A few weeks my husband asked me if I would like garbage picker upper. He had bought one two years ago when he began walking to strengthen his leg after healing from a break. I thought it was a great idea and agreed. A week later it appeared and off we went.
I had written about plogging back in 2018 when a pandemic was something only epidemiologists and public health educators fretted about. Plogging technically means picking up garbage while jogging, but I’m not a fast runner at the best of times and my knees are creakier. These days I’m into plalking, or walking while garbage picking.
It’s an interesting exercise and also beneficial to the environment. In a scant 30 minutes, we filled a bag. We probably could have added more but I was just getting the hang of the plogger-stick as I now call it.
Plogging is fun exercise: you bend; you carry weight; you stretch. You also practice balance as you walk up and down on uneven ground. Different leg and arm muscles get a work out, You are out in the fresh air and can feel the wind on your face and in your hair.
As the weather gets nicer, we will walk further afield. If you are looking for something that offers physical activity with environmental stewardship, plogging may be the thing for you. As for me, I’m going to find a widget that can help me keep track of how many bags of waste we collect as I aim to increase my daily steps.
Have a safe and happy long weekend! Remember, if you are out in a boat, wear a life jacket (aka PFD). If you choose to drink alcohol or consume edibles, keep your car/boat/ATV keys in your pockets and park yourself in a lawn chair.
Heads up to all our readers who may be triggered by discussions of eating disorders, diet culture, and white beauty norms: Dove has released another entry in its self-esteem project. I won’t embed the video here in case it autoplays, but you can see it and read more about it here.
I do want to talk about the campaign as this short film is tied to an American legislative lobby to limit youth exposure to toxic beauty content. Dove’s parent company Unilever is partnering with Lizzo, a musician, undergarment clothing designer and body positive influencer.
I’ve written about Lizzo and her work to challenge white beauty standards. The film profiles a young white woman Mary and the influences on her self image. The end of the film features a number of youth and their mothers of different ethnicities and also different shapes and sizes.
Dove has not been without its detractors for its series of commercials focusing on self image. It’s always good to question the assumptions on which these are based. However, I did take a look through the resources Dove has pulled together to bolster their campaign for change and I was pleased to see how the campaigns have evolved including addressing non binary and androgynous representations of body image and beauty. You can find the resources here on the Dove site. They include resources for parents, teachers, and youth leaders/mentors.
Too often body image is inextricably linked with size and social expectations (largely unrealistic, and frequently white-dominant). Aiming to achieve these unrealistic goals is tied to limited and restrictive food consumption and exercise.
It’s disheartening to see how fitness is tied to a physical beauty standard throughout multiple social media networks/platforms. It is important to eat well to fuel our bodies, howsoever they present, and it is really important to enjoy moving our bodies as much as we are able to work our hearts, build our bones and muscles for long-term physical health and boost our mental health and wellbeing.
More media literacy in school curriculums, more attention paid to what teens are consuming, and more understanding of the risks and dangers idealized and manipulated imagery can pose to impressionable minds. I really like Dove’s link to community legislative action as it’s a shift away from the individualized focus where women once again hold responsibility for changing their responses rather than the sources of those negative and harmful ideals changing their approaches to weight, diet and exercise.
If we really want to help our youth grow and thrive physically and mentally, we need to build a culture of inclusive fitness based on diversity of experience, background and ability. We would love to hear your recommendations for resources parents, teachers and youth leaders can use. Share your favourites in the comments.
MarthaFitat55 enjoys powerlifting, swimming and yoga.
I’m two months and a week out from getting COVID. Recovery was slow but I’m glad I paced myself.
I’ve done a lot of accessory work — rows, dumbbell squats, modified split squats and a few things I can’t remember the name of but they do wicked things for my core.
I was glad I had done my research and learned what to do and what not to do. In my last training session I was back on chart to overtake my personal best in deadlifts — my current lift is 198 lbs or 90 kgs — and they feel really good.
The place I’m noticing the change in fitness the most is in cardio. After being able to climb stairs with relative ease, it was a little dismaying to find myself having to take slightly longer breaks between sets to recover. That too is passing.
So it is important to rest and not rush things. I have more energy these days, the episodes of brain fog are fewer, and I’m getting better sleep. Not going to lie: it’s been frustrating but I’m glad I went with the program.
I’m looking forward to adding a daily walk in now that all the snow is melting. I’ll be reviewing my fitness plan for the year and modifying a few things to accommodate a slightly slower pace. But for now the fitness outlook is promising and I’m very happy with where I am.
You can also read my earlier post about exercising after covid here.
I am a list-maker at heart. I love making them and I enjoy checking things off. I also like reading lists, or listicles as they are sometimes called. It’s a handy thing to look at when you want some quick insights.
I decided to amuse myself one evening and check out lists of health and fitness tips. I quickly found more than 30 different kinds of tips. In reviewing them all, I saw I could group them into five broad categories:
Goals (setting goals, tracking goals, and evaluating goals)
Motivation (positive self talk, asking for help, having a health and fitness buddy, rewards)
Nutrition (what to eat, when to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, how to shop)
Drink (how much water to drink, switching from coffee to tea, soda to sparkling water, reduced to no alcohol)
Movement (when — every day!, outside, what kind — stretching, cardio, resistance, weights, yoga, rest/sleep/recovery).
If I tracked the frequency of certain suggestions, the number one types were:
Getting enough sleep
Eating good food
Doing a variety of things
Curiously, the most varied content came in the form of food tips. These included
Eat good food every day
Make healthy choices
Eat your vegetables
Track your calories
Watch your portions
Buy from the perimeter of the store
Makes sure 80 percent of food choices are healthy
Eat more protein
Now, this isn’t a scientific meta-analysis of trends in fitness tips but I did find it interesting, especially the vast array of guidance relating to nutrition and fitness. My top five favorites of all the tips were:
Move every day.
Get good sleep.
What would be in your top five?
MarthaFitat55 is w writer and listmaker who enjoys powerlifting, yoga, and swimming,
Just this week I learned about an American women’s soccer team ditching their white sports clothes for black gear. The rationale: many menstruating athletes are concerned and stressed about period staining. Non-white uniforms increase player confidence and comfort on the field and off. The Orlando Pride club isn’t the only sports team taking this on. Tennis is now allowing dark undershorts as well.
It makes sense to me. While white sports clothes look nifty, they get pretty ratty looking after a hard game with mud, grass, and sweat. Add blood to the mix and it’s a hefty laundry job to get everything looking pristine again.
There is also significant shame attached to periods and menstruation. Consider how period products are marketed. How many oceans of blue water have been poured over products to demonstrate absorbency?
A few years ago in 2017, Bodyform shocked people globally when it used red dye to show period blood and then Kotex did it again in 2020 when it also ditched the blue water used to show absorbency.
When I was in school, it was not unusual to see students get notes to excuse them from gym while having their period. Heaven forbid if you needed to get protection from the principal’s office because you ran out of tampons, or worse, flooded and then everyone would know.
There were still shock waves reverberating years after when broadcaster Gordon Sinclair asked Canadian Olympic swimmer Elaine Tanner in 1969 if menstruation was an issue for her training. It simply wasn’t done to talk about such things.
Luckily today, we are not only talking about it, we are also looking at what we can do to change policy and practice. Many countries are eliminating taxes on period products. Lots of places like bars and offices are offering period products for their guests and staff. Schools are providing period products for free to reduce absenteeism and better school performance. Even my own home province introduced such a program in fall 2021.
If you don’t have to worry about having enough period products to keep you covered, and you can wear clothes you don’t have to worry about staining and revealing your period status, I’d say your comfort and confidence quotients would likely go up more than a few points to give you the power to perform successfully at whatever sports you desired.
MarthaFitat55 is happy she no longer has to think about menstruation on or off the field.
Three weeks ago I got COVID and I was a miserable puppy. Truth be told, I was bitter as all get out after three years of steady masking, sanitizing, distancing, and limiting large group events on top of the vaccinations.
Once I began to feel better, I started looking at how I would resume training. Three years in, we have a fair bit of research and information on how to do this safely post COVID infection. This article provides an overview of the research and offers some guidelines on how to resume activity. The authors write:
Return to exercise guidelines post-COVID-19 need to consider an individual’s duration & severity of symptoms, the presence of co-existing medical conditions, pre-morbid fitness, and the intensity of intended post-infection exercise. Return to exercise should also aim to minimize the development of non-COVID-19 related complications (e.g. musculoskeletal injuries) that may be associated with sudden increases in training volume and intensity following a period of mandatory isolation & relative inactivity.
The Reader’s Digest version: be careful, don’t do too much at once, and if anything changes for the worst, see a doctor. Here’s a short list of what you can do about managing your return to exercise post COVID:
Make sure you have rested and are symptom-free. Even with mild cases, fatigue is a serious consideration.
Ease back into your fitness routine, regardless of your fitness level. This article recommends trying gentle activities and assessing how your body feels.
If your lungs were affected in a significant way, cardio type exercises should be avoided in the short term.
Movement is important for recovery. As one Australian publication put it: “… think of any movement as a form of “exercise”. This could be getting up and going to the toilet or any other basics of your day. Movement can help stimulate the immune system and help people in their recovery, however, it’s a fine balance. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s a sign to take a break.”
I also found this handy guide that describes five stages to recovery and what activity is appropriate, when and how it should affect you.
Based on my research, I’ll be taking it slow for the next month. Everyone’s experience of COVID is different. While enforced idleness and isolation aren’t really what I wanted to be doing when my to-do list was a mile long, getting better and staying that way just got pinned to the top of that list.
— MarthaFitat55 is looking forward to getting her fit on.
for awhile I have felt I’m on the cusp of something. While I’m not sure what it is, I’m letting myself imagine all kinds of possibilities. The questions that guide me are “what if?” and “why not?” I don’t know where this word imagine will take me; however, I believe it will be risky, freeing, exciting, and maybe a little wondrous.
In that vein, when a friend sent round a note suggesting we give Lindy Hop a whirl, I thought why not? Even though I have two left feet, I enjoy dancing. Despite some disastrous events with low-impact aerobics, Zumba, jazzercise, and ballet, I have persisted in exploring choreographed movement that does not involve bathing suits, weights, running, or cycling. And I love swing music so there I went.
Lindy Hop has its origins in Black Harlem beginning in the 1920s. One of the four dances of swing (the others being the Balboa, the Collegiate shag, and the Charleston) the Lindy Hop is all about social connection and consent. If you want to dance, you ask. Once consent is given, you dance.
Lindy Hop has leaders and followers. The follower mirrors the leader’s direction and steps. I definitely fall into the follower camp. I also count and talk to myself while dancing so I can keep my left and right feet moving as they should, which to be honest, they frequently do not.
My first class was this week. It was fun and a wee bit intimidating (remember I have two left feet plus I am right-left dyslexic). Mirroring is a challenge. Lindy hop was also a surprisingly effective workout. I got my steps in, my heart rate up, and I met some lovely new people.
No fancy gear is required. Loose comfortable clothing is recommended along with court shoes. A bottle of water is advisable. With COVID still prevalent, we all wore masks which may have contributed to some of the warmth we felt. The organizers also had lots of hand sanitizer available for when we switched partners. From what I could tell, we were at all levels of experience and ages.
My biggest takeaway was that fitness once again doesn’t have to be about sports. I have written about housework, gardening, and even snow shoveling as fitness activities, but while gardening can be very therapeutic, I can’t say housework or shoveling qualify as fun, which in my opinion Lindy Hop definitely does.
Here’s to more fun in fitness and enjoying all the ways my body can move.
Every December as the end of the old year approaches and the new year is about to begin, there’s a huge focus on resolutions.
They range from the simple – I will be a kinder person and volunteer more – to the complex – I will change a negative behaviour like quitting smoking/drinking or take on a positive behaviour like eating better or exercising more.
The reality is that by the end of January, many of those good intentions fall by the wayside. Sometimes it is from your own doing: maybe you didn’t plan, maybe your resolution was too big, or perhaps you lost your momentum.
Sometimes it comes from others: they aren’t supportive or they don’t believe in you. I’m looking at you long-time gym members who make snide comments about the January newbies.
However, my main problem is that resolutions often feel rooted in believing there is something wrong with you. I recently came across a New Yorker cartoon with a fluffy cat admiring itself in a mirror saying to its reflection: “New Year’s resolution – stay this good-looking.”
I like that approach of assuming you are already a good human and you want to find ways of maintaining your goodness. And really, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve – the Japanese have a great approach called kaizen that focuses on improvement by making good things better, applying efficiency, removing waste, and implementing standardization.
That worked well for me, but I wanted to do more. How to make physical activity stick and incorporate it as a daily thing and not just a workout in the gym thing? Well, a year later I took on BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits approach to attach activity to an already established habit. I wrote about Fogg’s key principles here.
For example, I need to strengthen my leg muscles to manage my grumpy knee. How to remember to do that every morning? I “attached” a specific exercise to my morning toothbrushing. I always brush my teeth and by associating the step exercise with that habit, I remember to do it.
Practice makes perfect my teachers said. I remember a pottery teacher telling us we had to make a 100 of anything before we could master a form. It’s true that my tenth plate was better than my first, and my 100th was stellar compared to the tenth, fiftieth or even ninetieth.
The same with fitness. The Running Room’s learn to run program, for example, works on the increasing running time and decreasing walking time. When I first started powerlifting, I didn’t rush to the rack and start flinging weights around.
In fact, I didn’t even start with weights but practiced a series of exercises with repetitions that built strength before I even looked at plates. As it was, my first squats and deadlifts weren’t great, but over time, I increased the amount of weight I could squat or lift and my form steadily improved.
I wrote about the impact of small changes contributing to gains here. Looking back on all these posts, I can see that in the last four years, I have not just maintained a fitness practice, I have started thinking strategically about what I do, how I do it, when I do it, and why. The practice of fitness is not just about acquiring skill and competence (something that is critical to injury prevention) it’s about cultivating the habit of discipline.
If you are embarking on a fitness journey as part of making changes in this new year, tbink about building in and valuing the small steps you make to be an even nicer version of yourself.
Here are some of the things I have learned in the ten years since I first decided I needed to make changes in my life.
Be realistic about the goals you want to achieve. Not sure what’s feasible? Talk to a trainer or expert in the activity you want to take on. I like yoga, but I know there are some moves I need to do differently and consistently before I can try others. Not being realistic about how bendy I am would have let me at risk for injury.
Become a creature of habit when it comes to making space for fitness every day. Pick a spot for your gear (really, do this) so you can find and get ready without fuss or panic.
Keep an eye on your attitude. Avoid procrastinating. Like the ad says, just do it. If you don’t want to go for your hour long walk, then go for 30 minutes. Go even just for five minutes.
Be positive. A friend tells herself the following every time she goes for a run: I am. I can. I will. I do. Erase negative self talk and replace it with something that fosters confidence in yourself. And if you can’t do that, remember there’s a little potato that believes in you.
Celebrate your successes, even the tiny ones. Stuff happens. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Give yourself a high five for making it through. Only got five workouts instead of the seven – yay you! That’s five more than doing none for the week. Reach an important target? Reward yourself. Because you are freaking awesome!
Happy New year everyone!
— MarthaFitat55 is embracing all the challenges and exploring all the ideas.
I am a contradictory person. I love absolute quiet while I am writing but I cannot clean or tidy without blasting some fun music. I also like working out to what I call happy boppy music, and every Friday I make sure I play a few of my favorites to get ready for the weekend.
Monday past, Christine shared a great video using Love Shack (B-52s) in her Day Five Making Space post. I had a great idea as a result.
If you had to build a playlist focused on movement and joy, what would you include? Please share in the comments. To get you started, here’s my Top Ten Have-To-Drop-Everything-And-Dance-Now hits: