fitness · holiday fitness

My imaginary fitness vacation (vs. my real one)

This week I’m in Arizona on vacation. What I mean by “vacation” is: I’m not at a conference and adding on a couple of days of travel, and I’m not visiting any relatives (I’m off the hook, as I have no relatives in Arizona). I’m in a place of my own choosing, engaging in non-pre-planned leisure activities. I’m staying at a luxurious (to me) hotel in Scottsdale, The Hotel Valley Ho.

On my imaginary fitness vacation, I was going to take advantage of the 3-hour time change from Boston to transform me into an early morning activity person. Imaginary early-morning-Catherine had big plans:

  1. daily hikes 7–9/10am (because of the extreme heat– 95F/35C by 10am).
  2. back-to-back yoga classes afterward, ending around 1pm.
  3. hanging out at the pool under an umbrella, reading my kindle.
  4. Minimum work tasks done (no more than 30 mins/day).
  5. heading out mid-afternoon to museums in the area.
  6. Early evening laps in the pool, followed by easy yoga before bed at 10pm.

Let’s examine these in order. First, daily 7am hikes.

Here’s where I imagined spending the 7–9am slot:

The desert outside Scottsdale. I was actually here, but not for a big hike. It is soooo hot!
The desert outside Scottsdale. I was actually here, but not for a big hike. It is soooo hot!

Here’s where I actually spent the 7–9am slot.

A king-sized bed in a midcentury-modern designed hotel room.
A king-sized bed in a midcentury-modern designed hotel room.

I did a lot of resting, lolling, internet surfing, idle reading. I even ordered room service breakfast one morning. Lucious.

What about those yoga classes? I did do back-to-back yoga classes the first day. I got reacquainted with kundalini; it was hard but interesting. Then there was a one-hour yoga nidra with sound healing. What is sound healing? Someone plays gongs (very cool) and crystal bowls (less cool to me) and talks in a quiet voice. For an hour.

I imagined this experience creating blissfulness. Instead, I spent the whole yoga nidra class lying on the mat, thinking about lunch. Pro tip: don’t do a yoga nidra/sound journey class while hungry. There were no repeats of this plan.

What about pool lounging? How did that go in reality? Here’s the pool I thought I would find fun for chilling out.

The main pool of my hotel, replete with sunny and shady lounge chairs.
The main pool of my hotel, replete with sunny and shady lounge chairs.

Instead, after lunch, I chilled out here and here:

Honestly, I did work in my room during the heat of the day. I’m teaching an online logic class for summer school, and the students require care and feeding each day. I knew this when I went on vacation, but in the imaginary version, this work took only about 10–15 minutes a day. On my real vacation, it took 1–1.5 hours. There was also some end-of-fiscal-year paperwork to do, which always takes about 4 times as long as I expect. No biggie– it’s what real life is like.

I also found the big pool area too loud, too hot, and too public for me. I really wanted a retreat from the world, which surprised me. But I was lucky in that I had a retreat– the above-pictured spaces. I read and napped and worked some and chatted on the phone (yes, I’m an outlier who uses phones for real-time voice communication). It was great.

What about those museum trips? Not so much. I did go to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s western desert home. It is marvelous and I highly recommend it. But I didn’t make it to other museums. In the end, I preferred meeting up with some friends in the area for drinks and early dinner. It was so much fun, hanging out and laughing and talking and eating super yummy southwest Mexican food.

Okay, fine. I needed a rest, and I got one despite my imaginary vacation plans. But what about the evening pool laps? Did I do those?

Yes, after a fashion. I went to the other pool 2 of the 3 nights I was there. I had the place all to myself, and there was no music, no bar, no nothing. Just me, palm trees, water, dark sky, and stars. I did lazy laps, and lots of floating. Here are a bunch of pics. The water in real life is blue, but my iphone preferred purple. Hey, no problem– it accurately reflects the cosmic grooviness of my swim experiences.

This pool was one of my favorite vacation experiences ever. It was relaxing, quiet, sublime. yes, I did some laps– at a chill lazy pace– followed by lots of floating. Ahhhh.

I learned a good lesson this week: sometimes, we need a vacation from everything, including our own vacation plans. What I ended up doing was so satisfying– I rested, I read, I swam and floated, I yoga-ed a bit, and I took a lot of photographs. So much fun.

The second half of my Arizona vacation is a trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona with friends and their three kids. It will be more active, less spontaneous, and certainly less quiet. I’m ready, having rested well on my real vacation here.

Readers– do you plan imaginary vacations and actually do them? Do you change plans a lot? Ever? Never? What counts as a real vacation for you? I’d love to hear from you.


A hula-hoopy frood

My 14 year old son can hula-hoop for an hour, while reading a book.

My Mom has legendary hula-hoop skills.

Clearly, it’s in my genes.

When I was a kid, I could hula-hoop and I still love how it feels when I make that hoop go around a few times. However, I seem to have lost the knack of it.

I suspect… and try not to pass out from the shock of this statement…I suspect that I am overthinking to process.

As a result, I spend a lot of time with my hoop like this…

A blue, green, and gold hula hoop sits on the grass, a pair of feet with gold polish on the toenails are in the centre of the hoop.
My hooping-friend Susan says that the sound of your hoop hitting the ground is the sound of learning. She’s quoting one of her friends but, in my head, it’s her voice reminding me to try again.

When I’m working on a new skill, my ADHD plays mind games with me.

I think that, on some level, I get too quickly bored with practicing. So, even if I am not conscious of that boredom, my brain tries to rescue me from it by telling me that it is the ‘wrong time’ to practice because there is some aspect of the skill that I haven’t learned yet.

Basically, it is trying to save me from ‘wasting time’ by practicing when I don’t know what I’m doing yet.

The fact that I might build skill through practice?

My ADHD thinks that’s nonsense.

Luckily, there is more to my brain than my ADHD* and I know some techniques to work around my automatic tendencies.

So, hula-hooping – terribly, but with enthusiasm- is now on my schedule for regular practice this summer.

Any day that it’s not pouring rain**, I’m going to practice in my yard for at least 5 minutes.

A person in a black shirt and large sunglasses is standing outside, there are trees and different types of greenery in the background. She is smirking and there is a hula-hoop over her shoulder.
I would have liked to get an action photo with the hoop but I can’t actually keep it going long enough for someone to get a shot! Hence the smirk.

If I’m not any better after a month, then I’ll believe that there’s a skill that I’m missing. 😉

PS – In case you don’t know the title reference, it’s a play on a phrase from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. It’s a good thing to be a hoopy frood who knows where their towel is. He had nothing to say about being a hula-hoopy frood though. 😉

*Yes, I know that this is imprecise, I’m speaking from my experience of ADHD, not from medical accuracy.

**Given the weather here in Newfoundland and Labrador, this may not be a huge promise to make! Ha!


Trying to Make Peace With Peri-Menopause

I’m in the front hallway and it’s 8:45 pm on a Tuesday night. I’m about ready to get in my PJ’s. My daughter has woken herself from a power nap about a half hour ago. She puts on yoga pants, a t-shirt and her hair up in a messy bun. She dons running shoes, picks up her bag and kisses me goodbye. She’s going climbing. Cheap rates start at 9pm. I watch her walk out the door and down the path to the car. She is nimble, energized, unconcerned. I am struck at the contrast I suddenly recognize in a fully embodied way. I will never be able to do anything like that with such ease again.

This is mid-life, right here. I am fully conscious of the experience in this moment. I am tired, aching, knowing I have to conserve to perform. I am without the reserve that exists in my 18 year old daughter and that’s reality from now on.

Peri-menopause. “The Leadup to Menopause Can Be Very Uncomfortable and Poorly Understood“, read the headline of one of Sam’s #blogfodder posts on our community group. That post happened to go up on my birthday last Friday. I was smack in the middle of a massive mental break down for no reason. Sure, I had worked in the morning and sure, I had my mother coming over for dinner. But for godssake, my kids were around, the weather was beautiful and one of my two best friends was already on the train to come hang out while I cooked. All was well. Yet there I was, on my couch, hyper ventilating while my poor kid offered me water and I choked out the sentence, “It isn’t you, it’s my hormones”. I wanted to die. Instead, I took an Ativan from my dwindling supply.

What’s happening to me is deeply personal and physical and psychological. It is everything all at once. I am both worn and worn out. I am needy and needed. I am at the peak of my career and confidence and simultaneously challenged to justify my life. It’s a mess and the “failing ovarian function” is just one more frickin’ thing that I have to deal with in unexpected places.

I really struggle with the language of “treating” peri-menopause. Is it not after all, a natural part of life? Why should I have to treat it? On the other hand, declining estrogen is already affecting my heart and bones and I have too much I want to do and see before I retire to a rocking chair. I think back to that moment of watching my daughter saunter off at an ungodly hour to be intensely physical and I am so so so jealous of that ease. When I prepare to go out to do something strenuous, I spend my time prepping and unravelling my tired, stiff body, hoping that whatever I am about to do doesn’t break something, or at least not too badly.

“How was your ride?”

“I do not seem to have any undue injury.”

That is success now.

I am so very proud of what my body can do. I did my metric century two weekends ago and last weekend, I did a quick 40k before I went and stomped around the streets of Toronto for the Toronto Pride Dyke March. I was fine. I wasn’t even unduly sore. I have to make peace with the fact that every morning, likely for the rest of my life, I will have to unravel my aching body to face my day. No wait, “my STRONG aching body”. That’s better. My aching, strong, peri-menopausal self will get up, unravel, take the dog for a walk, fuel up with coffee and do what needs to be done because that’s what it needs to do. Ease will not be a part of that process in the way it is for my daughter, but grace can be. I don’t have the endurance of youth but I do have the sure knowledge of how far past the edge I can go without falling. This is mid-life, right here, right now.I think I’m almost ready.

A peri-menopause meme: Warning, Due to the influence of hormones I could burst into tears or kill you in the next 5 minutes. There is a purple fluffy minion kind of weird creature looking freaked out waiving her hands everywhere.
This is me.
Guest Post

Book excerpt from The Quiet Ice (Guest post) CW: detailed description of sexual assault

by Karyn L. Freedman

I like the sound of quiet, but it is not the noise of the city that bothers me. It’s the activity in my head, the piercing images and intrusive thoughts that took root in the summer of 1990, when I was raped at the age of twenty-two while backpacking through Europe, and that appear to be mine for life. Over the years, I have come to understand that the recurring din in my head is just one of the consequences of psychological trauma, of being held captive and rendered helpless in the face of a terrorizing life event. When that happens, our biological impulse to flee or fight is blocked, which invites a kind of disorder to settle into the body. Like all forms of anxiety, trauma can be an occupying force, and the trauma that laid claim to me close to three decades ago has been relentless. Ill-equipped to deal with the violence of that summer night, I spent my twenties pretending that what had happened to me was no big deal. Awash with shame, I kept the story of my rape a secret, as if not talking about it would make it go away, but my body has always known better. For years my nervous system was caught in an elevated state of arousal, easily startled, just waiting for the next catastrophe. After nearly a decade of struggling in silence I had had enough, and as I entered my thirties I decided to face the aftermath of my rape. I began to see a therapist, a privilege that has been my saving grace. But it was a decision that I made some years later, in September 2005, when I was thirty-seven years old, that helped me find the elusive sound of quiet in my head. That fall I joined a women’s hockey league.

It is just after 4 pm on a Saturday and I’ve got an early game tonight, which means that I have only one more hour to kill before it’s time to leave my house for the rink across town. It hasn’t been a great afternoon, following a crappy night. I went to bed early, tired from a busy day of work. I poured myself some Scotch and read for a bit before turning out the lights, but two long hours of listening to my own heartbeat later, I flipped the lights back on. That woke up my partner, who stumbled out of bed and headed, half-awake, for the guest bedroom. Watching him leave, I resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be one of those nights. I sat up and took a pill for anxiety. While I waited for that to kick in, I poured some more Scotch, picked up my book, and began all over again. As a result, my head hurts and my chest has been tight all day. But none of that will matter soon. I decide to get to the game a bit early.

While the others trickle in, I unzip my hockey bag and begin the ritual of putting on my gear. The room fills up and gets louder, everybody happy to be there and looking forward to the game. Already I am feeling better, and by the time I take my first warm-up lap around the rink, the distractions of the day have all but disappeared. I am gliding effortlessly through a refreshing, cool breeze, and as I round the corners all I can hear is the glorious grinding sound of my skate blades biting the ice. It’s just about time to play.

The trauma that results from terrifying life events over which we have no control is profound. It changes us in fundamental ways. The paralyzing helplessness of being trapped in a threatening situation results in a severe disruption of the nervous system. This extreme stress affects how the brain works and makes it difficult for survivors of traumatic events to regulate their everyday biological functions—sleeping, breathing, talking, even eating. Psychologically traumatic experiences are harmful to the body in ways that are belied by the fact that in some instances we can escape these events with no physical wounds. I had spent the better part of a decade bracing for what was coming next as the trauma that had taken root within me expanded into a crushing anxiety that ultimately became impossible to ignore. My body, it seemed, was no longer my own, its recalcitrant movements reflexively attuned to events of the past.

This was never more conspicuous than when I was having sex. The notion that rape is about power and not sex is misleading. It is true that people who rape often do so to exert power over their victims, but for rape survivors, whose bodies have been used sexually without their consent, the transgression can live on in their sex lives. At least, that’s what happened to me. Sex had become a series of triggers that prevented me from intimacy, my inhospitable body populated by land mines sensitive to the touch. This situation became particularly acute as I entered a new relationship in my early thirties. Prior to that I had been able to have sex and occasionally even enjoy it, but now every caress threw me back to an unwanted memory. I struggled through a trial of panic attacks while attempting to ignore the suffocating memory of my rapist’s sweaty flesh draped on top of me, behind me, in front of me. I couldn’t breathe. These images colonized my thoughts and kept me up at night. I began to lean on alcohol to trick my body into relaxing, but that was its own trial. And besides, the unwanted images returned in my dreams. At some point, I broke. Unable to move forward, I decided it was time to get help. With financial backing from my parents, I sought out a therapist and began the long process of healing.

The chance to work on my own recovery has been one of the great privileges of my life, and I was lucky to find an exceptional therapist. She helped me to see the far-reaching influence of traumatic experiences. With the benefit of her insight, I came to understand that in order to dull the force of the images in my head I had to first live in them.

Repressing them was not going to work, at least not for me, not in the long run. Traumatic memories stick with us, in one way or another, whether or not we invite them to do so. Facing them head on gave me a chance to deflate the power they had over me. In the safety of my therapist’s office, I would close my eyes and return to that high-rise apartment in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris where a man named Robert Dinges, who I had first met earlier that night, had raped me at knifepoint.

But this time, there was no threat of the knife against my neck, though it didn’t always feel that way. It was scary at first, but in time I allowed myself to remember that hour of terror in all its vividness, and to say and think and feel everything that I couldn’t at the time. This was some of the hardest work I have ever done, but eventually, I started to feel lighter, freer. Not all at once, and not completely, but incrementally, here and there. But there remained times when my body felt sluggish and pinned down, as if Robert were still on top of me. In these moments, my legs were heavy and there was a constricting weight on my chest. It was as if certain elements of the trauma had remained inaccessible through traditional psychotherapy. Talking about feeling had taken me a long way, but because the trauma had settled in my body, it seemed that I needed to physically move about to thoroughly process it. I was desperate to shake my legs free and push Robert off of me. I needed to scream and punch and kick and shout and get rid of the lingering anger and pain. My therapist suggested we take our work to a local trauma resource center. It had sound- proof rooms, gym mats, and other props all geared to the idea that physical movement is essential to processing body memories. Here, with the lights dimmed, I would put on boxing gloves and try to move around. This was a new kind of hard, but at some point, I found my strength. And then, session after session, I pounded away at the unwanted images of that night, my movements finally under my command. Recovery is not a linear process, but I could feel myself moving forward, becoming less blocked. I had been given the chance to redefine my body, which was once again my own. There remained only one thing left for me to do.

I bought some equipment and signed up for a Saturday night women’s league.

That first year wasn’t easy. I wasn’t always comfortable getting changed in front of other people, a vulnerability made worse because I didn’t know anyone on my team—or in the league, for that matter. Also, I was a real beginner. I knew the rules as well as anyone, but playing was different than watching. I was shaky on skates, and I couldn’t make a good line change to save my life. Yet it was clear to me from the start that I was onto something. Although I wasn’t any good, I worked hard, and that intense physical effort coupled with the sharp mental focus that the game demands helped dull the noise in my head. And the better I got, the more focused I became, and the more control I had over my body. I could not have predicted it, but playing hockey turned out to be the way to quiet the persistent images in my head. Playing hockey helped me become unstuck. And now, after many years of playing, it has become much more than that.

I am sitting on the bench, breathing heavily after my last shift, my face red hot with effort, watching the play as it goes up and down the ice, and anticipating the moment when I get to jump back into the game. Fortunately, we have a short bench tonight, so I know it won’t be long. The time comes, and once again I am free. My body moves in sync with the game, and for the time being, there is nothing else in the world I care about. The sounds of the arena fade away and the quiet in my head returns as my focus narrows in on the play. I’m on left wing tonight, holding my position on my own blue line as the play moves dangerously around our net. Our goalie deflects a shot that lands deep in the corner behind her goal line, and my eyes are trained on my teammate, who retrieves the puck and sends it up the boards, where I am waiting to receive it. The hard sound of it landing on my stick has me pivoting forward. I am thinking of nothing but moving the puck up the ice. I’ve got some room, so I begin to carry it through the neutral zone before passing it across the ice to an open winger, who successfully dumps it into the offensive zone. It is the right move, and the momentum is on our side. I chase down the play and regain control of the puck behind the other team’s net. At that moment, time slows right down.

Tonight, we’re lucky. We’re a bit faster than the other team, and that edge means I’ve got some time with the puck. For at least a few seconds, I can see the ice clearly. I spot an open player in front of the net. We lock eyes. I send the puck her way and watch it cut a clean line through a mess of skates and land on her stick. It’s a good pass. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t score, and it doesn’t matter that we didn’t win the game. The unmitigated joy of being able to see that play, and then move the puck to where I know it ought to go, leaves me exhilarated and at peace.

For a long time, the search for stillness in this fast game was the main reason I played hockey. I am not a great player. I am not the fastest skater or the most skilled, and I will never possess the gracefulness of those women who grew up on skates. But I fight hard for the puck and I look to make the play. And then, of course, there is the rush of the game. The scraping of skates on hard ice and the surge of cool air that washes over you as you chase down the puck or fight for it in the corners. The divine feeling you get when you make a good pass or when you hear the almost inaudible whoosh as the puck you fired hits the back of the net.

I now have three games a week in leagues and arenas all around town. Because I am on the ice a lot, I watch less hockey than I used to, and that’s fine with me. Although I live in Toronto, the Winnipeg Jets are my team, and with the arrival of another Finnish superstar, they are finally looking good. Watching players of all skill levels move up and down the ice makes it clear to me that the release I get from playing is something many people experience. You do not need to have lived through a traumatic experience to find tranquility on the ice. And, for me, over the years, the game has become even more than that. I now belong to a glorious hockey community, one that is bursting with the most incredible women, women of all ages and sizes and occupations. It is an open and welcoming community, and I can’t believe my good luck in finding it.

But I try not to dwell on that. My worry is that if I get lost in a happy thought, I might miss an important clue, some signal that danger is just around the corner. In those moments, I begin to feel the familiar creep of that anxious dread and the expectation of catastrophe that comes with it, and the very images that I play the game to forget come back to me. I see myself losing an edge and crashing headfirst into the boards, or slamming hard against another player, or my legs twisting beneath me, a heap of broken bones, after a terrible fall, and I have to tell myself to breathe. When the panic returns, I am reminded that the experience of being raped has left me permanently wounded. I think back to that night in Paris, and I wonder how I could have missed the warning signs, how it was that I didn’t see what was coming next. I know I am not to blame for what happened to me, even if sometimes my body tells me otherwise.

The struggle between how I feel and what I know to be true is mine for life, but once I am back on the ice, all I care about is making the play, and the quiet in my head returns.

Karyn L. Freedman is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. Her book, One Hour in Paris: A True Story of Rape and Recovery, won the 2015 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

Adapted with permission of the publisher from the essay collection Whatever Gets You Through: Twelve Survivors on Life After Sexual Assault
edited by Stacey May Fowles and Jen Sookfong Lee and published by Greystone Books in April 2019.

body image · fitness · tbt

The damn photo contest again (Sam and Tracy vent) #tbt

Yesterday the voting for the best women’s Precision Nutrition “transformation” started. I know this because during our fitness challenge I did the program (in 2014) and though there was lots to like, I absolutely despised (and wasn’t a part of) the photo contest. Sam isn’t a big fan of that either. Last year we ranted about it. Here’s our rant. I only want to add, “It is 2019–surely we can find better ways to evaluate progress than a photo contest of women in swimsuits.” (Tracy)

cycling · fitness

Our First (Almost) Century of the Summer

For most cyclists 100 is a significant number, whether it’s 100 kilometers or 100 miles.

Last year our first metric century wasn’t until late July. But this year I’m part of a group that’s been training for a late June cycling holiday in Newfoundland. It’s been a rotten spring and I haven’t been out of the bike as much as I’d like. We’ve all been feeling the need to get some distance in.

So at the last minute Sarah, David, and I decided to ride 100 km as part of the Tour de Guelph, a local charity ride for the Guelph hospital.

How’d it go?

It was the best of times. It was also the worst of times

We loved the country roads, so many horses and buggies, the Kissing Bridge (the last covered bridge in Ontario), the gorgeous weather, being directed through for way stops as traffic lights by the police, and the wonderful company.

We did not love Sarah’s flat tire, getting lost, busy roads with fast moving cars, getting super hungry and expecting food at the rest stops and only finding bananas, water, and orange slices. The thing I did not love the most was seeing the truck that was picking up the signs at the end of the event but that’s what happens when you get lost and get a flat.

In the end we made our own way into town and we were never so happy to find a Tim Hortons. Iced Cappuccino and toasted bagel please.

But as a result we didn’t quite make 100 km. See below.

It didn’t kill us to come 2 km short. I checked. None of us are completists.

Here’s an older post of mine offering Advice for riding your first century.

body image · diets · eating · eating disorders · fitness · food · sports nutrition

Intuitive eating — beyond sports nutrition

Image description: a single fresh strawberry with leaf still attached to the top.

As long time readers may know, I am a big fan when it comes to intuitive eating. I’ve written about it lots, including this post “Intuitive Eating: What It Is and Why I Love It.” So I was excited to see an article in Outside online singing its praises as the “ultimate anti-diet.”

Not everyone around here is sold on intuitive eating. Sam has written about her four worries about intuitive eating. I agree that it’s not a cure all that works for everyone. And as Sam says, it depends what you mean by “works.” She puts it like this: “I don’t mean weight, that’s for sure. I mean if you eat this way are you, on reflection, happy with the food choices you’re making? Are you leading a life you enjoy? Are you meeting your own food goals around nutrition? Do you have energy to do the things you love? “

For me, it goes back to the anti-diet idea outlined in the Outside article. Dieting breeds obsession. As someone with a history of chronic dieting and disordered eating, intuitive eating has freed me from that. It took awhile (see my post, “It only took 27 years but now I’m a bona fide intuitive eater”), but as an intuitive eater I am way more well-adjusted about food than I ever was before. Intuitive eating is more a response to chronic dieting. Granted, it may not work for everyone, but it does work for some.

In my reply (in the comments) to Sam’s worries, I said the following:

…many people who are drawn to this approach are dealing with a more psychologically deep set of attitudes and behaviours around food that, if they can get to intuitive eating, they can be free of. It works for me because for the first time in my life I do not obsess about food every waking moment. I don’t panic when I am at an event with a buffet table. I don’t hate myself when I take a brownie. I don’t gorge myself beyond full because I can’t figure out when I’ve eaten enough. And I don’t go to bed every night full of regret over what I ate that day (and it’s not because I’m always making “healthy” choices) and wake up in the morning planning my meals and snacks to the last unrealistic detail. I can also go hungry without panicking and recognize that’s okay. And that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no food around, but there may be no food that will do and I would rather wait. It’s okay to subject any approach that doesn’t work for you to criticism. That is what we as philosophers do. But for myself, who has a history of extremely messed up thinking about food and of disordered eating, it’s been an absolute life saver that’s taken me 27 years to reach. I don’t have perfect hunger signals, but being in touch with my hunger feels more like a hard won battle than a privilege at this point.

That’s why it’s inaccurate to say it’s only about listening to your body. As Christine Byrne, author of the article in Outside notes, there are lots of dimensions to intuitive eating besides “listen to your body.” On its own, for all sorts of reasons, “listen to your body” isn’t helpful advice. Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, authors of the 1995 book Intuitive Eating, identified a number of other features of intuitive eating, including the idea of challenging the food police (whether they’re other people or live in your head) and no longer moralizing food (it’s not good or evil).

Byrne also talks about the importance of a nuanced approach. A dietician interviewed for the article, Heather Caplan, comments: “For the purpose of sports nutrition, I’ll often have someone eat when they’re not hungry, before or after a hard workout,” Caplan says. “Not everyone feels like eating at 6 A.M., I identify with that. But I also identify with not eating and being hungry 15 minutes into a run.” Instead of honoring hunger, think of it as figuring out how food makes your body feel in different situations and honoring those feelings. If eating when you’re not hungry helps fuel a better workout or minimize post-workout soreness, it’s a good choice.”

A good choice serves your workouts and helps you with recovery. It’s not only about hunger signals.

I like how Byrne puts it: “Ultimately, intuitive eating is a way to make sure your needs are being met. What separates intuitive eating from traditional diets is that it’s 100 percent flexible—it can (and will) look different for everyone.”

That’s what makes it the opposite of dieting. Dieting is not about meeting our needs. Dieting isn’t flexible. The hallmark of a fad diet is that it looks the same for everyone.

If you’ve been avoiding intuitive eating because you worry that it seems not to fit with the nutritional needs of your sports activities, then thinking of it as a way to make sure your needs are being met might offer a new angle on it. My guess is that if you do not struggle or have not struggled with dieting, where food is an all-consuming mental obsession, then you really have no reason to feel drawn to this approach. But if chronic dieting of that kind is a thing in your history, then intuitive eating in all of its dimensions is an attractive alternative that can help bring some peace to your vexed relationship with food and your body. At least that is how it worked for me.

Does intuitive eating have any appeal for you?

Guest Post · yoga

Vulnerability and Naked Yoga, Part 2 (Guest Post)

by Ellen Burgess

Last week, I wrote about my sailing adventure during my holidays in the first week of June.  As if the sailing this wasn’t enough excitement for one week, the day of my holiday, I boldly ventured out to an old friend’s yoga studio in Toronto to practice Naked Yoga for the first time.  Yep, that’s right, yoga in nothing but my birthday suit… TOTALLY STARKERS that is!

Upon my arrival, I greeted my fellow yoga practitioner (Don), who I had not seen in over 15 years when we did our Moksha Teacher training together. At that time, he had invited me to live in his house for a month, so we got to know each other quite well.  I was happy to see him after such a long time, and we chatted enthusiastically as he showed me around his hot yoga studio. He explained that the purpose of this class was essentially to reduce body shame and build strength and community through vulnerability that comes with practicing yoga with no clothes on.

“Right on”, I said, in my most hippy like voice, (secretly thinking, this sounds terrifying, but “bring it on”)! After all, I had already bragged to my friends that I was going to try this, so there was no backing out now.

Don had us all assemble in the practice room in a rectangle with our backside to the wall with the mirrors covered (thank goodness).  We were asked to disrobe when the lights went off and that, if at any time we were uncomfortable, we could lie down on our mats with a towel covering our body. 

Then he turned off the light and lit a single candle.  All I could see was the silhouette of a man in front of me.  I peeked around and sure enough, everyone was taking off their clothes, so I thought I better get with the program, so to speak. This was a silent class with series of 26 simple postures, so Don just named the postures when it was time to switch, but provided no other instruction.    Don also aligned himself in the rectangle with the rest of us and did not move around the room.  I strategically positioned myself several bodies away from Don.  Why? Well I guess I forgot to mention that Don is hot.  Yep… that’s right.  Upon reconnecting with him, I quickly realized that he was still as hot as ever 15 years later, so I didn’t want to be caught peeking!

I was actually surprised at how “raw and exposed” I actually felt once I had my clothes off. That may sound like a no brainer, but at the age of 55, I thought I was comfortable being naked anywhere, anytime. I had skinny dipped, slept in the nude in a room full of other people, not to mention disrobing many times in front of others during the wilder days of my youth. However, once my clothes were off, I felt a distinct flushing of my chest, just around my heart chakra and I began to sweat more than usual. I wondered if I experienced intense feelings in this area because my chest was always a source of body shame when I was growing up.

First we did pranayama breathing then moved into half-moon posture and then eagle pose.  By the fourth posture, I was really over being naked.  However, as we moved through more rigorous postures, such as downward dog flows, I really noticed some “base and raw” sensual feelings throughout my body. I wondered if this is how our caveman/woman ancestors felt. 

And then poof, it was over!  We showered and then I went out to the lounge and caught up with Don for an hour and a half before driving back to Guelph.

What was particularly interesting about our chat was the fact that I disclosed more about myself to him in those 90 minutes than during the entire 30 days I lived with him in 2004. And so, as I headed back to Toronto, I felt a more heart felt connection with my friend as it seemed our emotional intimacy had deepened significantly.

So maybe, just maybe, through a jam packed week of sailing and naked yoga, I am becoming more vulnerable through sport, which was the goal at the onset. 

On a final note, I must add that the REAL test of my willingness to be vulnerable is to be more emotionally vulnerable with those closest to me; by first being more honest with myself and then, by being more forthcoming about my true thoughts and feelings.  I am the kind of person that is will to try just about any new activity, but that is typically where I draw the line.  Emotional vulnerability is FAR MORE DIFFICULT for me than naked yoga or sailing, because I am required to put “my heart out there” without no guarantee of the response, and that really scares me. However, as Brene Brown states in her film “the Call to Courage”, “If we want to know love and connection more deeply (with both ourselves and others), we must choose courage over comfort”.  I’ll keep you all posted on my progress!

Ellen Burgess is from Guelph, Ontario and is a runner, yoga practitioner, meditator, and cycling enthusiast.  She is currently fulfilling her career dream working as a mental health RN within the greater Wellington community. 

body image · fitness

Body image, aging and the need for recognition

Content warning: This post mentions studies on negative body image, suicidal ideation, self harm, and negative self-esteem.

Now to the post proper:

The Mental Health Foundation Scotland released a report recently about body image, which included a poll about how Scots feel about their bodies. It was covered in the news here.

The poll – which was published as part of a report “Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies” – also found that just over on third of all adults said they have felt anxious because of their body image. 

And a quarter adults have felt “disgusted” because of their body image in the last year, while nearly a quarter said they had felt “shame”. 

The poll found that body image issues affected women more than men, with 11 per cent saying they have “deliberately hurt themselves” because of their body image, compared to 4 per cent of men.

One thing the report talks about in more detail that the news article doesn’t is how aging affects body image. The research shows a lot of different and complex results. On the one hand, older adults express more interest in body functioning than appearance. On the other hand, many adults (20–23% in the Scottish survey) express anxiety or depression around their body image.

This is not surprising news to any of us. But what’s underlying these feelings?

In a large 2017 qualitative study on women, aging and body image, researchers wanted “to capture the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that women at middle age have about their bodies and the experience of aging.” Here’s what they found:

Four primary themes emerged: 1) the physical and psychological experience of aging; 2) the injustices, inequities, and challenges of aging; 3) the importance of self-care; and 4) a plea for recognition of the need to maintain a contributory role in society.

I really like this quote from their interviews:

I think we all believe that we are young from our side of our eyes. We don’t look it, maybe, but ask anyone if they feel any different than they did when younger. We are women, we are sexual beings, we are capable of love and compassion, and we don’t want to be checked off because of a few wrinkles or white hair. I have always felt that when your hair turns white you become invisible.

And I love this one:

We are beautiful, sexy, mature women who have much to give to society and to the younger people. We have vast knowledge, experience and the ability to teach many things if you would listen.

Yes yes yes to this! What I want for myself as I continue to age is to be seen. To be seen as relevant. To be seen as functional. And to be seen as beautiful. There, I said it. It’s what I want. And I’m not alone in this.

When do I feel relevant and functional and attractive?

  • doing yoga
  • cycling
  • dancing
  • doing social things
  • doing helping or socially relevant things
  • doing professional things

For me, being out in the world and active helps me recognize that I matter, and it helps others recognize it, too. And– the extra added bonus– it helps others realize that people who are older, with older and varied bodies, matter.

What helps you feel seen, recognized for who you are– yourself in all your specific glory? I’d love to hear from you.

accessibility · fitness · Guest Post · motivation · race report · running

Julie’s Lulu 10K – in which the swag was good and Anita and Tracy were voices in her head (guest post)

by Julie

Last Saturday I embarked on the Lululemon 10K I would say that I am not too much into material things but for those that know me would say that might be a stretch when it comes to Lulu! I like to do races for the company and the swag but this race I only had the swag as my company, Anita and Tracy, have been globe trotting and training for the 30 K the past few months. 

I have to admit I have not run as often as I should but when I do I run hard for like 5 minutes and crash when I am on my own. Anita is the pacer of the group and without her I am often lost. When alone I often call this my ‘run like hell’ and die runs or sprint and walk. Tracy is the one that often motivates with her interesting and passionate discussions and the things I have gained from the both of them can not be measured in words.

Image description: full body shot of three women, Julie, Tracy and Anita, dressed in summer running gear (shorts, tanks, and running shoes), blue sky and trees in the background. Taken a couple of summers ago after a Sunday run.

I was a bit nervous but I had done a lengthy run 2 weekends before with Anita (almost died but survived) and I was going out every other night for my run and die sprints. So I felt confident and I approached it with the attitude of once I have the shirt I only have to finish and they had walkers at the end so no shame. 

I was grateful to learn that there was a pace bunny, incredibly people these pacers, just ask Tracy and I how grateful we are to have Anita to ‘slow us down guys.’ My approach that morning was no technology, no phones, no watch, other than my fossil time telling and no monitoring devices. Just me, the ground and 10 000 other racers.

I felt good and we started early so this bode’s well for me and my bathroom habits so off I went, alone, into the running coral. I pulled into the Green coral for the 61-75 minutes and found a bunny. It was typically crowded and the weather was exactly perfect, not too hot or sunny and I was dressed right. When we started to go I felt strong and listened to Anita in my head telling me to hold back and slow it down. No need to burnout I did this once and it was very self defeating. 

I passed the markers with pretty good ease and tried to stick to a 10 min run and 1 min walk as I normally do but I was feeling good after 20 minutes so I kept pace behind the bunny with only about 3 walks for less than a minute for the total race. I could hear Tracy in my mind commenting on the pacing and the feeling of the race, there were bands and singers, lots of energy and at one point I passed a series of spin cyclists biking and cheering us on. I wondered what Tracy would have thought she likes to see these things along the race and  there were the giant angels with donuts, the dancers and of course the witty signs. However, with all of this I looked up and saw that 7 km had gone by with a fair bit of ease so I picked up the pace and rounded the bend to the uphill.

I remember this from my Scotiabank Race a few years back but I was strong, calm and Anita was there chanting in my mind to keep a steady pace. I hit the top of the hill and with 2 km left to go I picked it up more and the crowds were a bit heavier. I was a bit frustrated by the lack of runners etiquette with many slower runners going 4-5 wide and it was difficult to pass. No one was moving to the right and a couple of times I almost ran into people in mid stride on the left side of the lane who just stopped. I was tired but used a few tricks Tracy told me about in her training (1,2,3,4 …I can run a little more, 5,6,7,8 … keep on going get to the gate … 9,10 do it again!) 

I rounded the bend and saw my chance and took off for the finish. 

I finished the race in good time 1 hour and 3 minutes!! The worst part of the race was the finish line where everyone stopped before hitting the third marker and then the crowds came to a slow crawl. It seemed to take forever to get the medal and there were people just crowded everywhere. One could not go left or right. They handed out Sage essential oils and some snack bars but I did not get these as I was not able to see anyone in the mosh pit of a finish line. I got my banana and tried to get to an exit which was impossible. They handed out boxes of what I learned later were dry and dusty donuts but the box was neat. It took about 20 minutes to go from the finish line to a clearing. 

All in all I was so happy with my time and my t-shirt and I purchased some extra swag at the end with Toronto 2019 and coordinates on them so that was a nice $$$ takeaway. 

Would I do it again? Given the distance from home it is a bit more $$ but if you make it a bit of a trip and like the gear then it was fun. I am happy with my time and I got my banana! I also learned that the people you run with over time become a part of your race and inspire you in so many different ways. No technology made it better I think as I was not focused on a wrist watch and I instead felt my feet on the pavement, my breath in the air and my friends in my mind. I will rate this one a success and on to my next race or Sunday run with Tracy and Anita (if they are up for the challenge)!

Julie Riley – Fitness enthusiast at times reluctantly but always a team player! Runner, CrossFit and general city walker who also teaches yoga on the side. Julie is passionate about working on her healthy choices one day at a time without judgement of the setbacks!