On inspiring, mentoring and being role models for the next generation of women athletes

For today’s post, we turn back to Tracy’s 2019 post on how women athletes are role models for the next generations of Olympians, professionals, and active women, enjoying life through physical activity.

Who were your sports or activity role models growing up? Chris Evert was one of mine in tennis (she was called Chrissie then). I was a kid just starting to play, and I was fascinated by her two-handed backhand (very unusual in those days) and her intensity on the court.

Enjoy your reading, and I hope you take a moment to think about and appreciate yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s women athlete role models.



How to increase your heart rate, courtesy of the patriarchy

I feel like I’ve been living on a Ferris wheel these past few months. One day you are up and celebrating a new step forward to a post pandemic world and the next you are down seething at the ridiculousness of the world.

Image shows a Ferris wheel with multi coloured seats. Photo by Daniel Roe on Unsplash

I wear a fitbit to track my steps, and recently I discovered I can track my heart rate as well. It’s a lovely little bit of data but I am troubled by the fact that my heart rate does jump when I read the news, or to be more precise, news which details once again how the patriarchy manifests itself in discriminatory actions against women.

This summer’s target is women in sport. As we near the Olympics, delayed from last year as a result of the pandemic, but going ahead under significantly different and challenging circumstances this year in Japan, the daily news offers a consistent menu of frustration and anger with a generous side of jackassery.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about structural racism in sport, looking at negative decisions taken against Black women, nursing athletes and individuals the sporting kingmakers deemed not sufficiently female enough. Let’s look at what’s on tap this week — along with garden variety sexism, we have generous servings of ableism:

  1. the Norwegian handball team wants to wear shorts instead of skimpy bikini bottoms, but their governing body says no. When the team goes ahead and wears them, the federation fines them.
  2. a ParaOlympian is told her running briefs are too skimpy and an official tells her she should cover up with shorts. (Maybe this official should have conferred with the handball officials?)
  3. another ParaOlympian is told she cannot take her personal support attendant with her to Tokyo. As she cannot navigate the Olympic Village without assistance, she has decided she cannot go. Others have also made this decision.

It’s enough to make your heart and mind explode.

Image shows a person in the lower right holding a confetti tube from confetti is spraying upwards into the air. Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

The policing of women’s clothing isn’t new. Early in July, we saw swimming officials lose their nut over swimming caps designed to fit the heads of Black women. Once again white norms were expected to prevail because these hats designed to protect Black women’s hair might give them an advantage or something. We have also seen clothing policies that limit what female Muslim athletes can wear. Again nothing new, as France some years ago instituted a modest clothing ban on its beaches, targeting — you guessed it — Muslim women.

It seems especially egregious though that women from across the spectrum are being singled out. Officials in the case of the ParaOlympian are blaming each other when advance planning could have prevented the situation. Contradictory policies abound and no one seems to think it’s odd that one group is told to cover up and the other is told to bare all. I mean look at this picture:

Image shows Norway’s handball teams, the men on the left and the women on the right. The men wear long tanks and loose shorts; the women wear bralettes and bikini bottoms.

Yes, the global pandemic means we have to do some things differently. However, when so-called “objective” rules affect women disproportionately, we have to stop and ask why. When we look at the decisions highlighted in the stories above, we clearly see male power at work. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport says, “The rules of sport are meant to create a level playing field. In this respect, the rules are failing. They fail to create sport environments that recognize the dignity and even humanity of some of its most spectacular participants.

When I look at the girls and young women around me today, they are doing amazing things. Several of my friends have daughters who played hockey, and four of them took on the goalie role. I can’t think of a single classmate of mine who played hockey at the same age, but I know quite a few who play hockey today.

Earlier this winter, a friend shared a marvelous video of a toddler snowboarding her way through the trees, her dad behind her. The confidence and the sheer joy of making it through the trail are palpable. Everyone should have that joy; everyone should have that recognition; everyone should have that support to do the best they can. Anything less is unacceptable.

–MarthaFitat55 is a writer getting her fit on in all the ways that work for her.


Serena speaks up: “It’s never been easy…but I think of the next girl”

The Olympics are almost upon us, and there’s lots for FIFI bloggers and readers to chew on. Whether it’s banning swim caps that are the right size for some athletes’ hair, or fining handball/volleyball players for wearing boy shorts instead of bikini bottoms for competition, we’re seeing active women being policed for what they wear, no matter what they’re doing and what the reason.

I’m reminded of one of the OGs of wearing what works and what she wants while wowing the world with new records and accomplishments. Yes, I’m talking about Serena Williams. She was criticized for wearing a practical and useful catsuit at the French Open, among other things.

Here’s a blog post by Tracy from 2019 about the inimitable Serena—what she has done for women’s tennis and for women in general. Check out some of our other posts about her as well, if you’re interested (found in the post).

Enjoy the rest of the week, and feel free to wear anything you want!

fitness · mindfulness · motivation

What happens when you meditate for 60 days straight and then miss day 61?

SPOILER: the answer is, “nothing much”. If you have more time to read, check out the details below.

I’ve been using the Ten Percent Happier app and loving it. I’ve also gotten hooked on the milestones feature.

Listing of daily, weekly and session milestones. I’m at 450 sessions, 50 weeks, and 60 days. Until Monday…

I went to Cape Elizabeth Maine for the weekend with friends to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a friend’s 50th birthday (for which we had planned a trip in 2020 which– obvs– didn’t happen). I used the app each morning for wake-up mediation.

In the waking up section, there are loads of meditations to do either while still in bed (my choice) or upon first getting out of bed.

When I went home, the next morning I slept late, and didn’t do the wake-up app. I lazed around, watching tv and playing on my computer. Didn’t get around to proper sitting meditation. By the time I was thinking of turning in (and picking a sleep-easier meditation), it was past midnight.


Listing of my last four weeks of meditations, with one day missing-- Sunday! Argh!
Listing of my last four weeks of meditations, with one day missing– Sunday! Argh!

I had just reached the 60-day milestone, too, and was looking forward to chugging along to 70. Now I had to start all over again. Grrr. Argh.

It felt…. uh, how did it feel?

After the fussing and fretting passed, it didn’t feel like much of anything. I wasn’t numb or paralyzed, or deflated, just… there.


Today, I woke up and decided to do a sitting meditation. It would’ve been day 62 in a row, but instead was day 1 in a row. How did it feel to start over? Honestly, it didn’t feel any different– just like, well, meditation.

Wow again.

Why wow? Because unlike most things I do, where I don’t like tracking numbers (we wrote about fitness tracking recently here), I really got into tracking my meditation practice. Why? Because developing a practice means doing something habitually– often, regularly, consistently. Consistency is not my strong suit, but I’m drawn to the idea of creating the conditions for stillness and quiet in my body and mind each day. So I’ve been meditating regularly, several days a week, for the past year, using my mediation app to keep track.

The thing is, once I noticed I was racking up the weeks and days in a row, I started getting attached to those numbers. Each day or so I’d check my milestones menu, looking ahead to the next goal. Is this a bad thing? No. But attachment comes with disappointment when goals aren’t met. And I didn’t meet a goal.

But the funny thing is– my body and mind were like, oh yeah, I guess we forgot that one. Hmmm, do we want a banana? And then the next day, I just sat down and meditated. Again. As one does when one is developing a meditation practice.

There’s a huuuuge literature on mediation and attachment, about which I know very little. But a quick takeway is that when we get attached to things or people or outcomes, we can become less happy, more anxious, and (importantly) lose the connection to ourselves in this moment.

Whether it’s meditation, cycling, yoga, swimming, writing, or whatever activity you want to make a regular and solid part of your life, having goals and plans and schedules are important. So is realizing that goals aren’t always met, plans sometimes go awry (love that word!), and schedules occasionally get broken. Whatcha gonna do then?

Get up the next day, get back to the practice, and do the thing.

Although I’m still a little bummed about not being on a 62-day streak, today is really about my one-day streak. As it is every day.

Hey readers– how do you deal with interrupted streaks of whatever? Does it throw you off your game? Do you just keep on truckin’? I’d really like to hear what your experience is here. If you’d like to share…

ADHD · cycling · family · fitness

Like Riding A Bike…ish

I’ve always owned a bike and I’ve always enjoyed riding my bike but most of my extensive riding was when I was a kid.

Since then, I’ve never really done enough cycling to build skill, strength, or any sort of endurance.

I think the issue started when I graduated to a bike with gears. I could never quite grasp how to use them properly. The knowledge that the gears were supposed to be useful but I couldn’t use them well was frustrating and I got out of the habit of going any real distance.

This is an ADHD-related issue for me – this kind of thinking crops up for me again and again. I have to keep reminding myself of the issue that Geraint Evans describes so succinctly below.

a screencap of a tweet by Geraint Evans (@Geraintworks) The background is black and the text is white. The text reads “NT: Not everything about you is ADHD Me: Ok, which parts of you aren’t anything to do with how your brain works?”
Image description: a screencap of a tweet by Geraint Evans (@Geraintworks) The background is black and the text is white. The text reads “NT: Not everything about you is ADHD Me: Ok, which parts of you aren’t anything to do with how your brain works?”

If I add the frustration with gears to the effort required to get out on my bike and then add those things to my ADHD-fuelled notions that a) I needed long rides in order to get good at cycling and b) that once I had the skills I would have to either head out on steep bumpy trails or head out into traffic (neither of which is a burning desire for me), you can see why my desire to ride didn’t add up to much actual riding.

You can, of course, see the flaws in my (previously unexamined) thinking. But I didn’t even realize that I was working from those assumptions and frustrations until recently when my husband has gotten back into cycling.

I really admire the way that Steve gets into new (or renewed) fitness things. He does enough research to ensure some base knowledge and his safety and then he just gets started.

He doesn’t have to make a big plan, he doesn’t generally have a clearly defined end goal. He just gets started and works in small sessions until he feels an improvement and then he increases the challenge in some way.

This is a stark contrast to the way my brain wants to approach any fitness plan. I want a clear plan with fixed time intervals and incremental milestones…

…and then I probably won’t follow it because it is too rigid and doesn’t allow for the way my life works.

So, as Steve has been getting back into cycling, he has been heading out for short jaunts on the side roads and paved trails near our house. Sometimes he is gone for 10 minutes, sometimes it is half an hour or more, depending on his capacity that day.

I’ve decided to copy his approach.

And I’ve decided that I never have to go on a busy road or a bumpy trail if I don’t feel inclined to.*

Taking those possible end points out of consideration made things a lot easier for me.

The other night Steve and I dragged my bike out of the shed, checked it over, and then I took a little spin around the cul-de-sac. Since I only had a few minutes right then, I would have normally just put the bike back in the shed until I had time for a ride.

But because I am employing the Steve method, I went out for a few minutes. Obviously, not a skill-building ride but it was fun to spend even that little bit of time on my bike.

And while I was riding I had a lightbulb moment.

Not only can I ride in small bursts of time but I have the perfect practice spot nearby.

There are two empty-for-the-summer schools just minutes from my house. One of them even has a significant slope down from the road so I can get better at hills (a necessity in this province!) It won’t be an exciting place ride but it will be a safe and useful one.

A woman stands astraddle a black bicycle in a parking lot. She is facing the camera. There is a light-haired dog in a harness at the bottom of the image.
Steve and Khalee came with me for my first practice session. Image description: Here I am , in black capris, a pink jacket, sunglasses and a white bike helmet, standing astraddle my black bike. I’m in a school parking lot and I look apprehensive. My dog, Khalee, is on her harness in front of me. My husband, who is taking the photo, is holding Khalee’s leash.

So, you may never see me on a road with traffic and I may never go on a bumpy trail, but this will be the summer that I finally use my bike as much as I would like to.

Thanks for inspiring me to rethink things, Steve! 💚

A ‘selfie’ of two people in sunglasses. The person on the left is wearing a bike helmet.
Steve and I after my cycling practice. Image description: My husband Steve and I are facing the camera as he takes a selfie. He’s smiling a little and I’m smirking. I’m wearing my helmet, sunglasses, and a pink jacket. He’s wearing a blue T-shirt with the word Texas on the front and orange framed sunglasses with blue lenses. We are slightly leaning towards each other.

* The bumpy trails may become a possibility, the busy roads are extremely unlikely. My particular manifestation of ADHD makes riding very complex, adding traffic into the mix means waaaaaaay too many things to pay attention to at once. Perhaps that will change as my skills with the bike improve but it’s not even on the table as of now.

aging · birthday · cycling · fitness

What are the rules for birthday rides!

A white coaster bike on a street under a sign that reads “Follow that dream”

I’m a member of a Facebook group for cyclists over 50. There’s a great group ethos of supporting one another however far and fast we’re riding. We even seem to have, knock on wood, laid the e-bike controversy to rest. It’s also the most geographically and racially diverse cycling group I’ve ever been a member of. 10/10 if you’re a cyclist over 50, who uses Facebook, recommend.

One of the common things that members post are photos of birthday rides. I love them. But what I don’t love are all the people who seem very insecure about what counts. Like, someone says “I’m 68 and I want to do a birthday ride. Is it okay if I do in kilometers or does it have to be in miles?”

Just today someone asked if it still counted if they did their birthday ride on a trainer because it’s cold and snowy in their part of the world on their birthday.

Can we scream together?

In response someone recently posted this lovely list of ‘birthday bike ride rules.’

Rules for birthday ride

  1. You must do your age or not.
  2. You must do it on your birthday or not.
  3. You must do it in one continuous ride or not.
  4. You can’t substitute kilometers for miles or not.

These rules must be strictly adhered to or not.

Next month I’m turning 57 and likely I’ll gather up a group of friends and ride 57 km but I also hope that if I make it to 80 while still riding bikes I won’t feel pressured to ride 80 km. Any distance, at any age, is a celebration of life and movement.

Happy Birthday and have a great ride!

Bike with a basket of flowers
fitness · holiday fitness

Catherine’s slowness plan update: replace FOMO with POMO (pleasure of missing out)

Last month I wrote about my slowness plan for the summer of whatever-this-is-with-respect-to-the-pandemic. If you missed it, here’s the short version:

Feel free to go slow.

Just to clarify, the slowness plan is not this:

Cutesy but demanding message saying “it does matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”. No.

Nor is it this:

Go slow to go fast? Not part of my slowness plan.
Go slow to go fast? Not part of my slowness plan.

My slowness plan is about paying attention to what I want to do, how I’m feeling (physically, emotionally), and how adjusting my pace or frequency or duration will affect my ability to do things and also my satisfaction in doing them. This reads well on the page, but is not so easy to implement in reality. Why? FOMO– Fear Of Missing Out.

I love being with my peeps, doing what they’re doing. Saying no to something that’s potentially fun or interesting is hard.

But, this weekend, on a trip with friends to Cape Elizabeth, Maine (yay for vaccination!) I tried out POMO– Pleasure of Missing Out– instead. How is POMO possible?

Because, in reality, we all have needs and limits. Some of us (in this case, me) aren’t early risers. Others of us, aren’t into ocean swimming. So we don’t all need to do all the things all the time. We can take a pass. As my friend Madeline says, we don’t need to have ALL the fun. Wise words, those.

So I did, on Saturday morning. Instead of cycling to the coffee shop and cute general store 3 miles away, I stayed in bed another 45 minutes in a very quiet and peaceful house. It was … heavenly. Then I got up, made myself a latte, meditated, and worked on a piece for my writing class (I’m a student for the next month! Yay!)

When the coffee riders returned, I was happy to see them. Michele offered to take a short ride with me to nearby Kettle Cove. It turned out to be a sort of POMO pilgrimage site– not much going on, but loads of pleasure in just being there.

You might be thinking, hey– you didn’t miss out! You did a thing and enjoyed it. How is that POMO? Well, for me, giving myself space to NOT do everything that’s offered allowed me to take great pleasure in the things I ended up choosing instead:

  • sleep (oh, sweet sleep!)
  • coffee (oh, necessary coffee)
  • meditation (…)
  • impromptu short ride with friend

Hey readers, have you tried saying no to a thing and watched what happened (and didn’t happen) instead? Have you pulled off the POMO state? I’d love to hear from you.

racism · sexism · swimming

Dear Swimming, Bettina forgives you

Dear swimming,

you’ve been giving me a hard time these past few weeks. There was the news about swim caps designed for swimmers of colour’s hair being banned from the Olympics (the explanations were ridiculous). There was the woman who was attacked by a man in the pool for the audacity of being faster than him. And there was the former international competitive swimmer who still has to deal with men who can’t deal with her being faster.

An open air swimming pool glistening in the sunlight.

There was also the time I went to the pool to find three (!) less than mediocre male swimmers who were holding up all traffic in a highly populated pool because they thought they were entitled to being in the fast lane by virtue of being able to float (don’t get me wrong – it’s great that these guys are getting their movement in, but did they have to do it in the fast lane when they weren’t, I don’t know, fast?).

I mean, WTF? You, dear swimming, have been trying your hardest to ruin things. The racism and the sexism, it’s just not on. Get with the programme!

And yet, you somehow manage to redeem yourself every time I get in the water. You’re so meditative, splish splash, back and forth, breathe-two-three-breathe-two-three. You let my mind drift and get a fresh perspective on things. You’re exhausting in a good way. You make me feel free.

So these horrible things are not your fault, I suppose? They’re the fault of some people who are intent on ruining things for others, or who simply don’t care about the impact their behaviour has on their fellow humans. I forgive you, dear swimming, but I certainly will have a hard time forgiving those people.

With much love,

canoe · fitness

Decolonizing your canoe trip

Canadian Canoe Museum

Sarah and I have a big canoe trip planned for the end of July, our longest back country canoe camping trip yet. You know that if you read last Monday’s blog post.

Blog readers also know settler Canadians are grappling with the discovery of unmarked graves and unearthing the bodies of Indigenous children who were killed at residential schools across the country. You can read Cate’s post on cancelling Canada Day for more. We didn’t celebrate Canada Day in my house and we’ve been thinking a lot about what’s ethically required of us as settlers on this land.

Since I’ve also been thinking about our canoe trip–that very Canadian activity–I’ve been thinking about the connection between recreational canoeing and camping, and land ownership and decolonization.

I guess I started to think about recreational wilderness, protected lands, parks and what that means when I attended a talk at the University of Waterloo the year before the pandemic–checks calendar–that’s 2019. The speaker was Kyle Whyte and his talk was called “Not Done Critiquing Wilderness Areas, National Parks & Public Lands.” He’s a professor at the University of Michigan and more recently also a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the White House. Whyte is Potawatomi and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

After listening to Whyte’s talk I began to wonder about the ways I enjoy the land and the water while back country canoe camping. Aside from the very obvious and glaring issues of whose land the parks are on, that talk made me think about the way settler paddlers treat parks as pristine nature museums. We don’t see ourselves as part of nature. Instead we’re visiting it with the ideal of leaving it exactly as we found it. There’s no cutting trees, no fishing, no hunting. Instead we carry in dehydrated meal packages and carry out our garbage.

The take away lessons from Kyle White’s talk were more about policy and models of shared park management, less about individual behavior.

So I was happy to see some personal, rather than policy, advice on how to responsibly enjoy back country canoe camping as a settler Canadian.

Here’s the advice shared on Facebook by the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Learn the Indigenous language of the territory in which you’re paddling. What is the language? Learn some basic phrases. What are the names of the rivers and lakes you’re paddling on in those languages?

Know the treaty territory you’re paddling through. Print the text of the treaty, read it on your trip, and share it with other paddlers.

Build relationships.

Take action.

Learn the history and the stories

“The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.”
― Thomas King

“You have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told.”
― Thomas King, 

Both quotes are from The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative.

So when I report back from our canoe trip, I’m also hoping to report back with some details about history, language, and story.

body image · tbt

The unexpected advantages of growing up chubby (#reblog, #tbt)

After yesterday’s post about why focusing on ‘results’ and looking fit isn’t the best motivation for working out, Nicole and I got chatting about why this hits some people harder than others. I shared this older post about the advantages of never really being inside the beauty ideal. Here it is as our Throwback Thursday post….

“I have a fairly robust self image despite being significantly overweight. How did I come by this? It’s puzzled me a bit so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.

It’s not that I think my body is perfect, far from it. I see the flaws: footballer knees, a soft lower belly from pregnancy, wide calves, short legs/long torso… What I mean is that when I look in the mirror, I usually smile. I see my stretch marks even (hard to be pregnant three times without getting some) with affection.

I used to think that body acceptance would be easier if you were closer to society’s ideals for women. Now I see that isn’t so. Doing the Lean Eating program I got to know some very small women with some serious body image issues. I found some of the self-loathing pretty difficult to be around and in the end I chose a smaller subset of that community as allies and friends….”

Read more here.