The Challenging Challenge of Challenges

person leaping off cliff into water below

Let me just say it: I hate challenges. 30-day challenges, 100-day challenges, Do X-number-of-such-and-such challenges, etc.– I hate them all.

And yet.

There’s something seductive, promising, even magical about the challenge. All I have to do is start with 2 pushups, and soon I’ll be doing 384 of them a day. Or all I have to do is eat only grapefruit for 30 days and I’ll fit into that outfit. Or all I have to do is roll out my yoga mat now, and soon I’ll be able to hold a plank for 170 minutes. Apart from the sheer pain of the thing, who has the time to hold a plank that long? I’m joking, of course, but there’s definitely an appeal to the idea that the challenge promises us a goal beyond what we could imagine doing in our real lives.

Now, before you get annoyed with my tarring all challenges with the same brush, I know that there are lots of other challenges that are about process, not product. They help establish supposedly modest behavior change through repetition.  One such recent challenge was the the Runner’s World Run Streak challenge.

Runner's World 39 days of Awesome challenge: Thanksgiving to New Year's run 1 mile a day, every day

A bunch of FFI bloggers and friends decided to take on this challenge.  I chimed in, saying that I would walk a mile a day (my knees don’t let me run).  I even volunteered to do a group post on the results.

Why did I do this?  I was nearing the busiest, most hectic part of my fall term, a term in which I was the most overburdened with work that I’d been in some time.  I say this with full awareness that I have a job and life filled with privileges, for which I am lucky and grateful.  Still, my experience of being me last fall was not fun.

And yet.

The siren song of the challenge was irresistible.  I wanted it to be true that somehow I would transform into a person who took better care of herself– who took the time to stop what she was doing, get outside, stretch her legs, clear the cobwebs, and do something good for her body every day.  And honestly, walking a mile only takes 15–20 minutes, plus a few (like 5?) minutes for getting ready.  So surely I could manage this.

Well, no. Of course not. Hoping against hope that somehow my life would become different, that I would become different just by saying “I’m in!” is not an effective technique for completing a task like this.  I had none of the tools I needed.

I was stressed out from overwork, from being behind on a bunch of work tasks, from swimming in a sea of ungraded papers and exams.

I was in a state of suppressed (and sometimes non-suppressed) panic about my lack of fitness and failure to activate myself into a person working on fitness.

I was dying to feel and be like the other people doing the challenge, who (from my perspective) were fitter and happily ensconced in comfortable  and rock-solid physical activity patterns.

I was ashamed of my failure to meet my own physical activity goals.

I was ashamed of my body: how it looked, how it performed, how it felt inhabiting it.

So I did the only thing I could.  I said “I’m in!” and hoped for the best.

What happened?  Well, I have no idea what happened with the rest of the bloggers.  I was in fact too ashamed even to contact anyone to see how things went and organize a group blog post.  As for me, I did some walking on some days.  I did some documenting of the walking I did.  I did not walk 39 days in a row.  And I felt bad about that.

Okay, lesson learned:  don’t sign up for a challenge when just getting through your work day is a challenge.  Got it.

And yet.

The notion of the challenge, as much as I hate it, is still calling me.  Last weekend I was cross country skiing with my friend Janet, and talking about my fitness goals:  be able to ride bikes with my friends, learn more kayak techniques and get increased stamina to be able to paddle with folks over the summer, lower my levels of anxiety about partaking in physical activity with others and also on my own, and develop a rhythm of regular and fun activity.

That’s a lot.  There are a bunch of challenges in those goals.  Meeting them requires commitment to regular bike training (on the trainer and outside when possible), kayak classes and training and trips, anxiety-reduction through self-care, meditation, yoga, etc. starting to go on group rides with folks, and developing trust within myself and with my friends as I work toward fitness for me in this stage of my life.

So this is what I am doing now to meet these challenges:

I’m documenting my food intake– every meal, every snack, every day.  I want to eat in a way that feels healthy-to-me, that supports my body and helps me feel good and strong.  Knowledge is power, so looking at how I’m actually eating is a big step toward making any changes that I decide I want for myself.

I created a somewhat aspirational but not entirely unrealistic activity weekly schedule.  It includes walking, riding the trainer (which I don’t love but know will help me with my riding goals) and Friday–Sunday longer outside activities.  I also added daily yoga– sometimes a class (my local studio, Artemis Yoga in Watertown, MA,  is fantastic and very near my house), and other times a 20-minute yoga DVD.  I have the DVD cued up and ready to go, and my mat and blocks are in the living room.  I want to at least play the DVD while doing something-or-other on my mat to help me de-stress, stretch my body and relax.

I’m documenting all of my activity every day.  I printed out a calendar, tacked it to my bedroom door, placed a pen next to it, and am writing up what I’ve done each day.  In 4 weeks I’ll look at it and then devise another 4-week plan.  By then, the time will have changed (YAY!) so there will be more light later in the day to work with, opening up the possibility of rides after work.

This is my challenge: going on record with myself about what I want for my body.  Documenting what I am actually doing.  Reflecting on that information. Making adjustments.  And above all, being accepting, nay, kind to myself, remembering that challenges are, well, challenging.

 

Self care, world care: hoping it’s not either/or

Yesterday my friend Janet and I went cross country skiing at Foss Farm west of Boston.  It was a picture-perfect snowy day in the woods.

The woods at Foss Farm, ski tracks in the middle and trees all around.

On the way back home, we stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things.  I ran into a fellow feminist philosopher (hi, Naomi!) in the produce section.  I noted my ski clothing and said what a wonderful day it was to be outside.  She replied that she had been at a demonstration in Cambridge to protest the Dakota access pipeline, and pointed out her very warm clothing.  We parted, planning to get together for a snowy walk soon.

It’s funny (interesting, not haha) that I should run into a friend who had been protesting instead of skiing that day.  Talking with Janet while enjoying the woods, I mentioned that I was really interested in going to the March for Science in Washington, scheduled for April 22.  But I can’t, because I had already scheduled to go to the East Coast Paddlesports kayak symposium in Charleston, SC.  I’ll be doing 3 days of on and off-water kayaking classes in warm water.  It should be great, and I am/was really looking forward to it.

Was? Why was?

Maybe it’s bad luck/timing, but I now count three times that I’ve missed chances to join others in public protest against political conditions that I consider dangerous for my country, the environment, and human rights.  The third miss-out was when I was at a cooking course at the Kripalu center in western Massachusetts on the weekend of the Women’s Marches.  I had scheduled that trip weeks before the election– who knew this would happen?

All of these things I’ve been doing or am planning are part of my efforts at increased self-care these days.  I’ve written about struggling with eating in healthy-to-me ways,  and also with physical activities that I love but in which I am  less adept/fast/comfortable/fit than I used to be.  So I made the conscious decision to shift my focus a bit.  I am teaching less (fewer overload courses, which means less money), going to fewer conferences, saying no to new projects (this is in itself a work in progress!), and doing more focused service at work and in my community (i.e. not saying yes to every shiny new opportunity).  I’m also trying (really, I am) to space out my social events– I love love love seeing friends and really hate to miss out on dinners, parties, etc.  In fact I’m going to try to go to both a lasagne dinner and a karaoke party next Saturday.  We’ll see how that goes…

Back to the conflict at hand.  Our time is limited, our energy is limited, our personal needs are real, and the needs of the world are wide and deep.  Lately it’s feeling like saying “yes” to myself results in my saying “no” to the world.  And maybe vice versa.  What to do about it?  How to find that seductive and elusive karmic balance in life?  I guess that’s what I’m asking.  At times like these it feels as mythical a goal as this:

 

an elephant balancing on a beach ball on the beach!

It’s funny I’m writing about the difficulty of balance, because I’ve always been good at balancing.  I skate (ice and roller), I ski (downhill in past, cross country from now until I expire), and I used to dance ( ballet, tap, modern) and still do recreationally when I get a chance.  I’m venturing into new realms of balancing– edging a kayak is an exercise in balancing yourself and the boat to optimize on the physics of forward motion and turning.  And yoga?  Yeah.  Don’t get me started on all the balancing that we’re supposed to do there.  Like this one:

Woman doing a forward arm balance on a yoga mat

Seriously, that is not happening.  But I found out just yesterday that I’m rather better than I used to be at this one:

Two children doing tree balance pose on a yoga mat

What I wish and hope is that getting stronger and caring for ourselves will open up new energy for caring for the world, which really needs our attention.  I’ve recently gotten involved in several teaching projects for minority STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students at my university.  It feels stimulating to develop two new courses (philosophy courses on race and racism, and also a science and values course).  Maybe I’ll figure out how to make time for protests.  Or maybe protests won’t be the route for me– there’s lots of work to do to forward the causes of justice (however we see it).

Readers, how have recent world events shaped your time and energy and balance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

 

Stretches for my taste buds and exercises for my palate

the 6 tastes of ayurveda: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent

Two weeks ago, when so many people were at hundreds of Women’s Marches all over the US and the world, I was at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Wellness with my friend Norah. While she was doing a yoga nidra and deep relaxation workshop, I was busy in the Kripalu demo kitchen, learning and chopping and observing and smelling and stirring and tasting.   The course was called “5 ingredients, no time”. How could anyone resist such a title?

Since my relationship ended about a year and a half ago, I’ve been cooking on my own. I enjoy cooking, and often have people over for dinner or host parties with nibblies and cocktails. However, cooking for myself day in and day out proved difficult. Getting used to cooking for one most of the time was hard, and a reminder of my changed status. I see cooking as a form of self-care, and my self-care skills were not in great shape for some time. Plus, I tend to gravitate toward carbs for comfort in times of distress. In short, I was not eating in ways that felt healthy-to-me or caring-for-me.

Over time, the shadows of post-relationship sadness have lifted. Hallelujah! Happiness is once more my default state (more or less). I told my therapist recently that I didn’t think I was depressed anymore; I found myself singing songs in the morning. Of course, not like this:

Cinderella singing to birds and mice

But I have felt more of a spring in my step, and I guess also a song in my heart these days. Go me!

However, a change in emotional state does not automatically or effortlessly result in a seamless transition to new and healthy-to-me habits. I know this from past history. I started my current job in fall of 2001. I had been unhappy in my previous job, and in fact got denied tenure. However, I was very lucky to find another faculty position, and in the very city where I most wanted to live. Again, Hallelujah! Let all the people say Amen!

Yellow and black graphic of choir members with arms raised in joy

But it took some time to shift my habits of coping during periods of unhappiness and stress to new habits once the stress had eased.

Back to the present: I had gone to Kripalu in May to do a course on mindful eating, which was helpful. But I was feeling a bit stalled and bored about what I was eating.

Enter the Kripalu weekend cooking course.

I already know my way around a kitchen, and in fact fancy myself a pretty knowledgeable cook. The course went over knife skills and also organizing techniques for efficiency and good time management. Yeah, already knew that too.

But what really surprised me was this: I got reintroduced to taste. I mean all kinds of tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, salty, pungent, and astringent. Kripalu does a lot of menu planning and cooking based on the six tastes of Ayurvedic cooking.

Spices representing six tastes of Ayurveda

Chef Jeremy Rock Smith put together a variety of tastes in combinations that reflected different cooking traditions (e.g. Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian). And he created simple recipes that featured these tastes using vegetables, proteins, and salads. He recommended the book The Flavor Bible for anyone interested in exploring flavor combos in more sophisticated ways. I have already ordered it.

The book The Flavor Bible

For proteins, Chef Jeremy offered recipes that would work for tofu, chicken, fish, and other meats. For the most part we cooked with tofu and fish, but did a few chicken dishes as well. One of my favorite new-to-me tastes is courtesy of Za’atar, a Middle Eastern combination of spices that can be used mixed with oil and used as a dipping sauce, used on vegetables, or (as we did in our course) coated on protein for pan sautéing. Here’s a yummy and easy recipe:

Za’atar-crusted tofu/chicken/tempeh with pomegranate molasses

Za’atar spice (you can order it or buy it at spice shops or fancy grocery stores)

Olive oil

3 Tsp pomegranate molasses (same as above)

Dust protein with Za’atar generously (no need to coat it with anything, just dredge it as is). Heat pan, then add olive (or other) oil. Saute protein for 3—5 minutes on each side (more if it’s chicken, less if tofu or tempeh). Remove from pan and let sit for a couple of minutes. Then drizzle with 2 tsp of pomegranate molasses over each piece of protein (slab of tofu or tempeh, breast of chicken, etc.)

The Za’atar plus pomegranate molasses provided a wow combination of flavors that really woke up my palate. I found myself intrigued, and was looking forward to more taste exercises.

I wasn’t disappointed. My taste buds got a real workout over the weekend! Here are some of the dishes we made and sampled:

  • Creamed leeks with coconut milk and shredded coconut—oh man, they were soooo good. This could be a nice sauce accompaniment for fish or tofu, too.

 

  • Braised fennel with orange/yogurt sauce—I didn’t even think I liked fennel very much, and the orange yogurt thing seemed like a weird idea. But it was a taste sensation. We served it with white fish, which was yummy.

 

  • Brussels sprouts with ginger and (wait for it) kimchi—Whoa! Who would’ve thought this was a thing?   Not me. But it was an explosion of flavor—in a good way.

 

Since I’ve been back, I’ve done a bit of cooking, but I really got a chance to try out some of the recipes and techniques on friends Friday night after yoga class. I made grilled tofu with adobo sauce and sautéed sweet potatoes and onions with coconut milk. Both were a big hit. (I overdid both the spice and green chilis on the black bean dish—that’s what happens when I go off-script with new recipes, but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad).

So I’m feeling newly energized and equipped to head back into the kitchen with more excitement and purpose, armed with new knowledge and a wider array of flavors to try and enjoy.

So what’s the big deal? Why are a handful of new recipes so important for self-care?

For me, with respect to both eating and physical activity, novelty and variety are important. This isn’t true of everyone, but it is for me. I always have and always will love cycling and water sports, but I like to shake it up and try new things. I want new physical experiences and to tackle new challenges. Ropes yoga is a current novel activity for me (I blogged about my first class here). I’m also starting kayak rolling classes at the end of February, hoping to bring my boat skills to a new level in preparation for a weekend on-the-water course in April.

Why should eating be any different? Yes, I love oranges and avocados and eggs and bacon and tomatoes and arugula and sourdough bread, etc. And I have a bunch of recipes that I enjoy doing—my chicken fricassee is a classic that I love. But I’ve been yearning for something to, well, reward me for healthier-to-me eating that I’ve been trying (but not succeeding) in doing.

The wow-effect of new flavors may just be the reward I’ve been looking for. It requires a little investment of time, of restocking my kitchen with some new things, but it’s gotten me out of my eating rut. It is a source of pleasure, and a lovely act of self-care.

Let me know if you try any of these or if you have alternative ways of doing super-yummy flavorful recipes. If you’re interested I can put recipes in the comments section. And I’d love it if you shared some of your favorite recipes in the comments too!

graphic of bon appetit

 

work-life balance: just what is it supposed to look like?

comic on this modern life showing 3 panels: work (on computer), home (on computer), play (on computer) and sleep (dreaming of being on computer)

Last weekend my friend Norah and I took off from our busy lives to spend a weekend at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in western Massachusetts.  We are lucky and grateful for the privilege of the resources (time, control, money) to be able to take such a nice vacation.

Kripalu has limited internet access and strict rules against cell phone use in most of the building. The idea is to create an atmosphere in which people can take a break from their regular lives and from the regular stream of information and demands coming in over the airwaves (to use an old twentieth-century expression).

We both took full advantage of the break, enjoying lots of yoga, cooking, eating supremely yummy and healthy-to-us food, meditating, strolling in the woods, resting and reading.

Yeah.  We should all run–not walk– to such places.

three stick figures--standing with no, walking with no, running with yes

But here’s the thing: all of the lovely activities that Norah and I did– the woodsy strolling, yoga, cooking, reading, meditating, chilling and hanging out– can all be done at a much lower price AT HOME.  So why don’t our non-vacationing non-getaway lives look more like this?

Here’s one reason:

graphic of the word "work"

We all work.  We work too hard.  We work too long.  We work at home. We work on vacation. We work at all hours of the day and night.

Contrast last weekend with this week:  Norah went to Florida Monday morning for big work meetings for a few days.  She was steeling herself for having to do regular job tasks on top of these extra meetings.  Let me clarify here:  her job required traveling and going to a bunch of all-day and into-the-evening meetings.  But there was also the expectation, nay, requirement, that she complete tasks that she would be doing normally at her job while not traveling.

And get this:  the schedule for the work meetings included breakfast at 5:30am–7am, whereupon employees would be shuttled to the convention center for the big meetings.

5:30am digital image

Good God.

Some of you who read the blog (and everyone who’s ever met me) know very well that I’m not a morning person.  But seriously?  Starting the work day at 5:30am?  I can see getting up early if the goal is to commune with nature that looks like this:

early morning sunrise over marsh and water

But I suspect Norah’s day began looking much more like this:

people eating breakfast at a convention ballroom

But wait– we forgot about the work tasks that Norah had to be BEFORE her day began.

working on tablet at night, colors in background

No, it probably didn’t look or feel like this.  The image was too pretty, however, not to share.  Likely it felt more like this:

stick figure working at computer

What does my rant about working too much have to do with fitness?  With feminism?

the word "everything"

When work life takes over every waking (and many of the sleeping) minutes, we are unable to cope, to take care of ourselves, to take care of others, to move in ways we love, to sit still alone or with others, to cook and eat food that nourishes and delights us, to think about how to make the world better and then do something about it.

This year I’m paying more attention to when and how and how often I work.  I’ve planned to go to some conferences, but fewer than last year.  I’m planning fun activity trips with friends and family and fun activities at home.  Sam and Tracy have blogged about their approaches to scheduling activity during their week.  I had, over the past couple of years, lost my rhythm, and am paying some attention to getting it back.  Or rather, finding a new rhythm.  I can say now it will not involve getting up at 5:30am (except for special outdoorsy activity occasions), but I am looking for something that can stand as a bulwark against the constant encroachment of work.  I know, something like this might seem like overkill:

a stone bulwark-- defensive wall

But some structural help, to keep me from letting work seep into all the cracks, is needed.

I don’t have concrete plans yet.  But my weekend away helped me wake up to the need to make some concrete plans.  So for now, I’m at this stage:

work in progress

Readers, what sorts of ways do you cordon off time and space for life outside work?  I’d love to hear some of your plans and structures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marching toward goals, outer and inner

On Saturday, women and supporters of women marched in cities and towns all over the world to protest against injustice, including misogyny, sexual assault, and discrimination. They sent a message to the incoming American presidential administration that people were watching and ready to act in response to injustice.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t march with them this weekend.

A month before the US presidential election, my friend Norah and I made plans to spend a weekend at the Kripalu yoga center in western Massachusetts.  My last trip there was transformative in helping me find the reset button for my eating practices. Since then I’ve maintained some of those changes—I’ve largely eliminated artificial sweeteners from my diet (e.g. no nutrasweet in coffee or tea, and almost no diet coke), which is one of my goals, as it seems more healthy-to-me (yes, there’s also evidence for health benefits to this move, but, as Sam says, you do you).

I planned this trip in part for Norah, who has been attending to ailing parents and dealing with the effects of family deaths, all of which are physically and emotionally draining. She needed a break and a rest, and I found the perfect program for her: an entire weekend of yoga nidra, deep relaxation yoga. I’ll post about this kind of yoga practice another time, but suffice to say, she has unwound and de-stressed like nobody’s business in the past two days.

For me, I chose a weekend cooking course called “5 ingredients, no time”. Who could resist? The executive chef of Kripalu, Jeremy Rock Smith, taught knife skills, stovetop/oven techniques for cooking both vegetables and proteins, and menu planning. He also kept us in stitches, amusing us with his irreverent and hilarious commentary on everything from millet-as-bird-food to Kripalu itself (“welcome to Ohmville”). We cooked (and tasted) more than 20 recipes, all featuring interesting vegetables, spices, and a variety of proteins. I now feel recharged to face my kitchen with new ideas for healthy-to-me and tasty-to-me cooking.

But I kept feeling conflicted all weekend. I didn’t march with those women and friends-of-women. Their cause is my cause. I feel a civic responsibility to participate, to be active, to show up to protest when I see injustice. And of course there’s the FOMO: fear of missing out. It’s clear, just from the smidgen of Facebook posts I looked at (there’s deliberately limited internet access at Kripalu), that the experiences of women who attended were tremendously positive. And that’s great, and I’m moved and delighted by their pictures and stories. But I wasn’t there.

Let me say here that I am aware of the position of privilege from which I am approaching this dilemma. First, I am lucky and grateful that I have the resources of time and money to choose to come to a lovely place like Kripalu for a weekend. Second, I am aware of the benefits to me of others spending their time and money and other resources to march in protest against something I am also against. So I thank them here from the bottom of my heart.

All that said, spending time engaging in self-care around clearly identified personal issues (emotional exhaustion for Norah, and being stuck around healthy-to-me eating for me) feels like some steps in a long march of our own. It’s hard to set aside dedicated time for this. However, it’s already resulted in a bunch of benefits for Norah. She says that spending all this inward time has made her ready to get back out there. Good on you, Norah!

I’ve been dealing with feeling stuck about health behavior change over the past year. I’ve toyed with challenges, eating plans, new gym memberships (pro tip: don’t rush to join a gym when you’re feeling blobby and out of shape; it’s not the right time), etc. Yes, I’ve been riding some, walking some, doing some yoga, and the occasional other physical activity (e.g. cross country skiing the one time we got snow in Boston). But I don’t feel like I’m in charge of my eating and activity. I still feel buffeted about by my schedule, my emotions, the world, everything.

I want to march. I want to march for justice, peace, and truth. I want to march for inner peace, for calm resolve, for my life goals of health and happiness.

I used to march a lot. I mean actually march—I was in high school and college band. I was on the flag squad and loved it. I wore a white cavalier hat with a big red feather and carried a seven-foot long flag that I swooshed and slammed around (in accord with others, of course). It was so much fun, marching at half-time at football games and parades. I enjoyed being part of a large (and in this case musical) group, moving with a purpose.

Moving with a purpose. That’s what I missed most about missing out on this weekend’s march. Being at Kripalu felt like marching in place, which is not as fun as moving forward. But I remember from band that getting the lineup right is important, too. You don’t want to step off on the wrong foot.

Here’s hoping that Norah’s and my next steps will be toward all of our goals, inner and outer.

You may lose more weight in cold weather… if you’re a mouse

A small brown mouse outside in the snow

Congratulations, blog readers!  You’ve made it through the minefield of New Year’s Resolutions, including all of those articles promising ways to lose weight this year.

However, now that we are settled into real winter (in the northern hemisphere), the writers of those weight-loss articles need a new angle.  And they have one: the role of cold weather in weight loss.

a thermometer with icecicles, surrounded by snowflakes

Honestly, I didn’t know this was a thing until I started googling, and found a bunch of articles touting the idea that we burn more calories in cold weather, or we can harness our shivering reflexes to burn more calories.  I’m not kidding– check the article out here. Or better yet, (re)read Sam’s blog post about hot vs. cold on exercise and weight loss here.  The advice never ends:  we are supposed to be able to use the cold to activate our brown fat to burn more calories (read about it here).  If you’re pressed for time and can’t read the rest of my post, here’s my two-word analysis of these methods for weight loss.

the words

 

Of course, this blog has been ever vigilant in documenting the hot/cold weight loss/gain silliness; see Sam’s posts on this issue here and here.  I was reminded of this seasonal phenomenon while looking at the weekly email digest I get in my inbox, called Obesity and Energetics Offerings (thanks David Allison, for your continued compiling of this). It compiles articles on everything from basic science to meta-analyses on topics related to body weight and weight loss. One of my favorite parts of the newsletter is the “Headline vs. Study” feature. It illustrates why we would do well not to take sensational news stories about diets or weight-loss at face value.

This week, the cold-weather-weight-loss meme was back.  First, the actual scientific article, from the journal Cell:  Gut microbiota orchestrates energy homeostasis during cold [for mice]. The tests were done on mice, and the results were illustrated like this:

a description of the process of insulin uptake after introducing gut microbiota into mice

It’s kind of pretty, don’t you think?  But also pretty complicated in such a way that doesn’t make for a catchy headline.  But fear not, for the news media will happily remedy that problem.  Like so:

Headline saying Study: cold weather helps you lose weight

You can find the article here, which does in fact mention the mice, but also suggests that this might work for humans:

The study states that its findings on the role microbes play in obesity should be useful in finding treatments in the future. For now, while you’re shivering outside, remember that it could lead to that perfect beach body.

Okay, I get it that news outlets are always looking for anything that will get more page views.  And any story that says “If you do X you may lose weight” is bound to be popular.

Just for fun, I decided to google losing weight in spring/summer/fall, and I found articles for every season, saying that it was the best time for weight loss.

Spring is the best time for weight loss because:

  • you can run outside (so you run longer, burning more calories)
  • you just happen to burn more calories in spring (yes, this keeps coming up but still isn’t true)
  • Bathing suit season (with impending fat shaming) is coming, thus motivating us through fear to lose weight (yeah, that always works)

 

Summer is the best time for weight loss because:

  • the weather is nice
  • we’re all in better moods (okay, I give them that one)
  • the damn bathing suit thing again (we’re wearing bathing suits, so are afraid of eating lest we be judged; thanks for that!)

 

But wait, Fall is the best time for weight loss because:

  • Fall produce is yummy and good for you
  • It’s slow-cooker season (I didn’t make this up; look here but there’s no explanation)
  • The gym is not crowded

I have an idea:  we can fight back by figuring out which season is the best season for loving our bodies.  Here’s me:

Winter is a great season to love my body because it knows how to cross country ski and glide around.  Also, I love the feel of gloves and hats and scarves. And the crunch of snow under my boots.

Spring is a great season to love my body because I start to bare a little more skin and also spruce up with brighter colors.  And I ride my bike more, which my body and I love.

Summer is a fantastic season to love my body.  One word: water! I love the feeling of being in and moving through water.  And sweat, too– I do plenty of that on the bike and elsewhere.  And I love summer produce– yum yum yum!

Fall is a great season to love my body, with cool nights and feel of putting on a jacket after months of bare arms.  There’s fall riding and hiking, and festive rides, and the promise of eating more yummy orange foods.

Do you have a favorite season for loving your body?  I know, it’s hard to pick just one.

 

 

 

Throwing money at the problem: my kayak investment plans for 2017

women throwing money in the air

In 2015 I spent more time kayaking with friends. I started venturing into the ocean and discovered (unsurprisingly) that sea kayaking is a whole different world, requiring not only skills I didn’t have, but skills I didn’t even know about. My first foray into open ocean (with waves and currents and big rocks to maneuver around) was a real eye-opener. It was, frankly, scary to me. But after some time, I came to enjoy—even revel in—the incredible beauty of an ocean environment. While still being a bit scared, I admit.

In 2016, I did some kayaking here and there, and then took the plunge (literally—man, is the water in Maine cold!) by doing a weekend intensive sea kayaking course with Maine Island Kayak (and of course my friend Janet). That course did two things for me:

1) It made abundantly clear how much I DON’T know about sea kayaking, like understanding tidal current, wave and weather effects. Oh, and navigation. And being actually comfortable and roughly in control of my boat bobbing around in the ocean.

2) It gave me a clear plan if I do want to develop my sea kayaking skills. I need to learn to roll a kayak, get comfortable in the boat under a variety of conditions, do lots of practicing of all sorts of techniques, and above all: log more time in a kayak on the water. This means I really need to buy my own sea kayak. Sure, you can rent them, but it limits you in where you can put in, or you have to transport it somewhere else and return it, etc. Streamlining the process of doing a sport makes that sport more doable.

So, for 2017, I’m investing some time and money on the following:

Rolling classes: I’m taking some indoor pool rolling classes with Kevin at Rock Paddle Surf Kayak in Salem. Last year I did one rolling class. And in the fine tradition of 2016 sports lessons, I learned how much effort and time it’s going to take for me to learn to roll (namely, a LOT). So this year I signed up for a series of 3 classes. I may have a partial roll by then, but certainly it will help move me forward.

Another weekend intensive: Janet and I are going to do the 3-day East Coast Paddlesports Symposium near Charleston in April. This is the perfect venue for me. The water will be warm, I can rent a boat and necessary gear easily, and it offers a big variety of on and off-water courses for a bunch of levels. This means Janet can go off and learn to fight sharks with her paddle while I work on rolling and other handling techniques in warm (did I mention the water is warm there?) water and under adult supervision. I learned so much from 3 days of intensive instruction last year that it’s worth some time and money to do it again this year. And likely I’ll go back to Maine for more kayak instruction and paddling in lovely Casco Bay (even though the water is cold…)

Possible/likely/uh… sea kayak purchase: I’ve been hemming and hawing for a year about buying my own sea kayak, but this is probably the year to do it. Kayaks are like bicycles: you can spend a little money ($700ish) or a lot of money ($5000+). I haven’t figured out what my entry-level boat will be like, but I will be asking around and trying out different ones. Kayaks are also like bikes in that you buy an entry-level one, and then can trade up. Or out—like bikes, kayaks come in multiple designs for multiple purposes: touring, surfing, fishing, etc.

Unlike bikes, though, a kayak cannot be stored in my (non-walk-in) basement, because it will be at least 15 feet long. So I have to leave it outside or talk a friend into storing it at their house. Not all the details have been worked out yet, but the process is moving along.

It’s a bit daunting, diving headlong into a new or different sport. I’ve been toying with sea kayaking for a while now. I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

Readers, what experiences have you had with deciding to plunge in (or not) and devoting some time and money to a sport or activity? Was it hard? Was it easy? I’d love to hear from you.