- I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing? (Cate)
- Keeping Fit While Healing from Hysterectomy (Guest Post) (Marjorie)
- A year without buying clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry…Can Sam do it? (Sam)
- Riding Solo, Part 3: On Hills and Mountains (Or, Learning to Crawl, for Rob West) (Julia)
- Hate exercise? You might just be much more unfit than you think (Sam)
- One Way Bike Camping (Joy)
- Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies (Sam)
- Biking Accessibility (Diane)
- On Seeking a Second Opinion (Guest Post) (Alison)
- Fitness that’s “not really fitness” (Diane)
Month: June 2022
Bodiless Swimsuit Ads Reinforce Body Norms Too
It is summer swim season! I know this because I see on my Facebook feed “beach body” memes and a dramatic uptick in swimsuit advertising.
I normally don’t pay much attention to swimwear ads because swimsuits are not that important to me. However, I can understand the appeal of shopping online: no store assistants, no dressing rooms, no drama with wrestling with ill-fitting suits.
But this year, I have noticed that a few swimwear ads that feature either 3D-drawn images or the actual suits put on photoshopped-out mannequins. I don’t remember seeing before ads with these hovering bodies that are legless, armless, torsoless.
Tracy has noticed how the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated gives women equal opportunity to be objectified. Obviously that’s not good. If sexified suits objectify women regardless of age, and if a steady diet of these images still perpetuates body ideals, then is no body in the swimsuits our inclusive and evolved solution?
The decision to dis-embody models in these ads is likely far more economic than activist: I’m sure it’s cheaper to use realistic pictures or torso mannequins than to hire real people, and shoppers may have an easier time imagining themselves in the suit without a real body in it for comparison.
And maybe I’m making too much of these ads, but they weird me out. They make me think of Kevin Bacon as the Hollow Man in a tankini. The disembodied swimsuit model–as imperfectly resembling a human being in a way that causes “uneasiness and revulsion”–should be added to the graph visualizing the uncanny valley hypothesis.
From my feminist perspective, the no-body in these ads is not equivalent to everybody: it removes the one thing people need to wear these suits in the first place. These ads may avoid replicating images of so-called ideal bodies, but they also remove the bodies people have–complete with colour, fat, wrinkles, blemishes, scars, and hair. Ironically, the absence of real bodies features the ultimate normative body, one that is stripped of all uniqueness of size, shape, and mobility differences. In the case of the leaky, hysterical cis-female body so feared and scorned by patriarchy, what body is more “perfect” than the one that does not exist at all?
I tried to find answers to my questions (except the last one, which was rhetorical) with more Internet. While many web articles give advice on purchasing swimsuits by size, fit, fabric, style, cost, coverage, quality, versatility, quality, and “features” (like pockets), none described whether I should buy online a suit modelled by a real but photoshopped body or by an invisible but perfect fake body. I did notice that a few articles–such as Teen Vogue and TripSavvy–used these body-less swimsuit images in their feature banners as well.
For the record, in all this web searching I did notice more body-diverse swimwear than I have seen in the past. After staring at row upon row of swim-suited no-bodies, I was comforted and excited by these all-too-human ads.
Then, I realized that online shopping has its own trappings, and I closed my laptop altogether. Maybe going into an actual store to try swimwear on my own body is looking not be so bad after all.
Catherine complains about sweating again, but this time there’s science involved
Summer has officially arrived, and warmer temperatures are here! This means many things, one of which I’d like to discuss/complain about: Major sweating. I’m not referring to a healthy pink glow here. We’re talking dripping, red-faced, soggy sweat– even at 10am. Even while doing very light activity. Even while dressed head to toe in moisture-wicking fabrics whose marketing materials guarantee a dryer, more comfortable active you.
I’ve written a feminist guide to mid-life sweating post with my tips here. Mina and Sam and others have also blogged about sweating in affirming ways.
But I’m back because I just last week learned a thing that science has known, but didn’t bother to tell me: the medication I take (an SSRI anti-depressant) is a known contributor to excessive sweating! When I asked Madeline, my psychopharm doc, she said, “Oh yes! This is definitely a thing.”
Did everyone else know this already? Am I the last to be informed?
Given that medications helped get me into this soggy mess, I wondered whether medications could help me out of it. The answer is maybe a little bit, but not for me. Why? Because science is complicated.
HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is commonly prescribed for menopausal symptoms. There’s lots of say about this, but you should do your own google search and consult your own experts. For me, it’s not an option.
There are other anti-sweating medications around, but they have all sorts of side effects and varying levels of effectiveness. Dr. Madeline (who knows what she is about, imho) says no to the sweat-be-gone drugs.
Instead, she recommended a portable battery-operated fan, ice packs or cold compresses on the back of the neck. The fan is a hard no for me, but I do have an extremely cute ice pack.
Should I start carrying it around? That seems a bit much. I already tote a bandana for mopping up sweat around my face. Maybe go all in and order a rubber ducky tote bag to carry my sweat-mitigation gear?
Honestly, maybe it’s not a terrible idea– toting around sweat-mitigation gear, that is. And engaging in sweat-mitigation and sweat-acceptance habits. After all, the body I have now is worth caring for just as it is. And this body sweats a lot. Time to deal. Cold drinks, bandanas, changes of clothes, cool breathable fabrics, fabrics that don’t show sweat as much, cool bedrooms, and more cool/cold-water swimming are all promising strategies.
Readers, do you have any sweat-mitigation or sweat-acceptance tips? We’d all love to hear anything you have to offer.
My first, and only, stand up paddle-board (SUP) experience was a few (okay, 8!) years ago while visiting friends. They were members of a premier sports & fitness club that had a quarry on the property which they used for a few different water sports. Our friends had recently taken up SUP’ing as part of their regular gym-going routine, and we (my spouse and I) were excited to try something new. It didn’t hurt that it was October and the water temperature was in the high 70s, whereas it was already turning cold at my house.
I am not the most coordinated person. That is to say I have a serious lack of coordination and occasionally just tilt over while walking in a way that confuses most other people. I’m also in a larger body and despite my efforts to pick things up and put them down, I have never had a lot of upper body strength. So I felt like my best chance for getting on and staying on the board was to step onto it right off the dock, and then don’t get off of it until I was done. I did not kneel. I did not sit down. I stood. I paddled. I jumped off and enjoyed a refreshing swim, and then pushed my board back to the dock while I remained in the water. I don’t know if I could have pulled myself back onto the board because I never tried.
Despite feeling uncoordinated and generally suspicious of new things, I really enjoyed the adventure. We tried to go again on our trip but other activities in the new-to-me city won out, and we ran out of time. Fast forward four years, and I now live near a small body of water. Our community calls it a pond, but it would be described as a small lake in most other places. Within a month of moving in we had purchased two kayaks and began enjoying the water. As soon as it was warm enough to swim in the pond, I pulled on my wetsuit and hopped right in. In the summer I will often grab a pool noodle and a beverage and go “float” near the dock, relaxing in the water and chatting with neighbors as they boat or paddle by. In those early days I searched for a SUP that met our needs and our budget. The hard boards were often heavy and carried a lower maximum weight than what we preferred. The inflatables had a wide range of ratings and user experiences, and most of them were a bit above our price range. I still kept an eye out on community “for sale” pages and summer sales flyers, but it wasn’t a priority.
Until this past weekend. The universe worked to remind me of how much I wanted to SUP on our little pond by sending a couple of paddle-boarders by as we were enjoying breakfast. Later that morning I was on a page for a community group I am in and saw that someone had posted a link to their new inflatable SUP, which happened to be on sale for a very reasonable price. I knew it had to be mine, but let it percolate for a few more hours before pushing the “buy” button.
And now, friends, my new SUP is on the way to me, reported to arrive before next weekend when I can try it out and get familiar with our combined quirks. The kit comes with everything but a life jacket, which I already have. Although I can step onto the board right off the dock, I know I am going to need to get proficient at pulling myself back onto the board, and at getting to a standing position from sitting or kneeling. I’m sure there will be a host of other things I need to figure out, including sun protection for longer paddles. I’m excited to try something new and open to doing it poorly for a while while I work on these new skills. Please share any SUP tips you have in the comments!
Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.
Sam is ringing her bell, maybe?
Things to know about me: I am a rule following kind of person. It’s hardwired. It’s what I do.
But I confess that until today, I didn’t have a bell on my commuting bike.
I mean, I had one, years ago, but it broke, and I never replaced it, mostly because I only had it to comply with the law. I rarely, if ever, used it.
Why not? Well, it startled people. And I was finding that either people have headsets on, in which case it doesn’t matter what noise I make, or they seemed less startled, and more appreciative of a cheery “Good morning.”
To be clear, our gravel paths along the river and through the Arboretum are wide and not at all crowded so my bike commute is pretty stress free. So far even the off leash dogs have been well behaved and my only near collision was with turtles the other morning.
Here’s some scenes from my long commute:
But last week, as I was cycling through the Aboretum on my long way to work, I passed an elderly man with a small dog and my “hello, good morning” wasn’t enough. “Don’t you have a bell on that thing you could ring?” he yelled back.
The laneway we were on was as wide as a regular road and I had passed all the way over to the right. Still, I’d startled him. He expressed a bell preference. It is the law that, all bikes have a working bell or horn so that you can announce your approach.
So now I have a bell.
The pink bell clashes. I think it was a stocking stuffer meant for the Brompton which also doesn’t have a bell. Will remedy that too, get a new one for the commuting bike and put the pink one on the Brompton.
In the meantime, cyclists and non-cyclists alike, which do you prefer, bell or no bell? “Good morning, hello,” or “bring bring”?
This looks like a good place to star my research: Put a Bell on Your Fast Bike Already.
The MAMILs have met their match, the OWLs!
I’ve written a lot here on the blog about men and body image. See here and here and here. There’s more too, if you search around.
I hate all the teasing men in lycra get, so many MAMIL jokes.
What’s MAMIL stand for? Middle aged men in lycra. And lots of the jokes are about men’s bodies in fitted cycling clothes. I hate them.
Here’s a light hearted one, less mean than most.
But on the other hand, at least older men in bike clothes are recognized to be a phenomena. There aren’t as many older women. See Sam is racing with the guys and wondering, where are the women her age?
However, I came across a Facebook group recently for OWLS! That’s Older Women in Lycra. Here’s the group’s description: “Designed to EMPOWEROWL.bike (Older Women in Lycra) made with ❤️ for women cyclists UCA age 55 and older. OWLs are changing societal messages on aging…one ride at a time!”
There’s also this article: Say hello to the ‘owls’ – older women in Lycra
From the article, “Such men have acquired their own acronym, and it’s entered the language. Mamils – middle-aged men in Lycra – are a recognised demographic who are a target market for advertisers, with considerable buying power and much to enjoy spending their money on, from beautiful carbon-frame bikes to stylish cycle-wear. But the Mamil only tells half the story. There are also what I call Owls – older women in Lycra – and we enjoy all those things just as much. And if that makes us objects of satire as much as the Mamils are… then fine.
British Cycling, the sport’s umbrella organisation, confirms that women cyclists – including a significant number of older women – are rapidly on the increase. BC’s women-only Breeze Rides – its scheme to encourage women to take up cycling – have attracted more than 13,000 women since the beginning of 2015. Of these, 59 per cent are aged 35 to 54 and 29 per cent are 55-plus. In the 50 to 59 age group in last week’s Ride London 100 – the biggest sportive in Britain – an impressive 26 per cent of entrants were women. Next month no less a 51-year-old than the Countess of Wessex is taking part in a charity bike ride from Edinburgh to London. A few years ago I cycled from London to Edinburgh myself, and it’s a hell of an undertaking.”
The OWLS race on Zwift and while I can’t join them yet–they race in the afternoon spot for the TTTs–I do appreciate that they’re there.
Might also be nice to just have a mature riders group for all people, including those who don’t identify as men or women.
“Love that dirty water”: Catherine jumps into the Charles River in Boston
The Charles River in Boston: I’ve kayaked there many times– with Samantha, even! But I’ve never swum in the river. Why not? Because the river was too polluted. This is a sad truth about some of the great rivers in some of the great cities– the Seine in Paris, the Thames in London, the Tiber in Rome, the Yongding in Beijing, and on. Centuries of no sanitation procedures followed by decades of neglect resulted in water water everywhere, and not a place to swim.
Happily, the situation is changing all over the world. Governments, spurred on by environmental advocacy groups, have been doing cleanup for the past decades. And it’s making a difference. Paris recently opened up a summer swimming area along the Canal de L’Ourcq, and it’s hugely popular.
Boston has something similar in mind. But it takes a while. So they’ve started out with a one-day-a-year Charles River in a deep-water roped-off area, with timed entries and lifeguards. Here’s what the Charles River Conservancy says about it on their website:
The Charles River Conservancy’s first City Splash on July 13, 2013 marked one the first public community swims in the Charles River in more than fifty years. Swimming has been prohibited in the Charles since the 1950’s when a growing awareness of the health risks posed by pollution in the Charles caused the beaches and bathhouses lining the river to close. After years of environmental health progress, most notably the EPA’s Charles River Initiative, swimming is now allowed through state-sanctioned events such as the Charles River Conservancy’s City Splash events and the Charles River Swimming Club’s annual One-Mile Swim Race, which began in 2007.
I’d intended to do this swim for several years. But, with the added motivation of going with my friend Nina, I managed to score a ticket (they’re free and run out in a couple of hours). So off we went on Saturday June 18.
We waited in line, and then ambled to the dock, our identities checked twice– once on the way in, and once on the way out. They don’t want to lose anyone…
The water was warm– around 72 F/22 C. Nina and I swam and chatted and got out and dived back in, making satisfying splashes. Most folks got out after 5–10 minutes, but the die-hards (including Nina and me) swam for half an hour.
You can probably tell from these pictures that it was very big fun for everyone who went. Seeing (and being one of the) adults squealing and laughing loudly, using their outside voices– we need more of this.
The Charles River Conservancy has a vision to create a seasonal home for swimming in the Charles. Here’s what their vision might look like:
Readers: have you done any urban swimming in rivers or lakes in cities? Was it sanctioned or wild swimming? How was the water? I’d love to hear any stories you’d like to share.
Before I go, I’ll leave you with the song my blog title was based on. Please to enjoy the Standells with “Dirty Water”, an ode to the Charles River in Boston.
What Are YOU Up To This Summer?
Now that the stresses and fun of the past month or so have passed, I’m looking forward to the mixed blessing of a flexible summer schedule.
I mean, I love having my evenings free and since I work for myself, at home, I can shift things around to take advantage of good weather or some pop-up fun.
Since my brain has a very casual relationship with time under any circumstances, the flexibility of summer can also be a challenge for me. If I don’t make my decisions in advance or if I don’t pay close attention to how I spend my time, I can suddenly find myself at the end of summer, frustrated about all of the things I missed out on for no good reason.
So, one of my projects for this weekend is to figure out how I want to spend my summer.
I’m considering when to work and when to rest (and thinking about what ‘rest’ includes). I’m figuring out what to include in my day-to-day and which larger summer activities I want to organize and do. I’m thinking about the projects I want to complete in the house and in the yard and deciding when I’d like to work on them.
Basically, I want to make sure that I actively choose a shape for my summer instead of just reacting moment by moment.
(By the way, if a summer of reacting moment by moment is your ideal, please have at it! Do what works for you.)
I’m planning to include things like revising my novel, practicing my TKD patterns outside where there’s more room, hula-hooping, going swimming, reading in my hammock, taking a few hikes, taking Khalee on longer walks, going for longer bike rides, creating some zines, and spending a lot of time hanging out outdoors with my friends.
What do YOU have planned for your summer? Let me know in the comments!
Or if it isn’t summer where you are, what do you have planned for the next few months?
Aging Parents and What it Means for Our Own Fitness
I have mentioned a few times in previous posts that one of my motivations for being active was to avoid some of the health issues I see in my parents.
I inherited Mom’s varicose veins, slow thyroid and tendency towards osteoporosis. Lately I have also been getting some twinges of arthritis too, though thankfully nothing like what has led her to have three hip replacements.
Keeping myself fit and mobile was all I needed to worry about, until very recently. Dad has always been capable, and Mom is stubborn, so elder care mostly involved visits, and occasionally helping with a meal. Then Mom had a fall and broke several ribs.
Luckily, I had booked six weeks of vacation and live in the same city, so I will be available to take care of cleaning, meals, supervise physiotherapy exercises between visits, and help with personal care.
So far, I have sitting with her or with Dad, trying to get answers from hospital staff, and making sure I have the necessary arrangements in place for once she gets home. I treasure the moments brushing Mom’s hair, and don’t mind sitting quietly for hours while she naps, but at the end of the day that non-activity leaves me more ready for bed than a a physically demanding day.
If ever there was a time for meditation, yoga, or an early morning swim, it is now. I am not one for traditional meditation; I prefer to cook instead. Some nights, there is a lot of cooking.
I am pretty comfortable thinking about my own health – how to maintain it, accepting certain limitations as I age. And I knew there would come a time when my parents would need more care. What has been a surprise was exhausting it would be.
For the next few weeks, I plan to do some early morning gardening or go for a swim before heading off to do elder care duties. I will take advantage of every offer of assistance from my sister. I will keep some sort of craft on-hand to work on rather than doom scrolling. And I will work on getting enough sleep. More than ever, I want to be alert and avoid injury myself.
Diane Harper lives in Ottawa.
Trying new things: Trail Running
With less travel these days, I decided to take a fresh look at what London, Ontario has to offer. I landed on a city-run trail running program and a basic skill Stand-up paddleboard (SUP) class, both of which I’m doing with Anita. Today I’ll take about the trail running.
The trail running program is a Learn to Run Trails (5K) every Wednesday for eight weeks. At $55 you can’t really go wrong even if you’re going to miss one or two of the outings. It’s listed as an outdoor/nature program, and part of the objective is not just to learn to run trails but also to discover and learn about our city’s trails, which are designated as Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs). In the service of that, the city sends us an info sheet on each week’s trail. It’s a five-page PDF that describes it and talks about the ecosystem and wildlife in the area and what makes it environmentally significant. This week we ran in Kilally, and this is the first page of the info flyer.
We had our first day out two Wednesdays ago on the literal hottest day so far this season, where it was in the high 30s C with a humidex of 43 degrees C. If it wasn’t the first night of a new program there is no way I’d have gone running at 6:30 pm that evening.
But at least 25 of us, mostly women, gathered at Westminster Ponds for a 4.5K in a shaded quite technical trail (I think that mostly means lots of roots, mud, winding parts, and ups and downs). Three of the four coaches were there, and they assured us that no one would be left behind or forced to push their pace. There was a coach up front, leading, one in the middle who sort of went back and forth keeping track of people, and one at the rear of the group making sure no one was falling behind.
We started off easy, with lots of pauses and walking (especially walking around the mud). The shade of the trees made it quite a bit cooler, but even so it was a tough running day and I immediately wished I’d brought two waters instead of one. The trail had quite a few muddy bits, and at the first one I realized I’d forgotten to wear my trail running shoes and instead wore my regular shoes for running on pavement. I will not be making that mistake again.
I mostly ran in the middle of the pack, sometimes falling back because I took more frequent walk breaks than some. It was uncomfortably hot and I was feeling it, and we hadn’t settled on any prescribed intervals (like this week’s 3-1s). We did a 2K loop and I was under the mistaken impression that because of the heat and it being day one, that’s all we were going to do. But when we stopped to regroup at the end of it, Terry suggested that we do it again in the other direction “if that was okay with everyone.” He explained how taking a trail in the other direction is almost like doing a new trail. Everyone was so darn agreeable about doing a second loop. Maybe no one wanted to be the naysayer. Granted, 2K is a pretty short run. But OMG.
Many walk breaks later, and quite a few short spurts of “I can make it to that tree” and “I can make it to that bend” and “I can make it up this hill,” and we made it. In all we were out there for just under an hour, which makes it the longest 4.5K I’ve ever done, but also the hottest. And on a trail.
We gathered in the parking area after and the coaches explained that every trail is different, and that in trail running you can’t really compare your times from one trail to another. They’re all different, and you’re bound to run a trail more slowly than the same distance on a paved pathway. Even the same trail can be quite different on a different day or in a different direction. They also challenge us in different ways, using more muscles because whereas in road running you are consistent in the way your foot hits the ground and your stride and so on, in trail running that’s not the case. You need to go over or avoid roots, adjust to different conditions under foot, watch out for tree branches in your face or on the ground, and go around (or through) mud.
This week we did a much easier, flatter trail in Kilally Meadows. It wasn’t quite as shaded but it also was considerably cooler (still about 30 degrees but less humid). We divided into two distinct groups this week — the fast and the slow. I chose the slow group, which the lead coach Joelle called “party pace,” and we did 3-1 intervals (3 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking), covering about 3.5K in half an hour or so. It didn’t feel nearly as brutal as the previous week, and I was able to keep up with the pace and the intervals without any trouble. I might try the other group some time but I liked being able to enjoy the whole experience rather than feeling like I was pushing the pace just to keep up.
I had some concerns about it being buggy, and especially about ticks, which lots of people are talking about this year. I bought a special “tick key” that removes them without breaking them off. Lyme disease is a risk when you pull out a tick wrong. They burrow and it is easy to break them, releasing the toxin that carries the disease (that’s my lay understanding of it anyway). But the coaches also assured us that if we shower when we get home, we’d probably be fine because they are slow to move and the burrowing takes about 24 hours. That was reassuring. But I did do a quick tick check anyway. And I sprayed myself down with deep woods insect repellent.
Anita and I are out of the habit of taking pictures every time we go out, so I have no photo of either night, so I can’t prove that we were smiling but we were. Trail running is a great way to get out for a run, learn about the city’s trails, and discover new places to run when it’s hot and shade is welcome, or when you just want a change of scenery. I’m excited to discover the other trails in the area, and definitely want to add trail running to my roster of activities.
Have you ever done trail running?