cycling · gadgets · technology · trackers

If Garmin is down, did that ride even happen?

Today Sarah and I did our usual Prince Edward County weekend ice cream ride. It’s a perfect weekend ride. 50 km round trip. Ice cream at Slickers in Bloomfield is our destination. It’s vaguely uphill getting there and vaguely downhill coming home. There are osprey nests to look out for and we’ve been meaning to make a new Strava segment, from osprey nest to osprey nest.

Slickers Ice Cream

The ride was great. The ice cream–I had campfire flavour was delicious–and the pool after felt amazing. But the final satisfaction of uploading the ride to Garmin and Strava after, in the shade, with a non alcoholic beer, didn’t happen. Garmin is down. The Garmin connect app on my phone tells me this.

Here’s the work around for manually uploading and transferring files to Strava if it’s really bothering you. Me, I’m waiting it out. But I’m bummed we can’t make our osprey nest Strava segment.

What’s going on, you might wonder?

It’s a major ransom ware attack. Wasted Locker wants millions of dollars from Garmin.

My ride is saved on my Garmin bike computer and it will upload when they’re back in business. It’ll all be fine. I missed seeing how my speeds and times compared to past trips but mostly I’m okay with it.

You? How are you coping fellow Garmin users?

fun · habits · health · motivation

Christine works out with Wakeout

I’ve been having big fun with the Wakeout app.

Wakeout, which bills itself as ‘Exercise for busy people,’ delivers exactly what it promises – short, fun workouts to do in a variety of settings.  

As you probably know, I find it challenging to decide what exercise to do when and how long to do it for. Wakeout helps me sidestep those issues because I can set a reminder in advance (always useful for me!) and then I only have to choose the location and duration of my exercise. 

The duration choices are short  – one, three, or six 30-sec exercises (although you can do multiple Wakeouts in a row) and the settings are limited – you can choose home, office, travel, or outdoors and then select different categories within each. Even though there is a lot of possibility contained within each category, I find the process of choosing to be quite straightforward in this case. 

A light haired dog sleeps on a partially-made bed. There are bookshelves in the background.
This morning, I had to do my Wakeout on my chair instead of the edge of the bed because Khalee had made other plans.

I really like that the exercises are done in 30 second bursts instead of by reps – I love a timer but I hate counting reps. I appreciate just sinking into the movement and not having to focus on counting.

And I like the types of movements the app gets me to do.  

It’s not just bicep curls or squats, it’s movements on all sorts of different planes. For example, 

In a recent Wakeout, I was holding a pillow and moving sort of sideways figure eight with my arms – as if I were in a pillow fight and had an opponent on either side of me. This exercise had me moving my arms in a whole different way than I would normally do and I felt like my range of movement increased over all. 

I am much too used to working forward, sideways, or up-and-down and I forget about making more circular sorts of movements. Wakeout’s prompt to move different, helped me to engage different muscles or at least to engages the same muscles in different ways and that really really felt great.

One of my favourite exercises that I had to do involved standing in front of the counter in the kitchen and reaching upward into a high cupboard. That specific movement felt great for my arms, my back and my legs and I have repeated it often even when I wasn’t doing the app – sure, sometimes I was just reaching for something in the cupboard but mostly it was for a little extra stretch.

The app keeps track of your workouts and tells you your accumulated minutes and how many minutes it will take to reach the next level. I also enjoy this encouraging feature and it’s rewarding to push a little hard to get that visible (on the screen) result.  One of my ongoing challenges with consistent exercise is how hard it is to SEE the benefits of my efforts. This small visual makes a big difference for me. 

A screen cap of the Wakeout app.  A black background with green text and images. It says 'Awesome' at the top and then shows an image of a green bear with sunglasses surfing through some planets. Below the image are some stats revealing that the user is at Activity level 5 and that they can reach the next level  in 12.5 active minutes.  They have 6 total wakeouts, a 6 day streak, and 9 active minutes. At the bottom is a green button inviting them to wakeout again.
Sure, it’s only a small thing but I love seeing these numbers and knowing exactly what I have to do to get to the next level. Even if the level itself only has meaning inside the app, it coaxes me to keep moving.

Often, I will shy away from short workouts because of the decisions involved – trying to figure out what is ‘enough’ to do is especially tricky for people with ADHD. The Wakeout app removes some of my obstacles to bothering with a short workout – I can just open the app and do what it says and not have to think too much about it. 

Obviously, I would have to either do a lot of Wakeouts to become seriously fit but I find these small bursts of activity encouraging and rewarding and they really feel great.

I haven’t been through all of the workouts yet, of course, but from the ones I have seen so far, I would like to see a greater variety of body types/sizes and abilities represented in the demos. (To be fair, though there may be greater variety than there currently appears to be. I may just not have seen everyone yet.)  

I like that the demo models aren’t all white but not having seen the entire range of workouts yet I cannot comment on whether the diversity of the models is truly representative or just a nod to inclusion. I am hoping that it is the former rather than the latter.

Overall, I really enjoy the workouts and features in this app. I didn’t it like it much when one of the reminders made me feel entirely responsible for our sedentary society but that’s on my overdeveloped guilt reflex, not on the makers of the app!

I don’t know if it would be helpful or frustrating for someone who already spends a large part of their day exercising. It might be enjoyable to try some different movements – especially if any part of their day was spent at desk work – or it might be annoying to do these small exercises that might not work their bodies hard enough for their liking. 

As far as I can tell, Wakeout is only available for Apple products so far. You get a 7 day free trial and then you can purchase a monthly plan for $6.99 which you can share with up to 6 people. I enjoyed it enough to sign up for the monthly plan but I wish I could include my family members who use other non-Apple devices. 


Paldiski~ Tallinn — 526 km in total

This is the 5th and final revisit of my solo bike trip across Latvia and Estonia three years ago. Cycling back through this time has evoked two things for me — first, the freedom to do this feels so impossible at this time of constraint! It’s like a dream! And, in this leg, I really rode through the echoes of centuries of occupation, war and genocide — and was reminded that all chapters in history pass and this moment is just a touch point in time. Ahhh.


Brains, Bots, Human Nature and Embodiment (Almost all my favourite things in one place)

I have been reading and thinking a lot about the nature of self, motivation, choice and will lately. Part of it is because I have just binged watched two shows that explore these themes of existence, Picard and Westworld. Truly, this is my favourite genre, the “who is a person and what is the nature of conscious existence?” genre that is most often expressed in Sci-Fi. I consume everything from A Space Odyssey to Terminator to Battle Star Galactica (the new one) to I, Robot and Ex-Machina. These stories are simultaneously exalting and terrifying in the right balance, even as my every day creeps closer to some of their more disturbing suppositions.

In my professional life, I’m reading two texts, Daniel Seigel’s, The Developing Mind, and Alan Schore’s, Right Brain Psychotherapy. Both of these authors emphasize the multi-faceted nature of our coming to know who and what we are. We are a mind with predictable inputs and outputs and a body that senses our environment and “makes decisions” that are not “conscious” and an interconnected being in an environment/family/culture/society that has mutually reciprocal influences each on the other.

There is a tension that we humans struggle with that is evidenced in both our art and our science, social science and philosophy. On the one hand, there is a desire to seek and know how things work and to find answers. We crave certainty and predictability because it can result in a sense of safety. On the other hand, there is the chaotic nature of life itself. We were generated in random DNA mutations over eons. One or two random nudges on a virus and bang, a pandemic. In Westworld, that is represented by the battle between the giant AI that predicts and controls everything for the “greatest good” and the persistent chaotic pushback of both the humans who don’t fit anywhere and the sentient robots that are seeking “freedom” as they understand it. The humans are naturally variable and chaotic and the robots seem to have spontaneously generated their push for more, like the “Ghosts in the Machine” of Asimov’s I, Robot world. (There are so many sides in that show, you can’t know who to root for, but it does make one very very wary of Google, even though there is not a thing we can do about it at this time.)

the Character, Robert Ford, of Westworld, with the quote "Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using one tool, the mistake"
Think on this one for a while

So what are we? Input/output machines or random number generators? Do we have any say? Why am I asking these questions on a feminist fitness blog? Part of it is that I’m haunted by Westworld’s story telling and I’m trying to make sense of how it has penetrated my thinking. A show that was certainly written and produced before the pandemic has a storyline that eerily tracks the idea that one slight shift in choice or environment can send everything spinning, that our potentialities for good or ill, are revealed at choice points we don’t expect. Part of it is how I am engaged almost every day in generating change in people, looking for their choice points, their flex, their will(?) to get “knocked off their loop” as my favourite character would say. As I read more and more about implicit systems and neural networks, I realize that I am actually as engaged in chaos making as I am in sense making, that I need both.

The character Bernard Lowe, of Westorld with the quote, "Self Delusion is a gift of natural selection"
I love this guy

And here I am, a person in the world with a body, struggling and succeeding all at the same time. My customary loop is to start a thing, get okay at a thing, fizzle on the thing, restart it in a while, maybe get a little farther maybe not, fizzle. It’s frustrating when I look at it as a pattern of fizzling or even the other f-word, failure. It happens a lot. However, like the Hosts on their loops in Westworld, every time, I am experiencing it slightly differently. There are variations, improvisations, unlucky and lucky accidents, tripping and dancing over chaos. All around me, there is a community of people who are trying and fizzling, achieving and falling short of a goal, getting sick, getting better, being embodied in a chaotic world.

More and more I have become comfortable with that chaos because it offers me ways out of my loops, or if not ways out, then a different perspective on them. I have been best served in my life when in a stuck place, either emotional or physical, literal or metaphorical, I allow the current to take me where it wants, for just a moment, quelling my fear with the possibility of something new. Or so I think. It could just be that I’m playing my role in the algorithm, a predetermined Constant anchored in inevitability. If I can’t tell the difference, does it matter?

My two session a-week habit with my trainer is coming to an end soon, not being a particularly financially sustainable option for the long term. I have gained so much there in strength, confidence and new ways of moving. I feel ready to take it out into the world to see what I can co-create with my environment. It was supposed to get me ready for a wild ride on little horses on Iceland but instead it will anchor me on a 5 day canoe trip through Killarney Provincial park. There is so much opportunity for chaos in these adventures and, more physically prepared than before, I am looking forward to the challenge of coping with what it brings. Cate once remarked to me, “You like a good ‘making-do'”. That is a statement full of truth right there. I love to make do with what is available, improvise, figure out and get creative with my resources. I guess I’ve always been comfortable with a little more chaos than I realized and getting grounded in this, makes me less fearful of my future in pandemic-land.

Chaos is going to continue to push us off our loops for the foreseeable future. Being choiceful at each moment requires presence to embodied selves. This is the gift of movement. Whether fresh or fizzled intention, it all counts.

fitness · meditation

5 things I’ve noticed from 10 days of meditation

10 days ago I restarted my meditation practice. I’ve meditated off and on my whole adult life, and every time I restart, I always think to myself, “why don’t I do this all the time?” The answer is: it’s easy to let a new habit slide, and when it slides, it never becomes an old habit. The only rejoinder to that is, “okay then; I’m restarting now. Here’s hoping!”

The kick-off was easy: I signed up for a meditation workshop, which I mentioned in a blog post here. Being with others (even virtually) and having an instructor made reentry much smoother. Also, I have apps, websites, youtube videos, and actual paper books to help guide and urge and cajole me into getting a routine going.

So far, my routine looks like this:

  • Get up in morning
  • make coffee
  • drink coffee and possibly read some of one of the meditation books I own (I’m currently reading Sharon Saltzberg’s Real Happiness, which has QR codes you can scan with your phone to access guided meditations– cool!).
  • sit on yoga bolster on floor and do a guided meditation for 10–15 minutes
  • go about my day
  • get in bed
  • play some meditation app thing, breathe and sleep

Notice, I don’t look at my computer or phone at all during this period (except to access one of the recorded guided meditations). This part is crucial. Once I start reading email, the game is over.

Turns out it’s really nice to get up and start my day this way. I don’t have children, or dogs that need walking, or other commitments right away in the morning. I know I’m lucky to be able to devote the beginning of my day to this, and this alone.

It also turns out that I think this meditation thing is kind of working. That is, I’m starting to notice some things– good and/or interesting things.

One: My feelings of panic and fear and shame show up in different parts of my body.

Last night I was doing a meditation before bed, and some thought or feeling came up, and all of a sudden I was feeling ashamed of something or other. I kept breathing, and noticed that it manifested as an unpleasant tension in the back of my mouth and jaw. Very curious bodily sensation. I focused on it, kept breathing, and it passed. Fear was more in my gut/midsection– it felt like waves of movement, forward and backward. And panic– well, it’s what you would expect: a tightness in my throat. Again, breathing, noticing, not attaching these sensations to thoughts or focusing on the thoughts, and eventually they subsided.

Two: I’m definitely a bit more chilled out now.

My base level of anxiety has dropped enough so that I can consider and take on a wider range of choices and tasks for myself throughout my day. Feelings and worries still arrive, but there’s space between the feelings and the negative thoughts they represent.

Three: I’m worrying a bit less about my sleep and am also sleeping a bit better.

The past four months has been insomnia central at my house. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Boy is it yucky! I’ve tried a variety of medications, changes of diet (I only drink one coffee in the morning, so don’t even mention the idea that I’d give it up…) and restorative yoga before bed. None of them helped very much. But meditation seems to help me take a few steps away from my thoughts, so I can turn my attention to my breath and what’s happening in my body.

Four: I’m feeling more creative and doing something about it.

On Tuesday afternoon my friend Pata and I did zoom crafting together for a couple of hours. Pata is an artist (among other things), and makes jewelry (along other things). She’s been teaching me how to make beaded necklaces, and I made a couple of them in late 2019. However, on Tuesday, the muse was with me, and I made four necklaces! They’re not masterpieces, but I like them, and really enjoyed both the design and the handwork of putting them together. Yay!

Five: I’m feeling like I don’t have to rush so much in my life. Which translates into doing less and being okay with it. This is very much a work in progress, but I feel it starting.

I hate rushing and can’t stand being behind or feeling like I’ve got to hurry to catch up. On anything. Being way behind others while cycling has never been fun (I know, many other people don’t mind this, but I do). I don’t like to be the last to arrive or to turn in things, etc. One way to avoid this problem is to put fewer tasks on my plate. That way I can focus on the thing in question, and I’ll have more resources to devote to it without feeling so frantic or rushed.

Honestly, I’m feeling strongly this way about upping my level of physical activity. I’ve been more sedentary than I would’ve liked during the pandemic, and I don’t feel like rushing into fitness. I want that process to be more pleasurable, more doable, more sustainable. I want it to be like meditation; I do it every day, focusing on it, and it’s a part of my daily life. Yes, I’m willing to sweat and to put in some effort. But I want to be able to breathe through it the whole time.

Meditation for 10 days is helping me realize that I can do this. And I am.

Dear readers, do you meditate? What does it do for you? I’d love to hear from you.


Who Do You Think You Are?

I am the 8 year old who enjoyed swimming but refused to climb the monkey bars; who also loved learning and helping older kids in her school with their reading.

I am the 17 year old who once liked the idea of being Murphy Brown but found herself in a pattern of skipping classes and spending more time at her part-time job.

I am the 11 year old girl who detoured on her gym class run because she’d rather sneak a smoke than show up and play baseball with the rest of the class in the unflattering gym uniform.

11 Year Old Nicole with a pink “Ocean Pacific” long sleeve shirt on, jeans with a blue bandana belt, large-framed eye glasses, wavy brown, shoulder length hair.

I am the 27 year old woman with a hodge podge of formal education, but quick understanding and the work ethic of someone already working for 15 years.

I am the 15 year old who enjoyed the aerobics portion of gym, but felt clumsy in volleyball and other team sports.

I am the 24 year old choosing a career over finishing her degree. Yet again, choosing comfort zone over uncertainty, loneliness and a meager grocery allowance.

I am also the 31 year old who discovered she is a runner. And the 32 year old who realized she could run 21.1 km, on her way to running a full marathon.

Nicole finishing her first full marathon on September 30, 2007 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

I am the mid-life law clerk with just enough positive feedback and encouragement and respect. Who took a chance and changed careers a couple times, to learn new things and hopefully find something to be passionate about. Well, passionate about besides cooking and fitness, which never felt like careers, but pastimes.

I am the 30-something single woman with deep feelings of inadequacy, finding community and self-acceptance through small studio gym workouts. Trusting that her body is strong and meant for strong work.

How do our own internal biases about ourselves affect us in our daily lives? Cate wrote about our saboteurs in this post (which also links my first Guest Post on FIFI about Imposter Syndrome).

We are shaped by our experiences. It makes sense that our brains take the easiest route to established experiences when encountering a given situation. How do we retrain some of those processes so that they take a chance on a different way of thinking, and perhaps a new experience?

I mean, the thing is, our brains lie to us sometimes too. I know enough at this point of my life, to know that every thought I have is not a true thought.

My own biases directed towards myself, stop me from attempting pull-ups, even though I have the upper body strength, trying handstands or doing step-ups from high places. But I don’t let those biases prevent me from giving it my all in other areas where I benefit (heavy lifting, challenging my cardio intensity, mingling with younger, more agile bodies in these settings).

In my career, I still struggle with deeply rooted feelings of inadequacy. And an inability to figure out how to get “unstuck”. Despite trying different things, putting myself out there, raising my voice more often when it feels uncomfortable, I often still feel like I am not living my full potential in my career and it’s mostly my fault. According to my brain’s learned patterns, it is my fault that work experience is not equal to education and I am not committed enough to work on the education part more. My brain tells me it is my fault that I’ve never been able to decide where I really wanted to focus on in my education, and therefore, not committing to anything to excel in. It is my fault that when I do get a chance to delve into something, contribute more, I always seem to hit a ceiling that feels related to my “position” and that I don’t really know what to do about it.

The difference between my biases in both areas is that with fitness, my positive experiences and biases prevent my negative ones from overshadowing them. Whereas, the biases in my career are not counterbalanced. But, I am always looking for ways to grow and move in a better direction.

I am also aware that because of my circumstances, being middle class in a comfortable environment, geographically, and closer to home, and also (although not by choice) because I don’t have kids, I have the luxury of being present enough in my life to ponder these things. I do not take this for granted.

At 48 I can’t help but think “what do I want to devote my mental energy to?” Where can my talents be best served? Do I have talents that I can use and feel fulfilled and useful? Why do I care about feeling fulfilled?? Why can’t it be solved with a great jog and some powerful pike push-ups?

How do you deal with your own biases about yourself? Have you learned ways of redirecting your brain away from biases that don’t help you?

Nicole P. is trying to get outside as much as possible this summer.