cycling · holiday fitness · holidays · motivation · traveling · winter

Finishing my #31DaysOfWinterBiking (in Florida)

It feels like it’s cheating. But I did count Zwifting inside as winter biking. Anyway, for me, the main point of these social media challenges is to just increase the number of days I ride. I’m a pretty decent tough weather cyclist–I’ve got the gear and it still makes me smile–but even I can find January with its ice and cold and very dark days just a bit much. Enter the #31DaysOfWinterBiking. But also, for me, enter a week long vacation at the end of January riding my bike in Florida.

The plan: We loaded up the Prius and Jeff, Sarah, and I drove Saturday and Sunday from Guelph to Central Florida. It was about 20 hours, door to door. We stopped for the night on Saturday in a roadside motel in West Virginia. Sunday night we checked into our very cute cottage. Five days of Florida bike riding and then Saturday, tomorrow, we check out and do the same drive in reverse.

It’s a repeat of last year in some ways. Last year we went riding in Clermont though then Jeff was already on his boat in Florida and Sarah and I flew down. I liked where we stayed in Clermont but it wasn’t free for these dates this year. Instead, we’re in nearby Mount Dora, home of the Mount Dora Bike Festival.

The bike festival is in its 45th year and it brings hundreds of riders to this old cute Florida town. Their route maps are here. Our plan was to hang out and ride bikes in a leisurely, vacation style way, making use of the Mount Dora route maps and also driving back to Clermont to ride some of our favorites again.

Our tropical Mount Dora cabin

Day 1: Tangerine Ride

When we arrived in Florida Sarah was sick–cough, cold, sneezing, sore throat. On holidays! So not fair. So for our first day we noodled down to downtown Mount Dora, an old central Florida town full of coffee shops and gift stores, sat outside and drank lattes. Properly fortified we did the Mount Dora Bike Festival’s family friendly Tangerine Ride. I recommend it!

“With 10.8 miles and + 394 feet of climbing this is a nice, mostly flat, casual and un-guided ride out to one of our beautiful lakefront parks, Trimble Park.  Enjoy the park and then ride back through the historic town of Tangerine.”

Trimble Park

We’ve been amused, as Canadians, with all the bear warning signs. Do they come south for winter? Turns out, upon googling, that Florida black bears are a sub species of the North American black bear. You can read up here.

“The park is in a known bear habitat and you may also see alligators, squirrels, raccoons, gopher tortoises, slider turtles, snakes, lizards and many bird species including eagles, osprey, pelicans and hawks.” From a guide to Trimble Park.

Total distance ridden: 28 km

Day 2: Shortened version of the Three Bob’s Ride, including thrill hill

“With 41.6 miles and +1112 feet of Climbing this route was named after three cycling friends all named Bob.  This route was created from their friendly challenge to see which Bob could create the ride where you could spot the most lakes in Lake County in 40 miles.  This was the winning ride and the route brags about having a water feature for every mile it is long! Rolling hills and great forested land are also highlights of this ride.”

Highlights: So many lakes! Also “thrill hill.” It wasn’t really that big of a hill but this is flat Florida. Still, it was a fun descent. Lowlight: lunch stop ended up being MacDonald’s since the local diners closed at 2 pm, after lunch.

Total distance ridden: 55 km

Day 3: Shortened version of the Metric Swamp Century

“Very scenic ride through northern Lake County, it is named for the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area that this ride will wind through.”

Highlights: Praline pecans with sweet Georgia heat spice for snacks, also an alpaca farm with alpaca boarding, you know in case you own an alpaca and need to take a vacation. Lowlight: Keep America Great signs. Sigh.

Total distance ridden: 70 km

Day 4: West Orange Trail

The West Orange Trail is 21 miles long and so out and back makes a pretty good ride. It’s a multiuse pathway, yes, but nicely paved and plenty wide. You can actually ride at speed through sections of it. We loved it last time and so we were determined to do it again.

From Wikipedia: “The West Orange Trail is a 22-mile (35 km) long multi-use rail trail owned by Orange County Parks and Recreation in Orange County, Florida, in the United States. The paved trail passes through downtown OaklandWinter Garden, and Apopka with most of its length built on old railroad alignments. To the west of the West Orange Trail is the South Lake-Lake Minneola Scenic Trail in Lake County which was connected to the trail in 2007.”

Highlights: Love the wide paved pathway and the town of Wintergarden. We stopped there for coffee and lunch and I bought an Orange Trail bike jersey. Lowlight: Trying to navigate four way stops when the path crosses roads with riders with different tolerances for looking and riding through. I’m the nervous nellie in this crowd. Also we encountered our first rain on the way back.

Total distance ridden: 45 km


Day 5: Sugarloaf

It was supposed to be the “Assault on Sugarloaf” but by Friday I’d caught Sarah’s cold. With a sore throat and cough I agreed to ride up the local big hill but I wasn’t about to be mounting an assault on anything.

Here’s a description of Sugarloaf by

“The sugarloaf mountain is situated in Florida (US). This climb belongs to the Florida hills. The sugarloaf mountain via clermont, fl is ranked number 1 of the Florida hills. The climb is ranked number 427 in United States and number 11779 in the world. Starting from clermont, fl, the sugarloaf mountain ascent is 1 km long. Over this distance, you climb 67 heightmeters. The average percentage thus is 6.7 %. The maximum slope is 16%.”

In the end it started to rain and got dark and once we got off the lovely bike paths the cars were passing too close for my comfort. Sarah made it up Sugarloaf but I called for Jeff’s rescue wagon. Here’s the lovely bike trail.

Somehow when I imagined bike riding in Florida I never imagined such lovely paved bike trails.

Total distance ridden, for me: 15 km
For Sarah: 38 km
For Jeff: 0 km (he was also getting sick and was driving the support vehicle)

I made it through January! Yay! It’s been a long month. And a very gloomy one.

From here on in it’s a quick countdown to spring. Right?

blog · blogging · top ten

Top posts in January, #icymi

  1. I watched Brittany Runs a marathon, regretted it, wrote about it, and then Yoni Feedhoff shared it. Nearly 3000 views later, it’s the most read post of January.

2. Cate is still menstruating.

3. I asked if you could watch The Biggest Loser ironically. My answer is no. Former Biggest Loser contestant Kai Hibbard shared that post and it’s number 3.

4. Our guest Mary Case asks if this is what retirement is like?

5. Climber and guest Lynette Reid goes on the record as opposed to sexist route names.

“When you take up rock climbing, you don’t have that “luxury.” You have entered a subculture where adolescent male sexual humour has had free play. By convention, the “first ascensionist” of a climbing route gets to name the route, and they name it for whatever is on their mind. Sometimes the results are delightful and witty. Names emerge from days of hanging out at the cliff, working hard, shooting the breeze with friends. There’s a rich kind of free association and play that works its alchemy.”

6. Guest blogger and speedy runner Alison Conway blogs about her super Kelowna running community.

7. Cate is taking a breather from bike travel.

8. Catherine has things to say about the New York Times 7 Day Sugar Challenge.

9. Ella Connor, a new guest, writes in favour of small goals.

10. An older post from a guest, On Exercising Under Neoliberalism, by Adriel Trott.


11. What do you do if you hate exercise? The fit feminists take that question on here.

12. Guest Laura MacDonald worries about falling flat on her second day of the new year.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Unexpected Surprise After Nearly 30 Days of Yoga

I am doing the 30-day yoga thing. Me and nearly everyone on the blog and half my clients and half my world. Cate did a round-up of reasons why a few weeks ago. Today I want to explore some of what has come up for me during this commitment to movement nearly every day. I’m especially interested in some of the surprises it has held for me, the things I didn’t expect, the kind of stuff that yoga promises but takes one by surprise nonetheless. 

This is the second year I have engaged in this project. Last year, I was in the throes of break-up grief and held onto it like the lifeline it was. It reminded me I was human and loveable. I suppose for some folks that is pretty profound but I feel fortunate in my personality constellation, that it doesn’t take too much to remind me of that fact, even when I’m being painfully let down by a human that loved me. So last year, the experience was visceral but kind of literal. Show up, move in the ways that feel good, breathe like you love yourself. Done.

This year, I was excited to engage in the project again, knowing what to expect a little more. I also had a better capacity and commitment to do it nearly every day. I think I finished the 30 days sometime in the middle of February last year. This year, I have been able to double up some days to make up for the days I miss or do something else. I’m still appreciating all the stuff I appreciated last year. I like how short they are. They are sometimes very technical but it’s only one thing, not a whole class of difficult stuff. I like the way she invites me into mindfulness and I love how gentle and forgiving her language is. Yet, in spite of this spaciousness, I have tripped over myself in a surprising way.

I have been pretty diligent in looking to get better at yoga. I’m paying attention to the next level of awareness of my body and where it is placed in space. I am trying to challenge the parts of me that have been traditionally stuck (in the physical or metaphorical sense). I’ve been digging deep where invited and hanging on a little longer. When I lower from plank, I do it s l o w l y. When I rise up before a twist, I really visualize and try to actualize growing taller, making space in the vertebrae before moving a little farther around. When I fold, I’m looking for ways to fold more fully. 

The truth is, it’s working. I am getting better at it. I am stronger in my arms and shoulders. I am more flexible in my hips.  My feet are definitely stronger. When I sit up, head over heart, heart over pelvis, I know where I am in my body and I’m carrying that sense all over the place. AND YET. . .

I have discovered a really sad little part of me that isn’t happy with all this objective progress and accomplishment. I have noticed that she thinks we should be stronger than this already and that the progress isn’t as much as it should be. She is craving some kind of transformation into an idea of graceful yogi that she simultaneously does not believe is possible. She is rejecting what is and longing for what could be, or what should have been if we’d been doing this diligently all along. 

In examining this part, I realize a few things. I am struck by how similar this expression is to the expression of a longing to be “thin”. That “if only-I should already-I could have-why didn’t I-what’s wrong with me” thing that I see a lot of in my work but has never felt this kind of “alive” in me before now. That makes me wonder where it is from and how much of it is really mine. It also makes me wonder if this little part’s fixation on her lack of willowy strength and flexibility is masking a whole lot of her experience of willowy strength and flexibility. So much of the “I don’t look right” felt sense of the body manages to ignore the clear and present beauty that exists. Even when we try to move away from any idea of “beauty” and shift it to strength, flexibility, balance, function and presence, there is still a risk of sliding into the not-good-enough space that is lurking always for almost all of us.

I’m having a memory of me at 12 walking along a street with storefront windows. I am catching my reflection and fixating on how my knees seem to stay bent in a weird way throughout my stride. It makes me seem like I’m tromping along in a galumphy way and I hate it. I long to be lengthy and graceful, not the angular, flailing and awkward human in the reflection of the windows. I imagine that if I could be that person, that I will find the acceptance and friendship that I think I don’t have. I imagine I will be popular and loved and happy. I feel I am none of these things.

This memory has come stumbling in, so very unexpectedly, yet entirely predictably given the practice I’m in. Every day, I’m sitting and noticing. Every day, I am tuning into my body and wondering what’s up, what’s there. I guess it’s a 12 year-old, a super sad and alone 12 year old that doesn’t imagine anyone but her parents will ever love her. She is someone detached from the growth, progression and accomplishments of the rest of me. She got left behind somehow and she is so vulnerable.

It turns out my task this year in the 30 days of yoga is to discover and tend to that aspect. This has not a thing to do with whether I will ever have the strength and form to do a good chaturanga to up-dog. I mean, I might if I keep it up but that’s not really the point. Oh, Yoga, WTF? Why you gotta be so. . . .real?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Lots more to learn still.

Midsummer scene of a Willow tree by a river representing my longing for flexible strength
A very willowy Willow
fitness · weight loss

Five Things Wrong with the latest childhood obesity study

Before I begin my irate list, let me say thanks to Samantha for pointing out the great blog post by Yoni Freedhof about this just-published study, and of course thanks to Yoni Freedhof for writing said blog post, from which I’m drawing both info and inspiration for my list.

Also before I begin listing, here’s a brief blurb about a hot-off-the-presses study in the International Journal of Obesity, testing the relationship between an additional 15-minute-per-day walk/run (called The Daily Mile program) for kids and changes in their BMI (body mass index) after 12 months. The idea was this: schools in the intervention group would have teachers take their students outside to walk around the school grounds, maybe combining it with some other educational activity. The control group didn’t implement the Daily Mile program. Result: nothing. There wasn’t any statistically significant change in BMI in the intervention group. Which is entirely unsurprising, and also wasn’t the goal of the Daily Mile program to begin with. Here’s Yoni Freedhof on the subject:

It’s an odd study in that we’re talking about 15 minutes of running per day which literally no one should expect to have a marked effect on childhood obesity given both math (15 mins of children running, jogging, or walking a mile probably doesn’t even burn the calories of a single Oreo) and the fact that multiple meta-analyses have shown that even far more involved school based PE initiatives don’t have an impact on childhood obesity.

So, courtesy of Yoni, wrong thing #1:

Who thought an additional 15 minutes a day of traversing a mile would result in kids losing weight?

Angry bird says, “Seriously?”

He goes on to make another important critical observation about the study:

And it’s a problematic study in that consequent to the wholly predictable non-exciting outcome, it’s the sort of study that might be used as a means to discourage the program’s continuation.

Thanks, Yoni, for giving us wrong thing #2:

So you’re telling me someone did a study to show how a perfectly nice school program like The Daily Mile is actually a failure at something it was never designed to succeed at? Great.

The goat is not impressed.

The researchers did have other plans for their study in addition to measuring effects of the Daily Mile on kid BMI. They also planned on measuring some quality of life outcomes, including “child-reported quality of life, child-wellbeing and teacher-rated academic attainment (overall attainment and attainment in maths, reading and writing)”.

However, 56% of their daily life outcomes were missing. Why? They have an answer:

This was attributable to the time commitment required to collect these data by schools. Research staff obtained anthropometric measures, whereas fitness, academic attainment and wellbeing measures were administered by school staff.

Here we go, now, with wrong thing #3: Who thought primary and middle-school teachers would have time to conduct testing of student quality of life and wellbeing in addition to their copious other work duties? Were they trained to do this? Were they paid extra? Well?

Angry bird says, "Well?  I'm waiting."
Angry bird says, “Well? I’m waiting.”

Angry bird has a point. Of course data will be missing under these circumstances. In addition, the researcher also confess the following:

The schools were provided with minimal training and advised to implement The Daily Mile… interviews with school staff indicated that The Daily Mile was largely not conducted daily, and implementation fluctuated depending on competing demands during the school year. 

Thus we reach wrong thing #4: You mean to tell me that, in addition to minimal staff training, they didn’t even implement the Daily Mile on a Daily basis? Why even bother crunching this data, such as it is?

Angry bird says, “why even bother?” then throws remote at screen, causing a very satisfying explosion.

Both Yoni are in agreement with Angry Bird. First, Yoni:

As I’ve said many times, dumbing down exercise to weight management shortchanges both the benefits of exercise and the realities of weight management.

I couldn’t agree more. Physical activity is good for body and soul, and weight management is excruciatingly complex at best. They are different things. Let’s not talk about them in the same study, especially one set up like this one.

Which leads us to wrong thing #5: Can we just torpedo this wrong idea that physical activity will lead to weight loss? It leads to many good things, just not that particular one. Got it?

Hey, let’s dive bomb this idea of connecting physical activity with body weight! Ready? Go!

Here endeth the list. Have a nice day…

Have a very nice day.

For Me, It’s No to Corporate Wellness

It’s the chatter I think I hate the most. I don’t like chatter at the beginning of a race, before an exam, and evidently relating to a “corporate wellness challenge” at work.

The company which is relatively new to me, where I work, does a yearly “corporate wellness challenge” that kicks off every January. Sounds nice. Kudos to them for caring about their employees’ health and trying to do something positive about it. What could someone have against a corporate wellness challenge? We all want to be well, and encourage others to be well. Unfortunately, I don’t always think like the rest of the crowd in terms of the best way to achieve this goal.

When I started hearing about this year’s challenge, the part of me that knows I don’t like “wellness programs”, which tell you what you can and can’t do, was feeling swayed to give it a try. The plan has different components, and I thought, even if I don’t fuss too much about the food plan, participating might encourage me to drink more water regularly and fulfill my goal of cooking more often. There are other components such as exercise and meditation and sleep. I don’t feel like I need incentive when it comes to my exercise, as I already workout 4-5 days a week, in a way that challenges me. I don’t have trouble sleeping on the whole. I might binge on sour kids on occasion, but I try to incorporate highly nutritious foods in my meals on a regular basis and I listen to my body when it is feeling full or tired, from too much of anything. My occasional bright blue sour/sweet candy addiction hasn’t come up at any of my health check-ups. Thankfully, it doesn’t define me or my health condition.

Alas, despite my intuition, I signed up at the last minute before the start of January (it began the 3rd week in January). But as the kickoff approached and I heard more about how it actually worked, I bailed. My desk is close enough to the main area where the speaker talked about “restricted” and “non-restricted” foods. A colleague told me enthusiastically about the online forum, where participants share their successes and “failures” daily, and count their daily “points” for meeting all of their targets (you lose points for eating a “restricted” food, for example or not meeting your daily target for exercise or water). That online forum sounds like my idea of hell (not as bad as a Sunday afternoon at Costco, but close). My anxiety about the challenge started to rise and I decided it wasn’t worth it.

A couple people have asked me if I am doing the challenge and I’ve said no. If they ask why, and I try to explain – my aversion to “restricted” and “non-restricted” or “good” and “bad” foods, and the associated guilt and why that doesn’t work in the long run, I get blank stares, that tell me people believe I’m overthinking it. Perhaps, but how can a small piece of dark chocolate be on the restricted list anyway? Also, why do I have a part of me that still feels the need to say “it’s not that I don’t care about being healthy, I exercise regularly, etc. etc.???”

I am all for people being encouraged to move more (within their abilities), pay attention to their health markers and to add more vegetables to their plate. What I don’t like is the incessant talk about what is “right” and “wrong” for everyone. The blanket statements. The emphasis on perfection.

There are a few people around me now who talk about their daily experience on the challenge. Their talk about it just reaffirms for me why I don’t care for this approach. Lamenting about being at a friend’s party and not being able to eat anything there, except for the meat. Or not being able to put a tiny amount of honey or maple syrup in their morning steel cut oatmeal. Or being restricted from dairy in their daily coffee. That is not about health or wellness, as far as I’m concerned. Not to mention the talk that is starting about what people will be able to do – once the challenge is over – does nothing to help establish sustainable habits.

So, for now, I’ll just try to block out the chatter (mindfulness practice!), continue exercising, make food choices that fit my life, ensure I’m getting enough sleep and water, enjoy the odd glass of wine or (gasp) piece of chocolate or bread! I have no doubt that my habits will outlast a 6-week corporate wellness challenge.

Nicole Plotkin after a nice run on an unseasonably mild Sunday in January.

Book Reviews · fitness · motivation

The 100 Day Reclaim: Day 71-80, Three 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.

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.

Read about Days 61-70 here.


Day 71 starts off with calling out the nonsense. I like that it’s not just other people’s nonsense that Nia wants us to call out but also our own nonsense too. In my own case I’m pretty good at recognizing other people’s nonsense but I’m less good at spotting my own. What’s an example? Well, telling yourself that you’ve been putting in the effort when you haven’t.

Nia thinks you be both compassionate to yourself and call out your own bullshit. I like it.

In fact, I liked this section better than the others because it was less “feel good” messaging. I’m pretty good at feeling good. I know this book is aimed at reclaiming our own fitness story from the dominant narratives of struggle and shame but I think I’ve pretty much left those stories behind. They aren’t mine.

Day 72 is about not letting perfect be the enemy of the good. That’s a pretty common theme in my life. I apply it to writing too.

Day 73 is about recognizing your own strengths. You are tougher than you think. Got it!

Muster up some grit, says Nia on day 79. And again I liked the “push.” It’s not all feel good about whatever you’re doing and do the thing you love. Don’t get me wrong. I like those messages too. But these days I’m doing a lot of hard, painful things. I need grit and determination. Thanks Nia for recognizing that.


Day 72: “There are options between nothing and (theoretical) perfection.” Yep. Whew.

Day 73: “Don’t undervalue yourself or your abilities… You can handle it.” I needed that.

Day 74: “Healthify” is going to be my verb of the week. I love this—it means (to me) to adjust some food or recipe to take out what are perceived as “unhealthy” components (like fats or sweeteners) in service of trying to make them more “healthy”. We can choose to eat them as they are, if they give us joy and satisfaction. I happen to feel this way about cheese and yogurt—non-fat yogurt really doesn’t do it for me. Neither does low-fat cheese. Yes, I know—YMMV. But I bet you have some foods for which you take a stand against “healthifying”. Stand with me, and use this word today if you can…

Day 77: “See past the façade.” Nia is preaching to the choir here at Fit is a Feminist Issue. We spend a lot of time and column-inches (okay, this term is outdated, but a bunch of us have written for newspapers) on debunking diet and exercise fads and gimmicks and contraptions and schemes. But we are all vulnerable, and that’s not our fault. For instance, I purchased a strength-training online plan for $79 that it turning out to be kind of a bust for me. I tried it, but it felt like too much too soon, and I got all sore and disheartened. Okay, lesson learned. I paid $79 for it. Could’ve been worse. But I still want to do strength training, so I’m turning to what works for me: my friend Pata and I are signing up for a class at the local YMCA. It’s a start, and as day 72 reminds us, it’s better than nothing—far better.

Day 79: “Muster up some grit”. I do enjoy how Nia throws a lot at us, knowing that some messages will stick better than others. This one I have a harder time with. Yes, grit is important—we would never get to the tops of big hills on our bikes without it. However, grit is not what’s called for when we’re sick or injured or there’s a family emergency. My problem is knowing when to be gritty, and when to allow myself to rest or heal or turn to something else in my life that really needs me. Nia does have an answer, I think: if we trust ourselves, the call we make in the situation will be the right one. And if we think differently later on, that’s okay too.

I’m now thinking of re-imagining grit as a force we can muster over time as well as in the moment—the grit to keep to the process, even when we get bloodied and choose to sideline ourselves. Not all of us can be Abby Wambach! 🙂


There are so very many personally useful things in this section of the book that I hardly know where to start!

In Day 71, Shanks advises us to ’Call Out The Nonsense’ – she wants us to be compassionate but to notice when we are making excuses instead of doing the actual work.

It’s great advice. After all, you can’t start your journey if you aren’t taking any steps.

However, this touches on something that is REALLY difficult for me.

As I have mentioned before, issues with self-perception are common for people with ADHD. I literally have no idea if I am working hard enough on anything. This often results in either me working very hard but perceiving myself as lazing around, or me mistaking mental effort for tangible effort and wondering why I am not making progress, or me putting a lot of effort into systems and plans that I will never be able to maintain (more on this in the next section.)

I really appreciate the train of thought that Day 71 has helped me board and noticing how these errors of thinking apply to my fitness plans is going to be extremely helpful as I move forwrad.

Day 72, When Good Beats Best

In this section, Shanks has said something that I intuitively understand, something I regularly remind others about, but that I haven’t been able to see how to fully enact for myself. (It’s always easier to see how other people can put things together, isn’t it?

Sometimes I joke with my coaching clients that they could replace me with a recording that says things like ‘Be kind to yourself,’ ‘Done beats perfect, every time,’ and ‘Sure, it’s been said but it hasn’t been said by you and you will reach people that others have not reached.’

Here, Shanks has been the person to reach me with a key message that I have heard before and that I give to other people.

Her version of ‘Done beats perfect, every time’ is to remind us that while there may be a ‘best’ way to proceed on our fitness journeys, it may not be the way that will work for us.

I was going to say that she has given me ‘permission’ to proceed with a good enough version of my plans but it would be more accurate to say that her phrasing has given me room to give MYSELF permission to proceed imperfectly and do what I can.

I’m going to be making a Shanks-inspired piece of art for my work/workout space that says ‘Seek Consistent Progress Over Perfection.’
This section ‘When Good Beats Best’ is, so far, the most useful and helpful part of a very useful and helpful book.

Day 73 is about not underestimating ourselves, and reminds us that we have the ability and capacity to face challenges of all kinds. I really like her advice to reminds ourselves of our strengths by recalling a time when we felt like we couldn’t handle what was in front of us but we did handle it and flourished anyway.

In Day 74, Shanks touches on one of my pet peeves – people making ‘healthy’ versions of every food. She reminds us that we don’t have to go through this process. It can be useful, if it serves us well, to choose different versions of foods we eat regularly but foods we only eat from time to time definitely don’t need a healthier version.

I was reminded in this section about a time, shortly after my son was diagnosed with diabetes and the dietitian had me bring in some of our family recipes so she could adjust them to accommodate my son’s new reality. She took my chocolate chip cookie recipe, made tons of adjustments with several different special ingredients and the end result was that he would be able to eat a serving of 3 cookies instead of a serving of 2 cookies. When we left her office, my then 14 year old son said, “What a waste of time. I’ll just eat 2 regular ones.”

Day 75, ‘When You Can’t See What You Feel,’ also hit on an important point for me. Because of my issues with not being able to see how pieces add up to a whole, I have an especially strong need to be able to see my progress when I am working on a long term project. I use all sorts of tricks and charts to see my results in work-related projects.

While I am okay with using how I feel to judge the ‘success’ of fitness endeavours, I think that the lack of visual record might explain how I end up going off track.

Shanks is speaking directly to people who feel discouraged by not seeing the changes in their bodies and her advice addresses that. I’m taking something different from the section. I don’t need to see the changes in my body, I’m okay with feeling them, but I do need a visual record of my efforts.

I’ve had some success with this in the past so I am going to dig out some old solutions and see how they still apply.

Days 76 & 77 are useful but not particularly applicable to me. I don’t really need reminders not to get into guilt-based negative self-talk and I am inherently distrustful of the Wellness Industry so I am not very susceptible to their shifty marketing practices. (I’m not suggesting any sort of superiority here. I fall victim to all kinds of other shifty marketing practices. I am a human and psychological techniques work on me the same way they work on others, but Wellness is one area where it doesn’t hit me very hard.)

Day 78 – Appreciate What You Have – I feel a bit weird about this section. I like how she is trying to remind us to appreciate the things our bodies can do but the practice of Negative Visualization (imagining something we appreciate being taken away from us) feels like it could trigger anxiety and the practice could tip over into something quite ableist. I am NOT saying that Shanks is advocating abelism but this section presents some risks in that area and it feels a bit off to me.

Day 79 – Muster Up Some Grit – More solid advice here! Shanks is reminding us that we will face obstacles, mistakes and setbacks but that if we muster up some grit we can keep going. A setback does not mean all is lost.

This section does bring me back to the same personal issues that I mentioned in Day 72 – my lack of ability to judge my own efforts – but, since one of my personal strengths is perseverance, a reminder of how grit helps is a useful part of the mix.

Day 80 – Do The Opposite – I love how Shanks keeps reminding her readers that women face a lot of pressure to ‘fix’ our bodies so we can see that we didn’t invent the mental habits and problematic approaches that can keep us from finding fitness habits that serve us well. I appreciate her advice to recognize the pressures and, instead, to choose a path and practice that builds us up instead of tearing us down.

Days 71-80 have provided me with some terrific insights and some great reminders. I am really loving this book and I am definitely getting what I hoped for from reading it.

fitness · injury · monthly check in

Sam’s monthly check-in: January’s ups and downs

Ups! January ends on a high note! I’m writing this post somewhere warm. I’m riding my bike in Florida. Whee! Last year it was Clermont. This year it’s the nearby town of Mount Dora. Here’s our very cute cottage rental and me amid the lush shrubbery.

Sam in Mount Dora

This very cute Florida town is home of the Mount Dora Bike Festival though we’re not here for that. The festival is in October and we’re here in January hoping to make good use of their route maps for the rides. Later in the week we’ll be taking on that classic Florida climb, Sugarloaf.

Earlier in the month I was at a conference in Arizona. That was fun too. It’s an excellent conference. But I missed having my bike. There are so many cyclists in Arizona many of them from Canada. Instead, I did Yoga with Adriene in my hotel room and went for walks in the nature trails around the resort.

Downs! These are just January initiatives that weren’t as successful as I’d hoped they’d be. They’re not serious downs or failures. I tried to do Yoga with Adriene at home. I should have done it in my office! I just don’t have room at home. Here’s Cheddar “helping.”

I started out doing the bike everyday in January thing, #31DaysofWinterBiking. I managed commuting by bike lots of days but not all of them. I rode inside some of the time–loving Zwift!–and now I’m spending the last week of winter biking riding in Florida. That hardly counts. 🙂

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But I made it through January, the second worst month of the year, right after November. My bright light helped.


What’s Your Fitness Level in Five Words? #MyFitnessLevelInFiveWords

It’s trending on Twitter so we though we’d chime in.

But first here’s some of the funny ones there.

And then there are the inspirational ones.

I asked the fit feminist bloggers to describe their fitness level in five words.

Martha: Increasing strength to maintain independence.

Nicole: Fitness for full feisty life.

Cate: My body, my empowered life.

Christine: Enhancing all my super powers.

Bettina: Channelling my energy and strength.

Me: Knee hurts but I’m moving.

What about you? What’s your fitness level in five words?


Celebrating our 15,000 Facebook Fans

The blog’s first Facebook page was called Fit, Feminist, and Almost Fifty. When we closed it and moved on to the new version, Fit is Feminist Issue, it had 877 followers. I remember looking on at Fit and Feminist, Caitlin Constantine’s page, in envy. She had more than 8 thousand followers.

Caitlin closed up shop last year and I still miss her presence on the internet, both on Facebook and her blog. Tracy and I used to say that it felt like was our cooler, faster, younger sister.

Now we’re celebrating 15,000 followers.

What’s so great about that? I mean other than it being nice to be liked…

It gives us a bigger audience for our blog posts. When we look at where blog traffic comes from almost all of it, with some very rare exceptions, is Facebook. Shares from that page are a big deal for us. Occasionally I think about Facebook and its misbehavior and think about leaving but it would mean significantly scaling back our quest for changing the way people think about fitness. I’m not sure what the answer is but I don’t think feminists should be the first to leave.

It’s not just blog content that’s shared there. I also share a lot of things there that are likely of interest to blog readers. Disagreements occasionally happen and then I draw on our largest blog community to help me moderate. Thanks all!

If you’re a Facebook user and a blog follower, go like us there if you want more feminist fitness content in your newsfeed.


Alex: Profile of an amazing coach

Last week I wrote about our little bandwagon about Yoga with Adriene, the best online yoga journey I’ve ever encountered. I emphasized that it wasn’t a sponsored post, I just really really really LIKE Adriene.

Well, here is another such post. About my favourite fitness coach ever, Alex Boross-Harmer.

A few months ago, Alex told me that her aspiration as a coach was to make a space so her clients feel that the hour spent working out is their best hour in the day. And I realized that this is exactly how I feel with her — first in her classes, and now in personal training, I feel supported, challenged, encouraged and stronger than I’ve ever felt in my life.

Alex’ is the first class I ever felt inspired to dance in — just because her joy at being in the gym is infectious. (And I am not a person naturally given to expressing joy). She is so good at what she does that I never feel she’s asking me to do something out of reach — but then I find myself deadlifting 170lbs or walking on my hands, things I never in my wildest dreams imagined doing at almost-55. She is phenomenal at pinpointing the thing that gives me joy and intuiting the precise moment where, with encouragement and detailed analysis and guidance for my particular body, I can take it one step further. She does this so effortlessly that I forget she’s half my age and so incredibly fit on her own she is almost another species from me.

I was trying to figure out why Alex is such a powerful presence, compared to so many other teachers and coaches I’ve had in my life. With other coaches in small group fitness classes, I often find myself feeling inept, or like I can’t quite get the form right, or I’m hopelessly clumsy. It’s hard to articulate, but with many other coaches, even when they do and say all the “right” things, I can feel held back in a way. It’s not something specific like being adjusted, or told I should stay at a lower weight to focus on form, or lack of encouragement. Other coaches can do all those things “right,” and it’s fine — I can get a good workout, have a fun class.

But Alex has a unique, powerful ability to authentically connect in a way that makes me feel like she really *sees* me — sees the power in me yearning to unleash, sees my desire to see myself as strong, to feel more and more resilient in my relationship to aging. She’s 27, but she sees it — in a wordless way. And she creates a space that enables me to grow into and trust the Strong, Confident Cate we create together. With her, I am simultaneously fearless and 9 years old, and wise and strong and 55. I will hurl myself upside down in a handstand in the middle of the floor, and I will trust her when she tells me to slow it down.

I keep trying to understand how she creates such enlivened safety. Some of it is what she says, some of it is her design of our sessions, and some of it is just a way that she metaphorically holds me as safe to explore and push myself.

Here is 7 seconds of Alex coaching me through a round of pushups:

I’m currently doing a certification program as a leadership/life purpose coach, so I’m paying a lot of attention to What Makes a Good Coach. I see a lot of the specific things I’m learning in Alex — holding the client’s agenda, making it about me, not her, championing, exploring what I need, advancing the learning. But many coaches do this. What makes Alex special is emblematized in a tattoo on her arm that says “get comfortable with uncomfortable.” She is authentic, and she is always seeking deeper self-knowledge, authentic connection. And that is a remarkable space to feel safe to deepen my relationship with my body. Thank you Alex ;-).

How about you? Have you had a fitness (or other) coach that truly inspires and pushes you? What made that person great?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who stands on her hands and ponders authenticity in Toronto. Alex is Alex Boross-Harmer, who has a new website: