fitness · skiing

Women to women information? Or just mansplaining marketing about athletic gear?

We love our Fit is a Feminist Issue readers and Facebook followers– they are always letting us know about interesting, vexing, puzzling or useful stories.  One of the latest involves the Womentowomen site for Blizzard skis.  It purports to provide women with needed information so they will feel less intimidated when going to purchase skis.  Here’s their blurb on Facebook:

This is a post from the Blizzard Facebook page offering to help women understand what skis they should buy from Blizzard, and showing a variety of pastel colors of ski offerings.
This is a post from the Blizzard Facebook page offering to help women understand what skis they should buy from Blizzard, and showing a variety of pastel colors of ski offerings.

The responses from women skiers ranged from eye-rolling and sighing to comments that showed that no, they don’t need any terminology breakdowns; they got this.  The main thrust was that Blizzard offers no terminology tutorial in its men-specific or general information sites; why target women particularly when it sells to all levels of skiers of all genders?

I looked a little more at their marketing, and the soft-soap/hand holding approach for women seems popular in their marketing department.  Let’s take a quick look at the copy for two sets of skis, both designed for expert skiers.  First, the men’s skis:

Ad copy for men's ski Rustler 10-- "the ski of choice for those looking to have fun while pushing themselves to ski better and explore all corners of the hill in any snow conditions".
Ad copy for men’s ski Rustler 10– “the ski of choice for those looking to have fun while pushing themselves to ski better and explore all corners of the hill in any snow conditions”.

Yeah, alright!  Let’s do some shredding, dude.

Now to the women’s ski, also designed for expert skiers:

Ad copy for the women's expert ski, including thes snippets: "fun and forgiving, while offering up stability and versatility... confidence inspiring, elevated skiing experience... Who wants to work hard when you can play harder?"
Ad copy for the women’s expert ski, including these snippets: “fun and forgiving, while offering up stability and versatility… confidence inspiring, elevated skiing experience… Who wants to work hard when you can play harder?”

Argh.  Really?  The expert women skiers are supposed to respond to “confidence-building”, “fun and forgiving”, and buy a ski because they don’t want to work hard?

I don’t think this woman is looking not to work hard; do you?

A woman skiing in deep powder at Alta in Utah.
A woman skiing in deep powder at Alta in Utah.

This woman doesn’t need any forgiveness from her skis– she is telling them exactly what to do and is in charge.

A woman in an orange ski jacket carving  turn down the side of a mountain.
A woman in an orange ski jacket carving turn down the side of a mountain.

 

Of course not all ski marketing treats expert women skiers as in need of confidence-building.  Here’s an ad I would definitely respond to (if I were a downhill skier):

A female skier headed down a very seriously steep descent; the ad copy reads "the Lange RX 110 is for an expert skier who pushes her limits in the steeps."
A female skier headed down a very seriously steep descent; the ad copy reads “the Lange RX 110 is for an expert skier who pushes her limits in the steeps.”

Yeah!  That’s what I’m talking about.  I want to see women skiing down scary steeps, taking air, navigating drops, and pushing their limits.  We want adrenaline rushes (at least in aspirational marketing material) as much as the men do.  Or at least we want it as an option.

So enough already with the namby-pamby “this is easy” and “let us explain this to you” business.  Give us thrills and chills and hard-driving rock soundtracks.  And less pastel-colored gear, while you’re at it.

fitness · Uncategorized

In a tizzy

I’m in a tizzy these days.  In case you’re wondering what that means:

A definition of the word "tizzy": a state of nervous excitement or agitation. "he got into a tizzy and was talking absolute nonsense". synonyms: frenzy, state of anxiety, state of agitation, nervous panic, fret, hysteria.
A definition of the word “tizzy”: a state of nervous excitement or agitation. “he got into a tizzy and was talking absolute nonsense”. synonyms: frenzy, state of anxiety, state of agitation, nervous panic, fret, hysteria.

Why?  Here are some reasons:

  1. It’s that period of maximum activity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in the US, in which we are bidden to feast, shop, party, cook, attend holiday-themed events, plan travel or visits from others, finish up plans for 2017 and devise new plans for 2018.
  2. It’s the last week of my academic semester in which both my students and I have the most work to do (me–grading; them–assignments) and they are at their most panicked (provoking same in me).
  3. Because of the aforementioned conditions outlined in 1) and 2), all of my exercise/activity/self-care regimens have gone by the wayside– seriously by the wayside.  The wayside by which they have gone is not even remotely in sight anymore.
  4. I’m still doing some yoga everyday (today is day 66!), but the amount of yoga has shrunk to a few sun salutations, legs up the wall, a twist or two, and sometimes a yoga-in-bed video, which lasts 5–7 minutes.  I really need and want more yoga, but it’s also by that long-since-left wayside mentioned in 3).
  5. Just when I think the world can’t possibly accommodate even one more additional depressing or appalling news story, several come galloping across my news feed.

I don’t feel even a smidgen of control over my life right now.  Naturally, 1)–5) are contributing to this feeling.  But even apart from them, I’m not sure exactly what to do or how to prioritize things I want or need to do.  I’m not sure how fast or slow I should be going.  I do know that going slow feels good until time passes and I realize how little I’ve gotten accomplished.  I also know that going fast is a limited option– I can manage it to finish an urgent deadline, but then I collapse for a while.

So I’ve decided to come up with my Christmas/holiday gift list a bit early.  Here’s what I want:

  1. permission (from myself and the universe, by which I really just mean myself) to be in this state of tizziness.  It won’t make the tizzy go away, but at least it won’t add a layer of useless guilt.
  2. a little more quiet, so I can listen to myself.  I think we often know what we want and need, but have to listen.  Right now there’s too much cacophony to be able to hear anything.
  3. clarity for honest appraisal of what I think I can and want to do.  Yes, I have a lot of goals– athletic, academic, domestic, social, etc.   But not all of them are doable or even really at the top of my list, provided I had one.  Time to focus.
  4. sufficient gumption to prioritize goals, plans, activities.  I’m lucky and privileged to have a job where I have some control over some of my activities, and I am very grateful.  All the more reason not to waste this gift.  Instead I’d like to put it to work for me and others.
  5. oh, I would like a new (to-me; it can be used) commuter bike, specifications to be named later.  I figured while I’m making my wish list, I might as well add that to it.

Seriously, though, we can all use some time and space for reflection before/in lieu of getting caught up in the end-of-year and beginning-of-year frenzied planning.  What’s on your wish list during this time of year?

Here’s a pretty picture that maybe represents some stuff I want, including a spot on the beach next to those balancing rocks.

two rocks balancing on a flat rock, which is balancing on a triangular rock, sitting on a beach, with blue sky and sea in the background. Aaaaahhhh...
two rocks balancing on a flat rock, which is balancing on a triangular rock, sitting on a beach, with blue sky and sea in the background. Aaaaahhhh…

 

fitness

Joining the physio brigade- and I’m grateful

This week you may have seen a group post on adventures in rehab by a bunch of our bloggers and friends.  Sam’s getting treatment for her knee, and several friends chimed in about knees and backs and shoulders and necks, along with a bunch of commenters.

Let me now officially add my name to the list.  I’ve been referred to physical therapy for a (hopefully still only partially torn) rotator cuff injury, which I’ve had for about 7 years.  I got it while riding my cyclocross bike off-road.  Going down a hill on a single-track trail, my front brake cable suddenly broke.  This is a bad thing.  In addition, there was a new-to-me large log across the trail at the bottom of the hill.  I tried to lay the bike down before hitting the log, but it didn’t go according to plan. I went flying over the handlebars, landing left shoulder first.  Very ouchy.

I got imaging done, and luckily it was only a partial tear.  The distinction is important.  I got a full-thickness tear of my right rotator cuff in 2008, that time during a mountain bike race.  I stalled in a rock garden and tried to restart (mistake– just run it through and then remount).  Instead I ended up endo’ing and landed (you guessed it) on my shoulder.  Ouchy.  I had surgery to get it fixed in 2009.  The surgery lasted about 90 minutes, but the recovery and physical therapy took about 9 months to complete.  Blech.  However, it did get fixed, and it’s fine now.  Yay!

The partial tear responded to PT years ago, and remained dormant until last August.  I’ve been having pain in my left shoulder, radiating up to my neck.  It hurts when I drive or type on a computer or sit back in a chair.  It is hurting now as I type.  Blech.

I had hoped doing a bunch of yoga would help.  It does help– I feel stronger.  But I still have pain while typing or driving, just not as bad.

So I finally dragged myself off to the orthopedist, whereupon he said, “it’s definitely the rotator cuff”.  I go for an MRI soon to check its progress.  If it’s still partial, I can avoid surgery.  If not, I will need surgery.

In the meantime, physical therapy will help.  So I’m embarking on a 2–3x/week trip for six weeks.  This is reality when you’re an active person.  This is also an example of privilege in action.  A friend of mine who relies on Medicaid for insurance had to stop physio for her knee because of the limitations of coverage.  And in the US, now that a drastic tax reshuffling bill may be on the way to becoming law (stuffed with other initiatives as well, including suspending the insurance mandate for the Affordable Care Act), this privilege will be available to fewer and fewer Americans.

Fitness really is a feminist issue.  So is physical therapy.   In order to maintain well-being and enjoy our lives and our bodies, we need help sometimes– physical therapy, surgery, medical devices, imaging, examinations and followup, and support.  I am grateful that I have a job and that my employee health insurance covers my health care needs.  I’m also grateful that I live in a state (Massachusetts) with some of the best and comprehensive health coverage in the US.  I will hope that the US, and also other US states, will look at the example of other countries and see the benefits of providing health care so that everyone can continue to move in ways that support their lives and their needs.

It’s been a tough week here.  Not for me and my shoulder– we’ll both be fine.  It’s been a tough week for health care, and for people who need their bodies to work (sometimes really hard and for long hours).  I feel like I’ve been hit.  Hard.  Time to work on getting stronger, because my strength (along with all of our strength) is going to be needed to fix problems much greater than a torn ligament.

Time to get in training, folks.  Time to repair, recover, strengthen, and then get out there to do what we can and what we want and what we must.

Text saying "I'm in a good place right now. Not emotionally. I'm just at the gym."
Text saying “I’m in a good place right now. Not emotionally. I’m just at the gym.”
fitness · winter

Seasonal adaptation– slowing down, turning inward

Last year this time I wrote a blog post about early winter walking– you can find it here.  In the post I was full of resolve and plans for doing a challenge for walking a mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  A bunch of the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers and friends were doing it– some running, some walking.

For me, this challenge was a bust.  I didn’t have the oomph to do it.  It just made me feel resentful, overburdened, under-exercised, and inferior to my obviously-better-life-manager compatriots.  However, it turns out that others found the challenge, well, challenging.  It was reassuring to know that I had company in having a hard time meeting the challenge of challenges.

Of course this is no surprise.  Challenges can be motivating, but also can trigger resentments, fears, anxiety– you name it.  I speak for myself in a blog post here, but I know y’all can relate.  Your comments about the various challenges I’ve taken on have been so helpful– I’ve gotten advice, encouragement, and stories of solidarity.

Now here we are, a year later, in that frenzied, festive, overheated period where both the light is fading to its minimum and we are expected to rev up the fun and frolicking.

In the midst of it, I feel– calm. A bit quieter than usual.  Slow and deliberate. The indirect light suits me.  The early dusk I find entrancing.  This is a new experience and completely unexpected.

Maybe part of the reason is that I’m continuing my yoga-every-day practice.  I’m up to 52 days now (I think), and it’s become a habit.  Some days all I do is a few sun salutations, child’s pose, downward dog, a twist or two, and then legs up the wall.  Other days I do more active yoga classes (or two classes in one day, kind of by accident last Wednesday).  There are lots of options, and I’m beginning to develop tastes and preferences and needs which vary day by day.  I’m learning a lot about how I actually feel– in my body, in my head.

But to hear these messages I need to be quieter.  Despite the frenetic pace of the season, a little bit of yoga practice is bringing that quiet to me.

This week I’m setting up my bike trainer.  Next year I have several cycling goals and plans, and they require proper training over the winter. I’ll be writing about those plans a bit later.  But for this month, I’m going to try to bring that sense of quiet to my study where I can just turn the cranks on the bike and listen to what my body is saying that day.  I’m keeping up the yoga too.  It will be interesting to see if there is a way to bring a sense of quiet and inward focus to my other physical activities.

Are you feeling more inner-focused these days?  Are you making use of the last bit of light and warmth before deep winter hits?  How do you manage the transition?  I’d love to hear from you.

A tree with white lights on the Cambridge Common at night.
A tree with white lights on the Cambridge Common at night.
fitness · research

Activity– what is is good for? Depends on how you ask

Often while reading health news, I feel like a science referee; there are always competing studies out there, ready for a brawl.  Writing for this blog, I sometimes try to take on the umpire’s job of blowing the whistle and sending the competitors into neutral corners while I replay the evidence to see what call to make.

This week in the New York Times’ Well blog, you can get ringside seats for another round of the “how much activity will make me live longest?” smackdown match.

In one corner, we see a study (and accompanying NYT article) touting the benefits of even light activity (vs. being sedentary) for older women:

They found that for each 30 minute a day increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, there was a 39 percent decrease in all-cause mortality. But they also found that 30 minutes of even very light activity — doing light household chores, walking slowly over short distances — was tied to a 12 percent reduction in mortality.

“The results apply to all women, all races, regardless of weight and even for women over 80,” said the senior author, Andrea Z. LaCroix, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego. “You do not have to be a marathon runner to benefit from physical activity. We hope that physical activity guidelines will recognize light activity as an evidence-based way to lower the risk for death.”

In the other corner, though, standing twitchily, is a rival study (cited in the comments).  Here’s what the commenter said:

Interestingly, this study’s conclusions were somewhat the EXACT OPPOSITE of those of a similar, larger study also published this month: “Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior in Relation to All-Cause Mortality: The Women’s Health Study,” in the journal Circulation, PMID 29109088.

In that study they similarly found a “strong inverse association between MVPA [Moderate-and-Vigorous physical-activity] and mortality. [But they] did NOT find any associations of Light physical activity or Sedentary behavior with mortality—after accounting for MVPA.”

Hmmm.  This definitely merits stopping the clock and re-examining the evidence and claims.  One study says light activity confers lower mortality risk for women, and the other study says it doesn’t. So who’s right?

It depends on how you ask.

One of my favorite health researchers, Dutch social scientist Annemarie Mol, writes in a medical ethics article about differing treatments for patients with intermittent claudication, which is muscle pain in the lower legs that is a symptom of a particular type of heart disease in older people.  The two treatments she looks at are 1) surgically inserting a stent in the lower legs to increase circulation; and 2) personalized physical therapy to increase the patient’s ability to walk without pain.  What she saw was surprising:  patients who got 1) improved, and the metrics used to measure their improvement verified this.  Patients who got 2), though, did not experience any improvement in the normal metrics, but they DID feel better in many ways:  they reported being less depressed, they ate better, slept better, and were steadily improving their walking abilities.  One patient reported being very happy that he could walk the two blocks to the local shop to buy his daily cigar.

Which approach is right?  Both groups display evidence of improvement, but one group doesn’t have the numbers on their side.  However, that group has much improved function and increased quality of life.  So maybe both groups are doing well.

How does this relate to the activity studies?  The question is: does doing light activity help me live longer?  Well, it’s not clear from these studies.  What we do know, though, from about a million other studies and interviews and stories, is that activity improves mood, reduces depression, preserved mobility, and helps us feel more in charge of ourselves and our lives.  Even if one of our daily goals is a trip to the store to buy a cigar.

We don’t engage in activity in order to maximize our allotment of living.  We do it to feel good, to feel good about ourselves, to do what we need and want to do, to feel a sense of accomplishment, to stretch ourselves, and to connect with others.

Is light activity worth doing?  Yes.  Is moderate to vigorous activity better?  Maybe.  Sometimes.  For some people.  If they can, want to, need to. Depends on how you ask.

fitness

Brompton v. airline: airline wins

Last Sunday I headed to the American Public Health Association meetings in Atlanta.  I was excited about the trip because I always learn a lot at these meetings– 12,000 people attended this year, and there are zillions of sessions on every aspect of health for everyone.  But there was an extra reason to be psyched– I was finally traveling with my foldable Brompton bike.  In case you didn’t see my blog post about it, here it is in all its two-tone glory:

My Brompton foldable bike, in two colors: bright orange and celadon green.
My Brompton foldable bike, in two colors: bright orange and celadon green.

 

I have been using it off and on around town, but had yet to take it on the road.  I had bought a specially designed-for-it hard shell suitcase, and was packing it for the first time.  It was easy-peasy:  just fold and remove one pedal, and it goes in like buttah.

My open Brompton suitcase, with padding all around, and my folded bike snugly and comfortably resting inside.
My open Brompton suitcase, with padding all around, and my folded bike snugly and comfortably resting inside.

Yes it’s heavy (48.5 lbs/22 kilos), but with a handle and wheels I could manage it.  I checked it, got on the plane and settled in for my flight.

At baggage claim in Atlanta, all seemed well, and my friend Gal and I (plus luggage) took the subway to her hotel.  That’s when I discovered that my bike case wouldn’t open.

Long story short, Jet Blue banged the crap out of my hard shell/metal reinforced suitcase, breaking the lock mechanism in the process.

View of my bike suitcase, with the metal siding dented and caved in.
View of my bike suitcase, with the metal siding dented and caved in.

The damage looks minor, but it was enough to prevent me from opening the case.  This was a problem.

Another long story short:  after hauling the case back to the airport, 2 employees and I finally succeeded in opening the case– one of the employees hit both side of the case, hard, and it popped open.  Good, but also not good.

I finally arrived at my Airbnb with all my luggage late that evening.  The next morning I dressed for cycling to the conference (shorts and T shirt– it was Atlanta, after all), when I discovered I couldn’t reopen the bag.  ARGH!  Again, long story short (there are lots of long side stories here that you can infer) I had to go to the conference without the bike.  Eventually, with the help of my Airbnb host, we got the bike reopened, but this was not working.  I decided to give up, as I was worried that I would have problems with getting the bike back to Boston intact, and wasn’t sure how long any part of the lock mechanism would last.

So there was no Brompton riding for me in Atlanta.  Instead I walked, took the subway, and took some lyft rides.  It was fine, and I had a great time at the conference.

When I got back to the airport, I had to take the bag to TSA for inspection, and we had similar problems reopening the case. It took four of us to reopen it, and after that I had to duct tape the suitcase shut (thanks, Gal, for finding duct tape in downtown Atlanta for me!)  The good news is that Jet Blue is probably reimbursing me for my broken bag.

Now this is not news to anyone who travels– sometimes airlines crunch and mangle our stuff.  But this whole business is making me rethink the idea of traveling with a bike.  It’s so much fun to ride a bike in a new city, and bringing a bike with me seemed like a great idea.  However, the implementation is quite different, even without a broken suitcase.

Reading fieldpoppy’s blog post Friday, I am really feeling like I need to slow down a bit.  Maybe ambitious multi-tasking travel and activity plans are too much for now.  Once I finish all the paperwork (ugh!) for getting whatever reimbursement I get from JetBlue, I’m going to let the Brompton stay home for a while.  We can both use a break.

Not my Brompton, but a lovely cut-out nook under a wood sideboard for a nice green Brompton to take a load off and rest.
Not my Brompton, but a lovely cut-out nook under a wood sideboard for a nice green Brompton to take a load off and rest.

 

fitness · yoga

31 days of yoga– I’ve just gotten started

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for 25 years (mostly off) until January 2016, when I joined the newly opened Artemis yoga studio that’s in Watertown, MA,  a 10-minute walk from my house.  Man, was that a good idea!  Since then I’ve been going off and on (mostly on) with friends or on my own.  And I love love love it.  Below, a partial list:

  • the friendly folks, from owner to desk staff to teachers;
  • the welcoming and dedicated attitude of the place– no judgment, all encouragement, and serious commitment to yoga practice;
  • the gorgeous interiors– the whole place is newly renovated and the studios are light, airy and serene;
  • the other yoga students– again, I’ve detected no attitude, no yoga hierarchy, no fashion competition, just general friendliness;
  • the convenience of it– I can walk there in 10 minutes!  I guess I said that already.  But it’s important to me.

However, even with all these fabulous features, I haven’t been able to get there as often as I would like.  And, I’ve been having some shoulder/neck pain lately that’s been making me unhappy.  So, I thought, maybe I should ramp up my yoga stretching and do more of it more often.

Enter the 30-day yoga challenge idea.

Now, I’m no fan of activity (or any other) challenges.  I’ve blogged about it here.  The thing is, I fear them.  I fear I won’t complete them and then will feel like a failure.  Why do I fear that I won’t complete them?  Because, honestly, I just don’t feel in control of my life and activities all the time.  Yeah, I know–  welcome to the human race, Catherine.  Still, there’s something daunting about the multi-day challenge that gets to me.  I become resentful and want to rebel against it, even though it was entirely my idea.

But I read Laura Dragon’s blog post here about 366 days of yoga and was entranced.  It stuck in my head and I kept thinking, maybe I can do this too.  Maybe I want to do this.  So I started 30 days ago.  And I did it– I did some yoga for 31 days in a row.

Important clarification:  there are loads of 30-day yoga challenges.  I signed up for one of them and was immediately put off when the person on the video sat down in a pose that will always be impossible for me.  On day one.  That does not seem very encouraging.   Looking around, I found the so-called beginner yoga challenge series heavy on the challenge, and light on the beginner parts.  As someone who teaches logic, which many people find daunting, I can say that setting people up with goals they can’t reasonably meet is terrible pedagogy.  Here is an example of a pose the beginners are supposed to do in their challenges:

Boat pose, super-advanced version. The person is sitting with her legs up at 70-degree angle, and arms outstretched. I don't think my yoga teacher can get her legs up that high and hold that pose for long.
Boat pose, super-advanced version. The person is sitting with her legs up at 70-degree angle, and arms outstretched. I don’t think my yoga teacher can get her legs up that high and hold that pose for long.

 

This is just silly.  Boat pose is cool, and there are so many modifications this pose, but the one shown is the hardest.  If it’s really day 13 of yoga for you, this is likely not the your modification.  Spare me the yoga fitspo please.

Instead of trying to follow some prescribed and canned 30-day yoga challenge program, I did a hodge-podge of things.  I went to classes at my local studio.  Sometimes I would do my own routine of poses on my mat at home.  Also, I have some yoga DVDs for morning and evening and stress-relief yoga which I use.  They last 20 minutes, which I can do most of the time, even if I’m tired.

Last week was particularly work-intensive, and a few nights I didn’t think I could even drag myself onto the mat to do 20 minutes.  Enter youtube.  There are 5–10 minute yoga-in-bed videos (of course there are).  I used them a few times.  On/in my bed, I would do some light stretching, cat/cow, child’s pose, some twists, legs up the wall, and be done with it.  I decided that this counted as doing yoga, because in fact I was doing some yoga.

As of today, I’m at 31 days.  I want to keep going.  I’m so happy that I’ve had enough oomph and self-understanding and self-accommodation and good physical feedback (it seems like I’m less creaky overall) to get into this and see how much I

  • often love doing yoga while in the moment,
  • never really mind doing yoga even in a tired moment,
  • love and admire myself for having done yoga.

Keeping my expectations low made this possible.  On a few days, all I wanted to do was legs up the wall.  So I did, and that counted as yoga for the day.  But I found I generally wanted more than that, so I did more most of the time.  But the deal between me and me was “some yoga each day”.  Which I did.  I’m doing it still.

text that says Yoga. Because punching people is frowned upon.

Unless you’re doing a boxing every day challenge, in which case, go for it!