clothing · cycling · fitness

Dressing well for all occasions

by MarthaFitat55

I like dresses. I have admired the lovely patterns that come out each year but I lament the lack of similar pretty, both in fabric and style, dresses for those of us over size 12. Most of what I have seen is pretty shapeless, drab in colour, and definitely old fashioned (and not in a good way) in pattern if they come in colours other than black, maroon, and navy. If it is pretty, stylish and size 14 and up, it usually costs a bomb.

So colour me surprised when I read about the dress sensation from Spain that is sweeping the UK. Produced by Zara, the black dotted dress has shown up everywhere and the price with tax and the exchange runs about $100 Canadian, which makes it a home run in my books. You can dress it up or down, and even get married in it if you like. So popular is this dress that Zara is making more in different colours: coming soon is white dots on black.

What really pleases me though is this dress seems to suit a variety of bodies and shapes and the article’s author points this out:

the Zara dress is a different beast. This is not a cult item being worn by a narrow cross-section of women of similar ages and economic backgrounds. It has transcended its initial cool-girl early adopters to become a sartorial choice for women of all shapes, sizes and ages. It is no longer the preserve of slim, middle-class city-dwelling women who work in offices and do pilates. The dress is worn at village fetes, suburban barbecues and on school runs. It has become the everywoman dress.

Image shows four women of different shapes wearing the same black dotted dress. Photograph source: Instagram/hot4thespot

My point is that if a high end fashion line can come up with something that is affordable, comfortable, stylish and flexible, why can’t we find this stuff everywhere including sportswear?

When Nike launched its plus size line (1X to 3X — not a great range but is a start), they got all kinds of pushback from people who thought producing a line of clothing for larger bodies was heresy and condoning unhealthy behaviours. Whatever.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep my eye out on the Zara dress and Nike’s plus size line. It’s good to support those who produce clothing that is affordable, flexible, and meets a range of needs and sizing. While I may not go lifting with a dress, it’s possible I may go cycling in one like SamB.


Semenya’s future as champion in doubt

By MarthaFitat55

Earlier this week the Swiss Supreme Court denied Caster Semenya’s appeal of the IAAF’s decision to impose chemical modifications on the runner. Told in June that she would need to medically reduce the levels of testosterone in her body, Semenya said she would not comply and she launched an appeal of the decision.

The Swiss court had said earlier Semenya could still compete, unaltered, while a final decision was pending, but now the court has reversed that decision.

What that mans is that Semenya cannot compete in her preferred races (800 metres) because the IAAF says she she can only run in her natural state in races less than 400 metres or more than a mile in length.

With the Worlds coming in September and prep for the Tokyo Olympics next summer, there is no time for Semenya to comply with the medical demand (six months in treatment is required before she can race) even if she agreed to do it.

This is a problematic decision on a couple of fronts. One, supposing Semenya agreed to the chemical alteration while the Swiss Court continued its deliberations, if they decide to dismiss the IAAF ruling, she would have undergone medical intervention unnecessarily and perhaps negatively affecting her performance in the long term.

Two, upholding the IAAF ruling as an interim measure already gives the medical intervention some weight as a legitimate approach to dealing with individuals who have higher than expected levels of testosterone and who identify/consider themselves female.

Since the ruling only affects females (there’s no issue with males whose hormone levels don’t fall into the range considered acceptable for men), we have here another example of how medical intervention is being used to manage women’s behaviour.

Don’t get me wrong — I think there is a time and place for medical intervention when warranted. I know many people who have benefited from drug therapy and not only for mental health issues. However, we also know how often medical intervention has been used to control or modify women’s behaviour in the past, from hysteria to forced sterilization.

I think it is worth noting too, that Semenya as a black woman, is also facing a racialized challenge to her physical excellence on the track. While we may think we are more civilized in the 21st century, is the IAAF’s ruling that distant from the gynecological experiment performed on enslaved black women in the 19th century?

The IAF based its decision on limited science as discussed in this CBC article. In many respects, forcing Semenya and other athletes classified as having differences of sexual development (DDS) to undergo medical alteration through drugs is experimentation. While we have evidence documenting the effect of drugs used to aid transition from one sex to another, we have limited evidence on how above average levels of testosterone benefits athletes. To quote my earlier post on Semenya and the IAAF ruling:

There is a lot of disagreement about what the advantage means, and a key part of the legal argument put forward by Semenya’s legal team was the lack of rigour used by the IAAF in setting its standards. The CBC referenced a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal that cited several problems with the IAAF’s own methodology, and most damningly they said the IAAF’s results could not be reproduced:

“… the authors noted the criticisms of an analysis commissioned by the IAAF which found that women whose serum testosterone levels were in the top third performed significantly better than women with levels in the lowest third. Those results, Tannenbaum and Bekker claim, could not be independently reproduced, and the data does not reliably mirror the source track times of athletes from the 2011 and 2013 world championships.”

We should be worried about this latest development in the Semenya case. The value of women’s contribution and performance in sport has been questioned, with the most recent examples being the women’s World Cup in soccer, the Tour de France, and Serena William’s accomplishments in tennis. We should be asking why people, especially the men at the executive levels in sport, are afraid when women aim to be and succeed at being faster, higher, stronger? And yes, sometimes that means you will have someone who dominates a sport, like Semenya in track or Michael Phelps in swimming, but I see no effort to hobble him so others may exceed as they are doing with Semenya. Most importantly, we should be very concerned when courts and official sports bodies are making decisions, not based on science and established evidence, but on fear and emotion.

MarthaFitat55 is a writer based in St. John’s whose rage at injustice often fuels her workouts.


Walk your way to long life

There is yet another reason to add walking to your fitness toolbox.

Large pink birds walk together in various landscapes

A recently released UK study concluded brisk female walkers can as add as many as 15 to 20 years to their lives compared to slow walkers.

More importantly, the researchers found the benefits of fast walking extended across all BMI levels. The lead researcher told media that their research suggests physical activity is a better marker of life expectancy than BMI.

That’s good news for anyone whose been told to lose weight because of their BMI. In fact, in the early teens of this century, my media feed was filled with articles like this one on how BMI was used to track schoolchildren’s health.

Most of us know already how limited this marker is for measuring health, so it’s good news to have it confirmed with research. Now that we know walking, and briskly at that, is definitely good for you, how to make it happen?

I’ve been assessing my activity levels as this winter I noticed my step count had dropped significantly with the poor weather. I am fortunate that I am able to walk when my hip cooperates. I made a list of the ways I could add steps to my day:

  • When I take my car, I make sure I park at the furthest end of the lot so I can take more steps.
  • I try to take the stairs when I visit clients, assuming there aren’t security provisions preventing me from using them. Most places only have one flight, but every step helps!
  • For buildings with higher levels, I’m working on adding flights. I can now do four flights (a set of stairs between landings) at a steady pace before having to stop.
  • As I slowly return to swimming, I add loops in the therapy pool going against the current.
  • I’m researching shops close to my house so I can walk for necessities instead of taking the car.

What are the ways you add extra steps to your day?

MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s where the hills are many and the inclines steep.


Dodgeball nightmares …

Ever notice that syndrome when there’s a mention of something long forgotten, and you go “huh,” and then over the next couple of weeks, more and more articles spring up on the very same topic, just like dandelions on your lawn?

sunset water gif GIF

That’s how I feel about a recent spate of articles talking about dodgeball. I hated that game with the passion of a thousand burning suns, and here I am almost 50 years later, still shuddering at the memory.

Still, when Michelle Obama headlines a celebrity game, maybe you have to rethink your elementary and junior high horrors.

Or not. It seems dodgeball is one of those love ’em or hate ’em games (although I’m still not going to join ’em!).

Let’s look at the anti-dodgeball camp first. New research recently presented at one of the largest academic gatherings held annually addressed dodgeball as sanctioned bullying in secondary school. In an Ottawa Citizen story, lead author Joy Butler, professor of curriculum and pedagogy at the University of British Columbia said in her abstract:

“Despite the fact that many physical educators understand their vital role in helping students develop robust, equal, productive relationships and critical awareness, their practices on the ground do not always reflect this agenda. We suggest that this tension becomes sharply visible in the common practice of allowing students to play dodgeball.”

Or as co author Claire Robson told Global News: “Dodgeball is the only sport where the human body is used as a target.” On purpose, I might add, given that in some highly competitive sports contact can be accidental or even accidentally on purpose. (Am I bitter? Yes. The fact that I know rain is coming from a twitch in my right knee is thanks to a rather unpleasant collision playing basketball in the ninth grade, but I digress.)

Dodgeball, the authors of the study say, functions as tool of oppression sanctioned by gym teachers who ought to know better. Butler is blunt. She calls the game “legalized bullying.”

Not so, cry the members of the pro-dodgeball camp. The head of Dodgeball Canada went into damage control after the research made headlines. Duane Wysynski told CBC’s As It Happens that dodgeball is really about collaboration: “What we try to do with dodgeball is, especially for youth, we focus on the aspects of teamwork, strategy, of fellowship within the game, of communication on the court. And winning becomes kind of secondary at that age.”

I’m thinking that the adult dodgeplayer Wysynski wants to believe that because that’s his experience with adult teams. I’m not sure youngsters would agree entirely with that premise given that some of the youth the academic team spoke to were frank about the dynamics they saw at play. Perhaps Michelle Obama will rehabilitate the game for adults, the way ultimate frisbee is universally enjoyed as a competitive and challenging sport.

I’m not entirely convinced that dodgeball isn’t still a twisted version of musical chairs with painful shins as your reward for a hasty and painful exit. What say you, faithful readers? Is this game an exercise in strategic collaboration or is it the ninth circle of hell?

MarthaFitat55 is a dodgeball survivor who prefers instead to apply her collaborative strategies in the gym to dead lifts and squats.


Growing a human is hard work!

By MarthaFitat55

Individuals who have reproduced small humans know how hard pregnancy can be. If it’s your first there’s all kinds of things to worry about, and if it’s your second or more, there may be different things to think about.

Increasingly though, there’s been lots of public commentary about pregnancy being equal to fat and there is great pressure post birth to get rid of the baby weight as fast as possible. So on top of emotional pressures and shifts with pregnancy and childbirth, we have social pressures to look a certain way while pregnant and also to return to a one’s pre-pregnant state with a combination of diets and extremes in exercise.

I’m not saying we should become sloths when reproducing. There’s been a big shift in removing taboos about pregnancy (thank heaven’s the wearable pregnancy tent has disappeared from the pregnancy fashion closet), Lots of gestating people maintain their regular fitness regime and some even run marathons while pregnant.

All this to say I was happy to read about new research considering the impact pregnancy has on a body. The study measured the amount of energy a person can use consistently over time. The researchers concluded that:

“there is an upper limit to the amount of energy that human bodies can expend consistently over time. This limit is consistent with other work that has been done on endurance athletes who compete in shorter competitions, and nearly the same as those of people who are pregnant and lactating. Together, these two factors suggest that there’s a ceiling to the amount of energy humans can expend for a period of time—and pregnancy pushes these limits, too.”

What does this mean? In the same way athletes must take time to recover what they have expended be it endurance, strength, etc post training for an extreme competition, , pregnant women need recovery too. Doing too much, too soon post birth can impede recovery, leading to little energy available for looking after the newly minted tiny human.

It was funny to open the article with a question asking which is harder: doing the Tour de France or carrying a baby to term. The answer is both. One caveat though; the study had a small sample size. Still the conclusions are interesting and could spark greater research about the gestating body.

Image description: black and white photo of swaddled newborn baby. From Unsplash

Men playing against women in basketball strategic approach for improving women’s game

In the Good News Department, I came across a news post describing how many women’s basketball teams in the United States have practice teams composed of men for the sole purpose of making women’s teams better.

Even more wonderful is that getting on these teams is pretty competitive and the men look forward to trying out as it also improves their chances for coaching gigs and making a team elsewhere.

One of the players interviewed in the article says: “I’ll tell them, ‘Alright, you guys laugh, but one of these girls could come in here and beat every last one of you. (…) Any DI women’s player is extremely fundamentally sound, and that’s where you can get easy points and take advantage of people. You kind of have to humble yourself, put your pride aside and realize these are the most talented women basketball players in the world.”


End Game strikes some wrong notes for size acceptance

By MarthaFitat55

I’m a big fan of the Marvel Comic franchise and I eagerly awaited the final installment End Game, particularly as I have a few favorite characters, including Thor, the God of Thunder.

The author poses with a cardboard cutout of an early version of Thor.

I won’t go into any detail about the film itself in case there are still some readers out there who haven’t seen it. However it is safe to say the surviving heroes from Infinity Wars deal with grief in their own unique ways befitting their personalities and histories as we know them.

Hawkeye becomes a driven assassin; Captain America becomes a peer support leader; Black Widow is laser-focused on monitoring the world for potential threats; and Iron Man has retired to a peaceful rural life with Pepper Potts and their daughter.

Thor, on the other hand has retreated to beer, pizza, and a wastrel life of video games with his bros. The film offers grave tones suggesting a depressed, unhappy and sorrowful hero who cannot find his strength or motivation to lead.

Fair enough, many of us do use food or drink to manage our feelings, so no judgement from me on that. However, when we catch our first glimpse of Thor, he is seen as unkempt, schlumpy and fat.

In fact, there were lots of titters and guffaws at this unexpected manifestation of depression. I’ve read enough comments to see this was not an unusual response. While I appreciate Thor in the pantheon was funnier than the other heroes, it was hard to see him as a tool for mockery. And he is mocked by the people he calls his friends.

I suppose I should be grateful there was no miracle makeover, but the constant digs were unkind at best and cruel at their worst. That Thor himself feels he is a lost cause becomes apparent with his overwhelmingly relief when he learns he is still worthy enough to recall the Hammer.

I saw End Game just days before news broke that runners in the London marathon’s 7.5 hour pace group were mocked and called fat for their efforts. It was another reminder that if you don’t fit social expectations, you are not worthy. If you are interested in some other thoughts, here’s an interesting take at the Mary Sue.

What do you think? How might this story line be done more positively?