On “cancelling” Canada Day (#tbt, #reblog)

On The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation , we’re re-blogging Cate’s post from July 1 of this year on ‘cancelling’ Canada Day in light of the exposure of unmarked graves of children on the sites of former so-called “residential schools,” cultural assimilation centres for Indigenous children. It seemed like a good post to reread today.

blog · blogging · fitness · top ten

Top Ten Posts, September 2021, #ICYMI

The two most read posts in September are all about menopause.

Alexis’ review of the Menopause Manifesto was our most read post of the month.

And second was Cate’s chestnut about still menstruating in her 50s.

Third was Cate’s post/rant about media coverage of a doctor claiming that we all need to fit into the same jeans we wore when we were 21, or risk death by diabetes. Bah!

Fourth was another oldie, loved by search engines everywhere on crotch shots and the objectification of women athletes.

Fifth was Alexis’ review of What Fresh Hell is This?.

Sixth was Tracy’s 57th birthday post, reflections on her birthday, what it all means, especially during the pandemic.

Yellow and white floral cake. Happy Birthday! Photo by  Erin Schmerr  on  Scopio

Seventh was A Milestone & Kind Strangers (Guest Post) by Joy.

Grayscale photo of bicycle on grass field. Photo by  yagnik vasani  on  Scopio

Eighth, Catherine wrote about the 10 percent happier app a few months ago.

Ninth, this month Catherine blogged about new research on metabolism.

And our tenth post read was Cate’s story of softening her completist personality while bike riding in Bulgaria.

fitness · injury · monthly check in

Sam is Checking in for September 2021: Goodbye Snipe, Hello Zwift, and More Knee Sadness

September is the month where some activities end and others begin.

One that’s ending is sailboat racing. Bye Snipe! Water levels depending there may be a Turkey Regatta but I don’t think our schedules will fit it in. But we did race in the Snipe Nationals and ended the race feeling inspired to get better and be more competitive. That felt significant.

Here’s the official report here. And my blog post about our race is here.

Here’s photos from the Snipe Nationals:

September was also our last canoe camping trip of the season. It felt like we were sneaking in one last weekend in Algonquin. It was cold. It was wet. But it was also glorious. The fall colours were beautiful. We also saw a moose! But now we are drying out and putting away the canoe, paddles, etc until next spring.

September feels like a transitional month because while we are scrambling to sneak in some last outdoor bike rides, sail boat races, and canoe trips, it’s also the month that we are back to Zwift.

I’m just over halfway through Zwift Academy Road 2021. It feels good to making decent progress this time through. Last year was a little dicey!

I’m back to racing Thursday night team time trials with TFC on Team Phantom and I’m also captaining another TFC team, Team Dynamite, in the Tuesday night Zwift Racing League (ZRL) series.

We still have four spots available if you’re a category D rider looking for some company and competition and lots of laughs. Drop me a line! I’m racing in the mixed category and we’re a North American team, participating in the 730 pm EST time slot. I’ll blog about trying to organize a Zwift team/herd cats later, I’m sure.

Our first race was last night on Watopia’s Waistband. It’s a good distance, for me, just under 30 km, and relatively flat. It was a TTT and we needed four riders to compete. We started out with 6 but two people had technical difficulties and didn’t make it either into, or out of, the start pen. Our team of four was me, two other Phantom regulars, and a new person. It all went relatively smoothly with one team member keeping us in line (thanks Keith!) and another rider taking the majority of the turns at the front (thanks Jack!). Results won’t be posted until tomorrow but I’m not much fussed. Really it’s about improving over the season and coming together as a team. We’ll get there.

I’ve also rejoined the gym! More on that later too but the short version is “thanks vaccine mandates!”

I started these monthly updates because of impending knee replacement surgery. Turns out it’s not so ‘impending’ thanks to covid in addition to the usual wait times in my part of the world. I met with the surgeon and did the pre-op check up in August of 2019. Two years have passed since then. On the one hand, it’s not such a big deal. I can ride my bike and walk Cheddar in the neighbourhood. On the other, I’m in pain everyday, and waking during the night with knee pain. It doesn’t let up even though I am working around it. I plan my trips up and downstairs carefully. I miss long dog hikes and even walks around the city. I was thinking that stay-at-home pandemic time wouldn’t be a bad time to be recovering from knee replacement but it looks like the world will be wide open for travel and I’ll still be waiting. Grrr.


Fitness Buddies

This week, someone asked for suggestions on keeping motivated to do fitness activities. There plenty of good suggestions about scheduling workouts into your day so they become a priority, finding activities that work for you, setting goals such as competing in a race, etc.

My best hint is to have fitness buddies. Over the years, I have gravitated to activities I can do with friends. As an introvert who is highly susceptible to peer pressure, it’s perfect.

I can get some social time but don’t actually have to be too social; mostly we are doing our own thing, and there is a time limit. Since most of my fitness buddies are extroverts, they are really good at setting up times to meet; I will happily join them whenever possible.

The social aspect is really good for mental health too. I have friends associated with each activity. In most cases, we met at ballet, or a swim club, or at the barn, but many of those friendships go well beyond that specific sport. One example is my ballet buddy who morphed into a walkng buddy, and now we are simply friends (who still do classes and walk and swim together). I don’t have a lot of friends from work, and my family is small, so I really value these social connections.

My newest fitness buddy is also one of my oldest. I took up adult ballet when my daughter was an enthusiastic young dancer. I learned to ride a horse because it was warmer than sitting in an unheated arena during her lessons. We took lessons together until she was in her teens and I bought Fancy for her.

We have shared Fancy for seven years now, which has meant only one of us could ride at a time. Priority went to my daughter, and I got out of the habit of going more than once a week. That got even worse when the pandemic hit and my weekly lessons ended. But now she is riding another horse for a friend, so I have taken to joining her for morning rides. I am really enjoying the time with her. Secretly, I hope she buys Mickey so we can keep riding together.

My daughter in an outdoor arena under a bright blue sky, riding Mickey, a brown horse, with the shadow from my horse and me in the foreground.

Diane Harper lives in Ottawa.


The jeans you wore when you were 21?

So I came across this piece in the Guardian this morning: “People who can’t fit into jeans they wore at age 21 risk developing diabetes

That headline turned me inside out with rage. What kind of bullshit shaming of aging is this? How does this researcher know what size jeans anyone wore at 21? Should I have been recording the shifts in my ass size over the past 35 years?

Basically, this doofus is saying that everyone who has type 2 diabetes should lose at least 10% of their body weight, even if they are a “normal” size. (Just think about that for a moment). Then he adds “If you can’t get into the same size trousers now [you wore when you were 21], you are carrying too much fat and therefore at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even if you aren’t overweight.”

And what the fuck kind of scientific measure is the size of your jeans?

Martha replied: “It’s the Patriarchal Measuring Standard or PMS for men.”

I started thinking about how my jeans size changed as I got older, even as I weighed the same. BODIES CHANGE, PEOPLE.

I think what made me so mad is the offhand way both the researcher and the reporter implied that normal body shape changing is dysfunctional. I don’t see in this piece anything about knowing what size people actually WERE at 18 or 21 or whatever — just some really misguided, offhand comments assuming young = thin = healthy and anyone else (older, larger, female-er?) is inherently unhealthy.

And this nonsense is based on measuring pancreatic function of people consuming only 800 liquid calories a day. As Nicole says, “Even if what the jerk is saying is true, it’s not a reasonable intervention to expect people to live on an 800 calorie liquid diet for any length of time.?

Catherine said: yet another case of stupid journalist making a clickbait headline, outright fabricating shaming messaging not found in the presentation. There’s loads of scientific evidence that people with borderline or mild type 2 diabetes can achieve lower biological metrics (e.g. A1c– blood sugar level) with even 5–10% weight loss. But they can also achieve it through exercise, especially those with higher BMIs. There are many paths to improved metabolic states, and many tests to determine improved wellness. None of them involve stonewashed jeans. Just saying.

I think I join all of us in saying GRRRR.

ADHD · fitness · stretching · yoga

Christine is putting her best foot..upward?

I’ve been working on relieving the pain around my heel in one way or another since May.

I’ve been doing all manner of stretches for my calves and the rest of my legs and I have been rolling a ball under my foot to try to get the muscles there to loosen up.

It’s all been helping a bit and I can definitely feel the progress but it has been slow, slow, slow.

A GIF of tortoise moving slowly across a tile floor.
Has my progress been faster than this? Probably. But this matches my perception of my speed. Image description: A GIF of a tortoise moving VERY slowly across a tile floor. Greenery and the legs of a patio table can be seen in the background.

And it doesn’t help that my brain keeps telling me that the slow progress is because I am not working hard enough at my stretches. That may or may not be true (it’s hard to tell) but my brain doesn’t have to be a jerk about it.

In my first post about this, I mentioned getting on my own nerves by having to learn the same lesson over and over again and I am finding myself at that same annoying spot of relearning something I already know.

So, I have been been pretty consistent with my stretches and with rolling the ball under my foot. I was trusting in the process even as I was watching the clock. (Gold star for me – )

But in my frustration with my slow progress, I forgot that there are many different exercises that will accomplish the same thing. So, since my progress was slow, it might be time to think about the problem in a different way.*

Since the ball rolling didn’t seem to be loosening my feet very much and I couldn’t stand to press any harder, maybe I needed to stretch my feet just as much as I needed to stretch my calves.

So, I did a quick search and found this marvelous video from Yoga with Cassandra. Not only are the stretches good but the video is short – a definite bonus in my books.

A YouTube video from Yoga with Cassandra. The still image shows a slender white woman with her hair in a braid, she is doing a version of downward dog while perched on a grey yoga mat on a wooden floor.

I’ve done the stretches in this video every day for a week now and the difference in my heels is astounding.

I think that the ball rolling was even less effective (for me) than I had realized and these stretches mean that I am finally addressing the whole issue instead of just a part of it.

I am finally seeing measurable progress and I am so relieved.

PS – I’m really tempted to make a list of ‘Lessons I’ve Already Learned’ so I can give them a quick read every so often to see if any of them apply to any current circumstances.

*It’s funny that divergent thinking is one of the creative strengths of the ADHD brain…but I forgot to use that tool for this issue!

boats · competition · fitness · race report · racing · sailing

Sam and Sarah Race in Snipe Nationals

Last weekend I did something brand new. And I had fun. And I will definitely do it again.

Sarah and I raced our Snipe, a 15 1/2 foot dinghy, in the Canadian National Snipe Championships. It was two days of racing over Saturday and Sunday based at our home club, the Guelph Community Boating Club, on Guelph Lake.

We had one goal, and one goal only, and that goal was to not slow down the racing. The next race doesn’t start until the last boat finishes and sometimes, earlier in the season, we were far enough behind that people had to wait. But not this time. We weren’t even last every race and often we were right in the mix with the other boats, having to worry about right of way rules and the like. Starboard! (That’s a thing you can yell when you’re on starboard tack and have right of way. Other boats need to move.)

We also had the perfect amount of wind. Yes, gusty. We have enough weight to be able to deal with that by getting up on high side and hiking. But also not dead calm which can be a bit of an issue this time of year.

What else to love? The community. One of the things I like best about Snipe racing is the range of ages of people racing the boats. Best guess? 12 to 70, but with a fair number of teenagers. There’s a perfect mix, for me, of community and fun and competition.

Our strengths? We got better over time and I think we’ve got lots of endurance and stamina. Thanks bike riding! We’re also good at paying attention and concentrating.

Our weaknesses? We need more time in the boat. We have to go out and deliberately practice mark roundings.

For me, I’ve been getting better moving around in the boat. With my severely arthritic knee, it’s taken a bit work but I am getting there.

After two days in the boat we both felt incredibly beat up, after a fair bit of crashing around. Both days we came home, grabbed food, and fell hard and fast asleep. That was a lot of work and concentration. Zzzzz!

So next year, and we will race again in the Nationals next year, we’ll practice and we’ll also break out our race sails. It was fun to be close enough to the fast boats to think that with work we can actually be competitive.

Here’s hoping that next year pandemic restrictions remain eased and we can actually get out and sail earlier in the season. Fun times!

And here’s some photos! Thanks to the lovely volunteers for taking them.

fitness · Science

Surprising new research on human metabolism: overview and some questions

CW: brief discussion of weight-blaming and shaming of people over 40.

Ah, conventional wisdom! We rely on it, use it to advise and direct other people, and conveniently forget times it doesn’t work for us. I decided to look up some good examples of conventional wisdom that are clearly not wisdom (in fact not even knowledge, as they’re arguably false). Here are some:

You get what you pay for.

One financial site pointed out that, in many circumstances, we get what we don’t pay for. That is, paying for something is a loss for us, and paying more is a greater loss. We have to pay close attention when paying more to determine if it’s a good deal. Hmmm…. Good thinking.

Warren Buffet, famous rich money-making person agrees, saying “price is what you pay. Value is what you get”.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

This saying suggests we have two options when things get difficult: push on through, or abandon our plans. No– I don’t think so. Informal logic classifies this as a bona-fide fallacy: the fallacy of false dilemma. When faced with a crisis or barrier, there are almost never only two options. We can slow down, enlist others, shift timelines, take a break and regroup, recast the parameters of the project… I could go on.

Here’s great advice on what to do if you’ve got too much heat/spice in food: add acid, veggies, nuts, broth, dairy, sweet or just make more. No need to leave the dish.

At last, we get to human metabolism and aging. Here’s the conventional wisdom:

No matter what we do, our metabolisms slow down over time, especially after age 40.

According to this view, our metabolisms slow gradually as we age and we experience a marked and continued slowdown of resting metabolic rate (insert all kinds of asterisks here, as this is super-complicated, and the conventional wisdom often conflates lots of distinct metabolic processes). In addition, there’s also conventional wisdom about ways we have control over our metabolisms.

Okay, if the convention wisdom about slow but inexorable decline in human metabolism is wrong, then what is right?

Short answer: we’re a long way from knowing in great detail how human metabolism works, and applying that to clinical medical and health practice.

Longer answer: a new study, combining very high-quality data on more than 6500 subjects from more than 40 testing sites, suggests a new four-stage model of human metabolism over the life trajectory. Veteran NY Times science write Gina Kolata sums it up here:

  • There’s infancy, up until age 1, when calorie burning is at its peak, accelerating until it is 50 percent above the adult rate.
  • Then, from age 1 to about age 20, metabolism gradually slows by about 3 percent a year.
  • From age 20 to 60, it holds steady.
  • And, after age 60, it declines by about 0.7 percent a year.

For those of you who prefer graphs, the original paper explains it below:

Graph of metabolism over the life span, showing sharp increase in energy expenditure through childhood, sharp drop in adolescence, plateau to age 60, then decline.

Here’s another conventional wisdom-buster from the paper that Kolata reports:

Once the researchers controlled for body size and the amount of muscle people have, they also found no differences between men and women.

But wait, there’s more myth-busting:

The four periods of metabolic life depicted in the new paper show “there isn’t a constant rate of energy expenditure per pound,” Dr. Redman noted. The rate depends on age. That runs counter to the longstanding assumptions she and others in nutrition science held.

Wow. So it’s not “calories in, calories out”, right? Right. That piece of conventional wisdom has been on its way out for a while now, and these results further explain the ways that view is wrong.


I have questions.

Media outlets are already using the results of this study to blame people over 40 for weighing more than they did when they were younger. From the BBC to beauty spas, the message is being put out there: increases in body weight after 40 aren’t because of slowing metabolism. Now insert implicit conclusion: it’s your/my/our own fault!

This was NOT one of the conclusions that came to mind for me. On the contrary: this study brings up lots of questions about the relationships among energy intake/expenditure, aging, activity, physical performance, cognition and mental acuity, and what’s in our future, given a better understanding of how the human machine runs over time. Two things I’d like to know:

How does the metabolism life trajectory graph look when it’s divided into weight groups? When it’s divided into other demographic groups?

We know there are many social determinants of health: that is, our environments and social/political/economic circumstances influence how long and how well we live. What effects do they have on the metabolic pathways over time?

One thing I believe firmly in and would promote as a piece of relatively new conventional wisdom is this:

Biology isn’t destiny.

We’re still very busy trying to figure out how the puzzle pieces of genetics, environment, behaviors, culture and community, economics, and justice (or lack thereof) fit together to predict, explain and promote human flourishing. This study gives a clear direction for new metabolic research. The puzzle, however, is far from completed.

Readers, did you hear about this in news or did you read the article? Did it strike you as good news? Did it change your views? I’d love to hear from you.

aging · birthday · fitness

The Liberatory Power of Aging (Tracy turns 57)

Image description: Tracy, smiling 57-year old woman with grey hair just shy of shoulder length, dangling earrings, two necklaces, tank-style top, abstract painting in background.

So I turned 57 yesterday, and though I didn’t much feel like celebrating (because it’s hardly any sort of milestone birthday), I did. I took the day off and did only things I enjoy, starting with a 6 am workout with Alex and a hot yoga class a little bit later. I had lunch with a friend at my new favourite lunch spot (The Tea Lounge) and we each bought some of the art that was hanging on the restaurant wall. My parents drove in to spend the weekend with me, which is a celebration in itself that makes up for many missed visits during the pandemic. We went out for dinner to a fancy place (fancy at my mother’s request and it was amazing) and my mother baked two cakes for this afternoon. And we are getting take-out tonight (also at my mother’s request: “why should we cook?” she said. Why should we, indeed?!).

Birthdays always make me take stock, reflecting on what the year has brought, where I am “in life,” what’s working and what might need to change.

What has the year brought? The past year has brought a sense of monotony that I have not known before. At times, during pandemic stay-at-home orders, I felt as if I was living one long day. Yes, it was punctuated by sleep and meals, zoom sessions for this and zoom sessions for that, but oh the sameness of it all. Some days it took real effort, I have to say. Thank heavens for the kittens!

And yet, I developed routines, like regular workouts with Cate’s trainer Alex’s virtual training sessions, running, walks (sometimes with a neighbour in my building) and at-home yoga (mostly with Adriene). Despite the joy of being able to get out again, I am resenting having to revise these routines (so I can get out the door to get to work in the morning now that I’m not longer working at home).

The virtual world also opened up some new rituals with friends and family out of town. Movie night on Friday and Monday night dinner (all on Zoom) with my friend and former grad-school housemate Diane who lives in Iowa. Regular family zooms on Sundays with my brothers and parents, everyone joining from a different part of the province. Daily check-ins with my friend Steph, who lives in London but during lockdown (especially through the winter) we couldn’t see each other in person much. Fairly regular Wednesday evening fireside gatherings with a great group of women (even through last winter). Another Sunday call with my friend Manon who lives in Guelph. And periodic check-ins and occasional visits from a few other reliables, including Sam (but I guess we’ve been doing that since she moved away a few years back) and my step-daughter Ashley who lives in Vancouver.

Looking back then, I would say this year brought: monotony, consistency, and a focus on valued relationships.

Where am I “in life”? I think even writing this post indicates that I am in a sort of existential moment. Maybe that’s another thing the pandemic brought. Let’s just say I’m not where I expected to be as I turned 57. I’m on my own again, for the first time in a couple of decades, and not feeling super-motivated to change that. Though I do sometimes miss having a steady companion, I appreciate my solitude more. I’ve got a few more years of career ahead of me before I retire, and am trying to decide whether to ramp up or start winding down. If ramping up (the likely choice), ramping up in which area? Research and teaching? Administration? Still mulling.

Work is not life, of course, so where am I with other things? I’m reading more. Doing less photography. Doing more yoga, less running. Sleeping more, travelling less. More attention to family and close friends, less spreading myself thin across too many commitments.

A consistent theme for me of late, and I think it has come with age, is that I feel less “beholden” to others. I’m at a place in life where I really do feel tired of being so concerned with what others think of my choices. It’s exhausting to wonder whether I “measure up” to some external standard(s) that I may or may not embrace. I’ve had a lot of time through the pandemic to consider what I value. Experiencing more quietude and solitude has brought me in touch with my inner compass, with less of the magnetic pull of noise and busy-ness and the opinions of others to interfere with where it’s pointing me.

That can make me feel strangely and paradoxically untethered sometimes, but radically free and unburdened at other times. That’s where aging has a certain liberatory power. I have wondered at what age will I stop being so motivated by the prospect of approving others. It may be this age: 57.

What’s working? Hey, you might be saying: isn’t this a fitness blog? Well one thing that is working lately is my approach to fitness. And that’s partly because more and more it is guided by what I feel like doing. I realize that some people will say they can’t do fitness that way because they don’t usually feel like doing anything. In fact, I myself have said in the past (2013) that “intuitive fitness” doesn’t work for me. But I came to change my mind about that (2019).

My word of the year, “mindfulness,” is working. I’ve had a lot of time to pay attention and cultivate awareness in ways that make me feel more and more grounded. If I feel “off,” which has happened a lot during the pandemic, my commitment to mindfulness has helped me uncover what is going on with me rather than distract myself from it. Over time, this has been a great practice that always keeps me hopeful.

Doing less, which has been a theme of mine throughout the life of the blog, is definitely working for me these days in the rest of my life. I am not one of those people who idealize the pandemic for the way it made us all hit “pause,” but I have to concede that I like having more unscheduled time, more quiet evenings at home, and fewer social commitments (despite that it sometimes felt monotonous). I plan not to return to the old, overfull schedule.

What needs to change? I’ve had a lot of change over the past three or so years, and I’ve not quite settled yet. I called this post “the liberatory power of aging” because I really feel free to go in whatever direction I want. I’m less beholden to people, as I noted earlier, but that’s partly because I’m at an age where people aren’t expecting anything much. Rather than lament that, to me it’s a source of freedom. What that means to me is that although there are some things (within my power) I would like to change, like more photography, more writing (both scholarly and creative), more meditation, more knitting, and more consistent running, I’m still uncertain where this “transition” is going to land.

And I’m okay with that, and with this rambling blog post that may not be all that interesting but still felt good to write. Happy birthday to me.

Have you felt freer as you got older?


Work from Office: Changes and Challenges!

Mostly these days I’m back on campus, working in the Dean’s office.

On the bright side, I’m back to compartmentalized living, which I like. When I am at work, I’m at work, and when I am home, I am not at work. I’ve never been a big fan of working at home.

I like my work clothes. I’ve missed them. And I like seeing people. I’ve missed colleagues and students. And on the fitness front, I like the everyday exercise of walking around campus. I also like my bike commute. Today I also just rejoined the campus gym.

Here’s me, smiling in my office.

On the less bright side, I miss my home peeps–mum, Sarah, and Miles. I miss being able to de-stress after hard meetings by taking Cheddar for a walk. I miss Zoom calls with Lizzie on my shoulder. I miss my rompers and my leopard print crocs and lots of my silly but comfy #wfh clothes.

Here’s Lizzie contemplating her breakfast raspberry.

On balance though I’ve got to say I prefer working hard long days at work and then coming home and throwing on my home clothes and not working at all.

What #wfh life fitness stuff will stick around? Zwift for sure. Rowing for sure. At home yoga for sure (my yoga studio closed during the pandemic). TRX for sure. I’m glad I’ve got all these options.

This was my first day back with Cheddar looking out as I left for the office.

How about you? What’s your balance these days, of home and work, of everyday exercise and working out?

My pretty office plant