fitness · ICYMI

Top Ten May 2023 Posts, #ICYMI

Cate’s still menstruating post was the most read post in May. It’s usually in the top ten. And it’s often first.

Pain and the human playground was a short review I wrote about a show about endurance athletes and their limits. I’m not sure why but it was the 2nd most read post in May.

May the 4th be with you: Star Wars Day Workouts was our 3rd most read post in May for obvious reasons.

Tracy’s 2013 post The shape of an athlete was the 4th most read post in May. I still love that post too!

In 2019 Catherine wrote about yoga poses she can’t do and what she does instead. Yoga poses was the fifth most read post on the blog in May.

Elan’s Martha Stewart, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model was the 6th most read post in May.

My A real life lesson in muscle loss and aging was our 7th most read post this month.

Diane’s post Using Strava to Mess With The City (and Myself) was the 8th most read post in May.

My post on the 11 knee supporting exercises I do everyday was our 9th most read post.

Mina’s When grief is your running companion was our 10th most read post.

Green and yellow frog. Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash
habits · meditation · mindfulness · WOTY

Lying to Myself About Meditation

Monday morning. May 8th 2023. I wake up after an unusually restful night of sleep. I know I got up to the bathroom once. Other than that, I have no recollection of sleepless restlessness, which is not the norm for me these last many months. The first thing I notice is the fading rose of the light on the buildings out my window, soft and clear. I am surprised the day is here. I check my iPad for the time. It’s on the bedside table. Reading a novel (on the kindle app on my iPad) in bed as I fall asleep is one of my life’s pleasures.

And, in that moment, reaching for the time, I realize this: I did not meditate yesterday. Horror! How could I have forgotten?

I comb back through the day. It was not my typical Sunday. To start with, I didn’t get into bed until 4:00 am. I was taking part in a big group photo shoot organized by some friends, which didn’t start until past midnight. That same morning, I stayed longer in bed than usual … waiting until the moment before I needed to leave for my 5 Rhythms group at noon. I left my iPad out in a particular location to remind myself to meditate when I got back. But not with a note, as I often do, if I don’t meditate first thing in the morning.

That was May 7th. My cousin’s birthday. He was born 4 days before me. It would have been 1617 days of meditation in a row. 617 days since the last day of the first in-person visit with my mother after pandemic.

My streak!!?? I couldn’t lose my meditation streak, too! Enough with the loss already (I won’t get into the details—I’ve written about them the last couple of months.)

I recalled that while I was lying in bed Sunday morning, I had thought to myself, maybe 5 Rhythms will be my meditation today. After all, Gabrielle Roth, who developed the technique, called it a moving mediation. Still, if I’m honest, I wasn’t thinking about that anymore when I got to the studio. I was just inside my body, inside the dance. So, did it count if I hadn’t thought to myself, in the moment, this is my meditation?

I’ve been meditating daily for more than 4 years now, and I have adjusted my expectations and the form my meditation can take several times. For example, when I started, I required of myself a minimum of 20 minutes. After a month, I relaxed into any amount of time counting, so long as I sat down intentionally. My meditations now are most commonly 10 minutes long. Another requirement was that I be seated—a cushion or a chair (airplane seats count) or a patch of grass. Just seated, you get the picture. Then, about six months ago, when life got especially challenging, I began to relax the seated requirement and relaxed into lying down meditation. Sometimes (often on days when I’ve woken up super early or am having trouble motivating myself to get out of bed), I start my day with a meditation in bed. 

So, I am not averse to adjusting my meditation habits over time. And, I’ve never made the adjustment unconsciously. And, I’ve never included a moving meditation in my streak, at least not before May 7th. And, I do think it’s appropriate to count 5 Rhythms as a meditation, though I’d probably feel differently if it was the only form of daily meditation I practiced every day, which is how I feel about lying down meditation, too. Yes, at times the system of rules and regulations and definitions of what counts and what doesn’t inside my head verge on the Kafkaesque. For example, I don’t count riding around town on a bike as my workout, but I’ve also realized that it is a factor that needs to inform the workout I choose to do on a day when I’ll be riding around town a lot.

Which brings me back to my immediate problem on May 8th—what should I do about the meditation streak?

First, I decided to meditate, with the intention to notice what was coming up around the issue. Then, I thought, why bother? You’re just fooling yourself. You’re back to zero. You won’t get back into the 1600s on a new streak until you’re into your sixties. Suck it up. I sat down to meditate anyway. I considered whether there was a freedom in not being on the streak anymore. I’ve got a number of new, unasked for and unwanted, freedoms in my life. I don’t want more of these types of freedoms.

These thoughts crowded my mind: I have deep expertise in the field of being hard on myself, maybe this was not the moment? But if I follow that logic, was I at risk of being too gentle? What long time discipline would I cheat on next? If I decided to count 5 Rhythms, was I lying to myself? What would I lie to myself about next? A rabbit hole of dire possibilities yawned open.

Then, as if switch flipped, my mind quieted and I heard, count it. Add the session into your log. The streak motivates you If after a few days, you feel like a lying, cheating fraud, you can always take it out.

Well, it’s been more than a week now. When I look at my streak count, which is, as I type this (on Friday May 19, is 1628, I feel no remorse. I’ve come clean here about my streak. That’s enough. No public hanging required. I will continue on with my streak.

That last sentence was supposed to be the end of this post. My intention was to let the writing sit over the weekend and come back to polish the next week.


Saturday morning. May 20th 2023. I finish my run and decide to meditate outdoors. It’s only then that I realize, holy fucking shit, I did not meditate on Friday. The very day I was writing my first draft of this post, I forgot to meditate. Again. And this time, there was no 5 Rhythms waiting in the wings to save me. I was stunned. Was this the universe punishing me because I was lying to myself about my meditation streak with my 5 Rhythms fiddle? I sat down to meditate on my new streak-less reality. As I listened to the wind in the trees and breathed the breeze, waves of grief, followed by waves of jubilation rocked through my body. Each wave swelling into the space of the receding wave, as grief rolled into jubilation rolled into grief. For everything that’s been happening. When I finished my meditation, I was shaken. And I accepted. No, more than that, I welcomed what was. That was my word of the year, here was a reminder of the practice. I was not being punished or tested or whatever. I was living and doing the best I can. Later that day I bought a bottle of champagne to share with the friends I was having dinner with. To celebrate the ongoing deconstruction of my life.

This was the quote on my Insight Timer app on the day I realized that I’d forgotten to meditate. It felt like a message addressed to me rather directly. And the other image is my welcome to what now is.

I’m on day 4 of my new streak today. Or so Insight Timer tells me. And I don’t intend to streak for the time being. I will take the days as they come. 

ADHD · fitness

It’s a good thing I’m not a plant

This has been an incredibly raw and challenging month but I’ve have been doing my very best to take good care of myself.

Or so I thought.

I’ve been asking for help and accepting offered help way more than usual.

I have been resting regularly and keeping things low-key whenever possible – especially after nights when I’ve slept poorly. (That is happening a fair bit.)

I’ve been sticking with yoga and walks and stretching because any time I push myself harder, even a little, I’m instantly exhausted. I suspect that after a certain point any physical exertion feels like stress to my sad and tired brain and it is refusing to play along. *

I have stuck with my daily writing and drawing and meditating routines even when I didn’t feel like it because they lend familiar shape to my days.

I’ve made sure to stay connected to friends and to sprinkle fun activities throughout my week without getting overwhelmed. I’ve kept my work and volunteer tasks to a minimum.

So, that all felt good, like I was taking charge of the things I could take charge of and letting myself do and be the way I needed to be.

How foolish, hey?

Thinking I had everything well in hand, almost like I was trying to do a ‘good job’ of grieving.**

And all along I was forgetting something something important, something incredibly basic.

A most essential element in caring for a human.

 My water bottle (bright green with a black cap) sits on my patio railing. There’s a (still!) leafless tree directly behind it, and in the background there’s a stretch of grass, a few other leafless trees, and my circular swing.
Image description: My water bottle (bright green with a black cap) sits on my patio railing. There’s a (still!) leafless tree directly behind it, and in the background there’s a stretch of grass, a few other leafless trees, and my circular swing.


I have been drinking ridiculously little water.

I’ve had a small glass of water with my meds in the morning.

I’ve had A LOT of tea.

And, sure, I’ve been getting some hydration from my tea (it’s mostly non-caffeinated) but it’s not even close to the same as drinking the amount of water I usually do.

And I felt feeling cranky and twitchy and just off as a result.

But since EVERYTHING feels off right now it took me over a week to figure out what the problem was.

In fact, it was only as I was using the water from my water bottle to water my plants one evening that I realized how little water I had actually consumed that day.

(Yes, I had frequently followed my usual habit of filling my water bottle in the morning. I just didn’t do the drinking water part of the routine.)

If I was a plant, I would be drooped over the side of my pot by now.

I guess my tea helped save me from that fate. – I have been feeling pretty droopy though.

For the record: I do NOT recommend forgetting water.

*Yes, I know a good workout would probably be helpful overall and would probably help me sleep. However, I’m listening to my body and it is saying ‘Nope.’ There will be lots of time for more intense exercise later. Also, my ADHD brain doesn’t do so well with the ‘later reward’ business and I don’t have extra energy to put into convincing it right now.

** I wasn’t literally thinking this but, in retrospect, it kind of comes across that way.


Go live your best life!

Thursday was my six month check in with the knee surgeon. I passed the flexion tests with flying colours. I can bend my right knee well over 90 degrees. And he was impressed with how well I’m walking without the cane. All good.

I’m cleared for return to work. I can drive again.

At the end of the visit I was asked if I had any questions. I see the surgeon again at twelve weeks.

I asked whether I could ride my bike outside and if there was anything I shouldn’t do with my new knee.

I laughed at his reply, Lead your best life!

He said most people are more self limiting than they need to be.

I know the list of things not recommended after knee replacement surgery–contact sports, downhill skiing, running.

But I also know lots of people stop doing other things after knee replacement.

It’s got me thinking about training and where I want to set my sights. Knee replacement or not, so many of us slow down as we age and the reasons why are complicated.

I’ve worked so hard at physio in the past year that I’m wondering about keeping it up. What might some stretch goals be? Obviously I want to get back to long distance riding. But what have I stopped doing that I want to add back on?

I’d like to do more hiking and some more back country camping.

I definitely want to keep lifting weights and get stronger, both because strength feels good but also because it matters for healthy aging.

I’m wondering about Aikido, basic movements at least if not full on training.

This week I head back to the gym and do some workouts that aren’t physio. It’s time and I’m excited about it.

Reach for the moon
fitness · habits

It’s International Starting-Over Day! (well, it ought to be)

I’ve noticed something lately: I’m finding myself having to start over with several patterns that I hoped had turned into perfect habits. Why is this happening? What should I make of it? And what should I do? Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions. This is why I’m declaring today International Starting-Over Day.

First up: Meditation. I’ve been doing it on and off for decades, but made it a sort-of daily habit about three years ago. I’ve had some phenomenal streaks. And then, I’d miss a day. So I’d start over, only for it to happen again, a while later. My Ten Percent Happier App keeps faithful (and ruthless) track of my activity.

I’ve started over a lot, from the looks of this data. 43 times I’ve had to start over after 3 days.

So: 1) why has this happened; 2) what should I think about it; and 3) what should I do? I think my answers here are:

  1. It’s happened because life happens.
  2. This is what life is like– imperfect, filled with gaps.
  3. When this happens, I can just start over.

Second starting-over habit: my no-buying clothes/shoes/accessories plan, January 1–July 1 2023, has been blown to smithereens. Last July, along with Samantha and some of the other bloggers, I embarked on a no-buying-clothing-and-such, and it worked very well through 2022.

But when I re-upped in January 2023, I lost resolve right away. It started in mid-January with the purchase of a teal pair of chaco sandals (my sister and niece have them, which I borrowed during the winter holidays, so I wanted a pair) Then in March I felt like I needed a pair of Dansko shoes for work. April brought a late-night order of two cute shirts and a jacket (they were on sale, but that is hardly exculpatory). May? Another jacket, purchased at a friend’s Cabi clothing party. And now, just before June, courtesy of REI, I’m the guilty owner of incredibly cute summer sandals that I don’t need, but really want.

What should I do now? I get to choose, including starting over. If I want to restart a no-buying plan, I can. The fact that I bought stuff doesn’t mean I can’t slow down or stop or rethink or make plans to curb buying. Whatever I decide to do, I starting over is always an option.

Here’s a tough one: Cycling. For years, I’ve considered myself a cyclist. I rode a lot, under a lot of conditions, on and off-road. Over the past seven years, I found I was riding less. This was distressing, but didn’t help me with reestablishing a regular cycling habit. Last summer I bought a beautiful fancy e-bike, but I haven’t ridden it much. What can I do?

If I want to resume riding, I can start over. It is hard to ride or run or walk or swim when I used to do it regularly, and now I don’t. But that’s the beauty of starting over. I can just… resume.

Of course life isn’t that simple. Habit formation and re-formation aren’t that simple. But they’re important, and they’re always available to us. I’m beginning to think that if we want to live interesting and fulfilling and relatively happy lives, getting more comfortable with starting over will help.

I should say here that I’ve been inspired by Tracy’s blog Vegan. Practically. Her post on Ways to Be Imperfect has made me think of what my options are in the face of my own imperfections. So thanks, Tracy.

What about you, dear readers? Are you avoiding starting over with something? Did you start over recently? How is it going? I’d love to hear from you.

Book Club · fitness · weight stigma

FIFI book club: “You just need to lose weight” and 19 other myths about fat people

CW: in-depth discussion of anti-fatness myths and people’s experiences around body shaming.

If you haven’t heard about Aubrey Gordon, then now’s a very good time to meet her. Gordon is a writer, podcaster and activist. She co-hosts the podcast Maintenance Phase, which we’ve blogged about here. Her newest book, “You just need to lose weight”, and 19 other myths about fat people, has been covered by just about every media outlet, from the Washington Post to Glamour UK to Literary Hub.

I’ll just come out and say it right now: this is a book that a) really needed to be written; b) really needs to be read by everyone (especially everyone who works in health care); and c) is brilliantly done by Aubrey Gordon.

If you decide to read/listen to this book, don’t skip over the introduction. Here are some of my favorite bits:

Many of these myths center around treating fat people as failed thin people, implying that thin people are superior to fat people.

This is one of the best sentences I’ve ever read explaining fat stigma.

Gordon also addresses the question, “why give these anti-fat myths any airtime?” Her answer is:

We may talk about diets differently today, but social mandates to become thin are as strong as ever.


Engaging with these myths, as thin people or as fat people, provides us with opportunities “to interrupt moments of anti-fatness in our daily lives”. Staring down the myths and reducing them to the factually inaccurate and blatantly bigoted views that they are is long overdue.

We’ll be reading and posting on each of the four sections of the book, starting with section one today. We encourage you to read along with us and post comments. We’ll be reading them and responding.

For each section, I’ll list the myths that are covered, and then a few responses by our bloggers. Here are the myths Gordon discusses in section one:

  1. Being fat is a choice; if fat people don’t like how they’re treated, they should just lose weight.
  2. Any fat person can become thin if they try hard enough; it’s just a matter of calories in, calories out.
  3. Parents are responsible for their child’s weight; only bad parents let their children get fat.
  4. Thin people should help fat people lose weight.
  5. Weight loss is the result of healthy choices and should be celebrated.

Here’s Amy’s overview:

I really enjoyed reading this book. As a regular listener to Maintenance Phase I could almost hear this entire book in Aubrey’s voice as I was reading it. There was so much that resonated with me, as a person in a bigger body, in this first section. Like Aubrey, I’ve been stopped by thin people who have suggestions on how I can lose weight. I had a co-worker tell me I looked like I had “had a healthful sabbatical” because I returned in a smaller body than when I left, and received countless lectures on “calories in/calories out.”

The excellent writing and easy style of offering facts without judgment is refreshing in the realm of books about bodies and how much they weigh. I was excited to read this book and I’m thrilled to say it did not disappoint.

Here’s Tracy, focusing on myths about parents, children and body weight:

First, to be clear, Aubrey is preaching to the converted — I already am completely on board with the message and love Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes’s blog, The Maintenance Phase, where they debunk diet myths left, right, and centre. Nonetheless, listening to her book I discovered that I can still be shocked and outraged, and I still have a lot to learn. Part 1 presents five myths that fall under the “Being fat is a choice” theme.

There is room to be outraged at every turn, but the chapter on children (Myth: Parents are responsible for their child’s weight. Only bad parents let their children get fat), really made me despair about how far we have to go. I learned that children have literally been removed from homes and put into foster care. I didn’t know this. Also, in some places, including several US States, there is no lower age limit on gastric bypass surgery and as a result it has been performed on children. I think I heard right that the youngest person to have it was two and a half years old.

Besides horrific stories representing these extremes, the whole chapter made me keenly aware (again, as a sad reminder) of how entrenched ant-fat bias is in our culture, such that children are shamed for being fat. Indeed, it brought me back to the beginning of when I was ushered into the world of dieting at the age of 16 after I gained 15 pounds in five weeks on a trip to Europe. After that, my grandfather had one more story to add to the family repertoire, and that was that when he saw me at the airport he didn’t at first recognize me because [here he would blow out both of his cheeks like a balloon to demonstrate how fat I looked, and then everyone would laugh – or at least this is how I remember that story going every time it was hauled out for fun]. I remember not thinking it was particularly funny, and feeling for the first time that I had to “do something” about my body. So the children chapter resonated and took me back to the beginning of my struggle with food, weight, and body image.

And one more thing I noted: she talked about why anti-fat bias is not “fat-phobia” and that referring to it as such doesn’t capture its far-ranging oppressive impact.

Next up is Diane:

What I loved most was the end section with all the notes. So much is said about the need for low body weight without evidence to back up the claims. I’m an evidence nerd, so perusing the sources made me very happy.

Like Tracy, the chapter on children was also shocking for me. It was also the one where I had to think hard about my own anti-fat biases. I have learned to be much more accepting of all body shapes, but a little part of me still falls for this myth if I’m not careful.

The last myth (Anti-fatness is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination) really made me think because Aubrey pointed out that words without actions are meaningless. Anti-fatness often targets women, Black people, people of colour, poor people, queer and 2SLGBTQI people, disabled people, who also face discrimination that is supposed to be illegal. But discrimination against those groups, regardless of body size, it remains socially acceptable as long as we collectively allow it to happen.

I’m wrapping up, again pointing out some of my favorite Gordon smack-down passages:

When someone tells me to just lose weight, it teaches me that I can never expect their advocacy on behalf of fat people. The best I can hope for is their indifference.

As a person who identifies as fat (and whose weight has gone up and down throughout my life), I’m very familiar with the anger and heartache and sadness that comes with knowing that I’m being judged as less professional, smart, attractive or worthy of respect than the thinner people in every environment. I’m also familiar with unsolicited advice about diets or weight loss from others. To paraphrase Gordon, it’s as if we owe thinness to others, that our very fatness is an embarrassment to them, an offense against them.

But, but… what about your health? I’m just concerned about you.

Yeah, no. I”m not falling for that again.

Health-concern trolling is a bad thing. If you want to read a bunch of reasons why, check out this easy-to-scan-if-slightly-salty article.

Honestly, I could go on all day just about section one, but I’ll leave you with a few comments about the idea that weight loss should always be celebrated (part of myth five). Gordon says this:

Ultimately, weight-loss compliments don’t function without a hierarchy of bodies. Thinness is only worth celebrating if it is an accomplishment, and thinness is only an accomplishment if fatness is a failure.

“Healthiness” compliments work very similarly, which Gordon notes, revealing bodily hierarchies that mirror our other power hierarchies, enfolding racism, misogyny, ableism, etc. to exclude and disparage bodies of those who aren’t in favor. If you’re interested in another great read on this topic, check out Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body: the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia. Gordon cites it, I’ve read it and it’s really worth checking out.

We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment about experiences or views or suggested reading.


Walking across the Rwanda-Burundi border

I walked from Rwanda into Burundi this morning. A few steps across the border, the road was nearly empty. There was a soldier with a rifle under a tree, with a woman wearing an orange dress, a green and blue scarf over her head. She spat on the ground as I neared. I think it was a coincidence. There were a couple of guys cleaning up two rattletrap cars and three guys on two bicycles.

The road was flat and paved, leafy trees and flowers on both sides, bird trills loud and insistent. Hills and farmland peeped over the tops of the trees but even when I stood on my toes, I couldn’t see much. Cows in the distance. Small houses made of clay and wood. Green. The sun was hot, and I’d left my hat in the car, along with everything but my phone, my passport and a few francs.

I only walked about 750 metres and turned around. I’d promised my driver I’d return in quinze minutes. Just a lark, walking across the border from Rwanda into Burundi and back.

There had been a bit of polite and helpful wrangling about visas — crossing into Burundi meant I was leaving the East African visa zone, so the carefully pasted in $125 visa that allowed me to re-enter Rwanda and then later today, by air, Uganda, would be invalid. But, the helpful first guy explained, because I was Canadian, I don’t actually need a visa for Rwanda. (No one had explained this when I spent the $85 for the e-visa, direct from the embassy. They also tried to sell me COVID insurance). So leaving would invalidate my east Africa visa, but I could buy a $40 Burundi transit visa, come back to Rwanda and then get another $100 visa on arrival in Uganda. Okay. $140 for my lark. Plus what I am paying my driver to chauffeur me around, chatting in my primitive French. All knowing that I sail on a little cloud of the protection that money and whiteness and Canadian citizenship bring.

So I crossed. Mostly, because I could. What’s $140 to me? Not nothing, but certainly not what it is to everyone around me. Maybe a week’s wages for them, if it’s a decent job.

Walking, I let go of the gentle border wrangle and listened to the quiet. Burundi is a lot less prosperous than Rwanda, but where I crossed is just nature. The men with their bikes and cars looked more ragged than the women walking in Rwanda with their brightly coloured kitenge, more weathered even than the wiry Rwandese pushing bicycles heavy with water jugs, firewood, pineapple crops up hill.

My first time in Uganda was in 2008. Since then, I’ve traveled enough in Uganda and around east Africa to recognize degrees of poverty, the lines of strain and worry and hunger. The lines that the kids in our project had when we met them, as small refugees or kids who’d been shifted into the hands of relatives because of parental incapability of looking after them.

Last night, I had dinner with a group of siblings, graduates of our project, who’d surpassed those weathered lines. Refugees to Uganda after the genocide, our project had supported them through school, leadership training, university. Now, adults with good jobs and sharp suits, the money to pool funds to build their mother an excellent house, to donate money back to other kids. The leisure to run on a treadmill and learn to swim and watch football on a TV in their own home.

Always this question of privilege, the randomness of luck combined with structural forces that bestow “luck” on different groups disproportionately. Our privilege brought “luck” to this family and the other 47 “kids” in our project.

Walking mere steps into Burundi, I’m contemplating the meaning I make of my own privilege. I mentally try to count how many countries I’ve now walked steps in — or cycled, or dived, or run, or trekked. More than 70. The privilege of a Canadian passport, of legs and lungs that work, of English and enough French, of money, of a culture where the gender constraints are more elastic than almost anywhere else. Of an upbringing that encouraged adventure.

I re-enter Rwanda — passport duly stamped — and Regis drives us to a nice little hotel for lunch. We sit by the empty swimming pool and I briefly lament out loud not having my swimming costume with me. Five minutes later, a man is handing me a well worn pair of red flip flops and says come with me. He takes me to a steel changing room where a skirted swimsuit is hanging and hands me a towe;. Change here.

It’s not a bathing suit I would choose in a million years, but it fits me better than the two dozen I tried on in MEC last year. Regis takes my photo and I dive in. I swim until lunch is ready. It costs me 3000 RWF — about $3.

Privilege. I merely think about swimming and bam, I’m in the pool. Outside the hotel gates, people are pushing bicycles bearing heavy burdens in the same hot sun. I’m reminded of the time I was in Myanmar and wanted a puppet show and suddenly, there I was, alone in a hall with a warm gin and tonic, watching a puppet show just for me.

When I first started traveling by myself, I worried about being A Woman Alone. But I learned so quickly how easily white, western privilege smoothes paths. And how easy it is to mistake those smooth paths for something you deserve.

I’ve had my fair share of impatience or irritation at wanting something while traveling, at feeling disappointed when the path is the tiniest bit bumpy, at frustration when despite google translate, I can’t make myself understood. And I’ve been on bike trips with others who whinge about discrepancies between what was promised and what they got, about guides not paying enough attention to them, about patchy wifi.

But the more I travel, the longer I live, the more my body holds out against time, the more aware I am of the miracle that seeing this planet is. That when we navigate the earth aware of and grateful for our privilege — pure dumb luck at being born into this place and position in time, not that one — the more moments of grace emerge. Like a ridiculous, random bathing suit that appears just so I can dip into the water.

inclusiveness · media · sexism · team sports

Sports Podcasts and Gender Unawareness

I recently listened to an episode of Adam Grant’s podcast Rethinking, entitled “Life lessons from sports,” featuring Jody Avigran. Avigran is passionate, fast-talking ex-athlete and sports commentator who has a new podcast called Good Sport. This was one TED podcast boosting the signal of another.

Avrigan’s Good Sport podcast is about the deeper meaning of sports. In the Rethinking episode, he says stuff like this:

You’re telling me that the thing that is really fun to do, that like keeps me in shape, […] will also teach me like, how to be a better human and how to like trust others and how to build teams? And like is a place where I can also like, figure out all these things about the real world, which I’m gonna have to go back to anyway at some point?

I am on board with Avrigan’s idea that sports can teach us about how to be good humans, good team players, and a good supporters of others. It’s what FIFI is also about, in my view.

I also found myself interested in Avigran’s focus on not only the brilliance of top-tier athletes but also the communities that nurture athletes, the supporting role that high-impact coaches play, and those who are the keepers of team culture, which Avigran describes as the “glue guy”:

I’m very fascinated, and I like asking athletes of all stripes: who’s actually the person who, who brings you all together? Who’s actually the star in the locker room? You know, they call it “glue guy” […].

To illustrate, Avigran describes the Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem, and Grant supplies former MBA player Shane Battier, as another example of a glue guy.

And I started thinking: Glue guy. Glue guy. Glue girl? When are these two seasoned podcasters— who are nerding out on the “life lessons” sports teach us—going to give examples of female athletes, female coaches, women’s teams, and gender (diversity) and sports? Why would a 40-minute episode on what sports teach us about ourselves and our world not reference a single person from over half that world? Did Grant or Avrigan even notice how this podcast advertising another podcast would appear so gender unaware?

I scanned the Good Sport episode titles and found one called The Past and Future of Gender in Sport. Okay, that sounds good. But, in 2023, are female athletes and women’s sports teams only mentionable in the solitary “gender in sports” episode, or can we also normalize gender inclusive examples in every episode?

I realize I am drawing conclusions about the enduring gender unawareness of sports media based on a single episode of one podcast and a quick scan of another. But if I want to learn more about glue girls in team sports (which I do), how many podcasts will I have to comb before I find that information?

@samanthabrennan has recommended to me The Gist, and I also found the Women in Sport podcast. FIFI readers, what other inclusive sports podcasts would you recommend?

Error and Update:

I apologize for including in my post an ableist expression to convey my negative view of sports podcasters who fail to include gender and gender diversity. The expression was disrespectful and has been removed. It’s an important reminder to me, as the author writing about the very topic of inclusion in the media, to be vigilant about ensuring that what we (including me) say and write in the public sphere does not exclude or diminish others.

Today I listened to Adam Grant’s Rethinking episode featuring soccer star, author, and podcaster Abby Wombach, which was brilliant and awesome and everyone should listen to it.


Critical Mass Ride

On Saturday I joined my first-ever Critical Mass Ride in Ottawa. These are rides where large groups of people on bikes get together and ride through the streets as a way of pushing for safer infrastructure and normalizing using bicycles as a regular form of transportation. It turns out they are also a lot of fun.

A crowd of people with their bicycles is starting to gather on a courtyard near a row of flagpoles, under a cloudy sky.

About 250 people showed up at the start point from across Ottawa and Gatineau. There were people on racing bikes, hybrids, folding bikes, e-bikes, and cargo bikes. There were people older than me and kids on their bikes. There were dogs and kids in bikes. There were even a couple of supportive walkers and a guy on a skateboard.

As the crowd continues to build, a woman with her child in a cargo bike greets one of the dogs who rode in another cargo bike, and his owner.

The crowd rode in front of Parliament Hill and down to a road along the Canal that is sometimes opened for active transport on weekends.

A large group of people riding bikes waits at a street light on a treed road.

We ended up at the heart of the Tulip Festival near Dow’s Lake, about 8 km from where we had started.

More people and bikes at the end of the ride. a few are applauding and one person has her arms raised in celebration. You can see the lake to the right and trees and a food truck in the background.
More people with their bikes, plus a bed of tulips and some trees (including a crabapple full of pink blossoms) with office buildings in the distance.

I ended up getting to meet people I only knew through Twitter, connected with folks working on active transportation through other groups, got to check out a street with new temporary bike lanes, and explored part of the river partway and a new footbridge I had never used before. It was a great reminder of how easy it is to get around by bike, too: my total distance for the day was about 22 km.

There are already requests for more Critical Mass Rides in Ottawa. Others are doing it too. I have heard about rides in Hamilton, Winnipeg and Vancouver and several places in the UK this week alone. The Hamilton ride is a protest following the death of an 81 year-old cyclist last week, and the Vancouver ride is to protest the removal of hugely popular bike lanes in favour of another car lane through Stanley Park.

Whether you are a cyclist or a person who bikes, walks or rolls, you may want to keep an eye open for similar events where you live. Or organize one yourself! It’s just one part of the advocacy we need to make streets safer for everyone and help fight climate change, but it’s also fun and a great way to be active.

fitness · planning · self care · time

Go Team 2023: Cut Yourself Some Slack

My last two posts have been really introspective and reflective as I slowly adjust to a world without my Dad in it. I have really appreciated your supportive comments and your messages via email and Facebook.

I have lots more to say about grief and movement and mindfulness but I haven’t gotten those thoughts into shareable form yet.

So, instead, I am falling back on a Go Team post:

My dear Team, please, please please, cut yourself some slack.

Nobody feels on top of things.

Everyone I know is feeling overwhelmed.

Just about every conversation I hear is full of apologies, full of explanations of delays, and descriptions of things people intended to do but didn’t quite get to.

And while I appreciate the fact that we all feel the need to explain, I would love to see us all recognize the fact that everyone is doing their best with the time, energy, and resources that they have.

We are all dealing with a lot of expectations from ourselves and from other people and often those expectations aren’t particularly reasonable.

There is NOTHING to be gained by being hard on ourselves about the ways that we fall short.

Instead, we need to be kinder to ourselves.

And not just when we fall short of expectations. We need to be kinder to ourselves when we are making plans or creating expectations in the first place.

We need to give ourselves a break.

We’re just a bunch of humans who are, frankly, poorly trained for the world we are living in and we are doing our best to respond appropriately to a variety of pressures.

Sure, there are ways we can improve those responses and there are ways to ensure that our actions align more closely with our values but those changes can only come from a place of self-compassion.

Like all of those memes say – if self-judgement worked, we’d all be perfect by now.

So let’s pour some energy into self-compassion, hey?

Here’s your gold star for your efforts to cut yourself some slack today.

Image description: a drawing of a cartoonish gold happy face star with a background of blue lines with a sprinkle of small blue dots. ​
Image description: a drawing of a cartoonish gold happy face star with a background of blue lines with a sprinkle of small blue dots.