blog · fitness · top ten

Top Ten Posts in May 2021, #ICYMI

The first three posts are from months and years past:

At 53 1/2 Cate was still menstruating and her post about it is always on our top ten list.

Catherine has fervent hope for 2021: that “The Biggest Loser” won’t be renewed for a 19th season.

Keeping Fit While Healing from Hysterectomy by Marjorie

From this month:

Catherine tells it like it is–Anti-fat-shaming videos: don’t do more harm than good, folks!

Cate writes The transcendence of moving your body: The Superhuman Strengths of Alison Bechdel’s new book

More from the past:

My Metabolic Age is WHAT?? asks Nicole

My 2013 post about crotch shots always makes this list. Surprise!

And again from this month:

Appreciating All the Moments (guest post) Michele A.

Diane reminds us not to aim to win Darwin awards!

Cate gets the scoop on vaccine shedding and reassures people it’s not actually a thing that can happen

fitness · weight stigma

What some twenty-somethings think about the “headless fatty”

CW: Talk about the “headless fatty”, discussion of fat stigma and weight discrimination.

Like all reasonable decent people, we at Fit is a Feminist Issue despise those “headless fatty” photos. Samantha and I have blogged about them, and others of us have noted and criticized those discriminatory images as well.

No more headless fatties…

Why the headless fatty photo has got to go…

Fat babies deserve heads

Wow, not even chubby babies get heads these days…

Like a bad penny, these awful images keep turning up.

I’m teaching a course on Philosophy of Food in summer school right now, and we are starting it by talking about food memories, preferences, traditions, rules, violations of rules, and ideals. One of the questions I asked them in a short response paper was about the notion of the “headless fatty” and what they thought about it. Here’s some of what they said:

… the “headless fatty” is problematic because in these pictures the bodies become symbolic. These people are in the photos, but they have no voice, not even a mouth, brain, head, no thoughts or opinions. They are reduced and dehumanized as symbols of cultural fear. The beheaded people in these photographs also symbolize that they are being punished for existing, or they no longer have the right to speak, and that without these people the world would be a better place. 

Yeah. I definitely couldn’t have said it better myself.

Here’s another comment:

[the headless fatty] perpetuates the idea that fat people are not people; that they do not have a brain, a voice, or opinions.

One more, which I really like:

This term is problematic because when you remove someone’s head, they no longer have thoughts or opinions.

YES! It’s so clear to my students that the image of a fat person with no head conveys the idea that they have no agency, no humanity, no intelligence, no voice.

I’m writing this to you because these students are giving me hope that fat shaming and weight stigmatization will dissipate; it’s obvious to them that these images are fat shaming, and also obvious how horrible and harmful that is. Yay students!

Let’s all look forward to a time in the not-distant future where people of all sizes and shapes can hold their heads up high, in part because they have heads. Is this too much to hope for?

Readers, how long has it been since you saw one of these headless fat-shaming images? Yesterday? Last month? Last year? Let us know. I’m really hoping they’re on the wane.

aging · fitness · injury · training

Sam is checking in for May 2021

Sam as seen from the back deck, wearing a headband, black tights and a burgundy tank top and boxing gloves, looking up and smiling. There’s a heavy punching bag hanging from a frame in front of her.

May has been my month of aspirational outdoor exercise. I joined the university’s outdoor exercise challenge and got to work. Luckily that coincided with nice weather here in Ontario and my son’s purchase of some backyard exercise equipment including a frame for his heavy punching bag and a collapsible rowing machine suitable for outdoor storage. Between that stuff, a yoga mat, a kettlebell, and a medicine ball we’re good to go for 3 minutes off, one minute rests rounds of all the things times 10.

I’m also dog walking and bike riding outside too. Currently I’m 11th in the #GryphFitness challenge. Go Team Middle Aged Dean!

I blogged about the challenge Get outside and play! It’s May!

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The outdoor exercise kick is also accompanied by a snack size exercise kick. I’m not sure what it is but my ability to focus is somewhat challenged right now. I have the attention span of a gerbil. I’m still working lots of movement into my day but it’s a lot of mini bursts of different things. A ten minute stretching video here, some rowing and lifting there, throw in some kettlebell swings and some TRX moves…

My bike rides are still long and focused but nothing else is really. There have been 20 minute yoga videos I’ve found it too hard to finish at one go!

Luckily this month the many exercise snacks approach was also vindicated by science.

Cheddar is my back deck exercise buddy!

Cheddar, the blond dog, laying crosswise on a blue yoga mat surrounded by random weights on Sam’s back deck.

Not much knee news. I started these monthly check-ins to mark the countdown to my knee replacement surgery. And at the end of May this was in my Facebook memories,

May 29, 2020:

“I keep waiting for the letter telling me that my knee replacement surgery is delayed. On the bright side, it’s not any worse and I’m still walking Cheddar. On the downside when all the travel restrictions are lifted I want to go hiking in England and New Zealand again.

And yes, actual physical letters. Hospitals are one of the few sources of snail mail that’s serious.”

Still waiting. Sigh. And now it’s both knees. But I’m also still walking and things aren’t worse. Hanging in there.


How our Words of the Year are Serving Us

Our words of the year

Back in January the bloggers, most of us anyway, chose words of the year. I blogged about our choices here.

And as we approach the halfway mark in the year, I checked in with the group to see how our words are serving us.


“Steady” has held up for me. It helped me through the disappointment of the initial stage of Ontario’s third wave.
I have continued doing all the things I normally do (running, some strength training, indoor cycling, some yoga). Where “steady” fits in, as an explanation, is when I find myself thinking I need to challenge myself (do I want to do a marathon again, do I want to “amp” something up) I am reminded that I should consider why and whether it will benefit me, my state of mind, my overall health, before committing to something. I am often reminded that it is OK to continue what I am doing and be steady.


I still like “FLOW” too. This year has definitely been a year so far of going with the flow. I like to problem solve and have definite plans and make things happen. It’s a big part of who I am. But those strengths haven’t been a good fit for this year of change-Phase 2, Stage 2, orange, red, grey, lockdown, stay at home. Wow! It’s been a ride. My knee surgery hasn’t happened, though I’ve now been waiting forever, and so instead I’m controlling what I can and living my best life with painful knees. So much physio. I feel like it’s been a year for Aikido and going where the winds are taking us, rather than resisting. I’ve been working to make things work for me, in the ways that I can. Constant change at work and at home. Thanks pandemic for teaching me to go with the flow.


Ohhh yes. Rest is working for me! Epic naps! Chilling on my porch!
Going to bed the same time every night!


Hold fast has been working well for me. When I encounter change or uncertainty, I have found it helpful to hold fast to my values and use them as a lens to guide me forward. Hold fast reminds me I can still be focused while moving forward.


Enough–yesterday a.m. I woke up with the self-critic in full swing. She hadn’t been so loud in a long time. But … once she’d said her piece, she was willing to step aside. She’d said her piece. That was enough. Which meant that I could continue to live in enough-ness. Yay!


Awake is really working for me. In fact, I’m in awake overdrive. This is happening in part through the effects of daily meditation. I can’t hide or snooze through experiences; instead I feel like life is happening in bolder relief. From food to family, whatever I’m doing or feeling, it’s with my eyes wide open.


I’m really using my word MINDFULNESS to keep me aware in several areas: eating (I apparently pop lots of food into my mouth for no reason at all), breathing (I’ve become aware that I hold my breath when I’m stressed), and awareness of the thoughts that run in the background of my mind and set the tone for my days (lots of old ideas and attitudes that I don’t even believe but they have an impact if I’m not conscious of them and challenging them). So I’m really pleased I picked “mindfulness” because it’s helping me beyond when I’m just meditating.


Consistent was absolutely the right word for me for this year. I’m not trying to suggest that I have achieved perfect consistency but paying attention to how consistent I have been has been useful.

For me, the important thing is not about trying to be consistent in the sense of doing something every day, it’s about consistently returning to my plan, even when things have gone awry.

So far, so good!

Did you choose a word of the year? What was it? How’s it working out so far for you?

Book Club · fitness

FIFI Book Club: Why We Swim, by Bonnie Tsui. This week: Well-Being

Hi readers– we’ve been reading a new book for this installment of the FIFI book club. It’s called Why We Swim, by Bonnie Tsui. We’ll be reading and commenting on the various sections of the book over the next several Fridays. We’d love to have you join us and add your comments to the mix.

Two weeks ago, we introduced ourselves in terms of our past, present and aspirational relationships with moving around in water.

Last week, we reported on the section of the book titled Survival.

This week, the topic shifts to Well-Being. Wanna hear about it? Good. Here are some thoughts from our bloggers.

First up, Kim:

I am an okay swimmer. Not great, but not bad. I can freestyle well but it’s a bit of a struggle, a lot of the time, to keep my body parallel to the water (or what Tsui calls here, in reference to one epically well-designed swimmer’s body, “neutrally buoyant”). I’m a sinker: heavier on bottom than top, lots of lower body muscle so dense. I’m also terrified of open water, tbh: the bottom is… (where is the bottom???), there is STUFF in there with me (ugh seaweed ugh jellyfish UGH), and currents + waves = I’m not in control. If given all the options in the world, I would swim for miles and miles – in a swimming pool, with my pull buoy between my thighs.

What’s utterly brilliant about this section of Tsui’s book, for me, is that NONE. OF. THIS. MATTERS. None. The second section of Why We Swim is a love letter to water, framed by the story of a talented open-water swimmer called Kim (#namesake!!) who took to San Francisco Bay at 30, while recovering from a disastrous, traumatizing leg break. Kim is a world record holder multiple times over, but that’s not Tsui’s focus as she gets to know Kim and explores her world in the waters near the Dolphin Club (and between the DC and Alcatraz… a swim I am NEVER doing see above). Instead, what stays with me from this section is Kim’s WHOOPS! every time she hits the water, Tsui’s chronicles of her laughter, her celebration of the act of getting in and moving around, treating her body to the pleasures and the therapies only buoyancy can bring. Peppered in among her tales of learning the Bay’s waterways with Kim, Tsui explores the evidence we have (and some we don’t, yet) for cold water’s therapeutic powers, as well as reams of anecdotal evidence of how immersion makes us feel. The tl;dr – VIBRANTLY ALIVE.

I’ll never swim the waters around Alcatraz, though I may yet swim up and down Lake Ontario, in fits and starts, because cold water immersion is joint-friendly and metabolically supportive, and I want some of that. But as I finish this bit of the book I remember the feeling I feel every time I hit the water – any water. I feel held; I feel lighter than air; I feel able to tumble and turn and twist and dip and dive and come back up, shake it off, take in new air. Damn I miss that feeling!

Here’s Samantha:

Oh, oh, oh. I loved this section of Tsui’s book. It’s just what I came for. I’m interested in exercise we can keep doing a lot of as we age without always trying to juggle exercise and recovery. Note for younger readers: That gets harder as we age and the price of insufficient recovery gets steeper in terms of injury. I love that swimming is a thing you can so a lot of with much less worrying. I also love the section where she talks about the very positive effects of swimming on blood pressure and arthritis. It looks like it’s even better than cycling.

So while I loved the agelessness of swimming and I’m very comfortable swimming outside, even in the ocean, these chapters also made me realize where I might have work to do (or not)–waves and sharks. Also, jellyfish. While I get in the ocean waves usually keep me from doing much actual swimming and I stay away from beaches with sharks. (Or in Australia, away from beaches with ‘triple threat’ signs–sharks, box jelly fish and salt water crocodiles.) The discussion of swimmers’ itch and sea lice was about as unappealing as the health benefits discussion appealed.

A sign for a shark warning bell, with clarificatory image of shark below.

On to Bettina:

Unlike Bonnie Tsui and the people she writes about in the section on “Wellbeing”, I’m not a cold or even an open water swimmer. But this section still strongly resonated with me. I, too, swim for my wellbeing. A large part of this section is dedicated to the story of Kim, the open water swimmer who started after a horrible accident. I would never compare what she went through to my own little tribulations, but definitely, like her, swimming makes me feel better not just physically but mentally.

Swimming is like therapy for me, which is why the last months with all the pools closed in the midst of a global pandemic and after having my entire life change by becoming a mother have been hard. In part, I swim to process. I’ve had some of my best ideas after (not during – while I’m swimming, I’m not focusing on anything else) a good long swim. I don’t think there’s been a time I’ve felt worse after swimming than before, and I’ve been swimming on and off since primary school.

I loved this part of Why We Swim. It was so nice to read the stories of all these people who feel about swimming like I do. I’m a little bit further along in the book now and it’s still my favourite bit so far.

Here’s Diane:

Much of this section resonated for me, as a cold water swimmer with some heart issues (cold water has both benefit and risks), and who has used water as a therapy to heal from injury. Over the years, I have learned about many of the physiological effects of swimming so I could be safe as I got into cold water, but it was great to read the interviews with experts.

Here are some of the phrases that particularly stood out, because they are so true for me:

  • – Smelling the water (the water here smells different depending on the season, and lake water smells different than either the river or the pond near my house);
  • – moving meditation (I don’t swim with music, but I count all my breaths, think about stroke accuracy and body position, gaze at the clouds if I’m on my back, and sometimes hum waltzes inside my head because they are perfect for bilateral breathing);
  • – Being on the edge, the breathlessness and moment of fear as you adapt to the cold water;
  • – Ram Barkai, founder of the International Ice Swimming Association describing the feeling of being intensely, vigorously alive: “The cold and the swim gives one such a rush and sense of health and vigor which is hard to explain unless you have done it.”
  • – Hirofumi Tanaka, a longevity researcher: “I will tell you the one thing that distinguishes swimming from all other forms of exercise. People enjoy it a lot more.” For me, that is key.

I confess I skimmed quickly over the parts about extreme activities, danger, and dealing with sharks or jellyfish. I am comfortable with the odds of being attacked by a shark, have had a run-in or two with little jellyfish and survived, but in general I’m not into doing something so risky that my life is in danger. I’ll push outside my comfort zone within reason, but I never want swimming to stop being fun.

And here’s me, Catherine:

Buoyancy, floating, weightlessness. Freedom. This section, called Well-Being, features stories of swimmers who brave open water, salty water, and cold and icy water, in search of a feeling of oneness, of wholeness. I am in awe of these folks and their feats of athleticism and bravery. At the same time, their swimming goals aren’t my swimming goals.

I enjoy inhabiting the water, moving, floating, enjoying the natural buoyancy of my body. Since I was a child, I’ve been the best floater I know. I love floating, looking up at the sky, hearing nothing but the swish of water. It’s the most peaceful position I know of. Playing in water is the most purely fun thing I know of—kicking and splashing, going under water, diving, emerging, gliding—all of these movements are only possible in and around water, and I love them.

The idea of moving through water for long distances, in cold temperatures, enduring physical difficulties, is not one I immediately relate to. But it’s intriguing enough that I may stretch myself (literally) to see how more swimming and stroking and alternate-side breathing feels over time.

So readers, what do you think? Are you reading or have you read the book? We’d love to hear any comments you have. Feel free to take a dip into the book if you’re interested.

fitness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Friday Link Round Up #103

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'Christyna Johnson, MS, RDN, LDN @encouragingRD your summer body is the one that quarantined to flatten the curve, the one that fed a community, the one on the frontline, the one suddenly homeschooling, the one trying to make ends meet, the one that survived covid. your current body is worthy of sunshine your body is good.'

This week’s link round up is on weight and body shaming.

Your Body Survived a Pandemic. Don’t Punish It With Diet Fads.

Fat-Shaming People Won’t Improve Their Health

Demi Lovato on Why We Shouldn’t Compliment Weight Loss

W.N.B.A. Suspends Coach for Remark About Player’s Weight

Body Shaming, Harmful Diet Culture on the Rise During COVID-19

And from this blog:

The “covid 19” isn’t funny, it’s fat shaming and fat phobic

And flowers, just because.

Yellow flowers. Photo by Sergey Shmidt on Unsplash.

Lost Year

Cate and I were sitting around yapping as we do when she said, “I remember when I was out for dinner with Ty a couple of years ago. . .” Then she stopped, mid sentence and said:

“Everything interesting is a couple of years ago.”

We sat basically in silence for about 30 seconds, which is a long time really, mid conversation.

Everything was a couple of years ago.

I was out on my bike today, for the third time in less than three weeks (yay me) and I was thinking about this idea, that everything feels like it was a couple of years ago. When I concentrate, I can recognize the year that has passed. One year ago this past weekend, we were wrapping up our final intensive, shifted online instead of residential and delayed from March. It was all out of sync, it was too much work, it was horrible. I was struggling hard with the adjustment to being an online therapist. I was hoping that it wouldn’t last past summer. I couldn’t contemplate any further than August. One year ago, I was cancelling travel and watching my kids suffer with online university.

There is a phenomenon in development where people don’t remember their childhoods either because there was so much trauma they dissociate or because it was so boring and void of stimulation there was nothing to keep track of the years. I think this past year was a little of both. There are varying combinations depending on who you are and where you are but we have all had some measure of crushing boredom coupled with trauma, acute or chronic. And so, who wants to remember any of it?

I want to be able to mark that a year has past and that things happened and that they were important. I don’t want this year to be a loss. So, I’m going to take this opportunity to mark down what happened that I think was important, inspired by or somehow pushed by this fricking pandemic. I’m focusing on physical things but also maybe some emotional/spiritual things. Why not?

  1. I learned to lift weights. They weren’t heavy but I finally learned properly in a way that I could understand and relate to my body. I can even fling a few around appropriately if I feel like it.
  2. I really sunk into my yoga practice. It started by clinging to my friend Adriene but has moved outward to something very deliberate and mindful that is extending my realm of flex and reach. I didn’t realize there was so much to accomplish by being still in a pose. It’s the best.
  3. Twenty kilometres is enough of a bike ride. This year, in these three rides I have done, I’m recognizing that I do not have any reason to ride except that I’m having a fun time and getting some exercise. In years previous, I have been training for something big but honestly? Right now, IDGAF. I’m going to ride when I can and only as far as I want to go. It’s totally fine.
  4. I claimed my space. I am one of those people who spent time, energy and money in-between hard lock downs renovating my space. It finally looks like I want it to look and feels like I want it to feel. It’s the first time in my life something has been entirely mine. I’m into it.
  5. I still don’t like running. I don’t. So I won’t.
  6. I am an expert in what I do. This one has been a process that certainly started before the pandemic but something about the intensity of having to adapt and make things work for clients and students and my colleagues who work with me has pushed me to a place that is different than before. I used to be plagued with imposter syndrome, even after 15 years of full time practice. Yet this year, something shifted. My teaching has become more solid and my confidence in my supervision and other work has just solidified. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s IDGAF. I don’t know, but I like it!!
  7. I made adults. Two years ago, both my children were still children. Now, suddenly, we are three adults, living in the house over the summer, negotiating stuff and generally having a good time. They have adapted and survived so well and are coming out of this mess with energy and hope, even as they have the usual gen Z anxiety about their actual future. This time has made me pay more attention to them, be more deliberate about my engagement. I think we are all better for that.
  8. IDGAF. . .about working to end white supremacy and patriarchy in loud ways. I’m working to get louder. I guess saying this here is part of that. My students and the work my school is doing to transform it’s curriculum, structure and student body is part of that too. I learn every day from beautiful people, especially my students.
  9. I’m no longer cool. I have accepted this. My coolness, such as it is, is an “old person” kind. Not only is this okay, it’s a relief. I can let go of the longing and the shame that I have no idea who you are talking about when you mention some actor in a thing that was in another thing. Popular culture is no longer mine. Take it, I don’t want it any more.

There may be more but that’s a good summary. Actually, quite of bit of living has happened in the last year and, as we start to accelerate into a future that is the “after-times”, I am planning to take all these lessons into my expanding world. It’s going to take some effort, some mindful remembering, but I don’t want this year to pretend to disappear. It happened, it was real and it needs to be integrated and remembered as more than just some unpleasantness. It was more than just some unpleasantness.

What is important about your “lost year”? How do you want to make sure you keep it?

“The Lost Year” by Hichter CC by 2.0

Transcendent movement: An interview with Amanda Donato

During our interminable lockdown in Toronto, I’ve come to appreciate classes streamed from two of my usual workout providers even more than I valued them in person. I’ve written at length already about the wonderful Alex and the community they’ve built in our morning workouts that Tracy, Kim and Susan also do. In another zone, I’ve also really come to appreciate live streamed classes from my local studio, Chi Junky — and in that context, have actually discovered my favourite yoga teacher of all time, Amanda Donato. There is something about her teaching and presence that simultaneously makes me feel like I’m exactly perfect as I am as well as inspiring me to reach even deeper and into more complex spaces than I ever have in my 25 years of practice. Via zoom. When I’ve never met her in person. So I asked if I could interview her to try to understand.

Amanda doing the pose that I fell on my face trying.

1.  Can you just tell me a little bit about your background?  I know you’re a dancer, but how did you get to the yoga space you’re in now?

I started dancing at 3 years old at a school specializing in Ballet and Jazz examinations in Scarborough. In my adolescent years, I jumped around a few studios as a recreational dancer, with a burning feeling that I needed more. As I transitioned into more vigorous hours and competitive programs in my teens, there were many contradicting moments where I considered quitting. The whole idea of needing to “know” your future at such a young age confused me. Still does. I was also extremely hard on myself and influenced greatly by external voices whispering: “an artist’s life has no promise or stability”. 

I studied Psychology in University (still a dear love of mine, and an academic path I hope to continue on), and kept up my dance training as I began working professionally. There was, however, a breaking point in my second year of Undergrad. A perfect storm of neglected anxiety, childhood traumas, and self-induced pressure bubbled to the surface… and I lost my grip on reality. 

I don’t remember my conscious decision-making process, but I knew there was a yoga studio down the street from campus. I also knew that a bodily practice had the potential to pull me out of my mind. At least I’d be training my alignment, strength, and flexibility regardless. This was all in addition to seeking a therapist. 
My resonance with yoga was not instantaneous by any means – but it felt like an anchor. There was challenge and grit and sweat (shout out to Queenie Phair’s classes)… and it was void of performance pressure. There was freedom. (This eventually leaked into the way I experience dance now). I intuitively completed my Yoga Teacher Training in the summer of 2015, and my reasons for sticking with Yoga are deeply-ingrained… and ever-changing.

2.  Do you have a philosophy of teaching?  What do you want people in your classes to experience?
I think my teaching has always been enveloped with a deep understanding that yoga has existed long before me, and will exist long after I’m gone. 
I have the responsibility of holding space and guiding bodies when I teach – but I never feel like I’m not a student too. I wish for people in my classes to tap into their life energy, creativity, and agency. I wish for them to feel safe and to embrace curiosity… to connect to joy and playfulness. I see the physical challenges I propose as gateways/catalysts for this.

3.  Do you have a way you describe your orientation to yoga?  What’s the intention or purpose of solo practice for you?  What about practice in community?   (I know these are BIG QUESTIONS that change day to day — whatever comes to mind is fine ;-)).

Connection is the first word that comes to me here. A solo practice is a way for me to remember how multi-faceted I really am… and it pulls me out of how small my mind likes to make me. The wavering openness after a practice is unbeatable: length and space in my joints… my limbs… my heart. My movement practice does not feel like an epiphany every time I step onto my mat, but showing up feels necessary and keeps me creatively accountable. 

Growing up in dance studios… supported by a web of teachers, mentors and peers… was my lifeline. Moving and sweating in a room full of people is still one of my favourite things ever. The energy is unbeatable and community is everything. 

4.  What do you experience when you’re teaching in zoom — how do you stay in your body AND connected to the people on the screen?  How do you stay in your sense of community?

I am in full belief that the in-person class experience cannot be replicated. The subtleties… the nuancing is blurred out with online classes. I also believe, however, that the practice transcends all limitations. When I start a Zoom class, I trust that my intentions and energy will penetrate through screens, and that students will get to intuitively fill in the blanks. I work from a place of celebration: that everyone has gathered at the same time to move in their own spaces. The best thing we can do (especially in these trying times) is to stay with it and remember that we’re not alone. The whole online teaching experience has been this personal case study of how much I can soften, surrender… and proceed to serve my community. I am grateful to every soul that shows up to these classes. 

5. What is it you think you uniquely bring to your teaching?  I keep trying to articulate why it is that I feel so free to explore with you, what the source of my sense of confidence is.  I think part of it is that I feel like you are somehow IN your own body, not self-conscious or something like that, and it invites us to be in the same way.  You are extremely good at cueing verbally — I rarely have to look at the screen to figure out what you’re doing — even when you’re encouraging us to try something I haven’t done before.   You are very conscious of all of the different planes and edges and sensations in your cuing.  And you have all of this confidence that the “hardest” versions of poses are available to us over time — like flying lizard — but I never feel that just staying in the simplest version is “wrong.”  Somehow I feel like I and my body can exist in multiple dimensions in time and space and the same time in your classs, lol — like the Cate today isn’t doing flying lizard but she could if she just focused.  It’s how I managed, in your class, to do a flow from crow to headstand, back to crow and then a graceful chataranga.  It amazed myself.  It’s also why I fell on my face trying to do pincha mayasurana.  LOL  — I forgot I couldn’t do it.

Wow! Thank you, Cate! I am letting your words marinate. Riffing off of what you are saying: 

I feel like I am indebted to the movement I am teaching. What I teach isn’t really “mine”, but something moving through me. I don’t plan specific cues or sequences prior to class, which keeps me incredibly present in my communication… and open to what the people in class are needing that day. I no longer resonate with the “right” or “wrong” dichotomy like I used to. Apparently this comes through… hence you feeling limitless going for pincha! No doubt that I am often negotiating with my default perfectionism and rigidity… but the practice feels so much bigger than that anyway. It always wins. 

6.  Is there anything else you’d like to share about your teaching or your practice or your experience of movement?

My life is enriched when I peel back the thinking mind’s expectations of what “counts” as practice/training and what doesn’t. I’ll go a few weeks without practicing yoga on my own… but immerse myself in running or biking instead. There are times when I feel like I’m choreographing a piece while layering a lasagna and listening to great music. Sometimes reading a book feels like a full-body experience too. 

It’s this constant revisiting… listening… softening…. Grateful for it! 

Amanda is a professional dance artist, educator, yoga instructor and choreographer from Toronto, Canada. You can find Amanda at her website:, where you can sign up for a streamed yoga class or just watch incredible videos of her body moving in dance.


Marathon Swim Plans

I have dreamt about doing a marathon swim (10 km) for several years now. I have done a few 8 km swims and they were fun. But in late July two years ago I broke my arm, so no serious swimming for quite a while. Then COVID hit, which put training on hold for last year. At first it was fear of potentially adding to the health care burden. Then it was the difficulty of getting to my usual lake to train. I did manage a 5 km swim in the Ottawa River, but that was it.

This is going to be my year! I turned 60 on my last birthday, so I zcan make this a birthday goal of sorts. Many swimmers do 100 M for each year of life for their birthday. That’s a mere 6 km, a reasonable training distance for later this summer.

Instead of simply swimming lots, I’m going to try following an actual training program. I’m going to aim for a mid-late August swim date, which gives me about 14 weeks to get ready. My first two weeks will be about establishing consistency, with two or three swim sessions per week (average swim distance 2.5-3 km each time). I’m not quite up to 3 km per swim yet, but I know I can do that pretty easily this week, if the weather holds up and I can get into the water.

My challenge will be getting the training done before the water starts getting cold. One training plan suggests 13 weeks, with at least one 8 km swim before the big day. The other suggests 20 weeks, with more frequent but shorter swims.

My friend Aimee has agreed to be my support, in a kayak or on her SUP so she can carry a phone and my snacks, watch out for boats, and help me keep going in a straight line. I’ll need to figure out feeds and water. The swim will likely take me 5 hours (maybe a little more). What does 0.8 to 1.0g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per hour translate to in snacks or gels? 500 to 800 ml of fluid per hour is on top of that, but at least I can do the calculations.

Now that I have written it all down, I feel a little intimidated. No matter. I will enjoy the swimming. Whether I actually complete a marathon swim is almost irrelevant. It would be a nice accomplishment, but I swim for fun.

Diane in a blue swim cap and dark goggles, surrounded by water and with trees in the background

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa.