fitness

Angry self care: it’s a thing

Some of you may remember the funny meme circulating last winter of a winter scene featuring a baleful eagle. In case you can’t remember, or didn’t see it the first go around, here you go:

The meme struck a chord with me. I have never been someone who goes for leisurely walks. I do enjoy a good brisk walk, or a lovely stomp, especially when I am trying to work out a problem for a client.

The pandemic has brought home for me the need to maintain regular physical activity, so when I came across this reel on Instagram with a reference to angry self care, I was intrigued. The video shows a person who presents as young, able, and white making her way determinedly and spiritedly down a snowy street.

There’s something appealing about angry self care, the same way rage baking took off as a way to ease and redirect rage and anxiety in the last Republican presidency. We often see anger as a negative emotion when it can actually be a spur to useful and productive activity that takes us outside our headspace and repeating interior monologues.

Going for a walk, drinking your water, getting your sleep, meeting your swimming goals to name a few examples are all great ways to look after yourself and aren’t really stupid at all. However, as this pandemic stretches on, even the most positive and optimistic among us have days when we don’t feel like doing all the healthy things. That’s when stupid walks can help.

These days I can get down with some motivational resentment. If it gets me out the door, why not? Come join me. Get your footwear, get your coat, and yank that hoodie on your head. Or put on an especially stompworthy tune — like London Calling by the Clash or Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life — and stomp your fine self around your space.

MarthaFitat55 really enjoys good stomp for her mental health. She hopes you will too.

fitness

Active rest is fitness too

It’s a new year, a new variant, and the same old horse-puckey we’ve all been dealing with since March 2020. At almost two years into the pandemic, we are tired. So very, very tired.

When i look back at the past two years, i feel like a plant that has become root bound. I suspect we’ve all become a little root-bound because of our new normal. It’s what we are used to.

While the pot can be comfy and cozy, it’s also cramped. Parts of you fall asleep, and other parts get cranky and stiff. At a certain point, no matter how much water, sunshine or plant food you get, nothing much is going to happen.

Even before the pandemic, I was used to shaking up my approaches to work, life and fitness. I have tried tiny habits, participating in group challenges, sleep training, meal planning, and retreats. I have learned a lot, but I also discovered i have more to learn.

I spoke with a colleague who had protected a day a week in her schedule. No meetings, no emails, no phone calls. Some weeks she planned a new workshop, sometimes she read a new book, or researched an area new to her field.

While i was already used to protecting certain activities, i did not create space for recovery and selfcare. And that is really important.

When we embrace a new form of training, we can overdo it. We can over train. When we try a new pose, a new exercise or a new level of intensity, we may forget to rest.

This holiday season lead up was stressful. Omicron put paid to lots of stuff we had planned. i worried about senior parents, finding a booster, keeping my distance in a time when socializing is in hyper drive.

So I took my colleague’s idea and protected a whole chunk of time. I turned on my out of office settings. I did not look at my email. I turned off notifications. I loaded my e-reader with books. We made sure to plan meals and organize grocery pick ups. I got good sleep and I napped. I did my arm stretches and got rid of my tennis elbow.

It was peaceful, restful and totally chill. Over the New Year’s holiday, I looked hard at my calendar. I remembered advice a mentor gave me early in my career: choose something that will help you do your work better, choose something that will help you be a better human, and choose something that will bring joy to your life.

My calendar looks totally different. Programming down time to rest and also to explore new professional and personal commitments has opened up new possibilities. I’ll be exploring how i can incorporate different ways of practicing active rest and recovery over the next few months. Yoga and mediation are on my list. What’s on yours?


fitness

Taking time for yourself

I took almost eight weeks off from blogging. I needed to stop and assess where I found myself at 60. It wasn’t just reaching a milestone birthday. I needed the time to reflect on what’s next in a time where change is constant.

I did a fair bit of reading – some thoughtful, some frivolous, some challenging. I work a fair bit with mental health so I looked at self care, stress management, and the pandemic.

I came across this fabulous image.  You can find it and a number of other useful resources at cohcwcovidsupport.org. The graphic explains the continuum of stress from “Thriving: I got this” to “In Crisis: I can’t survive this.” I find it useful as it identifies a number of ways stress, especially increasing, constant stress – can appear.

Image shows four columns, ranging from green, yellow, orange, and red signifying increasing levels of stress and its impact on you. For example, managing well means having normal sleep patterns while not managing or coping with stress is represented by difficulty sleeping or experiencing disrupted sleep.

The holidays can be very stressful. There is a lot of pressure to make things perfect, splendid, memorable.  The reality is we are not characters in a Hallmark movie (thank heavens for that!). We are imperfect, flawed human beings and we need to treat ourselves and each other with compassion and care.

Last year I created a wellness advent calendar, a post a day during December 2020. You can find the round up here: https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/12/26/dec-26-wellness-calendar-collected-edition/

Take a look. Perhaps you will find a few strategies that will help you navigate the year ahead. During my brief blogging hiatus —  such a handy word to describe a pause or a gap in a series or sequence – I learned again how important it is to step outside and take a breath.

This doesn’t mean I shut myself off; it meant I took time to figure out what I needed and how I was going to do it. A good chunk of my paid work is helping organizations create strategic plans. It had been a while since I last created a plan for myself so I took time to create one for the year ahead. I’ll share some of it in future blog posts. It’s been a good break and I am glad to be back.

The Spanish have a proverb: if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will do. Without vision, you cannot imagine what should or will be. A vision guides you in making your purpose real. Your vision is the beacon that lights your way forward. I hope you can create your vision and live it boldly. Be well, stay well.

fitness

WHO drops ball on diabetes and weight stigma

Earlier this week, WHO posted a tweet on World Diabetes Day. It received a significant response, so much so, it deleted the tweet and then posted an apology which included a screenshot of the now-deleted Tweet (see image below).

The image is a screenshot of a tweet. WHO says: We have removed this post following comments we’ve received. We apologize for an image that was stigmatizing and for content that was inaccurate in explaining the types of diabetes. Attached to the Tweet is an image identifying the causes of diabetes Type I (unknown) and Type II (excess weight and lack of physical activity). Accompanying the commentary is a picture of a large man sitting in an easy chair and eating a large bag of snack food.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an Ottawa-based specialist in obesity writes a blog and here he writes: Never mind genetics, social determinants of health (including poverty, education, caregiving requirements, etc), co-morbid medical conditions, and more, the actual World Health Organization on World Diabetes Day, is stating if you have type 2 diabetes, it’s your fault.

Weight stigma surrounds us everyday. The pressure to lose weight to meet a social ideal is constant. It used to be the ads would start late in the spring on getting beach body ready. Now we have, beach-body season followed by little black dress season in the holidays, then by New Year’s resolution season, winter beach vacation season, prom season and wedding season.

Really, when is there not a season where we are told to lose weight?

That said, the WHO, with their use of stigmatizing language and victim-blaming, lent an aura of credibility to long-held assumptions on the causes of diabetes, and also possible solutions (eat less, exercise more). The WHO ignored issues of social determinants — whether one can afford nutrient-dense food, whether one can afford to go to a gym, or even if you afford the time to workout and the issues of genetics such as family history, conditions which lead to insulin resistance/diabetes/obesity (hello polycystic ovarian disease).

Yes, we can all make choices that lead to improvements in our health, well being, and quality of life overall. However, we need to make choices and be able to afford those choices based on best evidence, and in this case, the WHO got it all wrong.

fitness

That time Martha became a pretzel

We were doing our weekly grocery shop. We parked in our usual spot, masked up, got our reusable bags and got the week’s worth of food pretty quickly. We came out only to discover the driver of a very large truck had parked next to us and closed off access to the driver’s side.

What to do? What to do? What to do? There was only one way in and that was to climb across the front passenger seat and slide into the drivers’s seat.

One of the three at the scene was too young to drive; one was too tall to fold themself comfortably in the space available. And then there was me.

I’m not an especially bendy person. Becoming a human pretzel is not what I am into.

Image shows a plateful of curly, curvy pretzels. Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

But needs must. My car is not the old-fashioned kind where you can just slide across a smooth expanse of seating. No, my car is ultramodern, with a gear shift console in the middle, complete with sticking up type travel cup holders.

I took a look, channelled my inner cat, and figured out how to fold myself so I could shimmy, step, hop and slide into the driver’s seat.

Success! Image shows a human giving self a high five atop a mountain. Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

I may not have been super graceful, or elegant, but I did it! As I dropped myself into the driver’s seat and then unfolded legs to reach the pedals, I felt relief, exhilaration, and most importantly, not a single twitch. Part of my brain said, oh wait until an hour later.

An hour came and went, the next day came and went, and then a week. All was normal!

I realized eight years of steady work, interrupted by ups and downs as life does, had its advantages. We may have different goals for our fitness path over time, but for me, functional fitness has been my number one goal.

My favourite cartoon: image shows three humans running, arms laden with grocery bags. The finish line banner reads: All-the-groceries-in one-trip Marathon.

To carry my groceries and not have my back complain; to walk a hill with my family without collapsing from tired lungs; to climb up and down stairs with household goods to help a family member move. And yes, to get into my car from the passenger side so I can drive home and not pull a muscle. Wellness level number eleventy thousand: Unlocked!

You can just call me MarthaFitAt60More.

fitness

Everything changes; nothing changes

A new study arrived this week, this one looking at the status of women in sport media. To no one’s surprise, the conclusion was consistent with other research on the representation of women. Sports media continues to be pale, male, and stale.

As an aside, I don’t know who first came up with that clever, biting summary of the state of most things in the world, but I send my thanks.

Image shows young women playing soccer on a field. Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

I digress. The study was carried out by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), its first since 2018. It found:

79.2% of the sports editors were white and 83.3% were men.

72.0% of the assistant sports editors were white and 75.8% were men.

77.1% of the columnists were white; 82.2% were men.

77.1% of the reporters were white; 85.6% were men.

77.0% of the copy editors/designers were white; 75.3% were men.

72.4% of web specialists were white; 78.1% were men.

You might ask why does it matter? Because it does. If we have absorbed one fact in the last few years is that unconscious bias exists in all aspects of our lives. Or as Richard Lapchick, author of the ESPN article said of the review of more than 100 newspapers and websites: “These are same outlets that determine what stories to cover, when to cover them and how they are portrayed. Diversity, equity and inclusion among the staff in our media is crucial to news being representative of our society.”

We default to what we know. We highlight, either deliberately or unintentionally, the things that matter to us. The absence of women and people of colour in sports media, or other media usually means fewer stories about the things that matter to those who belong to groups historically excluded from decision-making, content creation, and participation.

Or as Lisa Wilson, a former president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association said: “We need those voices. We need that perspective. We need them making coverage and hiring decisions.”

The study results are mixed. While there were tiny shifts when it comes to women, the rate of improvement is still quite low and slow. Improvements for people of colour were better with measurable increases in representation among Black reporters, editors and columnists.

We also need better coverage of women in sports by women because media coverage has an impact on pay rates. Women atheletes do not receive the amounts of money male athletes receive. Josh Strupp writes:

“In America, on average, a woman makes 89% of what a man makes, despite having the same amount of experience and holding the same position. The average salary of an NBA player is $7.7M. In the WNBA, it’s closer to $75,000, so the female athletes are making about 1% of the salaries of their male counterparts. Anthony Davis makes $27M a year; one of his closest comparators statistically and in terms of dominance — Natasha Howard — makes $117,000 a year. In the case of Davis and Howard, she’s making 0.43% of what he makes.

We also cannot underestimate the impact of seeing someone who looks like you in sport, on and off the field as it were. Role models inspire us: to aim high, to do better, to excel. How many little girls saw themselves playing hockey because of Hayley Wickenheiser? How many people imagined themselves behind the desk providing colour commentary? How many saw Simone Biles address the giant elephant in the room –mental health — making it easier for others to report similar experiences?

When I first started working training in a gym, I was surrounded by posters featuring ultra thin, ultra fit women in fashionable workout gear. I didn’t like the messages and I did not like the images. I did not see myself on those walks — not the then current version of me, and especially not even someone I thought I might like to become. If I, a white, middle class, middle-aged woman with a fair amount of privilege, felt excluded, what is it like at all for others?

Not good. As Maya Angelou said, when you know better, you do better. I hope the APSE take their report card seriously and embark on a program of real change. The Ds and Fs peppering their review really need to shift upward and turn into As and Bs. It is the 21st century after all.

— MarthaFitat55 lives and writes in Newfoundland and Labrador.

fitness

Labour Day Weekend Follies

Well hello everyone! It’s the Labour Day Weekend when we try to cram in as much late summer activity as we possibly can in 72 hours.

Image shows a moss covered stump. Photo by Georg Eiermann on Unsplash

While hurricane season is upon us, and multiple hatches will be battened, there are lots of fun ways to get your fit on the long weekend. Here are five ways you can put a spring in your step getting ready for fall:

  1. Take a hike, or a walk, or even a meandering stroll. If you are spending a good chunk of your weekend getting ready for fall, then it will be even more important for you to stick your head out and your whole body too and get some fresh air.
  2. Go for a swim. Wild water swimming is taking off big time. It doesn’t matter if you plunk your feet in a fountain or a brook, or if you go go all the way and jump in a pond or lake. Paddling around in water is always fun.
  3. Play a game. Find a ball, a frisbee, or a kite, and get going. Make up rules if you have to, but get out and run around with a spherical object.
  4. Practice forest bathing. All you need to do is find a wooded area, make yourself comfy, and breathe. Forest-bathing originated in Japan, and was designed to reconnect people to forests/nature while counter-acting the negative effects of too much tech use. After 18 months of pandemic restrictions and online working, getting re-energized by sitting in a quiet, wild and natural environment sounds pretty good to me.
  5. Be social — it’s been a hard slog with the pandemic, but one of the lowest risk activities is to be outside; there you can maintain social distance, while still enjoying friendship or extended family contact. Grab a sandwich, a cold beverage, and a blanket, and get your chat on with some real time face time.

It might not be possible for you to do all of these things every day of the long weekend, but if you can, try one. if you are feeling especially ambitious, aim for the Labour Day triathlon where you walk, breathe, and connect. Let us know how you do in the comments.

fitness

Fall is coming …

In the Northern Hemisphere, in the country we call Canada, fall is fast approaching. I’m not sure where the summer went, but I really feel I was just assessing the state of my summer clothes and deciding what pieces of my summer weight workout kit I’d keep and now I need to start thinking about what I’ve got for the fall.

Image shows orange, yellow and bronze leaves swirling in the air. Photo by Autumn Mott Rodeheaver on Unsplash

That said, fall is my favourite season. While I am sad our lazy hot days and nights are coming to an end for another year, I also know I am going to have heaps of fun crunching my way through the fallen leaves in late October.

I like the crisper air. I don’t have to worry about the heat-sucking humidity that vacuums the air from my lungs. I can pace myself better as well, usually going further and harder than sessions in winter and summer.

Fall for me is the equivalent of the sweet spot after you’ve done your stretches, warmed up effectively and found your rhythm. In many respects, this stage of my year and the pandemic is all about finding the right pace and the best way to breathe.

The pandemic has been frequently described as a marathon, and yet the spaces in between lock downs and outbreaks feel less like sprints and more like adding a few bonus half marathons.

Don’t get me wrong: sprints can be fun. When I was a runner, sprints and intervals gave me bursts of extra energy and allowed me to change up my running. I didn’t have to maintain a killing arduous pace.

But there is something really lovely about finding that groove where your heart and lungs deliver, your legs and arms work away, and the sidewalk under your feet just flies effortlessly.

Labour Day is a great time to think about planning your transition of the seasons, and not just in the manner of your kit. We all need change things up with our life, work and fitness routines and practices.

How about you? What are you planning for the fall?

MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s.

fitness

Olympic dreams start young …

It’s been a time at the Games, delayed by the pandemic, splintered by misogyny, and fraught with racism. The day I publish this Canada will face off against Sweden for gold in the women’s soccer final. Canadian women have led the way in the medal count of all colours and the men brought up the rear with gold medals in track. It’s been nice to cheer for all the athletes, and celebrate those representing the place we call Canada.

I haven’t had time to watch a lot of the Games, but I keep on top of what’s happening, both in the Olympic Village and outside of it. Several friend shared this adorable TikTok video. Have a look at Emily aged four marvelling at the strong Olympian women.

Little Emily is inspired by the strong women she saw on her television. “You can do it,” she said. Then she says, “… strong hands, I wish I had strong hands. I wished I had to be the strongest.”

It gets better. She tells her parent that she has done the same “dropping” as the weightlifters on the screen.

She explains to her parent, “When I was the strongest Emmy, I used to go there and play dropping.”

What a treat to see strong women represented. How exciting to see children and youth inspired to try the same. What an inspiration to see strong women respect their bodies and their abilities and speak their truth about what they are prepared to do. US powerhouse gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the final in the team event and a couple of others because she knew she could not push herself and still safely execute her incredibly demanding maneuvers. She modeled the greatest strength with grace and determination.

Strong hands, strong boundaries, big dreams. Whatever our age, I think it is always important to see ourselves represented and be supported by the agency of women claiming their space, be it the field, the gym, the pool, or the seat of government or the boardroom table for that matter. Find your your inner Emmy. I know you can do it.

— MarthaFitat55 is a writer and consultant getting her fit on in St. John’s.

fitness

How to increase your heart rate, courtesy of the patriarchy

I feel like I’ve been living on a Ferris wheel these past few months. One day you are up and celebrating a new step forward to a post pandemic world and the next you are down seething at the ridiculousness of the world.

Image shows a Ferris wheel with multi coloured seats. Photo by Daniel Roe on Unsplash

I wear a fitbit to track my steps, and recently I discovered I can track my heart rate as well. It’s a lovely little bit of data but I am troubled by the fact that my heart rate does jump when I read the news, or to be more precise, news which details once again how the patriarchy manifests itself in discriminatory actions against women.

This summer’s target is women in sport. As we near the Olympics, delayed from last year as a result of the pandemic, but going ahead under significantly different and challenging circumstances this year in Japan, the daily news offers a consistent menu of frustration and anger with a generous side of jackassery.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about structural racism in sport, looking at negative decisions taken against Black women, nursing athletes and individuals the sporting kingmakers deemed not sufficiently female enough. Let’s look at what’s on tap this week — along with garden variety sexism, we have generous servings of ableism:

  1. the Norwegian handball team wants to wear shorts instead of skimpy bikini bottoms, but their governing body says no. When the team goes ahead and wears them, the federation fines them.
  2. a ParaOlympian is told her running briefs are too skimpy and an official tells her she should cover up with shorts. (Maybe this official should have conferred with the handball officials?)
  3. another ParaOlympian is told she cannot take her personal support attendant with her to Tokyo. As she cannot navigate the Olympic Village without assistance, she has decided she cannot go. Others have also made this decision.

It’s enough to make your heart and mind explode.

Image shows a person in the lower right holding a confetti tube from confetti is spraying upwards into the air. Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

The policing of women’s clothing isn’t new. Early in July, we saw swimming officials lose their nut over swimming caps designed to fit the heads of Black women. Once again white norms were expected to prevail because these hats designed to protect Black women’s hair might give them an advantage or something. We have also seen clothing policies that limit what female Muslim athletes can wear. Again nothing new, as France some years ago instituted a modest clothing ban on its beaches, targeting — you guessed it — Muslim women.

It seems especially egregious though that women from across the spectrum are being singled out. Officials in the case of the ParaOlympian are blaming each other when advance planning could have prevented the situation. Contradictory policies abound and no one seems to think it’s odd that one group is told to cover up and the other is told to bare all. I mean look at this picture:

Image shows Norway’s handball teams, the men on the left and the women on the right. The men wear long tanks and loose shorts; the women wear bralettes and bikini bottoms.

Yes, the global pandemic means we have to do some things differently. However, when so-called “objective” rules affect women disproportionately, we have to stop and ask why. When we look at the decisions highlighted in the stories above, we clearly see male power at work. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport says, “The rules of sport are meant to create a level playing field. In this respect, the rules are failing. They fail to create sport environments that recognize the dignity and even humanity of some of its most spectacular participants.

When I look at the girls and young women around me today, they are doing amazing things. Several of my friends have daughters who played hockey, and four of them took on the goalie role. I can’t think of a single classmate of mine who played hockey at the same age, but I know quite a few who play hockey today.

Earlier this winter, a friend shared a marvelous video of a toddler snowboarding her way through the trees, her dad behind her. The confidence and the sheer joy of making it through the trail are palpable. Everyone should have that joy; everyone should have that recognition; everyone should have that support to do the best they can. Anything less is unacceptable.

–MarthaFitat55 is a writer getting her fit on in all the ways that work for her.