fitness · fun

Walking on Stilts

If you celebrate Hallowe’en, your holiday-related exercise may involve organizing a costume then walking around the neighborhood or elsewhere in that costume.

This year there’s a slight twist on my Hallowe’en exercise: I’ll be walking on stilts.

I have never had a desire to wear stilts before. But last year when friends had the idea for the next local Hallowe’en parade of dressing up as “Landstriders” (tall quadaped animals from an 80s children’s puppet movie), I thought, Why not?

Fast forward months later—we have homemade peg stilts (thanks Lisa’s husband) that put us about one or two feet higher off the ground. It feels like 10. Though we are on stilts for the first time, our front legs will give us four points of contact and extra (much-needed) balance.

Uses and types of stilts

Stilts may be used for work (e.g., drywalling), as props for entertainment (in circuses, parades, and other performances), and for recreation or exercise. No matter how you are using stilts, they require balance, coordination, core and leg strength, and other skills for walking, running, or jumping off the ground.

By Rdikeman at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here are some of the major types of stilts:

  • Handheld stilts are poles that people stand on and hold onto the polls. There are also buckets or cups that are held onto the feet by users. You may remember them as “romperstompers.”
  • Peg stilts are brace stilts whose base is more narrower than the user’s foot, which requires them to keep moving to stay upright and balanced.
  • Articulated stilts, usually made out of alumnimum, have a larger foot than a peg and allow for some toe movement when lifting the stilt.
  • Jumping or spring stilts have a fibreglass coil leaf spring design that allows users to run, jump high, and perform acrobatic tricks.

In addition to the need for strength and skill to use them, stilts comes with the extra risk of falling from a high height. The simplest advice I found for neophyte stilts walkers includes these points:

  • Keep an open (but not too wide) box stance to so legs are no more than shoulder-width apart
  • Don’t cross your legs while you walk
  • Don’t lean back

Stilts, fitness, and feminism

How is stiltswalking a fit and feminist issue? As stated, this exercise requires strength and other body abilities. It also not only allows for fun, creativity, and expression in daily use or performance; there is a connection between stilts and prosthetics. Stilts (and other adjacent technologies) can get you taller than your body’s height and aid with locomotion and/or balance.

Lisa Bufano performing on Queen Anne table legs. sfslim, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was particularly moved learning a little bit about American artist Lisa Bufano, who used prosthetic stilts in incredible choreographed performances, some of which had toured worldwide. A gymnast and athlete, Bufano aimed to draw attention to her body’s abilities and differences in ability since becoming an amputee at the age of 21.

Although Bufano is no longer with us, you can see a tribute to and selection of her powerful artistic work, including videos, at the website http://www.lisabufano.com.

Below are a few videos of women from around the world on stilts. See if you can identify the stilt types they wear. I am inspired by their confidence!

Caroline Bernier-Dionne (QC, Canada)
Posted by Janna Travels. Performer unknown (but presumably from Russia?)
Demi Skinner (Australia)
fitness

Five Fun Fails

Today is International Fail Day, and according to the National Today website:

“The idea around the day is to spread the argument that making mistakes and failing is normal and is even an invaluable part of a person’s growth and eventual success.”

The day aims to put a positive spin on failure, but in so doing it may still positions failure as a means to an end rather than the end in itself. Does failure always lead to eventual success? Is failure only valuable if it grows you? How might we be limited by the idea that a fitness fail is only ever a meaningful step towards a fitness win?

Questioning the failure/success binary is a recurrent thread in many FIFI posts. Sam, in particular, has written about failing better, failing small, and the okayness of failing. And, as Mina has written in a recent personal communication, “I love the idea that sometimes failure can be more about just discerning that something isn’t for you. The message of ‘you will always conquer eventually’ can get discouraging.”

To celebrate international fail day this year, five FIFI bloggers each share a fitness failure story not tied to eventual “success” or “growth.” Rather, they reflect on the ways that failures reveals our quirky patterns of behaviour, real-body expectations, non-preferences, and amusing life moments (even if they are funny only in retrospect).

Mina S.

My first marathon, I went out too fast, as they say. That means, I got overexcited and overconfident at the beginning and ran at a speed I could not sustain for the first 6 miles, after which my body started to meltdown, slowly at first and then wildly by the end. I finished more than 30 minutes off the time I’d hoped for. I was so mad at myself that I refused the medal and the red rose that the volunteers were giving out just past the finish line, because I determined that I didn’t “deserve” it.

I then proceeded to do the same thing in my second marathon. I recall being in the change room at a swim workout a few days after my second “failure” and someone asked me how it had gone. When I said that I’d “gone out too fast”, another woman commented, “Well, you’ll never do that again.” To which I had to say, “Uh, well, actually, that was my second time!” Sigh. I have a steep learning curve.

Diane H.

I make a conscious effort to do things I enjoy even if I am terrible at them. By any objective standard, I should just quit, but as long as I don’t injure myself or hate it, I count it as a success (especially if I learn something).

The closest to failure by that standard would be the time parents were invited to play ultimate frisbee with our kids. I was in my 50s, have no hand-eye coordination, definitely not a sprinter, barely understood the rules, and had troubles telling who was on my team. It was amusing but not fun by my usual standards.

Sam B.

I’ve had lots of failures in my fitness life. I started as an adult onset athlete and lots of physical activities don’t come that naturally to me. Some of the failures that make me laugh in retrospect happened at CrossFit in the year leading up to our fittest by 50 challenge where I was continually pushing boundaries and discovering limits.

I was so happy when I could finally do the RX rather than the modified box jump. I was jumping, not stepping up and jumping down, and I was doing the regulation height. But what I wasn’t prepared for was doing many, many of them in a row. After about 20 box jumps I should have switched to the modified version but I did not. Instead I jumped hard and missed gouging my shin in the process. I had a bruise that went down to my foot. Thereafter I switched to the modified version early on.

Same problem with wall ball throws. Again, I was happy to be doing the regulation weight. But we were doing a workout that had more than a hundred wall ball throws. Somewhere in the final 20, I missed and the ball crashed down and broke my glasses. My optometrist wondered what I’d done.

Same lesson learned–only this time I generalized. Just because you can do something once it doesn’t mean you can do it a zillion times. Keen personal trainers might say “you’ve done it once, you can do it again” but I am pretty sure that’s false. I’m out of the CrossFit world these days–obviously since knee rehab but also it’s not such a good fit for me–but I think this is a lesson anyone trying CrossFit should take to heart.

Elan P.

One year in junior high, I was the last person to make the girls’ basketball team. I wasn’t tall, but as a guard I showed promise with dribbling, passing, and assisting. However, any natural talent I may have shown in tryouts completely failed to manifest on the court. After I sunk a basket on our own net (my only points scored all season), I was benched for nearly all remaining games.

Is this a story about how I overcame my early failure to succeed as an amazing basketball player later in high school? Nope. I never played again. But I did volunteer as the manager of the girls’ high school team, keeping score and doing off-court admin things. In my non-athletic role I still contributed, traveled with the team (got our ears pierced together, etc.), and probably had more fun than if I had played.

Nicole P.

About 10 years ago (40ish), my friend, Karen, mentioned that she had signed up for a “Learn-to-ice-skate” class, which was geared towards adults. As a child, I stumbled on skates, held onto the boards, and then went for hot chocolate, so I figured maybe, now that I was an athletic adult, I would give skating a try again.

We arrived at the skating rink, early we thought, thinking we would have time to acclimatize. But soon we realized we had gotten the time wrong and the lesson was starting in about 5 min. So now, we were rushing. I quickly slapped on the skates in the change room and headed out with no time to think (or worry).

To get to the lesson, we had to make our way across the outdoor arena, over pavement, and a bridge, to the other side of the arena—in our skates. Well, I got as far as the bridge. A bridge without railings. Then my “fight or flight” response kicked. I froze.

So, I stood there on the railing-less bridge and tried to figure out if I could “get myself together” and keep moving. I couldn’t see how to get across the bridge in my state. I also didn’t want to hold Karen up, so I told her to go ahead.

I sat down on the bridge. Took off my skates. Went back to the change room and then headed over to the skating lesson to watch Karen and the rest of the class. I watched some class members being very hesitant to stand on the ice but trying it. I was a bit envious that they were able to try. I also felt relief that I was not on the ice.

At the end of the class, the instructor realized I was supposed to be in the class and nicely offered for me to come back to the next class. For a second, I thought I might, but knew I wasn’t coming back. I think the best thing to come out of it is to understand that maybe skating is just not for me and that is OK.

fitness

GIFs that get me going

Summer is ending here in the Northern hemisphere. As the days start to get colder, I find it’s usually harder for me to get outside for regular exercise. Fall is also a busy time for folks like me who work in education, so compared to the summer months my free time for recreational activities seems to shrink to near nothing.

On a hitherto unrelated note, I recently learned that Gen Z thinks that GIFs are out of fashion, or “cringe” as the kids say. However, I’m late Gen X, which means I like to hold onto things.

So, today I am here to give both outdoor fun and GIFs another short moment in the sun.

FIFI readers, I share with you 14 GIFs that get me motivated to get outside! I hope they get you going too…or at least give you a smile.

Once I leave the earth I know I’ve done something that will continue to help others – Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Young girl flipping a tire
Woman swinging on rings with a hula hoop
Girl flipping then throwing a baseball
Young in a fairy dress skateboarding
Woman doing a chin-up outside
Woman hitting a pickle with a racket
Woman flexing and posing
Woman doing soccer ball kick tricks in high heels
Young girl dancing with other kids watching
Woman jumping on top of a mountain
Girl dribbling two basketballs at the same time
Love it!
School sports are for everyone
beauty · clothing · fashion · racism · sexism · stereotypes

Jewelry and Exercise

Do you wear jewelry when you exercise? If do, how much, and why?

This McGill wikipedia entry describes that jewelry has been used for

  • Currency, a display of wealth, and a way to store things,
  • Making clothing functional (such as jeweled clasps, pins, and buckles)
  • Symbolism (to show membership, status, political affiliation, or relationships)
  • Protection (in the form of amulets and magical wards), and
  • Artistic display (personal style, fashion, etc.)

I normally wear at least some jewelry for most of these reasons. When I exercise, I wear my fitness tracker ring (to “store” data?) and my wedding ring when I want to reduce the likelihood of being approached (a magical “protection” amulet?).

An anklet while running? Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio Copy

I’ve noticed that my (semi-) regular exercise has had an impact on the jewelry I wear these days: thin, flat, light rings and an equally thin, light, and short necklace that I don’t have to remove. However, I do replace big earrings with small sleeper hoops when I bike or curl or whatever. I don’t normally wear bracelets or anklets, and I have no other piercings (other than a tongue ring, which stays in).

You may have a different approach–you don’t wear jewelry of any kind, or you take take off some or all jewelry then put it back on after exercising. And, of course, it depends on the sport! But there aren’t any sporty people I know who leave on all their regular day-to-day jewelry on while exercising.

I wear some jewelry when I exercise because I like the jewelry I have and I lose what take it off. Also, the jewelry I wear allows me to exercise unimpeded. If I’m honest, I might also keep jewelry because I think it communicates that I am a recreational athlete.

My assumptions about exercise and jewelry

“A quick shot after getting wrapped for the boxing gloves, before the ring comes off and the gloves go on.” Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that exercise and jewelry do not go together, that the more competitive the athlete the less jewelry they wear. Where did this idea come from? Practically speaking, jewelry can hinder performance and even increase injury risk. But I have also assumed that “serious” athletes care more about performance than appearance.

I admit to holding the converse assumption as well: the more jewelry, the more the exerciser cares about appearances. For sale these days is a bevy of “exercise jewelry” that is advertised as waterproof, sweatproof, and non-tarnishing. But do serious exercisers really go for these? The workout jewelry and charms on Etsy are cute but not all practical for the exercise they represent.

While I do not want to police what people wear, my immediate thought about the “strong AND pretty” message of workout jewelry is that it reflects what Andi Zeisler (2016) describes as “marketplace feminism”–reducing social movements and personal empowerment to beauty and fashion items for purchase.

Challenging my assumptions

Then, recently I saw a web news article whose accompanying image made me question these above preconceptions.

I was struck by the size and amount of jewelry worn by track and field athlete Sha’Carri Richardson in recent photos on the Yahoo news site. Richardson is photographed while competing at the 2022 USATF outdoor Championships at Hayward Field wearing multiple hoop earrings, nose rings, a necklace, a bracelet, and a belly piercing with a full chain (not to mention flowing hair, false eyelashes, and long fake nails). She did not qualify at that event, but later at a different international event, wearing similar jewelry she did qualify.

Photos are of Sha’Carri Richardson racing in June 2021 by jenaragon94, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Cropped photo of Richardson.

Recently, jewelry wearing, jewelry design, and jewelry store ownership have all gained attention for their historical and cultural meaning and significance for African North Americans. I do not claim to know why Richardson wears what she wears, but I imagine her exercise “look” might go beyond personal beauty and fashion choices to deeper personal and cultural symbolism. A recent article on Serena Williams mentions her wearing Love earrings in her very last tennis match as a tribute to the game, and braids with beads she wore early in her career to honour African cultural traditions.

One of the only fitness activities that stereotypically show athletes with jewelry-like “accessories” in North America: yoga practice. But appropriating prayer beads is for another post. Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash

Perhaps Richardson, Williams, and other non-white athletes wear their jewelry styles precisely to challenge dominant white-centric stereotypes of competitive athletes as de-jewelled and unadorned. Their accessories lead me, us to realize there is in fact a whole world full of athletes engaging in various types of sports and exercise while wearing jewelry and other body adornments.

Old habits, but some new thinking

I probably won’t change my own minimal jewelry-wearing habits while I exercise. But, this reflection has given more insight into what drives my current jewelry-wearing choices. Some of it is fashion, but mostly it is simplicity and convenience.

It has also invited me to confront the narrow range of imagery that reinforce what is “normal” for athletes to wear (or not wear) when it comes to jewelry. I’ll think twice about my ideas about the relationship between jewelry and exercise. Some competitive athletes wear jewelry for its social and political meaning, not (or not only) to make a fashion statement.

accessibility · equality · fitness · swimming

A Tale of Two Water Parks

For decades, families in southwestern Ontario have cooled off in the summertime heat at the St. Marys Quarry, formerly a limestone quarry that was converted to a public swimming area in the 1940s.

Thank to a recent addition to the quarry—the Super Splash Waterpark—there are two different swimming experiences for quarry goers. I share about my one experience, which was shaped in part by the other that I did not have.

Basic and Super

Before the coming of the Super Splash Waterpark (SSW), with an admission ticket guests could swim around freely to about the middle of the quarry. The basic park now includes play features like a few rafts, a slide, and a trampoline.

The Super Splash Waterpark website explains that for this added option guests pay general admission and then 3x more to access to a giant inflatable on-the-water playground. Only a limited number of tickets are available for 2-hour time slots. Reservations are made through an online portal.

With one of the hundred spots reserved for SSW, at the quarry get a wristband, a fitted yellow life jacket, and a safety primer. SSW guests must access the inflatable playground by swimming through the “basic” swim area, now limited to the front quarter of the quarry.

The SSW park has a large set of access and safety rules. Few if any of the quarry’s water features are fully accessible, but the SSW definitely isn’t. Here’s a view of the quarry from land.

The St Mary’s Quarry, featuring the roped off Super Splash WaterPark behind the general admission section. Pic by me.

A Super Time at the Basic End

You might predict where my story of goes next. Some friends and I decide to go to the quarry, but due to the limited number of SSW tickets only half of us get access to the inflatable park. The rest of us—basic access only.

Let me tell you—there is nothing that makes an inflatable water park look like more fun than when your friends can go but you can’t (even if you are an otherwise mature, mid-life, child-free cis-woman). I sat on the grass in my suit, grumpily contemplating whether I would go in the water at all. Take that, quarry!

I asked a friend (who had walked away from her computer mid-reservation so was similarly relegated to the basic quarry area) how a 10 year-old kid might feel seeing but not being able to access the SSW. She recited some parenting wisdom about how making one’s own fun on the basic quarry side is better because it builds character. But I already had character, my 10 year-old self whined—what I wanted was the fun-looking waterpark!

My gaze could not even escape the inflatable obstacles that filled the quarry horizon, a constant reminder of where I could not go, the fun I could not have. Even my once-greater swimming freedom was reduced to a quarter of the quarry by that blow up monstrosity!

My friends eventually came back from the inflatable side—removing their special wrist bands and yellow life jackets—to spend time with the rest of us. And, as the oldest ladies on the trampoline on the “basic” side of the quarry, we did indeed make our own fun.

Next Time at the Quarry

Aside from my poutiness, it all seemed some sort of microcosm of the inequalities besetting some exercise activities in a capitalist society: only a percentage of people get access to what looks like a bigger and better time if they plan in advance, have the added money to spend, and are physically able to participate. Those with less info/tech savvy, disposable cash, and/or differences in ability are more likely to be excluded but must also watch from the sidelines.

My friends reported that the SSW part of the quarry was harder and more tiring than they had expected, and they probably wouldn’t pay for it again.

If I went back, would I choose to plan further ahead to reserve a limited SSW ticket, even if the park is less accessible, I have to pay 3 times as much, and I may not even have that much more fun?

Sadly, my answer is probably yes—because I know that the real privilege of privilege (in a capitalist society or a two-tiered Waterpark) is having the freedom to choose.

birthday · blog · blogging · fitness · Throwback Thursday

10 Years and 4 Themes of FIFI

Though a long-time reader of FIFI, I joined as a regularly contributing author not long ago. It has been a joy for me to re-visit the FIFI blog on this date in its first year of publication and think about how events of the past 9 years confirm the need for FIFI long into the future.

A decade ago

The FIFI blog was launched at the end of August 2012. Almost a year later, the August 25, 2013 post invited readers to submit to a special issue of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics: See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness (Spring 2016).

Co-blog/issue editors Samantha Brennan and Tracy Issacs describe how the special issue—like the still-new blog from which it emerged—looks critically at the impact of fitness on women and “the very assumptions about what constitutes ‘fitness’ in the first place” (p. 3).

In forms of writing both scholarly and personal, the articles surface four key and connected themes related to fitness and feminism:

  • Equality – the gender disparity that starts in childhood and widens in adulthood,
  • Inclusivity – the exclusion of women and minorities from domains of sport and the lack of diversity in the fitness media,
  • Empowerment – competitive sports, body performance, and the linking of sports to personal confidence and public life, and
  • Aesthetics and feminine embodiment – the complex relationship between women, their fitness goals, and their bodies.

These themes have since featured prominently as the cardinal compass points guiding thousands of FIFI blog posts by more than 165 authors over the last 9 years.

Nearly a decade later

FIFI continues to examine and re-define fitness from an anti-homophobic, anti-racist, anti-ableist feminist lens. Over the last decade, this blog has helped readers to reflect on the many history-making moments in sports and fitness. Here are just a few:

Equality: Since 2013, wage and other gaps between men and women in sports (like basketball, surfing, and hockey) have been spotlighted. For instance, in 2017 the women’s hockey team announced a boycott of the world championship if U.S.A. Hockey did not increase the women’s wages. Despite greater attention to inequality, gender gap in sports participation, funding, and media attention still continues.

Inclusivity: Athletes have become more vocal about gender, race, and mental health in sports. For example, in the media gymnast Simone Biles confronted the myth of the strong black woman affecting women athletes of colour. Tennis player Naomi Osaka also articulated the need to address depression, burnout, and toxic spaces that athletes face. Yet, CAMH notes that stigma continues to be attached to mental illness as a sign of unfitness in sports.

As well, inclusivity and diversity in sports are subject to ever-changing rule books. Since 2013, some rules have shifted to promote greater inclusion, while others have not—such as the recent exclusion of transwomen athletes from sports such as rugby, swimming, and track and field.

Empowerment: Over the last few years, research has found that gentle exercise benefits women, especially at older ages. A greater focus on happiness and health, as well as recovery time, has also appeared in emerging fitness research. Social media movements addressing fat bias, such as #StrongNotSkinny, have helped to shift how women relate to athletic performance and body acceptance as a form of self-empowerment.

Aesthetics and feminine embodiment: And yet, also since 2013 more fitness influencers have greater…well, influence…than ever before on idealized body norms and commodified aesthetics. Gear such as fitness trackers have been lauded for helping women to be more fit. But their use may be concerning for reasons of data privacy and whether this tech actually matches women’s wellness and fitness goals in the first place.

A decade (or more) more

What has changed since the first year of FIFI is a more collaborative approach to publication. Under the continued leadership of Samantha, a larger collection of blog authors help to manage the blog while being a supportive global writing community for each other.

Our reading community is larger since 2013 too—tens of thousands of subscribers, readers, likers, commenters, and sharers from around the world. (We appreciate you all!!)

And yet, like the special issue the blog is a mosaic of diverse reflections that encourages making the world of fitness—and the many lived experiences of that world—more equal, inclusive, empowering, and embodied for everyone.

A decade goes by quickly, but this brief retrospective on key themes and tiny number of big fitness events show us the value of the FIFI blog then, now, and well into the future.

clothing · fitness · media · research

Sports Bra Drama

I usually pay little attention to sports bras, as I don’t seem to need much support and the one I wear is based on whether or not it is clean. Any love I have for sports bras comes wearing them exclusively since giving up underwire padded bras during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sam put it best here: “I’m still in love with lots of my formal work clothes but never again will I wear a bra that pokes in my ribs.”

I am a no-sports bra drama kind of person.

Bras Win Euros?

When I read the headline of the The Guardian article, “Secret support: did prescription bras help Lionesses to Euro 2022 glory?” I rolled my eyes at the sensational lead. Way to diminish the accomplishments of female soccer athletes. Would a male soccer player’s win be attributed to his underwear if he ran around in them after a winning game?

I have already written about how media commentary athletes’ bodies can reinforce gender stereotypes, undermine women’s athletic performance, or both. Our FIFI bloggers have also explored the topic of sports bras and athletic wear, highlighting the challenge of fit, double standards, and other gendered nonsense.

The Guardian’s headline led to more than sensational bra talk. The article described the findings of what little sports bra research is currently available: poorly fit bras can shorten women’s strides up to 4 cm. A seemingly small measurement, but “marginal gains” can add up to a big impact when it comes to athletic performance.

My Bra-Nundrum

When I am in a sports store, I walk right by the sports bras section, eyeing its wares with equal parts suspicion and derision. I am stubbornly uninformed about sports bras because I believe the industry is exploitative: the more women need these products the higher the price they seem to be charged for them. Brand logos inflate prices further. It’s all a bra racket to me.

But as I read article, my mind wandered to my own sad collection of stretched-out or over-tight sports bras I have acquired over the years. If I am honest, most of my off-off-the rack sports bras don’t fit or support me the way they probably should.

four sports bras on a table
Left to right: A black sports bra that is literally spandex; a grey sports bra from Goodwill (lost padding); a teal sports bra I have had since my 20s, a newer yellow sports bra that does not fit because it was an online impulse buy. Not shown: the one well-fitting sports bra own, worn wearing while taking this photo.

The article made me wonder: By not buying quality sports bras, am I forfeiting some comfort and performance out of principle? Did the purported bra drama lead me to realize that maybe I should invest in research-designed sports bras…because gender equality in sports research is a principle I believe in too?

The Need for (Some) Bra Drama?

It’s not new news (to me) that the Lionesses’ custom sports bras would fit better and be more supportive than those found in the bargain bin. And it’s also not newsworthy that the “prescription” outer- and under-wear articles for which elite athletes pay top dollar remove some impediments to their performance.

The real newsworthy story is the paucity of research on the fit, comfort, and support of women’s athletic gear, which includes sports bras. Women’s sports continue to be seen as second-class, right down to the lack of substantial research on an clothing item so clearly necessary for so many women athletes.

It’s a little sad that this disparity needs a woman athlete celebrating in a sports bra to draw attention to it. Perhaps The Guardian article is a fine piece of feminist sports journalism precisely because the sports bra drama is leveraged to spotlight the (lack of) research of athletic clothing design for women.

Let’s hope that an increase in research sports bra design eventually leads to better sports bra products for everyone—so that more than just top female athletes can perhaps get their 4 cm back when they play.

What’s your take? Does media sports bra drama usefully draw attention to the need for more research on women’s athletic clothing? What factors do you consider when you buy sports bras?

advice · fitness · motivation · planning · time

Exercise During Vacation and Work Time

Our blogging team has reflected differently on our vacation exercise: what we did do, what we did instead of what we planned to do, what we imagined doing, and how long we did it (long, short, and ideal).

But we are all thinking about vacation as time that is not non-vacation time. If you’re normally very active, on vacation you can relax. If you are normally too busy for activities, then on vacation you have that time. Vacation is choice: a time to do more (or less) than what you do when you are not vacationing (unless you are retired, but that’s another scenario from which I am still woefully far away).

Then

a list with activities
List and calendar making for holiday activities

This past summer vacation, I wrote out a list of physical and social activities I wanted to do on my own or with friends and family: hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, etc. Then, on the next page I drew wobbly boxes and slotted each list item into my hand-drawn calendar—spreading out the activities but also ensuring I got them all into my vacation time.

Each vacation day I had at least one goal activity to look forward to. I had a blast: two weeks of a high-energy days that were filled with lots of fun and plenty of exercise, neatly all within in my local area.

Now

Now, I am back to my regular work week. Back to the office. And I am kinda down about it.

melancholic woman watching video on laptop at home
Not me, but I feel this sad person with their hands on their cheeks moping. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Even though I still have most nights and weekends for summer exercise, I feel not nearly as motivated and encouraged to be active as I did when I was on my two weeks of holidays. Activity-wise, I peaked during my summer vacation time, then valleyed right after on my non-vacation time. And I am finding that it is not helpful to be this unmotivated, considering that now I exercise more than ever after being back sitting in my office all day!

Next

What’s the learning here, and what’s next for me? It’s a long time away my next two-week vacation!

My vacation activities seemed galvanized by my ability to choose them. Now that I am back to work, I feel I have less free time and less freedom in how I spend my time. Would making another list and wobbly, hand-drawn calendar give me back that “vacation feeling” that would nudge me back to being more active?

Or, perhaps I should try mentally de-coupling my physical activities from my vacation time altogether. Perhaps exercise is the vacation from work, regardless of whether I am off on holidays or not.

Do you notice a difference in your levels of activity transitioning between vacation to work time? How do you manage that transition? What works for you?

body image · golf · media · men

Athletes’ Body Talk in the Media Serves No One

On a recent Sunday I was doing two things I rarely do: 1. watching pro golf on TV, and 2. complaining loudly at the TV. Why I was watching golf (the 2022 US Open, final round), I’m not really sure. But I do know why I was complaining.

Image by rawpixel

I was complaining because the broadcasters were making comments about the bodies of the pro golfers as they teed off on the first hole. One player was described repeatedly as “baby-faced,” another was “slender,” and a third was “sturdy.” Maybe it was just a lazy start to the commentary, but with all the history and statistics available to discuss, who is served by this body talk?

Televised commentary on athletes’ bodies is a much more prevalent issue for women, one that creates a double standard to boot. As Kathita Davidson notes, descriptions of male athletes’ bodies often reinforce perceptions of strength, athleticism, and performance. In contrast, the descriptions of women athletes’ bodies are often hetero-sexualized in ways that undermine their athleticism. As well, non-binary gendered and intersex bodies are the almost nearly always the subject of controversy and discrimination.

Body talk happens in the media at all levels of game. In the last year, two commentators were fired for making disparaging comments about high school basketball players’ bodies. At the 2021 Winter Olympics, there was pressure to focus on sports appeal and not sex appeal of the athletes. Not long after, an Olympics figure-skating commentator was fired for a degrading remark about a female Canadian figure skater (though it was about her personality, not her physique).

Focus on the bodies of athletes is not only a frequent issue but a problem, as Christine Yu observes:

Aerobic capacitypowerstrength, muscular endurancebiomechanics, strategy, tenacity, and good genes—none of which are necessarily visible to the human eye—all determine an athlete’s ability. And yet, especially with women athletes, appearance often becomes the sole focus, even when it has nothing to do with performance. This overemphasis on what athletes look like is damaging on both an individual and a cultural level, and it’s time to reconsider how we talk about their bodies.

Christine Yu, 2020, para.6

The emphasis on appearance and physique can be damaging to men and boys as well. The American Addiction Center has an article of men and body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) that highlights bigorexia, combining the Latin -orexia (an appetite for) with obsession over the big-ness of muscles. This disorder causes pain, distress, and sometimes harmful physical and dietary changes, and men are far less likely to ask for help.

The pro golfers weren’t listening to the broadcasters’ body talk as they teed off at the US Open’s, and they might not have cared about what was said.

Still, thousands of aspiring male golfers were watching and listening to the televised patter about bodies that had nothing to do with the game. By drawing attention to who is slender, sturdy, or baby-faced, the broadcasters invited body comparisons and scrutiny—to no meaningful end.

So, ultimately this post is just a reminder to anyone who gets an opportunity to talk about any athletes in front of a microphone: Focus your comments on athletic performance, not on athletic bodies.

Image by @midsizequeens
advice · camping · fitness · habits · nature · self care

To Get More Active, Inconvenience Yourself

I went summer camping with 5 friends recently. We went biking, swimming, kayaking, and hiking—regular outdoor physical activities one might do while in The Nature.

During this time, I noticed how often we were up and moving around to do simple tasks and chores throughout the day, even when we weren’t out out doing the recreational exercise activities.

When we wanted to go to sleep, we had to put up a tent. When we wanted to make a fire but ran out of wood, we had to scavenge or head to the conservation office to buy more. When we wanted to brush our teeth, it was a walk or a bike down the path to the loo. Whenever I misplaced bug spray or sunscreen, I was up rummaging around to find what I needed.

A campfire at night with wood on the ground
There’s exercise to be had in scavenging for firewood!

Not everything was within easy reach when you are camping: there’s often a little added effort to find, get, or make whatever you need. Without all the conveniences of home, we were moving, walking, bending, and stretching in short bouts all day long.

Like most people, I often establish habits and use tools that maximize convenience and comfort when I am at home. How much more physical activity might add up in my days if I intentionally made things slightly less easy for myself? What if I chose to knead bread without the mixer, walk to my mailbox rather than stop after my commute home, use one tissue box at a time rather than plant them in many rooms of the house?

Wall-E holds a plant next to a spaceship
Wall-E Theatrical release poster (fair use)

The animated Disney movie Wall-E tells a story of how, in the future, people have every luxury thanks in part to the machines they invent; consequently, they become totally inert and lazy. The moral of this cautionary tale is that excessive convenience and comfort will diminish our ability to think and act and move for ourselves.

Of course, my tent-trailer and Coleman stove camping experience was still relatively easy and convenient, but I realized that adding some purposeful inconveniences in my daily life could lead to a little more physical activity that I might not even notice.

What are some small inconveniences you maintain for a little more physical activity each day?