Air conditioning and exercise: Sweaty Sam has some thoughts

There’s a back to school heat alert in my neck of the woods. Environment Canada says, “Humidex values reaching 40 are expected. Hot and humid conditions will continue today. A hot and humid airmass is expected to remain in place today. Maximum afternoon temperatures are expected to be near 30 degrees with humidex values near 40. ” They go to to list the usual tips: drink lots of water, stay indoors during periods of peak heat. Also, they say the risks are greater for young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and people working or exercising outdoors.

It’s the exercising outdoors part that gets me. And I do that even during heat alerts. First though, some years ago, I had to get over a dislike of sweating. See my blog post on that theme, Gonna Make You Sweat.

I actually think that for many women dislike of sweating is a significant barrier to exercise.

This year we also moved houses and it’s my first time in a very long while living in a place with air conditioning. That was terrific during the move but now I have mixed feelings about it. And I know. I don’t have to use it. But use it we do. I don’t live alone, so there’s that.

On the plus side, when there’s ac waiting at home I find I worry less about getting really hot and sweaty because I know I can count on cooling off later. So I can sprint that last Strava segment on my bike without worrying about being too warm for the rest of the evening. Also on the plus side, I sleep better. That’s a definite benefit.

I can also cook without fear of creating extra heat. I like that too.

All good right? But not so fast. There’s a thing I don’t like. If I’m in the cool indoors I find it harder to go out. Sometimes I don’t want to go on a dog walk or take my bike out for a spin because it’s nice and dry cool in here and hot and humid out there. This summer has felt worse to me heat wise. Between work ac and home ac, I have’t really adjusted. When my house and sticky too I used to think, at least there’ll be a breeze out on my bike.

I also worry about controlled environments and their affect on our resilience. I have friends who say they’re not outdoors people. What does that even mean? Well, they say it’s always the wrong temperature, either too hot or too cold. They love 20 degrees Celsius but can’t stand much warmer or cooler. They like it best inside. But if we push ourselves we can adjust to the cold and to the heat. We don’t need to be that fragile. It’s good for us to train for resiliency.

I’m not giving up my home ac but I am going to try to keep it pretty moderate.

Given the weather, I AM glad I have it. See It’s not your imagination, humidity really is killing you.

And I’m also especially grateful I’m not in one of the countries where the heat is now deadly.

What are your thoughts about exercise and air conditioning? Love it or hate it?

Image description: Bright yellow sun
aging · fitness

Happy 54! Celebrate Sam’s Birthday Season

Image description: Black text on a white background that reads, “Girls can never just celebrate their birthday on ONE day, they need the whole month, 6 outfits, 2 dinners, a holiday, and 3 cakes.”

I’m celebrating my birthday today. Happy 54th birthday to me! I’m reminded that we started the blog when we were 48. The blog has been going for six years now. That’s really old in blog years.

But I’m not just celebrating today. I’m making a weekend of it. A long weekend. It actually began yesterday while I was still 53 with a visit from Tracy. We had lunch and that’s a big deal now we’re living and working in different cities.

There’ll be three days of cake. Today, my actual birthday, will be a low key thing. Maybe we’ll go out to eat. Maybe a movie. There’ll be a 54 km bike ride on Saturday to mark the occasion. Sunday my family is taking me tubing. We’re doing the “Glen Morris to Paris Area… 11km paddle with easy splash (3-4 hrs)” For details, see here.

See This 13-km Lazy River In Ontario Is The Coolest Place For Tubing.

Again, more cake probably with bonus ice cream.

I’m all for spreading birthdays out. For me, it’s also a time of year that needs parties.

My friend Ange writes, “Agreed! I am a mere 9 days into the 41st festivus of Ange (also knows locally as Angemas). Angemas goes for the number of years of my age – this year – 41 days. I can’t wait until I’m 92 and can rock it for 3 whole months!!”

How about you? How much birthday celebrating do you do?

Image description: Against a purple background there are three arms holding up the letters H, B, and D. The letters are pink and white. The first arm is brown skinned and has a wrist watch. The second arm is white skinned and is wearing a pink sweater. The third arm is brown skinned and is wearing a white shirt.

Flossing on Google Fit and on the boat

Last year when I was counting steps for the team challenge, I talked about dancing as a way to get some steps in at the end of the day. I stand behind dancing as a way to get in some movement. It comes naturally when I hear music with a beat.

Well, I’m not alone in recognizing dancing as a legitimate way to get active. In fact, Google Fit even includes “flossing,” the dance that all the kids are loving ever since the backpack kid rocked it behind Katy Perry on Saturday Night Live.

Well, not too long ago, my friend Amanda taught me how to floss. I can’t do it at the same speed as the backpack kid, but I’ve been practicing. Last week when I was on vacation on the sail boat, I got out running a few times but I also danced. Here’s my floss video for your entertainment. That’s my partner, Ren, coaching me in the background:

View this post on Instagram

Do the floss. #floss #sailinglife #sailingguinevere

A post shared by Tracy Isaacs (@tracyisaacs1) on

So yeah. There you have it. I can floss (-ish).

Can you?

body image · clothing · equality · femalestrength · gender policing

Is tennis trying to win a chauvinism/misogyny award?


First, the French Open decides one of Serena’s outfits back in June is cause to tighten up their dress code rules. I wrote about that only a few days ago in Let Women Wear What They Want. Yesterday, the U.S. Open penalized Alize Cornet for oh-so-briefly taking off her shirt during a match.

alize cornet shirt
Alize Cornet, French tennis player, taking off her shirt at the U.S. Open with her back turned, wearing a sturdy black sports bra

Have women’s bodies become so hyper-sexualized that we (okay, really men) can’t even see a woman’s sports bra without coming apart at the seams? Watch the video. Alize’s shirt is off for less than thirty seconds. On a break, she had changed out of a sweat-soaked dress. She accidentally put her fresh shirt on backwards. I’m in New York City. I can attest to just how blistering the heat is. Riding at 6 a.m. with a friend this morning, we felt like we needed amphibious bikes to wade through the stifling humidity. I start sweating just looking out my window at the sunshine.

We are super-saturated by media images of women in their scanties. Are you as tired of Victoria’s Secret billboard cleavages as I am? The more we sexualize women in the media, the less room there is for women to be comfortable in their bodies and in their strength.

Meanwhile, no surprise, the male tennis players are sitting around without their shirts on whenever they feel like it.

The powers-that-be blather on about respecting the sport as an excuse to sanction women. The women ARE respecting the sport. Now let’s give the women the respect they deserve!


Happy New Year! (September is the new year for academics)

September is my January. It’s a time for resolutions. I’ve written about September feeling like my January before.

And I’m not alone.

It’s not just university professors and students everywhere who feel this way.

Here’s Lindsey Siera writing about why September is actually New Year’s.

“Sure, January 1st may mark the onset of the official new year. But for most of us, it’s more about the excitement of New Year’s celebrations than an actual new beginning. In fact, there’s not a lot of “newness” about that time of year at all. It’s still winter. We’re still in the same humdrum routines. For many of us, it’s still just midway through the school year. And for all of us, it just doesn’t feel like all that much is fresh. Now September 1st — that’s when the new year actually feels like it’s ready to start. Albeit nine months into the “official” calendar year, it’s when our new planners actually begin. It’s the beginning of fall, when the leaves begin to change, the beginning of school terms, and (most importantly for fashion diehards) the beginning of the biggest, boldest fashion season of the year.”

Catherine blogged this week about her worries about re-entering the academic year routine after a good summer that had time for flexible fun and fitness. I’m still trying to balance my new big job with my fitness ambitions. Also, I need some plans and goals about writing and research. I love academic administration–making things happen makes me smile–but it’s a struggle to fit my own stuff in. Just check out Monday’s post on my scramble to find vacation time.

I set intentions about all sorts of things: getting enough sleep, packing healthy lunches, setting time aside every day to write, going to the gym, and riding my bike. Also, buying new clothes that aren’t black.

I’m commuting by bike everyday but it’s just 5 km round trip. That’s not enough. I’m also running errands by bike and that helps. Ditto there are a lot of dog hikes in my life. I get into the gym about twice a week to lift weights. What’s missing? Well, long bike rides, for sure. I also need a new thing to get me into the university fitness centre. It will be swimming for a few weeks. If that doesn’t take then aquafit and spin classes will take its place.

How about you? Does September feel like a new beginning to you? Do you set intentions? Make big plans?

A reddish dog with a white collar sitting on a chair, underneath a plant. Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

Google Fit, I’m warming to you!

Google fit red heart logo
Google Fit red heart logo

With the ongoing left knee problems I had stopped step counting. It was just too depressing. I gave away my Garmin fitness tracker and just walked as much as I could without pain.

Things have been better lately with my knee brace. I’m dog walking a bit more. And of course, I’m still bike commuting.

So recently I decided to activate Google Fit. It’s a bit much putting on the Garmin bike computer for my 5 km round trip commute but I wanted some way to quantify daily activity. So I decided to activate Google Fit on my phone. I have to say I’m impressed. I like its focus on active minutes instead of steps and I like that it counts intensity too.

From the app, “Being active is important to our health, but how much or what kind of activity do you need? Google Fit worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop two activity goals based on WHO’s physical activity recommendations shown to impact health – Move Minutes and Heart Points. When it comes to your health, it’s important to move more and sit less. Earn Move Minutes for all your activity and get motivated to make small, healthier changes throughout your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or catching up with a friend over a walk instead of a coffee. Activities that get your heart pumping harder have tremendous health benefits for your heart and mind. You’ll earn one heart point for each minute of moderately intense activity, such as picking up the pace when walking your dog, and double points for more intense activities such as running. It takes just 30-minutes of brisk walking five days a week to reach WHO’s recommended amount of physical activity shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve sleep and increase overall mental well-being.”

I’ve set my move minutes to 90 a day and my heart points to 20. I’m still fiddling.

I like the clean interface. It’s clearly focused on activity instead of weight loss. And it automatically detects my two main forms of activity–biking and walking. I like not having to wear a watch and I have my phone with me pretty much all the time I’m walking and biking. I mean, yes I walk around inside my house without my phone but I am happy not tracking that activity.

Read another review here.

Have you tried it? What do you think of Google Fit?

fitness · running · training

“Startling” number of women runners who say they’ve been harassed isn’t so startling (sadly)

Image description: Upper body shot of strong woman running in a tank top, shorts, a black arm warmer on her right arm, hair in pony tail and a headband. Sky and rocky hill in background.
Image description: Upper body shot of strong woman running in a tank top, shorts, a black arm warmer on her right arm, hair in pony tail and a headband. Sky and rocky hill in background. (photo:

The most shared article on our Facebook page in recent days was the CNN report, written by David Williams, with the headline, “Startling number of women say they have been harassed while running.” The article references a 2016 reader survey in Runner’s World which asked:

“How often, if ever, does a stranger whistle at you, comment on your body, needlessly honk at you, or give you other similar unsolicited sexual attention?”

43% of the women who responded said they sometimes, often, or always experience such behavior. Only 4% of men did. Now, the article is meant to be helpful. It offers advice (keep running; change your route; ignore) and ends with:

if you need support or advice on how to deal with harassment, call the toll-free National Street Harassment Hotline at 1-855-897-5910.

When I shared the post on my timeline, I added “Surprise!” Seriously, women who run were the least likely to find the numbers “startling.” Indeed, if anything, it’s startling that only 43% said they’d experienced harassment while running.

Here are some of the comments about the post from our readers (thank you everyone for your comments):

“Yep. Any women actually ‘startled’ by this?”

“I used to run in a cemetery. It felt safer. I’ve been harassed many, many times.”

“I run on an indoor track. Can’t feel safe outside.”

I’d be more surprised with a headline saying: we found most women aren’t harassed while going on about their daily lives.”

I actually feel like I don’t know any female runners who have not been harassed.”

I see I’m not the only woman deriding the use of the word “startling.” Not startling at all. Not even surprising when it happens. Pretty much par for the course. Welcome to being a woman in this world, author of story.

Only startling to a man.

The only startling thing about this is that CNN finds it startling.

Women are harassed everywhere 🙄 #EverydaySexism”

And walking, and cycling, and taking the goddamned bus.

Yeah, I just assumed close to 100% of women runners have been harrassed? This is not news, it’s common knowledge.

Every. Single. Run. 🤦🏼‍♀️

In short: not startling. Not limited to running. The harassment women experience while running, while going about their daily business, spans the gamut from unwelcome sexual attention to body shaming and body policing. No one among those who commented on the post found it at all surprising that a large percentage of women runners were routinely harassed.

It becomes something we learn to live with, to ignore. Mostly that’s the way to minimize unpleasant interactions — just keep on running. Mostly it doesn’t turn violent. But that’s not always the case. Last month in Iowa, Mollie Tibbetts went out for an evening run and didn’t make it back home alive. Her suspected murderer, “Cristhian Bahena Rivera, followed her in his car as she ran along a country road before assaulting her.”

Yes, murder is a shocking outcome.

But obviously it’s also incredibly depressing that harassment is something we have come to find not at all surprising.

Are you surprised?  If you’ve experienced this, how do you handle it?


aging · fitness

Feeling young and living long: Putting the pieces together

I read two news stories that came across my social media newsfeed today that seemed to me to be strongly connected.

First, Feeling young and living long explored the finding that people who feel young for their age actually live longer. What’s it all about? Feeling young turned out to be about control. People who feel in control of their lives live longer.

“Studies suggest that feeling younger may actually help you live to be older. Now, new research points to a way to keep that youthful state of mind, at least for elderly adults: feel in control. “On days when you felt above your average control perceptions — you felt more controlled for you — you tended to feel younger,” says Jennifer Bellingtier, a postdoctoral psychology researcher at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, of her findings, which she presented her research at the recent annual American Psychological Association (APA) convention (and which have not been published in a scientific journal)”

Second, Longevity and wealth gap in Canada explored the gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor in Canada. It’s striking the amount of the effect in Canada, a country where health care is covered by taxes.

“A C.D. Howe study of life expectancy in Canada finds men in the highest earning group can expect to live eight years longer than men who are the lowest earners. For women, the gap in longevity between the richest and the poorest is much less, just three years. The richest can expect to live to 86, compared to average life expectancy of 83 for poor women. For men, the highest income earners — roughly the top 20 per cent — have a life expectancy of 83, while the lowest income workers can expect to live to 75.”

Why? Of course the rich have vacations and can buy better food but it’s not just that. See the first article, the rich are also more likely to feel in control of their lives, it seems to me.

An ariel shot of a brightly colored jigsaw puzzle. Thanks to @hpgauster for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁
cycling · dogs

Sam has Fun with Canoes and Bikes and Dogs

Bike and canoe, I’ve missed you both. It’s been too long. There’s been a lot of bike commuting, boating of various kinds, dog walking, and weight lifting but precious little time for weekend long rides or weekends away paddling, let alone time for weeks away. Unlike Kim I haven’t managed a real vacation this summer. Why? Well, we’re still unpacking as we stare down the barrel of the start of the academic year. It’s been a summer that’s focused on moving houses really. Yikes.

My canoe was still in its canoe bag and my bike’s Garmin isn’t exactly racking up the miles.

The immediate future isn’t looking much better either. Come September every single weekend is spoken for. And don’t get me started on the subject of losing our evening light.

Instead, what I am doing is grabbing time when I can.

After our canoe camping trip in Killarney was aborted (that’s another story for a different blog post) we substituted instead a day canoeing on the French River on Friday. I was so happy paddling. I’ve booked a few weekdays off to get out and do it again. French River, we’ll be back!

Late Friday night we ended up back in Guelph for the rest of the weekend.

Selfie of Sam in a purple cap, no glasses, holding a canoe paddle, in front of Recollet Falls on the French River. 
Recollet Falls, French River
Our lunch stop on the French River

Saturday, I was determined to get out on my bike. I needed to ride. But the weather had other ideas. Torrential rain, thunder showers, winds 30 km/hr gusting to 50 km/hr. I’m tough, and I thought about riding anyway, but I’m not foolhardy. So on Sunday I was single-minded. Yes, there was lots to do about the house but I was going for a bike ride.

Sarah and I hopped on our bikes and did our usual route past campus out into the countryside. Here’s me by one of my favourite local roads, Hume Road. That’s me below in my Rotman Institute jersey from Western University. I need a Guelph jersey, with a gryphon. Hint! It was just 33 km but we went fast and raced some of the Strava segments. I was amused when we got back that Strava informed me that I was working harder than I usually did. That’s because I usually commute in a dress and sandals! It wasn’t really a long, weekend ride but it met my need to get out on my bike.

Sam on her bike wearing black shorts on a Western bike jersey–white trimmed wit black and purple–stopped in front of the Hume Road sign. 

We got home and had to walk dogs. So went to Starkey Hill Conservation Area and took Cheddar (and Gavin’s dogsitting charge Cooper) on the trails through the park. After we got home I got a beep on my phone. It was Google Fit telling me I’d met my active minutes goal for the week. Thanks Google. Time to up the active minutes goal from the default, I think.

All in all, a happy, active long weekend. Dog hikes, canoe trips, and bike rides are three of my favourite things. Not exactly vacation but boating, biking, and dog hiking with some of my favourite people and dogs. I’ll take it. I’m also booking now some long holidays for next summer.

Selfie of Sam and Cooper, a 16 month old golden retriever.
fashion · feminism · fitness

Let Women Wear What They Want

serena williams' catsuit at the french open
Serena Williams in a kick-ass catsuit at the French Open

The powers-that-be in charge of the French Open, aka French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli, deemed the catsuit Serena Williams wore back in June as a fashion choice “gone too far”; one he considered did not “respect the game and place.”

Oh please, seriously?! After I picked myself up on the floor from the outrage of the headline alone, I read the whole story. Apparently Serena wore the outfit because she wanted compression for her legs, because she’s been having problems with blood clots since she gave birth to her child. Also, because she felt like a superhero in the catsuit, along the lines of a Wakanda warrior (a reference to the movie Black Panther, which, if you haven’t seen it—go see it. It’s feminist film candy about strong, smart women saving the day). The headline reminded me of the kerfuffle around Brandi Chastain’s sports bra in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, when she tore off her shirt to celebrate her incredible goal (a soccer tradition practiced by the men) and was roundly criticized for indecency.

Should players be able to wear whatever they want at the French Open? There are probably outfits that should not appear on the court—one’s birthday suit, perhaps, or an offensive item in the hate-speech category—but a full coverage catsuit? The outfit literally covers more skin and is less revealing that any number of other sports outfits we see regularly in world-class level sports. I won’t stray into my pet peeve about women’s vs. men’s outfits in beach volleyball. Not to mention that Serena has worn far more outrageous (and fabulous!) outfits over the years.

Is Bernard’s outrage because the French tennis boys don’t want strong women to feel like superheroes? Well, I could see why that might be threatening. But it certainly doesn’t disrespect the game. In fact, doesn’t it take the game even more seriously by suggesting that it takes a superhero to play?

Tennis is hardly known for its forward thinking. Wimbledon, for example, insists on using “Mrs.” on its leader board. So it ends up with silliness like, Mrs. Williams, for Serena Williams, who did not take her husband’s name. They call that a “courtesy” tradition. More like discourteous, refusing to address women as individuals separate from their husbands. And remember when the former Indian Wells CEO, Raymond Moore said this, “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried this sport.”

Coming back from my run this morning, I was struck by the stark contrast between the Serena Williams controversy and this advertisement for a portrait session in a photography studio I passed, because all girls should want to look like Disney princesses.

princess photo offer
Window of a photography studio, offering girls a “princess dress” photo session (and that’s my reflection, in my running not-a-princess outfit

I’ve been annoyed by this poster every time I’ve come back from my runs lately, thinking about all the implicit gender socialization in its message. I wonder how Bernard would feel about Serena in a white tutu? Less threatened, I bet.

I can’t help thinking that when men police women’s bodies in the way of Bernard, that it’s their own lack of decorum and respect that they are protecting themselves against. Don’t let a woman wear a provocative outfit, because then I can’t help but be provoked (into wanting her/hurting her). Again, I don’t actually think that Serena’s outfit was particularly provocative on the scale of sexy-world-class-sports-outfits. Her catsuit was strong and insouciant and utilitarian.

Exactly what a woman wants to wear when she’s competing in her sport. The same reason I love a running skirt.

What do you think?


Mina is a writer, performer, fableog-ist, citizen, traveler, enthusiast and author of Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives and other books. She’s working on a new book about the transformational impact of sports on women’s lives.