Appreciating adaptability

A friend shared this link to a news article about women who climbed mountains wearing long skirts. It has some pretty cool pictures including this one:

mountain climbing
Lucy Smith and Pauline Ranken of the Ladies’ Scottish Climbing Club, Salisbury Crags. c.1908 Image shows two women wearing long skirts climbing a pretty rugged cliff face.

I like the photo a lot, mostly because it reminds me that women were doing cool fitness things more than 100 years ago, and they did them with basic equipment.

It occurred to me that we invest a lot in equipment when perhaps we don’t need too. My favourite workaround to kettlebells is to fill empty detergent bottles with water. Later, when I get more ambitious, I can fill the bottles with sand to increase the weight. I have also recycled a broom handle to help me with certain back stretches.

What is your favourite workaround for home-based gym equipment? Let us know in the comments.

MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s.


Our new look! A blog image makeover

There have been big blog changes around here and we’d love your help. As you, our regular readers, know, Tracy has left the blog. We’ve gone from being a two person team, to being a team with guests, to being a team with guests and other blog regulars, to being a full-on team thing. Here’s our new schedule. And if you, a blog reader, ever want to write a guest post, drop me a line.

Where’s the “help” come in? Well, we’re updating our visual image. It used to be we were represented on social media with a series of photos of Tracy and me but that no longer fits who we are. I’ve been playing with images and adding the FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE text but I’d like some more variety.

Do you play a competitive sport, such as hockey or soccer? Rowing? Got a photo? Send it our way. How about roller derby? Power lifting? Golf? Skipping? Whatever gives you joy in movement and has a photo you’re happy to have associated with the blog, send it my way. My email address is the guest post link above. Better yet, send a bio along, tell us how long you’ve been reading and following and we’ll include that too. We used to have a “reader spotlight” feature and it would be nice to revive that.

219 in 2019 · holiday fitness · holidays

Sam is on a countdown!

A US route sign that reads “45.”

How many days are left in 2019? I’ve been Googling that question for awhile and comparing it to the number of workouts I have left in the year if I really do aspire to make it to 300 workouts in 2019.

Originally I was aiming of course for 219 in 2019 but that number went by a while ago. In a weird way my injured knee has helped with daily exercise because I just have to pay attention to doing physio and making sure I get the kind of movement that helps my knee. Keep moving and don’t give in to arthritis pain, is the latest advice. I’ve written about that in a post called Pain and the Choice to Walk or not Walk.

As of today there are 45 days left in 2019 and I just logged my 260th workout. It’s Sunday so I worshipped at the church of Zwift, riding 27 km in one hour in virtual London, England. Doing some basic math here that means I’ve got 40 workouts left and 45 days. Given that I also aspire to one day rest day a week, the math should work out perfectly.

I’ve often enjoyed having some sort of challenge through the holiday season to keep me focussed on exercise and not letting that be the thing that gives way in the face of all the extra socializing, shopping, hosting, wrapping, cooking excetera excetera. In the past I’ve done running streaks from American Thanksgiving through until New year’s short distances say 1 mile a day. My running days are over so this is probably a better focus for me anyway.

What will the next 40 workouts look like? My guess is we’ll be spending some extra time in the virtual cycling world of Zwift given a bit of extra flexibility around my work hours. I’m either walking or riding to work most days and doing some extra activity to make that count either yoga at home or planking. Sarah and I were talking this morning about making it out to the hot yoga studio in Guelph finally. And I’ll be sure to get some weight lifting in as well either with a personal trainer or on my own.

Wish me luck!

fitness · sleep

Why is being well rested the privilege I’m too embarassed to talk about?

“I’m having a busy start of the university year and I rode my bike in a 100 km Gran Fondo on the weekend. I also slept 10 hours last night.”

I nearly posted that to Facebook in September after a busy weekend but I didn’t. It wasn’t the riding my bike that felt like boasting. It was the sleep!

I thought about all the blog followers and FB friends whose lives don’t allow 10 hours of sleep. I decided not to share.

These days I often go to bed early Sunday evening and begin the week pretty well rested, knowing that I can’t do it every night. I’ve got a lot of privilege in our society. I’ve got a lot of education and an amazing job. But the one privilege that I’m shy about admitting is that I’m often pretty well rested.

I don’t harp about my sleep habits mostly because I don’t want the late night Netflix watchers among you to think that I’m judgey. I’m not. I’m definitely not at all judgey about people with small kids, caring for elderly parents, or working long hard shifts. The thing is for me, I get tired in the evening and I have a hard time staying awake. If I put on Netflix I’d be “zzzzzz” within minutes. I joke that sleep is my super power. I get really tired in the evening and I feel like I can’t stay awake. We talk about the need to prioritize sleep but I often feel that I don’t have a choice.

I read this from the Nap Ministry about developing a sleep practise and I think the going to bed early on Sunday is definitely part of my sleep practice.

” Insight into your faithful Nap Bishop’s rest practice.
1. I do not rush or overbook my calendar. I view my calendar with intuition and I have never been lead astray by my intuition. Rest allows you to connect with what you really feel and know. Grinding keeps you in a cycle of trauma.
2. I will not argue or debate with anyone on social media. You will never worry me. Arguing takes away from time I can use to nap. It is a radical act for a black woman to decide and practice a “no arguing/debate” policy because most people use these platforms to argue and most people assume they have access to black women for this role. The theories of the Nap Ministry have close to 20 years of practice/research and 4 years of graduate studies in one of the top seminaries in country. If you wanna argue or don’t agree, don’t follow and go start your own organization and blog about it.
3. I rest everyday for at least 30 mins to an hour. I book my calendar so that it is possible. I may nap on the couch, stare out a window, rest my eyes while “

Photo of the Nap Bishop from their Facebook page

What’s your sleep practise look like? Do you have any commitments about sleep like the ones that Nap Bishop makes?

competition · Guest Post · race report · racing

Moving around (Guest post)

By Şerife Tekin

    Exercise was not a regular part of my life until my early 20s. Not because I did not like being active, it was simply not an opportunity or privilege afforded to the kids of middle income families in the 1990s Turkey. I was able to swim, however, in the summers, and I felt so at HOME in the Aegean waters.  I discovered running as a young adult during my MA in a super cold city in Western Canada (Saskatoon!) thanks to my roommate K and continued to run on and off during my PhD in Toronto. Loved running around the Lake Ontario: was as close as I could get to the Aegean.

    I never considered myself an athlete though, because (i) I wasn’t particularly fast nor ambitious enough to get faster, (ii) I mostly ran solo, so was not part of a “team spirit”, and (iii) I ran so that I could write: I never ran for running’s sake. I grew the habit of drafting my papers, and then eventually my dissertation during these long runs. My love of running complemented my love of writing. It was during those years that I read Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I talk About Running” so many times. 

    I trained for and finished my first ever half marathon when I was 29 with a beloved Toronto friend a few months before I finished my PhD. I was 29. Fast forward 10 years: Moved 5 more times in 10 years (academic job market!!!), went through several episodes of back pain exacerbated by a combination of cold weather, job market stress, sitting long hours on horrible chairs to write. I continued to run on and off, even did half marathons with my students, but never dared to call myself a runner. I also started spinning at indoors with my friend A: Spinning kept us warm and cozy during the epic snowpocalypses of Buffalo. I always wanted to incorporate running and cycling into my daily routine and start swimming but the perpetually cold weather, pre-tenure grind, and the intermittent back and knee problems were not particularly helpful. 

    Things have finally changed for the better when I moved to San Antonio: Even before my fly out for my job interview I knew everything about the UTSA’s gorgeous heated outdoor pool and how warm the city stays in the winter! I got the job. Within first few months of moving down, I started biking in the gorgeous trails that lace around the city and took lessons to improve my swim. My swim coach introduced me to the UTSA triathlon club and Paragon Training and for the first time in my life I started regularly training with a super supportive team of athletes from different walks of life under the leadership of my inspiring coach Mark Saroni. It was January 2019. It was a humbling start, I felt like I was constantly trying to catch my breath during the swims, and just “wanted to die” during the 5k run time trials. To my surprise, however, I did start feeling like an athlete even though I was and still am constantly struggling. Overall, I had more energy. I was a lot happier. I made great friends which was SO welcome because moving – yet again— to a new city in mid-life is NOT easy even for social butterflies like me.

    I did my first Sprint Triathlon at the end of September in a cute Texas Hill Country town. Not only was I able to finish, I also got pretty good results. Most importantly I had so MUCH fun. I loved the high energy nature of the sprint triathlon; I loved how focused I was during the race: just one breath, one stroke, one pedal, one step at a time. After the race, I started training more. 

    Today I raced the running only component of Texas Tough Duathlon which is put on by the UTSA’s triathlon team (go Runners!!) and Paragon Training. Caveat: there were NOT that many runners, but the course was super hilly and I broke a PR – 8.43/mile – and won the first place among women. I am so happy and proud of how far I have come.  After having moved around all years, literally and figuratively, I am happy to have found a community that moves around with me to “suffer faster,” in our coach Mark’s words. What I learned from fellow athletes is that you start planning your next race the second you are done with one: For me, it is a Half Ironman, for which I shall start training once I get tenure.

Şerife Tekin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Medical Humanities at UTSA. When she is not moving around she can be found petting her kitty cat Cortez. Her website is



Are you getting excited for ski season? Making sure you have your skates sharpened? Sad that you put your road bike away for the season? Ran a great sprint on the treadmill this morning? I can say no to all of the above. While I enjoy swimming, running, walking everywhere, I have fears that prevent me from doing some of these commonplace activities. I read about A Single Pill That May Be The Key To Overcoming Many Paralyzing Fears and thought hmm, and then, no, just the thought of trying it still makes me feel anxious. Not very badass of me!

The old adage “it’s as easy as riding a bike” doesn’t help me. I learned how to ride a bike when I was a kid, but my mother was fearful of us riding adult bikes on the road, so once we outgrew our kid-sized bikes, I never rode a bike again – until I was about 25 and tried with an old roommate. I had been gifted a new bike for my 25th birthday because of all the great bike paths in my new area. Colleen patiently tried to help me get comfortable on the bike, but I couldn’t get myself to feel comfortable riding it a couple feet, never mind turning with it. Plus, I felt really silly at that age, wobbly in the parking lot. So, if I cycle, it involves a spinning studio and a stationary bike.

New activities usually went something like this when I was young. I’d put on skates and wobble to the boards. Cry and exclaim that I didn’t like it and my parents would sigh and just say “oh well, she doesn’t do stuff like this” and I’d go get some hot chocolate.

I entertained the idea of learning to skate as an adult. I figured I’d have more tenacity and confidence to put the effort in, since I was now a runner… My friend Karen had signed up for “learn to skate for adults” through the City of Toronto and I showed up for the first lesson. Unfortunately, we somehow got the start time wrong and we showed up about 15 minutes late, thinking we were early. That didn’t help my anxiety. I still had to get the borrowed skates I had on me sharpened, attempt to stand in them, and make my way to a scary location covered with ice. I started walking across pavement to the other side of the rink. There was a “railing-less bridge” I found myself on midway. Cue my brain instructing my legs to freeze. Karen tried to encourage me but when my brain is in that state, I can’t really focus on anything but the fright. I told Karen to go on ahead and I stood there trying to will myself to move forward. Eventually I gave up, sat down, took the skates off and went back to the changeroom. I went to watch the lessons and admired some of the adults who seemed equally nervous, who were actually standing on the ice. At the end of the lesson, the teacher encouraged me to come back next week, but I knew I wasn’t going to.

When I first started running, I mostly ran outside, however, I would occasionally run on a treadmill at the gym. I was never one of those people who could hop on and off while it was moving quickly, but I was fine. Until at some point, something was triggered in my head and I started involuntarily jumping on to the non-moving sides of the treadmill as soon as it gained any amount of speed. Even more embarrassingly, I was supposed to go for a stress test a couple years ago. It wasn’t a real health scare, more being extra careful about some pains I was having, given my family history. I warned the receptionist when booking that I had a problem with treadmills. She said to come anyway. I watched as seniors routinely went about the business of getting hooked up to the treadmill. I spoke to the nurse when it was my time and she assured me it would be OK and we should try it out. It was an old clunky treadmill with no sides…and I couldn’t do it. All hooked up and nowhere to go, embarrassment and all, I couldn’t make my legs stay on the treadmill.

Some fears have had a greater impact on me (not talking really important fears here such as whether my step daughter will ever give me and her father a chance). I got my driver’s license when I was 17 and drove perfectly fine for many years. I was never a “weaver” and pretty much stuck close to the speed limits. But at some point in my early 30s, I was driving on a highway. It was free-flowing, light traffic, and something in my brain triggered a panic attack. I had this feeling of doom about this open space, moving at a great speed, and no where to easily get off. I started avoiding highways. Not the best decision. Because that meant just the thought of going on the “on ramp” gave me a sense of panic. I tried unsuccessfully to get on a highway several years later. In the meantime, I still drove in the city, without issue. Made for interesting weekend commutes, when I met my now husband, who lived in Guelph when we met. At first, I tried the “long way” on the backroads, but quickly realized my anxiety levels were better served by me taking the train to Guelph (or using “Uber Gavin”).

In the gym, my fear of heights has prevented me from properly learning how to do a “pull up”. I just don’t want to hang from the height required. I’ve tried alternatives, and it frustrates me because I have decent upper body strength, but I have just shelved the idea for now.

As much as there’s a part of me that would like to conquer some of these things and be a more fierce version of myself, I am mostly OK with focusing on the things I CAN do, and not the things I can’t.

Do you have fears? Related to activity? Have you figured out ways to conquer them? Happy not to? Let me know!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is flowers.jpg
Nicole Plotkin is a law clerk who loves to: exercise, think about what to eat next, snuggle with her dogs, and enjoy life with her wonderful husband.

fitness · shoes

These shoes were made for walking

A couple of weeks ago, I was in NYC for the weekend, visiting dear friends and going out for some cultural fun. I even blogged about the burlesque body positivity fest here. But those shows don’t get started until late, so one has to fill the hours until the doors open with something.

So we went shopping. Shoe shopping! This is, in one way, my favorite kind of shopping; I am lucky to happen to have feet in a standard size (8.5–9, depending on brand) and a medium-to-narrow width. This means almost all shoes in my size fit me. It’s just a matter of chance, and not everyone has this experience. I have friends with wider feet, longer feet or narrower feet, all of whom find shoe shopping a pain.

There’s another way, though, in which I find shoe shopping challenging. I’m always, always, searching for that elusive, perfect, unicorn shoe: the super-comfortable-but-snappy-looking work shoe. It has to be pretty flat (and I mean hardly any heel at all), but supportive. And I have fussy princess feet that get blisters just being in the same room with tough shoes.

Lately, I’ve added another item to my already-burdened shoe wish list: I have to be able to walk for a decent amount of time/distance in above-mentioned dream shoe. Why? Convenience and comfort. I want to be able to take advantage of opportunities for more everyday movement (say, a walk during lunch or striding across campus/around town comfortably for meetings, etc). For me, work shoes don’t tend to feel good enough to stand up to longer walks. So I have either suffered and then bitterly regretted wearing them, or turned to my low-rise hiking shoes/sneakers. The latter is fine– lots of people wear casual shoes on campus, which is a lucky thing for me. But I still yearn for a magical combo of fashion and multiple function.

Readers, I am here to tell you today: I’ve finally found it!

In the course of two weeks, I’ve found not one, not two, but THREE pairs of shoes that 1) fit me perfectly; 2) look snappy-to-me; and 3) are sturdy and supportive for a decent walk in everyday life. YAY! By the way, I’m not hawking brands or anything, but I did want to share my shoe solutions, also in hopes that you’ll share some of yours in the comments.

Now, to the shoes themselves.

In the 90s, I wore Doc Martens. I had two pairs: a regular lace up pair, and a 3-tone Mary Jane pair. They were soooo cute! However, because of the narrowish-feet thing, they never fit me properly. However, I decided to check them out again in New York, going to an actual store (which was filled with 20-somethings who have recently discovered Doc Martens for themselves). Herewith my new Docs!

Black patent-leather Doc Martens.
Black patent-leather Doc Martens.

I love love love them! They didn’t even need breaking in– they fit and were comfortable for conference wear immediately after purchasing. This model was a bit narrower than the usual DMs, so they fit really well.

For my second dream-2019 shoe, I went to the Camper store (also in NYC). They have a variety of fun color shoes that tend to be very functional (read comfortable). Yes, they sell shoes with heels, but there are no stilettos in sight. I love me some slingbacks, so I bought these for wearing out on the town.

Oxford slingbacks. One shoe with yellow side panel, and the other with blue.
Oxford slingbacks. One shoe with yellow side panel, and the other with blue.

These are super-comfortable, and also stylish-to-me. Many of the Camper shoes have complementary colors on left and right shoes, which is nothing but fun. I wore these to a dance concert in Brooklyn, taking the subway and walking at least an hour or so in them the same day I bought them. And my feet gave me no complaints.

Finally, I ordered some sneaker-ish shoes I saw online. I love sneakers, but like to look a little more formal in the feet sometimes. Here are my new orange nubuck walking shoes:

Orange nubuck sneakers, complete with toe cap.
Orange nubuck sneakers, complete with toe cap.

These are by Ecco, a brand of comfy walking shoes. They come in many colors. Orange for me as a no-brainer– I think it goes with everything. They’re not a totally perfect fit (they come in whole sizes only), but so far I’ve been very happy with the support and comfort and style.

Maybe it’s some kind of shoe-cebo effect, but I’ve been wearing my fake-o Fitbit and noticing my step counts going up. I’m taking the opportunity to get more steps in at work and while out at activities, in part because I can. MY FEET DON’T HURT! YAY!

What about you, dear readers? What cute-to-you shoes work for you in regular non-athletic contexts? I’m always on the lookout for new solutions to the elusive search for the perfect shoe, so don’t hold back if you have valuable information… 🙂