fitness · training

Endurance training tips for life these days: (part 1 of 3)

Hi readers! As part of our continuing coverage of life in these unusual times, we asked our bloggers to comment on their experiences of long-term training and long-term projects. What is it like to be immersed in a process that’s important, for which the outcome is uncertain– in terms of time and what it will be like? How do you manage the discipline, the repetition, the discomfort, the uncertainty?

We’ll be posting their replies this Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2pm. We would love it if you would add your comments and offer your own tips from your training experiences. How are they helping you (or not!) during this time of sheltering and isolating in one place? We’ll post those comments in a separate post next Monday.

Now, onto our bloggers’ stories.

First up: Nicole, on savouring the moments:

One thing that has always helped me with long distance running is trying to savour the moment. That doesn’t mean “enjoy” the moment. Some moments might be challenging, some might be easy, some may be blissful. But when I am struggling during the longer distances I tell myself this may be the best moment of my day. And to savour it.

I think that can translate to the current moment. Savour each moment. Try not to look too far ahead. Honour each moment for what it is. Find gratitude and humbleness. Be sure to stretch and take it easy some times to support the times when bigger pushes are required. The more bigger runs completed provides confidence that one can get through it by savouring and honouring each moment.

Savoring.. by McJames Gulles, on Unsplash. A woman in a beige crew neck t shirt, looking happy. A neon sign saying "planet" is behind her. It's night time.
Savoring.. by McJames Gulles, on Unsplash.

Now to Tracy, on the power in doing small things:

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve read that we are to think of this social distancing and self-isolation that is being required of us as a marathon not a sprint. Since the one marathon I’ve run was pretty much a horrible experience, I feel better when I think about not the event itself, but the training for it.

When I train for an endurance event, the end goal (a marathon, a 30K, an olympic distance triathlon) always seems daunting. But I make it manageable by breaking it down into small, achievable parts. A 10K run here, an hour in the pool there, some hill repeats one day, a short tempo run another. If these are part of a training plan where I build on what has gone before, then I can do it.

I have used the same strategy for writing a book — small and consistent daily effort. I’m working on a book now, and I eased myself into the writing back in January by setting a goal of 15 minutes of writing a day. This physical distancing is 24/7, so it’s not entirely the same, but there is some similarity in the spirit of the approach.

The key, for me, has always been to be realistic about what I can reasonably expect of myself. As in training for a distant goal or completing a huge project, what is required of us in this pandemic is not necessarily going to be fun, even if there are some good moments. I expect that there will be times where I feel I’ve hit my stride, and there will be other times where my feet feel like lead weights. But from past experience I know there will also be a gentle and steady building of strength, where I start to say “I can do this; we can do this.” And we can.

3 small pumpkins, stacked up to create something nice. by Jakob Owens, for Unsplash.
Small things do stack up nicely. by Jakob Owens, for Unsplash.

Last up for today– Mina, on presence and acceptance of where we are (and aren’t):

As I try to keep my head together in this period of extreme uncertainty and disruption, I’m thinking a lot about how to use the consistency and adaptability that’s served me for the endurance events I’ve done can help me now. As much as I love running or any of the other sports I do, there are always days (weeks) when it’s hard to motivate, even when I’m training for something. So I’m trying to remind myself of one-day-at-a-time. Just promise myself to show up for the day at hand.

That’s what this current situation feels like. That’s the consistency part. The adaptability part is reminding myself of all the ways I improvise when I’m training for a long event and then think of these days in the same way. Again, that’s a day to day thing.

For me, if I start theorizing about how long I’ll be living under these conditions, I get overwhelmed. Bite size pieces of time is essential to my capacity to keep my spirits up. Which, again, feels similar to training for a big event. The event is way out there and that can be dispiriting, but the day that’s here is manageable.

All of that said, today I was out for a long cross country ski in knee deep new snow and when I stopped for my peanut butter and tahini sandwich snack I suddenly thought of one of my favourite restaurants and how I couldn’t wait to eat their flatbread again.

A sumptuous offering of flatbread, yogurt, olives, salmon, and other yummy items, with a latte in the middle. By Juliana Malta, for  Unsplash.
A sumptuous offering of flatbread, yogurt, olives, salmon, and other yummy items, with a latte in the middle. By Juliana Malta, for Unsplash.

Dear readers: how are you putting your physical training or other long-haul experiences to work these days? We’d love to hear from you, and will post your comments next week (let us know in the comments if you prefer not, which is fine).

fitness · habits

Training for stamina and resilience in a crisis

On Saturday I did a zoom yoga teacher training workshop on “Teaching in Uncertain Times”. It focused on how to teach and incorporate meditation into yoga classes. I don’t teach yoga and I’m not training to become a yoga teacher. But, I teach philosophy students who are suffering mightily right now. They are afraid, confused, out of sync, frustrated with themselves and with the situation they’re in, and really in need of help. I turned to this workshop in the hopes of finding something to give them, something to help their suffering and unhappiness.

Here was my pre-workshop idea: I’ve done meditation in yoga classes and often found it promoted greater clarity and feelings of peacefulness. Maybe I can run some optional online meditation classes for my students. Also, there’s a contemplative pedagogy group on my campus that’s working on scheduling weekly meditations classes for my university community. I should help them by pitching in and running a class. How hard can it be?

Yeah. that’s a good question. I was about to get the answer.

In the first five minutes of the workshop, teacher Alex (from my local studio Artemis) told us that meditation is about building emotional stamina and resilience. It’s true that we experience peace and relaxation sometimes from meditation, but that’s not what it’s for. Meditation helps us fortify and stabilize ourselves by building stamina and resilience.

Oh. So meditation is a training program that develops and requires strength and endurance. Yes, that makes sense. And it changes everything, at least relative to my pre-workshop idea.

It means that, if I want to teach meditation to my students, I need to get in meditation shape first. I’ve got to get my meditation training program going, and develop some stamina and familiarity and endurance and perspective about this practice. And I’m nowhere near that place with respect to my own meditation right now. Okay then.

But I learned something else from the workshop (which had lots more guidance in the ensuing 55 minutes).

I learned that I already know something about building strength and endurance from training in cycling and writing a dissertation. I’ve spent a lot of time developing stamina and resilience in movement. This is very familiar to me, and it’s very familiar to you as well, dear readers. We can all draw on the resources we’ve got from our devotion, our struggles, our dabbling, and our daily encounters with the movements and physical activities we love (and don’t).

For me, applying those resources to strategies and plans and practices for moving through this pandemic period (which will end, as everything does) involves putting in place a meditation training program, as it were. Training programs aren’t glamorous, and they aren’t even necessarily fun (although the experiences of doing them can include some fun). That’s not what they’re for.

Training helps us develop the skills and strength and stamina to get through big events, long runs, and endurance races. It also helps us get out of bed, make breakfast, be a resource for others, and keep going.

I’m working on my own meditation practice for now, in preparation for helping my students experience what it’s like to sit and focus on the present.

This week, our bloggers will be sharing some of their insights and lessons learned from their own endurance and strength training activities in a group post. Stay tuned.

What sorts of practices are you developing now to help you with strength and endurance during these times? I’d love to hear from you.


Lingerie: the final frontier

Hello there, FIFI folks! In case you’re looking for a calgon-take-me-away reading moment (if you don’t know what this is, check this out: we’ve got one for you: Kim wrote all about lingerie– wanting it, not wanting it, shopping for it, not buying it, buying it… you get the idea. Enjoy!


It took me ages to be OK with my body.

I was 26 when I realized I was unhappy with how I looked, and always had been, and that my unhappiness had been normalized by me (and by some of those who love me). Things hit a tipping point one autumn day at the Gap: I realized I couldn’t fit into the maroon corduroys (a size up from my already-plus-size) I’d brought sheepishly into the change room with me. I decided that was it: I wanted to look – but especially to feel – differently about my body.

Fast forward 17 years, and I weigh only marginally less than I did that day. Though my body is now fitter, stronger, and – most importantly – makes me feel proud and strong and happy every day. I celebrate regularly by buying clothes that I think look amazing, no longer believing they…

View original post 2,393 more words

fitness · illness

So-called “miracle cures” are back on the market: bogus treatments for real illness

Here’s the tl:dr version of my post today:

What are the top 10 cures for for COVID-19?

  1. there
  2. aren’t
  3. any.
  4. Anyone
  5. saying
  6. there
  7. are
  8. is
  9. a
  10. liar.

Every time illness breaks out, there are lots of enterprising charlatans out there, trying to take advantage of our vulnerability. So it is now with COVID-19. What are some of those unscrupulous blackguards peddling (either in goods or false rumors)?

First, there’s garlic.

Twitter post saying that 8 cloves of garlic boiled in water will treat COVID-19. It won’t.

Apparently, this rumor got so much traction that the WHO felt the need to add it to their page of debunked myths about the coronavirus:

WHO graphic showing garlic with faces, but which have no healing powers for COVID-19.
WHO graphic showing garlic with nice faces, but who have no healing powers for COVID-19.

And also: gargling salty water.

Disinformation posted on twitter, giving bogus info about salt water gargling and coronavirus.
Disinformation posted on twitter, giving bogus info about salt water gargling and coronavirus.

Gargling may make your sore throat feel better, but it’s not going to have any effect on the virus. None at all.

Here’s another: Chlorine dioxide. What is that?, tells us more here and below:

Chlorine dioxide kits are sold online under various names — Miracle Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, Master Mineral Solution — but they are most often referred to as MMS.

These kits typically include a bottle of sodium chlorite and a bottle of an “activator” such as citric acid. When the two chemicals are mixed together, they make chlorine dioxide, a common industrial bleach used in the production of paper products, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

But MMS hucksters sell the chemical solution as a cure-all for cancer, AIDS, autism and, now, the novel coronavirus.

Again, the WHO says no to bleach (either ingesting it or pouring it on one’s body) as a treatment for COVID-19 (or anything, for that matter).

Here’s yet another one: substances with the name chloroquine. This refers to an anti-malarial drug (which HASN’T been shown to be effective against COVID-19), but also to a solvent used to clean fish tanks. An Arizona couple heard a news story about the anti-malarial drug and thought the fish tank cleaner had the same substance; they decided to put some in liquid and drink it. The man died and the woman is in critical condition. You can read more about it here, and below:

“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said in the hospital’s statement. “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.”

Then we have: the online swindlers who cook up bogus medical treatments and sell them to vulnerable people during times of outbreak and uncertainty. One such miscreant, Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, was arrested on Wednesday:

[Middlebrook] is charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, which carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

In videos he posted this month to his 2.4 million Instagram followers, Middlebrook showed off nondescript white pills and a liquid injection he claimed would offer immunity and a cure, respectively.

“Not only did I make the cure, but this pill right here is the prevention,” he said in one video. “Meaning, if I walk into the Staples Center and everyone’s testing coronavirus positive, I can’t contract it. It’s impossible. … I have what makes you immune to the coronavirus.”

You might be thinking: Srsly? Who would believe that some guy would have found THE medical concoction that does double-duty as both prevention and cure for a brand-new virus? I mean, who could be that gullible?

We can. We can believe anything when we’re scared, when we or our friends/family are sick, and when there aren’t any current treatments out there.

So, what can we do while waiting for medical science to hurry up and help a planet out?

I have three suggestions:

Hang tight.
Hang tight.
Wash those hands!
Wash those hands!
when in doubt, zoom!
when in doubt, zoom!

Zoom with friends, family, coworkers, yoga classmates, neighbors, distant relatives, old prom dates, vacuum cleaner salespeople, former pets, future ex-in-laws, fellow ex-patriots, third-grade teachers, part-time hairstylists, amateur boxers, Irish stepdancers, out-of-work tour guides, licensed taxidermists, in-the-know gossip columnists, tree surgeons, romance novelists, new moms, old cowhands, child psychiatrists, or orchid enthusiasts. That’s a start.

Have you, dear readers, heard any rumors about cockamamie cures or treatments or preventatives for COVID-19? Please feel free to share them so we can all revel in their bogusness.


Doing fun physical things I suck at (or, Cate learns to take instruction)

How do FIFI readers– here’s your weekend edition of “blog posts about everything else but that thing…” Today we watch and read about Cate, trying her hand (both hands, I think) at axe throwing. Enjoy…


In a bizarre confluence of events, I found myself at two axe-throwing parties within 18 hours last weekend.  (“What kind of bizarre Canadian ritual is this?” asked an American facebook friend).  Sarah and Sam have both written about the experience of axe-throwing — yes, a little bizarre but quite satisfying in the throwing with your whole body, the thwack and thud of connection.

I liked it.  I posted this pic on FB on Sunday with the caption “This is what I do now.  I throw axes.”


But I totally sucked at it.  That bullseye was one of maybe 2 or 3 out of probably 100 throws.  Mostly I wound up, threw, and heard the clatter of the axe thunking off the target and falling to the ground. (My abs hurt Monday from all the bending over to pick up my axe). At the bachelor party on Saturday night, I came…

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Gearing Down

HI everyone– your 2pm FIFI pick-me-up post is back for your perusal. Today we hear from Nat way back in 2015 about gearing down. Her suggestions about switching gears were never more applicable than today. She shows us that there is grace in gearing down. Enjoy. -catherine


gearing down

My plans are rapidly changing for the cycling season. My lovely sister Anj can’t make the Woodstock Triathlon due to a work commitment that just popped up. I’m cancelling plans to do a week long bicycle tour with Samantha at the end of June because I’m changing jobs and won’t have vacation time. Lots of change, lots of stress and mourning the loss of spending time with my sister and then missing out on a week with lovely people I want to get to know better.

My first reaction to stress is to put my head down and push harder, to try and make it all work with pure application of will and frenetic energy. Right now the thought that keeps going through my head is to gear down, don’t push so hard.

So on June 6 instead of doing a sprint distance triathlon I’m going to The Forest Garden…

View original post 141 more words

fitness · habits

Thoughts on not changing everything while everything’s changing

Let’s take a poll: how many people are already tired of those articles with the 10 things you MUST do to survive working from home/social distancing/etc.?

A crowd of women, all raising their hands.
A crowd of women, all raising their hands.

I thought so.

Probably most of you have seen this sample COVID-19 daily schedule for families trying to work, study, exercise, eat, rest, play and sleep at home together:

A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.
A daily schedule with time slots for almost everything.

There may be people who run on schedules like this one, pandemic or no pandemic. Frankly, I’m skeptical. My sister home-schools her kids, and one of the virtues and vices of home-schooling is the flexibility and flow of their activities. For them, the educational and the utilitarian and the recreational sometimes overlap. As long as they meet the goals my sister (and her state home schooling association) set for the kids, it seems fine. All roads may not lead to Rome, but many do, including theirs.

Let me put this out there (for the five of you on the planet that don’t already know this): I’m not a scheduler. I try to make schedules to plan out my day or week (month? oh no…) . I make to-do lists, clustering tasks into categories, prioritizing them, marking them off when completed. Sometimes that works a little. I do keep an accurate appointment calendar on my phone. And yet, I’ve never kept to a dedicated routine for managing my time at home.

I get up in the morning (early, late, whenever my plans for the day tell me I must). I make coffee (obvs), and sit down right away at my computer. No, I don’t:

  • get dressed right away
  • meditate
  • do morning yoga
  • clean anything
  • go for a a run, walk, bike ride

I just work. What work I do first depends on what’s most pressing and then move down the priority list. I know, you’re not supposed to do the pressing work all the time, or you’ll miss out on doing the important work.

Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?
Woman shrugging. Whatcha gonna do?

The thing is, I’ve always been very, uh, “flexible” about my work-from-home style. I interrupt my work flow to talk with friends on the phone mid-morning sometimes. I do mid-morning or afternoon yoga often to clear my head. My work day doesn’t end early/at the same time every day; I happen to be writing this blog post at 11:47pm. That’s me.

(sidebar: I use the Be Focused app with the Pomodoro technique– 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break, repeat– to help me get up out of my chair and move around. I often do small household chores during the breaks, and it works for me. Tracy introduced me to this method and has blogged about it here, and Cate recently blogged about it here).

This informal way of working seemed more or less fine. But then life changed, and now I do everything from home. Maybe it’s now time to start scheduling my time in a more focused, disciplined, regular, accountable way.

I can't! I'm not ready!
I can’t! I’m not ready!

There there… It’s going to be okay.

Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.
Innocent picture of one child hugging and soothing another. Additional soothing provided by soft-focus black and white image, and flower in hair of one child.

The fact is, my work life from home has changed a lot. Now that I’m home everyday, I do a lot of things differently:

  • I’m cooking every day
  • I’m doing a lot more dishes and kitchen cleaning!
  • My sleep hours are more grad student-y: 1:30am to 10am (if left to my own devices)
  • I’m doing more live yoga classes, courtesy of Zoom, and I love it
  • I’m doing more emailing with individual students, soothing and reassuring them
  • Technology competence is more important, so I’m working on that
  • My friends and family need soothing, as do I– we vent and reassure each other daily
  • I want more outside exercise, which is still a work in progress
  • I want to think and write and read

That’s a lot of change to roll with.

So I hope I can be forgiven (by whom? myself, I guess) for not scheduling all these activities by the hour or half-hour in a daily planner.

The sad bear says, "I'm sorry. Forgive me, please."
The sad bear says, “I’m sorry. Forgive me, please.”

Here’s an idea, dear readers: I’ll forgive myself for not scheduling all the hours of my day, if you’ll forgive yourself for something you’ve been chastising yourself about since the world went topsy-turvy. Anyone want to share what’s come up for you in the course of all this change? I’d love to hear it, and I will be soothing and reassuring.

A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.
A dog and cat, soothing each other in oooh-worthy style.