What a month it has been for me! I have had some changes in my personal life, and my post this month is seeking some advice about staying active. Here’s the story.
About 6 months ago I started a new job as a university administrator. I had been teaching post-secondary courses by contract for some time and wanted more work stability. My new role was also contract, but promised to open up permanent opportunities within the institution. By February I had identified a couple of potential job options, but in the midst of this new job search, I rather unexpectedly came upon an option in insurance, a field I used to work in.
It’s not what I thought I was looking for, but as of two weeks ago, I am happily an insurance adjuster again. I’m also working from home full time, and that is totally throwing me for a loop. Gone is my morning climb up five flights of stairs at the university. Also gone is a lot of my human interaction, and the approximately 5,000 steps that were a part of my experience across campus.
For the first 2.5 years of the COVID pandemic I taught from home, but working a fulltime desk job from home is an entirely different experience. I am realizing that unless I consciously plan for activity, I may be very sedentary, not something my hips or any other part of me needs.
Happily, I am able to keep attending the weekly yoga class at my former workplace, because I am maintaining a very part-time role with them (read about it here: This month’s newness – yoga). I have been back to yoga every week since I started my new job and OHMYGOSH after being stiff from too little movement, the yoga has been a dream! I have found that a single weekly class is making me so much more comfortable. I’m also thrilled that I made it back to the pool for deep water aquafit and even though it has been 6 months I felt great.
This is making it clear to me that I need to develop an activity schedule, something I don’t really love. As I write this I’m in Toronto watching the Toronto Maple Leafs trounce my Carolina Hurricanes. I spent the day walking the city with my teenage son, and although tired I feel great. I am already walking my dog every day, but I clearly need something more defined.
I am curious – if you work from home, or otherwise have a very inactive job, how do you deal with it? I have tried a little morning yoga, but as a newbie it’s daunting. I would love suggestions on keeping limber and healthy!
I have to say, every month as I settle in to write my blog post, I realize I am about to write about something that might seem totally unremarkable to many of our blog readers. I am, in fact, a work in progress when it comes to my relationship with activity, and with my body. I have written before about my mixed-relationship with exercise.
The truth is, I really value my monthly post here, for the opportunity to reflect. Since I was a never “good at sports,” I pretty much avoided using my body when I could. When I did use it, it was either painful physically or the experience challenged my self-confidence emotionally. So THANK YOU to Sam and Tracy for creating this space, and making it an inclusive one where people like me can share our less-than-glorious experiences with sport.
Like many middle-aged, white women, I have heard about the wonders of yoga for a long time. Years ago I went to a few classes and got entirely overwhelmed by them. I wasn’t so wise then, and set myself up for failure by going to drop in classes where I was WAY out of my depth. And I gave up.
But last week, I went to a yoga class at my workplace. My employer provides the class and my colleagues were very encouraging with gentle invitations for a few weeks. So I got brave and went. My workplace has been quite stressful for me, and I thought if nothing else I would lay on the mat and breathe.
Well, let me tell you readers, that is NOT what I did. In fact, I did all the moves. I kind of rocked it, at least in my head 😊. I definitely wobbled a whole bunch and more than once looked up and realized I was bending when I was meant to be standing or something… but still. I managed to plank a bit. I downward-dogged along with everyone. I child-posed when I needed to. I even lizard-ed. I LOVED IT.
I have talked about my hip surgeries before – I’ve had 2 repairs in 3 years. This was quite a moment of excitement for me – my hips were a little sore afterwards, but now 4 days later I can say that they are totally fine. WOW. And it was fun. The teacher was kind and encouraging of everyone to go at their own pace.
So, as soon as I got back to my desk, I signed up for next week’s class. And I intend to be back every week that it’s running. I hope I can find the teacher off-campus and maybe attend another of her classes. Me at yoga? Wow.
Today I am taking a cue from Christine’s post encouraging us to revisit moments of success, and thinking about a very special, if scary, moment for me last month.
I have written in the past about my hip surgeries to repair tears in my cartilage. Before those tears started, I enjoyed ice skating. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but since I was a little girl I loved the feeling of skating. Until I was 6, I lived in a tiny town on the Alaska Highway, and skating was one of the only activities around for kids. I started skating when I was 3 and sadly for me, stopped when we moved to a small, coastal logging town where the nearest ice rink was 40 minutes drive. My mom wasn’t comfortable driving me that far and my life as a skater ended. (Somehow my parents found a way to take my younger brother to play ice hockey though, a fact that has been hard to figure out for me).
I didn’t have a chance to skate again until, as a young adult, I moved to Montréal. I enjoyed skating on ponds there in winter, and when I moved later to Toronto, I continued to skate on the free public rinks. It was a thrill.
My husband is from Edmonton and he grew up skating outdoors. His first Christmas gift to me was pair of lovely figure skates – he gave them to me when he took me home to meet his family, and we had a magical time skating on the frozen downtown ponds, actually skating around islands! I was dazzled that my skates had brown (not black) heels, just like the young women casually practicing single axel jumps on the ice around us.
We continued that love of skating when we moved to London, Ontario, where we are now. We skated at the downtown rinks and I felt pretty comfortable. Our first son was born and we got him bob-skates (kiddie skates that strap onto their shoes) and we would skate around with him between us.
The first sign of my hip injury appeared when I was pregnant with our second son, and by the time he was born skating was pretty unimaginable for me. Between the pain and having a three year old AND a newborn, I just couldn’t do it. Over time my hips got worse and it took more than 10 years to get proper diagnoses and then surgeries. I think I got on skates twice in those years. The second time it was like I forgot how to skate. I couldn’t even stand on my skates on the rubber pads at the rink. I was pretty heartbroken, and have continued to be for years.
Happily though, I have now had two hip repairs and I have recovered a number of activities, including hiking and canoeing. This winter our church rented a rink and I felt brave enough to put on my skates. My plan was just to try them on at home and see if I could stand. I was literally shaking!
I managed to get them on and felt totally fine walking around on our carpet, so I got braver and took them the next day to the rink. It was really scary, but I got on the ice! I actually felt alright! I think I was most comfortable just standing on my own – it felt better than holding someone’s hand or trying to hold on to the boards of the rink… In the end though, I was really worried about falling hard and putting out my back or neck. I had this moment where I though “I think this is enough for today.” I tried to hang back a little bit more to see if it would shift (because really, I was dying to make one round of the rink!).
I had this feeling like I didn’t want to push my luck… I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, but I just called it quits for the day. Ultimately I was totally thrilled to just shuffle around for a bit. I would love to recover my ice-legs enough to enjoy a casual skate.
For now though, I’m celebrating. Thanks Christine for the encouragement to do that! I will be making myself a gold star!
Well welcome to December 24th! For many folks reading this blog, Christmas Eve is an important date, for cultural or faith-based reasons. If that is you, I say Merry Christmas! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I hope you have a good Saturday.
For me, I do celebrate Christmas. I love the way that the holiday season brings both excitement and sense of calm and peace. I love how at Christmastime I get some mental space and life slows down for me. I reflect on what I really care about, what I want and sometimes what my goals are for the future. That dovetails pretty well into the New Year for me.
This year, I don’t know what to expect out of my holiday break, because I’m headed into it with an energy deficit. I have a job has kept me much busier than I expected, and have had less time for exercise than I wanted. I know I am going to be enjoying some brisk urban hiking and can’t wait for that. I also hope I can get to a pool a few times.
Some of us who write regularly on the blog were discussing what we might ask for, if there was a Fit Is A Feminist Issue version of Santa Claus. I think I might like Santa to bring me some more confidence in myself as someone who exercises. So often my activities and exercise routine are limited by my own fear and insecurity.
Here is what some of our writers would ask for: -A new job -A knee replacement without a wait and with an instant recovery -A week without having to make decisions -An already-established workout habit, so you get right to the good part, without a lot of starting and stopping in the beginning.
I love these gift wishes. As I re-read them, I think about how I would also love a pre-established workout routine! Another blog writer shared that one of her favourite Christmas day activities is to go for an early morning run, when the streets are quiet and calm.
I would love to hear from you, readers. As we approach the new year, we are all inundated with guilt-inducing and body-shaming messages. This is NOT that.
In the spirit of this blog, I am thinking we could have a more positive conversation about exercise. Do you have holiday habits? How do you tend to exercise over the holidays? And of course, if you could have a mystical being bring you a life and health related gift, what would it be?
Welcome to November! This month I’m thinking about alcohol – it seems like between shorter, colder days in Canada, and the approach of the ‘holiday’ season, I often get inundated with articles like the ones in this list. Celebrating “the holidays,” it seems, is synonymous with drinking booze.
In truth, I have been thinking about alcohol for quite some time. Before COVID changed my life, I was a busy performer in a local band, playing bars and other establishments. I’m not usually a big drinker, so I felt pretty agnostic about it. I would have a drink or two at a gig, especially because we were often given a pitcher or two of beer on the house. I don’t have a problem with alcohol, so it didn’t bother me for the most part. The truth is the music industry in North America is closely tied to alcohol sales.
When COVID came, it must have been close to two years where I didn’t set foot in a bar, let alone play music in one. At some point, maybe six months into the pandemic, I started hearing about overconsumption in the news and in my social media feeds. I definitely was indulging in potato chips, but I was surprised that alcohol might be appealing to folks stuck at home. Then I started thinking about how much I was really enjoying not being around alcohol consumption as a main activity, and how truly uninterested I felt in having a drink.
I don’t really know why that is. I actually love well paired wine with food, and a nicely mixed cocktail, but I can go two or three months without having a drink and not notice. One thing I do notice is that often I get a throbbing headache from drinking wine or beer (although not with food, or in most social situations!).
About 90% of the time, I just can’t be bothered to drink alcohol. It’s not a ‘treat’ for me and it’s not comforting. (That’s a cookie and a cup of hot tea with milk for me!) Occasionally I will enjoy a drink, but I really don’t like is a sense of obligation to drink – the implied or even overtly stated requirement to join in on the “party.” I also can’t stand the staggering, out-of-control energy that sometimes comes in the crowds.
Increasingly, I just avoid settings like that. I do love that there are growing non-alcoholic ‘fancy’ drink options and cultures, although I haven’t really explored those either.
I’m writing about this this month because, as the holiday drink season is upon us, I want to be a voice that encourages healthy and intentional consumption of alcohol. And as women, I want to call out the culture that pushes women to drinking and sees us as a “growth market” for alcohol sales. This is not a new position for this blog – Sam and others have written about it here: Women, Wine and Alcohol and No Alcohol for 40 Days.
I am likely to have a few glasses of wine over the Christmas season, and perhaps a whiskey sour. If that’s your thing, great! But I hope that all of us can make conscious and intentional choices on what we consume. I would love to be a part of a push-back against this boozy trend.
This month I have something surprising to report – I’ve been walking to work, 2-4 times per week, and I have been loving it. This comes as an absolute surprise to me! My first writing on this blog was about my relationship with walking. The link is here – let me tell you the short version though – I have always struggled with walking or doing anything “exercise-y.” Most of my life when I’ve done something active, it’s been a matter of dragging myself.
My husband has walked to work for as long as we’ve lived here. It’s about 2.5km to the university where I now work, and I remember when we moved in 20 years ago, it seemed incredible to me that someone would walk to work that far. I just didn’t grow up in a world where people chose to walk. More recently, hasn’t seemed inconceivable in the abstract, just for me.
In fact what got my walking started is my new job is at the university where my husband works. We have one parking pass for our car, and often have to drive a child somewhere before school for an activity. (THAT is another story – one teen has music at 7am, four days a week!). So when I started having to get to work but my husband had driven in early, I was a bit stuck. I decided to walk.
Honestly, that decision was pretty scary for me. That might sound a bit ridiculous, but really, I felt like it was way beyond something that I could just… do. But it was the only option that seemed reasonable so I set out.
The first day was a disaster that involved me bailing on the walking and deciding to talk a bus. But then the busses were already full of students and didn’t stop for me. I ended up walking anyways but being 10 minutes late for work (terrible in a new job). The next time I walked I decided to give myself 45 minutes. I was entirely shocked, because I made it in 28 minutes, and I didn’t feel overly out of breath or unable to manage my day.
In fact my hips (operated on in 2021 and 2019) were feeling quite good. After a couple of walks I started paying attention to my Fitbit and realized it is only about 3500 steps to work. Most days I walk close to 8,000 steps, mainly from dog walking. If I’m hiking it would be maybe double that. Obviously with the walks to work it’s also 10-12,000 steps.
So I guess my takeaway message this month is that what previously seemed insurmountable is actually, in some ways, not even that remarkable. I can walk my dog through the neighbourhood but the idea of walking-as-commuting method seemed far out of reach. Truly that’s a mind-bender for me, and has me wondering what else isn’t nearly as hard as I have believed it to be.
As it happens, this week I didn’t have a chance to walk to work. I was nosing around for a chance but our schedules meant I had to be driving and I was bummed. Friday morning I made a point of walking and wow did it feel good. I’m almost 52 years old now. I didn’t really expect to be taking on new physical challenges at this point in my life, but here I am!
This is me at the top of the hill at the end of my walk to work, feeling a little out of breath but victorious.
Well, after a summer whizzing across the continent, I have settled back into home. I came home to a new job that was waiting for me and for the last three weeks, I have been the Program Assistant in the Department of French Studies at Western University. This has me speaking French daily, after not having spoken it for more than 20 years, and also has me tied to a rigid work schedule. Add to that my youngest son starting highschool and my husband being away for a week at a conference, and it’s been an intense time. When it comes to my relationship with fitness, I have some mixed feelings. I have a gripe and a satisfying observation.
The Gripe: Of course, all this new-ness and intensity has left me precious little time for exercise. I’m innately intimidated by exercise at the best of times, but what is it that makes it so easy for women to put our needs last? Ok. So I have a degree in Gender Studies – honestly I have a good idea of gender dynamics, especially in families. I just wish that understanding could help me influence my own actions a little more. Truthfully, I have had to focus on settling into my new routine. I have the aquafit schedule on my desk now. The time to swim is coming. But for now, it’s aggravating me.
The Positive: So despite this complaint, I DO have something positive to say about my fitness. It’s not exactly an exercise routine, but I can tell that going up the 110 stairs (I counted!) from the parking lot to my office every morning is helping my fitness levels. When I started on Sept. 1st, I went up the stairs slowly and pretty huff-y and puff-y. The past week, I’ve noticed that I just walk up them now, one foot after the other. It might sound small, but to me it’s actually BIG. Something I’ve never experienced before. Cheers to me!
A few months back, Sam posted a link to a long-ago post she wrote, explaining that if you hate exercise, you might simply be really out of shape. The upshot of that was you just need to do small things. Well my friends, I used to hate exercise, and I think this is a bit part of my story. So I really need to celebrate these small victories.
I’m also, on principle, trying to notice my blessings even (especially) when I feel intimidated, disappointed or otherwise down. Schlepping up these stairs every morning, I have often thought of Sam and her recent knee surgery. I have also thought of myself, prior to my own hip surgeries (2021, 2019), and how the stairs would have been so painful. So, the stairs may be long in the AM, they may be no fun, but dang, I’m sure glad I can walk them.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you climbed your own staircase? Struggled with family and your own exercise needs? Where did it lead you? In this time of transition in my life, I’m looking for inspiration and I guess advice.
Hello from Beautiful British Columbia. I am on an epic family road trip, having driven with my teen sons and husband from Southwestern Ontario to BC’s Sunshine Coast where I grew up. We had two very long driving days to get the Prairies and then we spent a few days in the Alberta Rocky Mountains, near where my husband grew up. On our first day, we went to Ptarmigan Cirque, a bowl-shaped end of a valley carved by a glacier.
The walk is relatively short at 4.5km and I had been there once before a few decades ago. I didn’t love doing it, but I had done it. I was excited to try it again, with newly repaired hips (2019 and 2021) and a newfound love of hiking. I was also excited because the access point is from the aptly named Highwood Pass, Canada’s highest paved road, at 2,206 metres. I expected I could make the hike and have an alpine experience with my kids, a first for me.
The first kilometre was flat and I was excited. We set off in high spirits and I took this photo of myself at the bottom, thinking of this blog and how I’d like to post that I hiked to the back of the cirque here.
The trail ascends a total of 258 metres (700 feet). As the ascent came, I slowed down and we eventually let the teens power up the hill, while my husband Martin kindly stayed with me. I took some breaks but pushed forward, as I didn’t want to miss out. About halfway up I got significantly out of breath and suddenly remembered my asthma doctor encouraged me to try using a ventolin puffer to see if it helps. Martin, loving a mountain challenge, agreed to run the 2km back to the van (and then back up) with the puffer. I thought I’d continue to mosey up the hill and would catch my breath. That’s what I did for a few dozens of metres, but I was having to stop frequently. The trail is fairly steep and there was not much space for stopping, especially with other hikers going by. It was also hot, about 26 Celsius, which is fairly rare in the mountains.
At a certain point I stopped for a rest and realized I was a bit dizzy, not a great thing when I was on my own on a steep path. It passed, I kept going and it came back. I realized I was not being terribly wise and found a semi-stable place to sit. After about 5 minutes it passed again so I went up the trail a bit. It came back and I found a proper resting spot and stayed put until Martin was back.
Martin gave my my puffer (it didn’t help!) and insisted we wait a little longer than I wanted. We went up a little more, I got dizzy enough that I sat down on the ground and put up my knees. We waited probably 10 minutes that time and a teenager appeared to check on us. We realized we nearly at the end of the rise and I steeled myself for the final ascent, which was fine.
Once at the top, the trail goes around the back of cirque. There is a small lake, a trickling waterfall and snow, even in August. I was looking forward to that part, but realized I needed to stay put so I could make the walk down. We had lunch together at the start of the alpine meadow, and the teens went off on a 30 minute adventure around the cirque.
From that point, the hike was not difficult for me. We waited, met up with the teens and walked down the trail without incident. The teens eventually got impatient and motored ahead. Martin suggested that he bring the car around to the bottom of the trail, sparing me the 1km bottom walk. I didn’t love that, but thought it was wise. That meant that I walked the last 200 metres down the trail on my own (while he did more trail running!) and I waited at the roadside.
My takeaway from this experience was quite mixed. I guess I just vastly overestimated my aerobic capacity. We were just arriving in the mountains that day, and certainly I was not habituated to any elevation (living at about 250m above sea level). I also hoped that, having been intentionally exercising, I would be able to push myself a little on the trail. That was clearly not the case. I remained slightly dizzy going down, although I was no longer out of breath.
I had a very encouraging family with me, who tried to remind me that all the folks motoring by saying “it’s worth it!” “You can do it!” “It’s not so bad!” were really just being kind and not judging me. And they also reminded me that many people in my position / physical condition would not attempt this hike. Nevertheless, I was pretty disappointed. I thought I could manage it and I couldn’t, at least not in the way I wanted.
It seems clear I need to do some hill walking. That’s ok I guess (although I grew up abhorring them!). I can’t really get started on that now, since we are still on our road trip. Yesterday I swam for a solid 30 minutes in the ocean though (SO fun!) and my fitness tracker registered a solid workout. We return home at the end of August and I start a new job (I got one!) which is very regular in terms of hours, and significantly office-based. I have plans to build an exercise schedule.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Have you dealt with something like I’m describing? How have you dealt with it? I find myself living the experiences that inspired the creation of this blog: I’m middle-aged, not necessarily meeting social norms for “fitness” (not skinny!) and wanting to be active. I’m SO glad I have you, readers and community members, to share this experience with. I need it.
Happy July! I hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as I am, or at least as much as I’m trying to.
I have pretty much let go of trying to get to my aquafit classes for summertime. I am sorry about that, since that’s ultimately the best way for me to get a “good” workout right now. I guess by good I mean my heartrate in the cardio zone on my Fitbit and getting me really out of breath. That’s the feeling that I’ve avoided since I was in Grade 1 and first got assigned a “morning run” (I wrote about that here). I’m afraid of that intense feeling, honestly, but I have also been able to enjoy it for the first time this year, as I wrote about back in spring.
So… I’m not getting to my “gym,” to get that intense feeling, because I’ve been busy! I’ve spent two of the past five weeks camping at my beloved Pinery Provincial Park. In that same five weeks, I’ve also played two concerts and a festival with my band – more than seven performances.
All of that, plus dog walking and gardening, has kept me pretty active and I’m trying to applaud my activity, while remembering my longer term goals are just that – long term – so they are not defined by a two month period. Also, I’m still only eight months out from arthroscopic hip surgery, my second in two years.
In late September 2021 I had a “rim trim” and labral repair on my left hip. Apparently I have “deep” hip sockets; in photographs my labrum looked like a feather, completely shredded to nothingness. I had the same surgery in 2019 on my right side, and that surgery gave me relief from a debilitating level of pain. My left side was already less of a problem, but the surgeon felt that since my right side had improved, the left was also likely to benefit.
The repair involves cutting away all the damaged cartilage and then cutting a ‘notch’ in my hip socket to allow my femur to swing more freely…Sounds intense right? It is, but honestly my life is SO much improved! And it just keeps getting better. That is, I just keep feeling better. I hiked 16km one day in June, and I was basically just fine. I’m finding, in fact that I’m much more comfortable after hiking and camping than after a week at my desk teaching online.
All of that is to say that I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t continued with my intensive cardio, but I am sure thrilled I can enjoy and be really active in other ways. I had to take this photo of the staircase on the hike I took in June. I ROCKED IT in a way that I could never have before my hip repairs!
I also really enjoyed being to give five performances in three days at the Home County Festival without having to pop Tylenol-3s and Advil as I have in the past… Most of all though, I’m working on that mental shift – seeing my behaviours, my activity and my body as my own. I’m about to embark on a cross-continental driving trip to Alberta and British Columbia to hike and see my family. I don’t know how far up those BIG mountains I can get, but I sure look forward to telling you about it!
For now, here is a photo of me with my husband, having a great time at the Home County Music and Art Festival. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
Well, here I am back for my monthly update. This month I also didn’t make it to the aquafit classes that had me so motivated to write for this blog, back in February. I have continued to have many extraordinary things on my plate. In addition to looking for permanent work, I have reengaged with academics in a way I didn’t see coming and I have found deeply satisfying. I am also an avid vegetable gardener, and spring is a season of much work.
So this month, as I realized I wasn’t chiseling out the 3 hours to get to the pool, I made some different choices. I was already active in the garden, so I started paying closer attention to my Fitbit and aimed to get my heart rate up and keep it there. Guess what? It worked! I was able to sustain a cardio heart rate while digging and raking. I also made an effort to walk my dog at a pace I would ordinarily have avoided.
A few weeks ago, I read something about how when people are very inactive, the key is to get active in tiny steps. I felt quite reflected in that post. For most of my life, movement – especially brisk physical effort – was not my friend. When I could avoid it, I did. This year I can feel that shifting, and I’m finding some joy in the grind and the sweat. Hey – I’m 51! It turns out it’s not too late.
SO, I’m not sure when I’m going to get back to the pool. I *think* I am going to have time this summer, and it really is fun to do aquafit in an outdoor pool. But I know that my garden is full of vegetables needing tending. And I know that I am leaving (tomorrow!) for a solo camping adventure at Pinery Provincial Park.
I’m trying to hold to the belief that my body is mine, to use and enjoy and sweat in as I please. To remember that hey, it’s kind of fun to work hard sometimes. And to remember that small activity is activity, and for me that’s really something. I was fascinated to read that Diane also gardens and sees the fitness value of it. I was also really, really pleased to notice that this past month, as I got more active, my hips hurt less. Honestly, I’m kind of excited now about this little journey I’m on. Thanks for tuning into it.