The months are weirdly flying by. I’m excited about spring and making plans for outdoor summer things–bike ride weekends, canoe trips, Snipe racing. I feel like I’ve got a focus now for all my fitness efforts that goes beyond mental health and beyond the thinking that exercise is one of the few fun things left that I can do. I’m in training for an active outdoor summer, doing fun things with family and friends. And I am so looking forward to that.
It wasn’t all success though. There were some fitness struggles too. The big one is slack of sleep. Work got way too busy and I’m behind on sleep. I’m moving lots but not bringing the same energy to it that I once did. March I’ve decided will be different. I’m making sleep promises to myself.
I’m sure I’ll feel better when the days get longer, when the sun shines more, when I can be outside with colleagues, family, and friends but right now I am feeling pretty tired and I’m dragging myself through some of my days. Work is hard and I miss so many people. Bah.
I’ve noticed, thanks to my Garmin watch, that I am sleeping less and less, like often 6 hours a night. I’m pretty hardwired to sleep 8 hours a night. That gap is too big to make up with naps.
Again, I’m not sure why I can know something is true–sleep and spending time outside make me happy–but I can still struggle to do it. I need remind myself that it helps a lot with my performance on the bike as well as my happiness and well being. See Is Sleep the Most Underrated Hack for Performance Enhancement?
Looking ahead to March I’ll likely get to experience my first outdoor ride on my road bike–that’s usually a March thing and some more dog hikes with family and friends and work colleagues. All good!
To-do lists don’t really work for me. First, I put way too many items on them, so they end up seem more accusatory than helpful. Second, I write them on a scrap piece of paper (often the back of an used business envelope– hey, it’s environmentally friendly!) and then can’t find it after an hour or so. Yes, I’ve tried phone apps, too. But I much prefer (or at least think I prefer) something physical, something I can see easily.
There’s also a third, tougher problem: the hefty to-do list provokes fear and defiance, sending me running away from it in the direction of fun, relaxation, or anything that isn’t on the list. That is seriously unfortunate. I mean, a gal’s gotta do laundry, go to the library, buy groceries, etc. Keeping track of tasks big and small, work and home, physical and mental, does require (for me) a bit of documentation.
Enter the white board.
But, you might ask, isn’t this just another medium for the to-do list, which you’ve already gone on record saying you hate?
Why yes, that’s true. In the course of some recent coaching sessions with my friend Lisa, we also came up with an alternative to the to-do list: the menu!
I love menus. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy opening up that brightly patterned card stock, handed to you by waitstaff (remember waitstaff?), perusing the contents, and finding exactly what you didn’t know you wanted?
My current plan for organizing my eating and activity is white-board menu based. Here’s my eating one for this week:
It’s got literal menu items for me to cook, along with other info. I’m trying this out for the first time, so will report back on how it goes.
I’ve also made a white board menu for physical activity.
This whiteboard menu divides up workouts into cardio, strength and mindfulness. Under each heading are some common workout options for me. Each day I look at this and figure out what I want to do and/or have time to do. So far I’ve only done a few of these, but I love having the variety right there in front of me. I just realized I need to add “walking/hiking outing with friends”, as I’m doing one of those this afternoon.
What I love about the menu format is that I get to choose from options, which are laid out for me. I can see how I’m feeling, and pick from a lot of options. And all of these I can afford– they aren’t workouts I can’t do or find too much for me right now. Yay me! Yay Lisa (for coaching and helping me see this)! Yay white board!
I just bought another, bigger white board for work organization. I didn’t have one at home, and figure that this will be very nice to have (in addition to my other online work organizational tools.
For me, arranging to-do items as menu options on a dry-erase white board is helping me approach eating and activity with more agency, without feeling the tyranny of the to-do list. YMMV.
Readers, what tools do you use for organizing weekly workouts? Meal planning? I’d love to hear what works for you.
I finished the Friday night Smash Fest race which had 400 m+ climbing and discovered I was really close. With Sarah’s encouragement I went down the hill and turned around at the bottom and started climbing again. It was late. I was tired. And it wasn’t easy. But I did it!
Even Strava called it a “massive effort.” Thanks Strava.
What’s in it for me, aside from looking cool and bragging rights? The Tron is the fastest all round bike on Zwift. I’m excited. I’m not sure what colour I’ll eventually land on (you can change it easily with a slider bar) but here’s me on the bright pink version.
Sarah got hers the week previous, with less fuss and fan fare. (She’s like that.) She was determined to have it for a race that was on this week and so spent last weekend climbing. We both want to thank Neil at the Bike Shed, where we Zwifted pre-pandemic, who suggested we make the Everest Challenge our first Zwift challenge. It was also Neil who first rented us and then sold us our trainer when the pandemic shut things down. Thanks Neil!
Here’s Sarah’s Tron story:
“The long process of getting the Tron was an interesting one for me. I am really not much of a climber and would never normally have chosen workouts or recovery rides on steep hills, but the advantage that the Tron provides, and the peer pressure from teammates to get one, was impossible to resist.
After spending a year warming up and doing group rides on 10%+ grades (flattened and lengthened by Zwift algorithms as needed), I can say that I’ve gotten better at climbing. Practice makes perfect? Familiarity breeds contempt? In any case, I can say that in my few outdoor rides last year I was less intimidated by the usual hills. And this year I might actually seek them out and practice.
So thanks to Zwift’s “Everest Challenge”. I’ll never be a mountain goat but I’m a better all-rounder thanks to Tron temptation. Like the glowing neon wheels the lessons learned will be with me for years to come.”
Usually when people associate guilt with working out it’s guilt over NOT working out. I don’t agree with guilting ourselves over that but that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, there is a new kind of guilt creeping into my awareness since I started being a part of a group that tracks workouts. This year it’s 221 in 2021. The fact of counting our workouts generates no end of hand-wringing, especially among people who are new.
I get it. When I first started I wanted to know what people “count.” But it’s only since COVID that I’ve noticed people expressing guilt that maybe they are counting too much. I mean if I count a Sunday 10K run as one workout, does a 20-minute walk at lunch count equally? If I counted a vigorous hour at the yoga studio back in the days before COVID, does one of Adriene’s 10 or 15 or 20 minute practices count?
Some people have an idea that it has to be at least 20 minutes to count. Many, including me, work with the idea of deliberate movement. But even then, I often will combine a short walk with yoga of whatever length as one, even if they were both deliberate and at different times. I do this because now that I am working home, almost every time I move it is deliberate. Sometimes I make myself do a short yoga session or go twice around the block or do a short run with hill repeats at lunch just to move. I don’t use a fitness tracker, but I bet I’m not reaching 2000 steps some days. That is not how I used to live pre-COVID. I used to walk a lot. The workouts I counted were at least 45 minutes because I didn’t really do other kinds of workouts back then.
I think there is a worry lurking behind some of the stress people are experiencing over counting too much is that they are somehow cheating. But cheating whom, I ask? There is no prize. There is no “system” to “game” here. All we are doing is tracking workouts. And to me, if someone deliberately works out, then yay! That’s a win.
It’s hilarious actually because lately I’m doing Superhero workouts 4-6 times a week, yoga pretty much daily, and a run or a walk every day. In January I counted them as three separate things most days. Now I’m more likely to count the superhero workout as one, and the yoga and walk or run as one.
It’s the end of February and I just hit 110 workouts. That seems somehow impossible, almost halfway to my annual goal. In fact, I’m bored of counting my workouts. If the point of it was ever to get a habit going, then I’ve achieved the goal already. And now it just feels embarrassing or something to be racking up so many workouts.
I wondered whether this was a “woman-thing” where we deny our achievements and want to downplay them. Kind of took me back to when people were all impressed when I signed up for the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and I would say “it’s just a little triathlon, not an Ironman or anything.” Why do we do that to ourselves? It was a big thing to me, never having done one before! I was terrified and I did it. Yay me. No need to downplay it. Is that what’s going on now with the guilt of counting deliberate movement as workouts during COVID?
We are living through a global pandemic. We are housebound, sometimes in an actual lockdown. We are doing our best to show up for hour upon hour of virtual meetings for work (well, this is my reality) and stay upbeat even when the idea of one more hour on zoom is soul-crushing. We haven’t been able to sit down to dinner with friends since the patios closed last fall. We didn’t see our families for Christmas. We wear masks to the grocery store. We’ve lost family members and friends and not been able to mourn them together in person because of COVID restrictions on travel and gathering and touching one another. We have been unable to make solid plans. We don’t know what life will look like post-COVID.
We have cobbled together home workout spaces over time, tucking our yoga mats and dumbbells in the corner when we’re not using them to make space for our (albeit truncated) daily lives at home. We are actually using that equipment (remember back in the day when we bought stuff to workout at home and it just gathered dust? Remember?).
Given all that, it’s pretty darn awesome if we do something active on purpose. Maybe we’re on track to 650-700 workouts this year and without COVID we wouldn’t be. Silver linings and all. Go us! Let’s check the guilt at the door.
In the past we regularly shared links in a round up post that we couldn’t share on our Facebook page for fear of being kicked out. Read why here. Often the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right? Right. Today’s links are more about events that I think regular blog readers might be interested in. I think I’ll start doing weekly round ups again, some events and some things that aren’t appropriate for Facebook sharing. It’ll be a mix.
Lessons from women 55+ on ageism and the importance of remaining engaged in physical activity, recreation and sport: This session will explore ageism and the ways in which to overcome it in order to get women 55+ engaged in physical activity and recreation. Further, we will hear about work being done by Canadian Women and Sport (formerly CAAWS) that describes the challenges, solutions and motivations for women to become and stay active. Finally, two speakers will share how they’ve put these lessons into practice and talk about their own personal lived experience.This webinar is a part of CPRA’s Gender Equity in Recreational Sport initiative. The initiative includes a number of projects informed by best practices and evidence, in an effort to increase the participation and retention of women and girls in recreational sport in Canada. This effort received funding from, and supports, the Government of Canada (Sport Canada) commitment to achieve gender equity in sport at every level by 2035. https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Mh0joH-qSGGF4gzpbbRO6w
“Once a friend of mine observed that in their daily life, they just felt like they didn’t see many fat people at all. And it’s true: fat people are often missing from public life, especially very fat people. Why might that be?
BMI is bull, but let’s use the master’s tool for a moment to examine the master’s house. I live in a body that is quite fat and my BMI is 42, so let’s use a BMI of 40 as our starting point. Depending on which source you reference, people with a BMI of 40 or more comprise 6-10% of the American population, so around 10% of the population is fat of the kind that you’d notice walking around in public. So where are they? Why isn’t at least 1 in 10 of the people you see out and about (in non-COVID times) very fat?
Well, that 10% of the population is also a group of people who face significant barriers accessing public life at all. Thin people have designed a world that excludes us.”
4. More women age 70+ out there running: “I’ve just looked at @parkrunUK participation figures for women aged 70+ & found that from 2017 to 2019 their participation increased by more than 140% – I find this very encouraging – more older women being active is good news.”
5. Coming up, International Women’s Day Bike Ride, March 8, 2021
“Research indicates a correlation between time spent on social media and increased risk for eating disorders exists; however, it is hard to conclude that social media directly causes eating disorders,” said Allison Forti, Ph.D., LCMHC, NCC, associate teaching professor and associate director of the Department of Counseling Online Programs at Wake Forest University.
“The intersection of social media and eating disorders is complicated,” Forti added. “On the one hand, it serves as an outlet to mask, cultivate, or inspire eating disorders.”
One example of this is in how social media platforms promote wellness or healthy eating, for some, are also the precipice for orthorexia nervosa, an obsession with healthy eating that can lead to emotional distress and physical problems, suggested Forti.”
“Body image is a struggle for almost all female athletes at some point in their careers. In total, 68% of female athletes said they felt pressured to be pretty in a study conducted by ESPNW. Also, 30% responded with a fear of being “too muscular.”
Between every set and during every rep, women athletes think about that.”
“It’s important to stay hydrated as well as relaxed, and it’s also important to celebrate your body no matter what age or size,” she said in her Instagram caption. Handler sported Canadian and American flags on her ski helmet, explaining the two nations are the countries she feels the strongest ties to. “I’m learning that no matter what country I’m in, I like to take my clothes off and smile,” she said.”
Sitting here just over 2 years later, this is still my saddest and most favourite post ever. Status update, I’m So. Much. Happier even in a pandemic. The heart realized it didn’t need that baloney any more and I’m still moving, still doing all the yoga, stronger than ever. I have lots of love that I breathe in and out every day. Thanks to this fam and all the fam, and you, fellow blogger Cate, for being an anchor in this weird world.
I cut my hair. Well, I didn’t do it, a professional did. I asked for an “asymmetrical pixie” with a side and back undercut. She refused to do the side as a full shave so, stages, you know, getting used to things. This new identity, this alone version of me. Just try it out and see how it fits. I’m trying.
Almost every afternoon I go down in my basement and plug my phone into the TV. I play a yoga video and my body follows along. “Take a breath in. . .exhale. . .again. . .” I move and listen to what my body tells me. I try hard to hear and then I also shush it. No, you can’t cry yet, not now, no time. Breathe in, breathe out, let it go.
I walk the dog every day. One foot, the other foot, the dog just dogs and…
I went for an early morning walk yesterday. Morning walks are not my normal thing, but I had time to kill between dropping my daughter at her job and a doctor’s appointment before work. It was my second walk doing something a little different in the last week, and both highlighted three revelations that aren’t totally new, but bear repeating and highlighting.
Walking, for me, shrinks distances. I get into habits of believing that things are further away than they really are, so I take my car. I hate using my car for short distances, so I organize “great circle routes” to do all the errands at once. When I break down some of those errands into single chores, I can easily get in some physical activity at the same time.
When I walk, I notice things. Yesterday morning’s walk included three kids gleefully stomping in a big puddle to smash the melting ice (one of my favourite late winter activities). I also spotted a window with a row of flowering potted plants, and chatted for a moment with a friendly crossing guard. These were all small moments of joy that I would never get in a moving vehicle.
Walking is a way for me to take action. I care a lot about the environment, so by using my own steam I am not contributing to climate change. I acknowledge that being able to walk places is something not available to everyone, especially in winter. I had to navigate icy stretches and some small snowbanks blocking the sidewalks. In summer, I would be able to note where sidewalks are broken or too high for someone with impaired mobility. I won’t notice them as much as someone in a wheelchair or using a walker, but I can at least report what I do see to the folks who maintain our streets and sidewalks so that fixes can be made.
Discarded, soggy towels and cycling jerseys. And a sports bra. Two fancy dyson fans that don’t normally live there. Empty water bottles. A bandana. An advil bottle. An emergency thermos of coffee. Soggy tissues. Power cords. Mini speaker. Banana peels. Ginger cookies.
And of course, the bowflex C6 spin bike.
(You can overlook the other fitness equipment, the cosy socks, the cat bed and the catnip fish, all of which usually live in that corner).
The Uber Pretzel covers all of the “watopia” routes, for 128 km of riding and nearly 2400 metres of climbing. The most memorable feature of this route is that you start climbing the Alpe du Zwift — 12 km and more than 1000 m of ascent — at km 115.
Well, I did it. More than 5 hours on a spin bike, three changes of kit, two bananas and a full pack of molasses ginger cookies.
As you can see from the mess around me, it’s just as intense an experience as riding 130 km outside — except without the cunning little coffee or snack stops or — in an organized event — cheering bystanders. Just me, the cats, my living room, increasingly unpleasant contact between my butt and the imperfect bike seat — and my invisible friends in the app.
More than 4000 people showed up at the start line for this event, which means I had a LOT of company of people who thought “what the heck else should I do on a February Saturday during a pandemic?” Which was kind of low key thrill — I Have People! — but also caused some anxiety — “EEK an event!” And ultimately was too much for the platform, which crashed for me almost immediately.
At the start line, as I pedalled forward, my avatar seemed to vanish, then float, then pedal in a choppy, pixelated, wobbly way. I started to accumulate distance slowly, but my watts were reading at about half the actual output and I seemed to be alone on the overcrowded simulated roads. Then I saw a bunch of virtual crashes, and my helmet kept flying off. So I realized — this will not do. So after accumulating about 8 minutes and 2.5 km of pixelated riding, I bailed from the game, reset everything and went back in to ride the route solo.
Turned out, I had pals — the chat was full of people for whom the game had crashed. I made friends, and settled in. For a looooong ride, sometimes with others, sometimes on my own.
There aren’t that many people who would happily embrace a 130km + (counting my false start) ride at all, let alone on a spin bike, inside my house. One of my friends who actually has a trainer in her living room said “after 20 km I’m bored out of my skull.”
I don’t actually exactly know what appeals to me about this. I like a good Feat — to throw myself at something just inside the edge of doable and to tap into my grit. I like a good Story — “I did a 5 hour ride on Saturday on my spin bike!” generates a frisson of interest in the unrelenting march of zoom calls. I need to believe that I’ll be fit enough at some point In the Aftertimes to do the rides I long to do, to travel and see new parts of the world from my bike seat. And there is something in doing this with others — even the much smaller crew of those who got booted out of the platform so were behind the “official” group — that emulates a shared, real life event to a remarkable degree.
I had a hiccup with the companion app around the three hour mark, and couldn’t chat with anyone for about 15 minutes. And I felt… lonely. And that was the only point during which it even crossed my mind to stop. But I didn’t, and I found my people again. And I literally squealed with relief.
The fictionalized world of watopia has everything — hills, mountains, dessert, a volcano, lava fields, a lovely sequoia forest, an ocean. We rode all of it. And as we rode, we told jokes, we cheered each other one, we formed small blobs to ride together. We drafted, we encouraged each other, we reminded each other to eat and drink. We exchanged Ride Ons (thumbs ups), so I finally got the “100 Ride Ons in one ride” badge. And in that last, agonizing 12 km of the Alpe — a 64 minute climb for me — we floated through the same narrowing of focus, intensity of exertion, purity of presence that comes at the end of any endurance event.
Somewhere in the Alpe, Sam and Sarah showed up in the app, “viewing” me to cheer me on. It was as good as cowbell on the side of a course.
“I’m feeling all the feels right now,” said one rider. “I love you guys!” A cis-guy in his 30s, according to his profile. Shared appreciation for shared effort. Hive fives as people wound through the last switchbacks, encouragement to those who were struggling but determined. “You’re passing me, Cate,” said one guy I’d been riding with. “Go go go!”
All the feels indeed.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who knows she’s weird. She didn’t take any selfies of her actual physical being during this ride, it turns out.
I got an “exciting” email from Trail Runner magazine yesterday, announcing with “joy” that its family of companies, Pocket Outdoor Media (POM) had added five “amazing” companies to its portfolio, including Outside magazine and TV.*
In addition to all the expected superlatives, the email concluded like this:
In closing, let me thank you for being a fan and supporter of our brands. We believe that a hike, a run, a ride, or a yoga practice can change a life and change the world. Today, we are one giant step closer to achieving our mission, and we invite you to join us on the journey ahead.
CEO of Outside
I enjoy David Roche’s writing in Trail Runner. This letter, on the other hand, from his new boss, not so much. I get animated when I read things like this and immediately send notes to Sam (who coordinates things here at Fit Is A Feminist Issue) and ask when the next open slot is on the blog.
Because … really?? –A hike, a run, a ride or a yoga practice can change a life and change the world? Okay, I know that the sentence is softened by the use of the word “can” instead of “will”. But let’s be honest, they are selling the idea that “a”, which could mean only one, workout can change a life and the world. Aaargh.
Then, when someone discovers that not only is their whole life not changed by one single workout, but, in all likelihood, they will need to keep moving to continue enjoying the benefits, the person wonders: What’s wrong with me, I haven’t solved everything in my life in one shot?
Well … because … there’s no one-and-done. Life is above all about living. Living is about change, flux, dedication and perseverance. That’s what makes it interesting. And hopefully fun. The only way a single workout changes our life is if it sets us on a new path. But that path requires our ongoing attention, patience and, yes, love. The path is the change and that’s still the work of a lifetime.
Oh, and lest we forget, yesterday’s email promise was not just that we’d solve things in our own life, but also in the whole wide world. Gosh, it feels so good to know we’re only one hike (or bike or run or …) away from changing the world. No. I’m sorry. I have to stomp that hope out right here. It’s simply not true.
We need to change the world. No doubt about that. Our planet is pleading with us to be gentle. The wealth gap yawns ever wider. Racial and gender equity are goals, not current realities. So, yes please, let’s bear those calls to action in mind in everything we do, including our workouts.
But let’s not confuse the workout with the work. Our workout is not a free pass to feel like we’ve already done enough. Oh gosh, thanks so much for going for that run Mina, the homeless situation just solved itself as a result. Our choice to be physically active gives us the strength, endurance, resilience, and such like, so that we can show up in the world as resourced as possible and pitch in with the work that needs to be done.
There’s another insidious bit of nonsense in the sentence (which Nicole, another blogger here, pointed out). Implied in the idea that our hike, bike, run or yoga class can change us and the world is the notion that we are kind and compassionate people who want to make positive change. Is there a logical correlation between working out and being good? At a stretch there’s an argument to be made that being physically active contributes to our mental health (true!) and, therefore, we are better human beings.
That’s a generalization with gaping holes in the knees and thighs of its jeans. Yes, I do think that how we do anything is how we do everything-ish. That “ish” is an important caveat. It’s more that how we do anything demonstrates the potential for how we might do everything—the zeal and commitment with which we may approach other things, if we so choose. It’s not possible to do everything with the same level of enthusiasm and kindness. But, our choice to be active (however that looks for us), may resource us with a larger reserve of enthusiasm and kindness.
The marketing email I got was only repeating the hackneyed inspiration we are fed all over the place these days. We know better. We know how much work it takes to stay active. Then, how much more courage we need to share our gifts. Oh, and to be clear, we are more than allowed to just go for a hike, bike, run, yoga, whatever, just for the sheer pleasure, and not to change anything.
But when we are in the sharing mood, let’s use our more bountiful resources wisely and joyfully to change our life and the world!
*In case you’re interested, the new media conglomerate (which will be called Outside) includes these magazines: Gaia GPS, athleteReg, Peloton, SKI, Yoga Journal, Backpacker, Trail Runner, Climbing, Clean Eating, Women’s Running, VeloNews; plus Warren Miller Entertainment, Roll Massif, FinisherPix, and more.