blog · blogging · fitness

Most read posts in September, #ICYMI

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No, everyone should not wear a mask, says Marjorie Rose

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Cate is still menstruating and in this older post, she asks whether that’s a good thing.

🥉 3rd Place Medal Emoji

Lululemon is still a little bit evil says, Sam. But at least they now carry plus sizes.

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Catherine surveys meditation apps and tells us which ones she likes.

5️⃣ Keycap: 5 Emoji Meaning with Pictures: from A to Z

generative aging is the title of Cate’s thoughtful post on what it means to get older.

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Cate is also planning for a fit distanced winter.

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Ann Barnfield is looking for research participants.

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Writing tips that also double as triathlon training tip and vice versa. Thanks to our guest blogger Serife Tekin.

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Tracy still doesn’t want to join Precision Nutrition VIP.

🔟 Keycap: 10 Emoji Meaning with Pictures: from A to Z

A canoe on her head and a smile on her face. That’s Susan’s happy place.


Sisters Running

I’ve written many times about how pivotal running has been in my life. When I started running in my early 30s it provided me with confidence in other areas of my life, mental clarity, a true sense of fitness and a feeling of appreciation and acceptance of my body that I didn’t have before. The drawer full of medals from full and half marathons has not always minimized my Imposter Syndrome, but the medals have contributed to my ability to redirect that part of my brain to more worthwhile endeavours.

I always love hearing about other people who’ve caught the running bug and how running has contributed positively to their lives. It’s especially sweet when it’s people I care about.

Ashley and Carly are my nieces through my brother-in-law of several years. They are 31 and 29, respectively. They are both very smart. PhD smart. Ashley has a PhD in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and Carly has a PhD in Microbiology and is currently working on a post-doctorate in San Francisco. They are also very sweet and interesting. So, I loved hearing recently that they were both newly hooked on running! And, they’ve been inspiring each other, even though they don’t live in the same city. Carly’s actually the one that introduced me to Strava to track my runs. She has run a couple of half marathons on her own in San Fran and Ashley recently completed her first 10K.

Aside from being interested personally, I thought it might be inspiring for others to hear about their running journey so I asked them some questions, and not surprisingly, they provided very thorough answers! Without further ado, let’s hear about Carly and Ashley’s running journeys.


A photo of Ashley hiking in Ferris Provincial Park in Ontario (an activity she did regularly before taking up running)

When did you start running?
I started a structured running program for the first time ever in June of this year. Before that, I had done very short runs here and there, but no schedule ever stuck for a long period of time.

Why did you want to start running?
The most significant motivator for me was a desire to be heart healthy in the face of health anxiety. As I’ve aged out of my 20s and into my 30s, the growing realization that my body will not last forever has increasingly highlighted the inadequacy of what used to be my very sedentary lifestyle. Over time, I realized more and more that adding an exercise routine to my life would not only improve my physical health, but would also act as a way to combat my health fears. I knew that if I was actively doing something to make myself healthier and stave off illnesses associated with an inactive lifestyle, that I would feel less anxious about potentially developing those illnesses.

Did you have challenges? What were they?
Yes, I had many challenges (probably unsurprisingly), and I would categorize them as physical and mental. I personally found the physical challenges (including but not limited to sore ankles, a nasty blister, and the fatigue you feel when you push your personal limits) the easier ones to overcome; the real difficulties came with the mental challenges. First, it was a big challenge to incorporate a new routine into an otherwise busy life, and to stay true to a new schedule without deviation. My days had seemed full to the brim before adding 3 runs a week, and sometimes the idea of fitting a run into a busy, eventful day seemed overwhelming. To overcome this challenge, I really had to focus on my end goal (improving my health) and continually remember that the only way to achieve it was to stick to my schedule. It also helped to remind myself of my priorities in life – since becoming healthier was always the obvious top priority, it was easier to accept when other things had to take a backseat. Second, even once I had committed to stick to my schedule and start a run, I still found it mentally challenging to get through a run to completion, especially for the long ones – it seemed daunting to face running for 60, 90, 120 minutes while becoming increasingly drained and exhausted minute by minute. In order to stop myself from checking the clock every single minute, I had to find ways to distract myself. For me, I found that watching something on TV worked well (I often did my runs on a treadmill). For others, I know that other distractions such as podcasts or listening to music work well too.

What did you like about running in the beginning, if anything? What do you like now, if anything?
Ever since the beginning, I’ve loved the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a run. It has always been so satisfying to know that you’ve overcome whatever personal challenges stood in your way to achieve something that you wanted to achieve. That feeling of accomplishment has only grown as I’ve continued a solid running schedule and is a huge positive aspect of running.

What tips have people given you that have helped your running the most

Set a schedule and stick to it.

My sister is an accomplished runner and I was lucky to have her guidance and support through the entirety of my first full running training programme. Some of her tips throughout the way included:

  • If you miss a run in your schedule, don’t beat yourself up too much and don’t let it be a reason to give up and stop. Reschedule that run and try again another day.
  • Try to learn the difference between the feeling you get from strengthening a body part, and the feeling you get from injuring a body part. If you feel like you’re injuring a body part, stop and try again another day.
  • Do your research to find a good pair of running shoes that works for you.
  • Run outside, if you can – it’s a good way to enjoy nature (I completely ignored this advice because a treadmill with a TV worked better for me – so to each their own!).
  • Most importantly for me: there is nothing physically stopping me from achieving this. My body can do this. The biggest hurdle is mental, and once I overcame that, I can achieve anything.

Although not a tip that my sister directly gave me through words, one major lesson I did learn through her actions was the benefit of having a support system to give you these types of tips along the way. Even if your support system isn’t there to give tips, it’s so helpful to have someone to just to lend support and encouragement. Knowing that my sister believed in me and knew I could do it made me believe in myself as well.


A photo of Carly running in San Francisco. Photo credit: Jacob Portukalian

When did you start running?
I’d run on and off for the past several years, no more than maybe 15-20 minutes at a time on days I felt like switching up my exercise. More seriously I picked up running again in February 2020, right before the pandemic hit, with the goal of running a half marathon.

Why did you want to start running?
Originally it was a bit practical – I was tired of paying $90/month for the gym to lift weights, which I had felt like I was plateauing on, and wanted to take on a new challenge. I also noticed that I was lagging in my hikes and while skiing with friends, and I wanted to improve my cardiovascular health. When the pandemic hit, and I couldn’t use the gym anyway, I took that as a new opportunity. Running was always something “I couldn’t do”, so I liked the idea of seeing what I was capable of. I found a beginner 12-week half marathon training program online and immediately scheduled all the runs on my calendar. I wasn’t able to travel for that time, so it was the perfect timing.

Did you have challenges? What were they?
When I first started, I had really bad knee pain in one knee. Within the first few weeks of training I got a new pair of shoes and insoles, and over time the pain stopped. I think it was a mix of becoming stronger and the better shoe support. I’ve also struggled on the mental side: with self-image while running, feeling like I’m not a “real” runner because of my pace, or having self-doubt about what distances I could handle.

What did you like about running in the beginning, if anything? What do you like now, if anything?
I’ve always struggled with anxiety, and I love how running brings me into my body. It’s a great de-stressing tool for me after work, to clear my head. It also helps me sleep better. Now, I like that it’s always right there and immediately available to me – I can always put on my shoes and go out for a short run. I know the routes around my house and the relative distances of each. It feels like another skill I have added to my arsenal.

What tips have people given you that have helped your running the most?
Mostly to stay consistent. That if you have a run scheduled, and something else gets in the way, to always, always try to go. To just put on your shoes and step out the door, and run as far as you can, even if it’s not as far as you’d hoped. Creating a routine in that way really pushed my running to the next level.

On a more practical note, some things that have really helped me are new, well-fitting shoes and insoles, a fanny pack for holding my phone and keys, a pair of Bluetooth earphones and electrolyte cubes. Seriously, I probably eat an entire pack of those on my longer runs.

Anything else you would like to add about your running experience.
It’s been extremely empowering to wear a sports bra while running outside and feel like a “real” runner. All it takes is consistency, and confidence will follow. If I can do it, anyone can!

Dear Readers, I hope you’ve enjoyed Carly and Ashley’s stories and tips about running and if you run, or are interested in taking it up, I hope they have inspired you.

Nicole P. is currently running in shorts and a tank top, but this picture reminds her what is coming!
cycling · family

Motherload screening tonight!

“Filmmaker Liz Canning cycled everywhere until she had twins in 2008. Motherhood was challenging, but to Liz hauling babies via car felt stifling. She Googled “family bike” and uncovered a global movement of people replacing cars with cargo bikes: long-frame bicycles designed for carrying heavy loads. Liz set out to learn more, and MOTHERLOAD was born.”


Join Bike Ottawa and Let’s Bike for a virtual viewing of the film, MOTHERLOAD!

Register here:

beach body · body image · fitness

What should I wear for swimming when over 50? Whatever I want!

CW: discussion of body size and body parts of women, in service of arguing against thin-ideal stereotypes in swimwear.

If you’re a woman over 50 years old, some swimsuit marketers have lots of worries about what you wear on the beach or at the pool. Their worries often center on body parts, like upper arms and abdomen– what if they are larger or looser or exposed? What will happen? They don’t know, but they really want to avoid that possibility. So they do two things:

  1. they put together marketing campaigns aimed at reassuring you (and the general public) that they are on the scene, ready to perform miracles of engineering to keep you pulled up, sucked in, and in all ways suit-able for being seen.
  2. They design swimwear that either holds body parts rigidly in place through space-age elastic technology, or devotes yards and yards of bleach-resistant fabric for covering you up, like a dining-room table with a bunch of scratches and blemishes.

Here’s what I mean:

Just one of many brands that extol their ability to perform miracles in order to put women of diverse ages and sizes in swimwear.

A few things to note (which applies to many brands)

  • It is called the Miracle Suit, performing the miracle of smooshing women’s body parts inside a swimsuit;
  • It says you’ll look 10 lbs/5 kilos lighter in 10 seconds, like this is something we all want (and need?);
  • It uses the term “figure flattering”, supporting the view that bodies that don’t conform to thin-ideal or fitspo standards need to be covered or neutralized through copious amounts of Spandex;
  • It reassures you that, regardless of your size or flaws (of which the former may also count as the latter), they’ve got you covered– maybe with billowing tunics…

In this article for the website sixtyandme, the writer tackles the problem (?!) of what to wear on the beach or at the pool when you’re over 60. The author says both that body sensitivity is “in our own heads” (which it may be, but is also out in the world), and that there is still “a practical problem as well – finding flattering bathing suits for older women is much harder than it should be”. What do I think about this?

NO, courtesy of Gemma Evans on Unsplash.
NO, courtesy of Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

Okay, enough ranting. What to say about this?

Everyone deserves to enjoy the beach, the lake, the pool, the water. Because of body shaming and thin ideals and fitspo ideals, etc. some of us sometimes feel ashamed to show our bodies in public and want more covering for swimming or walking around. Given this reality, it seems like having a market to offer higher-covering swim and beach wear isn’t a bad thing.

But it comes at a price, namely with the messaging that older women’s bodies are inherently flawed or not suitable for public viewing. How about this: we just STOP marketing higher-covering swimwear by leveraging body-shaming tropes and jokes? Thanks.

As a fat 58-year-old woman, what I want is swimwear that’s styled like thinner and younger women’s bathing suits, just in my size. I don’t want muumuus and blousy tunic-like coverup swim and active wear. This is because I like to swim, and all that fabric is going to interfere with the swimming. I want body hugging wear with the right fit to cover breasts and butt.

Other women may want different things— more fabric, tunics, etc. That’s great. You do you, and let the variety of options go forth and multiply.

But, I worry that many of us have been both shamed and niche marketed into a narrow range of swimsuit styles resembling either straight jackets or draperies. Just thinking out loud here. I’d welcome your thoughts, as always.


Sexism, racism, and fear of successful women: the future of women in sport and the Caster Semenya decision

A few weeks ago, I was quite disappointed to see that the Swiss Supreme Court had denied Caster Semenya’s appeal of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision to require her (and other female athletes with excess testosterone) to medically modify their hormonal makeup with either drugs or surgery.

We have written previously about the trials Semenya has faced and what it means for women in sport. This post looks at sex tests, this one is a round up of arguments and opinion pieces about the research used to support the CAS and other sports agencies’ decisions, and this one looked at Semenya’s future as a runner in her chosen race length. Back in 2016, Tracy Isaacs looked at the issue from the perspective of body policing and sports performance.

There’s been a lot written about Semenya. Curiously, while the courts and the governing bodies rule against Semenya, there are many in the sports world as well as the community at large who see the decisions taken against Semenya as clear, transparent examples of sexism and racism. I would also argue that underlying these decisions is a fear of successful women, and the way these sports bodies manage that fear is to other-ise and marginalize those who do not fit an outdated image of women in sport through legal challenges and unfounded medical policies.

We can start with Semenya’s own statement about the decision. She says she “refuse(s) to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am. Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history. I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport released a very strong statement Sept. 23, 2020 condemning the decision and echoing Semenya’s position. Paul Melia, the CCES president and CEO, said “I think it is time for the sport community to reexamine its approach to sport categorization. When we ignore what we know about the broad spectrum of human experience in the area of biological sex and gender identity we risk violating the human rights of the people who do not fit an obsolete definition of a biological female. We cannot then turn around and justify the harm in the name of fairness.”

Semenya has once before used contraceptives to adjust her hormone levels and she has said the medications affected her performance and her general well being. She has said she will not consider further medical intervention including surgery. Individuals wishing to use such drugs to manage contraceptive needs or to manage hormone levels are well advised to consider the risks associated with birth control pills, including stroke and other cardio vascular events, as well as increased risk for certain cancers.

Medically and ethically speaking, why is it appropriate to subject an athlete to medically unnecessary treatment solely to meet an arbitrary benchmark for hormone levels?

David Epstein, writing for Slate, describes in this recent piece the evolution of his thinking about Semenya and the decisions to keep her out of certain track and field events unless she agrees to medical alteration to reduce what the World Athletic organization has determined is an unfair advantage against other women. Initially Epstein supported the arguments put forth by the WA; today he says he is not so sure.

Epstein says: “Our society—and, as a consequence, our sports—hasn’t been set up to accommodate gender-nonconforming individuals. That is not fair or just, and it puts us in the impossible position of selecting which kind of unfairness and injustice we believe is the least harmful to the fewest individuals.”

Epstein notes the processes used by the WA to categorize athletes has been abysmal and inhumane and he argues for more balance and flexibility. Even the Court of Arbitration for Sport understands its ruling is fundamentally unfair to athletes like Semenya. The CAS says “such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the legitimate objective of ensuring fair competition in female athletics in certain events and protecting the ‘protected class’ of female athletes in those events.”

But is it really fair? No, it is not. It is also a violation of Semenya’s human rights. Human Rights Watch added to the debate with its post Sept. 8, 2020 saying, “Men athletes are subject to no such surveillance or compelled medical tests. There is no clear scientific consensus that women with naturally occurring higher-than-typical testosterone have a performance advantage in athletics. For these women athletes, being compelled to undergo a medical examination can be humiliating and medically unnecessary, as well as disrespectful of their rights. The post reported the Swiss Court recognized it was violating Semenya’s rights, but insisted upholding the track and field agency’s discriminatory practices was not inconsistent with Swiss public policy.

Marcie Bianco, writing for NBC, says the decision against Semenya is discrimination. Bianco went further and characterized the decision as abuse: “Legislated, medicalized, regulated — these various forms of systemized control are nothing short of abuse and absolutely impugn Semenya’s “human dignity,” contrary to the Swiss court’s gaslighting claim that its ruling did not undermine the runner’s “guarantee of human dignity.””

Bianco also goes on to say the decision by the Swiss Court is a form of gaslighting, one which weaponizes the language of fairness, equality, and protection for women. She points out the key contradiction in the Swiss decision: “The language of “fairness” is stunning since competition is not fair, and fairness is not the objective of any competition. (Why, for example, was Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps not barred from competition for his various “physical advantages,” including his disproportionate wingspan, double-jointedness, and low lactic-acid levels?)”

Michael Phelps is a good example. Other people have argued that Phelp’s can’t help his height, or other physical attributes, but no one has suggested he medically alter his low lactic acid levels medically to level the playing field.

The fact is Phelps is white and Semenya is black. Bianco points out most clearly the racist underpinnings of the arguments against Semenya: “When women — especially Black women — are too good, when their excellence threatens men, these men will do anything to steal that power, including positioning themselves as the saviors of “equal rights” and “fairness” for white women. This language is about dehumanizing black women in order to delegitimize their excellence, no matter their testosterone levels — if the decades of racist dog-whistling against Serena William’s excellence isn’t a firm case-in-point.”

Dawn Ennis, writing for Forbes, said the launch of the #LetHerRun movement is focused on pressuring the WA to change its policies. Led by the first Brazilian gold medalists , Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires, the movement was launched with a film, #LetHerRun documenting the sexism and abuse of sex testing and body inspections. Silva said “Caster’s case deserves our attention because it affects the destiny of dozens of other athletes who will have their careers ended prematurely simply because they were born out of the standards imposed by technocrats from a regulatory agency. (…) Why hasn’t the natural hormone production invalidated any male career ever? Has anyone stopped to compare Usain Bolt’s levels of testosterone to those of Justin Gatlin, for instance?””

Forcing women who don’t conform to stereotypical expectations of femaleness to alter their physiology is abuse. Being selective about the research used to support an approach reveals inherent biases and supports discriminatory practices on the basis of sex and race. Caster Semenya’s legal battles will continue to influence the trajectory of women in sport as the decision by the Swiss Court still leaves many questions unanswered.

-MarthaFitat55 writes from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

fitness · yoga

Sam is loving young person’s yoga

I’m definitely middle-aged. I don’t feel old at all, whatever that means. but I am also not young. Last week I wrote about turning 56. Cate wrote a really thoughtful post about generative aging. I’m still thinking about some of the ideas in her post. Go read it! It’s great.

But not-young me likes lots of young person things, like hoodies, s’mores, and YA fiction, to name just three. Also, it turns out, yoga for young people.

Yoga hasn’t been easy during the pandemic. It’s another challenge both Cate and I have written about. See Cate’s post here and mine here, (Now I can’t find the old post where I talked about my struggles with yoga during the pandemic. Sigh.)

But Adriene Mishler’s short yoga breaks for kids studying virtually at home are just what I need right now. Adriene makes me smile. Adriene is gentle with her younger viewers. I mean. she’s always gentle but in this short series she’s also extra playful and I like that. She teaches tree pose and says how much she likes toppling trees, for example.

See Adriene’s Yoga P.E.

Adriene writes, “This Yoga P.E. Body video break offers a fun set of movements and poses that can improve focus, increase flexibility, boost energy, balance your mood, increase coordination, counter screen fatigue, and decrease anxiety or stress. Take ten minutes to shake it out, get your heart rate going, stretch, and find your balance. No materials required, just a body and your breath. Share this with a fellow teacher, parent, or friend! (Big kids are welcome to give it a whirl too!)”

Here’s my favourite:


fitness · monthly check in · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Sam’s monthly check in: September was busy!

As usual, September is a blur. That’s true in both non pandemic and pandemic times. I’ve been a student, then graduate student, then Professor, now also Dean. September is always a blur for me.

This one was especially busy with lots of time with students, in my role as Dean and Professor, both physically distanced on campus and virtually on Teams/Zoom. The university is a hectic place as we carry on mostly remotely. So many meetings!

We’re also busy navigating our slow and cautious return to campus as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic begins which will likely mean drawing back, restricting our activities further, and staying at home much more than usual this winter. There’ll be no warm weather biking for me in January. In a recent post Cate asked what we’ve been doing to nourish our soul, given that we are heading into a tough winter.

Well, I spent September working hard, but also riding my bike, visiting with family outdoors, taking care of some basic needs (haircut and dentist) and reading fiction. I’ve been trying to appreciate fall for what it is, rather than worrying about what’s to come. Less anticipatory sadness more now is all we have. Thanks Nicole!

Sarah and I have been spending more time at the farm in Prince Edward County. That means loops around Big Island and racing the Osprey Nest to Osprey Nest Strava segment we created.

I’ve also started working on campus, one day a week. That means I’m bike commuting again, which I’ve missed.

Left; Sam wearing her pink sparkly helmet and her Art Gallery of Guelph Begging Bear mask.
Right: Pink Brompton leaning on rock outside campus building

Here’s my office on campus, my outdoor office hours, and an empty (usually bustling) student plaza.

Despite being busy I’m still riding lots (for me). I might make 5000 km this year.

I’m loving Yoga With Adriene’s PE series for young people. That’s where my yoga attention span is these days. And we’re going to push backyard personal training as far as we can into the winter months.

I’m trying to think like a Norwegian about winter: “ People in Svalbard (at 78 deg north) had a more positive mindset than the people in Tromsø (69 deg north), who took a more optimistic view than people in Oslo (60 deg north). In other words, the positive wintertime mindset is most common where it’s most needed. These positive attitudes were apparent in Leibowitz’s casual conversations; indeed, she says that many of her friends struggled to understand why you would not enjoy winter. They embraced the possibility of skiing or hiking in the mountains, and savoured the chance to practice koselig – a Norwegian version of Denmark’s hygge – which might involve snuggling under blankets with a warm drink in the candlelight. Far from dwindling in the dark, Tromsø’s community flourished in the long polar night. “There is this interaction between the culture that you’re part of, and the mentality or mindset that grows out of it,” says Prof Joar Vittersø, Leibowitz’s collaborator at the Arctic University of Tromsø.”


Midsummer heat too much? Try cold exercise…

With all the uncertainty that we live with now, one thing is for sure: the seasons change. It is officially fall now. Despite the week of delicious summer-like weather we’re having at the moment, temperatures are and will be falling. That means adjusting to physical activity in colder temperatures.

Riding and walking and running and doing yoga when it’s cooler are possible, and for some people (like me!), even desirable. I sweat a bit less, and also enjoy the coolness amidst all the heat I’m generating internally.

I wrote this post last year, having heard about gyms with cold exercise and even cold yoga classes. This year, we don’t need no gyms for this– DIY cold exercise is free, and available everywhere. We’ll be writing more about this as it happens, and– as always– looking to hear from you about how you’re moving as temperatures fall.


Taekwondo is a little strange these days

I had to do a lot of thinking before I returned to Taekwondo this fall.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have the advantage of isolation/low population density and that, combined with early strict measures, kept our COVID numbers low overall (fewer than 300 cases in a population of approximately 500,000.)

So, this fall is finding us slowly getting back into something that looks similar to the old normal. It’s a more complex normal – physical distancing, elaborate sanitization, and more rules than you could shake a stick at- but it does bear a certain resemblance to the before-times.

Kids are in school, Guide and Scout groups are starting up, you can eat at restaurants but capacity is reduced, a lot of things are happening outdoors and there is tape on the floor everywhere.

When my instructor contacted me in August to tell me that classes would start again in September, I couldn’t commit right away. I wanted to see my friends from class, I wanted to get back into that routine again, and I wanted to re-sharpen my skills. But, I didn’t want to do something foolish and take a health risk so I could punch things in my fighting pajamas.

A selfie by the author. She is wearing a white dobok (martial arts clothing) and a white mask and her hair is pulled back in a bandana.  Two masked people   in doboks are far away in the background.
Myself, Mr. Power and Ms. L. Zurel during one of our breaks. I only realized after I took this photo that I didn’t even try to smirk or smile. Everything feels a bit more ‘serious business’ these days, doesn’t it?

I relaxed a bit when I saw the list of rules for the school. The timing of classes has changed (to accomodate cleaning between groups), there is tape on the floor to mark a distanced spot for each student, we have to wear masks on the way in and out and during breaks and we are welcome to leave our masks on all during class (at 2m apart, we technically don’t need to be masked.)  All of that helped but the thing that made the most difference for me was the fact that we are prohibited from breathing out sharply when we execute a move. That was one of my biggest concerns – the idea that I would be in a room of people projecting their breath out forcefully into the room.

So, I have been to about half of the classes* so far and it is great to be back but it is also very strange.

The class is both familiar and unfamiliar. It’s like when you dream about something that you do in real life – it has basically the same shape and the same purpose but the elements aren’t quite right.

The 2m difference in spacing is just slightly more that we would usually be apart when we are Doing our patterns. So my friend Kevin, ahem, Mr. James, is in the correct place on my right hand side but he’s too far away from me. So the unconscious cues that I would normally get from his movement under normal circumstances are now gone.

A photo of beige flooring with two pieces of red duct tape  approximately  2 m apart from each other.
Usually, only the youngest students have duct tape on the floor to keep them from piling up on each other during kicking drills. Now, there are duct tape markers to indicate a spot for each student.

I’m slightly too far away from my instructor to see them well without my glasses on. I have to keep my glasses off because I’m wearing a mask and the steaming up is too irritating. (Yes,I leave my mask on the whole time, I just feel better that way.) This isn’t a crisis, there aren’t too many subtle movements that I need to see, but it adds to the weird feeling I am experiencing.

The weirdest thing though, the most eerie, is the fact that the class is quiet. Under normal circumstances as we are doing our patterns everyone is breathing out on almost every move. So the classroom is filled with the sounds of this rhythmic breathing. Now we are all quiet. I’ve noticed myself adding comments or slightly nervous laughter more often and I am working on reigning that in. I guess you could say that the patterns could be more meditative now but it is hard to adjust to that idea in a context that was not particularly meditative before. For right now, it feels a little like something is wrong, like we are sombre as a reaction to something (and I guess we are.)

I imagine I will adjust to this over time. After a while, it probably won’t seem so weird, the silence will just become part of how class works. But, for right now, it really makes me conscious of how things have changed. And it makes me aware of the sensory clues I was picking up from other people. 

If you had asked me before, I would have said that I spent too much time glancing at other people to make sure I was on track with a given pattern* (it was a habit I was trying to overcome.) However, now I am realizing that hearing breathing patterns and judging people’s proximity were also a big part of staying on track with both the pattern itself and with the group as a whole.

But, all of that being said I really appreciate being able to return to class – especially since so many people around the world are still unable to have any sense of normalcy in their days. 

And, I especially appreciate the flexibility my instructors and my classmates are offering right now. 

Everyone in the class is able to participate at their own level of risk-tolerance. My comfort/lack of comfort with the current risk level means that I am leaving my mask on, that I am a bit rusty in my movements because my ambient anxiety affects my concentration, and that I could not participant in certain drills that would bring me ‘too close’  (for my comfort) to another masked person. All of that has been fine with everyone else. We are all being very careful of everyone else’s feelings, needs, and comfort levels and that is what makes our classes work well right now.

I’m ending this with a kiya because we can’t shout it in class these days.


*I misjudged the weight of something while cleaning my shed and wonked out my shoulder for a while so I stayed home from class a few times.

**While that could be interpreted as a lack of confidence on my part, that is not exactly it. Sometimes, I lack confidence, but mostly I think my challenges with proprioception keep me glancing around. Sometimes, for example, I firmly believe that my foot is in the right spot for a given stance but something twigs me to the fact that it isn’t – a quick glance at my neighbour lets me correct something that I can’t quite figure out by how my body feels.)


What is our personal responsibility?

The second wave is upon us in many parts of Canada, according to Justin Trudeau and others in the know. In Ontario, our numbers were in the high 400s earlier this week, which is the highest they’ve been since May.

I’ve been working out mostly at home since March. Twice a week virtually with my regular gym studio. I also run outside once or twice a week and I attend a small group fitness class at a local park (also run by my gym). These options have felt safe, socially-distanced, low-risk, given what we know about transmission of the Covid-19 virus inside vs. outside. In all honesty, I am starting to get a bit bored with the virtual workouts. I do love the park workouts and I will always love my long runs. But being bored with my virtual workout hasn’t been enough for me to go inside the gym. Even when I see videos of my gym buddies happily doing bench presses and back squats with the barbell. Activities I miss. But simply, for me the risk isn’t worth it. Not for me, personally. For the people around me, for the larger community. I am sincerely not judging those that are doing these things. We all have different choices to make.

I feel as though when assessing the risk of doing something during this pandemic, it helps to think of it as “picking my candy”. I am working from home. It’s just my husband and me at home. We have been very careful with social distancing visits with family and friends and have yet to eat indoors, even though it’s allowed. The risks I feel are worth taking for me are the park workout (even though outside, there’s still risk amongst a group), going to the odd store in my neighbourhood with my mask on to get household items I need and seeing my family and friends in backyards and other outside locations. I don’t want to spread my risk around too much. If I started going to eat indoors once in awhile, or working inside the gym, I wouldn’t feel as safe going to see my parents, even outside, since they are in the high-risk category. But beyond my personal choices, with the numbers going up, what is our personal responsibility when making these choices, so that we are not contributing to the increasing numbers and the risk for others?

Everyone has different reasons for their risk. If kids are in school, that would be a priority. You’re an essential worker? Your job is a priority. And so on.

“Thank you to Essential Workers”

It’s not clear at the moment what our governments are going to mandate for this second wave. In Ontario, we are getting new information about their plan(s) on a daily basis. I don’t envy their responsibility with making these decisions. There is no easy answer. We all understand the economic effect another lockdown can have on vulnerable businesses such as gyms and restaurants. So if the government is not going to tell these businesses to scale back (perhaps, to Stage 2), what role do individuals and businesses have in making these decisions? Should gyms be continuing to expand their indoor offerings? Should restaurants continue to add back indoor dining? Is it even helping them by prolonging the inevitable?

My sense is that we shouldn’t wait until we are told to scale back. I saw a Coca-cola billboard ad the other day that said “Staying apart is the best way to stay united.” Coke doesn’t need the publicity but I thought it was a good ad (good ad agency). We are all in this together and as painful as it may be, we may need to make some hard decisions about our activities and what may be contributing to the increasing numbers. We owe it to those front-line workers, high-risk individuals, and anyone else that may be significantly affected by this virus.

Coca-Cola – Staying apart is the best way to stay united.

What are your thoughts on these difficult questions? Are you still going to the gym to work out? Are you planning to throughout the fall and winter? How does this fit into your risk plan? Are things different where you live? If you are doing virtual workouts in a small space inside your home, how are you beating off the monotony of it?

Nicole P. is still living in Stage 2 of the pandemic.