CW: talk about body sizes and descriptions and feelings about them.
This weekend, I came across a FB post from a triathlete who posted a picture of herself, asking the group how they would describe her body type. The company that sponsors her team had asked her (with good intentions, she said), as a way to get her input. She describes herself as a person who’s struggled with weight and is a back of the pack rider for her team.
Among the 110+ (and counting) comments she got were:
Strong (hands-down winner among commenters)
Healthy and active
Athena (triathlete category, minimum weight requirement of 165 lbs/75kg)
Adult woman size
Fit and Fabulous
Bad Ass Lady
There were also some suggestions that felt size-conscious or even a bit size-embarrassed (my term); feel free to scroll past these if you like:
Hourglass figure with extra hours
Athletic fit plus (but clarified to be plus healthy, real, etc.)
What do I mean by size-embarrassed? When I hear words like “curvy” and “voluptuous” and “Rubenesque” (outside of 17th-century art history), I always feel like the message is something like “this woman’s body is outside the ideal or norm for the context, and I’m trying to defer to that norm but also say something positive while at the same time acknowledging the tension with a joke”.
All of the commenters were trying to support the original poster and were very attentive to being body-positive and admiring of the poster’s athletic achievements, which are considerable. And yet.
Their respectful discussion reminded me of how hard it can be to talk descriptively about bodies. It also made me think about when and why we feel we need to talk descriptively about bodies. Yes, when we shop for clothing, there are some styles that favor different dimensions and ratios of hips and thighs and waists and breasts and legs, etc. And when we do physical activity, it’s important to note and attend to the variations among bodies that dictate modifications in training, gear, apparel, etc. And finally, at more intensely competitive levels of some activities and sports, detailed facts about the athletes’ bodies become more salient to performance.
Reading Sam’s posts, I’m feeling a little better about the fact that, 3 years after her most recent post, I don’t have a clear position about how to talk about bodies, bigger bodies, my body, your body. I know I don’t like the notion of body types, but am not sure what to do when I feel the need to describe myself or someone else. As Sam said, “it’s complicated”.
To be continued. but for now: do you use body-type language? When do you use it? How do you feel about it? I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks to Covid-19, my prenatal yoga experience was off to a rocky start. Early during the lockdown, I could still do “normal” yoga. Mostly, in good tradition of the writers on this blog, I did Yoga with Adriene (YWA), because who doesn’t love a good dose of Benji the dog with their yoga?
I had signed up for a prenatal yoga class that would have started about mid-way through my second trimester, but of course that got cancelled. Once I stopped doing YWA because I was too lazy to think of my own modifications for all the things I would have had to modify, I downloaded the prenatal version of the Downdog yoga app. I continued participating in Zoom classes with a work colleague who is also a yoga-teacher-in-training and who was kind enough to think of modifications for me. Unfortunately her maternity cover contract ended and so did our yoga classes. I enjoyed both the app and my colleague’s classes, but neither felt really “prenatal” to me. They simply felt like modified versions of my usual practice.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was able to register for an in-person prenatal yoga class! As I’ve mentioned before, the case count for Covid-19 infections in our area is currently very low and I am comfortable with going to an in-person class. There are also precautions: there are only six participants in the class, so we have a lot of space. We have to enter and leave separately, wearing masks, although we can take them off during actual practice. It feels safe. It’s also nice to finally meet other pregnant people. So far, pregnancy during Covid has been a bit lonely in the “bonding with other future parents” department, and this is a nice change, even though we’re not interacting all that much because of the distancing restrictions. There’s no huddling together outside the classroom before or after the sessions, no lingering for chats.
Normally, I like to challenge my body during yoga. I try to sink deep into the poses, test the limits of the comfortable. Prenatal yoga is different, of course. There’s a lot more focus on relaxation. But there’s also challenges, some unexpected. After all, the goal is to help us prepare for birth, which is a huge physical challenge! In last week’s class, as we moved further down into a wide-legged squat with each breath, our instructor explained how this was an excellent pose to take while in labour. We all laughed. Our legs were shaking, it was definitely not a comfortable position to be in! How would we do that on top of working through contractions? I suppose we’ll eventually find out…
This class is very different from any yoga I’ve ever done before, but I’m enjoying it. I’m learning to focus on “new” parts of my body, and on “old” parts in different ways. I’m learning new skills, like using sound and tones to relax and deepen my breath (these will definitely come in handy with the contractions). And of course, as my balance changes, my joints relax, and my lung volume decreases, I find challenges in poses that I was able to do with much more ease when I wasn’t pregnant.
There are also parts that I find a bit amusing. We usually have the same instructor every week, but last week she couldn’t make it and was replaced by someone else. Both of them are great teachers, and both are… mildly esoteric. I suppose it comes with the territory. It’s not my jam, but I can deal with it. It doesn’t annoy me like it has with other yoga instructors in the past. I’m there for a different purpose, and I’m able to take on board those parts that work for me.
The long and short of it is: if you’re pregnant and you can get yourself to a prenatal yoga class, I’d recommend it. Have any of you done prenatal yoga? What was your experience?
I ran 4.4 km at midday yesterday, an unremarkable run except for the heat. Slow, measured, lots of pauses for water.
But in that 4.4 km, I was retracing the steps of a route I ran once a year for a decade: one loop of the three-loop run in the annual Triadventure fundraiser for Nikibasika, the project I’m a (volunteer) Director of, supporting youth leadership in Uganda.
The project in a nutshell: a small group of Canadians met a group of 52 children and youth with no family support in 2006; with two partners in Uganda, we have created a community of connection, leadership development and education that has led to amazing young adults. Nikibasika means “it is possible” in the local language. We always committed to supporting only this group, until they were all done post-secondary education and launched. There are 15 of the original 52 left.
This year, the pandemic didn’t force us to cancel the Triadventure — because, brilliantly, we did a huge splash last year and raised almost $200,000, enough to see us through until the youngest kid graduates. So this run yesterday was… a reflection, really. I wanted to see what I would discover, running those same steps without the energetic anxiety and joy of being with the people I love the most, a group of people I need to inspire, a large group of athletes who need to be taken care of, the pressure and worry about raising enough money. Without the inexpressible pingponging of emotions — fretting about my own physical capability to do, over three days, a 14 km run, an 11km paddle and 140 km of riding; feeling so flooded with love for what people are capable of, the awe at this astonishing, unlikely thing of bringing a community of about 50 Canadians — and all their contacts — together with this group of youth on the other side of the world; the anxiety of dealing with a lot of people having their own extraordinary experiences, both joyful and anxious and petty.
A decade of an event like this is a decade fully lived. My business partner started this event, at his family’s summer camp, doing this together, we forged our powerful trust and connection, hatched out so many new ideas paddling a canoe together. Other relationships bloomed unexpectedly, some waxed and waned. Learning to lead through this project forced me, over and over, into a place where I continually had to do things that I fumbled my way through, finding a thread of inspiration to connect people in Canada to real lives that meant they stayed committed to these kids, raised an impossible amount of money, for such a long time. Two of my sisters and their families have crewed this event, and I am surrounded by my chosen family . I rode my first 100 km on this ride, then my first 130km, trusted my aging body in completely new ways. Learned to deal with the dramatic moments of decision-making — do we pull people off the water in a thunderstorm? how and when?, jerry-rig safe responses, wrap chattering, blue-lipped people in towels. Learned to deal, (sometimes with grace), with the pettinesses of taking care of people in groups, like complaints that a gift of pizza wasn’t gluten free. Learned to recognize my own irritability at endless logistics, at other people’s angst, as anxiety.
And last year — the most amazing moment — we had one of the Niki “kids” — the remarkable Siima Smith — with us. Brought together this story we have been writing in Uganda with the community that did so much on pure trust that goodness, that hope, can be created out of small acts of care.
Yesterday, as I ran through the woods at the start of the run, I played the same song I’ve started every significant run with for years now. I felt that moment of elation stepping over the broken rock of the Canadian Shield for that first slow kilometre in the shaded, winding forest. I paused at the first big turn, realizing it was the first time I’d rounded that corner without someone — usually a someone wearing a delightful costume — handing me water. At the second empty water station, I felt that same pang. I’m running a trail where I’ve always been supported — by fellow runners, a devoted crew shoving water in my face, a broad community of donors. But now I’m running it, alone.
It was a little lonely, running alone, with the ghosts of tall, fast, loving Rob streaking ahead of me, the earnest conversation I had with Francois, Aine in the cocktail dress she agreed to run in to her donors, with no one from crew making sure I wasn’t melting. But I was thinking about the power of the history of support, of creating community, of Doing Good Work together. Right now in history is a weird and isolating time. But I’ve run so many steps with and for other people — I haven’t lost them.
The third kilometre of this loop is always unpleasant, a bakingly hot stretch along the road. I chose to run it yesterday, instead of turning around and running back on the more shady route, because I wanted to relive the strength it forces me to reach deep to find. It’s just a flat, hot, short stretch, but it has that feel of Dread for me. I barged right at it, finding a slow but steady, persistent pace. Nevertheless, she persisted. This could be the title of my autobiography, is certainly the story of this project. An impossible project, ridiculous to envision or predict, and yet, here we are.
And where are we? During the time of Covid, Uganda has been locked down. The newly launched Niki youth have all been laid off, had to find ways to survive in this first flush of adult self-reliance. The younger kids had to leave school and go back to the project house where — in early April — the town was hit by a massive flood, which left 1000s of people living in refugee camps.
The Niki kids’ response? To ask if there was a way for us to help them help the community. We did a bit of fundraising — our amazing community, here, again — and the high school kids have been cooking and bringing food to the kids of the town twice a day for 6 weeks. They have helped disabled kids get clothes, mattresses and bedding, and located a baby that needed surgery.
And the amazing Smith, who runs a medical clinic? He noticed two little kids on the street two days in a row, discovered their father had died, and their sick mother had disappeared. He brought them home and — well, this is how it works — they’re his kids now. Our kids.
It’s good work. And that work is in those hot steps, the familiar trail, the connections built over time.
There have been moments since March where I’ve lost track of my grounding. But running yesterday? I was reminded. I’ve run a lot of steps in my life, by myself and with others. They’ve prepared me for strength, endurance, resilience, a sense of humour, trust in the world. It was good to be reminded.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who needed that day off yesterday.
I’ve shared lots of Cheddar participating in yoga photos. But the thing is, he’s my constant companion, especially when I’m the only one home. All of my work colleagues now know him from videoconference meetings.
When I’m riding my bike on the trainer, he’s my number one fan. He sits on the sofa behind me watching the screen, only occasionally nodding off.
I’ve been riding indoors, in a heat wave, in a house with imperfectly operational air conditioning.
Enter the new fan, fan number two.
So last night I was doing the La Bicicletta Toronto Supper Time Trial, a very hard 17.6 km solo effort. Both fans accounted for and I got my second best time on the route. Thanks Cheddar and thanks Heavyweight Honeywell.
CW: talk about personal fears during the pandemic.
I love those lists of X things to do/buy/eat/read/make/etc. that will completely refashion our lives to make them perfectly balanced and full and grounded and happy. Yes, they’re either obvious or impossible or obviously impossible, but I read them all just the same.
These days I’m feeling extra in need of those to-do lists. I’m very lucky and grateful to still have a job that’s paying me my full salary. And I’m grateful for general health, home stability, community and family.
So what’s there to bellyache about? How about I just make a list:
I’m struggling with exercise of any sort after having been so sedentary for months;
I’m struggling with severe self-judgment about the above;
I’m floundering amidst the lack of external structure that usually helps me regulate my sleep, eating, activity, and social contacts;
I’m worrying about the future, both immediate and longer term;
I’m afraid of backsliding so far that I can’t catch up to resume a life that resembles what I had before March of this year;
insert whatever I can’t bring myself to say or even countenance, but which brushes up against me and causes strife.
Okay, you might be thinking: whoa, that’s pretty heavy (while backing slowly away from this post…)
Now that I’ve made my list, let’s start with the first item: struggling with exercise. What sorts of lists can I find to help with this?
be nice to yourself if you can’t stop keeping up with the news;
feel free to wear what you want;
be kind to yourself if your place seems messy to you;
be accepting of whatever sleep schedule you have;
give yourself plenty of time and space to do nothing.
I was looking for self-help lists for dealing with fear about the future, and accidentally came across this article, translated from French, in which several experts comment on my worst Armageddon-type coronavirus fears in great detail. Don’t read that article if you want to sleep tonight.
There’s certainly a theme to these lists. All of them remind us that we are not alone, that for many of us, movement helps us feel better, and that being stern with ourselves is not a good idea (right now, or maybe ever).
None of these is the perfect list. But I’ve found it! I was inspired by listening to the podcast In the Dark’s series on Coronavirus in the Delta, episode 2– inside Parchman Prison in Mississippi. You can read about it and get the link to listen here.
Here’s the perfect self-help list:
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
I think that’s it for right now. I can do this. You can do this. Let’s keep doing this.
What are you doing to deal with what’s causing you struggle these days? I’d love your tips, lists, or any comments you’d like to share.
I was in Collingwood, Ontario on Canada Day. It’s a small town about 2 hours north of my home in Toronto.
I love living in an urban centre. Small towns are perfect for little getaways though. One thing small towns do well, is fostering an atmosphere where people say Hello to strangers. Waiting in line for ice cream. Walking down the street. And runners say Hello to other runners.
I went for a run in the morning in Collingwood. One runner passing by said Hello. Then a group of runners said Good Morning, one by one. So nice.
It is not my experience that runners in Toronto say Hello or Good Morning (I rarely run in the evenings) to other runners. I tried for awhile. When I went to Victoria, early on in my running habit, I noticed this lovely practice. I also remember my Aunt Bev, who lives in Victoria, and who inspired me to start running, saying Good Morning to passersby on our jogs together in Toronto. She would look at them directly, give a big smile, and say Good Morning. Nice, I would think, but Toronto runners weren’t likely to say Hi back. But some would.
I have tried, here and there, to say Good Morning to fellow runners. But to no avail. Perhaps, it’s in my delivery. My Aunt expected a response. I don’t. Perhaps that shows?
To be fair, it’s not just Toronto. I don’t recall people saying Good Morning when I’d run by them in Guelph. Smaller than Toronto, but perhaps not really “small town”?
I understand why it’s not innate to Torontonians to say Hello or Good Morning to strangers. We learn to go about our business. Stay out of other people’s business.
I have found even saying Hi to neighbours, which I insist on doing regularly, is not always reciprocal.
In the beginning of the Covid lockdown, it felt funny to be outside. When we learned that we should stay 6 feet away from others, I noticed that people seemed reluctant to even look at each other on the street. Never mind stay physically separated. It was so nice if someone actually looked up and locked eyes, maybe nodded their head.
It is a treat when fellow runners acknowledge each other and wish them well. Especially in these uncertain, and sometimes stressful, times. Such gracious actions can go a long way to spread goodwill. I wholeheartedly endorse saying Hi, Good Morning, etc. to your fellow runners. Go for it. Give it a try. Even fellow Torontonians! Just don’t ask me to smile. That’s a whole other discussion.
Most cyclists have different kinds of things they wear, depending. When I was riding with Coach Chris, I wore Coach Chris kit on group rides. But I didn’t ever wear it on casual rides with friends. I felt it was my speedy outfit! Club kit is for riding or racing with the club.
I also have other serious cycling clothes for long rides, like my very best (expensive) bib shorts. And then I have the old beat up, worn out bike shorts I wear under dresses when commuting to work or out and about running errands.
Then there is the fun casual cycling variety of clothes. Star Trek jerseys and Simon the cat jerseys (thanks Susan) fall into this category. Their message is that I’m out riding to have fun.
Zwift is sort of the same. You get awarded kit by doing events and by riding certain distances and leveling up. I now have a wide range of virtual jerseys, socks, helmets, gloves, and sunglasses. I’ve even been known to do some events (Hi Betty Designs!) just to get the kit.
I wear club kit when racing in Zwift so teammates can recognize me but if I’m noodling slowly around Watopia on a recovery day, I want to wear something fun and casual, that matches the speed I’m riding.
Last night I was doing the Monday night race series with my team and just off the start I caught sight of my socks. Eek! I was wearing purple Pride socks with my yellow team kit. They clashed horribly. Still, they made me smile. Stealth Pride rider in the race.
I’ve started exercising again for the 8th time since COVID hit. I wrote about starting once in April. I’m amazed at just how incredibly difficult it has been to motivate myself. I keep hovering around the 220 in 2020 accountability group on Facebook hoping I’ll be inspired and while I’m impressed so many are continuing to be fully active, I’m as motivated as I am by watching sports with a bowl of chips on my lap. No matter how much hockey I’ll watch, I’m not going to strap on a pair of skates.
It’s been hard. I have things at home. One of our workouts is done in my garage/lawn where a friend comes over and we do HIIT workouts with ropes, tires, hammers and slam balls and a few other things we switch around. I even suggested to my husband we set up a circuit and leave everything set up so we’re more likely to workout more. We didn’t. The other half of our workout is at a friend’s house where he’s got a full gym set up in the basement and he provides a bit of coaching. We’ve respected the rules and didn’t get together until just the last few weeks. We started with a weekly HIIT workout and this week we’ll be back to a regular routine where we switch up between houses.
I haven’t really worked out since October of last year, between injuries and COVID, other than physio, and even then I’ve had a hard time keeping it consistent. I had my grip strength tested this week at my first in-person physio appointment in months, and while my right hand seems pretty good (31KG), my left hand is barely 15KG. I’ll need to focus my physio primarily on strength now. Two weeks ago I made it through 4 circuits of the HIIT workout, but just barely. I was out of breath and fatigued. I could barely lift the hex bar for deadlifts with about 125 lbs on it. (At peak strength, I dead-lifted 380lbs). Last week I nearly threw up, but I managed to lift the weights a bit more, and cardio was exhausting. I’m astounded at how much my fitness has dropped since October. This week was better. I was a little bit stronger, I was able to increase the volume of lifts and actually felt good after the workout.
Up until now, the mental game was tough. There’s been far more going on in my head than has been going on physically. Everything seems to be getting better and I’m actually looking forward to the group workouts again. I finally can’t wait to start lifting again!
Monday morning. Back to work after a holiday in Prince Edward County. One of the things I loved about my time on Sarah’s family farm was the swimming pool and playing in the pool with her 6 year old nephew who just loved the water so much. I think he could spend all day in the pool and when I wasn’t riding my bike or reading books and patting Cheddar, I could too.
I got home to so much doom and gloom in the news. But also there in my Facebook newsfeed were the happy faces of four London guest bloggers, including my daughter Mallory, all swimmers, all so thrilled to be back in the pool or the lake. I just couldn’t resist sharing their happy stories with you. I know one of the regular bloggers Bettina has written about this too. See her post Fish Back in Water to add to the chorus of happy voices.
There is something about moving in the water and something even more about swimming outdoors, that cannot be replaced. It was with great delight that I was able to book a lane at Thames pool in London Ontario. Social distance, two per lane, advanced booking, for one hour.
The sun was shining, creating magical reflections in the water. It was quiet and I was in my happy place. For one hour, all was well in this crazy world, in my world.
You can read Mary’s past guest posts here and here.
There’s a saying: you’re one swim away from a good mood. In these pandemic times, it’s more like you’re one swim away from…overwhelming happydancing joy! At first I was both excited and nervous. Excited because Swimming! Nervous because COVID19! But once I got to Thames Pool, the nervousness dissipated. Screening, distancing, 2 people per 50 m lane. Everyone was on good behaviour. So I could focus on finding my movement through the water. I struggled through 900m and it WILL hurt tomorrow. And that will feel awesome!
This summer, for the first time in a very long time, I am staying in Southwestern Ontario. Normally I would be spending my summer in Northern Ontario working at Rainbow Camp, a summer camp for 2SLGBTQ+ teens.
One of my favourite camp traditions is morning dip. It’s a wake-up call, a way to start your day feeling fresh, renewed and sometimes cold! Even when no campers join me or in between sessions when we have no campers, I still love starting my day in the lake.
This year, we are running a virtual camp called Rainbow Online Connection. Monday morning was our first full day and it also happened to be the first day of lane swimming at a nearby outdoor pool so guess how I started my day? Morning dip! A little more athletic than I’m using to starting my mornings but still a great start to my day. (And for those of you interested, our first day of online camp went amazing!) See Rainbow Camp for more information.
Summer just isn’t summer for me without getting into the water. Outdoors. At the height Ontario’s COVID isolation, my biggest fear was that summer would come and go, and I wouldn’t get to float in Lake Huron. When they opened the beaches at Pinery Provincial Park, we went up the first day. The water was a brisk 59F, but I still dove in with relief.
We’ve been back to the lake three times since then. On calm days, the sun shines through the blue water and I look up to the sky from below the surface. I bob back up and drift gently, and I feel whole.
You can read Amanda’s past guest posts here and here.