Running is contagious? It depends on who and where and when you are

A group of women of different sizes and colors, all running wearing "too fat to run?" tank shirts

There’s a new study out in Nature this week reporting the results of tracking 1.1 million runners who ran a total of 350km over five years and used an app that tracked their runs and social network ties to other networked runners.  They made the following conclusions:

1) exercise is socially contagious and … its contagiousness varies with the relative activity of and gender relationships between friends.

2) Less active runners [their activities]influence more active runners[to do physical activity], but not the reverse.

3) Both men and women influence men, while only women influence other women.

This is interesting.

For today, I’m just going to talk about 2).  3) is very interesting as well, and I will blog about it in the next week or so.

The article points out a real asymmetry in influence patterns between consistent vs. inconsistent  and also more active vs. less active runners.  Scientists (and philosophers who pay attention to science) love asymmetry.  Why?  Because it points to something complex or unexpected that’s happening.  Or it shines light on some phenomenon that spurs us to do more work or try to better understand it.

You might think, if I’m using a fitness app (the researchers won’t say which one they partnered with), and trying to develop as a consistent runner, that being networked with a bunch of other people who run regularly would motivate me to lace up my shoes and start pounding the pavement.  According to the article, that’s not the case.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  If my fitness app social network friend X (seasoned runner) sees that I (newbie runner) got out there and ran when it was raining and chilly, that influenced X to get out there, too.  But not the other way around.  Here’s the way the researchers put it:

Comparisons to those ahead of us may motivate our own self-improvement, while comparisons to those behind us may create ‘competitive behaviour to protect one’s superiority’… Our findings are consistent with both arguments, but the effects are much larger for downward comparisons than for upward comparisons.

That is, the competitive urge with those less active than I am is stronger than the motivational urge to keep up with/approach those more active than I am.

For those of you who want the numbers, here they are:

Suppose, for example, that a runner (A) usually runs 6 km at a pace of 7 min km−1 (0.143 km min−1) and their friend (B) usually runs 6 km at a pace of 8 min km−1 (0.125 km min−1). An extra kilometre run by B (an increase from 6 to 7 km) causes A to increase their running distance by 0.3 km (from 6 to 6.3 km). Also, a 0.01 km min−1 increase in runner B’s pace (from 0.125 to 0.135 km min−1) causes runner A to increase their pace by 0.003 km min−1 (from 0.143 to 0.146 km min−1).

As a long-time active person, this seems both right and wrong.  Having riding and paddling and yoga partners is, for me, key to maintaining and improving on regular exercise habits.  However, when I see myself as not like my more active friends (Steph, I’m talking about you!),  their (exhausting-sounding to me) activity regimens don’t influence me to join in.

In 2005, I bought my first real road bike, encouraged by my bike racer friend Rachel (thanks, again, Rachel!). who rode with me, introduced me to groups of cyclists, and offered all kinds of help and support.  I developed a real-life cohort of cyclist friends, with whom I would ride and also do other social activities.  Many of these folks have become dear friends and the core of my social life/family of choice.

The past couple of years I’ve been much less active.  My relationship ended and that was a major loss.  For whatever reasons, I just couldn’t see my way clear to getting back out on the bike.  My active friends stayed with me, luring/bribing/tricking/dragging me out there (yes, I mean you, Janet).  And it’s always fun (well, mostly) to move around and be active with my friends.

However, attempts by my friends and by me to motivate myself to rejoin them in their habits haven’t been so successful.  I wanted to do the PWA ride with Samantha and the other Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers and friends last summer, but didn’t end up getting myself trained (and had some knee problems that I didn’t address).  I’ve canceled on a bunch of other planned activities as well.

So from my perspective, having a social network of more active folks around is not the solution for kick-starting or restarting physical activity habits.

For philosophers, we might say this is a necessary but not sufficient condition.  That means that without my social network of active friends I might never get out there, but having them there doesn’t guarantee that I’ll be active, too.

I’m happy to report that it seems to me as if my activity levels and satisfaction are steadily increasing these days.  I think I’m finally recovering/bouncing back/getting back in the saddle (literally) again.  What’s the cause?  Probably a bunch of things.  Can I tell you exactly what things and how much they’ve influenced me?  Nope.

Note:  In 2016, the McArthur Foundation (the people who fund those “genius” grants) announced that they were going to fund a $100 million grant for one group to solve a BIG social problem. One of the submissions was from a group that’s trying to crack the problem of behavior change, including how to change our health-related habits.  Read more about it here. I wish them lots of luck.

I’ll end here with a question:  how do you think your social connections with more and less active people affect you?  Are you looking for motivation?  Does competition get you moving?  What about those Strava QOMs or other app personal bests?  I’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

 

Tips from Peter Cottontail: hopping as exercise

A bunny (perhaps Peter Cottontail...) hopping down a bunny trail

It’s Easter Sunday, which for many Protestants, Catholics and other Christians, means the culmination of a long season of Lenten observance and a full week of church services.  I am among those folks, and really enjoy the season and its metaphors of rebirth and renewal.  I’ve written about it in an Easter blog post here.

But the more secular features of Easter– namely the bunnies and all their happy hopping– have got me thinking.  Maybe they have something to offer for novelty-needing fitness-valuing feminists like you and me.  Yes, bunnies certainly hop for fun:

3 bunnies on green grass viewed from the rear, two hopping.

3 bunnies on green grass viewed from the rear, two hopping.

 

But they hop for sport as well:

A brown bunny jumping over a blue and white barrier on a bunny show-jumping course

A brown bunny jumping over a blue and white barrier on a bunny show-jumping course

This looks like work to me.  I mean, look how much air this bunny got while hopping over what looks like a rather high jump:

A white bunny with black feet and ears, jumping over a high jump

A white bunny with black feet and ears, jumping over a high jump

Apparently bunny show jumping is a thing.   Am I just late to this party?  Well, better late than never.

So it occurred to me:  is hopping something that we, the humans, might do well to incorporate into our fitness lives?  The answer is, well, maybe. There was a study done on men over 65 that found increased bone density after 2 minutes of hopping a day.

The Hip Hop study, which measured the effect of daily hopping exercises in 34 men over 65, has shown bone density in the hopping leg improved after just one year.

Increases of up to 7% were identified in the bone mass of some parts of the outer shell (cortex) and in the density of the layer of spongy bone underneath this. Importantly, there were improvements in the thinnest areas of the bone most at risk of fracture after a fall. 

I have no idea why they limited their study to men, but I’m happy to report that as of January 2017, the research group at Loughborough University were soliciting female volunteers for the study.  I await their results with interest.

Hopping is actually a part of a bunch of physical activities– plyometrics incorporate explosive jumps in many different combinations.  When you look at the how-to information, though, it seems pretty daunting to me.  They use lots of words like explosive, maximum, vertical jump, propel, and injury.  This site illustrates the exercises using exclusively men in technical-looking gyms, which I admit totally puts me off (your reactions may vary, of course).

But then I thought:  hey, what about hopscotch?  It’s a hopping activity, and lots of us grew up doing this.  And if you didn’t, it’s easy to learn.  Of course, if you want a guide to “the Hopscotch Workout” that uses a lot of those same words as the plyometric site did, you can look here.  However, hopscotch is easier and more fun than these how-to guides make it seem.  Here’s what I think of when someone mentions hopscotch:

A kid in sneakers and red socks and blue patterned leggings playing hopscotch

A kid in sneakers and red socks and blue patterned leggings playing hopscotch

This image also made it seem pretty appealing:

A woman dressed in pink, wearing a white hat, playing hopscotch in a park

A woman dressed in pink, wearing a white hat, playing hopscotch in a park

In case you’ve forgotten how to play, here are the instructions.  It’s fun with two or more, but you can also play it solo.  Or you can see if you can break the world record for hopscotch playing, which happens to be 381– set in September, 2014, by the Portland, Oregon Big Brothers Big Sisters Northwest Columbia club.  Here they are:

 

World record hopscotch activity in Portland, Oregon

World record hopscotch activity in Portland, Oregon

So if you’re feeling a little bored with your current activities, how about get hopping?  I just might.

What other hopping activities do you do?  I’m interested in expanding my hopping opportunities, so let me know.

Happy Hopping and Happy Easter!

 

Gray-haired man and woman jumping in the air on a beach with blue sky in the background

Gray-haired man and woman jumping in the air on a beach with blue sky in the background

 

 

 

 

 

Lightening the load of heavy weight research

There’s a new study out on weight and mortality risk this week.  What is it saying?

It depends on who you ask.

If you ask the press, they’ll say this:

Carrying some extra pounds may not be good after all

Or this:

If you're overweight at any point, you're raising your risk for an early death

Yuck!  That sounds just dreadful.  Why are they saying this, what does this mean, and is it true?

First, let me fill in some back story.  In 2013, prominent epidemiologist Katherine Flegal and co-authors published a paper examining relationships between body weight and all-cause mortality (risks of death from all causes).  What they found was a lower mortality risk in the so-called overweight BMI category of 25-30, and not-increased risk in the so-called obesity I BMI category of 30-35.  Their results ran contrary to conventional wisdom (so much for conventional wisdom…).  They also unleashed a furious and very rude backlash among prominent and heretofore relatively well-behaved public health  and obesity researchers.  Here are a few reactions:

“It’s a horrific message to put out at this particular time. We shouldn’t take it for granted that we can cancel the gym, that we can eat ourselves to death with black forest gateaux.”
UK National Obesity Forum

“You’d hate to have the message get out there that it’s good to be overweight. The reality is that people who are overweight very often become obese and that’s clearly not good.”
Mercedes Carnethon, Northwestern Univ. School of Medicine

Since the Flegal et. al. 2013 article, some researchers who disagree with those findings have been trying to explain how being “overweight” (I use the quotes because I’m referring to the BMI category of 25–30 here, not any description of a person’s body) can lower your mortality risk.  Andrew Stokes, a population health researcher at Boston University, has been working on trying to tease out what’s going on with weight changes over time and mortality (death by any cause).  In a bunch of recent papers he and his coauthors have looked not just at BMIs and death rates, but at maximum BMI of individuals and possible relationships between that max, trends in their BMIs over time, and death rates.  (side note: my friend Dan and I are working on an article addressing Stokes’ work, which is in progress.  I’ll certainly blog about our work when we have results).

This newest paper looks at population data from three very big longitudinal studies and concludes that we can explain the so-called “obesity paradox” (that BMI 25–30 confers lower mortality risk rather than increased mortality risk) by looking at maximum BMI.  Those with maximum BMI of 25 or greater had increased mortality risk compared to those with maximum BMI of <25.

Ah– so being fatter really is bad for you.  Whew; public health and medicine don’t need to change all that signage after all.

a mind map of phrases connected with risks of more rather than lessbody weight

Well, maybe they do.  Looking at this article, I found some complicated and interesting results (which I’ve seen in other such articles, but aren’t splashed across the headlines.)

Interesting result one:  being “underweight” (BMI <18.5) carries a much greater mortality risk than being “overweight” (BMI 25–30).  For a lot of age/sex categories, it carries a much great mortality risk than being “type I obese” (BMI 30–35).  For instance, for non-smoking men< 70 years old, the mortality risk was almost the same for <18.5 BMI as for >35 BMI (2.89 and 3.19 respectively).  That is, people at the far ends of the weight spectrum measured both had much increased mortality risk.  Again, we are talking about maximum BMI here (just to be precise).

Interesting result two:  the mortality risks from a particular max BMI shift as the population ages.  The details are pretty complicated, but here’s an example:  if my max BMI is say, 31, then these results show how my mortality risks may go up and down as I age.  This is interesting and important for patients and health care providers.  Given some max BMI, the medical advice might be different depending on the age of the patient (and other features of her medical history).  Of course, many medical practitioners act on this already by paying special attention to many features other than BMI in caring for their patients.

Interesting result three:  the results are based on three very large samples (about 225,000 people) of white people– they made up more than 91% of the sample.  We already know that BMI distributions vary across racial categories, so these results (if they turn out to be correct), would not apply in a simple way to other groups.

Interesting result four: In the article, the authors point out that their targeted group (BMI 25–30) is pretty diverse with respect to body fat percentage and waist circumference.  They’re also going to be pretty diverse with respect to their eating and physical activity practices (like every other BMI group).  The authors think that they can use max BMI to identify who in the BMI 25–30 group is at increased risk.  But to what end?  It’s not like medical practice has any currently effective procedures for bringing about and sustaining weight loss over time (except maybe some forms of gastric bypass, which aren’t indicated for the population targeted in the article).  So, what is an appropriate response to this information from patients and providers, other than more moral panic?

For me, my response to this article is to dig into the details, talk to my colleague Dan about our article, and attend to my health-as-I-define-it in the best ways I know how.  I’m not convinced these folks are right.  And I’m not convinced that we even agree on how their being right might reasonably translate into anything medically useful or practical.  However, we all know that science, medicine and health care are super-complicated, so while we’re waiting for the fog to clear, let’s just do nice things for ourselves.  So I’m headed out for a bike ride now!

 

 

Happy body image day!

Hi everyone– I was planning on writing a group blog post on body image, based on a complex and troubling (to me and some others) article that came into view on various friends’ Facebook feeds.  But this weekend also coincided with my book club’s getaway in South Berwick, Maine.  5 of us managed to make it up here from Boston (an April 1 snowstorm deterred 2 others– we missed y’all!) and spent 3 days lolling by the fire, looking at the snow, hot tubbing outside the house, walking on the beach, eating yummy food we had prepared and brought, watching movies, and solving a jigsaw puzzle.  Utter heaven.

So I’m just not in the mood for tackling thorny issues about misogyny, body dysmorphia, and disordered eating.

Why?  Because I spent 3 days with women of different ages and body sizes, doing all sorts of body-conscious activities (e.g. walking, shoveling, hot tubbing) and celebrating the fun of the bodies we have.

It just so happens that I am the largest of the women in my book club.  But like the long-past internet meme sensation honey badger, they just don’t give a shit.  And it turns out that not-giving-a-shit is infectious.  What a delightful revelation!

In service of taking my new not-giving-a-shit-about-body-image-concern out for a spin, here are some pics from the weekend.  Here is one of some of us in the hot tub.  I was feeling self-conscious about looking like, well, me, in this pic.  By the way, I’m second from right.

Hot tub fun with friends

Hot tub fun with friends

But it’s such a cute picture, and we all look cute.  So I’m fatter than the others– maybe I can just not give a shit.

Here’s a picture of my friend Gillian and me on the beach in Ogunquit.  We were both running around (literally) chasing the waves and getting our feet wet and squealing with delight.

A woman on the right, heading toward a woman on the left, both on the beach on a stormy day

A woman on the right, heading toward a woman on the left, both on the beach on a stormy day

I noticed that I look much fatter than Gillian.  Maybe I can just not give a shit.

Finally, here is a picture from a bar we went to after walking along the Marginal Way walk in Ogunquit.  We had coffee and also ordered fries.

A cappuccino cup and fries on the bar counter

A cappuccino cup and fries on the bar counter

I ate some of the fries.  Hey, I don’t give a shit!

I’m hoping that these happy-body-image feelings will both persist in me, and spread out to all of you, dear readers.  So happy body image day!

What are some things that you don’t give a shit about with respect to body image?  We can all use some inspiration.

6 things that make me feel great about my body

women of different sizes and colors and abilities, dressed as wonder woman

1) Yoga

Hanging out in downward facing dog or wide legged forward bend, I feel strong, stretched out, grounded, engaged with my muscles.  In shavasana (corpse pose for resting on the mat at the end of class) I connect with the floor, feeling my limbs and back and head and belly all sink into relaxation and stillness.  And when I get up to leave I feel grateful for the body I have. Here’s one of my posts on trying ropes yoga. Kim wrote about yoga here. And of course, Tracy reconnected with yoga on the beach here.

And then there’s the post about doing 366 days of yoga in a row.

2) Reading Natalie’s posts

Oh the body positive posts from Natalie always always make me smile and then shake my head slightly and say to myself “maybe I can be like this sometime”.  It’s impossible to pick a favorite (there are so many!), but here are a few to revisit:

Belly patrolling

why I hate going to the doctor (but go anyway)

big arms and making bread

3) Sex with myself

There’s nothing like ordering up an orgasm when you’re feeling off kilter (or not).  The fact that my body does this super nice thing for me also makes me smile.  And it clears the cobwebs and is relaxing.  I wrote more about it here.

4) Engaging in some manner of primping or poufing or attention to some part of me that I want to prettify

For me it’s my hair:  I get color, highlights, keratin, cuts,  blow dry and flat iron from time to time, and I feel (and I might add look) marvelous.  Some people attend to nails, or body ink, or piercings, or shoes (love the witchy Fluevogs, Sam!).  Or something else.  These are nice ways to feel pretty or boss or bad ass or however you want.

Here’s where you can get a look at one of the pairs of Sam’s fabulous Fluevog pointy-toed dancing shoes and her festive sparkly outfit.

5) Walking

On the beach, in the woods, around my neighborhood, on the university campus where I work, downtown in the city.  I feel purposeful, in control of speed and effort,  entertained by whatever’s happening around me, and aware of what’s doing well and not so well for me at that moment.  Walking gives me time to check in with my self, and it always always works.

Here’s a guest post on walking as a feminist act.

6) cycling on my own or with friends on a mellow ride

Cycling is my primary exercise love, and it soothes me and challenges me and revives me and exhausts me. That is, cycling is life to me. These days I’ve felt more challenged by it because of lower fitness and accompanying fears. But I got a new bike– see my post here.

And I’m also making plans for riding—alone, and with others. I’m seriously thinking about doing the one-day PWA ride with Sam and crew. See more info here.  All in all, the year is shaping up nicely for upcoming riding.

What makes you feel good about your body? We’d really like to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Weight stigma) science is hard: some thoughts on the newest study on fat shaming

A girl in a white shirt, pondering some molecule diagrams on a blackboard

There’s new study that purports to tell us what we think we already know about weight stigma and physical activity:  when you perceive more weight stigma in your life, you are less likely to engage in physical activity.  The study, in BMJ Open, is here.

Here’s the abstract from the study:

Objective To examine the association between perceived weight discrimination and physical activity in a large population-based sample.

Design Data were from 2423 men and 3057 women aged ≥50 years participating in Wave 5 (2010/11) of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Participants reported experiences of weight discrimination in everyday life and frequency of light, moderate and vigorous physical activities. We used logistic regression to test associations between perceived weight discrimination and physical activity, controlling for age, sex, socioeconomic status and body mass index (BMI).

Results Perceived weight discrimination was associated with almost 60% higher odds of being inactive (OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.40, p=.028) and 30% lower odds of engaging in moderate or vigorous activity at least once a week (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.94, p=.017).

Conclusions Independent of BMI, individuals who perceive unfair treatment on the basis of their weight are less physically active than those who do not perceive discrimination. This has important implications for the health and well-being of individuals who experience weight-based discrimination, and may also contribute to a cycle of weight gain and further mistreatment.

Okay, this is probably no news to blog readers.  First of all, we hear about fat shaming around physical activity all the time.  One of the most recent episodes was the Twitter kerfuffle around Nike’s recent release of a larger-sized exercise clothing line (well, up to 3X).  There were lots of tweets arguing (no, not arguing, rather declaiming) that manufacturing larger exercise clothing would… I can hardly bring myself to type this…  encourage people to become fatter…. uh, because they now can?

As a philosophy professor who teaches introductory logic, I’m having trouble following the inferential thread here.  Suffice to say, people weighed in against the Nike decision, engaging in all manner of fat-shaming, healthist trolling, and name-calling.  I won’t even link to the discussion; rather, here’s my response to those folks:

Correction guy meme saying "Hold that thought-- forever."

Correction guy meme saying “Hold that thought– forever.”

But let’s get back to the study and my promised thoughts on it.

First of all, a science wonky comment:  there’s a big big big difference between statistically significant differences among groups and clinically significant differences among groups.  Let’s look at the results in bar graphs below:

bar graph of levels of physical activity in perceived weight stigma and no-perceived weight stigma groups

bar graph of levels of physical activity in perceived weight stigma and no-perceived weight stigma groups

Yeah, the print is tiny, but all you need to see here is that the differences in amount of physical activity (divided into inactive, light, moderate and vigorous) are pretty small.  One might expect this in their sample, which was people aged 50 and above.  Why?

First, it’s a big sample that seems pretty heterogeneous, which means the differences will be dampened by other potential factors the researchers aren’t controlling for.  Second, digging into the demographics of the sample, the weight stigma group is predominantly lower-income (no surprise there).  The weight stigma group is also on average heavier than the non-weight-stigma group (duh).

This suggests to me two confounding factors:  1) lower-income people generally have less access to physical activity because of less money and less time; 2) overall physical activity tends to decline with both age and increased weight (especially among women, who are 55% of the sample).

Here’s a study showing relationships between both workplace conditions (for workers in hospitals in Boston) and age with BMI.   What it suggests is that as age increases, so does BMI, regardless of type of job; and, as control over one’s job conditions increases (and this happens with higher-income earners), physical activity increases.

Duh!

One final nitpick (for now):  relative to the sample in the weight stigma study (about 5500 people), the group reporting weight stigma was very small (268).  The researchers thought this group was big enough to get a scientifically acceptable set of results, but this raises questions for me:  1) is there actually much more weight stigma in the group, but people aren’t either willing to report it or experiencing it in a more subtle way?  2) are the incidence or effects (two very different things) of weight stigma lower in people over 50?  In short, this study raises some interesting (to me) questions about weight stigma and physical activity, but it doesn’t answer any.

Which brings me back to the title of this post:  science is hard, and figuring out how to understand relationships between weight stigma and, well, anything else is also hard.

What’s not hard to figure out is this:  fat shaming is rude and wrong and unhelpful for anyone.  And my non-scientific solution for combating fat shaming is this:

The timeout corner: now sit here and think about what you've done and don't come downstairs until you are ready to apologize)

The timeout corner: now sit here and think about what you’ve done and don’t come downstairs until you are ready to apologize)

 

 

Upside-down mixed-up weather fitness tips

A cartoon of clothing for a week in Boston during the winter of 2017, varying from bathing suit to snow suit

What a silly mixed up winter/spring season we are having here in the northeastern part of the US.  And most everywhere else too, if my Facebook feed is any judge.  Thank goodness I have a wide variety of activity clothing for temperatures ranging from rain forest to subarctic.  And I’ve needed a lot of them in the past few weeks.

First, there’s been lots of heat.   Record temperatures were set in February in Boston:  73 F on February 24.  Some people, however, were undeterred in their insistence on ice skating:

Two girls ice skating on Frog Pond on the Boston common in T shirts and leggings, holding water from the melting ice rink.

Then, a few days ago the March temperatures plunged, setting records and almost-records in New England:

No records were set in Boston on Saturday, as temperatures reached a high of 23 degrees just after midnight. That’s just 1 degree over the record lowest high temperature recorded for March 11, which was 22 degrees set in 1874, according to the weather service.

Worcester, Providence, and Hartford set new minimum high temperature records of 16, 23, and 22 degrees, respectively, breaking longstanding records.

With this confoundingly mixed-up weather, what’s an aspiring-to-be-fit feminist to do?  Here are some strategies that are currently working for me.

1.Take advantage of the the aerobic opportunities that come from schlepping up and down stairs (in my case to basement, but attics will do as well), retrieving previously-stowed winter sports gear and clothing.  Then stowing it again.  Repeat as often as necessary, or until May 1, whichever comes first.

A week or so ago, with a heavy sigh, I finally put my cross country skis, snowshoes and ski clothing away in my basement.  But now, with a nor’easter bearing down on us (bringing who knows how much snow?), I get to go back to my basement, taking multiple trips to find everything I put away.  I’ve been up and down many times, looking for things and putting other things away.  I feel downright productive…

 2. If you find yourself resisting venturing outdoors when it’s super-cold outside (and windy, too, I might add), expose yourself to relentless peer pressure, and you’ll probably give in and go do something active.

Yesterday my friend Janet called, reminding me that I had agreed to go on a walk with her Saturday afternoon.  I demurred, saying that it was too cold (it was something like 14 outside, with 30mph winds and higher gusts).  She refused to take no for an answer, stating that it would be fine outside for a walk.  Note:  it was sooo not fine outside for a walk.  But walk we did, bringing along another friend, Jessica.  I lent Jess a pair of leggings to wear under her cords, as she was on the brink of hypothermia already.

In fact, it was a beautiful day, if windy.  The Fresh Pond reservoir in Cambridge looked more like the Great Lakes, complete with whitecaps:

Fresh Pond reservoir, with dark choppy waves

Fresh Pond reservoir, with dark choppy waves

Alright, maybe they weren’t exactly whitecaps, but there was a lot-a-lot of wind.  We saw interesting icy formations along the banks, made by splashing water, wind, and frigid temps:

A variety of ice formations made by splashing water and wind against branches

We were super-bundled up for our walk.  Janet and I both tend to run warmer than the average person, so we both dress lighter, but not yesterday.  Here’s what she was sporting:

Janet, in sunglasses, a scarf, hat and fluffy white long parka

All our exposed skin (all 10 square inches of it) got red and wind-burned.  However, it was a very fun way to get a little exercise on such a freezing day.

3. Invite relatives from the south to visit just before a snowstorm, guaranteeing lots of sledding, running around in the snow, skiing, tubing, and maybe even snowball fighting.

As I write this, my sister, a friend of hers and four kids are barrelling their way to Boston for a high school debate tournament.  Everyone is pretty excited about the snow (except my sister, who is the designated driver).  The kids have never experienced a nor’easter, so I’m hoping we get at least a foot of snow.  Chances are good this will happen.  This means I get to spend time and energy in lots of frolicking in the snow.  Of course, I will definitely be cross country skiing as soon as I can, but this time I get to expand my winter-fun palate to include sledding and tubing.  Frankly, I can’t wait.

Now I need to go to the store and get milk and bread.

Two women frolicking in the snow holding milk and bread

Two women frolicking in the snow holding milk and bread