fitness · swimming

First fall open water swim: Catherine gets her feet wet

I never realized that starting something new, whether tentatively or full-force, had so many aquatic metaphors or turns of phrase.

  • Getting your feet wet
  • Testing the waters
  • Dipping a toe in the water
  • Taking the plunge
  • Swan-diving in

This makes me very happy, as I get to be both literal and figurative at the same time. Yesterday I did my first solo pond swim during the fall. Ever. That’s right, I’ve never done any New England open water swimming after early-mid September. That’s not particularly shocking, of course: school is starting, temperatures are dropping (although they’ve been up and down and up again the past month), and our attention turns away from crisp blue water and toward crisp red apples. So it has been with me.

Until this year. Yes, I know: cold-water swimming is to pandemic outdoors as bread-baking is to pandemic indoors. But hey, whatever gets you in the water… We’ve blogged A LOT about swimming. If you’ve missed them, start out here, with some videos about wild swimming.

Some of our bloggers are bona fide all-season swimmers. Diane is our resident cold-water expert and the source of much wisdom on the subject, including her post with tips for avoiding a Darwin award while open-water swimming. Worth reading!

Back to me: Saturday was a lovely day, with air temperatures in the low 70sF/22-23C. Walden Pond, my swimming hole of choice, had water temps around 67F/19.5C. For me that’s a little on the brisk side, but easily manageable in just a swimsuit plus cap, goggles and trusty swim buoy.

It was around 4:15pm, and there were lots of open-water swimmers out there. A little more than half were in swimsuits, and the rest in wetsuits. It took me a few minutes to get used to the cold water, and I didn’t hurry (this is one of the tips I read most, even though this water isn’t cold… yet). Honestly, why hurry? I enjoy just hanging out, standing in the water, taking in the scene, getting used to my new aquatic environment.

Finally, I submerge myself up to the neck, squealing a little (I tried not to be too loud), and swimming to get warm. I swam along the shore for a bit, just checking things out. Once I felt comfortable and adjusted, I headed out to deeper water, enjoying the blue sky above me, the gently lapping waves (there was a bit of a breeze that day), and the distant sounds of people having a wonderful time on a Saturday afternoon.

This was my first wet run of the fall, and I discovered a few things:

  • Don’t forget ear plugs next time (to avoid swimmer’s ear and also for when the water gets colder);
  • Don’t try to adjust your goggles while in deep water; it can be done, but maybe on shore is better;
  • If you swim with the wind, your swim buoy will snuggle up to you and even try to pass you in the water
  • As a solo swimmer, I will need to come up with a plan to keep myself occupied; coming up with time goals or route plans seems like a good idea
  • I REALLY LIKE SWIMMING! I WANT TO KEEP SWIMMING THROUGH THE FALL!

I did manage to find a shortie wetsuit that fits (che miracolo!), which I will use at some point, along with neoprene booties. Maybe neoprene gloves will be purchased at some point, too. And I have my eye on this swim cap.

We shall see how things go, but I’m excited. I’ve broken the ice (even though it’s not that cold yet and I doubt I’ll be that hardcore, but you never know) and am going to try to swim every week for… a while…

Readers, how are your fall sports or activities transitions going? Have you said goodbye to some things, or are you shifting to fall-weather gear/clothing/etc.? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · season transitions

6 things Catherine is liking this fall

1)Leaving my house more: I’m enjoying the outside world more for work, for social activity, for physical activity. Where I live, there are high rates of vaccination and mask mandates in most towns I go to. I’m lucky and happy about this, and also feeling more comfortable (while observing safety measures for myself and others).

2)Finding new pleasures in old activities: I’m liking commuting (yes, I said it), getting to know my students (even with masks), and walking around campus (I’m meandering more after classes). I’m bingeing on podcasts in the car, and yes, I’ve even done a bit of driveway listening. My favorite these days: Hear to Slay, with Tressie McMillan Cottom and Roxane Gay.

3)Embracing that late-to-the-party doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had: After being inside A Lot, I’ve been venturing out in nature more with friends and by myself. In the past month alone. I’ve found several sweet parks that I never knew existed. Water is my favorite, but I’ll take woods, flowers, rocks, whatever you got.

4)Feeling more myself than I have in several years: I haven’t worked out what exactly the pandemic’s effects have been on me (we’re all working on this still), but 18 months after it started, I know that I’m more aware of where I am and what I want than I have been in years. Partly it’s due to my restarted meditation practice and partly due to my newly-started personal writing practice (I’ve taken some Zoom writing classes at Grub Street Boston, which have been excellent).

5)Planning my fall 2022 sabbatical: it’s only 217 days until my sabbatical. I’ll be on research leave May 15, 2022 until January 15, 2023. I’ve written my proposal, and enjoying thinking about, researching (read web surfing) and planning possible travel to Canada (fingers crossed), recreational travel in the US, and possibly a writing residency, too.

6)Preparing to buy an e-bike in 2022: Yes, I said it. For cyclists, a new bike is always an exciting prospect, and always feels just-around-the-corner (recall that n+1 is the perfect number of bikes for anyone owning n bikes…) For a lot of reasons, I think it’s the right next bike purchase. I’d like an e road or gravel bike, which is many dollars. Hence the prep time for research, test riding, and making that money to pay for it.

What about you, dear readers? What are you enjoying this fall? I’d love to hear from you.

cycling · fitness · gear

It’s not you, it’s the valves: gear maintenance and learning curves

This week, a FB friend reported some problems with a deflated tire on their road bike. They didn’t know that there were two kinds of tubes and valves (FYI: Shrader and Presta) and accidentally deflated the tube by using the wrong attachment from the pump.

They said, “I’m feeling like an incompetent novice”.

Oh, no…

Sympathetic pink creature, saying "oh no".
Sympathetic pink creature, saying “oh no”.

When I read this, I immediately thought: this is a perfect example of the gear maintenance learning curve.

It’s not us– how would we know that bike tires come in two different forms (and, btw, multiple sizes, for which appropriate tube selection may be a non-trivial process)? The answer: experience. Experience with gear involves a lot of steps, including

  • buying basic good tools
  • watching youtube videos
  • occasionally buying specialized gadgets (like a presta valve extender depending on how deep your wheel rims are and how long your tube valve is)
  • watching friends do repairs and maintenance tasks
  • getting help from friends in learning how to do tasks ourselves
  • trying things ourselves and then asking for help from friends or a friendly local bike shop
  • taking a class, maybe one for women in our sport, on common maintenance and repair of our gear

Of course, before checking off anything from the above-mentioned list, the natural thing is to just get out there– ride or skate or swim or paddle or sail or whatever it is that is filling us with joy in movement. Which is great. Once out there though, things will happen. Rigging breaks, tires get punctures, screws come loose. That’s life. That’s gear. That’s what activity friends and cell phones are for.

One more thing: we can choose how much we want to geek out on gear and its care and feeding. I freely admit that I don’t change my own rear cassette or do my own bike tuneups. For me, knowing how to change a tire, pack and unpack my bike for travel, do a few side-of-the-road adjustments with tools in my saddle bag, and clean my chain stands me in good enough stead. But it took a long time for me to get there. And I’m still a little anxious with dealing with through-axles. Luckily, there’a a youtube video for that.

Readers, are you gearheads or devoted mechanics for the activity gear you own? Is your mechanic on speed dial? Do you make a point of avoiding gear as much as possible? Do you just walk or run, avoiding most of the gear debate entirely (except for shoes, I guess…) Let us know in the comments.

fitness · Science

Surprising new research on human metabolism: overview and some questions

CW: brief discussion of weight-blaming and shaming of people over 40.

Ah, conventional wisdom! We rely on it, use it to advise and direct other people, and conveniently forget times it doesn’t work for us. I decided to look up some good examples of conventional wisdom that are clearly not wisdom (in fact not even knowledge, as they’re arguably false). Here are some:

You get what you pay for.

One financial site pointed out that, in many circumstances, we get what we don’t pay for. That is, paying for something is a loss for us, and paying more is a greater loss. We have to pay close attention when paying more to determine if it’s a good deal. Hmmm…. Good thinking.

Warren Buffet, famous rich money-making person agrees, saying “price is what you pay. Value is what you get”.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

This saying suggests we have two options when things get difficult: push on through, or abandon our plans. No– I don’t think so. Informal logic classifies this as a bona-fide fallacy: the fallacy of false dilemma. When faced with a crisis or barrier, there are almost never only two options. We can slow down, enlist others, shift timelines, take a break and regroup, recast the parameters of the project… I could go on.

Here’s great advice on what to do if you’ve got too much heat/spice in food: add acid, veggies, nuts, broth, dairy, sweet or just make more. No need to leave the dish.

At last, we get to human metabolism and aging. Here’s the conventional wisdom:

No matter what we do, our metabolisms slow down over time, especially after age 40.

According to this view, our metabolisms slow gradually as we age and we experience a marked and continued slowdown of resting metabolic rate (insert all kinds of asterisks here, as this is super-complicated, and the conventional wisdom often conflates lots of distinct metabolic processes). In addition, there’s also conventional wisdom about ways we have control over our metabolisms.

Okay, if the convention wisdom about slow but inexorable decline in human metabolism is wrong, then what is right?

Short answer: we’re a long way from knowing in great detail how human metabolism works, and applying that to clinical medical and health practice.

Longer answer: a new study, combining very high-quality data on more than 6500 subjects from more than 40 testing sites, suggests a new four-stage model of human metabolism over the life trajectory. Veteran NY Times science write Gina Kolata sums it up here:

  • There’s infancy, up until age 1, when calorie burning is at its peak, accelerating until it is 50 percent above the adult rate.
  • Then, from age 1 to about age 20, metabolism gradually slows by about 3 percent a year.
  • From age 20 to 60, it holds steady.
  • And, after age 60, it declines by about 0.7 percent a year.

For those of you who prefer graphs, the original paper explains it below:

Graph of metabolism over the life span, showing sharp increase in energy expenditure through childhood, sharp drop in adolescence, plateau to age 60, then decline.

Here’s another conventional wisdom-buster from the paper that Kolata reports:

Once the researchers controlled for body size and the amount of muscle people have, they also found no differences between men and women.

But wait, there’s more myth-busting:

The four periods of metabolic life depicted in the new paper show “there isn’t a constant rate of energy expenditure per pound,” Dr. Redman noted. The rate depends on age. That runs counter to the longstanding assumptions she and others in nutrition science held.

Wow. So it’s not “calories in, calories out”, right? Right. That piece of conventional wisdom has been on its way out for a while now, and these results further explain the ways that view is wrong.

But:

I have questions.

Media outlets are already using the results of this study to blame people over 40 for weighing more than they did when they were younger. From the BBC to beauty spas, the message is being put out there: increases in body weight after 40 aren’t because of slowing metabolism. Now insert implicit conclusion: it’s your/my/our own fault!

This was NOT one of the conclusions that came to mind for me. On the contrary: this study brings up lots of questions about the relationships among energy intake/expenditure, aging, activity, physical performance, cognition and mental acuity, and what’s in our future, given a better understanding of how the human machine runs over time. Two things I’d like to know:

How does the metabolism life trajectory graph look when it’s divided into weight groups? When it’s divided into other demographic groups?

We know there are many social determinants of health: that is, our environments and social/political/economic circumstances influence how long and how well we live. What effects do they have on the metabolic pathways over time?

One thing I believe firmly in and would promote as a piece of relatively new conventional wisdom is this:

Biology isn’t destiny.

We’re still very busy trying to figure out how the puzzle pieces of genetics, environment, behaviors, culture and community, economics, and justice (or lack thereof) fit together to predict, explain and promote human flourishing. This study gives a clear direction for new metabolic research. The puzzle, however, is far from completed.

Readers, did you hear about this in news or did you read the article? Did it strike you as good news? Did it change your views? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · season transitions · swimming

Last summer swim: a post in photos

It’s officially fall now, and usually that means my swim season is over. However, inspired by fellow bloggers, the Book Why We Swim, and the FB group Boston Open Water Swimming, I’m going to see how far into the fall/winter I can continue heading into the water. Maybe I can just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

Our friend Dory the fish, saying "just keep swimming".
Our friend Dory the fish, saying “just keep swimming”.

Last week, Norah and I went to Walden for our last official summer swim. It was a gorgeous day, low-mid 70s/22-23C and sunny. For those of you who haven’t been to Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, it is a very beautiful place, well-designed and well-maintained. This is important, because it is hugely popular with locals and tourists. About 500,000 people visit each year, according to this article in Smithsonian. However, the capacity is strictly monitored, and the Pond closes to new visitors several times a day on busy days in the summer, reopening when the numbers drop.

Here you can see the well-maintained parking areas and walkways, accessible to lots of people.

With utility comes a definite New England aesthetic.

When Norah and I crossed the street (which has a huuuge set of pedestrian signs and lights), we walked down the wide concrete path to the main beach. In the summer there are lifeguards and ropes for the swimming areas.

Our favorite swim spot is on the other side of the pond. On the way there we pass other people in their favorite spots, and see lots of action on the water.

Here’s what our favorite swimming spot looks like.

After swimming, chatting, snacking and addressing the problems of the world, Norah and I return the way we came. The path goes all the way around the pond, in case you want to check out the other side. Lots of people swim from there, too.

I finally bought a wetsuit– a shorty one– and I’ve got neoprene booties when I need them (still have gloves to purchase). This fall will be my first foray into colder water swimming. But there’s nothing like heading into the water in summer, the cool water instantly changing your perspective on a hot (and possibly trying) day. This was my last one of those for while.

What about you, dear readers? What activities are you wrapping up or changing gear for this fall? We’d love to hear from you.

Black Present · fitness · nature

NY Times readers of color find joy outside

In case you don’t get the Race/Related newsletter from the NY Times, I wanted to share a few of the lovely photos and reflections on the joy of the outdoors, submitted by NYT readers of color. They made me smile and encouraged me out the door (I’m writing this an hour before going swimming with Norah).

Leesa: I am in loving motion with CoCoBaby. Yes, I named my bike. Street hustling and sidewalk flowing every morning and every evening, with her. She brings me joy — my CocoBaby! She helps me forget my woes and absorb myself with nature: the sultry heat of the summer sun, the crisp fall air with crunchy leaves under her tires, the rainy downpour of the Pacific Northwest rains. Riding on CocoBaby is a mindful meditation of how to be present and breathe in my joy, my gratitude for life and every adventure in between.
Leesa and CoCo Baby, her two-wheeled friend.
Leesa and CoCo Baby, her two-wheeled friend.
Roslyn: My mother tells the story of how at age 3, she put me down to feel the sand on my feet for the first time at the beach and I shockingly took off, fast, racing straight toward the waves, chubby arms extended, as if I knew how to swim. I did not. But I have always loved the water.
Here, I am walking one of many paths along the Palisades, the water and New York City skyline to my right, with my favorite four-legged girl, Moxie, in tow. Paired with endless sky, I can remember how small my worries are, and I am thankful for this bit of time where it is my Moxie, the water and me.
Faith and her dog Moxie, standing on the Palisades, the Hudson River in the background.
Roslyn and her dog Moxie, standing on the Palisades, the Hudson River in the background.
Faith: One day last year I went kayaking in the bayous of City Park in New Orleans. As I shoved off from the bank, the rental attendant looked concerned.
“Have you used a kayak before?” she asked.
“Yes, I know what I’m doing,” I replied.
It struck me a few minutes later — I did know what I was doing! Because I did not grow up with any regular tradition of outdoor life, I’m a little proud of myself for learning to handle a kayak.
Faith handling the tandem kayak while her son Eli rocks some great sunglasses.

Biking, hiking, paddling: all of these bring joy and offer ways to navigate the natural world. Seeing other people loving nature reminds me of my own relationship with it. And, like all relationships, it flourishes only when we tend to it. So I’m going to wrap up now, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and get my swim bag together. See y’all later!

Readers, what kinds of experiences remind you of your love of nature? Do you have to go far, to a mountaintop? Can you get that warm feeling in your backyard? Let us know.

fitness · meditation

Catherine’s meditation retreat: stillness, energy, love and hope

Meditation has been good for whatever’s ailed me during the pandemic, and it continues to be so. About 14 months ago, I restarted my off-and-on meditation practice, doing a four-day zoom meditation workshop at my local yoga studio. I wrote about it here and here.

For the general public, meditation has a significant PR problem. But even for those of us who have tried it, meditation can seem serious and heavy– another burden to carry rather than a way to make our lives lighter. Witness this email I got recently:

Recent newsletter from Tricycle: the Buddhist Review. This week's topic: Contemplating your own death. Party on!
Recent newsletter from Tricycle: the Buddhist Review. This week’s topic: Contemplating your own death. Party on!

To be fair, the Tricycle folks cover the waterfront of human experience in their teachings, and other newsletter topics include laughing at our own minds, living the creative life, and cultivating intention, concentration, focus, compassion, etc.

But, staring into the abyss of the truth of existence is a thing that meditation promotes. There’s no way to get around that.

Or is there?

Well, yes and no. Meditation teacher, author and (in his words) meditation-making machine Jeff Warren led a weekend-long meditation workshop called “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” (also the title of his co-authored book with Dan Harris) at the Omega Institute near Rhinebeck, NY. I went with my friend Kathy.

It was, well, uh, transforming. Yeah, that.

At this point you may be thinking, uh, what does Catherine mean by “transforming”? Is her life different now? Is she a different person? Did she make contact with the sublime? Is she now dedicating her life to silent contemplation?

Short answers: Yes, yes, yes, and most definitely not.

The oh-so-quotable Inigo Montoya, saying "let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up."
The oh-so-quotable Inigo Montoya, saying “let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

This retreat, which was Friday night through Sunday noon, was a mixture of listening to Jeff, sitting with Jeff as he led us through various meditations, and a combo of Q&A and sharing our experiences and struggles with meditation.

Here’s an earlier version of Jeff’s 4-part approach to meditation practice, which he says (and I can attest) translates into life.

Hand-drawn illustration of Jeff Warren's meditation basics, emphasizing concentration, equanimity (acceptance of what is), clarity, and friendliness (now updated to be caring). From his instagram page.
Hand-drawn illustration of Jeff Warren’s meditation basics, emphasizing concentration, equanimity (acceptance of what is), clarity, and friendliness (now updated to be caring). From his instagram page.

After 17 months of all-online-everything, being in the same (very large) room with 100 or so other people (all masked and vaccinated), all being still (or fidgety), all listening to sounds in the room, their own breath and Jeff’s voice– it was overwhelming. I thought I’d be too distracted by all this stimulation to get quiet. I was at first. The first meditation session was, for me, a whirring blender of thoughts and emotions.

But then came Saturday. We did a combo of sitting meditation, individual nature walking meditation, and then one of my favorite meditations that Jeff calls (can you tell I’m kind of fan-girling here?) “Welcome to the party”. It involves becoming aware of any annoying or sad or angry or other parts or thoughts or feelings, and inviting them into your consciousness. Hey there, social anxiety– welcome to the party! Sadness over recent family loss? Welcome to the party! Resentment over not getting promoted at work? Hey there, can I get you something to drink? Have a seat.

You get the idea.

I’ve done this meditation many times, and keep coming back to it. But this time, something different happened. Everything got quiet, even in my mind. Quiet. Stillness. I never ever experience this. I have a serious case of what the Buddhists call “monkey mind”. But not this time, in this room, during this sitting meditation.

I sat, noticing the quiet. I wondered about it, and kept breathing, trying not to attach to it too much (another meditation thing). I figured it would change, as things always do. And it did. Into the quiet space entered something that I can only ineffectively describe as like it was shining, like it was golden, like it was warm, like it was round, and it was like it was inside me.

It was like it was something sublime. And it was good. It was goodness. It was love. Big love.

I noticed this, too, and wondered about it. Then it just filled me– the love/goodness, and I was experiencing that. Okay– just keep breathing, just keep breathing…

To sum up, I had something that was like a transcendent experience. Quiet, energy, love. And when the meditation was over was added a feeling of hope.

Through the rest of the weekend, that experience stayed with me. Not to be repeated, but to be added to my sense of self and sense of the world.

I cannot imagine a better and more unexpected gift. Thank you, Jeff. Thank you Omega Institute. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing the weekend with me. Thank you, universe.

If you’re interested in more information (by this I mean links), here are a bunch of them:

My meditation aid of choice has been the Ten Percent Happier app. You can get 3 months of FREE access to it by clicking here on meditation teacher Jeff Warren’s linktree page, which is also below.

https://linktr.ee/jeffwarren

Jeff also runs something called the Do Nothing Project, where they host live youtube Sunday night meditations. You can find them here: https://jeffwarren.org/event/do-nothing-project/

Readers, this was a much harder than my usual blog posts to write. It’s about stillness, not movement. It’s about changes to my inner self, not outer self. It’s personal in a way I’m not used to being personal. But I wanted to share this with you. Why? Because I want you to know that such things happen, and that they happen to people you know or know-in-a-way. And, if you’re thinking about bringing a little more intentional quiet into your life, maybe reading this will support you in moving in that direction.

If you’d like to share or ask questions or anything, I’m here and will listen and respond.

Dancing · fitness

Catherine’s spontaneous backyard dance party weekend

This weekend in New England, fall is letting us know it’s here. But it’s doing so gently and nicely. We’re enjoying blue skies and autumn sun and delightful daytime temps (low-mid 70s/22–24C), with sweater and jacket temps at night.

Friday evening I went to a bookclub backyard birthday party for my friend Lisa. There was good food, fire pit conversation, rousing singing when the cake came out, and then…

Dancing!

It wasn’t planned. Someone said, “hey– let’s do some dancing!” So we did. Hostess Michele was our DJ, playing mostly hits from the 70s through 90s. Being socially bossy, I made everyone set up to do a Soul Train dance line. If you’re unfamiliar with this, here’s what it looks like:

Of course, these people are the acme of cool (in my view). We were not. But we did attract the attention of the neighbors, who were trying not to gawk at us (according to Michele).

It was the most fun I’ve had in a while. The joy of dancing combined with the joy of celebrating and moving and singing and shouting (sorry, Michele’s neighbors) in a group of people I care about– what’s not to love? I highly recommend this.

But wait, there’s more…

This weekend also marked the Porchfest festival in my town. Do a lot of towns do this? People sign up to play music on their front porches (or yards), and everyone walks or bikes or drives to different locations (there’s even a map) to listen, hang out with neighbors, dance and maybe sing along.

On Saturday, while doing dishes, I heard the sounds of a jazz standard, coming from my back porch. Investigating, it was neighbors from the next street, playing “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. Leaving my chores behind, I headed to my porch to listen. They were really good– swinging the tempo, playing great solos, and improvising lyrics in fun ways.

Before I knew it, I was dancing again. For the second day in a row! This time it was solo, on my back porch, mellower than the night before. But oh so satisfying.

I gotta pull out my tap shoes and take a class again soon. In the meantime, enjoy this dancing by Syncopated Ladies:

Hey readers– when was the last time you danced? Have you done any backyard dance partying this summer? Tell us about it.

fall · fitness

Catherine learns about activity, care and relationships from her logic students

It’s back-to-school time for me and everyone around me. It feels strange after being away for 18 months, teaching on a small screen to even smaller students. It feels strange teaching in-person, all of us wearing masks (my campus has a mask and vaccine mandate). One of my current students introduced herself to me last week, reminding me that she was in one of my zoom classes last spring. I commented that she looked different in person than she did inside a small square on my laptop. She said the same was true of me, and we both chuckled, a bit nervously.

Some things, however, haven’t changed. I’m still teaching online introduction to logic–two sections. I’ve been doing this for more than ten years, and it has its plusses and minuses, both for the students and for me.

One of the plusses (for me, at least) is this: at the start of the term, I ask the students to introduce themselves. I offer them a variety of questions to answer to get them started (all optional):

Who are you? What should we call you? Where are you from? What’s your major or interest (if you haven’t declared one yet)? Do you have pets? Siblings? Kids? Favorite house plants or T shirts? What do you do when you’re not schooling? Tell us whatever you’d like.

They always deliver. I’m in awe of how much they do, how many relationships they sustain, how many hours they work at jobs to help support themselves, their families, and their educational goals.

So, in honor of the start of the school year, here’s what 58 logic students do to be active, caring, and satisfied, in the form of lists.

They take care of a LOT of pets:

  • 23 cats
  • 28 dogs
  • one horse
  • one bunny
  • one betta fish
  • 3 mice
  • 11 chickens
  • indeterminate number of other farm animals

They take care of other humans:

  • 13 children
  • 15+ younger siblings
  • loads of other peoples’ kids (as nannies, babysitters, daycare workers)
  • elderly people (as caregivers, aides)
  • school-age kids (as teachers’ aides)
  • kids’ sports teams
  • vulnerable people (in centers, schools, hospices)

They keep active:

  • horseback riding
  • cycling
  • running
  • basketball
  • football
  • yoga
  • dancing
  • softball
  • hockey
  • hiking
  • fishing
  • snowboarding
  • gym workouts
  • water skiing
  • playing with their animals

They go to places that make them happy:

  • the beach
  • the park
  • the woods

And they do all of this while working many jobs. Many or most of them work full-time AND are full-time (or close to it) students. Their lives are, in short, full.

I am in awe of these people. I already like them and am proud of them for their courage in taking on two lives’ worth of activity and caring and work. I hope to learn more from them as the term goes on.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

fall · fitness

Catherine’s training/shopping plan for starting the school year

It’s happening for real– school is restarting in the Northern Hemisphere and lots of us are returning to in-person teaching or learning. Of course, the people with the other jobs have been or are dealing with the transition from remote to in-person work. I feel like I’ve not been sufficiently sympathetic up to this point. But now I am.

Returning to in-person work (outside of my house, that is) feels scary and weird. And when things feel scary and weird, making lists seems like a way to approach them. So here I go:

Logistical list:

  • Try on work clothing to see what still fits. Oh joy.
  • Order a bunch of clothing online, now that I’m going to be teaching in person AND some things from February 2020 don’t fit well now.
  • Order a lot of masks, including N95 ones, for teaching in person, along with regular surgical masks to hand to students who invariably forget/destroy theirs. It’s going to happen.
  • Download a new meditation app (Calm), because if one is good (Ten Percent Happier), two must be awesome…
  • Plan, prep and cook meals on the weekends that I can thaw or pull out of the fridge when I get home from teaching, and other meals I can take to school for lunch. I prefer not to eat in a school cafeteria, and I certainly won’t have the spoons to cook after being on campus all day.
Spoon inside. red circle with a line through it. The rest is left to the reader.

Activity list:

  • Up my meditation game to include a 15-25 minute sit each day (in addition to my early morning and late-at-night short meditations). I’m going to need as much equanimity as I can get as I shift into campus work mode. I’ve already started, so am hoping to keep it up.
  • Charge up my long-dormant fake-o FitBit to track my hopefully-soon-to-be-ordinary campus movement, which will: a) provide positive feedback/reward for each day’s courageous act of getting out of my house and car; b) provide data and set the stage for new goal-setting; c) remind me to accessorize with a real bracelet on the other wrist.
  • Pick an outdoor activity I would like to do on my way home from work, and do that activity. After all, I’m out of the house and in a moving vehicle– how hard can it be to swing by somewhere-or-other and swim or walk or cycle or do yoga or paddle? Honestly, this seems like a great idea. I think I might actually do it.
  • Put together a bag or bin with after-school playthings for swimming or walking or yoga or cycling or whatever. Wow– I think I might do this, too!
It would be double-cool to get one of these tents to change from work clothes to play clothes. Thinking on it...
It would be double-cool to get one of these tents to change from work clothes to play clothes.

Emotional list:

  • Give myself a break about how hard the transition to an on-campus regular work schedule will be. I’ve had serious insomnia for the past 18 months (and no thank you, I don’t need any sleep tips– I know them all). It’s not going away magically on Sept 2. My schedule won’t be ideal, but what is?
  • Give myself a break about how bumpy my transition is, especially in cooking and activity schedules.
  • Be flexible about what comes up in the course of the transition; if swimming is too complicated, how about walking? Or yoga? Or youtube dance videos?

This isn’t for beginners at all. I’ve studied and taught dance, and could barely manage it.

Accountability list:

  • Report back in four weeks’ time on how the transition is going. That car-tent is backordered, so likely I won’t have one, but for the rest of it, I’m looking to breathe and move through this.

And I can’t wait to see my students!

Not my students or colleagues, but you get the idea.

Hey readers, what about you? Are you in the transition back to school? Have you already done it? What’s it like? Are you headed back to in-person work? What’s working for you? I’d love to hear from you.