This year– Anno Domini 2022– I took the plunge and finally bought myself a kayak. Then I took another plunge and finally bought myself an e-bike. That’s a lot of plunging.
It’s a privilege to be in a financial position to purchase these items (even used, which the kayak was, but in very fine shape), and I’m grateful that I was able to buy them.
Now that I own them, everything is hunky-dory, right? Well, as any of you who deal with active gear (like bikes, boats, skis, tents, stoves, hiking accoutrements, computer-assisted tracking doohickeys, etc.), the purchasing is just the beginning of the relationship with the gear. There’s also the following:
the transporting to and fro
the organization of accompanying bits and bobs
the response and troubleshooting when things go wrong
the inevitable replacement of parts and the gear itself
Honestly, I have no idea how people manage the above-mentioned tasks, as well as others that I never even thought about. I do as much as I can and hope for the best…
But I have to say this: if the next time I’m trying valiantly to figure out how to attach bow and stern lines to my kayak for transport on top of my car, one more person says, “oh, it’s so easy!”, I’m going to blow a gasket.
There are a lot of reasons why I fear, loathe and avoid dealing with gear other than buying it, using it, cleaning it occasionally and maybe storing it.
I come from a long line of non-outdoorsy non-gear using folks.
My above-mentioned ancestors are also famously non-handy; I mean really non-handy. I don’t recall seeing any relative of mine ever using a hammer, much less a drill.
So, I didn’t grow up doing anything with any gear, ever. I think we once had flashlights, but then the batteries died. And that was that.
I have generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD. This double-whammy diagnosis brings with it many difficulties with complex and multi-part tasks. Among other things.
I have learned how do basic maintenance on my bikes, but anything beyond that I entrust to my local bike shop, so I don’t have to deal with complex bike gear finagling. Winning.
I am in the early stages of my relationship with kayak. Yes it’s lightweight. But it doesn’t do knots itself. That’s right, I never learned how to do a) trucker’s hitch; b) bowline; c) other knots that I googled and have never heard of, but which some of you probably use all the time. And, yes, I know: “it’s so easy!” Recall prior gasket-blow warning.
I’m not saying I’m sorry I bought the kayak. I love kayaking and love this kayak. But I am saying that I find dealing with all of the above-listed tasks really stressful and shame-inducing. The feelings of shame come from not knowing what to do, feeling like I OUGHT to know how to do… whatever it is I need to do, seeing other gear owners who DO know what to do, and being seen by them as not knowing what to do. It’s a thing: a thing to recognize, a thing to deal with, a thing to get support around. I know this. But it is not an easy thing.
I also have another fine and complex piece of gear: my new e-bike, purchased 23 days ago. It’s peppy and lightweight (lightweight is a thing with me these days) and I’ve been dreaming about this bike for more than two years. Now I have it. Yay!
Of course, there’s the usual break-in period where you have to make adjustments to bike fit (e.g. throwing away the saddle it came with and getting one that works for you), tweaks to the gearing assembly, and such like. I’ve ridden almost 50 miles on the bike so far, and that process is humming along.
Or at least it was, until today. The fancy electronic assist computer interface (i.e. the button on the top tube) and the connected bike computer went… well, I think the proper term is kaflooey. The computer showed me riding 0mph, with 0% battery and level 0 of assist. At least it was consistent.
The computer interface on the bike kept cycling through 3 levels of pedal assist: zero, one and two, indicated by flashing circles of white, green and orange. I could even feel it on the bike. Weird. And not what I had in mind. My friend Rachel, a very experienced cyclist and level-headed person, helped me do some diagnostics, which included:
pushing the bike interface button both for longer and shorter durations, a whole bunch of times;
pushing buttons on the bike computer in similar fashion;
disconnecting the cable connecting the motor to the battery/computer internal assembly;
reconnecting the cable after waiting a few minutes and futzing with the connectors;
recommencing button pushing.
None of this resulted in resetting the electronic assist computer. Oh, well, it’s still a bike. So we did the only thing we could do: ride to our favorite coffee shop. At least the espresso machine there was in good working order. Whew.
Here’s the thing: I want to be more chill and more sanguine and more confident around gear, especially MY gear. I get anxious about the possibility of things going wrong, and I get extremely anxious when things actually go wrong. I fear looking incompetent in front of others, and actually being incompetent.
Today was a good lesson for me. The new fancy gear went kaflooey, but nothing bad actually happened. It may be easily fixable or a big pain in the butt to deal with. Either way, I’ll move through it.
Readers, what would you say is your relationship like with your gear? Are you best buddies? Do you tinker with it all the time for fun? Do you delegate gear maintenance to others among your family and friends? Do you ride a single-speed bike because you don’t want the complexity? I’d love to hear from you (just don’t tell me how easy some task is… 🙂
Happy July! I hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as I am, or at least as much as I’m trying to.
I have pretty much let go of trying to get to my aquafit classes for summertime. I am sorry about that, since that’s ultimately the best way for me to get a “good” workout right now. I guess by good I mean my heartrate in the cardio zone on my Fitbit and getting me really out of breath. That’s the feeling that I’ve avoided since I was in Grade 1 and first got assigned a “morning run” (I wrote about that here). I’m afraid of that intense feeling, honestly, but I have also been able to enjoy it for the first time this year, as I wrote about back in spring.
So… I’m not getting to my “gym,” to get that intense feeling, because I’ve been busy! I’ve spent two of the past five weeks camping at my beloved Pinery Provincial Park. In that same five weeks, I’ve also played two concerts and a festival with my band – more than seven performances.
All of that, plus dog walking and gardening, has kept me pretty active and I’m trying to applaud my activity, while remembering my longer term goals are just that – long term – so they are not defined by a two month period. Also, I’m still only eight months out from arthroscopic hip surgery, my second in two years.
In late September 2021 I had a “rim trim” and labral repair on my left hip. Apparently I have “deep” hip sockets; in photographs my labrum looked like a feather, completely shredded to nothingness. I had the same surgery in 2019 on my right side, and that surgery gave me relief from a debilitating level of pain. My left side was already less of a problem, but the surgeon felt that since my right side had improved, the left was also likely to benefit.
The repair involves cutting away all the damaged cartilage and then cutting a ‘notch’ in my hip socket to allow my femur to swing more freely…Sounds intense right? It is, but honestly my life is SO much improved! And it just keeps getting better. That is, I just keep feeling better. I hiked 16km one day in June, and I was basically just fine. I’m finding, in fact that I’m much more comfortable after hiking and camping than after a week at my desk teaching online.
All of that is to say that I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t continued with my intensive cardio, but I am sure thrilled I can enjoy and be really active in other ways. I had to take this photo of the staircase on the hike I took in June. I ROCKED IT in a way that I could never have before my hip repairs!
I also really enjoyed being to give five performances in three days at the Home County Festival without having to pop Tylenol-3s and Advil as I have in the past… Most of all though, I’m working on that mental shift – seeing my behaviours, my activity and my body as my own. I’m about to embark on a cross-continental driving trip to Alberta and British Columbia to hike and see my family. I don’t know how far up those BIG mountains I can get, but I sure look forward to telling you about it!
For now, here is a photo of me with my husband, having a great time at the Home County Music and Art Festival. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
As I prepared to leave for my bike trip eleven months ago, my mom fretted that I’d be attacked by a bear… or chased by a bull in a farmer’s field! Little did we know that my main hammocking threats would occur when I returned to the big city for a visit!
July 19, 2022 at 10:50pm I sent a text to a close friend:
I’m in the middle of brushing my teeth when I spot something white and black moving closer to my tent. I freeze and dim my screen to improve my night vision. Fortunately, I didn’t worry for long. Less than a minute later I watched it high tail it (speed wise and literally) to the other side of the yard. Tonight I didn’t get sprayed. But yikes!!
Had a close call last night too, but it was at least 4-5 metres away from my hammock. Tonight it was legit pretty much under my hammock. If it sprayed I think I’d have to replace everything. It would be like a skunk spraying inside your bedroom!
Just a few hours later at 2:20am on July 20, 2022:
What a night! I have had more close nature encounters tonight then ever before. Woke up hearing an animal sniffing around right below my head. I froze, thinking it was the skunk from earlier in the night and a skunk spraying one foot below my head sounds like pure hell.
The creature stuck around for a solid two minutes, making loud snuffling and guttural sounds as it tried to figure out what was happening inside this bizarre contraption in it’s path. It stuck around long enough that I wondered if the creature was rabid and might lunge at my hammock.
I slowly inched my head upwards to see the ground and get my head further from whatever was below me! Finally the creature moved into my view about a metre away.
It was not the skunk.
Nope… I was locking eyes with the raccoon that I heard viciously attack and kill a sleeping bird a few nights back. Upon seeing it, I realized that the guttural growling sounds I’d heard under my head were the same ones I’d heard on the other side of the fence a few nights back. Once I realized it was not a skunk, I sat up and firmly yelled “skat.” It ran over the fence, then spun around to peer back at me. “Skat” I hollered again while moving around to look more threatening in my hammock. Convinced that I was not to be messed with, the creepy coon fully disappeared into the next yard. No doubt this is the first time that raccoon has encountered someone sleeping in a hammock!
I’ve yet to see any bears.
The only bulls I’ve seen were in farmer’s fields and I was not in the field with them! (Mind you, another friend does have a story about being chased by a bull on bike tour! But they were in a farm field… so stay out of farm fields and you’ll probably be safe from bulls!)
But coons… clearly those creatures will try to eat you head first! They’ll also eat ALL the chocolate peanut butter protein bars… and they’re wildly unreliable taste testers! That coon at Batman’s Campground never did submit their review after testing all three brands of chocolate peanut butter protein bars!
But we are all thinking about vacation as time that is not non-vacation time. If you’re normally very active, on vacation you can relax. If you are normally too busy for activities, then on vacation you have that time. Vacation is choice: a time to do more (or less) than what you do when you are not vacationing (unless you are retired, but that’s another scenario from which I am still woefully far away).
This past summer vacation, I wrote out a list of physical and social activities I wanted to do on my own or with friends and family: hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, etc. Then, on the next page I drew wobbly boxes and slotted each list item into my hand-drawn calendar—spreading out the activities but also ensuring I got them all into my vacation time.
Each vacation day I had at least one goal activity to look forward to. I had a blast: two weeks of a high-energy days that were filled with lots of fun and plenty of exercise, neatly all within in my local area.
Now, I am back to my regular work week. Back to the office. And I am kinda down about it.
Even though I still have most nights and weekends for summer exercise, I feel not nearly as motivated and encouraged to be active as I did when I was on my two weeks of holidays. Activity-wise, I peaked during my summer vacation time, then valleyed right after on my non-vacation time. And I am finding that it is not helpful to be this unmotivated, considering that now I exercise more than ever after being back sitting in my office all day!
What’s the learning here, and what’s next for me? It’s a long time away my next two-week vacation!
My vacation activities seemed galvanized by my ability to choose them. Now that I am back to work, I feel I have less free time and less freedom in how I spend my time. Would making another list and wobbly, hand-drawn calendar give me back that “vacation feeling” that would nudge me back to being more active?
Or, perhaps I should try mentally de-coupling my physical activities from my vacation time altogether. Perhaps exercise is the vacation from work, regardless of whether I am off on holidays or not.
Do you notice a difference in your levels of activity transitioning between vacation to work time? How do you manage that transition? What works for you?
Spoiler alert/ tl:dr version: The answer to the title question is “NO”.
In the world of bad news, Monday’s popular health articles about napping, heart attack and stroke don’t rank anywhere near catastrophic. I mean, we’re used to much worse, right? Still, it wasn’t a happy thing to crank up the laptop, mosey over to CNN.com and see this:
The Canadian press was a bit more circumspect, but the message still wasn’t good in this article:
What is going on here?
As usual, the real story is complicated because science is. But here’s something helpful from the Canadian article:
Compared to subjects who never or sometimes napped, researchers found that a higher percentage of usual-nappers were men with lower education and income levels who were also more likely to report smoking cigarettes, daily drinking, insomnia, snoring and being a night owl.
To me, this sounds like that sub-group suffers from or is susceptible to a bunch of chronic health problems (including insomnia) due to social determinants and some of their health behaviors (e.g. smoking, daily drinking). Frequent napping is just one of several tip-offs that persons with the general profile are susceptible to chronic health problems.
To me, these results mean that the napping in some groups is a part of a complex set of behaviors and biomarkers that picks out individuals who may need preventative medical care or other interventions to help them stave off or reduce high blood pressure or the biophysical progression to stroke. Okay. That’s good.
It doesn’t mean that there is anything at all bad or unhealthy about the napping process itself. Napping doesn’t cause hypertension or stroke (at least this study doesn’t show that, and no one thinks this as far as I know). Rather, some frequent nappers have lives and medical profiles that are a tip-off that their cardiovascular health may be at risk.
So, nap or don’t nap. Talk with your health provider about your napping patterns if you’re worried about your life and health history. But don’t let this article keep you awake– at night or any other time.
Who here are nappers? I’m a napper when I’ve been up super-late and then early the next day. Feel free to share your nap stories (after you wake up, of course).
Last week I went for a swim at a nearby lake with some people from my masters swim club. In the pool, I’m one of the slower swimmers, but in the open water I kept up easily, and sometimes led our little pod.
My strokes felt amazing. Slicing through the water, I reflected on Christine’s power photos. I was wearing my two piece suit, which rarely gets worn despite best intentions. I am now calling it my power suit.
That led to me thinking about ways I could use my powers for good. I think I want to be a lifeguard again.
The COVID pandemic has interrupted lifeguard training, and the work has been more precarious because of lockdowns. Now as things reopen, there is a critical shortage of guards and swim instructors. This will have long-term impacts on water safety for many people.
There is precedent. Robin Borlandoe was a lifeguard when she was 16. Now, at 70, she has come out of retirement to help with the lifeguard shortage in her home town of Philadelphia.
I have already looked up the required training and course schedules to be a lifeguard and instructor in Ottawa. I have found a schedule that should allow me to complete all three courses in time for hiring season next year.
Even if I don’t end up getting hired, it will be good to refresh my skills. And if I do get hired, it will be an awesome retirement project, and a way to give back to a community that has supported me through my greatest sporting love since my first swimming lesson more than fifty years ago.
I love a good set of prompts. I have dice, cards, apps, and prompt sheets for writing, improv, storytelling, drawing, and all kinds of creative activities.
Prompts help me to avoid getting stuck in decision mode (a huge pitfall for my ADHD brain), and they offer just the sort of constraint that helps creativity to thrive.
Since I also have a bit of a decision challenge with exercise (trying to strike a balance between consistency and avoiding boredom makes for a tricky endeavour a lot of the time) I was intrigued when the all-knowing algorithm served up this set of exercise prompt dice on Monday afternoon.
I usually have to decide things in advance – knowing the what and the when and the timeframe helps remove the ‘Ugh, I will be doing this for the REST OF MY LIFE, I don’t even want to start.’ feeling that my brain automatically generates. But, when I use prompts, I usually only have to decide when and how long. (I guess the prompts only offer a certain range of ‘what’ so my brain is ok with that.)
I couldn’t help but wonder whether my brain would be ok with choosing a time and the length of my exercise session but leaving the exercises themselves up to the dice.
Then I looked closer at these particular dice.
I won’t do burpees. I know they are a great exercise but they make my head spin so I already know I won’t do them.
I’m not quite ready for pistol squats or ‘jackknifes’ so I would need to adjust or substitute something else for those…
And I don’t even know what is on the other side of those dice. There could be far worse things in store for me.
So I won’t be ordering those.
I am still intrigued by the IDEA of exercise dice.
And I just so happen to have a set of wooden cubes like these…
So, I am going to create my own exercise dice.
And this will probably work better for me because instead of having to roll one die over and over, I could roll a whole set of exercises at a time and have a very clear end point for my set or for my session.
Now I just have to decide what exercises to write on each die.
In some ways it’s not a problem I have–though I certainly have big legs too–because cyclists all wear shorts. On the bike, there isn’t really a choice. Yes, there are bike dresses, about which I have complicated thoughts. but they’re not made for long distance riding.
Pretty much cyclists wear form fitting shorts. I was riding with some women recently and we took a timed selfie. The phone sat on the ground in order to get the best view of our legs. That made me laugh because usually the concern is to put the camera up high to avoid double chins.
Here’s the pic:
People at work see me in shorts because I often ride in to work and then change there. If I get carried away answering early morning email, more people than I might like see me in shorts.
But there is one place I often don’t wear shorts and it’s an odd one.
At the gym I tend to wear capris or leggings, not shorts.
I think it’s because I work out at the gym the most in the winter and there’s the leg hair issue! Then I get used to wearing capris or leggings and feel self-conscious in shorts.
It’s so odd how that feeling creeps in and how place specific it can be.
I’m good wearing shorts out and about on the weekend in daytime, but I would never go out in the evening in shorts. The other night I went sailing in bike shorts but then when we opted for dinner out on the way home, I had a last minute moment of panic about what I was wearing.
Good gravy. It was a patio in the summertime. We were eating pizza. It wasn’t exactly a fancy night out. Shorts were clearly not inappropriate, and yet…
I hate those lists of what not to wear after 50. I’m pretty sure bike shorts in public, when not actually on a bike, might be on their list. But I also recognize, as I edge closer to 60, it’s going to take a bit of work not to care.
Here’s Ernie not listening!
How about you? Shorts, yes or no? All places or just some places? Is it about modesty about a judgement about whose legs, which kind of legs, what age of legs, ought to be seen out and about in shorts?
CW: mention (by me, not the provider!) of body weight and adjustments in eating habits.
Finding a good health provider is not always easy. Here’s something I’m not looking for:
I found this article on what makes for a good primary care physician. It emphasizes communication, which includes listening and being patient– all good qualities. But then I read this section:
…the doctor must be a good role model which means at least attending to his or her own weight, exercise, stress, smoking (not) and other symbols of disease avoidance, health promotion and wellness.
No. Just no. Clearly the person writing this article (a physician themselves) needs to take some remedial classes in the complexities of health behavior change. Or at least read our blog.
My past experiences with and continued fear of fat phobia from my health provider have kept me out of the doctor’s office and delayed regular physical exams and tests. However, my experiences with this practice have been pretty positive. While they usually ask to weigh me (annoying and unnecessary when I go in with a sinus infection), I’ve practiced my spiel of “I don’t want to be weighed today”, which they quietly respect.
After putting off my annual physical for oh, about three years and then rescheduling it four times, I finally finally showed up at the office, ready to meet my new provider, Dr. K. She joined them last fall, and specializes in geriatric medicine. A healthcare friend of mine said this was good, as geriatricians are trained specifically to listen to patients. I think this was said tongue in cheek, but I’m not sure. Anyway, why not?
Spoiler alert: my appointment went swimmingly, which is to say I loved Dr K! Here are some things I really liked:
One thing: Dr. K came in and sat down on a stool (I always sit in the chair in the office before getting on the examination table) to talk directly to me. She didn’t sit in front of the computer. Now, this was possible because this practice uses medical scribes– people who type information from the conversation into the medical record. This is such a great thing; it means the provider isn’t pausing during discussion to find the right field for input, and also the provider and patient can have a real conversation face to face.
But it wasn’t just the presence of the medical scribe. Dr. K looked at me and listened. For realz. It was lovely.
Another thing: Dr. K didn’t mention my weight once. We talked about physical activity, and she even asked me what I do for exercise in the winter! It took a little while to explain what a bike trainer was (I should bring photos). This discussion provided an opening for me to talk about eating and self-care. I said that since the pandemic, I’ve had some trouble feeding myself and cooking in ways that felt good-to-me. But, I added, I was working on it. She made a few comments about the Mediterranean diet (not D-I-E-T, but rather foodway), I nodded, and that was that.
A third thing: in the course of discussing health maintenance, and in particular mammograms and colonoscopies, Dr. K listened to me and we worked through my comments, potential objections, and worries about these tests. But she did it in– how can I put this– a fully adult way. She took me seriously (which she bloody well should, but still) and took the time to offer her views on e.g. fecal occult screening vs. colonoscopy. She then responded, rather than fending off my comments. And she was clever: after I said, “there’s no way I’m taking time out of my sabbatical to get a colonoscopy. If I’m doing it, I’ll take sick time from work!”, she said, “Absolutely! So we’ll schedule you for February.”
I saw what you did, Dr. K. And I respect you for it… 🙂
A fourth thing: Dr. K helped me be more patient with the processes of maintaining my own health. What does this mean? Here’s an example: in previous labs, my triglycerides were high. It was a worry of mine, particularly because I don’t want to take a statin. Yes, I know that millions of adults take statins, but I’m concerned about side effects. I declared my pre-refusal to take a statin (totally jumping the gun), and Dr. K said, “but they’re great!” I replied, “are we going to have to sit down with laptops to go over the studies on side effects?” At this point, her cooler head prevailed, and she said we should wait until the tests come back. I agreed. But she said she’d work with me on this. I felt mollified, which was her goal and mine. Winning.
Turns out, my tests came back fine. Triglycerides a little on the high side, but we’ll monitor it. And I’ll futz with my diet (again, meaning eating practices) to see what changes might result in lowering of those numbers.
Last thing (for now): I left the office feeling like I had been taken care of, looked after and listened to. That’s pretty high praise. And I mean it. I’m feeling bullish on working with Dr. K. Yay! Whew…
Oh, and it turns out that we are both from South Carolina and went to the same university (University of South Carolina)! We discovered this in the last minute of the appointment. I don’t require this of my health providers, but it was a nice little extra added bonus.
Readers, do you like your healthcare providers? What do you like about them? What do you look for in a provider? I’d love to hear from you.