A Meditation on Snow

We’ve had a lot of snow here in my part of the country called Canada. In 24 hours, we got more than 70 cms (about three feet) and we listened to winds upwards of 160 kms (about 90 plus miles an hour) blow all that snow. Imagine a hurricane, but instead of rain, we got snow.

The day after, when drifts filled the driveway and blocked the front door. Image shows a huge pile of snow in front of a red garage door.

As I write this we are still under a state of emergency (SoE) and that limits how we can move around the city while we dig out from underneath.

Truth be told, I don’t want to go anywhere; I don’t want to negotiate any slippery hills either as a driver or pedestrian; and I certainly don’t want to deal with the cold and the wet.

I have enjoyed my enforced break. I read two books. I planned meals carefully knowing we couldn’t go shopping for food if we ran out. We checked on senior neighbours in ur ‘hood and friends and family who weren’t nearby.

Then I worried about people without phone, computer, or even an entrance or exit to their homes because the snow barred them in. But I found a place where people were helping and that worry got redirected.

Mostly, I thought about resiliency and how we (I) moved through different stages. First wondering about the snow, the wind and the power — would it go? would the roof blow off? would we be trapped? Then thinking about solutions and how to solve each of the problems I encountered.

When I wasn’t thinking, I was trying a number of relaxation strategies both to calm and improve sleep. It seems silly to think about, but excepting for a couple of bed time tricks to get me to sleep, I hadn’t spent any time during my walking hours about applying calming strategies to help me function.

I know there are multiple approaches out there but they weren’t top of mind. When you can’t go anywhere (January 24 will be our seventh day under the SoE), you are willing to try anything to be more effective in your work, including relaxing.

My trainer says sleep is the best healer and I agree. I also have learned how to focus on the task at hand by running through the steps in my mind. This week, I realized I really like breaking things up into component parts and understanding what each piece does to lead to the successful execution of the whole action. I think that’s why I have come to enjoy yin yoga so much. Each pose has a specific purpose and effect.

I am not sure why it took me this long to figure out on a conscious level something I’ve been doing subconsciously for a very long time. However, it’s offered me lots of scope for reflection.

Our snowstorm may have been a huge inconvenience but in retrospect, it offered me a chunk of time to pause, even stop the relentless focus on outputs and review the beauty of the process.

— MarthaFitAt55 lives in St. John’s and is delighted at the possibility of snowshoeing once the SoE is lifted.


Intentional movement

By MarthaFitat55

Inspired by my experience with the workplace challenge last fall, I joined a virtual group dedicated to 220 workouts in 2020. While I have not worked out every day since January 1, I have been inspired by the other group members to do more every day.

jamie-street-d6ktmgxv6e-unsplashA workout is defined loosely but essentially means you do something intentional and makes you move your body consistently for a period of time. It can be anything you like from biking (real or virtual) to yoga and all points in between. Members post what they do (every day or not) and there’s lots of encouragement.

What I like about this process is the lack of pressure and the collegial nature of the group. People share sometimes an aspect of their workout and it’s been really interesting to see all the different ways you can move your body with purpose.

Thursday I decided I would track my steps while I did laundry — collecting, carrying, sorting, loading, unloading and folding. In a 45 minute period (it’s the aftermath of holidays!), I achieved a steady level of activity and took more than 3000 steps.

Given our winter days when it is often too slippery to go out safely for a long walk, I can still do something consistently to get my steps in and meet my goal for intentional movement every day.

I’m also back at the gym and have added a weekly yoga class; weekends will see me swimming now that the pool has been up and running again. I’ve chosen these external, structured activities to meet different goals — more focus to my weight training, greater attention to stretching and flexibility, and social time with my husband. While they will add to my total workouts for 2020, they also meet my personal goal of ensuring I keep putting my big rocks in first for my time.

How about your dear readers? Have you taken on a fitness challenge? What atypical fitness activities are you engaging in daily or weekly to get your fit on? Please share in the comments!



Making room for big rocks

Despite the fact that curling season is upon us in many parts of the world, I am not referring to the rocks used in that sport. I am referring to the analogy often quoted by Stephen Covey fans with respect to priorities.

Image shows a series of large bulders randomly scattered on a grassy field. Photo by Joeri Römer on Unsplash

It goes like this: someone puts a bunch of large rocks in a jar and asks if it is full. Audience people say yes. The person adds some gravel and shakes it around to make it settle. Is it full now? Not likely, admit the audience. How about now, after adding a bunch of sand? Stil room. The presenter fills it with water. Now? Yes, everyone agrees.

What is the lesson asks the facilitator? You can make everything fit (actually the most common response). Not really though, because if you put in the gravel, sand and water, you wouldn’t have room for the big rocks.

The lesson is to put your priorities first and then accept (or make room for) the priorities of others.

I recently finished up some big projects and I’m starting some new ones. I am at a point in my training where I have already reached a couple of big goals for me  (not injure myself, gain some skills, become reasonably fit). And it’s December, near the end of the decade, and the new year is fast approaching.

I realized in looking back at 2019, that I didn’t always make physical activity or my hobby one of my big rocks. And I want to change that. I’m not really a resolution person, but I do make a strategic plan for myself where I think about the things I want to achieve.

So now it’s time for me to choose my big rocks, look at how I want to set my agenda and how I want and need to support other priorities. I’ve made a weekly schedule, updated my electronic calendar, and acquired my paper agenda to document the record.

I’ll be talking with my trainer about my new goals in the gym (more than just showing up but moving forward to a specific benchmark). I decided I want to learn how to use triangles in quilting and I found a way to make that happen. I also made a list of work I enjoy and things I do not know and I am pursuing projects that allow me to achieve both. I also have a couple of other personal priorities I’m still refining.

Compared to previous years, I’m more realistic in what I want to fit in, I am more honest about what I need to let go, and I am excited about actively choosing to make space for my big rocks rather than shoehorning them in wherever I can make them fit.

What big rocks do you want to put in your 2020 jar?

— MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s.




Fitness challenges: gaming or failing?

Last month I had occasion to participate in a fitness challenge as part of a work team. I had to promise to meet a minimum number of steps each day, share three pictures of healthy meals, drink 32 ounces of water and carry out four mystery exercises.


Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash Image shows water pouring into a pretty glass. Does it help to drink from a pretty glass? Yes. A straw is nice too.

I learned a number of things from doing this challenge, some good and some not so good. So I’ll deal with the good stuff first:

1) I really liked being part of a team. If I didn’t meet my daily commitments, I felt like I let the team down. So I was motivated to complete the actions because my bit added to the overall team standing.

2) I really liked easy-to-follow criteria. I had to meet my steps, eat three healthy meals, and drink water. Nothing complicated: I had to eat, I had to drink, and since teleporting is still not a thing, I had to walk.  All three were things I had to do anyway, so it wasn’t an issue to do more of it. So I did, albeit in a more focused manner.

3) I liked having a daily goal. I create a daily list of things I want to do each day before I go to sleep. Usually, it’s work-related or family-related. I’ve since started looking at how to build in activity each day as part of pre-planning instead of just as an afterthought.

Here’s what I didn’t like:

1) I didn’t like the mystery challenges. I would have preferred a choice of movements each time. Instead, I was stuck twice with exercises that simply did not work for someone who has wonky hips like me.

2) The app only works if there is a challenge. It would have been great if I could have kept the posting/tracking going even if there wasn’t a competition. I still keep track of my steps with my Fitbit and I do work in a half-hour of step walking if I’m short, but the meals and water kind tracking fell by the wayside. However, I have noticed that if I fill my water cup twice a day, I meet my daily allotment so while I might not track, the water drinking habit has stuck.

So what now? I’ll probably consider fitness challenges like this in the future because it was fun and I learned new things along the way. In the meantime, I am working on making my own challenges and seeing what I can do to meet or exceed them weekly. Starting in the new year, I hope to have a jar full of activities that I can pick from to ensure I keep my daily fit on.

How about you? What fitness challenges have you been a part of and what have you learned?

MarthaFitat50 gets her fit on through yoga, swimming, trail walking, and powerlifting.



advertising · body image · charity · fitness · kids and exercise · Martha's Musings · trackers

Kids and fitness trackers: the holiday edition (not)


TW: weightloss mentioned; negative self talk examples included.

By MarthaFitat55

Almost two years ago this March coming, I wrote about targetting kids for weight loss campaigns and fitness trackers. The nutshell: not a great idea because kids are vulnerable.

I was reminded of that piece when this article came across my feed describing how UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund has developed a tracker that allows kids to feed other children when they reach certain step goals.

I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.

North American kids — largely affluent, well fed, and probably mostly white — are being told use this tracker and you will feed the poor somewhere else.

You can’t escape the irony here; the colonialist, patriarchally coated irony of having privileged kids walking their walk to good works.

Images shows young white female-presenting child looking at a quarter cupcake on a plate.  Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Article author Angela Lashbrooks says this about the idea: A punitive or even rewards-based system to encourage young people to move more won’t be effective in the mid or long term, and could cause or worsen obsessive thoughts and behaviors in some kids.

That’s because there isn’t a lot of good evidence showing trackers work with kids and teens:

One 2019 study found that teenage subjects actually became less likely to engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity after five weeks of wearing a Fitbit. It suggested that the tracker appeared to weaken the inherent motivation and self-determination needed to compel kids to be active. Another study, from 2017, saw similar results: After an initial surge in interest in exercise spanning a few weeks, the kids mostly stopped engaging with the trackers and actively resisted them, claiming that they were inaccurate and therefore not trustworthy.

While our kids on this continent are mostly sedentary and we should be concerned with the amount of screen time they engage in, getting kids to wear trackers and get their fitness on by appealing to an altruistic goal is problematic.

Kids follow what they see. Kids also know when they are being gamed. I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up on Christmas morning and discover a tracker under the tree. Given all the negative messages we send out about size and what fitness looks like, I can see the thought processes now:

Parental units gave me a tracker! Trackers are used by people who want to lose weight. Parents must think I need to lose weight. Parents must think I am fat. Fat people are ugly. Parents must think I am ugly. Parents won’t love me if I’m fat. Parents won’t love me anymore if I don’t lose weight. …

Unless a tracker is something the child has spontaneously on their own expressed an interest in, there are better ways to get your kid engaged in fitness than planting this kind of non-gift under the tree.

If you want to focus on a healthier, more active lifestyle, buy swim passes for everyone. Or sign them up for that bike repair workshop so they can fix their bikes on their own. Or plot walking routes in your community and track the steps as a world wide adventure.

If social action is on your list of things, then talk as a family about supporting community agencies who help vulnerable kids and families throughout the year and not just in holiday season. This article offers some great insights into why giving should be a daily thing and not a holiday one-off.

Gifts that focus on self-improvement aren’t really gifts in my opinion. They are projections of your own desires. How about you? What do you think would be more appropriate for gift giving?

MarthaFitat55 is not a fan of self-improvement gifts for any occasion. She gets her fit on through walking, swimming, yoga and powerlifting. But not all at once.


Appreciating adaptability

A friend shared this link to a news article about women who climbed mountains wearing long skirts. It has some pretty cool pictures including this one:

mountain climbing
Lucy Smith and Pauline Ranken of the Ladies’ Scottish Climbing Club, Salisbury Crags. c.1908 Image shows two women wearing long skirts climbing a pretty rugged cliff face.

I like the photo a lot, mostly because it reminds me that women were doing cool fitness things more than 100 years ago, and they did them with basic equipment.

It occurred to me that we invest a lot in equipment when perhaps we don’t need too. My favourite workaround to kettlebells is to fill empty detergent bottles with water. Later, when I get more ambitious, I can fill the bottles with sand to increase the weight. I have also recycled a broom handle to help me with certain back stretches.

What is your favourite workaround for home-based gym equipment? Let us know in the comments.

MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s.


Own the space


By MarthaFitat55

My news feeds the past day or so are filled with stories reporting on Mary Cain’s truthtelling about her experience with Nike. Tagged as an Olympic hopeful, Cain was known as the fastest girl in America, until, as she puts it, she wasn’t.

The pressure to become thinner and thinner led to serious health consequences for Cain, including osteoporosis (she broke five bones) and infertility (she did not have a period for three years).

Sadly, Cain, is no longer the fastest girl in America. Her athletic career may be gone., but more powerfully perhaps, she is reclaiming her space in the world.  And that is no small thing.

Image shows a running track with several women running. They have strong bodies, and several have visible leg muscles. Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

I often teach and coach individuals and groups on thinking quickly, presenting effectively and getting messages across. A couple of times I have had all-female groups and I give them an exercise. It seems so simple yet it terrifies them the first time they do it. I make them throw their arms in the air and say “my name is (insert name) and I am fabulous!”

But after doing the exercise two to four times, the women are more confident, they feel empowered by owning that space, and they see the benefits of challenging their fears.

As a result of my teaching work, I have made a habit of watching how people speak and deliver day-to-day. Recently I had to attend a meeting which was focused on some pretty high powered issues. The person running the meeting was the woman in charge, although her voice and her body language didn’t send that message — the complete opposite in fact.

Not long after that experience, I had the chance to listen to another individual describe her early forays in civic activism and I was struck by how she owned the space she was in. And revelled in it.

One woman with power and afraid to use it; another who used her power to be effective in her work. It made me think and the following questions came to me: Why do we continue to impose expectations about behaviour that effectively makes women smaller and invisible? Why do we take young women with great promise and force them into something they are not? Why do we diminish their power?

It makes me sad when we see young women’s dreams altered, shrunken, and swept aside. However, I am happy Cain and her athletic colleagues are fighting back. Women are taking back their space, making it their own, and showing others how it’s done. Cain makes no apology for speaking out against Nike, and she should not give the shocking way she was treated.

Back in July 2019, blogging colleague Marjorie Rose wrote a post in which she looked at how weightlifting women are also pressured to be smaller. Marjorie wrote:

It occurs to me that this means we really don’t know how strong women can be. Because as long as women are battling pressures to be less-than at the same time that they are competing, they are hobbling themselves. In order to really test women’s strength, women need to feel equally safe as men pursuing the sport to its limits. And at that time, maybe we can comment on a woman’s body and lifting without it being an issue.

If Mary Cain had felt truly safe and supported in the pursuit of running excellence, where would she be today? We have to stop the pressure to become small and invisible. Stand up and own your space. I know who you are and I see you. You are fabulous.

-MarthaFitat55 writes from St. John’s.