Taking spinning outside

“Push it up just a notch, go after that moment — you’ve been inside for months, and this is your chance!”

That was Brian’s voice as we pushed hard in our final “road” in our spinning class on Tuesday night. It flooded me with emotion — here I was, finally, spinning outside, sweating and moving my body hard, as the moon rose above us.

It’s a weird time, right now. That goes without saying — but my two outdoor spinning classes in the past couple of weeks just exemplified how everything right now is about adaptation, patchwork, figuring it out as we go along, a sort of slightly unhinged creative edge.

Spinning used to be super predictable, a kind of streamlined and slick activity — dark room, 30 strangers flinging sweat onto each other, music infusing every pore, hard work in sync with a herd. Now it’s 10 bikes spaced out in an alleyway, two decent speakers in the middle, one class with Derek wandering around with Covid hair in his bare feet calling out directions and encouragement, another with Brian continually trying to make the bluetooth work and waving at us with a fancy fan.

Patio tables on Queen St E in Toronto

Toronto has been in “stage 2” of lockdown for a few weeks now, and it’s a stage I’m comfortable with. Shops are open, with masks, with limited numbers of people. Patios are open, with spaced out tables, territory claimed on the streets, and a whiff of gratitude. Services are open, with masks and spacing (in the past 6 weeks I’ve had a dental cleaning, two pedicures, a hair cut, a separate hair colour, three rounds of acupuncture and a mammogram). I had a covid test and drove four hours to visit my mother and my aunt. People are complying, for the most part, with the rules around masks everywhere inside. People are in parks working out, as Nicole wrote about the other day. Most people in office type jobs are still at home, most adjusted (except for that one guy I work with who keeps saying his webcam is “on order.” Um, get it together, Jim!)

I don’t think phase 2 is sustainable from a business point of view, but it’s sure sustainable from my point of view, in the middle of summer, for all the things I care about. And spinning — a class where I really sweat, really push myself — this was the one piece missing from my life.

My first spinning class, I almost cried with gratitude, finding the unique power that comes with the hard class, the pushing that’s different from actually riding an actual bike up an actual hill. (Also good, and I’ve done a fair bit of that too — just different). The different freedom to push hard without having to think about traffic, weather, falling, a flat. Overlaid with this glorious sunshine, a breeze, a coach just diving into the absurdity. Literally savouring every minute — what if this disappears again? Just like the light-streaked first dinner on a patio — a bit of awe and pure joy.

My second class was already a dip back into a bit of routine, Brian’s familiar, confident voice easy, encouraging us to stretch out or slow down, depending on our own bodies. A sequence that challenged the twinge-y nerve I’ve been struggling with in my left foot. But — a rising moon, an open sky, people working hard to make the most of what’s true in our world, catching the scent of creative, collective effort? The shared push of our bodies, even spaced apart and careful?

Truly sublime.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and spins and breathes in the east end of Toronto. If you want to join us, follow @Torqride on IG. The classes are still announced as popups, usually on Sunday afternoon for the coming week.


Sunscreen, Yoga, and Other Tangents

I’ve been finding it hard to get into gear with my writing lately and I have been walking the fine line between ‘distracting myself for a while and then returning to the project’ and straight-up procrastination.

Sometimes, I combine distraction, procrastination, and virtue by taking the dog for a walk. This is useful because it moves me, my brain, and Khalee all at once.

However, as always, there’s a sticking spot. Not a sticky spot – that would be a whole different issue.

In this case, it’s sunscreen.

A small figurine stands on a wooden dock holding a bottle of sunscreen and a towel.
Things have come to a pretty pass when even figurines need sunscreen on a sunny day. Photo source:

I’m not going to argue about the need for sunscreen, I have had enough bad sunburns in my youth (when we would put on baby oil in hopes of tanning MORE) to know that I need it.

But, I hate sunscreen. Absolutely hate it.

It’s a finicky thing to apply. It’s hard to get off my hands. It makes a mess of my clothes and anything else I touch. And I know it mostly soaks in but there always seems to be some left on the surface for me to make a mess with. (and don’t even get me started on the fact that I am supposed to plan ahead and apply it 30 minutes before I go out – I just don’t have that sort of brain)

It’s worth it if I am going to spend a long time outside but it makes for an unpleasant workday if I just want to take a short walk and then return to my desk.

And yes, I could take a shower after my walk but I have usually already taken a shower by that point and I feel conscious about wasting the water. And, since I am the owner of a distraction-prone brain, I don’t necessarily want to add an extra task into my routine.

So, sometimes, I decide not to go for a walk because I can’t face the sunscreen at that point in the day.


Today, as all of the above occurred to me, I veered into procrastination and looked up ‘easy ways to apply sunscreen’ and encountered this marvelous article full of hacks for sunscreen application.

I don’t really see myself applying sunscreen with a paint roller but I think it’s hilarious. I may, however, buy some makeup sponges for sunscreen application and see if it helps reduce any of the static for me.

One of the most interesting hacks, though, is the idea of practicing cow face pose* – gomukhasana – in order to put your sunscreen on more easily.

Now, I am all about anything that gets people motivated to move and to stretch and if easier sunscreen application does it for someone, I think that’s terrific. Yoga for Sunscreen Application isn’t a special video yet (I checked!) but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone developed one.

Two people  connect their fingertips to create a heart shape around the setting sun.
Two people joining hands to make a heart shape around the setting sun. I can only assume that they are both wearing sunscreen. Photo credit: Thanks to Mayur Gala for making this photo available freely on @unsplash


Then, I got to thinking.

What other tasks do you do in your daily life that you could ‘train’ for by doing a specific exercise?

Yes, I know about functional fitness and how useful it is

And, of course, I have done physio rehab for specific injuries and tasks.

But I’m thinking of something way more specific and task-related – for minor annoyances in your day-to-day life.

For example, my ‘cupboard reach’ exercise from the Wakeout app might be making it easier for me to reach a little further into that top shelf of my cupboard. The logical thing to do might be to use a stepstool or to not store things that high but the idea of training for that reach is fun to me.

Perhaps another yoga pose could help you to reach behind you to put stuff in the pouch of the driver’s seat in your car?

Or a specific exercise could help you strengthen your hand to hold your hardcover book?

What do you think? What minor frustration could you deal with through a specific exercise?

Follow me on this tangent and add your suggestions in the comments.

Meanwhile, I’m off to take the dog for a walk – sunscreen and all.

*See it here:


Don’t Limit Yourself (Age Smaydge)

“I did try that gym for a few months and managed to barely keep up with the 20-30’s crowd, in much pain, but if they put in a slower class for us ‘mature’ gals, I might try again.”

A woman said this to me on a local Facebook page. She appears to be around the same age as me, based on her FB picture. She had posted a video on that local page, of a group of women (including me) warming up for a workout in the park across from her house. Her post was a variation of “Is there anything more annoying than waking up and having to watch people get fit on a Saturday morning, while I’m trying to drink my coffee and plan which cooking shows to watch.” It was clearly in jest. And, I mean, I love coffee and cooking shows.

A picture from the video shared by a stranger on Facebook, of a group of women, including Nicole, using bands to stretch their shoulders as they prepare for their main workout.

While other people joked about sitting closer to us and eating ice cream while we work out, I couldn’t help but comment that I was in that video and it was fun and she should join us sometime. Her response was the quote at the beginning of this post…..”if they put in a slower class for us ‘mature’ gals, I might try again.” Um, speak for yourself (I kept that to myself).

Now, I totally understand there may be reasons why some people want a slower class. And no one should be in pain when working out. There’s lots of legitimate reasons to take it easy. To go slow. Nothing wrong with that. Even if the reason isn’t based on an injury, or not having exercised in awhile, or just because you don’t want to. Just don’t blame it on an age.

Having gone to the gym in question for years, I know there are a number of women in the 20s and 30s range, but there are also a number of women, like me, in the 40s and 50s and older range.

My response was “hmm, I don’t know, I am in my late 40s and have been going for a few years. I find there are good options. If you ever want to just do a friendly few moves I can probably lead us through some things. No pressure. Just love movement. Happy Saturday!”

Don’t blame it on age though. Let’s not limit ourselves. Some days I have to adjust certain movements. Some days I have PMS, or my actual period, and I feel physically more tired, or stiff, or like my uterus may fall out of my body, and I modify things. But not because of my age.

Everyone has different abilities. But wherever someone is starting from, is a culmination of many things: athletic history, medical history, interest in and experience with, whatever activity they are choosing to participate in. Age can be a factor, but combined with the other factors as well, and relative to that person, not a limiting factor, on its own.

If I worried I was too old to participate in the park workout with my gym, here’s a short list of things I would have missed on Saturday:

  • a friendly chat with other women while waiting to workout;
  • stretching in a fun way, that I wouldn’t take the time to do myself;
  • working on my balance while I did a combination lunge and row on the fence;
  • challenging myself on weighted walking pulse lunges, that I would never do on my own;
  • giving myself an internal pat on the back for my rockin’ push-ups with plank taps;
  • being surprised that my beast hold was better than usual;
  • practicing sprints, which I am mediocre at (I am a slow, endurance runner), but which I should be doing anyway; and
  • enjoying the sun on my face while I stretched afterwards and the sweat poured off of me.

Whatever the proposed form of movement is, “Age, Shmayge”, I say. Figure out what you can safely do, something you enjoy doing, and want to do, something that benefits you, and do it. If you don’t like doing something, don’t blame it on your age.

Nicole P. is loving her Saturday morning park workouts.

Kayaking with Unicorns (and Children)

I confess that I’ve never liked kayaking. 

I’ve tried many times to enjoy it, but it’s just never clicked. I’m not quite sure why. I love lakes and swimming in them. I love the quiet. I love being alone. I have great upper body strength and I love using it. So on the face of it, there’s no good reason why I shouldn’t enjoy kayaking, since it’s comprised of things I love. I guess it’s somewhat boring. But so is running, and I love that. 

However, this summer, being at a cottage on a lake with children not at camp and therefore around all the time, I’ve started to change my tune. I have a five-and-a-half-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son, both of whom have boundless energy. We have an ocean kayak which is big, sturdy, and easy to maneuver. 

Desperate to find activities to entertain them, at first, I’d take one of them out at a time, perched on the front of the kayak. My daughter is a huge chatter box, so I kayak, she navigates, and entertains me, talking about nothing and everything. Last week, we saw a deer and her baby on the shore. It was beautiful. 

I started to kind of enjoy kayaking. 

My son can kayak himself, but we wanted to go out together. So, when he positioned himself on the front of the boat, he also brought along his own paddle and we had fun synchronizing our paddling and getting some good speed. A different kind of fun. The enjoyment level was rising. 

This week, we upped our game. 

My son wanted to take me for a ride. How could I say no? I propped myself on the front of the kayak (I’m small) and he paddled me around. We pretended we were in Venice and he was my gondolier. I could get used to this.

But today took the cake. Here’s how our morning went. First, blow up an enormous inflatable unicorn. Second, tie the unicorn to the back of the kayak. Third, throw the boat and unicorn in the lake. Fourth, put daughter up front on kayak, son on the unicorn, hop into the kayak myself, paddle in hand, and depart. 

The lake was calm.

Unicorn and son in tow, navigator at the helm, we kayaked all the way to the point and back. Still, we wanted more. So we went past the dock and then, after about 45 minutes, looped back home.

This is the kind of kayaking I can get into. 

Image: Blue sky with voluptuous white clouds, calm lake, woman in pink shirt and black cap paddling in a red kayak with her five-year-old daughter perched on the front, pulling a large inflatable white unicorn with a rainbow mane, atop of which her son is sitting.
accessibility · charity · cycling

The power of bicycles in changing the world for girls and women

See Wheels of Change: The Impact of Bicycle Access on Girls’ Education and Empowerment Outcomes in Rural Zambia.

“Previous evidence suggests that providing bicycles to school girls reduced the gender gap in school enrollment in India, but little has been known about the impact of bicycle distribution programs in sub-Saharan Africa and whether such programs can increase girls’ empowerment. In rural Zambia, researchers partnered with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) to evaluate the impact of bicycle access on girls’ educational and empowerment outcomes. The study found that the bicycles reduced commute time, increased punctuality to school, and reduced the number of days girls were absent from school by 28 percent in the previous week. The program also improved measures of empowerment, including girls’ sense of control over the decisions affecting their lives (i.e., their “locus of control” increased). Researchers did not find evidence that the program impacted school dropout or grade transition. “

Everyone loves this Susan B. Anthony quote: “I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Here on the blog we tend to think of the connection between bicycles and feminism as a historical thing. I’ve written lots about that and I’ve given quite a few academic talks on the connection between the history of feminist activism in the west and the history of bicycles. See my post about the anti-bike backlash of the late 1800s here:  Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s.

However, bicycles are still playing a role in improving the lives of girls and women all over the world. In many parts of the world, the choice is between biking and getting a drive from parents. But in many other parts of the world it’s the possession of a bicycle that makes getting to school possible at all. Often girls don’t have access to bicycles (and as a result, schooling).

Related posts:

Wadja: A girl, her bike, and her dreams

Will bike riding in Saudi Arabia change the way women dress?

Give the girl a bike!

As an orphan living with her grandmother in Zambia, 12-year-old Tamara has a simple life, but not an easy one. See how her story changes with the power of a bicycle.
commute · cycling · weight loss · weight stigma

“On yer bike” for oh so many reasons, but weight loss isn’t one of them

In April, which feels like years ago in terms of the pandemic, Catherine asked, Does COVID-19 care what you weigh?

The answer, not surprisingly, then and now, is that it’s complicated.

Catherine concluded, “I don’t work in medicine, but I do know that there is a humongous evidence gap between what’s happening clinically in a particular hospital and its patients (each with their own complex medical and other histories), and what is true about everyone with higher BMIs in the US (not to mention other countries) with respect to risks related to COVID-19. Right now we can’t say much of anything. So maybe we shouldn’t. Which means the answer to my blog title question is, “we don’t have evidence right now to answer this question”. It doesn’t make for exciting news copy, but it’s the closest thing to the truth right now.”

But nevermind the fact that it’s complicated get in the way of a feel-good media campaign. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans an anti-obesity/anti-COVID-19 campaign, with bicycles front and center.

I have lots of complicated thoughts about all of this. And it’s not helped by all of the cycling advocacy groups which make up a good chunk of my social media newsfeed sharing news of the plan enthusiastically. Treehugger proclaims, Miracle Pill Found for Fighting COVID-19: The Bicycle.


First, it’s not at all clear that if you had to pick one thing to work on to improve COVID-19 control in the United Kingdom it’s weight loss. How about mask wearing? Contract tracing? Or speedy testing? There are many areas in which the UK’s COVID-19 response is lacking. I wouldn’t start by blaming individual citizens for their excess pounds.

Second, it’s not clear that there is a shred of evidence that ‘eat less, move more’ public health campaigns do anything other than shame fat people.

Here’s an obesity doctor’s assessment, “I find it impossible to fathom that anyone with even an ounce of knowledge of the complex, multifactorial, chronic, and often progressive nature of obesity should in this day and age still fail to understand that the proposed plan, which includes the usual talk of changing the food environment (largely by appealing to personal responsibility) and a 12-week weight loss plan app [sic], focussed on healthy living (read, “eat-less-move-more”), is about as likely to noticeably reduce obesity in the UK population, as taking out a full page ad in The Sunday Times stating that “Obesity is bad!”.”

And here’s Susie Orbach’s response in the Guardian: Britain’s obesity strategy ignores the science: dieting doesn’t work.

Third, there are so many, many reasons to encourage people to ride bikes–less pollution, better mental health, happiness, etc–we don’t need to add one that isn’t true to the list.

Note that Boris, like me, is a regular cyclist, who is thought to be by many people someone who could do to lose a few pounds, or even stones, as they say over there. Normally I’m out there defending fat cyclists like me and Boris. See Fat cyclists in the news and Big women on bikes and Pretty fast for a big girl and Not all cyclists are thin and Fat lass at the front?. It’s a thing I write about a lot.

But here he is, a committed, regular, everyday cyclist out there pushing bike riding for weight loss.

Note we’re different kinds of cyclists but neither of us is thin.

I love bikes but I hate to hear them promoted as weight loss tools.

Because, they’re not.

I love to ride my bike. I’m on track to ride 5000 km this year, or about a 100 km a week. You can follow me on Strava, here. On ZwiftPower I’m here. I’ve been doing this for years and I can assure you it’s not making me any smaller.

And I worry that if people start riding to lose weight, and they don’t lose weight, they’ll quit and miss out on all the other benefits of moving through life on two wheels. For example, cyclists are the happiest of commuters.

What bicycling feels like every single time!

In my post on reasons to ride I give some of my reasons for riding a bike, “There are lots and lots of reasons to ride bikes. Some are health related. It’s also a terrific stress relief, and it’s good for the environment. It’s an easy way to incorporate exercise into your day. It’s good to spend more time outside. As well, it’s a sensible financial move. Driving, once you add up the costs of car payments, parking, insurance, and gas is an expensive way to get around. And I agree with all of these reasons but on their own they might not be enough to get me out the door and on my bike. What does it then? The sheer joy of cycling. On my bike I feel like I’m 12 again. Whee, zoom!”

Here are some more reasons people ride:


cycling · fitness

Sam is a local legend (but not really)

A golden laurel wreath
Strava just emailed me to tell me that I’m the new Local Legend in town!
“You just claimed the title of Local Legend on Fry Rd Northbound.

Ironically it was right after they emailed me to say “Dethroned!” and that someone had stolen my QOM.

Local Legend is a new Strava term. QOM is about speed. Local Legend is about persistence. You get awarded the title when you have the most tries on a given segment.

“The Local Legend (LCL) achievement is awarded to the athlete who completes a given segment the most over a rolling 90-day period regardless of pace or speed. 

“With racing cancelled this year, I’ve been enjoying Strava challenges, segment hunting and going for those QOMs. So, when Strava invited me to try and bag one of their all new Local Legend crowns it was game on!”

I’m the local legend on a stretch of road in Prince Edward County. Not exactly local. That’s a good reason to visit Sarah’s family farm a lot this summer and autumn.

covid19 · fitness · weight lifting

Shifting Priorities During Troubled Times

Greetings from Portland, Oregon, where everything is peaceful and the living is easy.

Ok, maybe not.

For over a week, federal agents have incited violence by attacking peaceful protestors, detaining them, scooping people off the streets in unmarked vehicles and so obviously escalating the situation that the only explanation for their behavior is that it is intentional. Our local police, instead of standing up to protect the citizens of our city, who pay their wages and to whom they are sworn to protect, are collaborating with this invading force. The productive and justifiable outrage of my fellow citizens is palpable.

In addition to being ground zero for Trump’s latest version of fascist cosplay, Oregon is in the midst of grappling with when, if and how we all return to school in the fall. As a middle school teacher, I am working hard to advocate for the health of my students, their families, and my fellow educators. I’ve come to accept, in fact, that this summer is absolutely not a vacation; it’s two months of unpaid work.

Some of that work is also devoted to collaborating with other educators in this moment of racial reckoning to reexamine our own understandings of race, and to begin addressing racial bias implicit in the educational system. I’m reading, discussing and exploring resources to help me better understand what my privilege has allowed me to remain ignorant to. It’s important work, but it requires focus and extended attention, both of which are hard to come by these days.

Oh, and of course there is still a potentially life-threatening virus circulating in our community that holds very real dangers for folks, especially those with complicated health histories like me. As cases have been on the rise again, I am having to hole up more tightly once more. My husband has taken over grocery shopping completely, and I’m limiting my interactions with the outside world almost exclusively to my daily walks and bimonthly visits with my father. The isolation, lack of community, and ever-present anxiety is a constant stressor.

In light of all of this, I’m struggling to keep up energy up for workouts. I am not sleeping well; I’m exhausted even when I do. My daily and weekly routines are a mess, and I rely upon routine to prime myself mentally to push hard. And, honestly, lifting from home is simply getting boring. I like pushing my strength, and there’s only so much I can do without a bench and adjustable weights.

After trying all sorts of things to reinvigorate my lifting, I’ve recently settled into a new mindset around it. What is working best for me right now is to be very permissive and flexible. Like autoregulating my runs, I’m letting how I feel each session dictate how much I do and how I do it. Do I feel good? I push hard, do more sets, make them more challenging. Do I feel shitty? I do the bare minimum I need to in order to feel like I’ve done it. I find it less stressful to have done SOMETHING than to skip it entirely, so on those days, and they’re often right now, I do exactly how much I need to and no more.

It’s hard to feel passionate about my strength when I’m directing so much of my mental energies elsewhere. I know that self-care is necessary for me to maintain my stamina for all the important work that needs to be done, but there’s a continuum of what self-care can look like. I don’t have to push hard on my workouts to be taking care of myself. And for me, skipping them entirely wouldn’t be self-care, either. I’m trying to be ok with this new, lower standard for my lifting. I’m trying to believe that my energy will return in time, and I will have benefited from this relative break from hard physical exertion.

Weightlifting can be a powerful stress reliever for me, but right now, being rigid and pushing hard just isn’t in the cards. My world is going through some serious growing pains. I’ve got other projects that I need to prioritize. It’s all important work, and I’m not going to stop strength training; I just need to change my approach so that I can do the other work that needs to be done.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found picking up heavy things, sometimes, when she feels like it, and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at .

Image description: The Portland “Justice Center,” boarded up and heavily graffitied from weeks of protests. Photo from the author, Marjorie Hundtoft
competition · cycling · fitness

Losing the last of my London QOMs!

A year ago I blogged about shifting my QOM focus to Guelph. See Making Strava Segment Goals for Guelph 

Sesame Street News Flash | Muppet Wiki | Fandom

It hasn’t happened. The pandemic happened. I’m riding outside again but I’m been keeping speed for indoors and Zwift. I still think I don’t want to risk anything bad happening during a pandemic. I would feel like an idiot hurting myself on my bike in these circumstances. Okay, I always feel like an idiot hurting myself on my bike but the extra COVID-19 oomph puts it over the edge.

The latest “uh oh” email–Dethroned!–tells me I lost the a London segment I’ve held as the fastest woman since 2014. I love how Strava suggests you message the rider and congratulate them. Um, no?

QoM v KoM: Strava's Genders (Guest Post) – FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE
I don’t know who you are but I will find you and take back my QOM.

(Update: The person took it down. Her average speed on the segment according to Strava was 67 km/hr. LIkely she left her Garmin on in the car. It happens.)

There are now just 4 London QOMs in my Strava trophy case. Mostly they’re flat and of a certain distance. This one is 800 metres. I like that distance. It’s also flat. I like that too. Though I did have one uphill, see I got an uphill QOM! But it didn’t stick for too long. I think the blog’s Kim Solga has it now!

What’s Strava?

What’s Strava? Strava is a ride/run tracking app. You can either use it on its own or share your Garmin bike computer data with it.

What’s a Strava segment? Segments are one of Strava’s coolest features. Segments are user-created, user-edited, and designate a portion of route where users can compete for time.


What’s a QOM?

“KOM or QOM Crown: If you achieve the fastest time on a segment, you’ll receive a special crown, meaning that you are the KOM or QOM of that segment (acronyms stand for King of the Mountain and Queen of the Mountain). This crown is awarded at the time of upload if you are at that time the leader on the segment. Since Achievement Awards do not refresh in real time, even if someone later beats your time, you will still be able to see the gold crown on that activity page.

Your KOM/QOM crowns are stored in a special list on Strava for your reference. “My KOMs” or “My QOMs” is a page stored under “KOMs/CRs” or “QOMs/CRs” accessed from your Profile page. It will keep a current list of all the KOMs or QOMs you currently hold.

Note: if you tie for a KOM/QOM, you will not be awarded the KOM/QOM crown, and the crown will not be recorded in the “My KOMs/QOMs” list”

Why do I care?

I’m not offering this discussion up as reasons for you to care. You can totally not care about speed or relative-to-others speed when you’re riding your bike. You can enjoy riding without a bike computer or with a bike computer and not uploading rides to Strava. Or you can have a bike computer, upload rides to Strava and still not care about QOMs. You might not have a competitive bone in your body or you might have one but think you’re happier not indulging it. There are lots of different ways to be in the world and I’m good with most of them.

But, true confession here, I do care. It’s fun and motivational for me to try to go faster than others have gone. I’m happy to restrict the others to “other women.” Kim has an interesting post about QOMs and KOMs here.

I like getting it out of my system on Zwift or chasings QOMs. Aside from sprinting with Coach Chris and friends and playfully racing friends up hills, I mostly don’t try to go faster than the people with whom I’m riding. I view riding with others as a cooperative thing.

It’s good for me to be reminded of my strengths–sprinting, for example–as I’m not the typical age or weight of a speedy road cyclist. I feel motivated by segments in a way that I don’t feel motivated by doing sprint intervals on my own. They make me work harder. I also like comparing my speeds on segments over time. See I’m getting faster: Using Strava segments to tack progress over time.

Here’s tips on how to take a Strava QOM.

You can follow me on Strava, here.

ergonomics · fitness

New science on more bad things sitting does to you (or not)

CW: discussion of a study about a potential weight loss intervention, and the relationship between sitting and body weight.

It’s always open season on sitting. No matter what else is going on in the world, sitting is only going to make it worse. At least if you read the internet. Here’s one article’s list of terrible things that can result from sitting:

  • weakening and wasting away of the large leg and gluteal muscles;
  • increased risk of developing(?) or falling prey to(? unclear) metabolic syndrome;
  • your hips and back will not support you as well;
  • increased chances of developing some types of cancer;
  • higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease;

okay, enough super-scary and probably massively overdramatized items here. Feel free to take a seat now. Or better yet, curl up in this.

A woman lolling in a gray pillow chair, under a white fluffy blanket.

Feeling better? Good; you better enjoy it now, as science has a new study out to offer yet another reason why we shouldn’t be sitting. The tl:dr version is this:

When we sit, we unintentionally fool our bodies into thinking we are lighter, as chairs and sofas and large pillow chairs take some of the pressure off our bodies that gravity imposes (yes, I said gravity). When our bodies think we are lighter, then their homeostatic processes (that help regulate body weight) kick in and we end up gaining weight. If we sit less (or, as in this study, wear a super-heavy vest weighing 11% of our body weight and try to stand up wearing it for 3 weeks), we may lose some weight because gravity.

I don’t know about you, but this was a new one for me. I mean, I’ve heard of so-called weight-loss vests: you’re supposed to wear one and then sweat a lot and thereby lose weight. Which you don’t.

Headless woman wearing bright pink and black neoprene zip-up vest for sweating and therefore losing weight. Not.

In the course of googling “heavy vests”, I found that weighted vests are already a thing that some people use for cardio endurance training. (If any of you readers use weighted vests for training, I’d love to hear from you in the comments).

But some Swedish researchers had a different purpose in mind for weighted vests in their study. Their hypothesis, tested previously in rats, was that human bodies have what they call a “gravitostat” (think body-weight loading measure) that helps our metabolisms regulate our body weight over time. They wanted to see if increasing the body-weight load in humans with BMIs between 30 and 35 would result in weight loss or body fat loss. To increase the body-weight load, the scientists recruited subjects and put them in two groups: 1) the control group, who wore a 1-kg vest at least 8 hours a day for 3 weeks, and were told to try to stand some while wearing it: 2) the experimental group, who did the same, but while wearing vest weighing up to 11% of their body weight (up to 11kg/25 lbs).

What did they find? After three weeks, the heavy-vest group lost an average of 1.67kg (3.68lbs) vs. the control-vest group, whose average weight loss was .31kg (.68lbs). This was statistically significant, although not clinically so, as the experimental group weight loss average was 1.37% of body weight.

This is a very small study (72 participants), and the effect was really small. Also, the intervention was not one that we should pursue. Participants reported some adverse effects, like muscular pain and migraine headache. But, the researchers wanted proof of concept: they wanted some evidence that the gravitostat is a real thing and affects homeostatic processes related to body weight. They’ve gotten some– how much, I can’t say, as this is not my shop.

But what I can and am about to say is this: It’s a long long way from the very teeny-tiny results of this study (no offense, Swedish research people) to saying that sitting tricks our bodies into gaining weight. However, this New York Times article is all aboard the “get out of your chair” program:

… the broad implication is that we may need to stand and move in order for our gravitostat to function correctly, Dr. Jansson says. When you sit, “you confuse” the cellular sensors into thinking you are lighter than you are, he says.

The idea of an internal gravitostat is still speculative, though, he says. The researchers did not look at volunteers’ bone cells in this study. They also did not compare their diets and sitting time, although they hope to in future experiments. Plus, the study was short-term and has practical limitations. Weighted vests are cumbersome and unattractive, and some of the volunteers complained of back pain and other aches while wearing them.

But the researchers expect that wearing a weighted vest is not necessary to goose someone’s gravitostat into action, Dr. Jansson says. If they are right, getting out of your chair could be a first step toward helping your body recalibrate your waistline.

Okay New York Times. Okay, Swedish researchers– we get it. You want us to sit less and move around more. Well, we do too. Not for weight-related reasons. For body-feeling-good reasons. For taking-a-break-from-screens reasons. For dog-walking reasons. And many more that you can insert here. Furthermore, many folks have bodies that can’t move around in the ways prescribed by articles like this one. Attacking sitting is uncool for lots of reasons.

For those of us who are privileged to be able to choose a variety of types of movement, we still sit a lot because of the nature of work and the ubiquity of computer use. We should address those work-life-civilization issues in a broad way. But I don’t think any of those solutions will involve wearing a heavy vest. Unless that’s your thing. In which case, you go!

In lieu of the multitudes of sexy-weighted-vest-wearers, I picked this reasonable-looking vest-wearing Wikihow person. Go, Wikihow person!
In lieu of the multitudes of sexy-weighted-vest-wearers, I picked this reasonable-looking vest-wearing Wikihow person. Go, Wikihow person!