Ask Fieldpoppy: January

(I introduced the “Ask Fieldpoppy” column in December. I will tackle any question about health, fitness, life purpose, cats, menopause (or pretty much anything else) with my unique combination of compassion and strong opinions. Leave me a question in the comments or via the FIFI facebook page!)

Dear Fieldpoppy – what’s a girl to do when it’s cold out but not enough snow for many winter sports, the gyms and pools are closed because of that blasted omicron and you’re not feeling the love for an indoor yoga challenge right now?

— Restless swimmer

Dear Restless,

As we head into This Year of Our Covid 3, many of us are feeling a real drying up of the ol’ creative movement juices. Sit with what’s most important to you — getting fresh air and being outside? Feeling agile and not all tin-man-rusty? Feeling some sense of purpose for some part of the repetitive, dull days?Just injecting some damn joy into your life? Then be a little creative.

Last winter, I bought an apple watch, which came with three free months of apple fitness. I didn’t care for most of the classes, but I took a shine to the 20 minute Latin dance workouts. This is not a thing I have ever done before, but having a lithe Cuban chap teach me cheerfully how to lambada took me out of my funk. I felt so grateful and festive and WAY MORE INTERESTING than my usual self (well, until it got dark out and my condo windows acted like a mirror — but never mind).

You don’t have to start Latin dancing, but find something that has an element of play — and that will shock the stuck pathways in your brain and routine. Instead of yoga, play twister. Set up a hopscotch course in your hallway. Go outside and throw a tennis ball against the wall. Run around the block in exuberant spurts, like a kid (or like Phoebe running through the park on that one episode of Friends where Rachel runs into a police horse). Let go of the notion of challenge and fitness and just move. And remember that this too shall pass.

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I had an emotionally draining week plus perimenopause. I went for my usual Sunday morning run. About half way through body felt too “heavy” to keep jogging. Normally running shuts off my anxious brain but not that day. I don’t want to start a pattern of letting myself stop running in situations like that. But I walk/ran the rest of the way home. Did I still go for a run? Am I starting a bad pattern? Am I still a RUNNER?

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I‘ve just started the “222 in 2022” workout group and I’ve noticed some people are counting a walk as a workout. I’m a runner, but I’m injured, and I’m really struggling with thinking of a walk as a real workout. If I’m a runner, how does a walk count as a workout?

Dear Runners,

Aw, guys. You’ve both honed in on a key consequence about the identity of Being A Runner — the ineffable thing that can happen when you take up running, where you go from thinking of yourself as jogging around the block, marking the progress by adding lamp posts, to being the kind of person who knows your kilometre pace, tracks and adds distance methodically, and trains for events. But then when you’re not doing those things, does your running “count”?

There is a huge industry aimed at having people develop the identity of Being a Runner, leading to becoming the kind of person who talks about your 10K personal best at parties (remember parties?) and pees in full view of 10,000 other runners . (See the very successful Adidas “runners — yeah, we’re different” campaign a few years ago).

Being a Runner is great. You get stronger, you get to tap into that amazing sense of personal accomplishment when you do something you never thought you could do, and if, like me, you were a bookworm of a child, you can gaze upon your adult self as if you secretly had a superhero identity all along.

But! For many, many people, Peak Personal Runner Self is a fleeting (hee, pun) thing. The hegemonic discourse of Big Running would have you believe that running is the Ur-movement, and that if you are doing anything other than running, you are less than who you can be, and you are settling for something deeply inferior. (Except, maybe, if you switch teams to its cousin Big Cycling. And even then, aren’t triathletes REALLY the ones who know it all?). But do we have to let Big Running shape our existential sense of self?

Here’s the thing: some bodies can run, and that’s magnificent. And some bodies can’t run, because of basic physiology, or aging, or injury or emotional strain or weather or hormones or whatever-the-eff it is. And even if we can run, as we age, most of us slow down. (Most of us — the guy I used to train for marathons with is now winning global masters duathlons; I go for 4km jogs about twice a week. Either one is okay!) The trick to being an integrated human is to know when that sense of heaviness or “less than” is something to lean into to honour your full self, and when, maybe, it’s an appropriate time to push past it.

If you run, even a little bit, you are a runner. The end. And if you aren’t a runner — ever, or anymore — that’s okay too. You’re still a secret superhero.

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I live in a basement apartment, and our heat is controlled by the people who live upstairs. The thing is, they’re both women in their late 50s and they’re never cold. (I’m 24 but I’ve seen my mom deal with this hot flash thing). Can I ask them to be too hot so I’m not too cold?

— Wrapped in blankets on zoom

Dear Blankies,

Oh, the thermostat wars, once confined to office spaces and now transferred like everything else in our lives, into our homes. I would start with using your words and nicely letting the people upstairs know that you’re freezing. As your landlord for a (safe) space heater. But if they really can’t warm you up without melting themselves — and god knows I empathize, as an almost 57-year old post menopausal human — enjoy your collagen-abundant skin and invest in one of these walking-around sleeping bags. I’d add slippers tho.

Dear Fieldpoppy (via text): Alex wants me to do a 4 minute wall sit and a 4 minute plank, help.

Dear Help: Why are you texting me instead of letting Alex boss you around in accord with the natural order of the universe?

Ask Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is trying to cope with another winter lockdown in Toronto with jigsaw puzzles and cats.

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