Six friends and I participated in a neighbourhood Halloween parade this past weekend: we dressed up as characters from Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal (1982).
As I noted in my previous post on stiltswalking and fitness, wearing stilts as a quadraped animal in the parade was indeed a good workout for my arms, legs, and core. It also took a lot of mental effort to stay balanced and aware of surroundings and obstacles. I felt shaky and vulnerable like a newborn deer for the first hour.
But I got my “stilts legs” and eventually could even walk mostly upright in them. Friends were a BIG help in supporting us as stiltswalkers. It was fun!
We also won best group costume!A video by journalize Rebecca Zandenbergen and photos are below.
Four months ago I announced on the blog that I was taking a year long hiatus from shopping for shoes, clothes, purses, and jewelry. You can read that post for the full back story of why, and you can also see some of my pandemic purchases! Online shopping was a stress reliever during the pandemic but I have way more than enough stuff and it was taking up a lot of mental space as well as physical.
A few people have asked how it’s going.
First, in the interests of full disclosure, I did make some exceptions so it’s not been no shopping. I think I even announced those in the that original post. They were non underwire bras (after I decided not to go back to them once the pandemic was over), a dress for a friend’s wedding that worked with my new knee, and new running shoes which I’d planned to buy after surgery. At the time of the no shopping pledge I didn’t know when that would be.
Second, I’ve had fun watching the clothing ads slowly disappear from my social media newsfeeds. But there are some fun exceptions there too. Facebook is honing in on my personal style. My son Gavin says that with my cane I look like a Muppet pirate. Lately the ads are getting more and more specific. Lots of pink and purple and red. Lots of furry, shiny fabrics. So I’ve resisted but maybe I’ll ask for one for Christmas.
Third, it’s certainly made me realize how much clothing I have. Instead of shopping online, I’m shopping in my closet. It’s led to some discoveries and it’s also led to some clearing out of things I don’t wear. It’ll be a good opportunity to take stock, organize, and prune my existing clothes collection. I’m glad to have that as a focus for the year instead of buying new things.
Fourth, shoes are easiest to resist. I own a lot of very nice shoes and boots. I’m tempted a lot by jewelry since I lose a lot of it. I hardly ever buy purses so there’s not much challenge there at all. And clothes are really the focus of this whole thing.
Fifth, I do need things to distract me on my phone still. And I’ve found a thing that’s not shopping. Instead when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep or when I’m waiting in the car for people, I’ve been working on my Spanish using Duolingo.
Check out my progress!
Sixth, it’s also not been no shopping. Regular blog readers might recall shortly after knee surgery, while taking strong pain medication at night, I went on a pillow shopping bender. I guess I Google searched for best pillows for getting comfortable after knee surgery and bought them all. They just kept arriving, for days. More pillows!
Here’s Cheddar with one of the new pillows!
And I am keeping a digital scrapbook of things I’ve been tempted to buy so I can check in at year’s end and see if I’m still tempted.
This ad just came across the FIFI social media outlets (thanks, Nicole, for bringing this to our attention). It shows a bunch of 46-year-old white women in an ad for Geritol. The fact that all of them are the same age is supposed to be shocking to us. What separates them, the ad tells us, is that some of the women “take care of themselves”, while others apparently don’t.
This vintage ad came across the FIFI social media feed (thanks, Nicole for bringing this to our attention)– it’s for Geritol (a vitamin and iron supplement later pulled off the market; more on this below) featuring a bunch of 46-year-old white women. The ad singles some of them out, although it doesn’t say which ones. But it’s got some concerns:
I don’t know about you, but these women all look around the same age to me. But, the ad implies that some of them clearly look older, and it’s THEIR OWN FAULT. Why? Because they are not “the ones who take care of themselves”.
(Parenthetical comment: props to the woman in the blue jacket for pioneering resting bitch face in a good way. She’s having none of this.)
(One more parenthetical comment: the product in question, Geritol, was marketed as an iron and B-vitamin tonic in the 1950s. It was supposed to relieve tiredness, and was 12% alcohol. It was pulled off the market because of risk of diseases associated with too much iron, and also because Geritol engaged in “conduct amounted to gross negligence and bordered on recklessness”. The FTC ruled them as making false and misleading claims and heavily penalized with fines totaling $812,000 (equivalent to $4.96 million in 2021 dollars). See their Wikipedia page for more details.)
Back to the main rant. According to the fine folks at Geritol, women who “take care of themselves”:
Never eat too much or too little;
get a good night’s sleep every night;
exercise every day;
do all the things that women leading busy women’s lives in the mid-20th century have to do, regardless of income;
and of course take Geritol every day.
But how, pray, can we tell which women are “taking care of themselves” and which women aren’t? By how they look, of course! Aren’t you silly…
I have to say that just writing about this nonsense is getting me a little worked up.
Okay, I’m back. Here, in no particular order, are some problems with a culture in which this ad is just one little horrid illustration:
“Looking your age” or “better yet–younger!” is assumed to be a universal imperative for women.
The markers for “looking your age” or “better yet– younger!” are based on classist, racist, misogynist and (I might add) boring and bland criteria, which are unattainable by most women (even the ones who made it in into that ad, for goodness’ sake).
The notion of “taking care of yourself” (subject to same influences as “looking your age”) censures all women whose busy lives involve burdens of family care, domestic labor, paid work, and endless waking and working hours, with no time for bridge club, facials or golf.
Geritol was harmful alcoholic snake oil, marketed by lies, targeting consumers with money but also vulnerabilities.
The idea that “taking care of yourself” is, for women: a) a lifelong obligation; b) something whose success can be read off women’s faces and bodies is false and also vicious.
How can we take back the notion of “taking care of ourselves”? I think we’re doing it already– right here on this blog, out in the working and playing and political world, in our homes, and with our friends and families. And what are we doing in this updated version?
We prioritize ourselves as best we can, given our constraints and connections and interests. That means choosing– as we can– the aspects of our lives to focus on. And, in cases where we currently can’t choose (e.g. reproductive health and safety in the US right now), we speak up, fight back, disobey, organize, and act. Oh, and vote, too.
We set boundaries– again, as best we can– so to protect time and resources for activities of our own choosing. Where the boundaries aren’t there, again we work to change them.
We dare to love ourselves as dearest members of our families (sometimes, families of one). We do this all the time– or as much as we can.
But who am I to go on and on about self-care? Let me step aside for someone who said it better.
Readers, how do you understand the phrase “taking care of yourselves” these days? What do you do? I’d love to hear from you.
Heading into the first autumn of pandemic isolation (2020), I recognized the need to have an at-home cardio option to supplement my winter running and virtual HIIT classes. Cate boasted about her new Bowflex spinning bike and I decided to invest in one, as well. I checked out Zwift and Peloton and quickly decided that the Peloton cycle classes would most inspire me, given my historical love of music-heavy, interval-laden, indoor spin classes. I subscribed to the app and loved it. It worked for me. I wrote about my admiration of Christine D’Ercole here, here and here. I enjoyed regular 45-60 min sessions with various Peloton coaches, including Jenn Sherman, Cody Rigsby, Tunde Oyeneyin, and others,
I didn’t have a need for Peloton’s other workout options with the (virtual and outdoor) classes I was still enjoying from my gym. When the weather warmed up, I would use the bike less and run outside more. I used the bike a lot, again, the second pandemic winter and continued to enjoy the Peloton app’s offerings. Overall, I was still enjoying the classes, but was starting to develop some pet peeves. I really feel fickle about some of my pet peeves, but coaches talking and singing over the music, not enough long ride offerings, and even, D’Ercole’s inspirational word smithing was starting to wear thin (to be fair, I still use her mantras in my head for other things and I appreciate them!).
As I head into the third winter with my Bowflex bike, I know my bike seat will heat up again, but this time, it will be without the Peloton app. My credit card information changed recently and when I went to correct it after the subscription lapsed, I was made aware that it would be $16.99, rather than the $12.99/month I was paying previously. I tried to contact Peloton various ways to explain the lapse to see if there was a way of resuming my previous membership (price). No one from Peloton has responded to me. I find this strange, considering it’s been in the press that they are not doing well. You would think they would want to keep an existing customer. Either way, I can’t justify the $4/month increase for the amount I use it.
Recently, I hopped on my bike for the first time, without Peloton. I asked Alexa to play some “Woman Rock” and she obliged with “here is a women’s indie channel”. I called my sister on speaker and started riding while catching up. The telephone call lasted about 30 min and then I increased my tempo and did some hills and intervals for another 15 minutes. I loved it. Since then, I have asked Alexa to play Lizzo, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album and Squeeze’s Singles on 45, and it has been just as effective and just as sweaty as a coach-led ride. I already know how to warm-up, time hills and flat roads and enjoy intervals. I’m looking forward to playing around with my newfound freedom on my bike! I may even create my own marathon ride!
After more than three years of not doing anything “official,” I signed up for a 5K and ran it last weekend. And it was a blast. A few of my running group did it too. None of us went in with big dreams and all of us had a fun time.
Considering that my last event was the Around the Bay 30K back in 2019 (see my overly optimistic report of that ill-fated day here — it was ill-fated because the next day I had a back injury and shortly after that I had achilles issues and basically I didn’t run much again for about nine months), the 5K felt like an odd choice. Not because there is anything wrong with 5K, but because it isn’t a distance that I needed to train for since I run more than that regularly (our Sunday minimum is usually around 7.5 and we often do more than that). I’ve never done an event that I haven’t had to train for.
I also had difficulty deciding what my goal should be. I really haven’t gotten back on track with any regular routine since the ATB in 2019, and when I go out I go out for fun, not for fast results. So I decided that my goal would be to come in under 40 minutes. That might seem like an unchallenging goal to some, but I wanted something that I could actually meet. Indeed, a friend who hasn’t run since she was in her thirties literally laughed at me when I stated that goal, as if it was ridiculously easy.
On race day I felt good. It was a gorgeous autumn day and we met just over 1K from the start line and ran there as a little warm-up. Unlike events in the past, I didn’t need to concern myself with whether I could make the distance. I decided I would stick to my usual 10-1 intervals that I do every Sunday.
In the end, most of my group broke away from me within the first 500m, with one falling into place a little bit behind. I didn’t end up wanting to walk for the one-minute walking intervals, and I was pacing reasonably well all things considered. My chip-time was 35:19 and I felt strong–only mildly regretting that I hadn’t pushed just a little bit harder to come in under 35 minutes. In any case, it gave me a new goal for my sixtieth birthday, which is to try to shave a few minutes off of my 5K time and perhaps even complete it in 30:00. It was also a fun time for the group, all of whom were smiling at the end, as you can see in our photo.
If there is a moral to this story, it’s that going back to something I used to do, and keeping my expectations very low, can actually feel really good. Have you returned to something that you’d set aside? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.
If you celebrate Hallowe’en, your holiday-related exercise may involve organizing a costume then walking around the neighborhood or elsewhere in that costume.
This year there’s a slight twist on my Hallowe’en exercise: I’ll be walking on stilts.
I have never had a desire to wear stilts before. But last year when friends had the idea for the next local Hallowe’en parade of dressing up as “Landstriders” (tall quadaped animals from an 80s children’s puppet movie), I thought, Why not?
Fast forward months later—we have homemade peg stilts (thanks Lisa’s husband) that put us about one or two feet higher off the ground. It feels like 10. Though we are on stilts for the first time, our front legs will give us four points of contact and extra (much-needed) balance.
Uses and types of stilts
Stilts may be used for work (e.g., drywalling), as props for entertainment (in circuses, parades, and other performances), and for recreation or exercise. No matter how you are using stilts, they require balance, coordination, core and leg strength, and other skills for walking, running, or jumping off the ground.
Here are some of the major types of stilts:
Handheld stilts are poles that people stand on and hold onto the polls. There are also buckets or cups that are held onto the feet by users. You may remember them as “romperstompers.”
Peg stilts are brace stilts whose base is more narrower than the user’s foot, which requires them to keep moving to stay upright and balanced.
Articulated stilts, usually made out of alumnimum, have a larger foot than a peg and allow for some toe movement when lifting the stilt.
Jumping or spring stilts have a fibreglass coil leaf spring design that allows users to run, jump high, and perform acrobatic tricks.
In addition to the need for strength and skill to use them, stilts comes with the extra risk of falling from a high height. The simplest advice I found for neophyte stilts walkers includes these points:
Keep an open (but not too wide) box stance to so legs are no more than shoulder-width apart
Don’t cross your legs while you walk
Don’t lean back
Stilts, fitness, and feminism
How is stiltswalking a fit and feminist issue? As stated, this exercise requires strength and other body abilities. It also not only allows for fun, creativity, and expression in daily use or performance; there is a connection between stilts and prosthetics. Stilts (and other adjacent technologies) can get you taller than your body’s height and aid with locomotion and/or balance.
I was particularly moved learning a little bit about American artist Lisa Bufano, who used prosthetic stilts in incredible choreographed performances, some of which had toured worldwide. A gymnast and athlete, Bufano aimed to draw attention to her body’s abilities and differences in ability since becoming an amputee at the age of 21.
Although Bufano is no longer with us, you can see a tribute to and selection of her powerful artistic work, including videos, at the website http://www.lisabufano.com.
Below are a few videos of women from around the world on stilts. See if you can identify the stilt types they wear. I am inspired by their confidence!
The mayoral elections in Ottawa this week were largely defined by transit issues, and nearby Montreal Road, in the community of Vanier, was recently reopened as a complete after three years of construction. As a result, bike lanes and accessibility have been very much on my mind.
I stopped in for the grand reopening of the street; there was a large crowd of people who had come on foot, by bicycles of all kinds, in strollers, or on scooters. The new street features wider sidewalks and separated bike paths for most of its 2 km length, along with improved infrastructure for the bus service.
Why does this matter to a fitness blog? Because that street is in a relatively poor part of town, where many people don’t own cars. There are lots of immigrants, kids, many people with disabilities, and the local bus is among the busiest in the city. A complete street like this one means that people can get around more safely.
Surveys have shown that cycling numbers increase significantly when there is safe infrastructure. People will cycle year-round if the paths are cleared. In Ottawa, the number doubled between 2015 and 2020, even though the winter cycling network has only about 50 km of maintained routes. Even if you are a fair-weather cyclist, it is easy to manage at least some trips for 7-8 months of the year if the roads are safe, since the average trip in the downtown area is less than 4 km according to Ottawa’s 2013 Official Cycling Plan.
Other people using wheels also benefit from those separated bike lanes – whether it is little people in strollers or those using wheelchairs or mobility scooters. In fact, I shared a good chunk of my last ride to Canadian Tire with a guy on a mobility scooter.
Transit has been strongly linked to higher rates of active travel and physical activity. However, as Journal of Transport & Health notes, the associated physical health benefits must be weighed against potential health threats. “For instance, in terms of safety from vehicle traffic or emissions, walking and bicycling to transit can be riskier travel options than other modes due to their higher levels of physical and environmental exposure. For this reason, by travel distance, active travelers suffer from injuries and fatalities at a higher rate than drivers. Additionally, walkers and bicyclists may suffer disproportionately from vehicle emissions compared to other modes, particularly during higher-exertion events during which oxygen uptake will be elevated.” But if we had fewer vehicles on the road because there was a viable, low-cost alternative? Game changer!
Commuter cycling and accessibility also has race and gentrification issues. A quick Google search will bring up all kinds of articles, though most focus on the experience of Black cyclists in the USA. I don’t know how much race plays into cycling in my neighbourhood, but there are definitely concerns about this historically working-class Francophone community being gentrified.
One local group is addressing cycling inequities. Vélo Vanier is not-for-profit that loans bikes to residents and recently started lessons for moms after discovering that many women who brought their kids for bikes had never learned to ride themselves. Two recent students were featured in a CBC article; both are recent immigrants from Africa.
Diane Harper lives in Ottawa. She has become a dedicated commuter cyclist.
With Halloween just 7 days away, I thought it would be fun to post a few themed workouts in case you wanted to get in the ‘spirit’ of things. (ooooooh, so scary!)
I haven’t watched or completed all of these, I just picked the ones that seemed fun and weren’t obviously problematic. Please take good care of yourself if you choose to do these – don’t do anything that doesn’t work for your body and turn the video right off if they seem to be buying into any diet-culture crap.
I was only going to share 7 workouts but then I found this short chair yoga workout to ‘Monster Mash’ that is just so charming that I have add it to my list. I can’t figure out why it won’t embed like the others did but it is worth the click over to YouTube to view it.
I hope you found some fun workouts in this collection.
Do you have any other Halloween workout links you could share?