blog · fitness

Top Ten August 2023 Posts, #ICYMI

  1. Rest in power fit feminist, friend, philosopher, fashionista, fellow dog walker, and yogi Cate Hundleby
  2. In 2020 Sam blogged about the lack of representation of larger women’s bodies in fitness images. See Where are the muscular, larger women’s bodies?. It was the second most read post in August.
  3. Cate’s still menstruating post was the third most read post in July.
  4. Catherine’s post Don’t try this at home: What to make of teeny-weeny fitness studies was our fourth most read post.
  5. Tracy’s 2013 post The shape of an athlete was the 5th most read post in August.
  6. In 2019 Catherine wrote about yoga poses she can’t do and what she does instead. Yoga poses was the sixth most read post on the blog in August.
  7. Mina’s moving post How Do I Keep Moving Through Uncertainty? was seventh.
  8. I love it when guest posts make the Top Ten list. 3 things I hate(d) about running by guest blogger Stacey Ritz was our 8th most read post.
  9. Another guest post in the Top Ten list is Movement in Transition by Alex Boross-Harmer. It was our 9th most read post. Here’s hoping Alex and Stacey blog for us again!
  10. Our tenth most read post was Stacey’s earlier guest post, Running does not have to be an achievement journey.
Stacey’s post-5K.jpg:  “Sinking my teeth into the race’s namesake after the finish.
(alt-text: a woman wearing a blue hat taking the first bite of a butter tart)

birthday · blog · blogging · cycling · dogs · family · fitness

59 great things about Sam, in honor of her birthday

All of us at FIFI are grateful to Samantha and Tracy for starting the blog in 2012, inviting us to join as writers and readers, and keeping it going strong in the midst of whirlwinds of change over the past decade plus some. In honor of her birthday, and in no particular order, are 59 great things about Samantha, who turns 59 today.

1–4: Samantha’s in-house menagerie of various creatures:

5–8: a rotating roster of cats, past and present, including the venerable Zippy, who lived to the ripe old age of 18, Boo, her son Gavin’s cat, who lodges with them from time to time, and her daughter Mallory’s cats Louie and Moon, who visit on occasion.

9–16: Sam’s well-looked after family of Mallory, Gavin, Miles, Kathleen, Sarah, Jeff, Susan, and others I’m forgetting. Not to mention her many friends, students, colleagues, and neighbors (which I’m counting as one for these purposes).

I don’t think I got everyone in this montage, but that’s just because Samantha’s family and friends cannot be contained by mere digital means.

Images of Samantha with family, friends, dogs and bikes.
Samantha with family, friends, dogs and bikes.

17–26: Sam’s written a lot of very popular blog posts over the years. Here are ten of them:

The fact that Sam wrote in both 2013 and 2021 about finding clothes to fit athletic women’s bodies shows a real need for this blog. And by the way, it’s not fixed yet. But don’t worry, Sam and the rest of us are on it.

27–31: Samantha has been writing about real women’s bodies (in contrast to Barbie bodies) for a decade before the movie came out. Here are five of her posts:

32–37: Sam embraces the gear! six bikes:

  • pink brompton
  • gravel bike
  • newer road bike
  • older road bike for trainer
  • fat bike
  • track bike (possibly for sale…)

38–40: Sam continues to embrace the gear! 1.667 boats

  • 1/3 of a big sailboat
  • 1/3 of a small sailboat
  • 3/3 of a canoe

41: Sam doesn’t embrace single car ownership, but shares one with her mum.

42: Say what you will, but I think Sam and I looked pretty similar in high school.

43: I think we still look like we could be cousins (which we certainly are in a psychic sense, or something)

44: Samantha loves books! She buys books, reads them, talks and writes about them in our FIFI book club (and elsewhere), and gives books to people. Hey Sam– what should our next FIFI book club be about? Something to think about.

45: Sam’s To Listen, Read and Watch posts. They are a relaxing and often informative time-out from work emails or more serious reading. Wanna catch up on some of them? Look here.

46: No matter what sort of snafu or whoopsie-thing happens with the blog (and yes, below our sleek, professional exterior, we are fallible like everyone else…:-) Samantha manages to a) fix it; or b) compensate for it; and c) not sweat about it. Thanks, Sam!

47–59: For each year of this blog– 2012–2023 and on, Samantha and Tracy deserve praise (Tracy’s birthday is coming up soon, too, so stay tuned…)

Happy 59th, Samantha, from me, the bloggers, the readers, and Robert Anderson (who took this photo on Unsplash).

Pink happy birthday signs on pink confetti frosted birthday cupcakes. yum.
Happy Birthday! yum.


The Joy of Unplugging

I started writing this from my cottage property, where I hung out for a long weekend of mixed primitive and glamping with my buddy Melanie. The irony of writing on my phone about unplugging is not lost on me.

Though I call it a cottage property, it’s really just a plot of land with a clearing with a fire pit where we can pitch a couple of tents. It got a major upgrade a couple of years ago when Mel and I built and installed a thunder box (a primitive open-air version of an outhouse).

Mel, like me, loves to camp. But it’s also important to her to take time to just be together with other women, alone. Though she loves her hubby dearly and does lots of things with him, taking time away is invaluable. It’s the same for him – staying at home with the cats, indulging in all the baseball.

Mel came with a list of things she hoped to accomplish – clear a better trail to the thunder box, move the woodpile from one side of the clearing to the other, mark some walking trails.

What did I want from the weekend? To just “be”. Go for a swim if it got warm enough. Maybe break out the compass and see if I could identify the edges of the property.

For the most part, just “being” won out. Breakfast not eaten until it’s nearly lunch time. Remembering that if you just sit back and look at the stars, listen to the howling wolves/coyotes and the calls of loons, time has no meaning.

We did some serious contemplation of the impact of humans on the earth as our trail to the outhouse became clearer each time someone walked back there (no specific labour involved). And we thought a lot about the unpaid labour of millions of women who for centuries were responsible for collecting wood and water. It was hard work to replenish a modest woodpile without the aid of power tools.

In the end, we mostly celebrated just being together in a peaceful space with some goofiness,

Melanie, wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants and a hat, is dancing around a campfire, using the fire poking stick like a tap dancer’s cane.

delicious food cooked over the campfire,

Roasted corn, green beans in a mustard cream sauce, and piri piri chicken are on a white plate balanced on my knees in front of the fire pit.

and a swim.

Diane with wet hair in a purple T shirt and Melanie wrapped in a blue towel and wearing a white bucket hat at the beach just after our swim, with the lake in the background.

We are already starting to plan next year’s trip, maybe timing it so we can watch the Perseid meteor shower. If we go a bit earlier in the year, maybe there will be more loons, too.

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa.

ADHD · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Christine is still keeping a fitness journal

Back in February, I started keeping a fitness journal. It started out as a handwritten thing but after a month or so, I started using voice dictation to keep my journal on my phone.

Every single Monday since then, I have opened my Google doc journal and chatted a bit about how things are going with my fitness plans.

This isn’t the kind of tracker I have tried to keep before – a record of the specifics of individual exercise sessions – it’s a reflection of how I feel about my exercise lately. I make notes about the kinds of exercises I have done, whether I am feeling better or worse for having done them. I pay attention to which exercises feel good and which ones are getting on my nerves – and whether the annoyance is worth it.

I do a screen cap of the weekly report from my Fitness app and write about whether my perception of my efforts matches the report.

I talk about whether exercise has felt difficult or easy or anything in between in the past week.

I note any specific highlights, struggles, challenges, or high points, what contributed to those feelings and whether the feelings lasted.

My fitness journal has become exactly what I hoped it would – a place to celebrate, a place to whine, a place to notice the changes, the differences, and the benefits that come from my efforts to move my body in beneficial ways.

 A photo of two white daisies ​amidst some grass
This has nothing to do with fitness journaling, I just like daisies. Image description: A photo of two white daisies amidst some grass

It’s a container for all of my ideas and thoughts around exercise and fitness. It lets me see how I have changed my mind, changed my approach, changed my plans over time. It shows me what works and what doesn’t work.

It has let me see what aspects of fitness and exercise matter to me and which ones don’t.

It has shown me what a little extra effort and a little more conscious relaxation does for my well-being.

Having notes from my previous self makes it a lot easier to do the things that matter to me.

And since my journaling only takes 5 mins or so every Monday, it is definitely worth it.

I’m giving myself a gold star for sticking with my fitness journaling practice. ⭐️

Do you keep a reflective fitness journal? What is your practice like? Do you find it helpful?


Rest in power fit feminist, friend, philosopher, fashionista, fellow dog walker, and yogi Cate Hundleby

A friend and feminist philosopher died suddenly and unexpectedly of a pulmonary infection over the weekend. I’m heartbroken and shaken up.

I first met Catherine as a graduate student at Western. She was part of a cohort of feminist philosophers of science supervised by Kathleen Okruhlik. Catherine went on to career at the University of Windsor and contributed a ton to feminist philosophy community building, and a ton to her department, and to Philosophy at Windsor, in addition to her own research and teaching, which was also a lot and significant.

You can read more about Catherine’s work in philosophy here.

In recent years, after my move to Guelph, we became closer friends as Guelph is Cate’s hometown. We met up for dog walks a lot. We talked about philosophy (of course) but also about body positivity, families, feminist community, and university politics. We loved talking about clothes and fashion. We schemed about retiring together in Guelph and I always had a sense that we had lots more friendship in our future. Now we don’t and I’m very sad. I can’t even imagine what her family in Guelph are going through. I’m thinking about her mother, her sisters, her nieces, and her dog Chloe.

I’m Cate’s memory, I’m going to share some of Cate’s blog posts here at Fit is a Feminist Issue.

There are other Cate posts and you can read them all here.

Sam, Cate, and Cheddar on one of our many dog walks in Guelph

Happy birthday new knee!

August 29, 2022 was new knee day

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my left knee.

My left knee is now almost one year old, on the inside anyway. It feels pretty good. Certainly, it’s working well. No knee pain, and I can walk some substantial distances.

It doesn’t feel exactly like it felt before. There’s no pain for one thing. It’s not quite as flexible as the original joint was either. It also still feels a bit alien, like when I touch it, it still doesn’t feel quite like mine.

But I’m walking a lot and pretty soon I’ll be dancing too. I rode my bike 40 km recently in the Pedaling for Parkinsons ride.

Happy Birthday new left knee! Let’s keep up with the physio and keep moving.

Happy Birthday!
fitness · season transitions

Sunday snippets: little news items for your inspection

It was bound to happen. The summer is coming to a close, and fall is on its way. School is starting or has begun for lots of folks in North America. My classes start Sept 7, so I’m cranking away on syllabi and course management site construction. Course planning is a fun and creative process, but inputting due dates, uploading files, adding in new content in digital form, etc. is very detailed work.

Since most of my limited attention span Saturday was spent on editing, renaming and reordering 44 files for my honors logic class, I’m going to offer you some fit feminist news snippets that don’t require in-depth attention. In fact, I think I’m doing a public service, as it will save you valuable late-summer time that you can spend instead picking flowers, floating in a pond, eating melon or peaches, or doing absolutely nothing.

snippet one: Saturday was National Dog Day (in the US, I think). Some businesses are making a play for our money by hawking dog-related items. But it’s a fine occasion for paying special attention to the dogs in your life. Here are some of my favorite dogs:

Oh, and here are a few fun dog facts for you, in honor of the Dog Day:

  • Dog noseprints are as distinctive as human fingerprints. No two are exactly alike and often can be used to identify them.
  • The most popular dog breed in Canada, U.S., and Great Britain is the Labrador Retriever.
  • The most popular male dog names are Max and Buddy.
  • The most popular female dog names are Bella and Molly.

snippet two: long distance runner Mirna Valerio, also known as the Mirnavator, is now gravel riding and racing! She’s been hitting the off-road trails in Vermont and recently did a race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. You can follow her on Instagram, and you won’t be sorry you did. Here are some pics from Mirna’s summer:

snippet three: exercise and creativity might be related, sort of. In this study published in August, researchers asked, “Does engaging in physical activity over an extended period (chronic) influence creativity? If it does, what is the duration of this impact?”

They tested their questions by dividing 49 school children into a physical activity group and a non-activity group and tested their creativity (using a blah-blah operationalized blah-blah test) before and after the 6-week experimental period. The physical activity group came out ahead in terms of fluency and originality in their creativity testing. So maybe this means something? Not sure. But maybe.

See you next week with a proper story of some sort. In the meantime, enjoy the last snippets of fun before September arrives!


To listen, read, and watch on the weekend, #ListenReadWatch


Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wants to know why the hell we don’t hear more from older women, so she’s sitting down with Jane Fonda, Carol Burnett, Amy Tan, Diane von Furstenberg, Isabel Allende and Fran Lebowitz (and more!) to get schooled in how to live a full and meaningful life. Join the Emmy award winning-est actress of all time on her first-ever podcast where each week she has funny, touching, personal conversations with unforgettable women who are always WISER THAN ME™.

We listened to the interview with Jane Fonda on a recent car trip. Loved hearing about her life, her views about death, strength, love, and fitness. Also, she talks about aging, sex, and her favorite vibrator. I’m looking forward to hearing more interviews in the series.


Unpacking the invisible, gendered labour of women coaches

“Despite a positive shift in sport culture towards prioritizing athletes’ mental health and well-being, the crucial work of coaches in supporting athletes — and the resulting emotional toll — remains taken for granted.

Referred to as emotional labour, this often-overlooked part of coaching requires coaches to manage their emotions in order to influence or mediate the emotions of their athletes.

This situation is particularly pronounced for women coaches, who are consistently striving to establish themselves in a male-dominated space driven by competition and mental toughness.”


10 minutes of balancing breath work with Adriene


Touch a tree today

Last weekend, we went for a walk in a forest in Muskoka and saw these amazing fungi.

Did you know that being in nature is good for your health?

Because, SCIENCE.

There are comprehensive health benefits to being in natural and green environments:

Being in nature improves immune system function, strengthens the cardiovacular system, reduces hypertension, reduces stress hormones (cortisol), and improves stress and anxiety.

One study even suggested that “forest bathing” (intentionally hanging out among the trees) contributed to fewer covid deaths in Italy.

Also, trees are cool. They are the longest living organisms on earth, they are fundamental to our ability to breathe air on this earth, and most cool, they are interdependent beings:

Also, you can hug them:

Summer isn’t over yet here in Canada — hop on out there and breathe in some forest goodness.

Just don’t eat the fungi if you aren’t 100% certain what it is.

fitness · Guest Post · running

3 things I hate(d) about running

description: red text in the style of the movie “10 Things I Hate About You” re-written to read “3 Things I Hate(d) About Running”, next to a cartoon of a woman running

Last week I posted about my running journey since last fall, going from a stalwart non-runner — one might even say an anti-runner (both in the sense of being staunchly against the very idea of running, and in the sense of being the inverse of a runner, like the anti-Christ) – to a person who finished the Burlington Butter Tart 5K a few weeks ago by doing intervals of slow-running and walking. 

In that post, I noted how much I used to hate running, which makes it extra remarkable that I tried it again at all and that I’ve continued to do it. The funny thing is though, I still kind of hate running. Although I look forward to going out for a run, I feel good after a run, and I like the rituals I’ve built around running, while I am actually doing the running I can hardly wait for it to be OVER.

Even now that I have built a lot more stamina and cardiovascular capacity than I had when I started, the running itself still feels hard. I think I had assumed, or hoped, that at some point it would start to feel easy, and it hasn’t. It still feels hard. But I have figured out some ways that are helpful to me in dealing with that hardness.

Early on when reflecting on my experience of running, I realized there are 3 distinct types of discomfort that make me hate exercise: (1) I hate feeling winded and breathless; (2) I hate feeling hot and sweaty; and (3) I struggle with the sheer physical effort of putting one foot in front of the other.  However! The good news is, even though I still hate running, understanding more clearly what exactly it is I hate about running has actually been very useful. It’s helped me figure out how to cope with those things, alleviate or respond to them, motivate myself through them, and in some cases just accept them.  Here is what I have been finding helpful so far in dealing with those 3 types of discomfort:

Feeling Winded and Breathless: This might be easiest one.  I realized that if I’m breathing so hard that I’m uncomfortable, I can simply slow the fuck down and take a walking break, LOL. And this became a lot easier to do when I let go of any particular expectations of what I think I should be able to do – that I should be able to run without breaks, that I should be running at any particular pace.  Since I let go of that kind of achievement-oriented sensibility, it’s a lot easier to just ease up the pace when I need to so that my breathing and heart rate stay in a range that feels okay.

Feeling Hot and Sweaty: I’ve found 3 things that have helped me deal with this:

  • I started running last November, and initially I had thought that it was silly to start running just as winter was starting because of the weather. In hindsight I realize that it was probably a smart move. By starting to run during a cooler time of year, external heat and humidity weren’t part of the equation in the earliest days of running. It meant that I was only having to tolerate the heat and dampness generated by my own body, and the colder weather and wintry winds helped to moderate even those sensations.  It allowed me to build an initial foundation of improved cardiovascular fitness during cold and cool weather, so that by the time the more oppressive summer conditions arrived the habit of running regularly had already been well established, and I was able to ease into being hot and sweaty. If you already don’t like hot and humid weather, starting out as a beginner runner in the cooler months might be easier.
  • I realized that fabrics really matter.  Cotton fabrics absorb a lot of sweat and hold it there: gross.  I avoid cotton as much as possible in my running clothes, and choose synthetics or lightweight merino wool (particularly in winter).
  • I started carrying water, not for hydration per se, but for physical relief and cooling. I don’t run long or hard enough to need to actually re-hydrate during the run, but on a hot day, having a small squeeze bottle of water in my hand is great for shooting a little in my mouth to alleviate the yucky dry lips and mouth from heavier breathing, and squeezing more down my shirt to cool me off (in the summer, that is – I don’t think I’ll be shooting water down my shirt once winter comes!). Far more goes down my shirt than in my mouth.

Sheer Physical Effort: This is the hardest one for me to describe, as well as the one I find most challenging to manage.  It’s that sensation of heaviness in my legs (especially my calves) that comes on after running for more than a minute or so. It’s not pain – it’s just my muscles going UGH I DON’T WANNA. It’s just the UGH sensation of WHY exertion itself PLEASE CAN WE JUST WALK. It’s the toughest mind game for me about running, the argument between my legs and my brain about when we can stop, and my legs put up a very convincing argument most of the time. The thing is, running is exertion, I don’t know if there will be any getting around that. At this point, I’ve got a few mental strategies that seem to be at least somewhat helpful once the UGHs start:

  • Explicitly reminding myself that what I’m feeling is discomfort but not pain. I don’t like the way it feels, but it doesn’t hurt and it’s not a sign that anything is wrong.
  • Being attentive to my form and trying to make sure that I’m keeping my core somewhat engaged but otherwise being as relaxed as possible. Those UGHs are even harder to deal with when my whole body becomes tense or I’m slouching.
  • Deliberately evoking positive feelings by smiling or reciting little upbeat mantras to myself. I make myself smile by being proud of myself for getting out there and just doing it, appreciating the view over Hamilton Harbour or the plants and birds along the trail, thinking of my cat wearing a shirt, or any number of other things that bring me a bit of joy. Some of the little mantras I go to most often are things like “I can, I am, I will,” “settle in to it,” “it’s just yes,” and “keep showing up.” 
  • Remind myself that this discomfort is temporary. I only have to tolerate this for a little while, and then I get to go and have a nice iced coffee and a lovely shower and do whatever else I want to do. Tolerating 20 or 30 or 40 minutes of fairly minor discomfort is very well within my abilities (especially since I usually do run/walk intervals, so I get breaks from the discomfort).  I don’t have to do it forever, and soon, I will get to stop. Sometimes I even think of it as asking fierce me to stay in charge for just a few more minutes until we’re done the run and then couch potato me can take the helm again. 
  • I try to remember to put some kind of easily digestible carbohydrates in my system about 30-60 minutes before I go out for a run so that there is readily available fuel for my muscles. I don’t honestly know if this actually makes a real difference or not, but it seems biologically plausible to me, and whether it’s a real biological effect or a placebo effect probably doesn’t matter…to my way of thinking it’s a can’t-hurt-might-help kind of a situation. 
description: Blue and green stylized text that reads “Running always reminds me of how much I hate running.”

So! That’s how I’ve become a runner who still kind of hates running.  I’d love to hear what works for you!

Stacey Ritz is an associate professor at McMaster University, a vegetarian who uses lard to make pie dough because that’s how her grandma did it, and the owner of a bossy cranky cat who is currently wearing a shirt.