A Zoom-ing Dance Party

Yesterday I danced for more than an hour with 387 other people to high energy club music … via Zoom. It’s the virtual version of a dance party I went to in New York City called The Get Down, back in the olden days (a few weeks ago … before all this). What I loved about the party IRL was that it started at 7 p.m. every second Thursday. My partner and I could dance to exhaustion for 90 minutes to a driving beat, with a disco ball and people decked out in glitter (or not), go out for dinner and still be home at a reasonable hour on a weeknight.

Obviously, dancing with a couple hundred other people in a sweat-slicked environment is no longer feasible. So, Tasha Blank, the spiritually-curious DJ extraordinaire who founded The Get Down, took the party online last week. My partner and I were uncertain, but we signed up for the inaugural session and enjoyed it enough to sign up again this week.

Computer screen dance party, DJ Tasha Blank is second from the left in the top row

There’s no doubt, it’s a trickier business creating a virtual dance party environment. The shared energy infusion is harder to access. You can get an idea from the computer screen above of what the “environment” looks like. Yesterday there were 16 similar pages to scroll through, to take a peek at everyone else.

Tasha opens and closes with a grounding meditation, which helps to align us across space and time. Then there’s the great music. And, for me, seeing everyone in their own environment—pets, kids, parents, bedrooms, kitchens, funky lighting, outdoors, dressed up, dressed down, possibly undressed (those who don’t turn their cameras on??) fuels an energetic intimacy that propels my dancing. As does my sequined headband.

Mina dancing in her living room in the afternoon sunlight

I’ve had to make the mental adjustment to daylight dancing. A friend asked if we shut off the lights to dance. Well, no. The lights aren’t on yet. Because we’re “sheltered” out in Truckee, California at the moment. The afternoon sun is streaming in the windows. We don’t have blinds. Today the UPS guy showed up while we were dancing. Fortunately, he doesn’t even knock now, because he doesn’t want to see us in person. I left the package outside until we’d finished dancing, on the unfounded theory that COVID19 doesn’t like below freezing weather.

I love dancing pretty much anytime. The release. The freedom. The joy.

We’re not talking about joy much these days. At the same time, if we can find joy in the midst, what a gift. I’m enormously grateful for the chance to dance with my partner, slough off some anxiety and reconnect with the music in my body.

Dance with me! And let me know, if or how you’re finding slivers of joy.     


Making Meaning in the Zombie Apocalypse

Yes, I know there are no Zombies. Not yet. I’m not sure I can write a post that is somehow linked to feminist fitness. More “this is what I am doing at home to keep my body moving” stories are great but that is not my headspace right now. I think this community is often about more than that of course. Inherently, this blog was founded to shift perception and change narrative around the purpose and potential of women moving in ways that make them alive and strong.

So, update: Still alive. Still strong. Still moving although it has winnowed down to walks and a little yoga. The world has winnowed down to my bedroom, my bathroom and my central area. I did not mention my kitchen, because I DON’T HAVE ONE RIGHT NOW. Somehow, three weeks ago, the idea of starting a renovation wasn’t as ridiculous and frivolous as it now seems. I love camping, so I’m still good. Not at all the worst thing happening is it?


I’m a therapist. More specifically, I am a Relational Psychotherapist. The way I engage in my job with people is not only to be helpful or give advice but to look for ways to know, connect with and be fully in present moment experiences with them. When I do this, and deal with all the blocks, hiccups, side trails and deep crevices that we encounter along the way, my clients learn that they can be seen as who they are, that they are valuable and worth knowing, that they matter. Through this fundamentally developmental experience, people grow and change and feel better.

So there I was, bopping along, dealing with all the usual, and the world fell apart. It fell apart for them and also for me, all at the same damn time. That is not the way it usually works! I have spent years in training and my own therapy so that I have a handle on my things, so that I know about the outcomes, so that I can carry hope for what it looks like on the other side. Sure it’s uncertain after you break up with your boyfriend, but eventually, you come into yourself and you feel more whole than you ever have, blah blah blah.

The theme that is coming up the most is about meaning making. We start off with check ins and reports about family and friends. They want to know I’m okay before they tell me about themselves and that’s normal, especially when there is a chance all may not be well. As we move through the sessions, so much reflects back to “But what can I do? I need to do something!” That something may be about their own stuckness or the plight of others. Many of my people are so paralyzed with worry about EVERYONE, the Uber drivers and the warehouse workers and the nurses and the restaurant workers.

We can’t help them. At least, not directly and we are consumed by the enormity of what is consuming them, of what is consuming us, of what could literally consume us if we are unlucky, vulnerable, in the wrong place at the wrong time. The universe is not benevolent. It is neutral. It does what it does and today, it’s a very successful virus having a big ‘ole party in the population. But what are we? We are meaning making creatures. We are social beings. We are good and bad. We are Moral Actors.

So, what are you going to do to make your life more meaningful? What good moral choice will you make today? What will you value? Is there a deeper value and meaning in things that you haven’t paid attention to before?

Part of my work with people these past weeks has been to tune them into these choices in their every day lives where they actually have agency, as opposed to worrying about the things they have no control over. Can they recognize the value in connecting with their family more often or reaching out to a friend? Can they organize an online community event and realize that the community would want it, that it would have value? Can they tip the Instacart person more? Can they thank the woman wiping down the grocery carts?

Other things people are doing: Giving blood, supporting really vulnerable populations with money (support Maggie’s House here and support sex workers, I don’t know how much more vulnerable you can get than that), waving at all the delivery truck drivers and giving them a thumbs up, physical distance with social consistency. Our social cohesion is the only thing that actually makes us a functioning society. Survival of the fittest is not a thing (it actually isn’t, it’s a misreading of Darwin). Survival is in the collective, in our variability within our webs of connection. It is in sharing and caring and we do this, in spite of the neutral universe that favours no one and no thing.

The virus is having its day as viruses do. Who will we be when it is all over? We are in the liminal now. If you didn’t set your intention, there is still time. There is still time to make meaning that is good for all of us, to be better than you were on the other side.

A word cloud of the Zombieland rules including 1. Cardio, 20. It's a marathon, not a sprint, unless it's a sprint and then it is definitely a sprint! 17. Be a Hero
The Zombieland Rules. Lots of them are still very sensible.


Take it easy on yourself: Some links

These are not easy times. That’s an understatement. We are living through a pandemic. I turn on Twitter and there are picture of makeshift morgues being erected in New York City. I read a story about an Italian priest giving his ventilator to a younger patient and dying.

As I write this the Canadian trajectory looks like Italy’s. Let’s hope our physical distancing will start to bring that curve down. Today the US surpassed China in terms of the total number of confirmed cases. And the true number of case in the US is likely much larger than what we’re hearing given the lack of testing.

I have friends in New York and in San Francisco and I’m scared.

I’m reading countless testimonials from doctors and nurses, staying away from their families, and working without protective equipment. I just made a financial gift to our hospital here in Guelph to help.

I’m angry that Canadas didn’t start testing and contact tracking earlier, that we didn’t shut things down sooner, and that some people are still out and about like nothing has changed.

I start crying.

But I have to go back to work. At home. Which is also stressful.

We’ve blogged here lots about it. See our covid-19 tag. Today was Catherine. Yesterday was Nicole. The day before was me. And then Cate. And Martha. I think it’s hard to write about anything else.

And we offer suggestions about working out at home but we are all struggling. It’s okay not to be okay.

Here are some stories I’ve read today about taking it easy on yourself. You don’t need a pandemic self-improvement goal.

Can I Socially Distance Myself From These Terrible Jokes About Gaining Weight While Quarantined?

“The most obvious problem with jokes about the “quarantine 15” or “the COVID 19” is that gaining weight is framed as an inherently bad thing — an idea that’s steeped in fatphobia. While there have certainly been waves of progress in body positivity (as well as body neutrality, or the idea that it’s okay if you just feel neutral about your body) in recent years, society is still poisoned by the idea that being fat (or gaining weight) is “bad” and losing weight is “good.” It’s a message that many of us are taught from a young age, and is reinforced throughout our lives via the media and pop culture. That harmful idea is the driving force behind these memes, and it sends a dangerous message that certain bodies are undesirable — which is simply untrue.”

Is Anyone Else Just Barely Functioning Right Now?

“Self-care routines—not so much, honestly. I haven’t been live-streaming workouts and getting in the best shape of my life. I’ve actually been sitting on my butt all day. I’ve slacked off on my daily meditation. I have not been motivated to use the time saved not commuting to take up knitting or bread baking. I haven’t Marie Kondo’d my bedroom, or done quarintinis with friends over FaceTime. (I have been scrolling through Instagram watching other people doing these things, and wondering what’s wrong with me that I cannot.)”

It’s OK To Not Be Superhuman During Self-Quarantine

“I was talking with a good friend recently and as he was describing this tension he was feeling, he pointed me towards an Instagram post by Haley Nahman that said, “You don’t have to “make the most” of a global pandemic.” These 11 words, though simple, were incredibly helpful for me. They put flesh around an idea that was tickling the back of my brain but I hadn’t been able to vocalize yet. If you feel this tension, here are a few other truths that will hopefully help you realize that it’s OK to not be superhuman during self-quarantine.”

Quarantine themed cookies, https://www.sortra.com/29-quarantine-themed-cookies/
fitness · habits

Thoughts on not changing everything while everything’s changing

Let’s take a poll: how many people are already tired of those articles with the 10 things you MUST do to survive working from home/social distancing/etc.?

A crowd of women, all raising their hands.
A crowd of women, all raising their hands.

I thought so.

Probably most of you have seen this sample COVID-19 daily schedule for families trying to work, study, exercise, eat, rest, play and sleep at home together:

A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.
A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.

There may be people who run on schedules like this one, pandemic or no pandemic. Frankly, I’m skeptical. My sister home-schools her kids, and one of the virtues and vices of home-schooling is the flexibility and flow of their activities. For them, the educational and the utilitarian and the recreational sometimes overlap. As long as they meet the goals my sister (and her state home schooling association) set for the kids, it seems fine. All roads may not lead to Rome, but many do, including theirs.

Let me put this out there (for the five of you on the planet that don’t already know this): I’m not a scheduler. I try to make schedules to plan out my day or week (month? oh no…) . I make to-do lists, clustering tasks into categories, prioritizing them, marking them off when completed. Sometimes that works a little. I do keep an accurate appointment calendar on my phone. And yet, I’ve never kept to a dedicated routine for managing my time at home.

I get up in the morning (early, late, whenever my plans for the day tell me I must). I make coffee (obvs), and sit down right away at my computer. No, I don’t:

  • get dressed right away
  • meditate
  • do morning yoga
  • clean anything
  • go for a a run, walk, bike ride

I just work. What work I do first depends on what’s most pressing and then move down the priority list. I know, you’re not supposed to do the pressing work all the time, or you’ll miss out on doing the important work.

Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?
Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?

The thing is, I’ve always been very, uh, “flexible” about my work-from-home style. I interrupt my work flow to talk with friends on the phone mid-morning sometimes. I do mid-morning or afternoon yoga often to clear my head. My work day doesn’t end early/at the same time every day; I happen to be writing this blog post at 11:47pm. That’s me.

(sidebar: I use the Be Focused app with the Pomodoro technique– 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break, repeat– to help me get up out of my chair and move around. I often do small household chores during the breaks, and it works for me. Tracy introduced me to this method and has blogged about it here, and Cate recently blogged about it here).

This informal way of working seemed more or less fine. But then life changed, and now I do everything from home. Maybe it’s now time to start scheduling my time in a more focused, disciplined, regular, accountable way.

I can't! I'm not ready!
I can’t! I’m not ready!

There there… It’s going to be okay.

Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.
Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.

The fact is, my work life from home has changed a lot. Now that I’m home everyday, I do a lot of things differently:

  • I’m cooking every day
  • I’m doing a lot more dishes and kitchen cleaning!
  • My sleep hours are more grad student-y: 1:30am to 10am (if left to my own devices)
  • I’m doing more live yoga classes, courtesy of Zoom, and I love it
  • I’m doing more emailing with individual students, soothing and reassuring them
  • Technology competence is more important, so I’m working on that
  • My friends and family need soothing, as do I– we vent and reassure each other daily
  • I want more outside exercise, which is still a work in progress
  • I want to think and write and read

That’s a lot of change to roll with.

So I hope I can be forgiven (by whom? myself, I guess) for not scheduling all these activities by the hour or half-hour in a daily planner.

The sad bear says, "I'm sorry. Forgive me, please."
The sad bear says, “I’m sorry. Forgive me, please.”

Here’s an idea, dear readers: I’ll forgive myself for not scheduling all the hours of my day, if you’ll forgive yourself for something you’ve been chastising yourself about since the world went topsy-turvy. Anyone want to share what’s come up for you in the course of all this change? I’d love to hear it, and I will be soothing and reassuring.

A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.
A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.

Community and the Gradual Change of Normal

Two weeks ago, I was still going to my small, local, gym. It still seemed safe enough to go there, wash my hands more than usual before and after class. See my regular gym buddies. Refrain from the usual high fives. Have my spirits lifted from endorphins and community.

I had my book club over that Tuesday. Social distancing wasn’t yet mandated. We enjoyed our usual monthly camaraderie, talked about There There by Tommy Orange, shared Covid-19 concerns, ate three sister chili and fry bread, had a little wine, laughed as a group, in person.

About a week and a half ago, my employer said we should all work from home until the end of March. I knew then that I had probably attended my last GetStrong class at Movefitness Club for awhile.

A week ago, Gavin and I, hesitantly decided it was OK to walk to our plans with friends for dinner, and others for lunch. We knew that wasn’t going to happen for awhile again. I was happy for the time outside, on foot, and seeing good friends who joked about bowing and kicking each other’s ankles, instead of hugging hello.

That Sunday night, I started receiving messages from local, independently owned, gyms and restaurants, announcing that with a heavy heart, their businesses were closing indefinitely. My heart sank a bit and I let out a few tears.

During the last week, I went for a jog outside on eerily quiet, “rush hour” streets and figured out how to follow along with a couple virtual workouts from Movefitness Club. My heart was lifted.

A picture of Nicole’s virtual workout – an “EMOM” provided by Movefitness Club. The photo lists the EMOM workout and a message from the gym “Our first GETSTRONG at Home IGTV video is up! Here is teh workout we set you up with! PLEASE Tag us when yo udo this video so we know you’ve done it!!!”

I saw my workplace handling things extremely well, proving they truly embody their values of “People First”. I’ve seen the senior people of the company, along with everyone else, post on our internal company boards, pictures of their home working spaces with kids and pets in sight. Nurturing a sense of work community. Nurturing my psyche.

My book club exchanged emails, sharing, in addition to our existing roster of books for the year, “escapist” book suggestions for this extraordinary time. We started talking about how our next book club should be by Zoom. It’s something to look forward to on the second Tuesday in April. My wine glass, head and heart are ready.

On Wednesday, Gavin and I officially cancelled our much anticipated honeymoon to Spain and Portugal, scheduled for May. Each perfectly situated hotel, an unusual indulgence for us, was cancelled one by one, while the hotels still had money…By that point, I had already grieved this loss and knew it was not important given everything else. I thought I felt OK. I hope Spain, which has been so badly hit by Covid-19, recovers well from the current situation and we are able to visit it one day.

I woke up on Thursday feeling inexplicably sad. A bit of melancholy. I expressed this on my Facebook page and appreciated some much needed virtual hugs and hope others felt the virtual hugs I was giving back.

On Friday I went to a local grocery store to get a few things. Thanked the smiling gentleman on cash for being there. I insisted on packing my own bags and using tap payment to minimize contact. I also arranged for a produce delivery in the coming weeks, because I realized I need to minimize even these types of visits.

I recognize I am fortunate. My husband and I are very lucky that we have each other to be with during this time of social distancing. We are lucky we are both able to work from home. We are lucky that we are healthy and our family and friend are all currently healthy. I am grateful for all of these things.

But I feel for all of the people who are out of work, or heading to work (healthcare workers, grocery store clerks), or worrying about their loved ones with coughs and trouble breathing.

On Friday night I started having a sore throat that continued into Saturday and ebbed and flowed with a bit of body aches and a headache and I was grateful that I have been staying home for the most part and I never had a fever and the symptoms passed quickly.

On Sunday I was grateful for yoga, 108 Sun Salutations to welcome the Spring Equinox, offered by one of my favourite yoga teachers, Lisa V., via Facebook Live.

A picture of Nicole mid-Sun Salutation, while doing 108 Sun Salutations on Sunday. Her two dogs are sitting on the couch behind her, watching. The picture has the words “Thank you for the 108 Sun Salutations for the Spring Equinox @lisayyz. I think the dogs enjoyed it too!”

On Sunday evening, my family had our first Zoom gathering. My parents, my sister and brother-in-law, nieces and nephews. Some of us figured out technical challenges. Once we were all online together, we chatted for over an hour. Most of us are in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), one is in San Francisco. How strange that those of us in the GTA, are not able to gather in person. But this is the way it is now. We talked about how Passover will not happen this year. Maybe it will merge into Rosh Hashanah (in September)? We talked about how long this might last. Some guessed a couple months, several months, some think it will be over a year, until there is a vaccine. I was grateful for the Zoom gathering. We all agreed it was fun and we will do it again next week. But I was also left with a bit of sadness. How are we going to go months (and months?) without seeing each other in person? What will happen to all of our psyches if that is how it plays out? I know we are adjusting and will adjust, but there is just a sense of sadness about this that I can’t shake.

Screenshot of Nicole’s family on a Zoom “get together”.

It’s fair to say that the sadness I am referring to can be described as grief. This type of grief is well described in this article from the Scott Berinato in the Harvard Business Review (as well as coping mechanisms): https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief?fbclid=IwAR1nmTJBS3cjvUY82LFhkjrVFvPxWdzZYz8XWwJn3wjWJ_TfF02HlWy9H1g. Berinato turns to information from David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief (his credentials are described in the article), who says that it is important to acknowledge the grief you may be feeling, how to manage it and how he believes we will find meaning in it. First, it’s important to understand the stages of grief (which aren’t linear):
“There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s angerYou’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargainingOkay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s AcceptanceThis is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”

Kessler adds “I’ve been honored the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning. I had talked to Elisabeth quite a bit about what came after acceptance. I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times.” He refers to appreciating technology, walks, having long conversations.

Kessler says if someone is still feeling overwhelmed with grief “Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through…..Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”

So for me, in the meantime, I will continue to try to maintain a routine. Virtual workouts, some jogs outside (hopefully), socially distanced dog walks, productive work days (with my co-workers aka dogs, at my side), Zoom get togethers with friends and family, date nights with my husband.

When we are out the other side of this pandemic, I know my sense of community may be a little different, and I will be ever the more grateful for every in-person connection – every high five at the gym, every hug from my parents, every walk for coffee with neighbours, every workplace debate between cubicles about whether a movie was deserving of that Oscar, and energetic discussions with my book club gathered around someone’s living room.

Nicole Plotkin is a law clerk, working at home with her husband and two dogs and getting used to doing at home workouts.
accessibility · disability · fitness · illness

Disability, Fitness, and COVID-19

by Jane S

Sometime in February, when it became clear that coronavirus wasn’t just going to be an outbreak limited to China and its neighbors, I got a lot more serious about going to the gym.

The logic was simple. I have cerebral palsy, a disability known to make pneumonia more dangerous by causing habitual shallow breathing, which reduces lung capacity. Less lung capacity means less reserve if you contract pneumonia. But this can be modified by exercise. As long as I was doing a lot of aerobic activity, my risk of severe illness should be about the same as that of a physiotypical 30-something.

Since avoiding the risk of infection entirely was impossible (even if I could have stayed home all the time, family members go out), it made sense to focus on harm reduction. Better a somewhat higher risk of an unpleasant illness than a lower risk of a dangerous one.

In March, my options for physical activity began to narrow. I stopped going to BJJ class because it didn’t seem like a good time to be getting into people’s faces. A week or two later, when students were sent home at my university, the rock wall was shut down. My main fun activities were gone — an unusually rainy March precluded outdoor cycling — but I could still exercise, maybe even train for a birthday challenge. Then, on March 15, my city ordered all gyms to close.

It’s an odd feeling when your main tool for staying healthy gets taken away in the name of public health. I felt a loss of control, combined with anger on behalf of others who would be harmed more than me. I could plunk down a hundred dollars on a mini-bike to use at home and set up Skype sessions with my trainer — not perfect but better than nothing. But that’s financially out of reach for many. Some people with disabilities need exercise equipment that costs thousands of dollars. Others can only swim. It wouldn’t have been too hard to set up designated fitness centers for such people, but no one thought of doing so. Even physical therapy offices closed.

The idea that an important aspect of pandemic preparedness is being overlooked is not just my intuition. Julie K. Silver, the Associate Chair of Physical Medicine at Harvard Medical School, writes in a BMJ opinion piece that it is crucial “to recognize that strategies that might help slow the spread of disease and perhaps reduce its overall incidence (i.e., social distancing and sheltering in place), could have the unintentional and harmful effect of decreased physical activity and contribute to cardiopulmonary deconditioning. In particular, the elderly, who are most vulnerable to pulmonary complications from coronavirus, may exhibit a decrease in their baseline cardiac and pulmonary fitness that could substantially impact their outcomes and increase morbidity and mortality.”

Some of the very people most at risk from COVID-19 — the elderly and those with heart disease and diabetes — are the ones most harmed by inactivity. And that doesn’t even begin to take into account questions of maintaining overall health and physical function. How many older people will become frail, possibly suffering fractures or losing the ability to do activities of daily living? How many will die from this?

There is still an opportunity to maintain vulnerable people’s health during this time. Some can take advantage of exercise videos or routines available on TV or online, or exercise outdoors while maintaining necessary distance. For others, cities and medical centers should try to provide individual or small-group telehealth sessions (hospitals may be overwhelmed, but the skills of physical therapists aren’t immediately relevant to treating COVID-19 patients) and set up in-person facilities for those for whom this is not enough. Getting through the pandemic with a minimum of harm to individuals and society will require a comprehensive approach that includes everyone.

Jane S. is an ecologist who teaches mathematical biology. She enjoys climbing, Brazilian jiu jitsu and any activity that involves thinking with your body. She also gets a kick out of using her powerchair to move heavy objects.

Book Club · Book Reviews

Book Club on pause for a week while we all adjust to working from home!

A few weeks ago we started a virtual book club.

You can read about the idea here.

You can buy the Joy of Movement here or from a local bookshop or your favourite online retailer.

What’s the plan? Christine, Catherine, and I are reading a chapter a week, for seven weeks and writing about it here. We did that for Nia Shank’s book The 100 Day Reclaim: Daily Readings to Make Health and Fitness as Empowering as it Should Be. And we liked it so much we’re doing it again. Read what our reviews looked like here.

What’s different this time? We’re inviting you to join us. Read along and put your contributions in the comments. It doesn’t need to be a lot. A few sentences, a few paragraphs, whatever you’re moved to write.

We’re taking a pause this week because of COVID-19 and its impact on our lives and yours too.

Want to catch up?

Read Week 1 here: https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/03/10/book-club-week-1-the-joy-of-movement-chapter-1/

Read Week 2 here: https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/03/17/book-club-week-1-the-joy-of-movement-chapter-2/

canoe · cycling · fitness · hiking · illness

Riding my bike and moving beyond bargaining

Last week, like many of us, I was bargaining.

Sure, #StayAtHome and #WorkFromHome but I can still ride my bike. I can still take walks with friends. I love the outside. It won’t be that bad. I was imagining canoe camping holidays even. Repeat: It won’t be that bad. I was still thinking about me and my life, not exclusively but my plans revolved around making work at home work for me, the daily work of my leadership role in the university, family responsibilities, and seeing how much of my exercise routine I could keep.

I blogged about that here and here and here.

And then I read this, To tackle coronavirus, walk – and act– this way by André Picard in the Globe and Mail. Who is André Picard? His official bio says, André Picard is the health columnist at The Globe and Mail and one of Canada’s top public policy writers. His latest book is MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH: Public Health Issues in Canada.”

To me, he’s the person whose voice I respect the most on matters of Canadian health policy. We were young journalists working together for Canadian University Press and though our careers have taken us in different directions, I’ve always found his voice to be wise and compassionate. You know you have those people in your life, who if they speak, you listen? André Picard is one of those people for me. His column was my wake up call.

André writes,

“People who are not sick and not recent travellers, can circulate freely. They can go for a walk. But should they? Ethically, is it right to go for a walk when we are being asked to keep our interactions to a bare minimum?

“We also have to start thinking seriously, and preparing ourselves mentally, for how long this could go on, and how long we can tolerate a new normal. Right now, we’re still in the bargaining phase: It’s okay to go for a walk, right? It’s okay to take the kids to the park, isn’t it? Are these attempts to eke out a little bit more normal in these extraordinarily abnormal times just a bargain with the devil?”

“In Canada, we’re on the brink of being too late to prevent those dire outcomes. It’s time to bring the hammer down, to move from polite entreaties to practice social distancing to firm orders to do so. This must be done with absolute clarity and a singular message. It doesn’t feel like time for a casual walk, or casual talk, anymore.”

In the past week, I went from thinking riding solo was okay to watching France, Italy and Spain ban recreational cycling. Why? Because if you get a mechanical failure, who is going to pick you up? Is that trip essential? Because you might have an accident and land in the hospital and you absolutely do not want to be taking medical attention away from a COVID-19 patient.

This week I’ve watched Nova Scotia moved to close all parks and ban recreational hiking. You can hike from your home only now. I just read that the UK is allowing people one bout of outdoor exercise a day. You can’t run in the morning and ride in the afternoon.

We’ve all watched people home from work taking over beautiful remote locations. Wales and Banff were both swamped with tourists. Go home, say the people who make these remote places home. We only have enough food supplies for locals and there isn’t room in the hospitals if you get sick. In my part of Ontario cottage country residents who aren’t year round residents have been asked to leave. The emergency rooms only have a few beds.

The world is getting smaller, fast. It’s time to stop bargaining and face the task at hand head on.

But it has its good moments, my smaller world. We took part in a neighbourhood art scavenger hunt today and drew a turtle to place in our window for local children to find.

I really appreciated these words from friend and award winning author Emma Donoghue about making a life in small places.

So there’s one focus right now and that focus is getting through this pandemic without overly taxing our health care system so it doesn’t collapse. We’re doing this so we won’t have sick people unable to get a respirator because they are all being used. I watched a thing last night about a 72 year old Italian priest who gave up his respirator to save a younger person. I don’t want doctors and patients to face those choices here.

Flattening the curve is a group project that requires our full on effort and attention. Today the Premier of Ontario announced (finally!) that all non-essential businesses are closed for two weeks. I hope that got everyone’s attention though I wish he’d done it two weeks earlier.

We are in this one together. We need to stay home, yes, but we also need to support vulnerable people and our essential workers. That’s nurses and doctors but also transit and grocery store workers.

But what about our mental health? Surely there is some need for exercise.

I think that’s right but what’s the smallest-cost-to-others way you can accomplish that? In places like France, Italy, and Spain you can still ride your bike to the grocery store. It’s recreational cycling that’s banned. You can still walk your dog. You can run within 2 km of your house.

We’re not there yet and if we all work together now maybe we won’t get there. I’m past bargaining but I’m still hoping. And me, I’m riding inside on my trainer in the virtual world of Zwift. When it’s nicer I will ride outside but short distances near my house, I think. Long rides are for later.


Bags full of books: making do

I wrote on Saturday about #coronavirustime, and my deep deep fatigue. Apparently anxiety and being with intense emotion take up a lot of energy. Who knew? Well, some people did. I just haven’t experienced this particular combination of weltschmertz and personal disruption before. I’ve been sad and upset and traumatized by things happening in the world, and I’ve had my life upended before, but never both at the same time. It’s a lot. And it turns out, my version of this kind of anxiety is for my body to shut down, like an old fashioned mantle clock that no one remembered to wind.

These retro metaphors keep coming up for me — that’s part of the time-out-of-time feeling. Is this 1918? The 30s? I keep making my own bread and thinking of new uses for beans, so is it the 1940s? Or some unwritten future where a teenage girl is going to have to save the world?

ANYWAY. Fitness. As I wrote on Saturday, I’m having a hard time feeling motivated to move my body, even with allllll the online options out there, and the sunshine beckoning. Several of you commented you are having the same experience — and feeling bad about not being able to adjust.

Well, this is an unprecedented time in our world. Most of my work disappeared overnight. I stood in line today to buy groceries at two different stores, with limits on the number of people able to go in to peer at the empty canned goods and toilet paper aisles. Things are… disorienting. It’s completely normal for our bodies to be mirroring our emotions. We need to take care of our mental health — with some good resources here. And for some of us — including me — that means reframing my physical fitness as being primarily right now about my mental and emotional wellbeing.

As I wrote the other day, I can’t seem to get motivated to… do.. much. But I do feel better — if still exhausted! — if I manage to do something. So what is making that possible? First, I’m better at moving my body if I have a timing around it — especially if I make a plan to meet someone for a walk or a hike or bike ride (observing all the protocols — don’t be dumb and get the parks closed for everyone, people!).

I am also doing much better with the actual “working out” by doing real-time small group classes with my regular (excellent) trainer by zoom. We are paying Alex a small fee for two weeks access to daily classes. I know there are free ones out there, but I believe in supporting small and fledgling businesses through this time — and a designed-for-us personal class is exactly what I need right now. Different every day, reflecting where we are right now, and supportive and encouraging.

The sense of community around this — all of us on isolation or social distancing in our homes, doing this together — is soothing. It’s a light and reassuring connection when so many conversations are intense right now. We laugh, we wave, we sweat. People’s kids and cats interrupt. Alex modifies for each of us as we need.

More than the community, though, there’s something about the resourcefulness of this that feels like it’s teaching me something I need right now. Like making homemade bread, I need to feel competent in unfamiliar ways. We need to mcgyver our lives — in new ways. Today — assuming no one has home gym equipment — Alex designed a workout, part of which included two lulu bags filled with books and wine bottles instead of dumbbells.

I couldn’t imagine trying to lift an actual barbell right now. Deadlifting or back squats seem to belong to another type of person altogether — “but that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead,” to retrieve a quote from my long ago undergrad in English. There’s something fitting about working out by moving a towel around on a slippery floor with our feet, doing step ups on a chair, lifting bags of books. It’s very RIGHT NOW. “If this is too much, take some things out of your bags,” enjoined Alex as we moved from curls to flies.

That’s how I feel right now. I’m lifting unfamiliar things, every minute, and I need to take some things out of my bags. Integrating this literal metaphor into my workouts is reassuring me that I can adjust. I’m not in it alone. We’re all looking for community. And we’ll all adjust.

The cats, meanwhile, are delighted that I’m home all the time.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is breathing with all of you.


Furniture free living and the case for active sitting?

Hello Sunday FIFI readers– here’s another lighter blog post for your weekend perusal. This one is a teensy bit topical– it’s about sitting, and chair-alternatives. I wonder if anyone ended up buying those stone pillows? If so, please comment and let us know how they worked out. How are you managing sitting or not-sitting at home and during meetings, meals, reading, etc.? We’d love to hear from you. Enjoy…