If you’ve got a thing about tracking devices (hi Tracy!) there’s a feminist distopian novel you might want to read. Or listen to. I went for the audio book. Since reading it I’ve been unable to look at the slim attractive devices on friends’ wrists quite the same way.
From the article, “In Christina Dalcher’s recent debut novel, “Vox,” an ultraconservative political party gains control of Congress and the White House, and enacts policies that force women to become submissive homemakers. Girls are no longer taught how to read or write; women are forbidden to work or hold political office, or even express themselves: They are forced into near silence after the government requires all women to wear bracelets that deliver a shock if they exceed an allotted daily word count.”
Instead of steps the tracker counts words. 100 a day are permitted. It’s chilling.
Is it a good book? It’s a good audio book. I’m never sure how well that translates that plain words. But you might feel a bit differently snapping a tracker on your wrist after reading it.
Google Fit upped my targets! It was 60 active minutes a day and now it’s 85. I’m making it most days between biking, swimming, and walking between meetings and walking the dog.
Swimming lessons were fun. I wish there were a larger group I could join for beginners who want to start lane swimming. I like it but I’m not good on my own.
And I’m still riding to work.
I’m tracking food and being purposeful about food choices, aiming to lose weight and minimize knee pain. I am seeing the doctor who is helping me this afternoon in fact.
Well, it’s November very soon. Brrrr. Also, dark. And I need a plan for that month. Something ambitious and fun that makes November feel less bleak. Suggestions welcome!
I don’t know if it’s up or down, but I’m still considering surgical options for my knee. Now it’s partial knee replacement that’s on the table.
I’m reading, “Return to sports and recreational activity after unicompartmental knee arthroplasty.” Naal FD, Fischer M, Preuss A, Goldhahn J, von Knoch F, Preiss S, et al. Am J Sports Med, 2007 Oct;35(10):1688-95.
Photos below are from The Art of the Bicycle at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. October also included a visit to Jeff’s boat in Chicago and Sarah and Jeff I visited the museum. You can read Jeff’s blog post too about our little river loop trip.
About 18 months ago I posted “Alkaline water is a thing (but is it a thing we should care about?)”. I’d just learned about it and had an initial skeptical gut response. Kind of like clean eating and the whole “detoxing” idea, I’m not keen on fads that purport miracle cures, especially if not strongly supported by facts. And the facts never support a miracle cure, by the way.
The new article in question casts further doubt on the claims of alkaline water. First, what is the idea behind it. According to Dr. Tanis Fenton, from the University of Calgary and an evidence analysts for Dieticians of Canada:
the marketing claims behind alkaline water are based on an old idea called the acid-ash hypothesis. This posits that eating certain food like meat, dairy and eggs results in something called acid ash in your body, which increases your acid levels and causes adverse health effects including osteoporosis.
Trouble is, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that raising the body’s alkaline level has any health benefits at all. According to Dr. Fenton:
you simply can’t change the pH of your body by drinking alkaline water. “Your body regulates its [blood] pH in a very narrow range because all our enzymes are designed to work at pH 7.4. If our pH varied too much we wouldn’t survive.”
While you can’t change the pH of your blood, your diet does affect the pH of your urine. “Most people’s urine is about 6, which is acidic,” she explains. However, “that’s no problem, that shows our kidneys is working.” So while it’s possible drinking alkaline water may make your urine less acidic, that doesn’t really make a difference; you’re literally just flushing money down the drain.
Bottom line: we don’t need to drink alkaline water because there is no problem for alkaline water to solve.
So yeah, even after reading the article (maybe even more intensely so, in fact), I still call bullshit on alkaline water.
What’s your take on fancy water (alkaline or other)?
It’s messy and it’s complicated. Femininity can feel fun, say in the way that make up can feel like artsy self-expression. Or it can feel coercive, say when you wear foundation (which never feels fun or artsy) because people tell you that you look tired and at your age you really need to wear foundation in the winter. That’s not so fun.
It can feel fun when we choose feminine clothes. Not so fun, when you feel that you have no choice.
In the end, we’re all about you do you. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hard stuff to think through.
But I’ve got to say I still find religious feminine modesty an odd concept. Wear skirts and dresses because femininity. Religion likes gender roles, I guess. Exercise for reasons of health. That’s cool with me. But then wear shorts underneath because modesty. The combo of modesty plus femininity plus athleticism is an odd thing.
Why odd? Well, if it’s applied only to women, it’s as if men’s bodies don’t need covering up, as if straight/bi women don’t find men attractive, as if we don’t have sexual agency and desires.
This came home to me when browsing about school uniforms and modesty. I came across this site, Dressing for His Glory, which sells modest athletic skirts. There’s no companion site for modestly dressed sporting men.
November is coming, and the weather in the northeast part of the US is getting seasonally fall-like. I love pulling out my winter clothes: jackets and coats and sweaters and wool socks and skirts, as well as cold-weather cycling and ski gear. It’s like getting a new-to-me clothing windfall. However, for the past two years I’ve had a problem: my outdoorsy athletic gear jackets haven’t really fit me.
I’ve gained weight in my upper body, which is not where I used to gain weight when I was younger. My breasts are larger, my back is broader, and my belly is also rounder. Hello menopause!
The obvious thing to do here is to buy a new outdoorsy jacket, winter jersey or two in a larger size. This is the golden age of Internet shopping with free shipping, right? What could possibly go wrong?
Here’s what could go wrong: I was a size XL in jackets and coats and some shirts and sweaters (it varies, of course). I needed a larger size, but in most cases THEY DON’T MAKE THEM. That is, there’s no XXL in lots of outerwear.
As all of you know (as you have shopped in the world), size categories (S, M, L, XL, 1X–4X, etc.) mean very different things to different clothing makers. I’ve never even bothered to try on the largest item of Castelli women’s cycling clothing made, as they don’t see women who look like me as being part of the cycling world (can you tell I’m irritated by this?) Luckily, other manufacturers do make cycling clothing for people my size. But it’s catch-as-catch-can. You can’t reliably predict what styles will fit when you’re pushing the top of the sizing categories.
I am lucky that I have the privilege of being a fat person who can wear lots of outdoorsy clothing that major manufacturers sell. I’m a size 16–18 these days, which means I have much more access to more styles that work for my athletic activities.
Turns out, unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my consternation about this problem. On a recent Twitter thread, In Nicoled Blood posted that “outerwear sizing is bananas… it’s reverse vanity sizing”. By this she means that a L might fit someone who normally wears a size S. Her post unleashed a torrent of sympathetic complaining from men and women who are noting that outdoor clothing manufacturers don’t seem aware of people’s:
broad shoulders from swimming or whatever;
mighty calves from weight training or whatever;
large breasts from just shut up and make the jackets big enough already;
hips that require jackets that will zip around them;
needs for sizing that allows layering under outerwear, as this is a thing not just for tiny people.
A blogger for Outside magazine wrote a largely sympathetic article (also found in the twitter thread) in response to a question about how to find athletic wear for fatter people. However, it took an odd turn when I read this advice:
Since you mention clothes as a specific problem, let’s get you a hiking outfit that makes you feel good. Most outdoor brands have a long way to go when it comes to making plus-size clothing and gear (you hear that, manufacturers?), but your local outdoor store will usually have at least one or two options. You can also choose high-quality material and bring it to your tailor for custom-made clothing. It might feel decadent, but it probably won’t be much more expensive than buying directly from a company—and you’ll end up with clothes that fit your proportions and are designed exactly how you want them.
Yes, it’s true that outdoor stores carry larger sizes, but they are mainly for larger sized men; many women will find them not well-fitting.
Then there’s the tailoring suggestion. Really? I’m supposed to buy some Gore-tex or Polartec material and get a tailor to make me a ski jacket? Who does that? I googled “bespoke down jacket” and got some schmancy website, but there was not even a whiff of pricing information anywhere. You know what that means:
It’s true that more clothing makers are offering more sizes, including more plus-sized clothing. But the variety and availability just plummet once the size is above L. This just won’t do. People of all sizes need clothing to explore all aspects of the great outdoors (and indoors too). And everyone is able to do so. Here’s a graph that even proves it (from that Outside magazine blog):
A good way to deal with the “I haven’t got a thing to wear for winter parasailing” problem is to share information. I found a North Face jacket in XXL that fits me well enough (big in shoulders and long in arms, but otherwise does the job).
Hey readers– where have you run into problems with outerwear sizing, and what solutions have you found? We’d be grateful for any tips you have. Thanks!
“The noons are more laconic and the sundowns sterner. November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.” Emily Dickinson
Christine’s post this morning reminded me that I need a plan for November. November looms.
Regular readers of the blog know how much I hate late fall. I won’t even link to all my dark and fall hating posts. There’s too many. But here’s one that rolls them all together.
In 2016 here’s how I described November, “November kind of just pounced on me, tackled me to the ground, and pinned me before I even had a chance to tap the mat.” Each year, I struggle with November. In 2014, I set specific November goals. In 2016, I gave in and set my sights on December.
What’s wrong with November exactly?
Brief recap: It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s wet. And there’s no snow yet to play in.
That’s my annual seasonally affected whine. It’s saved by Christmas (bright lights) and then by the new year (increasing light, bigger plans and ambitions) but November often feels to me like one long, slow, dark miserable month.
It’s best when I ride anyway and get tough but I don’t always have the stamina for that.
It’s also, just in terms of training, a weird time. Back before the fittest by fifty challenge with Tracy, I just tended to go into the fall as long as I could and then give up completely until after the new year. November was my annual fitness dark valley.
During the challenge I moved my serious bike training indoors come end of October and stuck with a plan.
Now I’m not quite sure where I am here in 2018. My evenings are often busy with work commitments so I can’t sign up for regular indoor bike training. Training on my bike at home on the trainer happens later, when I’m keen, but I’m not there yet.
This year I made a plan for the early fall and pledged to tell new stories. I took swimming lessons and that helped. But they’ve ended. It’s darker and colder and my resolve is wearing thin.
So I need a plan for November and biking. Might be indoor spin classes at lunch a couple of times a week. Might be adding a 10-20 km loop to my morning commute or riding at lunch hour. Might be doing more consistent lower body strength training that’s not just rehab of my miserable left knee.
I don’t know yet what my plan will be. There’s a few days left in October yet. But I know I need a plan. And I’m working on it.
Is there a month you hate the most from a fitness point of view? What’s the challenge? How do you cope?
I’m challenging myself to do yoga* every day in November.
Many of the writers here at Fit is a Feminist Issue are already very fit and have a consistent fitness routine but I’m not quite there yet.
I am moderately fit and I can keep up at Taekwondo but my commitment to consistent, regular movement varies. I am still working toward the point where daily exercise is an automatic part of my day.
I may not be consistent (yet) but I am PERsistent and that brings us to today’s post.
As much as I had hoped to be very fitness-focused these past two months, I have ended up doing bits and pieces of exercise all over the place. A few pushups here, a walk there, some yoga one morning, my Taekwondo patterns another. I’ve attended TKD classes but I have had to miss a few.
I’m okay with all of that , I have been juggling a lot of things and had a lot of pop-up tasks and it won’t help things if I start being mean to myself about not managing to get more exercise in.
I don’t enjoy this haphazard approach though.
It’s ‘good enough’ but it doesn’t increase my feeling of well-being very much.
I end up feeling kind of scattered. Not a feeling I enjoy.
I want some consistency. I want more physical ease. I want more fun.
And THAT brings me to daily yoga.
Just me and my mat, at home, every day.
I want to do other movement, too, of course, but yoga is the right answer for right now.
a) I like short term project commitments (a month of something feels do-able for me).
b) I find it easier to do something every day than every once in a while.
c) I don’t need to be wearing something specific to do yoga.
d) I can do yoga first thing in the morning without waking anyone else up.
e) I can do it right before bed without waking myself up.
f) And, most importantly, it doesn’t just feel do-able or manageable, it feels necessary. I WANT to do yoga daily.
Of course, going from no specific practice to a daily practice will be challenging, I know that.
That’s why I’m keeping my expectations low.
7 minutes** or 7 poses. Every day.
Care to join me?
*I’d like to acknowledge here that my measurement of whether or not I have ‘done’ yoga for the day will be if I have done asanas, the physical aspect of a yoga practice. I am working to develop my practice in all 8 limbs of yoga but that does not lend itself to measurement or to public discussion. I just want to be clear that I understand that yoga is more than stretching on a mat.
I’ve often thought that 20 km would be perfect commute distance. For me, that’s in that happy sweet spot. I’ve never lived that far away from work. My real life commutes have been between 15 and 30 minutes.
Maybe I’ll look for a house in the countryside….
What’s your favorite weekday distance?
(Weekends I love 60-100 km, preferably with sunshine, rolling hills, good friends, and breakfast.)
Have you ever believed a thing about yourself, just fervently believed and adamantly defended it, and then one day you’ve woken up and realized that perhaps what you’ve believed and defended has… changed? Or perhaps was never quite true – not in the way you had imagined, anyway – in the first place?
An image of six boys running on a school track; it looks like nearly the end of the race. The boy in the foreground is racing to win; the image is in sepia tone. What does this have to do with my post? Read on.
This story begins back in spring, when I hopped back into the scull at Leander, my new boat club in Hamilton, Ontario, full of keen interest. My bum was not even on the slide yet when I realized that the women I was now training with were experienced, serious, committed, and out to win.
Not that they are not completely amazing humans, balanced and sane and gorgeous, and not that they are not fun, or out to have fun. They are all these things too. And, OF COURSE, not that there is anything whatsoever wrong with wanting to race to win. On the contrary: I love winning. I LOVE WINNING!
Or so I thought.
Rowing with these women started to freak me out pretty much immediately. I was painfully aware that, while I’m strong as hell, my technique in a scull is not honed enough yet to be easy or natural; this is another way of saying that I kept yanking our boats off course because I’m strong enough physically, but still weak enough technically, to be something of a liability. I was hugely embarrassed about this from the get-go, because I knew these women needed an able and consistent teammate. I wanted to be that teammate. I did.
Or I thought I did.
I told myself: I’ll improve over the summer. It will come in time. There’s time! Training consistently will help! I will do the training required.
Then summer rose high, and I had (as usual) lots of work travel. (This is why I rowed much more casually back in London, Ontario, with my delightful and equally casual and fun teammate Jen. For us, the water was pure joy. PURE JOY. More on this later.)
So: despite my best self-talk, I got out to Leander’s regular masters practices much less over the summer months than I’d hoped. Or that I had told myself I had hoped, anyway.
I wasn’t in the boat enough to be improving, and I realized that; I chose not to sign up for regattas in the expectation that I would not be ready.
It all seemed sensible and logical enough in my head: just not quite ready, not yet.
After a while, and a chat with Cate, it dawned on me that something else might be going on – other than me being super busy.
A large “Duh!”. Because, Kim, come on. DUH.
I realized I might be finding lots of excuses not to go to rowing practice, because actually I was scared of going to practice.
I was scared of letting my teammates down. The pressure to improve was destroying the pleasure, the pure joy, rowing held for me.
When I thought about it more, as the summer passed, I realized that I actually hadn’t been all that busy, not really. Actually, I had chosen not to go to many practices, or sign up for regattas, because the thought of racing was making me crazy nervous. The idea of getting to the race was making me nervous. The idea of spending a day at the race was making me nervous. The idea of driving back from the race was making me nervous.
Not because I didn’t want to win a race; don’t be silly. I LOVE TO WIN. But because … well, I didn’t actually want to race.
I realized: I. Did. Not. Want. To. Race. Not like this, anyway. Not now, anyway. Maybe not… ever.
Surprise, self. Surprise.
Autumn arrived, and then my teaching schedule and family commitments meant I could only reasonably commit to one practice a week. And then family health problems arose and made me so tired, so exhausted from the thought of even trying to row, that I just emailed my head coach and stopped. I should have done this long before, of course, but finally I had an excuse that was legit. Or that I thought was legit. “Family crisis!” sounds so much better than “Really just not enjoying it!”
But the truth is, crisis or none, after I emailed Greg I felt immeasurably better, lighter.
I want to be clear here that I’m not suggesting that racing is bad – hells no! If it is your cuppa, please head straight for the starting line! I also want to be clear that I’ve thought a lot about the mixed and complex feelings I was having around rowing practice over the last few months, and I’ve concluded that the cloud of expectation I felt around me about racing was really, powerfully, hampering both my love of the sport (which is real) and my desire to be better at it (which is real, too). I started out telling myself that of course I was going to race, and of course I was going to commit to all the things in order to make that happen. No excuses! But it turns out that hyper-motivator of a phrase was the opposite of motivating for me.
Early in the autumn, the head of the women’s crew and I found ourselves in calm water in the double one Sunday morning. She knew I was struggling but I doubt she knew the depth – almost certainly not, since I had only just begun to admit it to myself. We started talking about the club, its culture, and then I asked her about the Rec program: was it super loosey-goosey and frustratingly disorganized like Rec rowing often can be?
No! She told me. She sang the praises of the coaches and the structure and the fun of it. She told me it was how she had gotten interested in racing, inspired to leap up to masters. I suddenly realized that maybe I could grasp again the joy and fun of the learning that goes into rowing by dropping down to a low-pressure, no-stakes, but still structured and technically focused environment next season. Maybe I could actually develop a true, heart-felt, joy-filled desire to race one day.
Soon, we spotted a heron on the shore and stopped hard for a look. We commiserated about the heat building and the sweat beginning to ripple on our arms. Greg came by in the coach boat to chat about his new super-wicking shorts; we had a laugh and took away a pro sartorial tip. And I remembered the pleasures I take from the boat, when the pressure to perform eases off.
A young woman half-sit in her single scull along a lakeshore, looking into a cloud-filled, orange sunrise. She is wearing a white sport top, blue sport shorts, and looks to have her hair in a braid across her right shoulder. This is not me! But maybe, next season, it might be.
See you next season,
*This will be my last regularly post for a while. That family health crisis I speak about above is actually, really, a crisis, and I’ll be turning my attention there for now. I hope to write again before too long, though. Thanks for reading.
Sam and I have been super pleased with the professional photos Ruth Kivilahti of Ruthless Images took for our book promotion. We have gotten a ton of mileage out of them and I would recommend Ruth in a heartbeat for anyone in the London area who needs high quality images to help promote a project. Here’s one of our faves:
I loved working with Ruth on this. She has a knack not just for taking fantastic portraits that feel fun and informal, but also for making the entire experience enjoyable. I knew too that both Nat and Sam had had great experiences with Ruth in a boudoir photo shoot a few years ago. You can read Nat’s story here. And Sam’s here.
Boudoir photography is a genre of photography that captures intimate moments–sexy, romantic, private, possibly but not necessarily erotic.
Last week Ruth posted a call for volunteers. She is rebranding and rebooting her boudoir business and wanted some new material for her marketing. I have been interested in doing this for some time but it so far hadn’t happened. So I volunteered. And Ruth said you’re in!
I showed up at a loft space she had rented. Ruth asked me to bring a few outfits that made me feel sexy. Reflecting on what makes you feel sexy, not necessarily what you think someone else might find sexy, is in itself a challenge. To me, that is one of the things that makes boudoir photography intimate from the start — its focus on an internal sense of sexy, where the best of it manages to depict that in the images. I selected a few different “moods” and threw them into a suitcase, along with some accessories, jewelry, shoes, and boots.
The first order of business was make-up. It turns out that in the end, the make-up was the thing that I struggled with the most. Not the revealing outfits or worries about my how my aging body might photograph, but the make-up (I’ll say more on that in a moment).
The loft was a cool two-story space downtown, with lots of exposed brick and spare, simple contemporary furnishings and decor. As I was getting my make-up done (by Amanda, of Beauty Bomb Glam), Ruth was doing a shoot with Angela. I wasn’t exactly nervous but I did start to wonder, as I tend to do, whether this would work “for me.” Ruth showed me some of Angela’s shots and wow, she looked absolutely stunning. I began to doubt whether, no matter how much talent I knew Ruth had, she would be able to take pictures of me that would capture a sense of “sexy” that was true to who I am (the way it appeared she had done in Angela’s pics).
Anyway, nevermind. I set out my various outfits and we decided to start with a classic slip-style sheer nightgown. Ruth got me into all sorts of awkward poses that she assured me would look natural in the photos. Here’s one from that series, which she offered as a “sneak preview” a couple of days after the shoot:
Of the sneak previews I like this one the best because it seems natural and I actually think I look amazing (Ruth is so good with the camera).
After that, I went to some of the more racy outfits, and we had fun with those too. We went all over the loft, taking shots in window sills, against brick posts, on beds and chairs and couches, against walls. Every so often Ruth showed me what she was shooting, and I have to say, they made me feel good.
Ruth’s concept is that boudoir is for everyone. Not just young, thin, conventionally beautiful women. Up after me, in fact, were a couple of guys who were just so incredibly adorable I almost wanted to stay and watch their shoot.
When she posted the sneak previews of my session on her Facebook page, Ruth mentioned that I was 54 and doing my first boudoir shoot. She said:
At 54 she came in to honour her body, to find empowerment and to experience the power of boudoir… and I am SO incredibly glad she did.
Boudoir isnt just for the 20 or 30 somethings…
Boudoir isnt just for women…
Boudoir isnt for when you reach that goal weight or milestone…
BOUDOIR IS FOR EVERY HUMAN, EVERY DIFFERENT BODY!
Ask yourself, what are YOU waiting for?
I too am incredibly glad I did it. I honestly felt strong doing the shoot and so far, based on the three pics I’ve seen, I like what Ruth captured.
I concur with ‘what are you waiting for.’ I think this type of photography can go a long way to helping create a sense of sensual energy and even power and agency. As I was doing the shoot, Ruth mentioned a couple of times that the men in my life would enjoy them. But to be quite honest, I wasn’t even thinking of that as I did the shoot. I really went quite inward, which is an odd thing to say about photography, which obviously captures an outward image. But anything that is going to have resonance has to depict something deeper, and I do feel Ruth succeeded in that.
If I have one reservation, it is that the make-up, while absolutely gorgeous, is not me. I am a real minimalist when it comes to make-up. I get that it makes sense to have a proper make-up job for professional pictures. But I do wish I had asked for a slight tone-down, more reflective of my natural look. I’m just not a glamourous woman in my self-conception, and the make-up is glam all the way. I had to remove it before I left the loft because I honestly couldn’t imagine going out into the world with that amount of make-up on. So while the clothes were mine and felt like me, the make-up not as much (this is not a criticism of Amanda who did my make-up, by the way).
Make-up aside, I get that some people might think that boudoir photography is just for straight women who want to please their man or men. That is the furthest thing from my experience. As I said above, though I was happy to share the pics and get lots of positive feedback from men and women alike, the biggest deal for me was how the session and what I’ve seen so far of the pictures has made me feel. At 54, this helped me to feel like an attractive woman who still has a bit of sexy left in her. Considering my long history of body image issues, which I have slowly but surely resolved through the new level of fitness and athleticism I’m experiencing since Sam and I embarked on our fittest by 50 challenge, I’m happy about anything that makes me feel good in my body. This experience has certainly had that affect.
Here’s one more shot, where you can get a sense of the make-up, which is appropriate for the setting, but is more than I would normally wear in my boudoir! There’s one more that has a great view of my legs (which I didn’t realize had visible muscles til I saw that picture) but it’s a bit too much for the blog (in my view). If you’re curious you can go to Ruth’s Facebook page. You can also scroll down a bit further and see the sweet guys I mentioned.