Recovering fitness post COVID

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. 

Red sneakers climbing up blue stairs, Unsplash

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.



Top trends in fitness lists, tips, and tricks

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.

Image shows a calendar with a pencil. Photo by Hope House Press – Leather Diary Studio on Unsplash

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:

  1. Goals (setting goals, tracking goals, and evaluating goals)
  2. Motivation (positive self talk, asking for help, having a health and fitness buddy, rewards)
  3. Nutrition (what to eat, when to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, how to shop)
  4. Drink (how much water to drink, switching from coffee to tea, soda to sparkling water, reduced to no alcohol)
  5. 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:

  1. Setting goals
  2. Moving everyday
  3. Getting enough sleep
  4. Drinking water
  5. Eating good food
  6. Doing a variety of things
  7. Staying motivated

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
  • Quit coffee
  • Eat more protein
  • Eat green
  • Eat mindfully
  • Don’t diet

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:

  1. Don’t diet.
  2. Move every day.
  3. Have fun.
  4. Get good sleep.
  5. Go outside

What would be in your top five?

MarthaFitat55 is w writer and listmaker who enjoys powerlifting, yoga, and swimming,


New policy on white sports clothes

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.

Image shows three women against a brick wall. They are wearing sports tops in different colours and black shorts. Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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.


Exercise after COVID

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.

ID: Grumpy cat staring angrily represents my mood accurately. Photo by Cyrus Chew on Unsplash

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:

  1. Make sure you have rested and are symptom-free. Even with mild cases, fatigue is a serious consideration.
  2. Ease back into your fitness routine, regardless of your fitness level. This article recommends trying gentle activities and assessing how your body feels.
  3. If your lungs were affected in a significant way, cardio type exercises should be avoided in the short term.
  4. Watch your heart rate. If you feel light headed or your symptoms recoccur and/or get worse, get checked out.
  5. 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.

Image shows a colour coded grid listing five stages of recovery. Source:

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.


Putting your feet to the beat

Early in January, blog co founder Tracy Isaacs pulled together a group blog post on our words of the year, those words or phrases which will anchor us in our daily practice. I chose imagine for 2023. I wrote:

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.

ID: A black and white photo shows two people dancing outside. Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

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.



New year, new you, who dis?

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.

Sometimes it feels like changing stuff at work is easier than changing ourselves. However we can change our mindset about how we want to approach making changes in our lives when it comes to activity. Some of us will schedule the time in our calendar and protecting that time so other priorities don’t take it over. In fact, I wrote about using that approach to make fitness a priority in my schedule here back in December 2019.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.  
  5. 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.


How to shovel safely and fitly

As winter storm season begins on mainland Canada in the northern hemisphere, I thought it would be a good idea to remind you of the fitness benefits and safety issues arising from snow removal.

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash Image shows a figure silhouetted in blowing snow.

Last January I looked at the dearth of research on women and snow removal. Check out the full post or if you woke up to a metric tonne of snow, here are a few tips for you:

  1. As you would with any other strenuous exercise, warm up your muscles before you start.
  2. Dress appropriately. Dress in layers as you will sweat. Wear a hat to keep heat in.
  3. Assess any potential danger (piles of snow on the roof of your porch, your car, or trees). Also look at where you plan to throw your snow. Be kind to your neighbours.
  4. Use a shovel that works with your height and use one that is not too heavy to start with.
  5. Take frequent breaks, stretch, and hydrate.
  6. Remember to watch your back: Bend your knees and engage your abs when you’re lifting that shovel full of snow!

Building a FIFI Playlist

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.

The image shows three silhouetted figures dancing against a deep orange sunset. Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

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:

  1. Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq get your blood racing with You Got To Run (Spirit of the Wind).
  2. K’Naan’s Wavin’ Flag, the unofficial anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup is perfect for getting you stomping.
  3. Arcade Fire’s Rebellion (Lies) is a great way to warm up.
  4. I heard this remix in one of the more surreal episodes of Ted Lasso. I had to go look it up and I always start my Friday rocking it out to Martin Solveig and Dragonette’s Hello.
  5. Great Big Sea has a ton of excellent dancing songs but this one never fails to get me going. Ordinary Day makes a fit break extraordinary.
  6. Alice Merton has a lovely edgy vibe in No Roots.
  7. Who can resist Joan Armatrading? I can’t. Drop the Pilot must be on a half dozen of my playlists.
  8. Sometimes when you are in a stomping mood, only Patti Smith’s People Have the Power will do.
  9. I was lucky enough to see Iggy Pop in concert years ago and while this version of Lust for Life doesn’t compare to seeing him perform live, it still gets me up out of my chair.
  10. Finally, when you need that extra boost to your whole mood, listen and watch this fabulous video by Bomba Estero (So Yo — I’m Me) featuring a delightfully defiant and confident young female person.

MarthaFitat55 is always looking for an opportunity to dance her feet off.


Fat, fit and fashionable? Not quite

In the last couple of weeks, Sam and Catherine have written about the no-buy project they started July 1. I joined in, because why not? I have been working on being a more aware consumer, looking at limiting my carbon footprint, and reducing waste, recyling more, and repurposing what and where I can.

I have so far stuck to my goal and made only two unplanned purchases. After I rolled my ankle pretty badly in August, I was advised to wear shoes with proper support for my active days. I ended up buying a pair of heavy duty walking shoes and a decent pair of workshop shoes. I was assured this was an acceptable exception.

Truth be told, the no-buy challenge has meant I haven’t bought shoes. Sure I bought two pairs as a result of my rolled ankle, but they were serviceable, not pretty. I really love shoes. It hasn’t escaped me while I am stuck with size limits when it comes to fashionable clothing, footwear doesn’t really discriminate against anyone. There’s no plus-size shoe section with dull colours. No one says you can’t wear a slingback if you are a size 18; no one has pronounced an edict against Lizzo for her fantastic heels.

My other unplanned purchase came on holiday. A friend took my mother and me shopping. I bought a top and my mom bought one for my birthday. I had a pang when I realized I had broken my no-buy pact but the fact is where I live it’s hard to buy nice clothes for the curvy body I have been blessed with and I was really happy to find something lovely that made me feel good when I wore it and didn’t cost me my first-born. I realized that often I buy clothing because it fits, it’s reasonable, and is available not because I feel good in it.

So when Sam shared this article about progress vis-a-vis curvy models and plus-size clothing, I was intrigued and puzzled. Apparently, there’s been a resurgence in fashion houses focusing on very sleek, lithe, very flat bodies with prominent ribs and pronounced abs. While there has been an increase in designer clothes offering plus sizes, they tend to stop at size 20, and the curvy models they have been showing on the catwalk are around size 12 or 14 (think Marilyn Monroe). Some chain stores like Old Navy have stopped carrying plus sizes in-store and online access has been challenging as well.

Haute couture has focused on how the fabric looks on the human body. It certainly can inspire and support innovation. However, we cannot ignore the fact that fashion’s extreme focus on thin, almost anorexic models has been a constant. What’s still most attractive, most acceptable, and most desirable are not rolls, folds, and soft bellies but sleek limbs with tight planes and angles.

We also know that in many spaces, training and fitness activities are not seen as a path to wellness but as the route to thinness. We may be seeing defined abs on the catwalk but with what effect? If only certain bodies can meet the criteria for what is fashionable, what does it mean for those bodies who do not? And by extension whose communities are represented and whose are ignored?

One of the things I really like about the article is that it recognizes the complexity of the issue. We need more conversations on what this means for fitness, body image, consumerism, and representation. We need more choices we can consciously buy into on multiple levels.


MarthaFitat55 is enjoying all the things she’s learning.


How much water should we drink to be hydrated? (Round II)

A little over two years ago I wrote a post about how much water we should be drinking. You can find it here.

Image shows a household tap with drops of water falling. Photo by Jos Speetjens on Unsplash

Recently NPR posted a myth-busting article about water myths and human bodies. The five myths they tackle include:

  • Myth #1: You need to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Myth #2: Caffeine makes you dehydrated.
  • Myth #3: We need sports drinks to replace salt and other electrolytes.
  • Myth #4: Drinking water can help you lose weight.
  • Myth #5: Dark-colored pee means you’re dehydrated.

I knew about the first one and the third, and had held suspicions about the second. The rest however surprised me. In fact, I thought I had heard all the tropes about weight loss but drinking water to lose weight was one I had not heard of.

The article does a nice job explaining some of the latest research findings and evidence to debunk the myths, always a useful approach given the misinformation we can encounter in health, fitness, wellness, and nutrition.

MarhaFitat55 is always interested in reliable health information we can use.