Hydration is more than water …

I have a lovely collection of water bottles and carafes. I stash them all over the house, so where ever I go, I always have water handy. These past few years, we have been experiencing uncharacteristically humid spells and maintaining myself adequately hydrated hasn’t always been easy.

Image shows turquoise-coloured water droplets splashing upward. Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

I have tried the phone beeps, the Fitbit buzzes, the water challenges with my peers, and even a post it note on the shelf at eye-level commanding me to DRINK!

I have friends who swear by drinking a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon (others squeeze the juice of a whole lemon) first thing before breakfast. If I drink anything hot in the morning, it’s coffee. While I love lemon, hot water is not my thing. I also can’t drink water with ice unless I have a straw, so several of my water carafes have built in straws.

When I first started training, I did show up with a water bottle because I knew I was going to get hot and sweaty. I used to run (I once signed up for a ten kilometre race except it turned out to be a ten mile race) and water was really critical. I’m not a fan of sports drinks generally (although I have found a brand and a flavour that I love).

I got to thinking about how much water we should be drinking. Most of the health apps have a water calculator so you can check off your eight 8oz glasses daily. Where did that come from? According to the Mayo Clinic, it was the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that came up with the recommendation that on average, living in a temperate climate, men should drink almost 16 cups and women should drink almost 12.

But that’s an average. Some people need more and some people need less. If your weather is excessively hot, or you are a very active person, you may need more.

Also, about 20% of that water comes from food and other beverages. Hence the simple reminder about eight glasses daily. Water helps flush your system (no need to spend money on fancy cleanses!) and keeps all your body chemicals balanced. You can drink too much water and you can also drink too little. My system of three to four bottles, while a little cluttery on table tops, does remind me of how much I have consumed, and if I should drink a little more to keep myself properly hydrated.

How about you readers? What tips do you use to keep your fluid intake level and optimal? Please share in the comments.

MarthaFitat55 is writer who likes ppowelifting, yoga and swimming.


Silencing my Mental Food Police

CW: this post discusses my relationship with food. This isn’t about whether someone should eat to lose weight or not. It discusses disordered eating.

I find myself wondering these days if certain things about me are “basic”. My over-posting of pictures of freshly baked sourdough bread or Saturday brunch. My over-sharing on social media, in general. My decades-old pondering about what sort of career would be meaningful and purposeful for me and my chagrin over earlier life choices that relate to the choices I have in that area now. Another area, I think is so tired and should be old news is my decades-old brain battle over food and whether it’s a friend or a foe. I believe that none of us are served by diet culture. I like the idea of mindful eating, but it’s not something I feel I do easily. I am also very aware that there are real issues in the world relating to true hunger and lack of food security and my food issues are only one of my existing privileges.

My brain has two sides doing battle when it comes to food. One side loves food. That’s the side that loves to cook and bake; take chef classes; recreate dishes enjoyed elsewhere; plan trips around good coffee shops and interesting restaurants; and share pictures of my food. The other side monitors food. That’s the side that keeps a mental log of what I’ve eaten. It’s not intentional. It’s ingrained. Whether I “should” be eating a treat or not. The side that’s prone to feelings of annoyance and guilt towards myself. At different stages of my life, annoyance was more often disgust or shame. That side has evolved and quieted over the years, but it’s still there.

When the two sides collide, there can be some bingeing involved. Quick injections of savoury chips or sour and sweet candy. The collision happened more frequently when I lived on my own. When I had more time to sit in my thoughts. To succumb to my tiredness. To try to fill a seemingly empty pit in my stomach that could only feel something if it were filled to the brim. There was a very brief period in my late teens, early 20s when I experimented with purging, but thankfully I was more angry with myself for the purging than the bingeing, and it didn’t stick.

Collisions happen less often these days. I try to ignore the food critic in my head. I think of it as active meditation. If I have an unhelpful thought. I try to let it pass. Unjudged. And then relax and let myself enjoy what I choose to eat. Which is often salads and hummus and tofu and rice. It can be a slice of freshly baked bread or a sugar crusted scone. It might be a bowl of nutella gelato topped with sprinkles or a bag of sour candy or pungently flavoured chips.

Old habits are hard to break. It makes me think about what is feeding my hunger. Sometimes I am ravenous because I am tired. Sometimes I am premenstrual and the cravings are physically present. The tingly skin. Longing in my throat. Craving sugary and saltiness, a little at a time and over and over again until my cravings have subsided. More often than not, a small amount of something will satisfy my cravings. No binge required.

The hunger could be more psychological than physical. It could be from a place of restriction. Or, it could just be physical hunger. And it’s OK to feed hunger.

The food-loving part of my brain was weaned on celebrations revolving around well-made, delicious, comfort foods, passed down through generations. Food can elicit feelings of love and warmth in these situations. It has an ease in the kitchen around certain tasks. It finds comfort and joy in each stage of making a delicious meal. It loves seeing people enjoy the food I’ve made.

The critical part of my brain was conscious from an early age that society might think I was not the “ideal” size. There as no such thing as an ideal size, but my young self did not know. The critical part of my brain encouraged me to start dieting when I was around 12. Started monitoring how many french fries I ate at lunch with my friends. Fed a steady diet of glossy ’80s magazines about the correct way to look. That side of my brain made the warmth and love derived from food complicated. It made family functions stressful for awhile. It made my brain fill with silly slogans from diet culture, such as “nothing tastes as good as thin feels”, which is, of course, utter bullshit, but the point is that crap made eating for the joy of it, and nothing else, very complicated (at least in my brain, if not in reality).

A glossy, 80’s magazine cover – Glamour Magazine with not helpful tips, such as “5 Stay-Slim Strategies” for the holidays (oh, how little has changed!)

I remember a time in my 30s I had convinced myself that it was a good idea to go to a diet clinic where they help you lose weight by making you blow into an oxygen machine, which apparently tells you how many calories your metabolism normally burns, and based on that they give you a diet plan to follow. The diet plan was simply a calorie restriction plan that accounted for your regular metabolism plus any activity you were doing. In addition to that, you met with the doctor in the clinic, who talked to you about the psychology of your habit with food. This doctor was on a popular show on a cable network at the time, so he must have known what he was talking about… I remember it was getting close to my birthday and we talked about having a treat for my birthday, which he was in favour of, until I told him that the treat I wished for was fish and chips. He proceeded to tell me how fish and chips was the worst possible food on the planet because of the trans fats that were generated when frying the fish. Yes, this doctor believed that one meal of fish and chips was a big mistake. I was so brainwashed by him that I went and told my friends, that unfortunately, I couldn’t have fish and chips on my birthday because they were the “worst food” for you ever. They laughed at me, just as much as they should have. What a wasted birthday meal that was!

Exercise has helped my relationship with food. And I don’t mean in the “justifying my food” way, or in the “calories in”, “calories out” way. I mean that over the years, the more exercise has become a regular part of my life, the more it has helped me feel the good things in my body. It has made me feel strong. It has made me feel capable. The endorphins or generated serotonin help me forget about caring about what I eat or don’t eat. Choosing communities to work out in, that don’t focus on nutrition plans and trends, has helped me to block out that noise that I hate. I have long told myself that if I workout regularly, eat a balanced diet, including occasional treats, whatever that looks like is “A OK”.

It still takes a lot of blocking out the noise around me. It takes blocking out “wellness” plans being touted in the corporate world. It takes blocking out friends and family talking about how keto was the only way they can lose weight after 40. It takes ignoring the stupid jokes about the “Covid 15” that don’t help anyone. Perhaps, the key is not to try to “block” the noise, but to let it pass unjudged.

I’m OK with being “basic” in areas such as social media shares. But I’d like to live more what I know when it comes to not being driven by the food police in my head. I feel much more balanced about food, in general. But the food police are not totally silent, no matter how much I know better. The food police mentality, no doubt, still leads to moments of insatiable hunger. I’d like my default response to be “so what”. Satiate the hunger. OR I can choose not to. The choice is mine. But ditch the self-judgment. Hunger and food aren’t the problem. The way I look at hunger and food are the problem. The way society looks at female hunger is the problem. There are much more important tasks at hand than worrying about it. I’d like to fire the food police in my head once and for all.

Nicole P. lives and works (at home currently) in Toronto with her husband and 2 dogs. She loves movement in the forms of running, weight lifting, park conditioning works, and long walks. She’s looking forward to making delicious food for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) this weekend, although on a much smaller scale, because Covid).
covid19 · disability · equality

No, “EVERYONE” Should Not Wear a Mask

I know some of you are already heating up the tar and plucking the feathers. I’m bracing for the hate-filled comments as I type this, but out of an abundance of optimism, I’m hoping you will continue reading and hear me out.

I am not going to debate the merits of mask-wearing. I would hope that by now I’ve established myself as a solid supporter of science and anti-pseudoscience (see evidence A, B). I agree with anyone who says all the evidence supports that wearing masks reduces the risk of infection for both the wearer and the people with which they come into contact.

However, when we say “everyone must wear a mask,” we are excluding people who cannot wear a mask due to various disabilities and personal challenges. Perhaps it would be “better” for them to wear a mask, but for whatever reason, they find it difficult or impossible to do so.

Unfortunately, this issue has been muddled by politics. For some reason, the man occupying the White House has decided that he’s anti-mask, and the 35% of the US that blindly follows his lead has taken up the cause. I understand that when we create wiggle room in mask wearing policies, we are creating space for people to decry their losses of personal autonomy in the face of interdependence. I appreciate that making a blanket statement that everyone must wear a mask, we are trying to make it clear to these people that if they want to do business, they need to do what’s right for the common good despite their personal attitudes on the subject.

And still, I remind you that truly not everyone can wear a mask, and I’m asking, what about them?

What about me?

I’m not sure why I find wearing a mask a challenge, but I can confirm with many repeated data points that it’s a problem for me. I nearly passed out at the grocery store on a couple different occasions before I realized that I was hyperventilating in my mask. On a recent outing, I put my mask up while I was running past a group of pedestrians, and according to my watch, my heart rate went from the mid 130’s up to a dangerous 189 bpm in about 10 seconds. It’s possible that this is due to my having a reduced lung capacity. The middle lobe of my right lung was removed many years ago, and on a good day, I get about 75% of the air of a 2-lunged person. It’s also possible that it is a manifestation of my PTSD. Wearing a mask may be triggering some element of my hysterectomy-related trauma (maybe it’s too much like wearing an oxygen mask during surgery?). Repeated attempts at wearing a mask have not made these responses easier over time. And when I talk about them, I’ve noticed some commonalities in how others deflect and deny the problem.

They downplay the seriousness and discredit my experience. “I know, they get really hot,” or “It takes me a few minutes to get used to it, too.”

They decide they know which choices are best for me. “Well, then you should just order groceries online.” “You’re obviously not returning to work then, right?”

They decide that they know which medical conditions are valid reasons and which ones aren’t. “Well, it’s actually not true that you’re getting less air.” “Maybe you just need to get used to it.”

And if I haven’t been given an opportunity to explain myself, most people apparently assume that they can tell by looking at someone if they have a valid reason for not wearing a mask. In these encounters, people just murmur under their breath, and a few times have yelled at me, “Wear a mask!” If I wouldn’t be risking a face-to-face argument with a stranger in a time when the air they breathe puts me at risk for yet another lifelong disability, I’d be more tempted to stop and debate the matter with them.

Equality and equity for folks with disabilities must include giving them the same opportunities and choices as everyone else. Not all disabilities are visible. You can’t tell by looking at someone if their experiences are valid. Trust us when we tell you there’s a problem. Don’t expect to be able to front-manage all the solutions–don’t ask for a list of “reasonable” challenges (defined by whom?) and then preload all your acceptable solutions. For example, don’t decide for me that I have to work from home, give me reasonable choices between certain accommodations at work versus the flexibility to work from home–trust that I can make the best decision for myself. Know that life gets messy and that challenges can be multifaceted and complex.

Mask-wearing is an act of both personal responsibility and a sign of our interdependence. We are being asked to wear masks for our own safety, and even moreso, for the safety of others. Just like getting our vaccinations, our communities benefit from as many of us as possible complying with public health recommendations. You are wearing a mask to keep yourself safe. You are also wearing a mask to keep me safe. Thank you for wearing one whenever you can; thank you for advocating that others wear them. But please, consider saying that “everyone who can, should wear a mask,” and grant me the autonomy to make the best decision for myself that I am able.

(Along those lines, if you are finding yourself about to post some mask-wearing advice to me in the comments, please take a moment to pause and consider if you are the right person to be offering it.)

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found doing her best to wear a mask as much as she can, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, in Portland, Oregon.

Book Club · fitness

FIFI Book Club: Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, week three–Mindfulness and Emotions

Hi readers, and welcome to the fifth installment of FIFI book club’s reading of Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness: a 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation. Each week we’ll offer some reflections as we move through the chapters, and maybe do some of the exercises, too. You are invited to join us, and we’d love to read and respond to any comments you’d like to share.

Last week we blogged here about week two. We blogged here about week one, Concentration. We blogged about Chapter 2: Why Meditate, here. You can read about the intro and chapter 1 here.

This week is week three of meditation practice techniques and exercises, called Mindfulness and Emotions. Here are our reflections.

First up is Mina:

I love this bit in the Week Three chapter about how mindfulness works with our emotions by opening: “…the possibility of finding the gap between a trigger event and our usual conditioned response to it, and of using that pause to collect ourselves and change our response.” Even if we’re not Olympic athletes or Formula 1 race car drivers, nanoseconds can matter deeply in our lives. I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve not even paused to take a breath before my auto-response has exploded, usually incinerating my partner, possibly others in the vicinity and most definitely sparking a backdraft into me.

Forget enlightenment, finding that pause is, for me, the single biggest possibility offered by meditation. Mastering the pause is not the work of a week. More like a lifetime. Sharon Salzberg points out in this chapter that the pause has two parts. First is the pause itself. Taking that breath. Noticing. The second part is how we are in the pause. What is the quality of our noticing? This second part is where I have the most trouble. Because, as she points out, we need to notice without judgment, without blame, without casting aspersions on ourselves or others, and without giving into our discomfort, by lashing out at ourselves or someone else. That. Is. Hard. Learning to be comfortable with whatever arises can cause me enormous amounts of agita.

This past week I was supposed to be working diligently on a client project that’s due next Friday. Instead, I mooched around more than usual and told myself it was because my ankle was sprained. Also, we decamped to Montreal (from New York) for 3.5 months this week, so I was preoccupied with packing and traveling and unpacking and settling in under quarantine restrictions. Then there was the non-client, pro bono work that I love and so keep doing no matter what. And then there was my undertaking to myself (as part of this book club) to meditate for twenty minutes a day, instead of my more usual ten minutes.

As the week progressed, I got increasingly anxious about my client project, and increasingly intransigent about doing it. While meditating, I’d think to myself, “What a wastrel. You are obviously a highly unimportant person if you have this much time to meditate. Oh, and arrogant, too, thinking you’ll still be able to finish the project on time.” And so on.

But … this book was also whispering in my ear, “You are not your thoughts. What does it feel like to be ignoring your client project to the maximum like this? Be with what’s arising. No judgment.” And guess what? Instead of biting my partner’s head off when he asked me if I was stressed, I explained where I was at and how I was feeling. Same movie. New ending. This week’s chapter supported me in a moment of need, when my ability to find the pause was tenuous.

Here’s Christine:

This week’s topic really resonated with me.

As a storyteller by both trade and inclination, and as someone whose ADHD fosters emotional extremes, I am always looking for ways to notice both the internal narratives I create and the feeling that initiates them.

Years ago, when I was seeing a psychologist for situational depression, I was asked to create a mood diary to help identify some of the things that brought me down. I couldn’t do it. It was completely impossible for me backtrack from the feelings to the thoughts I had followed to get there. At the time, this added to my feelings of frustration and failure. Since my ADHD diagnosis, I know that I had multiple obstacles in my way – the spiderweb of thoughts, stories and connections that every event generates, plus the extreme emotional reactions/RSD that can come with ADHD, plus my challenges with task initiation (keeping a notebook at hand and summoning the motivation to write while already feeling bad? Tricky to say the least.)

I could probably do it now if I had to. I know lots of ways to help build habits and my medication generally gives me a little space between a given thought and my action – even internal ‘actions’ like creating a story. That doesn’t mean that I can always catch my thoughts before they drag me into feeling bad but I can usually trace them backward more easily these days.

The fact that my medication creates that space between thought and action (with varying success depending on how tired/busy/overwhelmed/awash in emotions I am) makes me curious about how more mindfulness could create a bigger space between those things.

My storytelling and coaching self was also drawn into the discussion of how we tend to mix up our thoughts (and the connecting stories) with our whole selves. Salzberg gives the example that when we strike our funny bone we don’t think of ourselves as a sore elbow but when we have a sad thought we think ‘I’m sad.’ A lot of my coaching practice involves helping people separate their stories from the facts about themselves, and I’m interested to see how meditation can be another tool in helping people develop that skill.

Before I was medicated for ADHD, I was often drawn to meditation because I felt that there was something important in there for me. And I could meditate – sometimes even for long sessions – but I couldn’t make it a habit. I remember speaking to my doctor at the time and saying that I felt like creating a meditation habit was on the other side of a river and that I wanted to try medication to see if it would help me build a bridge to the habit. (Interesting that I chose that metaphor at the time. It’s no wonder that things like this ‘Motivation Bridge’ video end up helping me so much –

By the time I was medicated, I had a lot of family things to deal with and lost track of the plan to add more regular meditation to my life. I have come back to it multiple times since, though. I find it cool that my instincts were right – I function better when I have space between thought and action. I thought at the time that medication would help me meditate and that would be the path to finding that space. Instead, the medication gave me the space but I still think meditation will, over time, make that space larger.

Here’s me, Catherine:

This week of meditation shifts the focus to emotions, and that’s been significantly harder for me than the previous two weeks (which were about attention to the breath and then attention to the body). Why? Well, even though breathing and bodily feels are foundational, emotions can feel bigger and more dramatic, more overwhelming. Breathing in and out is soothing because it makes my emotions simmer down, recede to a distant corner, hopefully to slink away.

But that isn’t the lesson Sharon Salzberg teaches us here. She notes that we erect barriers to happiness, and facing our emotions can help us get around or over those barriers. The barriers, FYI, are:

  • desire: grasping, clinging, wanting
  • aversion: anger, fear, impatience
  • sloth: numbing out, switching off, disconnecting, becoming sluggish
  • restlessness: anxiety, fretfulness, agitation
  • doubt: inability to make a decision

The sloth one really hits me where I live. My anxiety and sadness reactions tend toward shutting down; I sometimes feel overwhelmed and very low energy. Retreating to my bed or mindlessly zoom-scrolling just exacerbates the problem, and then I blame myself for my weakness. Yuck! So what does Salzberg recommend?

The RAIN method: recognize, accept, investigate, and non-identify with the emotion. By slowing down and adopting a non-reactive reaction to a passing emotion, it just… passes.

It was hard to do the difficult emotion meditation this week; it got a bit intense for me. But, one of my meditation teachers told me that it’s always possible to back off and go back to the breath, or to acknowledge the intensity and let that feeling pass.

Meditation is a life-long contemplative self-knowledge development process. Each time I restart it, I develop a bit more resilience or a bit more depth in the contents of that meditation. Every day, every sitting is different, and I am finding that I really look forward to what is unfolding.

And here’s Tracy:

This week I actually did what the program suggested because I’ve been sort of using it as a nudge to get me back to a daily practice (which it has) but have only been loosely following it. But since I had an initial “no way” reaction to the week’s theme of “Mindfulness and Emotion,” I took that as a sign that I needed to pay attention and not avoid. So glad I did.

I also took more detailed notes after my meditations this week (I’ve been keeping a notebook where I make a little entry after each sitting). My first entry says: “Her teacher when she was 18 was Goenka! [that is the teacher whose method is taught at the Vipassana Centre]. I did the guided and learned RAIN: Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, Non-identification. Worry and fear came up…”

Keeping the notes helped me recognize that worry came up a lot last week. I have just adopted two little rescue kittens and one of them was having some litter box issues. She was peeing beside the box, and then took it to other places where you really do not want a kitty to pee. Medical has sort of been ruled out. I jumped way ahead to “I’m going to have to separate these cats because she’s a nervous kitty who needs to be a solo cat and if I don’t re-home her she will be miserable and eventually I’ll have to throw out all of my furniture and this is what my life is going to be for the next 15-20 years” (she’s done it twice, and both were easy clean-ups).

It was a good opportunity for me to the same issue can seem emotionally overwhelming one day and completely manageable the next. I also learned that I tense up and stop breathing when I get worked up emotionally, and that a lot of my “negative” emotions live in my chest and throat, both of which get tight. And that consciously breathing helps me calm down.I also started the week with last week’s mindful tea-drinking exercise and I highly recommend it. It was the most pleasant cup of tea I’ve had in years.

cycling · fall · habits · weight lifting · yoga

Fall weather and Sam’s five part fitness plan!


What are your fall fitness plans?

I’ve got a few–five in fact–and the first two are new. I’ve never done them before.

First, fall is time to get the gravel bike out and explore. The lovely folks at Speed River Bicycle, my LBS, shared this list of multi-surface rides with me when I took to Twitter with my autumn cycling plans. Sarah and I have a weekend away planned on the newly finished Guelph to Goderich rail trail.

Second, I’ve signed up for Zwift Academy: “Unlock your untapped power with the program that started it all. World-class coaches bring killer workouts to boost your performance on the bike. New friends bring fun.” That’s October 1-November 25.

Third, my mum, Sarah, and I are going to keep working out outside in the backyard with a personal trainer for as long as weather permits. We’re all cold weather hardy. But rain might put us off. But we have flexible schedules. Let’s see! Maybe I’ll even lure my mum into blogging for us.

Fourth, there’s Yoga With Adriene. She’s a bit of a fitness fixture around here.

And finally, fifth, there’s strength training of various sorts. We’ve got lots of resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, and the trusty TRX. Sometimes I think I need to get organized about it. Other times, I think it’s okay to do random, snack sized fitness-y things when the mood strikes.

What’s your plan for the fall? Anything new?

Photos from Unsplash. This one is a white hand holding up a bright red maple leaf against a dark background.

Keeping our favourite small fitness studios alive

In the Before Times, I traveled a lot. And one of my favourite things to do if I spent more than a couple of days in another city was to go to a local yoga studio. I’d buy a pass for a week or two, and then get a real sense of being in the local community by experiencing what slow flow or hatha felt like in another place.

I’m still on the regular mailing list for yoga studios in Vancouver, Portland and Melbourne, and every time I get a little update or announcement about some community event, I get a little flicker of a reminder of what it was like to be in downward dog in another place, feeling like I belonged. (Even if my shape was imperfect, like the one in this photo). Many many times, random yoga studios = automatic community, to me. (Not always — I went to a class with my cousin in Edmonton once that left us both bemused — and she’s a yoga teacher. But we bonded over its weirdness, so it was still fantastic).

Me in a gorgeous studio in Melbourne in December, 2018

Six full months into pandemic lockdown, many of those spaces all over the world are closing for good or struggling immensely.

This week, I got one of the regular updates from my favourite studio here in Toronto, a couple of blocks away. We are really struggling, said the owner. We thought more people would come back in phase 3 but they haven’t. If we can’t generate more revenue, we will have to close. For now, I’ll teach a lot of the classes myself and see if we can find our way back.

This studio — Chi Junky — is a beautiful space, with fantastic teachers. They’ve pivoted to virtual classes and yoga in the park, but people have got in the habit of staying home.

My spinning studio Torq Ride — also amazing — is doing a little bit better, because it’s been able to move classes outside into an alley. But those classes are 25% the size of normal classes. And both Torq and Chi Junky just completed big renos just before the lockdown.

Many people — like me — might be willing to do socially distanced classes inside if it were only their health at possible risk, but we’re all in a web of responsibility, owe protection to the people we love, and the people they love and come into contact with. So most of the people I know are being cautious — and we should — but the small places that mean so much, that are a labour of love, are at huge risk.

So here is my request to the FIFI community: today, if you can, buy a class pass for some virtual classes from one of the small, independent studios that have contributed so much to their communities. Anywhere in the world. Go nuts — find a random class in some city you’ve always wanted to visit, even! Take a class in London UK, or Melbourne, Singapore or Capetown. Wander freely.

Or, buy some swag. (Chi Junky has “Zen AF” masks). Pay your monthly fee to your independent gym, even if you’re not going back for a while. (As I’m doing for the gym across the street). Send them a note telling them how much you value them. They need to hear it.

As I told the manager of Torq the other day, I’m totally there for their virtual classes when they start up again — I’d much rather give them my money than Peloton. And for now, I’m doing all my virtual yoga from Chi Junky (classes are about $9), instead of my beloved Yoga with Adriene (where I also pay for a monthly subscription).

Here are a few of my faves you could buy virtual classes in right now — I know you have some of your own as well. Let me know in the comments what you’re doing to support independent fitness while staying safe.

Chi Junky yoga (slow flow, yin, sweat flow, restorative)

Alex’ superhero strength and conditioning classes so many of us do

Nicole Starker Campbell yoga (my cousin — she’s a great teacher!)

Spirit Loft yoga and movement classes (if you want your weight in animal flow :-))

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives in Toronto and is very happy that it’s still warm enough to spin outside.

fitness · season transitions

Sunset on summer: the beach in early fall

This weekend I’m in Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s my first trip here, and the island is lovely and verdant and oh-so Nantuckety: here’s what I mean.

The look of this place is very tightly regulated and very cohesive; all cedar shingles all the time. But the beaches are under no such ordinances, nor would they pay attention if the local town meeting passed some conventions on how beaches should comport themselves.

To me, beaches are synonymous with summer. My whole life I’ve gone with family to the South Carolina coast for swimming, walking, playing, and hanging out (including foolhardy sunbathing in my teens; glad those days are over) on the wide, hard sand coastline, with its warm water.

This year I didn’t make it to the SC coast, as I usually do, because COVID. However, this short getaway to a New England island, with its own shore beauty, is feeling like a good way to bid goodbye to summer. The weather is coolish and windy, so I’m wearing a light sweater for daytime walking and contemplation. For sunset, it’s necessary to add a hat and jacket. I’m still barefoot– I mean, it is the beach– but the toes are a little chilly in the oddly cool sand.

Each day around 6:30pm we head over to the beach at Madaket, bundled up with beach chairs in tow, to witness the colors of the early fall sunset over the water.

Setting sun, hovering over the sea.

The air and sand start to cool down. Others join us for the show.

Sun, sinking below the watery horizon.
Sun, sinking below the watery horizon.

Everything is orange in tone, just for a moment.

Last reflections of sunset in the distance.
Last reflections of sunset in the distance.

The orange glow deepens, now in contrast with dark and metallic gray sand and waves.

Evening has arrived.
Evening has arrived.

Are we ever ready for the end of summer? In warmer climates, you can try to hang on for a bit longer; but here in New England, fall makes its presence known. There are hikes and fall riding (I love fall cycling!) to look forward to, but many of our outdoor activities will have to taper off or shift substantially.

One thing I’m learning from the past 6–500 months that comprises the pandemic is, nature is out there. Sunsets are out there. Beaches are out there. Summer is passing into fall. Another season is coming. I’m going to work on making friends with it, and continuing to go to the beach seems like as good a way as any.

So farewell, summer beach, and hello, fall beach. And I’ll be here when winter beach arrives.

Readers, do you have any rituals for bidding an official farewell to summer? Do you turn around and say, where did it go? Do you take each day as it comes? I’d love to hear from you about how you’re experiencing this natural change. Thanks for reading.

covid19 · family · fitness · holidays

Filling the nest with workout equipment

I never thought I’d be one of those parents lamenting their children leaving home. Mostly I’m really excited for them finding their own way in the world. I’ve always had my own life in addition to family life, and I assumed that children moving out would just change the mix. Without kids at home there’d be more friends and less time with family.

I imagined I’d still see lots of the adult children. We’ve always enjoyed meals together, playing games, watching movies, etc. I expected that to continue. In normal times it would.

But along came COVID-19. So much for all of our plans. I know I’m lucky. I live in Canada. No one in my family is sick. We’re financially okay. We’re also at a stage in the pandemic where we are able to enjoy lots of time outside together. Recently Mallory, Sarah, and I got to go camping in Algonquin.

Still, I’m not seeing friends as much as I’d like. I’m also not seeing the kids as much as I’d like.

I’m very nervous about winter, about Thanksgiving, and about Christmas. Those are times when we’d come together inside.

Frankly, I’m sad and I miss my children a lot and I didn’t expect it to be so bad.

You need to know that I am the kind of parent who happily sent kids off to Australia and New Zealand on their own. Bye! But this, this is worse. First, they’re all gone. Second. COVID-19, makes seeing them more complicated. Third, I worry about them a lot.

Okay, end of the sad part of the story. I want to share the only possible upside. There is more room in my house.

The backroom is now my home office and the official Zwift home headquarters and Yoga With Adriene studio. Check it out! Our home weights finally arrived too.

Also, while I miss my fitness oriented son for our noon hour workouts, I’ve now talked my mother into working out with me at lunch with a visiting backyard personal trainer. Living with my mother also helps to remind me too that although kids move out–as I did at 19 or so–families can stay together through a lifetime.

cycling · fashion

Bike dresses in white?

It’s finally here the first bike friendly dress now in white.

Dear Frank and Oak,

Have you ever stopped to fix a flat? Have you ever tried to put a dropped chain back on?

CLEARLY NOT. Because if you had you’d realize that of all the colours for a bike dress, white is just not on.

I realize you don’t have to do what I tend to do–wipe bike grease off on my black bike shorts–but still. Even for the most fastidious of cyclists–say one who carries wet wipes for wiping their hands (here’s looking at you Martin!), white isn’t a colour that works.

I’m not sure what makes this a bike dress. Almost any dress can be a bike dress. Like the nap dress. I’m sure it has special features that make it bike friendly but still, no matter how good those features are, they are overruled by the not very bike friendly colour.




Planning for a fit-distanced winter

Susan and I were at her cottage on the weekend, and Saturday and Sunday were those perfect last-of-summer days: breakfast on the deck, dog walks in the forest, a beautiful crisp rolly bike ride. (BTW, all those hills on my tiny bike on Salt Spring? Built me some muscles all right).

But then Monday morning, Labour Day? September 7? It was still dark when we woke up, and it was dreary and rainy. We did Alex’ virtual superhero workout (I used a log as a kettlebell for single leg deadlifts and as a thing to hop over), and then went for a soaking wet, chilly dog walk in the now-muddy woods.

When I got back to the cottage, I hit PURCHASE on something I’ve been hemming and hawing over for months: a bowflex spin bike.

Tuesday evening, when my outdoor spinning class was moved inside because of rain, and my yoga in the park was canceled, I knew I’d made the right choice.

Throughout the summer, I’ve been loving outdoor spinning, and I just discovered the wonky brilliance of yoga in the park with my favourite studio, Chi Junky. (Go buy a fun mask, a tshirt or some of their virtual classes — they are awesome and they are really struggling to stay afloat). I’m running, and riding my bike, and just being happy to be outside moving around.

But. Winter is Coming. And I feel like we are all holding our collective breath about what is going to be okay about gathering inside, where, and in what communities. I won’t rehash all of those conversations here — all I know is that I have too many vulnerable people in my life for it to be a responsible choice to go breathe heavily in an enclosed space right now. So I’m outside, or in my house. And outside is rapidly becoming Not So Appealing.

Last spring, I was okay with my basic at home set up — a few random weights, a skipping rope, Alex and YWA on the zoom, a selection of yoga and workout mats. Over time, I’ve added to my stash, and last week, I finally cleared out the antique trunk I use as a coffee table to put some of the gear out of view. (The story of clearing out that trunk could be a book — it was stuffed with letters and other paper from the 80s and 90s, from a time when the highly verbal people in my world sent handwritten letters in the mail constantly. So much overwritten romantic devotion and division, friendship, working out of what it means to be an adult. A program from the 1991 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a 1994 price list for Wild Women Expeditions. Some truly puzzling letters of the “who the hell is Cheryl?” variety. A few treasures, like letters from my dead grandparents and father. Stats and medals from my long-dead marathon career. Most of it now trashed or recycled, a tiny few things tucked away).

Now I have a basket of weights (two heavier kettlebells on order), and a good set up for strength and stretching and agility. But the shorter light and long workdays mean any fast, hard movement will be in the dark chill. And I’m… not good with that. I have this thing that when it’s dark, I want to corkscrew myself into a tiny home-hugging ball, audio books and jigsaws. (Remember April, all that homecooking and puzzle doing?)

So I’ve been thinking about getting some kind of spinning bike for months. Sam is an aficionado of using her real bike on a trainer, and we all know she’s a Zwift devotee. But I’m cautious about that. To start with, I’m not a racer — I love spinning, but competing with other people leaves me cold. And while many people feel perfectly fine about sticking their bikes on a trainer, it makes me feel anxious. My road bike is 13 years old, and I love it more than any other non-living being I’ve ever had a relationship with. Specialized — its maker — is wishy washy on whether trainers are a good idea. It fits me perfectly and is, as one mechanic once marveled, “in that sweet spot of early carbon frames with super simple mechanisms.” I like it that way, and I don’t want to do anything that might disrupt its perfection.

So once I ruled out the trainer, I was left with a decision about spinning type bikes. I missed the chance to buy one relatively cheaply when my studio sold off a bunch from a second location, but their bikes — while robust and wonderful — have a pretty big footprint anyway. And I don’t have a lot of space. But as I said to someone else, I have even less space for a mental health collapse — if we are going to have another mostly distanced winter, I need to sweat. Or I can’t balance everything else in my life.

I briefly paused on the idea of a Peloton, but quickly wafted past it. Just before the lockdown, I stayed in a random hotel for a political leadership convention that happened to have a peloton bike. I tried it, and it left me a little cold — the classes were … okay, but I found the bike a bit flimsy, and had a really hard time getting it the video working with my headphones. It was fussy and annoying, and certainly didn’t make me want to start worshipping at the church of Peloton.

But I did like the footprint. So I did some research, and asked some people some questions, and had this Bowflex C6 in my cart for nearly a week. Until I woke up on a dreary, rainy, chilly Labour Day Monday and thought, s**t just got real. I need this.

So I ordered it. It connects to my ipad or phone, and I can do zwift, virtual classes from my studio, peloton classes if I give into that or just plain ride. It was half the price of a peloton, and a nice person will come and assemble it for me for an extra fee. I’m supposed to get it in early October.

I’m hoping I will find myself wondering: “why the heck did I buy this thing?! I keep tripping on it as I run out the door to the gym or to spinning class!”

But just in case I don’t, it will be taking up space in my office, ready for me to hop on. How are you hedging your bets for winter fitness?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is looking out the window in Toronto and sighing.