sorts, ready for the water.


More bodies-- this is what fitness looks like.
More bodies in swim caps– this is what fitness looks like.


The winner of this race, Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist, swam it in 3 hours 17 minutes, nearly 2 hours faster than I did. Of course, I was in awe of her time, but what struck me the most was that it was a WOMAN who won this race, hands down, by over 15 full minutes! And the next TWO swimmers were also women, who tied with a man at 3 hours 30 minutes.

Audrey Yap and I, along with Caren Diehl and Cassie Comley (a Sports Psychologist and Sociologist, respectively), recently co-authored a chapter in the forthcoming MIT Handbook of Embodied Cognition and Sports Psychology about stereotype threat and female athletes. We focused on martial arts, swimming and surfing, in order to show the ways stereotypes are maintained or disrupted in these sports. It was striking to find that in marathon swimming, the supposed gap between male and female performance is not as drastic as it is in sports like running, and when you start looking at major distances like the English Channel or the Manhattan Marathon, women often outperform men.  So, going into this race, I knew all that, but still, to see it happen in real life (not that I saw these fast-as-hell women finish – they were the ones waiting for me, drinking beer, looking like they didn’t even swim ten 19 minute miles) was nothing short of exhilarating. Women of marathon swimming are some of the most badass people I’ve ever met.

Sandra, at the finish.
Sandra, at the finish.


So yes, this race was super inspiring in so many ways. It was the first long distance swim I completed after having my son 16 months ago that I genuinely felt proud of (I completed a 6.5 mile swim 5 months postpartum, but it was too soon after birth and I was just not in shape for it). It was also an important stepping stone toward the next race I’ve challenged myself to do: a Half Ironman in April. (I think I can safely say I have the swimming part down).

But I was reminded, as I began to really hit the wall around mile 6, why nutrition and cross-training are so important. I could probably stand to do better at fueling my body, especially for Ironman-distance triathlons. And I could definitely stand to do more strength training. Old habits die hard and the phobia of turning into a ‘big woman who lifts weights’ keeps me out of the gym more than I’m proud of. But it would have been nice to have slightly stronger muscles to power me through that horrible 6-7 mile spot where I wanted to quit.

To this end, I’ve hired a coach to really help push me to my full potential in all three sports, but also in nutrition. And that means counting not calories so much as nutrients, electrolytes, and weird things like base salts. Most of all, it means letting go of what my body might start to look like the more I train. Thanks to the women who kicked this race’s ass, and to all the feelings I had getting out of that water after 5 hours of swimming, I was encouraged to keep working toward the most difficult goal I’ve ever set forth for myself: to love my body for what it can do, not so much for what it looks like. I’m never going to be able to beat the ‘skinny demons’ entirely, but becoming the strong and resilient marathon swimmer and triathlete I am today sure has made it easier to land a solid punch in their skinny-obsessed faces.

Me touching the finish buoy for my official time.
Me touching the finish buoy for my official time.


Michele is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Arkansas State, mom to a 17 month old who is the size of a 3 year old, partner to an Engineer/poet, and guardian of 2 dogs and 2 cats: Darwin, Tesla, Cixous, and Nom Chompsky. She is currently working on a book with University of Georgia Press, “Minding Dogs: Co-Evolving Cognition in the Human-Canine Dyad”.

martial arts

Representation Matters in Fitness, Too.

Last week, one of my Taekwondo instructors, Mrs. Cathy Downey, passed her 7th Degree black belt test. At that moment, she became MASTER Cathy Downey*, the first female ITF Taekwondo Master in Newfoundland and Labrador and one of only three female Masters in Canada.

Here’s MASTER Cathy Downey, with Grand Masters Lan and Marano, right after her successful test in Dublin, Ireland.
Photo credit: Senior Master Scott Downey

While I have always found her to be an inspiration, this latest accomplishment has really wowed me. I am fiercely proud of her for pushing forward in the male-slanted world of martial arts, and I have realized how much her competence and skill has paved the way for my development in TKD.

I have always been a pretty determined person but I also have to have sense that there is a point to what I am pushing toward. If I were in a typical TKD school, most of the senior students would be men, as would most of the instructors. However, in my school, because of Master Cathy Downey, students have a female role model. Achieving higher ranks seems possible for the women in the class. We don’t have to be an exception, we can strive to be like Master D.

Like I said in my title above, representation matters in fitness, too.

I am sure that we can attribute the sheer number of high ranking female students in our group to the fact that Master Cathy Downey is a vital part of our school. She shows us that women can do everything that we need to in order to excel at Taekwondo. And she does it without making us feel like an exception, she just assumes that we can do it.

And because she is so clearly skilled and so obviously competent, she sets a precedent. The women in the class are also assumed, by everyone, to be skilled and competent. There is no sense that we are skilled ‘for a girl’, we are just skilled. We are learning, just like everyone else.

Now that I have given it more thought. I’m a little shocked that I hadn’t really noticed this before. I knew how important Master D was to our school, but I hadn’t thought about her as a symbol before. I hadn’t realized that she is a marker of all that the other women can achieve.

Thanks to her efforts, we don’t have to prove that ‘a woman’ can do these things, we can just do them to the best of our abilities. Obviously, some of us will be more skilled than others, but any challenges, or even failures, will not be automatically attributed to our gender.

What incredible power there is in that. We can just BE.

I wish that everyone could have this feeling in their chosen fitness activities. I would love for you all to have a sense that ‘someone like you’ – your gender, your age, your shape, your whatever – can do the activity that you want to do and excel at at it.

How much better off would we all be if that were the case? What obstacles would be removed between you and your own version of fitness if you had proof that you could succeed?

I know that I have a lot of people cheering me on at Taekwondo. I have incredible support from women and men alike. In my class there’s a terrific 16-year-old kid who seems to have taken me on as a personal project. He helps when when I mess up, coaches me through difficult new steps and kicks, all without condescension. (Thanks, Patrick!) There’s a team of high-ranking women above me who encourage me every week (Thanks, Sharon, Catherine, Joanne, Lynn & Lucinda). My friend Kevin helps me at every turn. Senior Master Scott Downey has an unwavering belief in my ability.

All of that is amazing and encouraging, but watching Mrs. Downey work so hard to become Master Downey?

That has added a whole new level of possibility for me and I love it.

I have long known that representation matters but I had no idea the visceral impact representation could have until now. Because I have seen her do it, I can see *myself* doing it. I may be ‘only’ on my way to my third degree black belt but you can only do this one step at a time and Master Cathy Downey has lit the entire path ahead.

Congratulations and thank-you, Master D.


I don’t mean for this post to diminish the effort that Senior Master Scott Downey puts in to ensure that our school supports and encourages female students. He is a major factor in our success and he works hard to create and maintain a respectful atmosphere. This post, however, is about how being able to SEE a woman reach such a high rank is important to the women in the class.

*Because my TKD school is run by a married couple with the same last name, this post and future posts could get confusing.  So, to clarify:  My TKD school is run by a terrific couple, Scott and Cathy Downey. Master Scott Downey was a 7th Degree black belt when I started and has advanced to 8th degree in the past few years, becoming Senior Master Downey. Mrs. Downey was a 5th degree when I started, and has advanced to 7th degree in the meantime. Now my instructors are Senior Master Scott Downey (a.k.a. Master Downey) and Master Cathy Downey (a.k.a. Master D).

accessibility · aging · fitness · Martha's Musings · motivation

Courtesy, seniors and fitness assumptions

By MarthaFitAt55

I’ve discovered that I can be seduced by click bait. I see the headlines, and boom, there I am reading an article and fuming over the ridiculousness of it all.

It’s pretty easy to dismiss screamer headlines and their unsubstantiated content, but sometimes, you get drawn into an article because you just can’t help yourself.


So I went there and was appalled and a little angry. Appalled as the article recommends not offering seniors a seat as standing is way better than sitting. Angry because the article makes no mention of the risk of falls from a lurching bus or tram.

Seniors riding a bus
Image shows seniors riding the The Rapid (the bus system serving Grand Rapids, Michigan


The Reader’s Digest version is this: older people need encouragement to keep fit. Sedentary activity, including sitting on public transport, leads to negative health effects. Encourage them to be active, like taking the stairs or walking for ten minutes a day. In fact, the expert quoted in the article says we should “think twice before giving up your seat on the bus or train to an older person. Standing up is great exercise for them.”

For those of us under 60 with a reasonable amount of calcium in our diet, the risk posed by an unexpected lurch or stop on the bus is at most a possible wrench or at least a bark of our shins against someone’s briefcase or shopping bag.

For seniors, it’s a different story. I found a guide encouraging active living habits for seniors on line, and even it warned them about the risks of sudden stops on public transport. To wit,

“It is also important to be alert so that you do not accidentally get injured on public transportation. Busses and taxis are notorious for being rough rides, and during quick turns or stops you may jerk forward in your seat. If you are not paying attention, then you could fall out of your seat and injure yourself. Always hold onto the bottom of your seat or onto a railing in the bus or taxi to keep yourself secured.”

According to Indiana University, the impact of falls is great:

  • Falls are the leading cause of a move to skilled-care facilities, often long term.
  • 20-30% of those who fall suffer moderate to severe physical injuries including breaks, cuts, and bruising.
  • Falls often result in long-term pain.
  • Falls involving a hip fracture lead to 10-15% reduction in life expectancy.
  • Older adults who fall are likely to worry about the future and loss of independence.
  • Loss of self-esteem and mobility leads to decreased activity and eventually inability to perform activities of daily living.
  • Because of decreased confidence and physical functioning, patients who fall are likely to fall again.
  • Elderly who fall are less likely to take part in beneficial activities like exercising or socializing because of a fear of getting hurt again and the embarrassment of a fall.

I don’t know about you, but if I were 65 or older, I would rather be seen as someone in need of a seat rather than someone in need of a hike. Mostly it’s simple courtesy as one should never assume that one is either fit or unfit. Maybe they’ve just come back from a rousing afternoon with the grand children; perhaps they’ve just spent time in a gym pushing weights around. Who knows? Sometimes, we just like to sit and watch the passing scene out the window.

Next time I see a senior, I’ll ask them if they want my seat and let them make the choice, not me.

— MarthaFitat55 has been working hard to build strong bones and muscles so she can keep standing for a long, long time.


We interrupt our regularly scheduled fitness programming for a commentary on #metoo

[note: this post contains descriptions of cases of sexual harassment and violence]

I can’t help it. I know we’re a fitness blog, but all I can think about is the “me too” thing that took hold this week. Early this week, social media was overflowing with posts of “me too” in answer to this call (and variations thereof):

Me too.
If all the women and men and those who are non-binary who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

The #metoo tsunami ensued. Some people kept it to women. Others posted “me too” without any context. If the campaign had just the one goal: “to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem” it succeeded. The vast majority of people posting “me too” were women.

This did start a conversation of sorts, but it’s been a troubled and complicated conversation, as we might expect when there is disagreement about what purpose a social media meme or campaign is supposed to serve.

“Me too” has a history that goes back a decade when Tarana Burke “created the movement in 2007 to let young women of color who survive sexual assault know that they are not alone.” Burke says it was not meant as a viral hashtag, but rather:

“It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

Well whatever its original purpose, a viral hashtag it has become. And it’s hard not to have thoughts about it. And we’re a feminist blog. So a few of us wanted to say a few things about it. This will not be an organized and coherent essay by any means. But it does capture some of what some of the women in my life have expressed in response to the #metoo movement.


The weekend before #metoo, I was visiting my parents. As my mother and I lingered at the breakfast table, we began to speak of Harvey Weinstein. I mentioned how unsurprised I was by it all. “Remember Teresa Vince?” I said. My mother didn’t. I told her of the Sears worker who, just months before her retirement in 1996, was shot at work by her manager (who then turned the gun on himself), after what has been described as “years of unrelenting sexual harassment.” I started to cry when I said, “All she wanted to do every day was go to work, do her job, and then come home.”

Yes, that’s all we want to do. Not all of us end up dead (but a shocking number do). And perhaps because so many of us have not met an end as bad as Teresa Vince, we want to think, “What happened to me? That’s just trivial.”  As Anita says below, “not bad enough.

In the article “Running while Female”  we are reminded of the three women who were running by themselves in broad daylight and killed. The article reported survey results of readers indicating that of the 2533 women and 2137 men surveyed, 43% of the women sometimes experience harassment while running, as compared to only 4% of the men. The article generated a lot of reader responses, where readers felt compelling to write in with their stories of what it’s like to run as a woman.

I’ve had my own share of this nonsense (do I trivialize it to call it “nonsense”?). Just this summer I was running on a pleasant and busy street in Annapolis when I passed a group of men standing outside a building on what looked like a smoke break. As a couple of them eyed me up and down, they both said something along the lines of “wow, looking good.” As often happens to me, I smiled. Then when I was ten feet on the other side of them I felt angry at them and my reaction. But, as a friend commented when we talked about this sort of thing at dinner last night, this is what we’ve been conditioned to do. In any case, my own discomfort at the interaction prompted me to find a different route back, even though my original plan had been to retrace my steps.

Was it traumatizing? Not really. Does this sort of thing devastate me? No. Does it “count” as sexual harassment? Absolutely, in the sense that it is unwanted and unwelcome sexual attention. In what world does a man feel as if he is absolutely entitled to give his opinion about whether he finds a random woman stranger attractive? Ours.

Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual coercion all happen on a continuum, in degrees of severity. Remember, we’re not all in as bad a situation as Teresa Vince was. But the fact that we have been conditioned to be polite, to put up with, and (as I did in finding a different way back to my starting point that day) adapt contributes to outcomes such as the death of Teresa Vince.

What did I do? I smiled. If guys get a smile back, then how in the heck are they supposed to grasp that their attention is not welcome? And then the next women, the one with the presence of mind enough to tell them to go fuck themselves, will be told she’s a bitch. My smile contributed to the normalization of sexual violation.

Unfortunately, saying “no” doesn’t often yield the desired results either. Sometimes it gets taken up as a challenge, or as a reason to abuse.

Years ago, as an undergraduate, one of my professors drove me to a park instead of straight home and said he wanted to go for a walk (it was dark). I didn’t know what to do so I said okay (to the walk, not to what came next). Before long he literally threw me down on the ground and jumped on top of me and rammed his tongue into my mouth. I pushed him off and turned to go back to the car. I wanted to go home. I didn’t like it but I didn’t know enough at the time to understand that I’d been sexually harassed (or even possibly assaulted, considering the force of the throw-down). I was too naive to grasp that I was supposed to be appalled, not merely annoyed and most certainly not flattered (or worse still, convinced I’d done something wrong to prompt it). 

This was in the same park where, one afternoon a few years prior, as a teenager, I was walking alone and a strange man sidled up along side me and started chatting (like, have we learned yet that we are under no obligation whatsoever to have a conversation with any random stranger who wishes to have one with us?). Instead of telling him to fuck off I made small talk. Within two minutes he’d whipped his cock out of his pants and asked me how I liked it. I bolted and ran all the way home that day. Police were called. They came and took notes. Nothing further happened.

And still, though I recall both of these incidents, I don’t even feel scarred by them. Which brings me to another thing that came up during #metoo. Besides people feeling as if their experiences weren’t bad enough, I had another friend who didn’t post #metoo because she hated the idea of her FB friends then speculating about what “happened.” She said that it would feel like “a violation all over again.”

But is #metoo about victimhood or about solidarity? If the things that happened occur on a continuum — maybe you were assaulted or maybe you “just” experience the low-level everyday harassment of cat-calling and unwelcome comments about your beautiful eyes and haranguing for not smiling when a guy wants you to smile. The ubiquity, and the fact that we carry on, not necessarily unscathed but many of us not thoroughly destroyed, can help generate a sense of common cause. Have we had enough yet? At the very least, as was Tarana Burke’s original intention, it let’s us know we’re not alone.

Now’s the time when people want to say here we go again. Putting it on the people who have been violated. We’re supposed to self-disclose (many felt some pressure to do so). We’re supposed to “start the conversation.” All of the commentators I’ve heard on media have been women.

One of the most difficult things for a lot of people to wrap their heads around in the #metoo thing is that if so many women have experienced the violation (like, almost everyone it seemed), then there must be an awful lot of offenders (like, many of not most of the straight men in our lives)? I too have complicated feelings about this side of it. More complicated even than about my own and many others’ experiences, large and small, of inappropriate and harmful sexual intrusion. Why? Because I’ve got lots of men in my life and I really like them. So it’s hard to accept that at least some of them, socialized as they are into the same heteronormative gender scripts as I’ve been, and buoyed up by their often invisible-to-them privilege, are the harassers and assaulters and violators. But that’s the sad truth of it.

Not only that, as Rachel Lark and Kate Willet so succinctly put it in their song, “It’s hard to be feminist and still want dick.” If you’re a woman who is attracted to men you’ll feel this more. Regardless, we all have men in our lives whom we want to (and do) think the best of. And sometimes, at the right times and from the right men, sexual attention is wanted and welcome. That means for us straight women when it’s from men we know and whom we interact with in “that way.”

It’s not so difficult to figure out when it’s inappropriate. Teresa Vince’s manager should have known it was inappropriate. My professor should have known it was inappropriate. In neither case were they encouraged or lead to believe this was a welcome interaction.

Strangers on the street? Men, you can be pretty certain that they don’t need or want your opinion of how they look. No woman goes out for a run hoping men will notice her and comment about her booty. What about when you see pretty women who are buying groceries? Don’t be that creep who scuttles around the store with his shopping cart striking up conversations about how good the blueberries look today or asking women he doesn’t know if they can tell him what to do with hemp hearts. The sense of entitlement is misplaced. And (this may help you make some changes) just because it’s harassment doesn’t mean it’s not also pathetic.


I’m a runner. I’ve been a runner for a while. I’ve run in every city I’ve ever lived in, and I’ve been harassed in every city, both when I’m running outside or in a gym. Often, I don’t even realize that some man has said something inappropriate to me until I’ve passed him because, well, I’m running. I’m focused, both on my run and on the quiet I’m seeking while I run. But I’ve know that I have to stay alert to stay safe.

I know the tricks, as it were, to try to avoid harassment. I rarely run at night, and I vary my route. I do run with headphones, but I keep the volume down. I tell my partner where I’m running, and I run with a phone. In fact, I use a handy feature on my phone that allows my partner to track my location. Yes, that’s right. My partner can track my location at all times, and he has used it a few times when I’ve been gone longer than expected. Each time he has tracked me, he tells me, saying, “I didn’t realize you were going for a long run” or “You were gone so long that I got worried.” He runs too, and I can also track his location. He enabled this feature on his phone at the same time I did on mine. He said, “We should both do this, for safety reasons.” The thing is, his reasons are so I can find him if he injures himself, while I want him to find me if I’ve been attacked. Because I think about that when I run, especially on longer runs. And I shouldn’t have to.

I should be safe when I run. I should feel comfortable running in my own neighborhood, in my own city. Often, I do. Often, I experienced long periods in which I’m not catcalled or harassed. I start to let my guard down. I turn my music up, or I try a new route, going through a part of the city with which I’m less familiar. But then, it happens again. Some man hollers something at me, something about my body, and I’m reminded that I must be on guard.


I feel guilty about not posting a MeToo. I feel guilty about not having a major experience to flag. When I thought about my very minor experience- unwanted attention by a high school teacher – I thought: “oh, this isn’t serious enough. Nothing happened in the end. I didn’t even know what was going on.” This reflection, subsequent assignment of ‘not bad enough’ and then refraining from commenting in MeToo threads has made me uncomfortable.


So, not a comprehensive or thorough analysis, but some thoughts.


Sarah’s Camino Journey (Guest Post)

by Sarah Rayner

A walking vacation I have been dreaming for 10 plus years…and I finally did it.  I walked from Porto Portugal to Santiago Spain, a total of 240 km, which we walked in just 12 days. The walk we did was only half of the Portuguese Way.  Two of my friends decided to join me in the adventure. The path consisted of boardwalks along the Atlantic Ocean, fishing villages, cobblestone streets, dirt paths, one mountain which had a 405m elevation, grape vineyards and eucalyptus forests. My pack weighed 17lbs which was everything for my journey I needed and by the third day I could no longer feel that extra weight.  I could feel I was getting stronger.

A typical day on the Camino consisted of waking up , packing my pack, walking, finding arrows (the arrows showed you the direction to find your way), meeting and walking with pilgrims from around the world, finding food a bed and a shower, do laundry and eat together and sleep again…It was as simple as that.  We ate mostly Pilgrim’s meals that were ½ a chicken or fish, rice, french fries, salad, soup, tea and of course a beer for 7 euros.  Sleeping accommodations were the albergues (hostel) which ranged in cost from 5-10 euros.  So it was a pretty inexpensive vacation. It became an easy, no stress way of life which you could easily fall into.  We walked through many villages and towns meeting some great people from all over the world.  As I walked my last 20km to Santiago I had mixed emotion, I didn’t want this trek to end, so I slowed my pace and stopped several times along the way to really soak it all up.  I was very proud of myself walking the distance and sad that this long dreamed of moment was coming to an end.

Along the way you collected stamps on your Camino Passport from albergues, café’s and churches to prove that you had completed each stage of the walk in order to get your composite. I arrived at St. James Cathedral around noon and was so happy to see other pilgrims I had met along the way and to hear their stories of their journey.  We all had different reasons for walking the Camino.  We attended the Pilgrim Mass at the Cathedral which held 1500 Pilgrims and was presented in English and Spanish.  They also lit the magnificent incense burner which swung in the church…they say it was because the Pilgrims smell after such a long walk.  For someone who is a spiritual but not religious, it was amazing to witness this service because it signified that I had finally completed this amazing journey of discovery.  All in all, it was a life changing walk and I would recommend it to anyone who wants an active and meaningful vacation. Walking is a great way to see the world.  (You can also do the Camino on bicycle or on horseback).  My friend and I got tattoos in Spain because I think your first Camino is something you never forget.  I met a woman from Germany and we walked a lot together…we had the same pace…(which is really important) We have stayed in contact and plan to do more walking vacations in the future.

These are two quotes that have stick with me even after the walk was finished

“You Walk, You Meet, You Share and You Part”

“The Camino Provides” (The Camino always seemed to provided things you needed like a washroom, bed etc. it started to be a daily saying)

Buen Camino

Bio: I’m a 45 mother who was very active as a young adult and has just in the past 10 years has taken up sports again and loving it…I love being competitive in a fun environment.   The friends I have made a long the way have been life changing.  I enjoy the challenge and taking on new adventures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Whose natural beauty is it anyway? (Part 1)

I’ve been drafting this post almost since we started the blog, waiting for conclusions to form. In the way that people like me do I’ve been trying out arguments in my head and then responding to them, hoping to settle on an answer. I’m not there yet. So this is part one of a three part meandering blog post. Please chime in and help!

So I began this series of thoughts with my very first trip to Algonquin, more than 10 years ago now.

On our way out Laura and I remarked on how few women there were out there, especially once you got past the first couple of portages. It was October (not warm) and by the time we got to “our lake” the only other people we saw were young men, clad in Gortex, draped in bear bells, running the portages. They seemed like another kind of being entirely!

Laura and I laughed about it and then we talked about carrying canoes and strength and how lucky we felt being able to do this trip. The back country of Algonquin is so beautiful, so rugged, and I wanted to share. But most people can’t do trips of this sort. You need skills (thanks Laura, and Susan, and Mallory, and Sarah for teaching me) but you also need a certain level of physical ability. In addition, you need to be comfortable sleeping in a tent, on the ground, and in some cases bad weather.

It felt like a reward for our fitness, something our physical fitness allowed us to do. But there’s also a lot of luck involved.

Laura learned canoe tripping from her father but on his last trip into the park, it was Laura’s turn to lead. Her dad has MS and I was moved by Laura’s story of paying her father back for the gift he’d given her by taking him in the canoe and doing all the work.

It’s a sign of something being special that those of who love a place and an activity really want to share it. Susan took me on a canoe trip the very first time we spent any amount of time together. Susan’s blogged here too about her trip with her teenagers and her mum. Recently Sarah and I took Jeff on his first canoe camping trip.

So we want to spread the word and share this beauty. It calls to you that way. But you can only share it with some people. So part of me wants the back country to be more accessible. My last trip had steep portages and ankle deep mud. You needed a certain kind of strength and balance to pull it off.

But if it were easier, more accessible. it wouldn’t be the same. We wouldn’t be there alone, on our lake.

A friend’s wife said she’d love to come with, if there were a four star hotel in the middle of the lake, that you could helicopter in to. We laughed. But she was serious. Why isn’t that a thing, she asked. I wasn’t sympathetic.

So on the one hand, why is this a treat reserved for the fit and the non-disabled and the rugged? Should there be some easy ways in and out for those who can’t canoe and portage in? Why couldn’t it be something we all get to experience? On the other hand, there’s the quiet and the solitude, and the care and concern for the environment that’s part of back country canoe camping. How to strike a balance between those values and the value of accessibility?


Mini cupcakes? Really, Google Maps? (Guest Post updated)

Phew. The cupcake-talk didn’t last. See

“Responding to complaints from people with eating disorders, Google quickly shuttered a test feature from the iOS version of Google Maps that showed how many mini-cupcakes’ worth of calories it would take to walk somewhere.”


by Megan Dean

No, Google Maps, I do not want to know that my walk to the post office will burn off a “mini cupcake” worth of calories. This is not useful or motivational or even innocuous information. In fact, it kinda ruined my afternoon.

I have put a lot of effort into keeping “calories” out of my life. I don’t read fitness magazines, I actively ignore the screen on the elliptical machine, I avert my eyes from nutrient breakdowns on prepared foods and recipes, and avoid diet conversations like the plague.

I never expected Google Maps to invade my carefully cultivated calorie-free mental space with unsolicited information about my afternoon stroll, accompanied by a stupid little emoji.

In any case, I KNOW how many calories a 20 minute walk burns. It is etched into my mind and taking up space there permanently, as is the number of calories in…

View original post 184 more words


“All the other women should love their bodies but I wanna lose five pounds…” (Rachel Lark and the Damaged Goods)

Rachel Lark and the Damaged Goods have a very funny song called “I Wanna Lose Five Pounds.” What’s funny about it is that it’s an almost perfect parody. In the short space of 3 minutes, she manages to capture the angst that many women go through once they recognize that body positivity is actually more liberating than the diet train, and yet they still “wanna lose five pounds.”

It’s like this: everyone else should love their bodies. We can see that this is  a good way to go. But I wanna lose five pounds (Aside: I’m still a feminist).

She does a great job of hauling out all the rationalizations: I’m doing this for me! I’m motivated by self-love! I need healthy habits.

And saying many of the right things: I’m aware that our society tricks healthy women into dieting. But of course “that’s not what this thing’s about.” Nor is it about “looking good for a guy.” No, it’s that “my belly makes a roll when I sit down.

She says, “I know I’ll never be as pretty as my friends; I know that the scrutiny never ends, but nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels, and I deserve to feel confident when I wear heels.”

This is just so close to what you actually hear in places like Weight Watchers (“I’m doing it for me; nothing tastes as good as skinny feels; it’s for health you guys!…”)

Rachel Lark is great at capturing the tension between our feminist ideals and wanting to lose weight (and needing to find just the right reasons). A couple of years ago Nat and I explored this tension. See her “Self-Identifying as a Bad Feminist” and my “Does Feeling Good about Weight Loss Make Me a Bad Feminist?

I said something really similar to what we hear in “I wanna lose five pounds”:

In other words, losing weight has always made me feel kind of good, gaining has always made me feel kind of bad. And at a meta-level, my self-awareness about this fact about me makes me feel a little hypocritical, as if I’m a “bad feminist.” Natalie commented about this and we agreed that there is a lot to say about this issue still.

Intellectually I believe 100% that I am not my weight. I’m 110% behind the view that no one else’s worth or worthiness is determined by the number on the scale. And yet in my own case, at some level, I still think of weight loss as an achievement of sorts.

Nat said:

No one gets to call me a “bad feminist” but myself and let me explain why. I think that term is slung around when we mean other things like sloppy thinking or forgetting privilege or perpetuating harmful and hurtful ideas about body image and weight. I don’t think it’s intended to shame or silence but that is the impact. How dare I write about losing weight when there are so many bad arguments about weight loss! Bad Feminist! Uh, no thank you.

Rachel Lark and the Damaged Goods roll all of these thoughts into the one song and do so brilliantly. Enough about me explaining this to you. See for yourself. Enjoy!