competition · fitness · Guest Post · running

The Women Runners of Kelowna (Guest Post)

by Alison Conway

Diane Leonard, Grand Master of the Maui Marathon, Sunday, Jan. 19th, 2020.

Malindi Elmore, from my home town, smashed the Canadian women’s marathon record on Sunday, running a blistering 2:24:50. Canadian Running observed that it has been a spectacular year for Canadian women runners. Twenty records have fallen over the past thirteen months. In Houston, as Malindi was crushing the marathon, Natasha Wodak became the first Canadian woman to run the half marathon in under 70 minutes. 

Fingers crossed, Malindi will run for Canada in Japan this summer, and I know the Kelowna running community will be glued to the live stream when she races. The success of our home-town superstar reflects the achievements of a larger group of amazing women runners of all ages and stages. Liz Borrett, age 80, ran the Boston and London marathons back to back last April, winning her age group at both races. Christy Lovig was the top Canadian woman at the New York marathon in November. Diane Leonard, age-group winner of the 2017 Boston, was declared Grand Master of the Maui marathon the same day Malindi broke the tape in Houston. Kelowna is home to Cindy Rhodes, six-time winner of the Victoria marathon.

I have often speculated that there is something in the Okanagan water that makes for such greatness. But having run with the Kelowna Running Club for the past two years, I’m pretty sure it’s about the running community, a community that has fostered women’s running for decades, even when running—especially the marathon—was all about men. The loneliness of the long-distance runner is well documented, but in this place, everyone has your back, whether it’s Park Run or Boston that you want to race.

When I moved to Kelowna, my friends in Ontario warned me: “Those people out there, they’re not kidding.” And it’s true—they aren’t. They race to win. And racing to win is not for everyone. But the joy of racing, at any level, is the about the joy of testing your limits. And for me, testing limits and gaining confidence in the face of adversity (currently, the fresh hell that is the marathon), is part of the feminist work I undertake as a daily practice. The women of Kelowna push me forward when I want to step back. Of my half marathon performance in the fall, a running friend observed, “I thought you would do better.”  When I say these words to myself, they are part of a language of self-criticism and defeat. When I hear them from a friend, they motivate me to reach the standard she has set for me. The same is true on a long run. When a Boston veteran tells me I had better pick it up for the last five kilometres of a 20 km run, you can be sure I get my ass in gear. I run harder because the women of Kelowna believe in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.

On Sunday, while Malindi was chasing her PB in Houston, I was running a half marathon in California, and Diane was running her full in Maui. I thought of my fellow Kelowna women as I ran, knowing that all three of us were suffering.  As I reached mile ten, a woman came up on my shoulder. “Let’s pass these guys,” she said, nodding at the men in front of us. In that moment, I remembered what is distinctly feminist, for me, about racing. Women prove, by their efforts, that they have great strength, strength that often goes unrecognized and unrewarded in our culture. We prove that we are determined to overcome the barriers we encounter. We prove that we will get to the finish line, one way or another, with the help of our friends and allies.  Approaching the end of my race in Pasadena, I saw a young woman in front of me struggling. “You’ve got this,” I said as I came up beside her, and she took off. I kept her in my sites as I ran for my PB. I was doing my thing, and she was doing hers. But we were doing it together.

Alison Conway works and runs in Kelowna, BC.

aging · fitness · health

Health and wealth and years of happy living

I’m staying at a beautiful resort in Tucson, Arizona. I love it here in the desert. I’ve come here twice to ride my bike in the winter. See here and here.

But this year I’m not here to ride my bike. I’m here for the annual Workshop in Normative Ethics, hosted by the Philosophy department at the University of Arizona. It’s a great conference and it’s at this very lovely resort/conference center. Thanks Mark!

While I’m staying here this came across my newsfeed, Rich people don’t just live longer, they also get more healthy years.

From the article, “According to a new study, wealthy men and women don’t only live longer, they also get eight to nine more healthy years after 50 than the poorest individuals in the United States and in England.”

“In both countries, wealthy women tended to live 33 disability-free years after age 50 — eight to nine more than poor women, the study found. Wealthy men tended to live 31 disability-free years after 50 — eight to nine more than poor men.”

Wealth mattered more than education and more than social class.

I guess I’m not shocked. Here in Arizona, I was struck by the very fit seniors staying at this resort. I listened in on their tennis lessons while reading some conference materials outside. Nice to have a keen coach giving you advice on your serve. But there’s not just tennis here. There’s also golf. And swimming. And biking. And hiking trails. And a gym.

The other thing that’s got me thinking about wealth is my knee replacement. I’m waiting nearly a year and a half for it in Canada. I know people in Canada who don’t wait. They travel south to the US for joint replacements. I even looked up prices. It was easy to look because I’ve posted so much about it on social media that there are many ads in my newsfeed for American hospitals marketing their wait free services to Canadians. $49,500. Wow. Guess, I’m waiting.

The knee replacement will be covered fully by my province’s health plan when it happens. Note though that none of the conservative strategies–injections, knee brace, physio–are covered by that plan. Instead my workplace benefits paid for that. I’m very grateful.

But if I were an American without health insurance or if I had benefits didn’t cover the full cost of knee replacement and I was trying to juggle launching three twenty somethings with my own pain and lessening activity levels, chances are I’d wait for surgery longer than the wait here in Canada. Waiting means, for most people, being less active.

I’m wealthy by most measures but I’m not “fly to the US and pay out of pocket for joint replacement” wealthy. I am “knee brace and physio” covered by workplace benefits wealthy. But it all seems very clear to me that in terms of staying active, wealth makes a difference.

And I guess I’m not surprised that wealth means both more years of life and more healthy years but the number of years did surprise me. Colour me naive. I know. Also, I’m curious to see what the results would be in Canada.

gadgets · gear · trackers

Bettina's sports watch situation: a quick update

Following my frustrations with finding a small multi-sport watch and the premature demise of my Apple Watch (which had been the compromise solution for my small-wrist problem), I’m pleased to report I’ve opened a new chapter in the saga.

As of a couple of weeks ago, I’m the owner of a Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, and so far I’m very happy with it. Yes, it is chunkier than the Apple Watch, but it’s still just about OK on my wrists. It actually hasn’t bothered me at all – I suspect this is because the Apple Watch acted as a “gateway drug” to my wearing larger watches and I was already sort of used to a large-ish thing round my arm.

Black Garmin watch on Bettina’s wrist.

It also has some pluses over the Apple Watch, which I’m either already enjoying or looking forward to:
+ Battery life. I charged the Apple Watch every night, but the Garmin lasts at least a week. This is phenomenal.
+ Music. I bought the AW on the speculation that an autonomous app for Spotify was coming that would allow me to listen without bringing my phone along. Not so. Apparently they’d rather push Apple Music on people by refusing to do this. I have Spotify Premium but don’t want to pay for two music streaming services. Garmin has such a standalone app, though I have yet to try it. I think it will be very nice on solo runs.
+ Sturdiness. The Garmin looks like it just might survive a fall of the kind that killed my AW (I’m still not planning on trying that out).
+ Sports stats. I prefer the way Garmin presents those to the AW ones. It seems cleaner to me and less gimmicky. Though there are definitely some gimmicky tracking features, like the “body battery”, I could totally live without, but I recognise that this is entirely down to my personal taste. YMMV. And I like the way the stats are presented mid-exercise more. The display is easier to read while running than the AW one. I also still need to explore all the sports functions it has! I haven’t taken it on a bike ride yet, for instance.

There are also some aspects where I preferred the Apple Watch though:
– Size. The Garmin is noticeably bigger, though as I said above, it hasn’t bothered me that much
– Look. The AW was sleeker, and it was really easy to switch out the sports wristband for a more elegant one, e.g. for fancy work events. I think in future, I will appear watchless at such occasions. Not a big deal, but it is nice to have a watch around for these. I’ve never been one to own multiple watches, but I might rethink that philosophy and buy a small, nicer-looking watch for “fancy times”.

And then there’s one difference I’m neutral about:
= Smartwatch functions. The AW is clearly a smartwatch with great sports functions, while the Garmin is clearly a great sports watch with smartwatch functions. I’d gotten used to some of the smartwatch functions on the AW and turned others off, but I’m also not missing those I did use all that much. I still have my phone for reminders etc. So far, I haven’t been in a situation again where I wanted to send a text from my watch – doesn’t happen often, so I can live without that feature.

I haven’t regretted my purchase. Overall, so far I feel like the Garmin’s skew towards the sports functions is more in line with what I wanted than the AW was. Let’s see how it goes!

dogs · family · fitness · yoga

Yoga with Adriene (and Cheddar)

I’m sporadically doing Yoga with Adriene this month. Usually it’s Adriene and her dog Benji and me and my dog Cheddar on our respective mats.

I’ve loved all the photos of people doing yoga at home with kids, with dogs, and with cats too. People are sharing them on social media. This weekend I’m doing Yoga with Adriene in a conference hotel in sunny Tuscon, Arizona. The big upside? Space and time to myself.

I realize that paying for yoga classes in a studio is one kind of privilege. Another kind of privilege is having a house with space to do yoga at home. The only room in our house with yoga space is the living room and it’s usually occupied. I’m self conscious, really self conscious, doing yoga with an audience, even a family audience. Also people talk over Adriene’s instructions.

Starting next week, for the first time in twenty seven years, I’m going to have an empty nest. No kids at home once the youngest goes away on a university exchange to Australia. Maybe his room can be the at home yoga studio?

Where do you do yoga at home? Who keeps you company?

Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 61-70, Two (!) Fit Feminist Bloggers Weigh In

Three of us are reading Nia Shanks’ The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. Most posts will include words from Catherine, and Christine and me, Sam, but today it’s just them. I spent the weekend at a wonderful philosophy conference in Arizona but then my travel back encountered the usual winter flight-delay problems. Sunday was seven extra hours in the Phoenix airport and I got home to my by three am. Work is extra busy (it’s academic budget season!) and I’m behind with all the things. A one day reprieve wouldn’t have helped so here’s Christine and Catherine going it alone. I’ll be back for days 71-80. I’ll be on holidays!

Read about Day 1 here.

Read about Days 2-10 here. ‘

Read about Days 11-20 here.

Read about Days 21-30 here.

Read about Days 31-40 here.

Read about Days 41-50 here.

Read about Days 51-60 here.


Day 61—if this happened to a friend

I keep struggling with Nia’s language even though I agree with and am warmed by her overall message. She gives an example of eating fast food for lunch instead of bringing it from home. All of us have done this, which she calls “giving in to fast food temptation”. Sigh. Then she says that doing so “typically leads to less-than -deal choices in the days that follow”. Argh.

But then Nia says all the right things (IMHO) about moving on, learning from what happened, etc. I feel like this is a tightrope Nia has to walk to please everyone: 1) people who are on a dieting track and suffer from guilt and self-recrimination; and 2) people who categorically reject dieting and see it as destructive and no-win. We bloggers (and lots of our readers) are in 2).

It’s so important for people in 1) to be able to hear Nia’s message, and I get that the wording she’s using is what is familiar to them. Here’s another example, talking about learning from what she calls a slip-up in eating: “…so you can handle it more productively”. I’d put it differently: “so you have some space for planning in ways that respect your desires and the realities of your life”. I don’t think Nia disagrees with me at all. I just prefer to lighten the language to remove as much value judgment as possible.

I’m liking Nia more and more as I read through this book. Hey Nia, I wish you could come by my house for tea and a nice walk at the park nearby.

Day 62—better, or tired?

Just before my first mountain bike race, someone gave me advice on how to pace myself: if I’m about to throw up, slow down. If I’m not about to throw up, go faster. That’s not terrible advice for a short race. But we’re not in short races most of the time. We’re in these bodies for the long haul. For me, “better” means keeping doing what I want to do for me, which is a variety of types of movement often, combined with enough rest to support myself, modifying when I’m injured or ill, or ramping up when I’m training for an event or curious about meeting some fitness goal.

Day 64—not good, not bad.

Here’s a friendly amendment for Nia: there are two other words that are often stealth terms for good and bad: health and unhealthy. These terms get used to bludgeon us into shame about what we eat and do. They scare us about the consequences of our eating and doing. Then, they coerce us into no-win diet patterns and physical regimens that are unfeasible and injury-conducive.

Is there such a thing as a healthy diet? Yes, there are loads of healthy diets. But there’s not agreement among health professionals about exactly what that looks like. I prefer the term healthy-to-me. This is awkward, and I don’t fault anyone else for not using it. It’s meant to convey my priorities and values (e.g. about meat or dairy consumption), constraints (e.g. allergies and tolerances, time and money, access and abilities for storing and preparing food), and preferences (some people just don’t like brussels sprouts, no matter what I say!). What we eat is up to us, and what we call healthy says a lot about us. It’s worth paying attention to that.

Day 66—coasting!

I love this so much. Coasting is a skill we all need to develop. It’s a powerful tool that will help keep us from self-blame, which is the worst thing we can do anytime. I have much more to say about coasting, but will leave it for a future blog post.

I read the rest of Nia’s posts, but will leave comments to Sam and Christine. You’ve heard enough of me for one day…


Before I discuss this week’s sections, I just want to share a little about how this book has helped my mindset already.

I live on the island of Newfoundland (Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada) and we just had a record-breaking snowstorm. On Friday past, my city had 93cm of snow (37.2 inches) and 140+ kph (86mph) winds and we have such huge piles of snow that several cities and towns have been under a state of emergency. This is the most snow that I have EVER seen fall at once, and we already had a lot of snow on the ground to start with.

On Thursday, I suggested to the other members of our Fit is a Feminist Issue team that I would do a post about shoveling and the other exercising I was going to do during the storm. I’m still going to do that post but it isn’t going to be the kind of post I expected.

I was expecting to do a fun little post about how during the stormiest day, I did yoga and some extra cardio by taking the dog out for a pee when it was super windy, then once the storm stopped, I would post about shovelling and the yoga I did to recover from shovelling.

Instead, the storm kept me edgy and distracted. I did yoga but it was late at night (and of course, I took the poor pup out whenever she needed it) and when our family started shovelling on Saturday, I went up to my hip in the snow. In the course of extricating myself, I wonked out my knee a bit. Nothing serious but enough to ensure that I had to be REALLY careful.

So, what does all of this have to do with The 100 Day Reset?

I didn’t feel bad about what I couldn’t do.

I focused on what I *could* still do. I did yoga and stretching. I switched up my usual shovelling technique so I could help, and I did it in small stretches. I thought about what I was eating instead of mindlessly eating foods that might make me feel worse about being stuck inside.

I’m a solutions-focused person anyway but I am also quite hard on myself when I feel like I might be slacking (self-perception issues are a companion issue with ADHD.) Thanks to Shanks’ book, I didn’t even consider that I was slacking off or being lazy – I was doing what I could in that moment.

So, thanks, Nia Shanks! You saved me a lot of frustration this weekend.

On to Days 61-70

I love a lot of the advice in this section, truly, truly love it.

I like being reminded to be kind to myself (Day 61) and especially the reminder to deal with ‘mistakes’ by gleaning useful information to prepare for similar future situations. I LOVE that she says that exhaustion is not a marker of success (Day 62) and that we don’t have to do an epic workout every time. In my coaching, I tell people that it is okay to create ‘placeholders’ for habits they are establishing (e.g. opening a document on the computer at a specific time – even if they aren’t going to be writing yet.) and I appreciate the way Shanks has similar advice for fitness habits here.

Day 63’s note about not giving into fear (fear of failing, fear of looking silly) was eye-opening for me. I realized (again?) that I can often be afraid of starting because I know I struggle with consistency.

I enjoyed this week’s sections about how to alter your thinking to serve you better.

Day 64 was about how to choose ways to view events in your fitness journey (i.e. the events are neutral, we assign the values to them, even when we don’t have to), Day 65 was a strong reminder that we can start/restart at any point and the key is to do SOMETHING now.

Day 66 advised us to recognize that there will be different rhythms in our schedules and we should work with what we have – working hard when we can, ‘coasting’ when we need to. (Important advice for me this weekend)

I appreciated the message in Day 67 about the futility of complaining and how we should look at the thing we are complaining about and make changes so it is no longer an issue. I like keeping the focus on finding solutions but, personally, I sometimes need to vent in order to clear my brain enough to start to see solutions. That’s not the same thing as ongoing complaining without taking action but my (sometimes overly-literal) brain initially balked at my mistaken idea that no amount of complaining was acceptable.

Day 68’s reminder to focus on what matters in the big picture was useful and I especially appreciate Shanks’ suggestion that we are just one workout away from being back on track and that we can do that workout today. That section dovetailed nicely into Day 69’s advice to mentally prepare for things going wrong and to plan the things you will do if your ‘what if’ came to pass.

Finally, I am all about Day 70’s advice to observe how things went ‘wrong’ and learn from them. Noticing how I got to a particular frustrating set of circumstances and identifying a different path for next time is an extremely useful piece of advice for me. I’ll be talking more about that in my ‘Christine weathers the storm’ post this Saturday.

By the way, throughout these sections, I can see the line that Shanks is walking with the way she talks about eating and I appreciate her efforts to steer away from diet-talk while still trying to engage people who are in that frame of mind. I, personally, would like to see her take an even stronger stance against the diet mindset but I don’t exactly know what form that could take.

Storm dog in the snow
body image · competition · diets · fitness · weight loss · weight stigma

Can you watch the Biggest Loser ironically?

No. That’s my answer anyway.

I have some thin friends who say that they just watch it for a joke. They’re looking forward to new episodes. It’s so bad, it’s good they say. I’m not a “it’s so bad it’s good” kind of person.

I said, just stop. It’s not funny. It’s abusive. It doesn’t work. It hurts people. But also, it affects your attitudes towards fat people. Did you know that?

“A 2012 study published in the journal Obesity found that people who watched just one episode of the show exhibited higher levels of explicit bias against fat people. “Participants who had lower BMIs and were not trying to lose weight had significantly higher levels of dislike of overweight individuals following exposure to The Biggest Loser compared to similar participants in the control condition,”the researchers found. Just one hour of watching the show left thinner people with an even greater personal dislike of fat people.” From Jillian Michaels and the Alarming Legacy of the Biggest Loser.

What do you think? We know that my sense of humour about the treatment of large bodied people by the media is running low. You might have read my very very cranky review of Brittany Runs a Marathon.

You can’t miss the announcements: “The all-new Biggest Loser | Premieres January 28th‎.” But you don’t have to watch the show.

We’ve written about the show before. Lots. As you can guess we don’t much like it.

From the Olympics to the Biggest Loser? Say it ain’t so Holly

TV shows, fitness, and weight loss: Love and hate

I know the mistake they made: The biggest losers just stopped exercising

More on the mistakes the biggest losers make: But what about muscle?

The biggest losers just did it the wrong way! They lost the weight too quickly!

Extreme Dieting and Metabolic Adaptation: The “Biggest Loser” Dataset (Guest Post)

Imagine if size didn’t matter. Can you?

So has Caitlin at Fit and Feminist:


Don’t watch the Biggest Loser. Watch this great ad instead!

fitness · Guest Post · motivation

Aim Small: Why Big Goals Aren’t Always The Way to Start (Guest Post)

By Ella Connor

It’s a funny time of year to be involved with fitness. On the one hand it’s wonderful to see so much focus in the media and in general consciousness on the things that I value – health, fitness, strength, all the mental and physical benefits that come from exercise. Having those things in the forefront of people’s minds, if only for a few weeks, is undoubtedly a good thing. On the other hand though, I do find some of the messages around it, particularly on social media, to be unhelpful and, more importantly, actually potentially damaging in terms of people sustaining new fitness habits. 

An awful lot of the fitness messages that we receive at this time of year are grand in scale – “New Year, New You”, “Set Your Goals and Smash Them”, “Transform Yourself in 2020”, “Go hard or go home”. That sense of optimism and unlimited possibility is what gets an awful lot of people through the gym doors in January. But I’m not convinced it’s the best approach to keeping them there in February, March or 2021. Now, I’m not knocking big goals – I’ve trained for things in my life that a few years earlier, I wouldn’t have dreamed possible – but I didn’t start on the journey with those things in mind. Huge transformations are possible in anyone’s life, but they don’t happen overnight. The difficulty with starting your fitness journey with a big, transformative goal is that it won’t happen quickly and, quite often, it may not happen at all. Fitness isn’t linear, life gets in the way, stuff happens and best laid plans can go awry. Sometimes it turns out that the goal simply isn’t possible. I know we’re all supposed to believe that “if you dream it, you can do it”, but the hard reality of our fallible bodies, with their individual strengths, weaknesses and quirks is that sometimes you can’t. And it’s often not until you try that you find that out. 

If that’s the case, and your journey was entirely motivated by a fixed, inflexible end goal or vision, it’s hard not to see it as failure. And that sense of failure can kibosh the entire operation – “I tried, I failed, I give up”. Out goes the baby with the bath water – too much investment in an overarching end goal as the focus of a regime invariably means the little victories along the way go unnoticed. If your entire focus is being a size 10, and after three months of training you’re a size 12 with much better movement patterns and greater strength, chances are you’re going to see yourself as a failure and maybe throw away all those hard won benefits which could have taken you in a new direction. 

As a trainer, whilst I love new clients who have enthusiasm for change, I am always concerned about those who bubble over at the start with talk of how this is going to change their lives and be a totally fresh start for a new them. That all or nothing spirit and heavy investment in an imagined, often slightly abstract, outcome is unlikely to last through the inevitable set backs and hiccups that any kind of fitness journey involves. And it’s hard to get people with that mindset to appreciate the achievement of adding 5kg to their deadlift or improving their movement pattern for a squat because it doesn’t feel relevant to the reason why they are there. 

Often it’s the clients who start out with the aim of just starting who last the course. When you start any kind of fitness regime, it’s not a bad idea to simply see the process as the goal. Commit to three workouts a week rather than losing three stone, or getting totally shredded or being a size 10 by March. Decide that three workouts or runs or yoga sessions a week is good thing for you to do (because it definitely is!), do it for that reason and just see what happens. 

Chances are, as you progress, you’ll discover your own new smaller, measurable, more personal, achievable goals (nail that downward dog posture, run a sub 30 min 5 km, deadlift your body weight) which will motivate you along the way much better and lead to bigger goals in time. You might actually discover that your chosen end goal is an entirely different beast from the one you thought it was at the start – some of my best moments as a trainer have been when I’ve seen my client’s thoughts switch from a generic long term fat loss or aesthetic goal to a personal target of strength or speed – that’s when I know they have real investment in the process and a chance of genuine change. 

Slow change doesn’t make for great copy. “Be consistent and see what happens” is never going to be as catchy as “smashing your goals”. But it might just work. 

Ella Connor

I am a former lawyer turned personal trainer and fitness instructor. I love to lift heavy objects, run and climb obstacles. I work and train in Essex, UK.