Feminist reflections on fitness, sport, and health
Author: natalieh (she/her)
Fat feminist 47 yr old mother of 2 adults who loves her high energy life partner of over 25 years. I love moving my body and walk wherever I can. I sometimes ride my road bike, do yoga, lift weights and other shenanigans.
Over a month ago my friend and colleague Freda offered to be my gym accountability buddy. She asked if I was a morning person. I think I forgot to answer “no”!
I agreed to meeting at 6:15 am Tuesdays and Wednesdays at our office gym. It’s marvelously compact, clean and, at that time of day, sparsely populated.
No, I haven’t magically “become a morning person”. I have, when needed, done 5:30 am triathlon workouts in college. Ew! I’ve had physical training for the military at 6 am. Ya. Done with that. No voluntary boot camp classes for this retired Captain. I get paid to be yelled at, not the other way around!
I am trying to say “yes” more to new things to get out of a serious rut/funk that I have been settling into.
Couple things though. It’s year end at work. That’s writing and delivering performance assessments. My work involves supporting teams to place as much business as possible before the end of the calendar year. Hectic!
Plus that one little thing, buying and moving into a house. VERY HECTIC.
I decided that I would stick to my workouts, even on my days off work for moving. I needed to know that in the middle of all the chaos I had something I could 100% do.
It worked wonders for my anxiety. Knowing there was one thing I absolutely could do was a touchstone to my day, my week…my last month really. Knowing I can make plans, follow through and see gains proves to my anxiety I actually can do many things and handle busy time quite well, thank you very much!
So for me the tired adage of “when you are too busy to workout you definitely should workout” is true. Does that work for you?
It’s been 13 years since I have last moved. I was more than a bit nervous I’d injure myself. Am I tired? Heck yes! Sore? Most definitely! But definitely just fatigue. I’m so grateful.
What were the keys to getting through an epic move without getting hurt?
My partner, adult children, my sister and brother-in-law pitched in. Many hands meant no one person had to push themselves too hard.
I was able to pay a painter and order take-out. Outsourcing two key tasks meant I could focus on packing and moving.
I’ve been back at the gym twice a week for a few weeks. Getting a full range of motion and engaging muscles helped me be aware of when I could or could not lift something.
The right equipment
My sister Anj ensured we used a dolly to good effect on the heaviest items. She knew to use grippy gloves and how to work smart. I’m so grateful for her expertise!
A multiphase, multi day approach
Our house closed on Nov 16 and our rental was paid until Nov 30. We took full advantage of the two weeks to get things done. Moving some boxes each day meant the “big move” day was focused on furniture.
All the feelings, all the time!
Despite all that there were many challenging moments on the big day. Oh. And I definitely got my period so was not feeling great. I definitely cried a few times in frustration and because of anxiety.
Post move chiropractic care
I had our regular appointments set for the Monday after our moving day. It allowed me to check in with my body and I was surprised I didn’t have any injuries. Not bad for functional fitness at 48!
In a world of fitness influencers there’s a lot that distinguishes Hampton of Hybrid Calisthenics. He’s funny and kind which I really enjoy.
I especially appreciate his approach to learning new movements and exploring discomfort with curiosity. Rather than encouraging people to push through pain Hampton offers ways to build strength and flexibility while preventing or recovering from injury.
The exercises demonstrated rarely require equipment and he always offers practical ways to get support from chairs, walls and railings.
Hampton also encourages folks to start with small amounts of exercise and build over time. His focus on functional fitness and reducing injury and pain are a welcome counterpoint to videos of shocking makeovers. He offers good advice!
Have you stumbled upon a fitness personality that you find warm, welcoming and inclusive? Please tell us about them!
Recommended Listening: Thunder by Imagine Dragons (be sure to get your thighs jiggling and wiggling for the bridge and chorus)
Oh friends, the size inclusive clothing ads have found me and I couldn’t be happier. It’s cooling off here in even the warmest part of Ontario. It’s sweater weather. It’s cozying under a blanket on the couch in an oversized hoodie weather. It’s Canadian Thanksgiving with turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry everything weather. There is nothing better than getting into clothes just for me after a workout or my paid work where other things drive my clothing choices.
In the summer ads from https://www.thundathighs.ca/ started popping up in my social media. They were thigh high socks for thighs like mine. I am a short plus sized human and my thighs are especially generous. Early in puberty they plumped up and have never looked back. It makes finding leggings, pants, nylons…anything on my bottom half hard to find a good fit. BUT THESE MODELS HAD MY THIGHS! and those socks, well they are cute, comfy and sexy AF.
Even better, these lovely things are available in Canada. I bought 3 pairs and they look as good as the website photos in real life.
I love that the company reclaimed “thunder thighs”, it’s something I’ve been working on. I have very strong legs that have helped me walk, cycle, swim and lift a lot. And when they slap together or jiggle I think of a thunder clap. Like She Hulk or a storm, it’s the sound of power. You can now switch your recommended listening to Thunderstruck by AC/DC if that makes you smile.
Some of the appeal is about wearing clothes I didn’t get to when I was younger. These socks were not on my radar in the 1990s! It’s also about bucking the norms about what a plus sized woman in her late forties “should” wear and who gets to feel cozy/sexy/confident.
My thighs have been feeling all the love this fall in cute skirts and dresses that I paired with Snag leggings and tights . Friends, they also carry fishnets and mock garter tights for all my occasions. More sexy things that fit? YES PLEASE.
My recent thigh love resurgence started last month working out with Lizzo. She is everywhere these days from playing a 200 year old crystal flute while twerking to dropping a new release of her clothing. In her recent tiktok of garter leggings she gets the thunder thighs going. Spoiler, I’m definitely going as Lizzo for Halloween even if it’s just around the house 😉
Finding size inclusive clothing that I actually like the look of and find comfortable to wear has been a loooooong time coming. It helps me feel good in my skin and I’m very thankful for that!
I haven’t been on my Peloton since the spring. I agreed to give it a go after my vacation. So, yes, I am late to the game, not only for the Artist Series workout but Lizzo in general.
One of my roller derby friends recommended I watch Lizzo’s reality TV show on Prime, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. She loved it. I was leery as I don’t enjoy the mean things that are the backbone of unscripted shows.
I watched it and totally fell in love with Lizzo. How did I not know her music before? I listen to mostly metal, rock and Canadian indie music. Well, I’m a fan now.
The show is an extended audition for dancers to join Lizzo’s touring troupe. It was great to see all of the athleticism, fashion and choreography. There was the sprinkling of unnecessary drama but it was 5% of the airtime.
The show also functions as a promotion of Lizzo’s newest album and her tour. It does a great job showcasing her songs and artistic persona.
Most importantly, and fitness related (I’m getting there!), is Lizzo’s message about body positivity. She explicitly states in each episode that working out is not to loose weight but to be strong to perform and live life. She encourages us all to enjoy our embodiment, revel in our grace, sexiness and “having the juice!”
Now on to the Peloton class. Peloton is working hard at shifting its brand to be more inclusive, reach new audiences and stay financially viable. The business model is built on a foundation of selling stationary bikes, treadmills, athletic wear, and monthly subscriptions.
One way to select workouts is by music genre and there are several class releases in their Artist Series where all songs are from a single artist. There’s been Queen, Def Leppard and David Bowie to name a few. Yes, the ones I noticed totally tell you all the demographic info you need to know about me. The Artist Series is a business partnership where Peloton and the Artist/their label get to draw on each other’s clout for mutual benefit. You can “like” the songs in class and tie that to your music streaming service.
So with many, many, many Artist Series classes already recorded, Lizzo’s stands out because she joined the cycling class and brought a subset of The Big Grrrls with her. The energy and enthusiasm she brought to the workout was awesome.
I took the class in September to realize the livestream had technical issues back in July. Lizzo broke the internet and I totally recognized the dancers!
Lizzo’s body is not the build Peloton usually features in ads and classes. All of their instructors are either lean or very muscular with very low body fat. While they do recruit a diverse cast for ethnicity, the age range is tightly dialed in, no seniors as instructors.
It was great to see Lizzo moving on the bike the way I do, breasts bouncing around, belly swaying and thighs undulating. Watching her reality tv show, listening to her music and watching her perform, whether in a workout or on stage, has seriously improved my self confidence. I’m wearing crop tops in public and feeling awesome!
Recommended Soundtrack: These Boots Are Made For Walking
Friends, I’ve had a 30 plus year habit of steaming down the 401 highway from Ontario to my home province of New Brunswick to kick off vacation. From college days in Kingston in the 90s to the last ohhh 17 years from London. The goal, get the frick home as fast as possible.
This year, I’m trying something different. The Friday night of the last day of work I took a nap. A glorious 90 minute nap to start my vacation.
Instead of frenetic activity and getting on the highway as early as possible Friday night or Saturday morning I just took it easy.
We had a change in plans Saturday that opened up the day. No timing to meet. No one waiting on us. Just a hotel in a town between Montréal and Québec and all day to get there.
We leisurely packed in the morning and got underway sometime after 9:30 am. This was unheard of in previous years.
The traffic was. Well. Unrelenting. Fully understanding I am also traffic, I’d never been on the 401 near Toronto midday on a long weekend. It was so busy. We joked it was an exercise in patience.
Our toodling eventually got us to Victoriaville PQ around 8 pm. It was getting dark so we grabbed a bit to eat at a microbrewery. There was live music downtown and streets were full of people. It was awesome.
The next morning, instead of rushing to get back on the highway, we went for breakfast at a diner and took a hike on the Four Seasons trail on Mount Arthabasca.
It was a beautiful 3 km trail. I had accidentally driven us to the top of the mountain instead of starting at the base. It turned out to be perfect as we took the more challenging part of the trail down l. We sauntered the way around the mountain on maple syrup access roads and east trails. Well maple sap tap collection lines, it’s boiled down to make syrup.
We finished our hike on top of the mountain. It was perfect weather with amazing vistas.
We saw runners and mountain bikers on adjacent trails. I loved how everyone had their own paths.
We then headed off to our last leg of driving. We arrived refreshed and ready to visit. Our back feeling good for the 1,300 km trip we had just driven.
I loved making the drive part of the vacation and getting some activity in as well. I’m not going to lie, it was painful to shift gears and be less goal oriented.
Have you tried a new approach to vacations before? How did it go?
Recommended Soundtrack: Robots by Flight of the Conchords, Mr. Roboto by Styxx, Robot Rock by Daft Punk
I purchased a rumba vacuum. Yes, I am very late to vacuum automation. It was only recently that a purchase like that was even conceivable for me, the cost wasn’t something that seemed achievable until now.
I have to admit it was the gentle cajoling of my sister that her robot did a great job and with the pets and humans in my life this would really help. She loved her robot vacuum and another good friend had offerd up her research and analysis. I was sold on the idea.
I named mine Romeo so that when it got stuck I could quip “Wherefore art thou Romeo?”. It’s the same reason our dog is named Lucy…”Lucy, I’m HOME!” I am a simple creature when it comes to comedy.
One night, as I was chopping vegetables for dinner, I couldn’t stop smiling as the robot whirred away down the hall. My beloved put the laundry on and the dishwasher was sloshing away at the lunch and breakfast dishes. I thought a lot about Hans Rosling’s great TED talk on The Magic Washing Machine.
He argued that liberating women’s time from manual house hold tasks led to better child development and education outcomes. If you haven’t heard his talks before I highly recommend them all. He passed away a number of years ago and his talks still hold up.
I know what it takes to wash clothes by hand without running water. Whether during long camping trips to military exercises where we were in the bush longer than I could stand the smell of my combats, grating soap, scrubbing with a washboard or on rocks then wringing by hand takes time. I still remember my maternal grandmother’s wringer washer in her yard next to the clothesline with the hose draped into it. We would tag team the wringing and hanging. It was an all day affair. Automation in clothes washing means a scant few minutes sorting and loading the machine then flipping the load into dryer. Folding takes mere minutes. The best part is not needing to mind the laundry, unlike in the wringer washer, so other activities can happen.
The same with dishes, loading takes a moment and other things can happen while the water sloshes around in the magic box. I find the same with my robot vacuum. It does a bang up job, far better than what I did. My floors are squeaky clean, I’ve raised my standards. Those standards had to be lowered before because I simply wasn’t able to get the cleaning done to a point where we were pet hair free. It seemed impossible.
So now I do spend some time managing the robot, figuring out how to optimize clean and keep out zones, designing routines and some maintenance. Overall though those tasks take way less time than the manual sweeping and vacuuming I had been doing.
Automation and task sharing with my partner and our youngest kid (who is 20!) have helped me find more time for reading, writing, drawing, making music and, hopefully, working out regularly.
I am spending a lot of time in the garden weeding, watering, pruning, planting, harvesting and, well, enjoying the beauty and bounty of my naturalized space.
Will automation allow me more time for working out? I don’t know but my house is the much cleaner for it!
Has automation of household tasks helped you do more things?
Recommended Soundtrack: Bet on Me by Walk off the Earth
The weather has turned warmer and I’m loving spending whole days on the weekend in the garden digging, weeding and planting.
The time has to come from something so I’ve stopped doing indoor workouts. The idea of spending any time inside when I don’t have to hurts my brain.
I love taking my coffee in the morning outside. Walking the dog is so much more pleasant when the neighbourhood is in bloom.
I’m so thankful my body is able to shift gears to doing something I love. Digging in the dirt, the smell of the plants, it’s so revitalizing.
I know by the time it gets truly hot and we are well into summer I’ll shift away from the gardening to other things. I’m inconsistent in the short term. Every spring I put energy in to my garden though so taking a longer view there is consistency.
Indoor training feels good in the winter and early spring. I’ll be back to it sometime later. It works for me.
I looked back at all the different activities I engaged with over the years. I’m consistently active, but what that is varies a lot.
I used to feel bad that I can’t stick with one thing longer than three or four months. Now I appreciate that there is always something different to come.
My health and well-being are supported by all this activity and that is pretty dang cool.
Are you someone who is consistent with working out? I’d love to hear about your rhythm of activities.
I’ve been writing the past few months about my newfound love of stationary cycling. The first month was all about adapting to the bike and classes, the second month was about gaining some confidence and experience. The third month I decided to try a structured program.
I chose “Discover Your Power Zones”. It uses a 20 minute maximum effort spin to determine your average power. You then work through a 5 week training program that culminates in a second test to see how your body has responded to training.
I had turned on the power zone option on my dashboard. It estimated my output to be 190 watts based on my age and weight. I did my test and hit 119 watts. Way lower. Dang!
The five week program has progressive workouts each week. The zones started feeling easier to maintain the end of week three. I was pumped to see the difference after a relatively short time.
The classes were challenging yet achieve able. I was nervous the day of my week five Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. I had to jump off the bike to pee after my warm up. My throat was tight. I didn’t expect that to happen.
Having been in the military I have a complicated history with fitness tests. But it surprised me that this test had me anxious. No one was watching or evaluating. I could delete the workout or reject the results. There was only me to impress.
I worked through the anxiety and put forth my best effort. My latest FTP is 147 watts. A significant increase from five weeks ago. It’s kind of magical in the first few months of training the impressive gains we can make.
My body does respond to conditioning. I’m feeling good on the bike. Did I lose a bunch of weight or drastically alter my appearance? No.
Do I feel stronger, more confident and utterly badass? You bet I do!
Maybe it’s fear of failure. Maybe it’s about being the fat chick at the back of the pack. Maybe my brain is full of metrics for my paid work. I never cared much for tracking fitness metrics. Steps. Sure. My phone does that.
But the Apple Watch ring thing? My partner LOVES IT. It’s his hit of happy to chase and win fitness challenges. Me, not so much.
But it turns out I do like little achievements. Peloton measures so many aspects and has so many little milestones it’s hard to go a week without getting a few.
Since I’m not chasing them it feels a bit random when a whole class high gives me. Huh. Wonder why? Oh that was my 75th ride. Hilarious!
The workout minutes is fun to see how little choices add up. In March, on the 31st I finished a Power Zone ride and checked if I hit Gold for cycling distance. Nope! Just under 4km short. Sooooo I DEFINITELY did a 10 minute cooldown ride instead of 5 minutes to hit the distance. Why? It felt achievable and it was the first month that felt that way. Cool!
More than the little badges, I’ve been able to cycle hard enough to get sweaty. Finally!
I’m riding longer, easily hitting an hour in the saddle. I’m able to do rides on back to back days. No more glute or tail bone pain. Amazing!
I also have a personal rule, are we doing the class at the same time? You get a high-five. You hit a milestone? High-five! You pass me on the leaderboard? You hecking bet you are getting a high-five. And when I get a high-five it feels just a bit like being out on a group ride. And that feels AMAZING.