- Is the soleus pushup the key to health? Catherine has thoughts
- Tracy’s older post about the many shapes athletes come in.
- Women Fighters of the Modern Middle Ages by Diane
- Cate and menstruation in her 50s. Her post about it almost always makes the top 10 list. This month it’s the 4th most read post.
- Marjorie’s older post on keeping fit while healing from hysterectomy.
- Pain and the human playground, a review by Sam
- Catherine’s helpful post about yoga poses she can’t do and what she does instead.
- Elan wrote about how to organize a chill, relaxed soccer team.
- How Catherine holds it togeher
- Sam’s post on aging, activity, and myths.
Month: November 2022
Spare a Thought for Women in Highly-Gendered Sports
I have been thinking a lot lately about how sports perceived as “more for girls” are undervalued, even in sports where they dominate.
In North America, at least, the vast majority of amateur equestrians are girls and women, yet the story is much different at the elite level. Since 1964 women and men have competed together at the Olympics, but no woman has won a gold in show jumping or eventing, though almost as many women as men have won at dressage. Dressage is widely seen as the “girliest” of the disciplines.
A consequence of this may have been the undervaluing of equestrian as a “real” sport. No, the horse doesn’t do all the work; riding is intense and demanding, and it requires strength and bravery as well as athleticism, a good connection with the horse, and many many hours of hauling tack, shoveling manure, and getting 400-600 kg horses to go where you want, even when you aren’t riding. The size of the rider doesn’t seem to be a major factor; the key is how well they can manage their horse.
Other sports have also suffered from male flight (the term for men and boys being less likely to enter a domain once it becomes associated with femininity). They include cheerleading, which was a male sport as valued as football before women took it on during WWI, gymnastics, figure skating, dance and artistic (formerly synchronized) swimming.
These athletes all must all be strong and flexible; most compete in close formation so precision matters, and artistic swimmers do half of their their four-minute routines under water. Concussions and other injuries are common. But because they are women-dominated sports where costumes and make-up have a role, they are routinely mocked as not being true sports. Interestingly, all, including equestrian, are places that have traditionally been more welcoming of LGBTQ+ athletes, as well.
However, the most egregious undervaluing of women’s sport this week was at the men’s World Cup.
Soccer is not gendered at the early stages of learning the game; over 40% of all players in Canada are girls, and boys and girls play together on the same teams. As they age and become more skilled, the girls and women are relegated to a distant second place in the minds of some (check out Wikipedia to see just how little attention the women get). At the same time, the most-watched event of the 2020 Olympics in Canada was the gold medal women’s soccer game won by Canada, led by Christine Sinclair. Sinclair is the world’s all-time leading international play goal scorer among both men and women, and the second player in history to score in five World Cups (after Brazilian legend Marta).
The Canadian women have played in every women’s World Cup since 1995, reaching 4th place in 2003. They scored twice in their very first game in 1995, against England. In total, they have scored 34 goals. So when a TSN sportscaster gushed about the first goal for Canada at the men’s World Cup the “greatest moment in Canadian soccer history” while sitting beside Janine Beckie, a member of gold medal Olympic team, it’s not surprising this was her reaction:
We all need to be more like Janine Beckie, every time we hear such nonsense.
Diane Harper lives in Ottawa. She grew up watching or attempting every one of these sports, and still does some of them, so she knows just how hard they are.
On The Complications Of Resting
TL/DR: Resting when you are sick is a good thing but it is very complicated when many of your roles are responsive rather clearly defined. It would be helpful if people acknowledged how complicated it can be instead of just telling a sick person to rest.
Truth be told, I had a pretty good run of luck but, alas, all good things must end and last week, despite my various precautions, I came down with Covid.
(And, subsequently, despite our in-house precautions, so did my whole family. Thankfully, none of us took any scary turns for the worse and we are all improving slowly but it was overwhelming and difficult and worrisome.)
So, I guess that means that my resistance to (and reluctance about) going out last Monday was probably part and parcel of having a virus attacking my system, not just a case of garden-variety I-don’t-wanna.
Now, I know that the key to recovery from any illness is rest and that that goes quadruple for Covid. The internet is full of advice about just how much and how long you should rest during and immediately after a bout with the virus.
But, frankly, it feels a bit like when I was a new mother and I was told to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’
Just like back then, the advice is good and so are the intentions, but…
HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO PULL THAT OFF?
Who is coming to step into my (metaphorical) shoes?
I‘m pretty good at the physical aspect of resting. I can take to my bed like a Victorian lady, surrounded by tea, snacks, books, and tissues.
However, even in the midst of all kinds of practical and moral support, it is damn hard to step back from the mental work of the things I do day-to-day. So my bedside accoutrements also include my phone and a notebook and some lists so I can deal with the things that are too complicated to hand off to someone else.
I am definitely not trying to claim that I am indispensable or any other nonsense like that but I am *used* to the things I have to do on a regular basis. I have practice. I am well-trained for my roles.
I’d need to be able to download the entire contextual net of my thoughts to be able to hand this off easily.
Now, to be clear, my paid work as a writer/coach/storyteller can largely be rescheduled. However, my family and volunteer roles, those can’t be handled the same way.
And a lot of that work can’t wait. I can’t, for example, put off groceries until I feel better. Normally, I would just go once a week or so and pick up the usual stuff and while I cook most of the time, any of us are capable of cooking.
But, I can’t just drop that task. We have to eat, even if we’re sick.
And since our existing system hinges on how my brain works, I have to be involved in the process of reassigning those tasks. Even if I am not going to be the one going to the grocery store, even if I am not going to be the one generating the list, I’m going to be consulted on the details. And since the default system (me going to the supermarket) won’t be happening, we need to figure out who is going to go and when they can go, and so on. Instead of an automatic system, it has become a series of plans and decisions.
That’s just one small part the various details I generally handle for my family.
For my volunteer work, often a lot of things can wait, but my work last week was related to upcoming public events that cannot be rescheduled. Yes, I have a team but I’ve been the person putting all the pieces together to make the big picture and it’s a bit late in the process to plop someone else into that role.
And I know some people reading are probably thinking things like: “Well, if you delegated the work in the first place…If you didn’t gatekeep…If you didn’t try doing everything yourself…If you trusted other people to do their work…If you insisted that other people take responsibility for things at home…”
I get why you might think all of those things. It’s a natural response to wonder if I have had a hand in creating this problem.
However, this isn’t about me trying to be a martyr and it’s definitely not about me gatekeeping or not holding other people responsible to do their part. It’s way more complex than that.
It’s about the roles I have ended up taking on in my life – by choice, by default, by societal expectation. It’s about a series of things going slightly awry and things coming to a time crunch. And it’s about someone with ADHD just doing the best she can most of the time and then not necessarily being able to ‘show her work’ so someone can take things to the next step.
Because of my ADHD, I struggle with creating systems. I have trouble seeing the bits and pieces of a project. I appreciate when I can delegate things but I’m not always conscious of the steps involved in my work until I am in the middle of them so it’s a bit hard to help someone else know what to do.
In fact, I often say that it is only when I am working on step one of a project that step two will float up out of the fog and reveal itself. It’s like one of those adventure movies or video games where the heroine has to be brave enough to step toward the chasm in order for the first part of the floating platform to appear.
So, as a result, way too much of any project I am involved in is in my head. I am working on documenting more of my routine activities but since that is exactly the kind of work my brain hates the most and since I don’t have someone willing to follow me around and take notes, it will take a while to make that happen.
So, while I am not a Type A person and I am not obsessed with work, when I am resting I have extra trouble giving away the tasks I usually take on.
Don’t get me wrong, I would happily hand them off. I don’t even need them to be done ‘my’ way. I’m just not sure what tasks I usually do nor am I necessarily sure what needs to be done next.
And even when I do know what to do next, I find that the coordinating tasks that usually fall to me take a lot of work to pass along to someone else. In fact, it is less stressful to do the thing than it is to to figure out how to share the information that I am waiting on a call from person A and if they say yes then tasks 1, 2, 3 need to happen but if they say now, then task 1 can happen but we need to call person B for task 2, and skip task 3, and do 3B instead.
(Meanwhile, if I do continue with a few tasks, I give the impression that I’m not all that sick or that it is business as usual, and then more work comes my way but that’s a whole other thing.)
Even if I were to try to explain that collection of tasks and what-ifs to someone who has offered to help, it’s likely that they would get completely overwhelmed because it is too much all at once. And since they couldn’t possibly pick up a month’s worth of details in a single conversation, I would end up with umpteen texts and emails to confirm bits and pieces of information.
So, instead of having one set of tasks to do in bits and pieces as I felt able, planning for the kind of complete complete rest that we’re advised to do would actually involve multiple levels of new tasks.
I would essentially be choosing between 1) doing the tasks as they showed up for me or 2) a) struggling to identify the tasks I unconsciously do for a given project b) connecting them to their relevant information in my head and typing that out somewhere c) putting both of that in some sort of timeline d) figuring out who the best person is to take the next steps e) hoping it isn’t too much to ask f) responding to the person’s (completely justified) questions at random intervals.
Which sounds more like rest to you?
In the end, I’ve been doing a hybrid sort of thing.
I typed out as many things as I could think of that needed to be done and added any context that occurred to me.
I farmed out any urgent things to people who had capacity to handle them (and, to be clear, I had lots of offers of help and support and I took people up on them as often as was feasible.)
I did (and continue to do) any things that I could manage, whenever I felt up to doing them.
And, annoyingly, I’ve dealt with some of the same sort of pushback I had when I was a new mom who couldn’t rest when the baby rested because it was my only chance to get something to eat, to put in a load of laundry, or to pick up the things that were cluttering the room and making me feel overwhelmed.
I’m not ignoring good advice.
I’m not pretending that the world can’t get along without me.
I’m not refusing to let other people help.
I’m trying to recover from an illness while I balance my needs against my responsibilities.
And while I could, in the long run, develop systems to make the delegate process easier, for right now, I am doing the best I can with the resources I have and getting grief for that just makes things harder.
So, can I ask you a favour?
If you are advising someone to rest, could you be respectful about it?
Maybe say things like ‘Are you getting enough rest?’ or ‘Is there anything I can take on that would help you to rest?’ instead of ‘The world can get by without you for a few days.’ or ‘You’ll never get better if you don’t rest.’
It’s all well and good to tell people to rest so they can recover but the process way more complicated than them just switching off their lives and heading to bed.
Let’s not pretend otherwise.
PS – I am deeply grateful for all the help and all the offers of help we have received this week. My friends and family have made things a lot easier and I have been well taken care of.
Crutches and canes and visible disability
One of the things I’ve learned through this process of knee surgery and recovery is how much people want to help, when they judge help is needed.
Walking around campus with my cane or with crutches and students leap to help me. They open doors and they offer to carry my books or my coffee. If I’m waiting and seating is limited, they offer me their chairs.
It’s lovely and I don’t refuse offers of help.
But I’m actually much more able, in much less pain than I was before surgery. And without the cane and crutches no one offered to help. I’m not blaming other people. They didn’t know. But it is a reminder of how much we rely on visible signs of disability.
I’m not sure what the answer is. I am heartened by how lovely and attentive people are being. Now I just have to figure out how to get that switch into helpful mode to activate without the cane or the crutches.
What’s your experience been using a cane or crutches?
Sam is checking in for November 2022
It’s been thirteen weeks since knee replacement surgery and aside from that new annoying muscle I discovered, things are ticking along just fine with my left knee.
I’ve added massage therapy to my toolbox of things to help and that’s been good.
I checked in with the surgeon though and things aren’t so great with my right knee. I’m seeing him again in February and we’re looking maybe–knock on wood, fingers crossed–on a May date for total replacement of that knee. It will be great to have all this over with and while I hate to miss a summer of outdoor riding it will be nice to be recovery walking without the added worry of snow and ice.
Because of my right knee woes we’re not going biking in Cuba this winter. I think it would be too much. But you? You should go with these guys. The trip looks amazing. I’m aiming for 2024. I know and I like the tour guides and strongly recommend them to you.
I’m still doing a lot of physio–twice daily, most days–and I’ve racked up more than 400 workouts in the 222 workouts in the year 2022 group. A few people congratulated me when I hit 400 and while it’s true that’s a lot I haven’t had much choice about it with all the physio (plus aquafit and some walking and some weight lifting and riding on the trainer.)
What else to report? Let’s see. It’s unlikely that I’ll finish 7 more books before the end of the year. Wish me luck!
Reading back over old posts I see I had the ambition of riding outside at the 12 week mark and I haven’t managed that yet. It’s certainly warm enough this weekend but we’re away in the big city for a weekend of music and theatre and meals out with friends. Hard to complain about that. I also planned to try classes at my new fancy gym, other than aquafit. Maybe hot yoga? Or a spin class? That might end up being an ‘over the Christmas holidays’ thing.
While November is always a struggle, it’s been great this year having friends who recognize that and who reach out. We’ve had visits with Susan, and with Alice, and with Steve, and Greg, and with Ellen. I also gave a Zoom talk (I don’t love it and each time say that will be the last but this one felt ok) and I’ve been teaching Ethics and Data Science. So more people than usual and that’s been a good thing.
In general, connecting with other people has made me feel better. Shocking, I know. My friend Todd Tyrtle is blogging about his efforts to feel better in winter and I’ve been enjoying our conversations about what helps and what doesn’t. Here’s the silliest list I’ve seen of 53 ways to feel better in winter. The list includes face glitter, drawing on bananas and walking backwards.
Anyway, November is done and I’ve made it through the worst month of the year. Next month is all holidays and parties and bright lights and presents and yummy food. And then the days begin to get longer and there’s bright sunshine and snow (here at least)!
Catherine considers joining a gym in January
For some weeks now, I’ve been thinking: maybe it’s time to find a nice gym. Okay, I admit that reading Samantha’s posts about her fancy new gym has definitely put me in a state of yearning for pools, saunas, nice weight room, interesting classes and pleasant locker room (if there is such a thing). Another friend just told me that she joined the nice athletic club not far from her house and mine. So, what am I waiting for?
I’m really busy and mostly out of town for December, so maybe it makes the most sense to join in January. Or maybe not.
If you google (as I did) “should I join a gym in January?”, you’ll get loads of links to articles giving you reasons not to start a membership at the beginning of the year. Here are some:
- It’s the most expensive time of the year to join
- 80% of gym members don’t ever use the gym again past February (numbers and months vary by article, but the message is clear)
- It’s a big schlep to get to the gym when it’s winter vs. working out at home
- When/if one goes, the January throngs at the club will be rude or clueless about gym etiquette
Yes, yes, I know all of this. But but I still want to join anyway. What are my reasons?
- January is when I have the time to explore a new club and new classes
- I’m looking to switch up my exercise routine and get out of the house more
- The last time I joined a nice club I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking for that experience
- The pool– I want access to a nice pool!
- I have a flexible work schedule, so I don’t have to work out at peak hours
The place I have in mind (where my friend just joined) has a 7-day trial. I think checking things out in December makes sense. And then, I’ll need to look over the contract carefully– the devil is in the details, so they have to work for me (cancellation policies, putting membership on hold, etc.)
I’ll report back on progress, but I think I’m gonna do it.
Readers, have you joined or restarted a gym membership during the January rush? What was it like? I’d love to hear from you (I think… 🙂
Sam is singing the nap anthem
I heard a great interview on CBC recently with Fatuma Adar, a playwright and creator in Toronto who has made mediocrity her mission. She’s written a musical play, She’s Not Special, about the pressure to be excellent as a Black Muslim woman. Adar was featured on an episode of the CBC show, Now or Never, talking about the joys of mediocrity.
The theme of the show resonated a lot with me and with some of the questions we take up on the blog. Not every active thing we do needs to be a quest for excellence. It’s okay to enjoy a sport or a physical activity and not excel at it. It’s just fine to be a bad dancer. Many of us who love running are slow runners.
In my post about being a fitness Muppet, I took my inspiration from Brett Goldstein (of Ted Lasso fame) speaking as a guest on Brené Brown‘s podcast, Unlocking Us, about the Muppets.
“Well, it’s like… The secret of the Muppets is they’re not very good at what they do. Like Kermit’s not a great host, Fozzie is not a good comedian, Miss Piggy is not a great… None of them are actually good at it, but they fucking love it…
And they’re like a family and they like putting on a show and they have joy and because of the joy, it doesn’t matter that they’re not good at it.
And that’s like what we should all be. Muppets.”
In that post I wrote about my joy in playing soccer even though I am not a great soccer player. Being willing to be bad at a thing is a thing I’ve written before in the context of motivation.
Anyway, I loved the interview with Adar and think her dad, who appears on the show too, is terrific.
Adar has also written and directed an ode to the nap, inspired by the Nap Ministry. It’s the Nap Anthem and I love it!
Happy Planksgiving from Margaret and Gemma
Happy Planksgiving! 😉🦃🍁
from Margaret and Gemma.
In these great photos from 2021 Margaret is planking with her dog niece, Gemma. Gemma has her own Instagram account. Follow her on @goldendoodlegemma.
Margaret plans to blog for us in the new year. We’re looking forward to it Margaret!
A “chill” league of their own: Part 2
This past summer Cindy created a new FB group for a “chill” women’s rec soccer league (Part 1) that would disallow aggressive play. Many women eagerly joined, and I did too.
What does it mean to play aggressively? It might be described as specific behaviours, such as offensive charging and defensive tackling. Or, aggressive play might also be described more broadly to include any violent, reckless, or dangerous actions that increase—or are perceived to increase—the chances of injury.
What aspects of the game contributes to making soccer aggressive? It may be scores and league-tabling, but it’s also the division or level of play. Those who have been trained for competitive divisions may play more aggressively, especially if it is encouraged. According to the Barcelona Premiere Soccer Club,
“Aggressive Soccer is important for competitive players. It helps them play the game with more accountability and responsibility. Playing soccer requires a lot of hard work and determination.”
Some may play aggressively due to their prior competitive training. Conversely, players without prior training may also appear aggressive if they lack the skills to avoid collisions or strikes.
Then there are “old feuds” between players on opposing teams, which can easily spark tensions and aggressive play. Some folks may seem to be playing aggressively based on their reputations alone.
How to manage aggression in soccer that is part game structure, part skill level, and part perception? League organizers provide divisions to create play at different levels of competition levels. Rec divisions—the least competitive—would also presume to have the least aggressive play. Leagues also enact safety policies, rules, penalties, and paid referees in order to keep gameplay in all divisions fair and safe for everyone.
But judging by the number of women who joined Cindy’s FB soccer group, it seemed that typical measures were not enough. By attempting to self-organize, the group could perhaps find new ways to minimize competitive and aggressive play.
So, it was interesting to me that when Cindy asked what folks wanted, the vast majority of FB members voted in favour of keeping “typical league” with scores, statistics, and teams.
Judging by the result, the group seemed to think that the source of aggressive play was the players, not teams or scores. They still wanted competition, just not the aggression competition can bring. Rather than change the game, perhaps the league could enact measures to prevent aggressive players from playing or playing the way they tend to do.
But when approached with requests to prevent players or teams with a reputation for aggression, the league manager explained that the group could not form a private “chill” league so long as actual scored games were being played (which the women voted they wanted). The provincial association overseeing all rec leagues (Ontario Soccer) puts no restrictions on barring skilled players from joining non-competitive divisions. Anyone could join this new “chill” division, even if they weren’t part of Cindy’s FB group.
As well, the league wouldn’t implement stricter penalties in just one division. As I understand it, the league manager was supportive of the idea of a non-aggressive league but wasn’t prepared (or perhaps resourced) to enforce unique rules that could lead to multiple complaints or challenges to rulings.
So, neither the players, the league manager, nor the governing professional association were willing to make systemic changes to the division or the game to avoid or minimize aggression. The “problem” of managing aggressive play still seemed to reside at the level of individual players.
Meanwhile, by the time all the information started to surface, it was late in the summer and the FB group had over 100 people in it—everyone still wanted to play in a non-aggressive league.
Could a group of women wanting “chill” soccer address aggressive play if everything about the division and the game stayed the same? Find out in Part 3!
Aging, Activity, and Myths
I saw this on Twitter and love the assignment and the results.
Here’s Number 1: Frailty is “Inevitable”
I especially love the tips about avoiding self-identifying as frail.
Follow the full thread for the others myths, such as “older adults are not crucial members of society,” “Older adults should skip exercising to avoid injury,” “All older adults should skip strength-based exercise,” and more.
Nice work Healthy Aging students! I’m busy grading my own students work but these all look like As to me.
Help share if you’re still on Twitter.