addiction · advertising · alcohol · fitness · food · inclusiveness · Martha's Musings

Canada’s New Food Guide

By MarthaFitat55

Health Canada released its long awaited update to its food guide this week and the response has been swift. Overall I quite like it, and I wrote about it here in my bi-weekly column. The old food guide was prescriptive (eat something from these four food groups and here’s how much). The new food guide is much more aspirational and as I wrote, it reflects diversity in food choice and food culture.

I thought I would pull together a bunch of responses to the guide in this post. The Globe and Mail has several pieces I liked, with the first from one from Andre Picard, the Globe’s health reporter, in which he looks at food insecurity and the food guide’s recommendations. Leslie Beck, the Globe’s dietitian commentator, offers up her thanks for Health Canada’s building a guide on science while Ann Hui also of the Globe and Mail, provides a good overview of the key changes here.

Cassandra Lszklarski from the Canadian Press focuses on the guide’s position on alcohol. Health Canada has stepped away from recommending milk as the preferred beverage and tells us to drink more water. At the same time, it is also came out strongly against alcohol consumption (non drinkers shouldn’t start for example). Previous guides highlighted the sugar and calories in alcohol, but this version talks about the links between alcohol and obesity, cancer, and addiction.

Yoni Freedhoff looks at the implications for institutional change. On Weighty Matters, Freedhoff’s blog, he wrote how the new food guide is a radical departure from previous more modest iterations:

“Whether it was consequent to past criticisms, or the insulation of the revision process from the food industry, or a change in leadership, or some combination of those and more factors, the 2019 Food Guide is incredibly different from all of its predecessors. Gone is dairy as its own food group (that doesn’t mean the guide is recommending against dairy consumption), gone is wishy-washy language that excused refined grains, gone are explicit recommendations to consume 2 glasses of milk and 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oils daily, gone is overarching fat-phobia, gone is juice being a fruit and vegetable equivalent, gone is the notion that sugar-sweetened milk is a health food, and gone is an antiquated nutrient-focused approach.”

Freedhoff also talks about what to do next, now that the food guide is out without its dependence on food-based marketing recommendations. In this post, he looks at what needs to change for good healthy food policy to happen. Freedhoff describes them as hills but they include removal of fast food from schools, a national school food policy, a ban on food marketing to children, implementation of a soda tax, removal of front of package claims, and an overhaul of supplement regulation.

The food insecurity issue is one that I will be looking at in the future, but in the meantime, I am excited by the new food guide and what it means for reflecting diversity and health on my plate.

What do you think? How important has the food guide been in managing your nutritional needs? What do you like or dislike about Health Canada’s guide?

— Martha Muzychka is a writer living in St. John’s who swims, lifts and walks as much as she can.

fitness · Guest Post

No Way! (Guest Post)

I walked into my gym the other week anticipating the usual 7:30 Friday morning work out with my personal trainer. He told me that the club had decided to start fitness testing clients in order to help them work towards a goal. I had been asking them to do this for years since most of the goals they promote are about weight and fat loss and not about health improvement. I have been very explicit with them that I will not set a weight loss goal because I will fail and feel shame and then have to quit the gym.

Back to the test. Rather than do the normal workout, he explained the test that the trainers had devised. He called it a “10 x 10” meaning we would do a series of exercises in a pyramid starting with 10 reps of each and then repeat the set doing one less rep until we got to zero. The time limit for completion was 20 minutes. The set was squats, pushups, lunges, bent-over rows, one-legged bridges, and crunches followed by 40 ‘high-knees’ at the end of each set. I started laughing and said, well, I probably won’t finish. My trainer, who is a nice guy and really quite supportive, agreed. He told me that most of the people make it to the set of 6 or 7 reps and I would probably do the same.

We got started. Now, just for a bit of background I have been working with a personal trainer for about 10 years and it has greatly improved my consistency with working out and my form. I have also played sports most of my life and I currently cycle extensively and play ice hockey in a men’s pick up league in the winter. I do my cardio at the gym on an instrument of torture called “Jacob’s Ladder”. So, I am not unfit by any means. But I am 55 years old, I have grey hair, my BMI is well over 30 and has been that way for most of my life. The paediatrician told my mother that I was going to be “a big one” while I was still an infant. On every health measure except BMI and waist circumference, I hit it out of the park. But, because I am fat both my trainer and I always start from the position that I will be less capable than all the other gym rats with their six pack abs and their 2.5% body fat.

Off we went. When I hit the 6x set, he told me that I was posting a great time. When I hit the 4x set, he was completely amazed. I finished in 14:05. The fastest time in the gym was 13:15. My trainer’s time was 14:55. I had posted the second fastest time in the gym and beat not just my trainer, but all of the trainers. He double and triple checked.

Yay me! Needless to say, I have bragged about it to my physiotherapist, doctor, friends on facebook, and anyone else who will listen.

But that isn’t the point. The point is that neither I, nor my trainer, thought that I would even finish. Despite all evidence to the contrary – the fact that I have worked out for years, that I have always had a solid capacity for cardio exercises, that I have posted other excellent results in the same gym – my internalized belief that old, fat chicks can’t be fit and his socialized belief (and probably textbook taught ‘knowledge’) that old, fat chicks are never fit still prevailed before we were able to “prove” the contrary in a test.

And I still look at the ‘fit’ ideals and wish I could be different. I long to have long straight legs and a flat tummy and a back that doesn’t look like a long lens view of the rolling dunes of the Sahara. I want to do straight leg fold overs without feeling my tummy between my back and my thighs. I want to do a plow pose without suffocating. But none of these things have ever been true nor will they ever be true. And none of them are indicators of either fitness or health.

Here is an analogy. I just had to replace the sewers in my house for a vast sum of money. As a result, I will likely never have a granite countertop or a soaker tub. I imagine telling people looking at my home when I sell it that while it may not look like a show home, we have a sewer to die for.

But no one should have to sell their value in the world (or to themselves) by saying, I may not look that great in a push up sports bra and boy shorts, but you should just listen to the sound of my heart pumping and see my cholesterol scores.

Melinda Munro is a lawyer and consultant in Windsor, Ontario. Among her greatest moments in fitness (and sports) is being awarded “Man of the Match” at the Cambridge v. Oxford Blues Hockey game in 1990. In this photo she is celebrating scaling Pen y Fan the highest peak in South Wales.


Body-shaming in fashion and beauty industries still as much a thing as ever

Sometimes as a feminist who’s been around for awhile and has watched feminism diversify, become more intersectional, and strive for a kind of inclusivity that may or may not be possible, I (wrongly) think that some of the “old faithful” issues have fallen away. I think here of issues like normative femininity and the feminine beauty ideal. The imperative that women should be thin, lean, and small.

These issues are really old hat. We’ve been talking about the oppressive nature of the aesthetic of normative femininity for decades. But sadly, that doesn’t mean they’ve been resolved.

A stark reminder that body-shaming and the thin-lean-small ideal are still alive and well in the fashion and beauty industries came across my newsfeed in the form of two different stories this week.

First, there was Jameela Jamil against Avon. In case you missed it, Avon had an ad with copy that read: “dimples are cute on your face (not on your thighs).” Even as I read it I can hardly believe this would get through whatever approvals process an ad needs to get through before it goes public. I mean, if Avon is trying to win over women and sell products, shaming them in this manner is hardly a winning strategy.

Jamil called the company out on Twitter:

Jamil has a lot of influence and her tweet made the rounds, with over 10,000 retweets. That made Avon respond with an apology and a decision to pull the offending ad:

Jameela Jamil is great at calling out body-shaming and inequities without mincing words. She calls it as she sees it. That’s an admirable use of her social position and fame.

The other incident involved the fashion industry. For years feminists have been pointing out the unrealistic ideal represented by runway models and magazine models in high fashion circles. This week I read that Bebe Rexha reported that several designers declined to dress her for the Grammy’s because she’s too big. She’s a size 6-8. TOO BIG?!

Her response was spot on. She said:

“If a size 6-8 is too big, then I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t want to wear your f**king dresses. Cause that’s crazy. You’re saying all the women in the world that are size 8 and up are not beautiful and they cannot wear your dresses…So all the people who said I’m thick and I can’t wear dresses, f**k you and I don’t want to wear your f**king dresses,”

I love how these guys on ET Canada are saying how they don’t believe it’s still a thing. Right? I agree: why is this still a thing? Here’s a video of the ET Canada guys and how perplexed they are, and also of Bebe Rexha telling the designers who don’t want to dress her, “fuck you!”

cycling · winter

Join me on Friday, Feb 8, 2019 for #WinterBikeToWorkDay

Winter commute Ottawa bike style!

Winter Bike To Work Day 

Some people are calling it International Winter Bike to Work Day but I’ve spent enough time in Australia and New Zealand to know that it’s not winter everywhere in February. Cyclists there are battling record breaking heat waves. I think I’d rather ride in the snow.

I’ve written about how to bike in the snow and the cold and now if you’re so inclined, join me! Oh, and send me your pictures with a brief caption and I’ll share them on the blog after!

A black and white photo of a person riding a bike on snowy night.
Photo by olli ko on Unsplash
aging · Aikido · fall

Falling well and melting into the ground

A senior resolves not to fall in 2019.

Lots of friends shared this Globe and Mail first person account of falling. It’s a moving piece and it got me thinking about falling, again. I’ve blogged lots about it. I’ve also blogged about fear of falling and its bad effects, since moving less out of fear is also really bad for us as we age.

So much of the emphasis in commentary is on not falling. And I get that. There’s lots we can do to avoid falling: strength training, balance work, etc. We can also wear boots with grippy things on the sole, put snow tires on our bikes, shovel and salt our walkways.

We can also work on strengthening our bones so that when we do fall, we’re less likely to break things.

And yet, sometimes falling is inevitable.

Then it’s important to know how to fall well.

Most of us do things that make falling worse. We stiffen up. We brace ourselves. We try to put off falling as long as possible. We stick out our arms to break our fall. These things make it more likely that we’ll break something.

What to do instead? Relax. Get low to the ground so you’re not falling from a great height. Imagine yourself gently melting into the ground. Curl yourself into a ball. Weirdly, embrace the fall. I’m going to fall with style!

How do you learn this? Muscle memory, practise. You don’t need to be a black belt rock star in a martial art. Go get a yellow belt and practise falling. I went to Aikido the other Sunday for the first time in a couple of years. I was happy to find that I still fell softly on the mats. That class I fell dozens of times. In an advanced class it might be hundreds.

Or take out some mats at the gym and fall and get back up again. Repeat each time you’re there.

Akido isn’t just for young people. See. Here’s a story about a dojo just for older women. The photo below is from that story.

Babushkas fight club


Tracy’s winning formula: consistency and forgiveness

Image description: three panels showing Tracy, wearing knee length shorts, running shoes, and a tank top, in three different stages of squat shoulder press with barbell.–squat, halfway up, all the way up with left arm pressing up overhead with the barbell. Dumbell rack, mirrors, and window in background.

Anyone who follows the blog knows that I’m not exactly an elite athlete. I feel pleased when I make it out of the bottom half of any event I enter, and that doesn’t happen a whole heck of a lot. So when I talk about “winning formulas,” I don’t actually mean formulas for winning. Instead, I’m talking about my formula for keeping at it with a reasonably good attitude.

Sam and I like to joke sometimes about how boring our message is. Have goal. Chip away at it. Better still if it’s a thing you like. We all posted yesterday about our favourite activities. I love that we all have favourite activities.

So what’s my winning formula? Consistency and forgiveness. I have some regular stuff I do, and I do it reasonably consistently. I run about 3 times a week. I weight train with my personal trainer twice a week. You’ll find me in the hot yoga studio once a week on Saturday morning. And in between I’ll walk to work or do some yoga at home or switch it up if I’m traveling by doing something more fitting to the local setting (like swimming or kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding or hiking).

But I sometimes don’t get in all the things that I normally like to do. Like this weekend when I went to the lake and it was absolutely freezing, there was no way a long run was happening on Sunday. No. Way. Yes, I went for a brisk and chilly walk with friends on Saturday. But I spent most of Sunday driving and eating BBQ potato chips.

This is where forgiveness comes into the picture. Because routine and consistency are all well and good. But they’re not 100% all the time. Monday came along and I had a lot on my figurative plate. But I can live with that because, whereas in the past I had more of an all or nothing attitude, today I know I can get back at it as soon as possible without a great deal of consequence. I’m not sure I’m going to get back at it today because I am teaching this morning and then Sam and I are giving a talk this afternoon (on why fitness is a feminist issue).

That’s okay. Because that’s life and oh well. I know I’ll get back on track on Wednesday, when I can fit in a tempo run and some weight training. Yes, I’m a little bit panicked about “falling behind” in my Around the Bay training. But as my coach Linda said to me this afternoon, I will be able to complete that 30K. It’s just a matter of how I will complete it. The more I stick with my training plan the better I will perform. But either way I will show up for the day, do my best, enjoy the moment, and show the results of the training I did.

Consistency keeps me moving forward. Forgiveness gets me back on track when I’ve fallen out of routine. They work as a kind of tag-team, forming the core of my “motivational strategy.” I use these values in workouts and in life more generally. Boring? Maybe. Effective? You bet!

How consistent are you? How forgiving are you?


Celebrating Feminist Fitness with our 20,000 WordPress Followers

We’ve celebrated various milestones along the route of our blogging journey. On May 19th, 2013 we were excited to welcome our 500th follower. At the time it seemed like a really big deal. On January 27, 2015 we welcomed follower number 4000. On November 13, 2015 we hit 15,000.

And now here we are welcoming our 20,000th follower! Welcome to our happy place where feminism and fitness meet.

Fireworks. Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash
Celebratory fireworks!
Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

Here’s some of the blog regulars talking about what they like best in the world of feminist fitness:


Cycling continues to be my passion when it comes to movement. Over the years I’ve even found joy in winter cycling whether that’s snow commuting or fat biking through the woods. Whee! Zoom!

Sam fat biking at Tremblant on a trail that turned out to be a black trail, for expert, advanced riders. After finding that out Sam felt less bad about being nervous about the cliff and the river on her left side.


I started the Fittest by 50 Challenge back in 2012 not enjoying running at all. Now I love it and can’t imagine life without it. I am most excited when I have a big goal ahead. This winter, the Around the Bay 30K is keeping me focused and consistent in my training. Here I am with Anita after our epic half marathon at the Scotiabank Waterfront half in Toronto in October.


Right now, I’ve fallen in love with the mix of movement that made it possible for me to work out 302 times in 2018: running, spinning, cycling, walking, small weights and yoga. This handstand was only my second ever, and I did it on July 31st, after meeting my goal of working out every day in July. The blend of those activities perks up all of my different kinds of strength and determination, though I think if I had to pick just one right now, it would be yoga. I’m getting so much from the simplest postures right now.


I love Taekwondo because of the mental and physical discipline it requires. I love all the jumping and punching and kicking, it feels like I am using all of my muscles and building my power. And I love how the process of learning TKD has taught me how to understand other areas of my life – how to break things into smaller tasks, how to practice effectively, and how to be kinder to myself while I learn.


Swimming makes me feel awesome. Without fail, I’m in a better mood when I get out of the water than when I get in! I love the feeling of becoming one with the water and how it helps me propel myself along. 


Of all the physical activities I like to do, cycling is my favorite. Seeing the world from the handlebars, whether going fast or slow, near home or across the country or globe– this is where I’m happiest. And the cherry on top is doing this with other people. I love regular summer Friday coffee rides with my friend Pata, renting beach cruisers with my sister and her kids, and going on group vacations that include or are dedicated to cycling. This summer I’m trying not to plan much travel so I can revel in summer cycling in New England. Come join me!


I love my bike. That’s it. Don’t need to kill every strava segment to know it loves me too. (Though when that happens, that’s nice.) Prefer a Sunday when the clouds fly away just in time for me to pull my favourite shorts on. Nothing like waking up to a burst of sunlight and knowing there’s a friend-filled ride ahead. And nothing like the treat to end the ride!


I love rowing and powerlifting. I love rowing for being part of a team and I love powerlifting because I am the team. I came to both sports late in life after years of feeling pretty well non-functional in a sports environment. When you row as a team, you can get to a place where you feel you are flying through the water. That can happen too in lifting. I love that feeling.


As it’s winter, my happy place is on cross-country skis, one of my all-time fitness favourites for the way it makes cold weather a gift,  for the inescapable effort that makes my heart work as absolutely hard as it can; all in a landscape of solitude and quiet.  

Mina cross country skiing (at Tahoe Donner Cross Country in Truckee, CA)


Sam rejects your ‘amazing arm shapers!’

A video about ‘amazing arm shapers”

Things in my newsfeed that I definitely won’t be ordering…how about “arm shapers.” The ad says, “GET SLIM ARMS IN SECONDS.” First thought: Hey, I worked for these muscles. But then, oh, right, I remember. There’s all that angst about having arms in good enough shape to wear sleeveless dresses. That’s what this is about.

Facebook algorithms, do you even know me? I am the author of Bingo wings and dinner plate arms: Let’s put our wit to work elsewhere. 

I am a fan of learning to love our bodies as they are. I am not a fan of the continual search for women’s body parts that must be improved. I won’t recite the list of unruly body bits. Reader, I’m sure by now you know it as well as I do. 

There’s a review of them by someone who more practical, and less philosophical, objections to the very idea of arm shapers. She asks Would you wear arm tights?

” I, and everyone I know who has ever declared their bingo wings to be a ‘body hangup’, all have one thing in common. We only dislike our upper arms when they’re out. A sleeveless dress at a wedding, a spaghetti strap top on holiday – these are the times that you might want a miracle sartorial solution to swoop in and hold up any surplus arm jiggle. On a day that I didn’t want to show my wings, I would simply choose a dress or top in my wardrobe with sleeves to cover them. There would be no point in having a sucky-in, long-sleeved layer underneath that, unless the outer top’s silhouette was also skin tight. Any other shape would ruin the streamline illusion. “

Her answer is no. Mine too, even though I didn’t get to the practical considerations she sensibly raises.

More images of arm shapers modeled by people who clearly don’t need arm shapers. Never mind, no one needs arm shapers. So they might as well be modeled by thin women.


aging · beauty · fitness

Women over 50 don’t find Yann Moix extraordinary, either…

Hi FIFI readers– in case you missed it: the latest episode of “international douchebags in the news” features childish and churlish French writer Yann Moix, who was interviewed by the French magazine Marie Claire and shared his dating preferences with us. No, I won’t make you wait– here it is (from a New York Times Op-Ed):

…he isn’t attracted to 50-year-old women…. he prefers to sleep with Asian women in their 20s. “The body of a 25-year old woman is extraordinary,” he explained. “The body of a 50-year-old woman isn’t extraordinary at all.” Falling in love with a 50-year-old would be out of the question: For him, women that age are “invisible.”

Well, the French and American fashion media just can’t let this jerk throw down such a misogynist gauntlet and not pick it up. So what do they do? They fight back by finding 50-year-old movie stars and celebrities to prove this bozo wrong. And who do they enlist but Julia Roberts, who happens to be 51. Here she is:

Actor Julia Roberts on the cover of French magazine Gala, with headline reading "Julia Roberts is 50 years old. So!" At least I think it says that. I took French in college, which was a long time ago.
Actor Julia Roberts on the cover of French magazine Gala, with headline reading “Julia Roberts is 50 years old. So!” At least I think it says that. I took French in college, which was a long time ago.

Yeah! Take that, you bumptious troll. Julia is showing us that women over 50 *are* extraordinary, because she is. I mean, look at her on the November 2018 cover of Harper’s Bazaar– she’s rock climbing, and in a humongous pink tulle cotton-candy confection of a dress. If that’s not extraordinary, I don’t know what is.

The cover of Harper's Bazaar magazine, with Julia Roberts clinging to a rock outcropping in a very big, very pink tulle dress.
The cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, with Julia Roberts clinging to a rock outcropping in a very big, very pink tulle dress. While smiling.

Okay, I’ll be serious now. While it is true that Julia Roberts seems pretty awesome and fun and dreamy-looking on these magazine covers, even she can’t overcome such contemptuous views about women (all of them– it’s not like the 20-somethings are thinking, “Whew! We’re really glad we’re still considered attractive by this vainglorious piss-ant.”).

No, she needs reinforcements. And they are on the case, most notably in the form of French women, who submitted evidence of the extraordinariness of women over 50.

They… submitted evidence to rebut Mr. Moix’s view of older women, including photos of gorgeous middle-aged actresses like Halle Berry. In case a former Bond girl didn’t redeem the whole age class, ordinary women offered themselves up for inspection. One 52-year-old French writer posted a photograph of her admirably toned derrière, and other 50-plus women followed suit — hundreds, according to Mr. Moix. (“I would like 50-year-old women to stop sending me photos of their bottoms and breasts,” he pleaded.)

New York Times

Thanks (or rather, merci beaucoup) to all those French women, who delivered up themselves in their own 50-something glory to show him who’s fabulous.

But I don’t think we’re done yet with Monsieur Meh here. He needs a more substantive response to his “women over 50 aren’t extraordinary” claim. Here are some of my thoughts.

Why do we have to have extraordinary bodies to be worth something? Ordinary bodies are lovely, practical, functional, sustainable, and probably also more economical than extraordinary ones (I can’t even guess how much that huge pink dress costs, not to mention the pain of cosmetic surgery, diets, etc. that some extraordinary-looking people go through).

I think all bodies are extraordinary. And all women’s bodies in particular– we do extraordinary things with them. And they differ gloriously– like wildflowers in a meadow– in various shapes and colors.

You, Yann “messed up” Moix, don’t get a picture of my stupendous ass. No no no– you gotta earn the right to a viewing. And you’re missing out, loser.

Youth is sparkling and chaotic and confusing and uncertain. Life over 50 (speaking for me) has more clarity, sweetness, complexity and community. I don’t look the same. I don’t feel the same. That’s life. One of my aspirations as an over-50 woman is not to be oppressed or made low by attractiveness standards that overlook or ignore me.

Readers, what do you make of this “women over 50 aren’t extraordinary” business? Should we just sail on past it? Take a stand and fight back? Continue spamming this dork with butt shots aplenty? I’d love to hear what you think.


High intensity interval spinning

Last week, I wrote about the 6 week challenge I’m doing with my spinning studio that is a good, challenging blend of all the fitness things — working out, sleeping, hydration, thinking more mindfully about the things I’m putting in my mouth.  screenshot 2019-01-19 09.19.07In my little burst of “trying new things” as part of this challenge, I noticed a new class on the Torq schedule:  a High Intensity Interval Training (+!) class.

Normally, I find most spinning classes aggressive enough for me, and I’m all about the intuitive movement these days, as I wrote about last week.  But I was looking for something to fit into a window of time for working out last Friday morning, and this fit my weird logic:  “I don’t love spinning first thing in the morning — it takes so long for me to wake up — but it’s only 30 minutes!  How bad could it be?  Then I’ll be done working out for the day!”  Also, I like Marawan as a teacher — he’s not shouty — so I got myself to an 840 class last Friday.

Because it’s a new class (and maybe because of all of the explosive language in the description), there were only four of us in the first class.  I had had a terrible sleep — still jet lagged and insomniac from my trip to Australia — and I had a busy day before I had to travel four hours the next morning for a family funeral.  I arrived a bit of a worn out rag, and gave all sorts of qualifiers to my Clear Intention Not to Work Hard.  Marawan was just gently encouraging — do what you can.

The class was… highly intense.  But in a really doable way.  I won’t say the 30 minutes “flew by,” but I was deeply engaged the entire time.  Marawan took us through a simple series of 3 patterns of about 12 minutes each, each marked by harder, more intense, intensest, briefly return to a hard baseline again again for a version of “recovery”, repeat.  We use torq sticks at this studio to increase and decrease the weight on the bikes quickly — moving the torq stick to the middle of the gear is similar to 1.5 full turns on the flywheel, to the right is like 3, then you can fling it back to your baseline quickly.  For part of the class, we used the monitor at the front of class to track our wattage output (total class average energy).

It was simple… and it did all of the things HIIT is supposed to do — pushes you hard with pockets of near-recovery, pushes you hard again, then you’re done, sweaty and pleased with yourself.  (A lot of people are HIIT evangelists, but there is a fair bit of argument among exercise researchers about whether it’s really “superior” for anything other than efficiency — but it’s definitely a way to get a really good workout quickly).

That class really stood out in a super busy week as my most intense, focused workout — I managed a quick run here, an exhausted trip to the gym there, a few self-guided yoga workouts.  But it was a week of a lot of driving and facilitating huge groups into the evening, and on Thursday night, I skipped my planned yoga class in favour of lying in bed, eating popcorn for dinner and watching netflix.  (See:  honouring what my body needs).

When Friday morning rolled around again, I had to really persuade myself to get out of bed and show up for class.  I am often daunted by knowing my workout is going to be intense, no option.  I try to fool myself into thinking “I can just take it easy.”  I know that in this class, there’s no room to coast — not in the structure of the actual class or the fact that there are so few of us.  I can’t hide behind the pole on bike 18, my preferred spot.

img_5509Yesterday, Marawan had us all (five of us this time) line up in the middle row and he sat in the middle, riding with us.  A really simple sequence:  three long climbs, with a tone going off every minute to increase the weight on the wheel by half to a full turn.  Within each series, sequences of hard, harder, intense, brief recovery, always to the baseline of the gradually increasing weight.  Between the three long climbs — 12 minutes, 10 and 7 — a minute of actual recovery.  (The pic is me in one of those moments).  In the last sequence, Marawan came around and had each of us work to our absolute highest output for 10 seconds as he encouraged us.

I was exhausted when I got on the bike, and energized when I got off.  I found the recovery I’d given my body by taking two rest days in a row, and felt… strong.  I was still well worn out, but in the best, internally glowing way.  I felt… human again.


I’m probably not going to do this more than once a week — but doing something this intense reaffirms for me that I’m engaged in a long-term project of fitness and health — and even when I’m mostly tooling around in lighter workouts, there’s a warrior inside me.  Marawan is the best kind of teacher — light touch, firm effort, kind.  And I got a blue star for nailing my first week of the 6 week challenge.

img_5514Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto.