cycling · eating · feminism · fit at mid-life

Happy book launch dance! Sam’s wonderful weekend

Thanks Google for animating the images of me celebrating the book launch on Sarah’s front porch. Photos taken before breakfast and the drive to London.

This was a great weekend. So good. Very very good.

It began with an interview on live television, on Global TV’s morning show. Tracy will tell you more on Tuesday but for my part I need to let you know that the experience was actually fun. Even the make up part wasn’t awful. Tracy and I are getting pretty good at communicating our body positive, age inclusive fitness message!

Here’s me wearing television make up. It was fine.

And here’s a link to the interview. You can watch us here.

Then I went to get a haircut and color with the wonderful Grace who also has her own TV show as it turns out.

I’m so blonde. Spring is here!

Then I went out in the evening to see a movie at the Hot Docs film festival. It was called “The Artist and the Pervert.” Here’s the description: “Georg is a famous Austrian composer, his wife Mollena a renowned American kink educator. Together they live in a public kinky relationship. This film documents their lives between perversion, art, love and radical self-determination.” I recommend it.

Saturday began with breakfast at my favorite Toronto breakfast place, Bonjour Brioche. Here’s blogger Cate and our friend Steve basking under the patio heat lamps.

I found out an interesting fact about Bonjour Brioche over breakfast. It turns out this is the location where they filmed the scene in the Handmaid’s Tale where Elisabeth Moss discovers that women no longer have credit when her credit card is declined. It’s a bit ironic to locals because this breakfast place is a cash-only establishment and never takes credit cards.

After breakfast we drove to London for the London launch of our book. I’ll let Tracy tell you more about that too but it was a super moving event was standing room only they sold out of books but more importantly there was a real warmth and energy in the room

Here are some photos of us signing books talking and standing around with our mothers. I love that photo best.

Tracy reading. Me listening, hands on hips.
Tracy and Sam carrying cupcakes and supplies.
Tracy and me and our mothers.
Signing all the books!

On Saturday night I went out to BROADWAY BOUND!, put on by the Pride Men’s Chorus London. 

My son sings in the choir. So much fun.

Sunday was the second bike ride of the season. We ramped it up a little bit from 50 km last week to 60 km this week but I say that the wind was the bigger challenge rather than increased distance. The wind was pretty intense. We all got some Strava personal-bests on the downhill tailwind segments and really struggled into the wind on the way back. I was also sad to discover that the local Starbucks in Byron has closed and so we had to ride back under caffeinated and a little bit late for our movie.


Dinner was a quick slice of pizza and popcorn with the movie, not the healthiest choices, but hey Infinity Wars was a lot of fun.

This chart might help!

“I was explaining the MCU to my coworker and she asked me to just write it down for her.”

From Reddit
No #infintywar spoilers

Guest Post

Competing with Kids (Guest Post)

Despite the fact that the Finnish coach who knits during competition is basically my soul brother, I am not a laid back and relaxed trainer. I love my athletes and try to make sure I know them well – what they are like, what the need most from me, and what keeps them enjoying themselves and feeling supported and cared about.

Since I’ve done taekwondo for the vast majority of my life, I know the impact that good coaches can have. The coaches I have been closest to, (even ones I haven’t seen in almost 30 years), are still people I hold in my heart.

So a lot of my athletes – mostly kids, but some teenagers and adults too – feel like family to me. And even though I don’t have kids of my own, I very much enjoy being “dojang mom” or “second mom” or “extra mom” to a lot of them. (Three cheers for alloparenting?)

Every spring, our sister school about two hours away, holds a tournament. It’s a small and not very intense affair, so we try to encourage as many of our students as possible to go and give it a try.

This time, I promised them that if at least 15 people signed up, I’d compete as well. Now, I haven’t fought in a long time, even though I still train quite a bit. Regardless, it wouldn’t have been especially convenient (or good for my mental focus) to be concerned about fighting while I’m also trying to coach my athletes, which usually keeps me busy most of the day.

a woman and boy, both in taekwondo uniforms, side by side in a front stance executing a hand technique
Pairs poomsae

So instead, I thought I would do something special for both me, and one of my students, who is just transitioning to black belt competition. We signed up together to do the pairs poomsae competition (poomsae are taekwondo forms, like kata in karate).

I didn’t expect how much more motivating it would be for me to compete representing both myself and one of my kids. In particular, Ben, who I competed with, is sometimes mistaken for my actual child. I think this is in part because he assists with many of the classes I teach, in part because of how we interact with each other, and probably also that we’re in a fairly white community and one of his parents is also of Chinese descent.

Two people in taekwondo uniforms do sidekicks at the same time.
Matching sidekicks!

So on Saturday, we joined a mother-daughter pair and a grandfather-grandson pair, to compete in the pairs division. Apparently it is just the right thing to pair up with your kid or grandkid! And I had more fun, and was more excited and motivated than I had been for a public event in quite a long time. It felt great. So here’s to competing with your kid, whoever they might be, and in whatever sense they are your kid.

Plus, we took gold!

A woman and a slightly shorter boy, both smiling, in taekwondo uniforms with black belts and gold medals around their necks. Other people's shoulders are visible in the picture.
Podium shot. Bets on how long before he outgrows me?
fitness · health

Testing, testing: how much preventative care and screening do we need?

Important note: as they say, I’m not a doctor (well, not an MD; my philosophy PhD really doesn’t count here). We all read, talk to people and make our own decisions about what to do based on our particular values and needs and goals and bodies and finances and time. So this isn’t advice, much less a medical recommendation. (Not that you’d think so, but I figured I’d say it anyway).

Okay, that said: I went to the gynecologist this week.

Oh joy!
oh joy!

I was there to deal with some menopausal symptoms (a topic for another blog post). During the appointment (my first with this doctor), she reeled off a big list of questions about screening, including mammograms, paps, etc. I tend to be a bit behind schedule according to American (but not necessarily other country) standards for various types of health screening. In this country, there’s a lot of variation among individual practitioners about screening, and they are sometimes at odds with national professional scientific panel recommendations (e.g. for mammography, see here the US Preventative Services Task Force recommendations).

My previous internist and I got into a heated argument about screening– she wanted yearly mammograms for me (luckily I have no family history of breast cancer nor is it likely I have genetic markers for it) and in response I cited the USPSTF results. She replied, “well, I don’t agree with them”. I asked what evidence she had to contravene those results. She had none. I changed doctors a bit later.

It turns out that I have some company in being resistant to and skeptical of many (although not all) medical screening. Barbara Ehrenreich (one of my author-essayist heroes; her classic book Nickeled and Dimed forever changed my view of labor justice) has published a new book called Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer. I recently read an essay excerpt from the book here, which definitely makes me want to read the whole book (when I do, I’ll post a review).

Ehrenreich is reacting to two trends she sees:

  1. the technological new-toy enthusiasm in the medical establishment which pushes us to be examined, measured minutely, recorded and treated, just in case the barely registerable potential abnormality that we’ve been informed of will rise up to plague us;
  2. the identification of this tech-heavy but not obviously therapeutic process with normal health maintenance; resistance is seen as irresponsible and maybe even irrational.

I really like this example she gives of a medical encounter that perfectly illustrates 1):

I was struck by the professionals’ dismissal of my subjective reports—usually along the lines of “I feel fine”—in favor of the occult findings of their equipment. One physician, unprompted by any obvious signs or symptoms, decided to measure my lung capacity with the new handheld instrument he’d acquired for this purpose. I breathed into it, as instructed, as hard as I could, but my breath did not register on his screen. He fiddled with the instrument, looking deeply perturbed, and told me I seemed to be suffering from a pulmonary obstruction. In my defense, I argued that I do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, not counting ordinary walking, but I was too polite to demonstrate that I was still capable of vigorous oral argument.

There are a bunch of questions that she raises here, and they are issues that I think about a lot in my professional life (as a public health ethics person) and in my personal life (as an aging, active, curious person). One of them is this: if I don’t have any symptoms, does it serve me to engage in high-tech explorations of my systems in search of something that looks amiss to the machine?

This is of course a very hard and controversial question. The whole issue of screening for diseases and risk factors and conditions and genetic markers for people who are asymptomatic is a huge area of health research for a lot of fields (mine included). I did find this interesting systematic review of meta-analyses and randomized trials (this means they looked at a ton of data at several levels using very fancy methods). It asks a very straightforward question: does screening for disease save lives in asymptomatic adults?

The straightforward answer is: for the most part, no. Here’s what their abstract conclusion says:

Among currently available screening tests for diseases where death is a common outcome, reductions in disease-specific mortality are uncommon and reductions in all-cause mortality are very rare or non-existent.

What does this mean? I can get various kinds of screening for diseases– mammograms, colonoscopies, blood chemistry, imaging and other tests for cancers, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, etc. The researchers asked two questions:

  1. How likely are these individual screening tests to reduce my risk of dying from that particular disease?
  2. How likely are these individual screening testing to reduce my risk of dying for any reason?

In the case of 1), they did see some reductions in disease-specific mortality risk for four tests (including mammography under some protocols, and two less-invasive-than-colonoscpy tests for colorectal cancer). But they didn’t find those reductions for the other 15 screening tests they looked at (I won’t list them here, in part because their results are more robust for some than others based on availability of evidence). However, here are a few nuggets I found that put them in Ehrenreich’s camp:

A very large number of tests continuously become available due to technological advancement.One may be tempted to claim a survival benefit of screening based on observational cohorts showing improved survival rates, but these are prone to lead-time and other types of bias.

They conclude with this (edited by me for brevity):

One may argue that a reduction in disease-specific mortality may some times be beneficial even in the absence of a reduction in all-cause mortality. Such an inference would have to consider the relative perception of different types of death by patients (e.g. death by cancer vs death by other cause), and it may entail also some subjectivity… Screening may still be highly effective (and thus justifiable) for a variety of other clinical outcomes, besides mortality. However, our overview suggests that expectations of major benefits in mortality from screening need to be cautiously tempered.

In short: screening for serious diseases is medically useful for people under many circumstances. But for those with no symptoms, it is questionable whether it will extend their lives, and it’s not clear it will give them greater control over how and what they die from.

Lots of screening presupposes a very high-tech, very interventionist, and statistically low-yield approach to health. That’s fine if that’s your deal. You do you. But it’s important to know what you’re signing up for. And this is not one-approach fits all. Because of my medical and family history, I am committed to and feel like I need some types of screening, but not others. I try to stay informed and make evidence-based decisions, but my decisions are also based on what I think health is for me, what my biggest health worries are, and how I hope my life will go.

Have you had experiences with medical professionals about screening and health that you’d like to share here? I’d love to hear from you.

martial arts · training

Update: The Saga of Christine’s Wrist

On April 16, when the doctor came into the room and reached to shake my right hand, I thought it was a test. I gripped his hand firmly and shook, expecting him to make some comment about strength or whatever but instead he said ‘So, which wrist do I need to look at?’

The author's right wrist/hand with her thumb in the 'thumb's up' position.
My first moments of wrist freedom.

Obviously, that was a good sign. I don’t need physio, I can drive and do just about anything I want to, my only restriction is that I can’t do contact sports for another few months.

My wrist aches and my hand swells from time to time, but that’s all part of the process. I am just easing back into my regular activities and taking it easy when I need to.

I have almost full range of motion and I am doing anything I can to get the rest back. I can feel that it is a muscle/ligament issue at this point, rather than any damage per se. It feels like the kind of stiffness that happens after over-strenuous exercise rather than a warning not to move.

Perhaps a better way to put it would be to say that the discomfort I feel when I move my wrist in certain ways is annoying but it doesn’t cause me any distress. When I first injured it, my internal distress was a real signal for me that this was a serious issue.


Report on the Fitness Front:

An ink drawing on white paper. Two people in white martial arts uniforms with black belts. They are sparring and the person on the right is jumping in the air to deliver a left handed punch.
When I couldn’t *do* TKD, I did some related drawings. Personally, I think the drawing/writing/typing I did while my hand was in the brace helped with my recovery.

The short version: I didn’t do as much exercise as I had hoped I would.

The longer version: I kept going to TKD and I did as much as I could to learn my new patterns and do some strength training.

I couldn’t easily go for walks because the paths and roads around my house were snow and ice covered and felt really risky.

Things like dancing or using my old aerobics step usually resulted in too much arm movement and caused me discomfort or pain.

I did some yoga but I couldn’t do most of my favourite poses because my brace felt heavy with my arm extended and because I couldn’t rest any weight on my arm/hand.

And, mostly, the effort of getting through my day with one hand, with the weight of the brace and the position of my wrist, just made me extra tired. And accommodating the brace made me move my right shoulder differently which caused me tension in my upper back that was hard to stretch out.

So, while I did what I could, on some days, that wasn’t very much.*


Next Steps:


Since my brace has been off, I have been doing all kinds of bits and pieces of exercise. A little yoga, some walking, some body weight exercises and the like.

I have been adding more movements into the scaled-down patterns I was learning. Being able to use BOTH arms makes it a lot easier to learn and perform my patterns. (I know, surprising, hey?)

I’m finding TKD a little strange, even six weeks without jumping and turning makes for some uncertainty. I feel unsure of my capacity and nervous about my balance but I think that my confidence will return with practice.

My TKD instructor, Master D, has told me that it is likely I can still test for my 3rd degree belt in June. However, I have to do my hand-technique board breaking with my left hand.

That is going to make things interesting. The technique I am using is new to me (a jumping double punch – two boards one after another to be broken with one hand) and I was a bit uncertain about it with my right hand. Using my left adds a different element. However, I wonder if my lowered expectations for my non-dominant side will actually help me not to overthink the process.

I guess practice will tell!

*This led to a tangle of fitness bewilderment but I’ll get into that in a separate post soon.

body image · bras · fitness · sex

Lingerie: the final frontier

It took me ages to be OK with my body.

I was 26 when I realized I was unhappy with how I looked, and always had been, and that my unhappiness had been normalized by me (and by some of those who love me). Things hit a tipping point one autumn day at the Gap: I realized I couldn’t fit into the maroon corduroys (a size up from my already-plus-size) I’d brought sheepishly into the change room with me. I decided that was it: I wanted to look – but especially to feel – differently about my body.

Fast forward 17 years, and I weigh only marginally less than I did that day. Though my body is now fitter, stronger, and – most importantly – makes me feel proud and strong and happy every day. I celebrate regularly by buying clothes that I think look amazing, no longer believing they are not “for me.” ALL the clothes are for me, and for my beautiful body, yo.

But lingerie. Man, oh man, lingerie. The final frontier.


(An image of a thin white female torso and upper thighs, wearing low-rise panties with an image of Deadpool giving the thumbs-up and a word bubble that says “approved!” Basically all lingerie trauma in one handy meme.)

To be honest, I hadn’t much considered lingerie, ever. Once I’d become more fit and shifted my body image, I bought dresses of all kinds and enjoyed admiring myself in mirrors everywhere; I embraced versions of the feminine that fit me and that felt like me. But lingerie: well, it felt like a thing you buy so you can get sexy with someone you also find sexy, and I didn’t have that in my life. For a while I pretended that was totally fine, until I just couldn’t anymore.

Some of you may remember my adventures in online dating – a challenging place for a feminist to seek satisfaction. I’m pleased to report, though, that I met a really wonderful human on Tinder, of all places; I marvel every day at what it feels like to be treated with tender, supportive respect by someone who also really fancies your body and wants to see you in lingerie.

Wait… say what?

D told me early on that he was very keen on lingerie, if I was into it; I was flattered but also daunted by the prospect of purchasing the goods, so I let it drop for a while. Then, as our relationship progressed, and as we got more invested in one another, our sexual connection became more intense. I realized that, yes, I did really want to buy some lingerie: for him to celebrate and enjoy my body, but also for me to celebrate and enjoy it with him.

But lingerie shopping! Man oh man, the shopping.

Here’s what happened when I dove into the lacy capitalist fray.


(A vintage, sepia-toned, “western”-style poster featuring a white woman sporting a cowboy hat, tassled black gloves, a gun in a holster, and a bra with seriously pointy boobs. She gives us a sly, full-on look as she reaches for her weapon. The poster reads: “I dreamed I was WANTED in my Maidenform bra.”)

Take one: the pressure cooker

I was having lunch at my favourite grungy diner with a good friend and his son, in an upscale shopping area in downtown Toronto. I trust P and know his queer sensibility jives with my feminist one, so I asked him about good places to buy fun, sexy, lingerie. He had lots of advice, but it was more involved than I’d hoped: it included a trip across town, some recon in the gay village, and perhaps more conversation about preferences with (admittedly amazing and sensitive) staffers than I imagined I’d want to have. (I felt like I was in a hurry, though maybe I was just scared.)

After we parted, I remembered a shop I’d been to in the neighbourhood with another friend, years before. She was practiced at the lingerie thing and it seemed to work for her, so I headed over on a bit of a whim.

This was my first mistake.

The shop had a kind of “foyer,” with stairs leading up to the main retail area; there were a number of older, well dressed, white women milling about, and I could tell quickly that they were staff – and that they outnumbered customers, most likely on purpose. I smiled but tried not to make eye contact with any of them; I was immediately and completely uncomfortable. I felt myself trying to make myself shrink a bit, sort of disappear. I should have run for the exit, but my feet felt like lead. I didn’t want to be rude.

Just as I began fingering a few lovely-looking slips, discovering to my horror how expensive they were, one of the well dressed women approached me.

Did I know the majority of their selection was in drawers? She asked. What was I looking for? How much time did I have?

Anxious, I mumbled maybe 20 minutes, half an hour. (A lie: I had, like T-minus-get-me-out-of-here.)

Oh, that’s plenty of time! my WDW cooed. She began locating more slip options for me. (I have no idea why I told her I was interested in slips. I wasn’t. I was interested in sexy, hot, amazingly bodacious shit. Yet telling her this seemed, somehow, both impossible and gross.) Before I knew it I was in a change room.

I put on the first slip – a beautiful sky-blue number that was, admittedly, elegant and fell prettily over my waist and hips. WDW asked if she could have a look; I opened my change room door awkwardly, just a bit. Oh, we’ve cracked it! she cried. It was made for you! (NB: this is WDW-speak for “spend $300 on this now.”)

Other WDWs then crowded around to look at me, up and down from head to toe, as my mortified soul left my body and slid between the floorboards.

Now you need panties, my WDW told me, and she was off; she returned moments later with a thong made of polyester with a funny little flower at the back, right at the top of the butt crack bit. It seemed SO TYRA BANKS, but without the RuPaul irony. I could not imagine myself in it. It was $95.

Try them on over your own, go ahead, she instructed. I did what I was told.


(Another vintage magazine image: this is from a French publication circa 1950, and shows a white woman from behind. She is dressed in netted stockings and a corset, lacy panties and evening gloves. She has curly shoulder-length blond hair and a neutral expression. Though she appears to be posing with hands on hips for effect, the image is structured to suggest she is dressing, or being dressed, and has only just reached the part with all the trussing.)

Then, something odd happened.

I realized that I did not want to buy these two items – even though part of me actually kind of liked these two items – but that I was definitely about to buy these two items. I would purchase them for reasons I could not quite fathom in the moment, but which had a very clear and firm hold on me nevertheless.

The feeling was overwhelming. It was not rational. I thought a lot about it afterward, as I clutched my shopping bag sadly on the train ride home.

Reflecting on the whole episode a few days later, with Cate and with my friend Natalie, I tried to get to the bottom of why I seemed to have lost all of my agency in that funny bi-level store, among those well-dressed older white women.

I realized that the entire experience had reminded me of the shame I used to feel when shopping for what felt like my bad, wrong, ugly body.

Of how I would find it easier just to be swept along by the maternal figures throwing fabric at me. Of how my mom – bless my mom, and all her own tricky body issues, and her best of intentions –would begin every one of our visits to clothing stores when I was a teen by demanding of staffers, “do you have this in an extra large?”

That feeling of being judged – it cascaded over me, got into my pores and seams, began to crush me.

That feeling of being looked at, constantly looked at, but not being seen. Not being even remotely seen as the woman I want to be.

The WDW was not my mom, but she might as well have been; she might as well have been all of the well-meaning women in all of the stores that litter my ugly-body history. I realized I would have done anything, anything, both to please her and to get away from her, as quickly as I could.

Take two: the feminist local

Natalie said: that experience sounds horrible! Did you know, though, that R’s friend’s wife runs a great lingerie shop just up the road from here?

We were having coffee in her neighbourhood, and I put two and two together: the shop I’d passed on my way to meet her – the one with the hot mesh body suit in the window, the one that seemed so welcoming and warm from the street – was the shop she was talking about.


(This is a photo of a sexy black mesh body suit on a mannequin in the window of Stole My Heart, an amazing west-Toronto feminist lingerie store. I took it through the glass storefront window on a cloudy afternoon, and we can see an apartment building, some trees, and sky reflected in the window, as well as some big red peonies. I have no idea where they came from, but they totally rock the shot.)

Let’s go together, Natalie said. And one Saturday afternoon in March we did. This time, the experience was remarkably different for me, in every way. For one thing, it felt safe. Natalie is loving and supportive and I knew she had my back. But also: the shop was small and all on one level; there were sexy, fun, come-what-may pieces on mannequins and hangers all over the place. Ashley was tending shop on her own, and greeted us right away as friends (and, I suspect, not just because she knows Natalie.) Instantly I felt at home. In fact, I felt protected.

The shop is called Stole My Heart; co-founders Amy Pearson and Ashley Holden opened it precisely in order to counteract the kinds of experiences I had with the WDW. They write:

Lingerie has the ability to make women feel confident, beautiful and unique, but those aren’t often the feelings we experience while shopping for underwear. Having braved many a lingerie store together, we’ve been pushed up and sucked in, all the while struggling to find flattering pieces that we could get excited about trying on. We decided that we all deserve better and Stole My Heart was born. (Click here for more.)

Amy and Ashley’s aim in building the space and curating its collection was to celebrate body diversity, to support women designers and sustainable brands, and (this is my favourite bit) to “speak to the many definitions of femininity” that women inhabit daily.


(Stole My Heart from the back looking at the window: lingerie on hangers, a brown wicker light fixture, black and white furniture signalling laid-back Victoriana. The writing on the wall literally says: “take your own breath away.”)

I knew none of this going in, note: I had not looked online, not Googled a thing. I had Natalie’s word and a glance through a window to go on. And yet instantly I could feel how different this vibe was: I was ok to be myself, to be honest and to be awkward if I needed to be. It was all good.

Emboldened, I said to Ashley: I want something sexy, for me and my partner to play in. But I’d like it to be comfortable, something I can wear and enjoy anytime.

Nat and I grabbed change rooms, and Ashley brought us all manner of things: stuff I’d picked out with her on a go-round the shop, stuff she’d remembered she had in a drawer, stuff from up high and down low. (The body suit, natch.) She thought I should start with mediums, but instantly I knew those were too small. I called out: could I have the mesh body suit in large? from behind the curtain; Yup! she hollered cheerfully back. And try this one, too!

She measured me and confirmed my bra size, then presented me with an array of gorgeous options I’d never have looked at myself. The one I least expected to want stole my heart.

I bought it for me, and I bought the body suit for me and D. (Bonus: it’s made of recycled fabric! It’s eco-lingerie!) Nat bought herself her first-ever proper nightgown, to celebrate an amazing new job.

As we paid (no sales counter – just an iPad along the wall, next to a comfy sofa and a table laden with chocolates, to which I helped myself, OF COURSE), we chatted about the experience I’d had with the WDW. Ashley commiserated. I mentioned what an utter delight this experience had been, the polar opposite – enough of a pleasure to make me want to come back, again and again, kind of just to hang out, actually.

Neither Nat nor I wanted boxes for our purchases; instead, Ashley wrapped them beautifully in tissue paper, and then put them into bespoke cloth bags, with “Stole My Heart” on one side, and a strong-ass bitch in a body suit on the other. (I like it almost as much as I like the new bra.)


(Best. Tote. Ever. This image is of my Stole My Heart cloth tote bag, which is black and features a white drawing of an ordinary-sized female body with long hair. She is flexing a bicep and looking at it admiringly.)

The take-away

Shopping is hard, my friends; we know this. But it’s not hard because there’s anything wrong with our bodies, or anything wrong with being firmly, proudly, openly sexual – even in public. It’s hard because of the structures that shape our consumption. As women, we’ve long been coached to hide our bodies, demure about things sexual, even despise ourselves for spending money on ourselves. Lingerie shops often reproduce this vibe – because they are usually heteronormative spaces that institutionalize a particular kind of femininity-under-patriarchy, but also because they know that shame sells. Once caught in the net, I’d spend anything to be free.

So let’s seek out spaces that resist this vibe, that challenge our received body norms by making structural changes to curate a different kind of shopping feeling. Not shame but joy. Not fear but pride. Not the long, judging look of the matriarch, but the supportive and generous vision of the friend, the peer, the equal.

The look you give yourself, when you take your own breath away.

Thanks, Ashley!


fit at mid-life · fitness · media

Sam and Tracy’s Excellent Book Adventure: Next Big Moments

LANDON LAUNCH POSTER picSam and I are kind of stoked these days because of all the book excitement over Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey , published by Greystone Books. Everyday, wherever I go, people are congratulating me (friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even strangers). No doubt Sam is having the same experience. It makes me smile.

We are thrilled to see the exposure the book is giving to our message of inclusive fitness, and have had more outlets than usual to promote what we believe in. From radio (the CBC National syndicate last week) to national newspapers (The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star last week).

In the next few days, we have three big moments:

  1. Friday, April 27: An appearance on the Global Television Morning Show at 9:20 a.m. We are excited and nervous at the same time, since we are driving into Toronto for FOUR minutes on television. Last week when we did the radio interviews, each of us doing seven or eight in a three hour period, the interviews were 5-7 minutes and seemed to fly by. It’s a bit daunting to have just four minutes between the two of us (also, we have no idea what the questions are, and it’s live television).
  2. Saturday, April 28: London, Ontario Book Launch Party, 2-3 p.m. at the Landon Library in London’s Old South neighborhood of Wortley Village. This promises to be a big friends and family event where we get to celebrate with our local circles. For this one, we’re going to talk about how the book came to be and each read a little from it. Then we’ll have a Q&A followed by a book sale, handled by our local independent Oxford Book Shop, and anyone who wishes can get us to sign their book with our illegible handwriting. Plus: vegan cupcakes from BoomBox Bakery.
  3. Thursday, May 3: Guelph, Ontario Book Launch Party, 7-9 p.m. at the Bookshelf Bookstore in Guelph. Sam just moved there to take up her big new job, and we wanted to give her a chance to celebrate the book with her new local community. We’ll have a similar talk — about the book and its message — read a few pages, answer a few questions, sell and sign and have refreshments.

We’ve got other things — magazine articles, podcast interviews, book excerpts, more radio spots. We’re excited, so please forgive us for basking in our moment for the next little while. We will be posting regular updates of book-related news and events. And before you know it, the moment will pass and it’ll be business as usual, with a few more fit feminists out there than there used to be.

We do have a request, and that is, if you read the book we would love to start seeing your reviews on Amazon and on Goodreads.

cycling · fitness

Sam and Sarah are springing into cycling fitness

Sam’s story

Spring riding is complicated. It’s fun and it’s exciting but the emotions of most cyclists, mine anyway, are always a little bit mixed. We all emerge outside with our bikes in spring with varying degrees of fitness. We’re nervous about fitness lost. It’s sunny and warmish but things aren’t quite where we want them to be. The hills seem steeper. The winds stronger.

No matter how much we’ve been riding on the trainer, or in spin class, our bike handling skills aren’t where they were at the end of last fall. Our jerseys seem tight around the middle. Even finding the right gear feels extra complicated. Where are my summer gloves? Is my Garmin charged? Do I have spare tubes? Sunglasses anyone? By next month this ‘getting ready to ride’ thing will be a well-oiled machine with everything right where it ought to be. But not yet.

My first real road ride of 2018 was Sunday afternoon. It was sunny and about 16 degrees Celsius. We went straight from ice storm to warm this year. I debated tights and a long sleeved jersey but instead went with shorts, short sleeved jersey, and a vest. (Jeff tucked my arm warmers in his pockets just in case.)

We decided on the 50 km ‘short’ Belmont loop. It’s called ‘short’ because you can add on 30-40 km with various side trips but this time we were committed to sticking with 50 km. It’s not a great destination. All the good coffee and breakfast places are a bit further out. But not this trip. If there were a 40 km loop from our house I’d have done it but I hate out and back, so 50 km it was. We stopped not for coffee but instead for peanut butter m&m’s.

That loop always reminds me of Tracy and her horrible ride. See Suffering: It May Not Be Fun But Is It Good? I still feel bad about taking Tracy out that day. Tracy, I’m sorry.

But back to Sunday and spring riding. Sarah, Jeff, and I headed out down through my old south neighborhood to White Oaks Road. See map above. I confess I was extra nervous, almost teary nervous, worried about my knee. My knee has been fine in spin classes, fine on the trainer, fine with big gears, and fine standing. But still I worried it might all fall apart on a real on an actual road. Luckily my knee was just fine on the bike. No brace for bike riding. Yay!

We made some discoveries. Crossing one busy street, we were delighted to find out that our bikes triggered the lights to change. That’s new. Less happily we also found some new potholes. I got my third fastest time ever on the East bike path back into town, not because I’m fast. I’m not. Instead, I got a 3rd best time ever trophy because they’ve finally repaved the path.

But it will be a few rides before it all feels normal again. Each time will be easier. Each time out, I’ll be faster. I’m looking forward to it.

Sarah’s Story

Sam wrote about the complications of spring riding, but I didn’t share her reservations. After a long winter of not much exercise I was thrilled to be outside and on the bike.

Riding with Sam, I’ve both gotten used to not worrying about my aerobic fitness (I’m usually much slower than everyone else, but as long as I do my best they’re consistently patient and don’t drop me) and pretty good at drafting, which means I only really fall behind on hills. For the record, I much prefer wind (where I can hide behind bigger faster riders) than hills (that I have to make it up on my own power).

I managed to remember all of my riding kit except my heart rate monitor strap (probably for the best) and something to eat. The m&m stop in Belmont was mostly for me, who’d been working so much harder than Sam and Jeff (for less net effort, might I add, as I drafted behind them riding into the wind) that I was definitely getting bonky by the midpoint.

I generally find my stamina is pretty good for the first hour of a long ride and then I seem to run out of steam. I’m assuming that’s a fuelling issue, and I’m going to make a point this year of learning when what and how much to eat on the bike to keep a consistent power output, rather than waiting to get weak and hungry, since by then it’s too late.

See also Six thoughts on spring riding and training.

fitness · race report · racing · running

Tracy’s 10K without prep: “Woo hoo! I wasn’t in the bottom 10!”

Image description: Tracy in running tights, a t-shirt, ballcap and sunglasses, long-sleeved run top around waist, race bib on front, smiling and holding a paper cup in her right hand, people, grass, trees, and inflatable race arch in background.
Image description: Tracy in running tights, a t-shirt, ballcap and sunglasses, long-sleeved run top around waist, race bib on front, smiling and holding a paper cup in her right hand, people, grass, trees, and inflatable race arch in background.

Like I said last week in “Would you run a 10K with no prep?”, I went into Saturday’s MEC 10K with no expectations because I had done virtually no training for it. It was just a way to get back into things, at my own easy pace. I actually didn’t want to hook up with anyone to run it with me this time. My feminist playlist and Coach Linda’s voice in my head were all I needed to keep me moving forward this time.

It turns out that a lot of the participants in the MEC series are pretty speedy folks. So I soon realized that I was really near the back of the pack. There were a lot of people doing all sorts of different distances — 5K, 10K, 15K with trail and road options. We had staggered start times, by distance, but for the roadsters, there was just one 5K out and back loop that we had to repeat (twice for the 10K, three times for the 15K). Thank goodness it wasn’t on a part of the pathway system that I frequently run or that would have been almost unbearable. It was never lonely but I could tell from the bib colours (blue for 10K!) that for my distance there weren’t that many people behind me.

Despite going in with an “I’ll take what I can get” attitude, I have to say that there is a certain sort of psychological battle that ensues and I had to (and did) overcome it. There is a voice in my head that messes with me sometimes and tells me it’s a waste of time (I’m not sure whose time is being wasted, since clearly I benefit from physical activity) for me to be out there.

I watch people powering past, and think wow. Mostly I’m impressed. Like when Spencer, who works down the hall from me and won the men’s 5K distance with an astonishing 17:19, blew past me (the 5K started later lol) and said “Hey Tracy!” I just felt good. Because I really don’t compare myself to Spencer and can be simply amazed by him instead.

The psychological battle this time wasn’t quite the same. Yes, I had a bit of “what the heck are you doing out there with all these real runners?” Even after all this time, I still sometimes doubt my runner-cred. But the voice didn’t take me down. There was some push back, “hey! I’m a feminist fitness blogger and author, so shut up!” And also, “I’m doing 10K because I can!” which happens to be the truth of the matter. I can. And I did.

There was a great moment in the race when I women who obviously reads the blog (I only saw her back as she ran past) said something along the lines of “10K without prep! Yay you!” And I was like, “yes, yay me!” It put a huge smile on my face — so to the mystery woman who said that to me, thank you because I loved that moment.

I used a few things my running coach, Linda had taught me. She’s the ultimate positive person. She has all sorts of cool tricks for keeping that forward momentum. The two I used this time were: “fast feet, fast feet” and “touch lift, touch lift.” These little mantras are gold when I need something more than my feminist playlist to keep me going. I just pick on and repeat it, focusing on my feet.

I also used Linda’s trick of setting myself little goals to get to — the next bench, that tree, the water station, the bridge…

I didn’t go in with much strategy. I set my Garmin to 10-1 intervals with no intention of taking the walk-breaks unless absolutely needed. In the end, I only took two of them for about 30 seconds each time, walked through two water stations for about 15 seconds each, and took one additional walk break to remove my long sleeved top when it got too hot.

When I got to the last 2K I decided to try picking up my pace a bit, knowing that it was not so far to the finish line and I didn’t need to have anything left by the time I got there. I consistently upped my pace every 500m or so until the end, powering up to the finish line, crossing at 1:09:20 at a 6:29 pace, which was faster than my average 6:56 pace over the 10K. I liked that feeling of pushing myself towards the finishing arch.

I didn’t look up my official result until much later that day. I fully expected to be in the bottom 10 of the entire race. Now, I’m not usually one to feel good at someone else’s expense because I know we all run our own race and someone has to be in the bottom 10 (10 people, in fact). But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see that I wasn’t in the bottom 10 that day, and that’s even ruling out the people who didn’t finish or show up.

My new goal for this 10K training commitment that I’m doing for the next few months is to get that time down to 65 minutes or less. I’m not sure I can do that by the May MEC race, which is May 26th (but I just remembered my photography course starts that day — may need to find a different event or do a 10K on my own). But it’s my summer goal. And I’m excited about it because that would be a personal best for me and I feel confident I can do it, especially with Linda’s guidance.

I’m all for the 10K distance right now. It’s far enough that it helps satisfy the endurance athlete in me, but it’s not so far that training feels like it’s dominating my life. And I can even do the events without prep — not that I recommend that, actually. I confess I felt pretty stiff the next day when I went out for an easy 5K with Julie to run it off.

Do you have an easy or difficult time “running your own race”?


link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #91

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

I Couldn’t Find Any Disability Maternity Photos So I Made My Own

Dress the Part: Burlesque Dancer Jezebel Express

100 Women Get Together To Fight Beauty Stereotypes

Decolonizing beauty: Why are fat bodies the subject of so much hate and controversy?

#DecolonizingBeauty is an ongoing photography project by visual artist Saddi Khali and yesterday when we posted one of his gorgeous images on Instagram, it was really clear that some of y’all really hate seeing fat bodies. A strange thing to focus on when we’re celebrating black love. “Being fat is unhealthy!” Wow, amazing. Surely you’re the first person to say that.

accessibility · inclusiveness · injury

Three stories about my knee brace

Story 1. I met a woman at the university in the Starbucks line with a bright red knee brace. I thought of my friend and co-blogger Martha Muzychka who said she’d get a bright red one if she had to have one. We chatted about the relief of knee pain, surgical alternatives, and joint replacement. She’d already had hip replacement and sounded like she wanted to avoid more surgery for awhile. She talked about lifting weights and we shared stories of leg strengthening exercises that leave the knee out of it.

Story 2. I’m still wondering why people are aghast at the knee brace and instantly see it as a bad thing. I now have some inkling of how people with wheleechairs feel about that reaction. I’ve had some many versions of this conversation.

Other person: OMG you’re wearing a knee brace. That’s horrible. When can you stop wearing it?

Me: Look at my terrific knee brace. I’ve got zero knee pain when wearing it. Watch me hop on the injured leg.

Other person: Oh.

Story 3. I was walking to the CBC the other day asking Front Street in Toronto and had to navigate my way through a crowd of baseball fans. A very happy young male Blue Jays fan says “Hey lady with the knee brace. I got one too. Up top. High five.”

Such polite sports fans. #Bluejays
What’s the brace about anyway?

Samantha Brennan's photo.