commute · cycling

Riding in Vancouver: Sam has three thoughts about bike lanes

I visited Vancouver for the American Philosophical Association (APA) Meeting last week and the weather was perfect. It rained during the conference and then on the last day the sun emerged from behind the fog and the clouds. Yes! I even got that rarest of things, a Vancouver sun burn. Sarah and I rented bikes and noodled through Stanley Park and then set off on several about town journeys. We loved the bike lanes in Vancouver.

Here’s a few quick thoughts about our bike lane experiences.

1. Commuting versus doing things: We loved that bike lanes weren’t just for commuters. They didn’t just go from the suburbs to downtown–as many bike lanes do. Instead, they allowed traffic in and around city neighbourhoods. I thought about this in connection to Rebecca Kukla‘s APA talk, “Mapping movement in urban space” which talked about the tension between neighourhoods as places to be lived in versus neighbourhoods as places to bike through and the importance of mapping data. (I have thoughts here about Strava’s heat maps which are sometimes used as information about routes cyclists take and are used as data to inform bike lane planning. But of course, only “serious” cyclists use Strava and so the data leaves out information about slow riders, the cargo bikers etc. )

2. Signage: We also loved the signs that told us whether roads were closed to all traffic or just cars, and that cyclists but not cars could turn right on red. Thank you Vancouver!

3. Separate from pedestrians too: Some but not all of the bike lanes were completely separate from cars. That’s nice. But it was especially nice that they were often also physically separate from pedestrian pathways.

I’m definitely riding in Vancouver the next time I go. And uh, oh, I’m bike browsing again!

Image description: Smiling Sam with her rental bike in front of a sign that says “Road closed, except bicycles.”
Image description: Pink tree in full bloom. It’s spring in Vancouver!
Image description: Samantha and Sarah selfie in front of Earth Day parade on Commercial Drive
Image description: View from seawall bike path in Stanley Park
Image description: Red and white hotel bikes
Image description: Blue and green rental bikes
Image description; Sad bike in the sea
fitness

Sam tries for ten

It’s in the news again: EAT MORE VEGETABLES!!!!

Actually, what it says is, “Eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day to live longer.”

According to researchers at Imperial College London, eating up to 10 portions of fruit and veggies a day will reduce the chance of heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death.

I don’t do so well with restrictive eating goals. They can make me anxious and I can feel deprived. Positive ones don’t have the same negative effect. For example, for years, as a vegetarian, I’ve tracked protein.

I’m heading home from a conference to a very busy few weeks of work ahead. I’m starting to ride more and I need to make sure I get enough good things to eat. If I don’t manage to track anything else I think I’ll try to count servings of fruits and vegetables.

Wish me luck!

How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat each day?

Image description: A bowl of colourful vegetables. Photo from Unsplash
fitness · habits

More on movement rituals

For those of us who observe various forms of the Christian calendar, today is Easter Sunday. I’m a church lady, so the week of Easter is always busy for me every year. I buy pita and baba ganoush and lamejuns (Armenian sort-of pizzas; a recipe is here) and all kinds of yummy foods for my church’s Maundy Thursday dinner; I live around the corner from a great Armenian bakery and food store, so it is my happy errand to do.

Then comes Good Friday service, and on Saturday I help with brass and silver polishing in the morning, followed by helping get the church set up with lilies for Easter Vigil that evening. I rush home, then rush back for the service that evening. We have a little reception with bubbly beverages and nibblies, then I go home after 9pm.

Sunday morning is the main event, with a full court press of children in pastels running around, lots of sweets at the festive coffee hour, and the church filled with sights and sounds and folks I haven’t seen since Christmas. It’s one of my yearly rituals.

You can tell from my story that I like rituals. They are comfortable– familiar and predictable and soothing. Okay, maybe they can get monotonous, but I don’t usually mind monotony (at least in this context). There is also evidence that rituals (religious, personal, etc.) can provide provide us with feelings of more self-control over our behaviors.

Feelings of more self-control over our behaviors… Doesn’t that sound great?

This spring has been more than usually hectic for me– I took on an extra course for teaching, I’m serving on my university’s tenure committee, and recently became one of the wardens (yes, that’s the term) of my church. This is, in short:

TOO MUCH
too much. way too much.

I’ve noticed that, as my workload has increased and my stress level along with it, I’ve turned to some rituals in my movement. I do a gentle or restorative yoga ritual (well, youtube video, but ritual sounds nicer) every evening before bed. I make sure to move and walk and seek out stairs in my day.

I’ve also paid attention to a couple rituals for self-care lately. I have been turning off the light in my bedroom by 11:30pm. I have made time for a quiet coffee in the morning, even when I’ve faced a very long day. That’s what I’ve been managing.

The ritual of Easter weekend is almost over. I like immersing myself in it, but I don’t mind when it’s over. The rituals I engage in every day and every week (movement-wise, spirituality-wise, self-care-wise), support me day in and day out. I’d like to develop a few more.

Dear readers, what are your rituals or special habits that are soothing, or grounding, or motivating, or pleasing? Movement, self-care, whatever– we’d love to hear from you.

Movement Ritual
accessibility · aging · fitness · yoga

Sam has become “that person” in the fitness class!

Years ago I remember watching a woman in a yoga class at the Y who seemed to be just doing her own thing.

The instructor would tell us what to do and sometimes free spirit lady followed along and at other times not. I was puzzled. Why even come to class if you’re not going to do the thing the instructor is doing? What’s that even about?

Zoom ahead twenty years and OMG I’ve become that woman in yoga class. I was at bike-yoga at the university. The instructor kept demonstrating postures I can’t manage. Some are ones I’m positively told not to do. Instead whenever the pose was one of the forbidden/impossible ones I did my own thing.

My knees were happy. I was having a good workout. But some of the university students looked at me in a funny way. I think they thought I didn’t hear or see what I was supposed to be doing. And then it dawned on. I was free spirit yoga lady.

I’m okay with that. I’m with Cate that knowing your body and what it needs and doing that is one of the joys of aging.

How about you? In group fitness classes do you ever do your own thing? How does it feel?


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
fitness

Getting my workout gear on the go

By MarthaFitat55

I have written previously about the lamentable lack of attractive, fashionable workout gear for plus size fitfemmes. When I first started learning how to strength train, I was content with my not-quite-ancient yoga pants and one of my four classic grey tees for a very long while.

I graduated to plain black leggings and the odd coloured tee eventually when I realized I was in this powerlifting zone for the long haul. I realized I missed fun and bright amidst all the black and grey weights and machines.

I should say I missed fun and bright for me. We get awfully grey winters here on the east coast of Newfoundland, usually presaged by somewhat gloomy falls and followed by an equally dispirited spring. Pops of colour are a great way to beat the blahs, especially for someone like me who believes in basic fire engine red for pretty much any item of clothing.

Sadly, fun and colourful are not readily available in my size in the stores near to me. So when a friend posted pictures of her new leggings, I was intrigued. She connected me with her friend who sold these wonderful objects, and I bought two pairs: one a gorgeous floral and one in navy (can’t let go of some old ideas quite yet). I have since acquired a bunch more of these fun leggings including holiday-themed, Nordic influenced, and my latest is multi coloured polka dots.

I wear these leggings to the gym, I wear them to the grocery store, and I wear them when I want to stay home and chill with my book and latte. I wear them because they are fun and they give me a great boost. I wear them because lots of times I am tired of wearing my business clothes even though many of the items I own for that purpose are plenty colourful.

As a size 18, I know I am not going to be invisible in the gym regardless of what I wear. Also, when I want to be especially effective in a training session, I find dressing in something that pops gives me the mental kick in the pants I need to embrace the bar and the weight with extra energy.

I also like knowing I have clothing that has been created for active people. I like the security of knowing I have good gear that won’t fail at a crucial moment, or become see through when I execute certain exercises.

Since the advent of these fabulous leggings, I have tackled the swimsuit situation. I love my swim suit but after two years of fairly regular use, it was time to replace it. Sadly cherry red is not a colour they make available in any size, but I did find polka dots. Who knows? Perhaps in two years’ time when I need a new one, a cherry red suit will have found its way to the pool for me.

— MarthaFitat55 lives in Newfoundland.

fitness

Running without Gadgets: Look Mom, No Data! #tbt

Yesterday Cate mentioned that she’s been running “free” this week, meaning without gadgets. She’s just been running and getting into the moment of each run. Since I’ve been off running since the beginning of the month with that back injury (getting better!), I’ve of course started to think about how I might ease back into it when I’m ready, and gadget-free running is at the top of my list (along with very easy, very short and gentle forays outside, like way less than feels like a “workout.” So I dug into the archives for this #tbt abot running without gadgets.

Do you like to run free ever? How does it feel?

cycling · fitness

Is it ridiculous to ride inside in the summer?

Yesterday I read that in the UK riding for both leisure and commuting is down. As usual perceived lack of safety is the main reason people give for not riding and preferring other methods of exercise and getting to work.

Here’s British cycling policy manager Nick Chamberlain, “While cycling remains statistically safe, traffic speed, close passing or potholes can often make riding a bike in Britain intimidating and unpleasant, especially for those who are trying it for the first time. “The impact of this is clear in the numbers of people still making short, cyclable journeys by car – with all of the associated consequences for congestion, air quality and physical activity.”

I’m not sure what the numbers look like in North America and elsewhere but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same.

Interestingly, indoor riding is on the rise. And I’m part of that trend. Oddly enough.

Chamberlin said British Cycling was pleased to see “a moderate spike” in the level of indoor cycling, “and we hope that last month’s inaugural British Cycling Zwift eRacing Championshipscan help to further grow the profile of this discipline and encourage even more people to take part in the coming years.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Zwift lately, about safety, women’s participation, and the gamification of sports. I will have lots of things to say!

Truth be told, I’m even considering riding inside myself during the summer, some of the time anyway. There are reasons: I don’t like riding alone. I’ve got a very complicated schedule. But it’s not just that.

Zwift is also fun in its own right. It’s fun racing down virtual hills, zooming down hills without braking. Fun taking corners at speed. I’m not worried when Zwifting about crashing into other bikes. I’m not worried about cars or other traffic. I love sprinting on Zwift with zero tension or fear, no looking out for cars.

A white feather on a green circle.

It turns out that I enjoy the gamification of sport. I liked getting a virtual feather the other day that when applied dropped my weight by 15 lbs. I wasn’t sure at the time what it was our how to use it but now that I do it’ll be fun to see the difference that has on my climbing speed. You can also get trucks which increase the benefit from drafting and aero helmets that make you more aerodynamic. For a better, more complete, explanation, see here.

The weight thing is interesting. Zwift knows my actual weight and hills are harder as a result than they would be for an average sized cyclist. Both watts and weight matter when determining your speed. But my avatar–see below–doesn’t look as big as I do. What matters on Zwift is that she can keep up. And she can, because in the the real world I can. What matters is watts per kilo. I weigh a lot but I can also put out some pretty good watts. I’m okay–if occasionally disgruntled with the math and the physics of it all–with working harder to climb on Zwift. No one looks at me oddly. No one comments on my weight. Other riders just know my watts per kilo and I’m okay with that. I’ve had no weight loss suggestions, no comments on my size. That way, it’s a pretty relaxing environment. It’s made me realize how much people noticing my size bothers me in the real world. I’m sure I’ll have more to say later about this. I’m still thinking about it all.

Oh, also having good indoor options makes it easy to stick to a training schedule. Some articles I read about Zwift in road cycling magazines said that North American summer was a ghost town in Zwift. It’s just full of Australians riding at odd times of day and triathletes who prefer indoor training. But as indoor cycling becomes a sport in its own right, it’ll be interesting to see what the summer numbers look like.

That’s me below in the in the orange stripey jersey and my new sunglasses, earned for riding a certain number of kilometers. I also earned a helmet but opted out. This is one place I don’t need to worry about hitting my head.

fitness · injury · rest · self care · traveling

Tracy is an osteopath convert

Last week I published about my back troubles that ensued a few days after Anita and I ran the Around the Bay 30K. Lots of people jumped in with sympathy, empathy, encouragement and suggestions. Thank you!

The best suggestion came from Susan and others who recommended I try an osteopath. I know some people have had good results with chiropractors, but I’m deathly afraid of the idea of a snap adjustment. And I was in so much pain there was just no way. So a week after the race I contacted an osteopath who a friend had recommended for my neck issues but I’d never gotten around to calling.

I knew Grace from yoga way back when I did Iyengar yoga and she was in my class. She used to be a nurse and she also taught Iyengar yoga, which is very precise. So o felt confident she had the right knowledge base that I could trust her with my back. By the time I went to see her a week ago, I was in excruciating pain by the end of every day. It usually felt a bit better in the mornings after I’d been lying down for the night. And then ramped up throughout the day until by the evenings it had me weeping and almost unable to move.

Grace got me at the end of the day and could see that I was moving in a hesitant manner by then. Hesitant in that way you move when a possible wrong move will result in searing pain that makes the legs go weak.

She had me stand and then slowly walk so she could size me up. Then she got me on her table…very carefully. And started doing very general manipulations of my body (the best being traction, when she pulled ever so lightly on my feet, which immediately released my back). I told Grace I’d been doing back exercises and stretching and yoga and had gone for a deep tissue massage. And in her view, those were all the wrong things, explaining why it was getting worse not better.

What was the right thing? Rest. Total rest. She showed me two lying down resting postures for releasing my back. They both gave me wonderful relief. She showed me how to get into and out of a lying down position without putting strain on my lower back. She recommended I not sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. If possible, she said, take a day or two off of work.

Things were kind of urgent because I was flying less than a week later (Sunday) for a short trip and then a week after that to China for work. When I saw Grace, the idea of sitting on a plane for any length of time seemed impossible.

So though I couldn’t take a day off until Friday, I did go into hyper rest mode as much as possible, lying on the floor with my legs up on a chair or in “constructive rest” with a heating pad and bolster on my lower abdomen to release the entire area and hopefully reduce the inflammation in my back. Grace suspected the inflammation was pushing up against a nerve and that’s why it hurt so much and get worse as the compression of the day’s sitting took hold.

Friday I went to see the nurse practitioner at my family doctor’s clinic. By then, after following Grace’s instructions for a couple of days I felt way better than I had. Thursday, hardly sitting (I even chaired a meeting at work standing up), I didn’t experience a single spasm. I told the nurse everything I was doing and she said “perfect!” So that was reassuring. Then I saw Grace one more time and she tweaked a few things and off I went. By Saturday I was feeling confident I could fly. Sunday came… no problem on my three and a half hour flight to the Bahamas.

I write this on Monday, a day (with Anita) mixed with work, walking on the beach, swimming, constructive rest, and measured amounts of sitting. I’ve had quite a bit of work reading to do, and I have done most of it in a reclining position on my bed, legs bent at the knees. China doesn’t seem impossible anymore.

Image description: Tracy sitting on a balcony rail wearing ball cap, sunglasses, loose sleeveless top, boyshort swimsuit bottoms and bare legs, smiling, beach and ocean and blue sky in the background

And I’m a total convert to osteopathy after one round of appointments. Thanks, Grace!

Have you ever tried an osteopath?