Sat with Nat · sleep

Nat confused fatigue with caffeine addiction aka CPAP year 2

Recommended soundtrack: Breathing Underwater by Metric

Folks I recently had the great joy and privilege to come home to New Brunswick after not seeing family & friends for 2 years due to travel restrictions to mitigate COVID 19.

Some Canadians, especially those of us born on the East Coast and who live somewhere else, love a good road trip. I certainly do, having made the trek from Ontario to New Brunswick regularly since 1993. Ya. That’s a lot of kilometers friends, roughly 1,600 km each way!

I was nervous about being on major highways after an 18 month hiatus. I hadn’t left London since Christmas 2019. I was worried about how achy I would be, but especially how tired I would get.

But then something unexpected happened, I didn’t get bone tired. I didn’t reach for coffee the first leg of the drive. It was after 6pm and we drove from London, Ontario to Brockville. It’s roughly 5 hours and a third of the way. It makes the second day much more reasonable.

We arrived later than expected because traffic and life. But. I wasn’t dead tired.

The next morning I got up, packed and was on the road for an hour before we grabbed coffees and breakfast. So. Weird.

The thing is, for almost 30 years, I was the walking dead in the morning. Frighteningly tired. Every. Morning.

So I drank coffee, a lot of it. I blamed a weak will, a hedonistic personality, and a myriad of other character flaws because “everyone knows” caffeine addiction makes for terrible mornings.

But. Uh. Folks. There’s something that changed since my last road trip, regular use of a CPAP machine.

It wasn’t an easy transition. I’m now thinking I’m almost to neutral about wearing it, which is tremendous progress. I definitely don’t love it but now I am appreciative of its slow but steady support of my sleep and rest.

I still love coffee but I can wait a few hours in the morning. I have become a bit of a morning person. No one is more surprised than I!

So when we drove into my parents’ dooryard I arrived tired but not a mess. It was such a huge change. I don’t know I would have noticed if it hadn’t been so long since I had a road trip and enough CPAP time to recover from a lifetime of sleep deficits.

So I am grateful for the insight and the impact of my daily sleep routine.

As you emerged from restrictions this year did you notice something new?

Natalie smiles, slightly surprised or bemused at not being tired all the time. She is in a super cute turquoise paisley dress she got for five dollars at a thrift shop. She is leaning against a pine plank wall and sees that she definitely needs a haircut but that’s ok.
Sat with Nat · walking

Nat plays tourist in her parents’ hometown of McAdam NB

I’m writing from McAdam, New Brunswick which is situated on the traditional lands of the Peskotomuhkati. Canada is renegotiating with the Peskotomuhkati as we work towards honoring the 300 year old relationship between our governments. Across the river in Maine the Peskotomuhkati have a seat in the state legislature.

On a weekend bracketed by Canada Day (July 1) and American Independence Day (July 4) it’s especially important to take steps towards Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people. The truth is settlers not only ignored our commitments in treaties/peace & friendship agreements, we allowed our governments and churches to perpetuate violence on people we agreed to treat peacefully, as equals.

In Canada we are openly starting to come to terms with the truth of residential schools. It will be a long time in seeking truth before we can get to reconciliation.

I am glad that land acknowledgments are becoming more common but I worry folks don’t think it applies to them and the land they live on. Let’s keep trying to do better.

It’s been a week of being in McAdam, working and visiting. As soon as restrictions around COVID were lifted I made the mad dash home. Partly to see family, partly to be in nature and definitely to give my adult kids a break from our 18 months of 24/7 togetherness.

I didn’t grow up in McAdam, most of my memories are visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins on weekends. Thanks to social media I’ve been able to keep a tenuous connection but I’m so grateful to be here in person.

Every walk my partner, our dog Lucy and I go down a different street or path. 3-5 walks a day mean we get to find new loops for 15, 30, 45 and 90 minute walks.

There is a fantastic walking trail around the pond next to the historic railway station. We are loving going there!

Michel & Natalie smile at the camera with the pond behind them
The McAdam Railway Station in the background behind a small island in the middle of the pond.

Plus there is the McAdam Campground on Wauklehegan Lake. So beautiful.

Lucy, the dog, looks at Michel, her human. Michel is looking across the water of the lake. It’s a gravel beach with a single wooden dock. Rounded mountains covered in evergreens in the distance.

I hope you are having moments to appreciate where you are today and also look to how we can all play a part in honoring the treaties.

Sat with Nat

Nat ponders a quiet Pride month

Recommended Soundtrack: A little Alexis from Schitt’s Creek

It’s June! It’s glorious weather! We are still in lockdown in London, Ontario, Canada. Gaaahhhh. Boring.

What is a queer, fit, feminist to do? No marches. No dancing. Perhaps socially distanced Pride run?

It’s likely a very quiet, close to home Pride season for me. I love that some of my favourite fitness companies are doing some great fundraising for Pride organizations.

This from The Under Belly (aka Jessamyn Stanley) newsletter:

HEY BELLIES,
HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

Take up space and celebrate!!
The impact of the LGBTQ+ community is immeasurable around the world:
inspiring every being to be their whole self and show all their colors.
Let’s celebrate love and bloom with pride together, in-person or virtually,
at a time when it’s needed most.For us, pride means so many things.
It means being, embracing and loving your authentic self fearlessly and
to the fullest. It means giving, showing and celebrating love in all forms.
It means understanding and supporting. It means embracing the journey.
All of which speaks to our values and who we are (hell yeah!).

Pride also means giving back and making a
positive impact in your community/communities.

In that spirit, The Underbelly is teaming up with Gender Spectrum (@gender_spectrum), a non-profit organization working to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens. We love the important work that Gender Spectrum is doing and the positive impact being made (check out these “Gender Stories” to smile, fill your heart up, and even have a good cry!). Stay tuned to our IG page (@theunderbellyyoga) for more details on how we plan to give back with Gender Spectrum”

That kind of “pink dollar” marketing can be tricky if your fitness business isn’t 24/7 2SLGBT+ positive and inclusive. This lands solid and I love this about the Under Belly!

My favourite leggings manufacturer, Point Seven Five, donates a portion of proceeds from their Pride leggings to Canadian not for profits. Another reason to love them!

From their Facebook post:

“Thanks to everyone that has purchased leggings from the Pride Collection. I was able to donate $500 to Rainbow Railroad last night!
I plan to open the shop at the end of the month, I’ll post when it’s open so you can grab your own pair.

Next one will be going to Ten Oaks Project !
Have a charity in mind? Let me know.”

Other times I see Pride related content/items from a vendor and it feels like a cash grab. Or worse, pink washing over a company that is not walking the talk of diversity and inclusion.

Have you seen some great examples of businesses walking the walk for Pride month?

Sat with Nat · yoga

Nat’s Adventures in The Underbelly

Recommended soundtrack Gimme Sympathy by Metric

It’s no secret I’ve been a fan of Jessamyn Stanley for a while now.

https://fitisafeministissue.com/2020/10/24/nat-reads-every-body-yoga-by-jessamyn-stanley/

In January she had a sale on for an annual subscription to

www.theunderbelly.com and I thought “uh yesss!”

The subscription unlocks video content that is parceled both in terms of explaining yoga postures, elements based flows, and remedies.

The first class I tried was “stiff kitty”. At just under 20 minutes it was a short class to help alleviate upper back and neck tension. My partner joined me as we went through the class.

I appreciated her frank discussion of biomedical stuff, like lifting bellies off thighs or how your hand freaks out sometimes. Jessamyn acknowledges that we do yoga in the spaces we have available to us in our bodies, no striving for perfection, rather radical self love and acceptance. I feel at home in her classes.

The time flew by as we went through a series of seated postures. Her approach to twists got me to a new awareness and engagement in my body. Pure gold. My partner and I both felt much better after the class. Yay!

Jessamyn’s delivery includes swearing. That works for me. She is an advocate for the legalization of marijuana. I live in Canada so that is not controversial for me. More than that, she shares her challenges, what she finds helpful and invites you to explore your practice with self compassion.

She is also hilarious and her wonderful sense of humour keeps me from taking myself too seriously or adding tension to my practice.

But also. Friends. She added a class in April 2021 called 1-900-sexercise and I have never felt so seen.

It’s a class about opening up hips, about feeling good about being on top, and celebrating what our bodies can do.

After having gone through a lot of the content I realized the thing that most impacted me about Jessamyn’s facilitation style is her class is ABOUT ME. Unlike other instructors who seem to be putting themselves out there demonstrating advanced postures with a smile, Jessamyn dials it down so I can try something new.

Of course she can do all kinds of amazingly impressive postures, she’s a professional athlete! But her classes are not about that, they are about you and me being on the mat, trying new things, revisiting old favourites, and taking time to care for ourselves.

My absolute favourite class is a twenty minute meditation class found in the “sprouts” section called “Open Mind”.

Jessamyn is seated facing the camera explaining that we don’t need to rush through our meditation practice.

Have you found a new way to approach exercise that is working for you?

Sat with Nat

My high blood pressure 7 year anniversary. Notes to my younger self.

Recommended soundtrack: feeling groovy by Simon & Garfunkel

My social media memories nudged me this week with a series of posts about getting a high blood pressure diagnosis.

Re-reading my first post about my thoughts and feelings

https://fitisafeministissue.com/2014/04/13/i-cant-fight-genetics-guest-post/

I wish I could whisper a few words in my younger self’s ear. I can’t change the past 7 years but maybe you know someone who can benefit from this hard earned wisdom.

Bar none, the thing that made the biggest difference was medication. When I look at the most effective and clearly linked to outcomes, the choice to take my morning pill is #1.

I wish I hadn’t worried so much about food and alcohol. I eat now pretty much how I did then but there was a lot of hand wringing and pointless worrying. I was already eating in accordance with Canada’s Food Guide. Lots of vegetables, a little grain & protein and fruit.

For alcohol, I went sober, renegotiated my relationship with alcohol, chose to drink again and feel good about how my alcohol use feels like a choice.

I’ve done lots of movement, some of it is “working out” but the thing that has stuck and remains my foundation is walking. A lot. Like 10 km a day. It feels easy. It feels sustainable and it doesn’t hurt my body.

I did not go for gastric bypass and I’m glad. My weight has fluctuated from 268 to 200 and all over the place in the last 7 years. My blood pressure remained the same. It’s my veins, not my weight, that are my challenge.

Yoga makes regular appearances in my routine and my relationship with it has blossomed into one of deep appreciation and respect.

There is no one thing that will regulate my blood pressure, it’s a complicated system. I’ve learned to chill the fuck out about a lot of things.

Having a robust social, emotional, physical and fitness support network has definitely been the best part of the past 7 years. I like to think my sharing has contributed to that great support.

So my advice, if you or someone you love is looking, is relax. Access the kinds of health services that make sense to you. Figure out the small things you can change and sustain. And then chill. The. Fuck. Out.

It really works!

A picture of Natalie smiling with her progressive lenses on and much longer hair than she’s had in a very long time. And look at that smile.
equipment · Sat with Nat

Seasonal Maintenance

Recommended listening: Just Dropped In (to see what condition my condition was in) by Kenny Rogers

Approaching the end of winter I noticed my gear and myself look a bit haggard. So I took some time to mend coats, darn mittens, and put mink oil on leather footwear.

Two mid calf brown leather boots are laying sideways covered in dirt and salt
These eight year old Blundstones are looking a bit rough.

At the beginning of winter and mid-season is a good time to take care of winter gear. It is a nemonic for me to check in on myself and reflect on movement and nutrition.

After the mink oil is applied the boots are supple, waterproof, and looking like they are good for a few more seasons.

I’m grumpy but no more so than is usual for me this time of year. I’m achy and that is educating me on why so many Canadians seek warmer places each winter. Overall, I’m doing not too bad.

This past February, thanks to the right gear and work-from-home flexibility, was the first February my step count didn’t take a major hit. With our dog Lucy motivating us and my beloved’s devotion to his step goal we sloshed through slush and tip-toed across ice to keep our 10 km daily treks going.

Our routine needs little maintenance as inertia keeps us rolling. I have noticed I’m slipping on keeping a lunchtime free of meetings. Some days I work later than I mean to. It’s easy to get pulled in to taking boundaries for granted.

So I took a vacation day yesterday and finished up small, lingering household to-do things like conditioning leathers. It was grounding and soothing. I thought of my dad and how he taught me to sharpen knives and maintain my garden tools and footwear. I look forward to seeing him in person (hopefully soon!).

These are small things that mean my gear and myself will be our best and be around for a good long time.

Natalie stares at the camera half smiling  Michel peers over her shoulder   The sun is bright behind them but they still have toques and thick coats on
Sunny day selfies are my favourite, especially when I don’t need a parka!

Do you do specific things this time of year?

Sat with Nat · walking

Taking steps to bridge the distance

Recommended Soundtrack: The Distance by Cake, Stuck Here Again by L7, Walk by The Foo Fighters

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media & connection during the past month. The link between me, the writer, and you, the reader, and how these delicate tendrils of connection join us in this moment. It’s wondrous and powerful stuff in these times of social distance.

The song by Cake, about going the distance, sums up the past 11 months for me. There has been a serious lack of speed and connection.

I have written a lot about walking since August. It’s been a gift even as my partner, our dog, and I shuffle through the finite sets of loops from our house, feeling stuck here again.

Somewhere along the way it became a bit of a running joke that I’d try to take a selfie with my sweetheart and the dog. It started as a photojournal of the days so I could have a sense of time passing. It’s become so much more:

“After reading about your step goals I started a 30 minute a day goal…”

“I love seeing your walk pictures, it reminds me to go out…”

“Thank you for the laugh and the nudge that it’s not too cold out…”

The messages have been coming pretty regularly that a silly photo of us on a walk is a gentle reminder to my friends that:

-we all need movement

– there can be joy on the hardest days

– every step can connect us to our goals

It’s that bit of connection as we learn to walk in the winter again, finding our footing and each other over social media.

It’s not a hug or a shared meal but it is a subsistence trickle of connection based on a snapshot of a moment. I think part of it is the everyday, not-epic-at-all nature of the photo. When taken in context of a couple hundred days it is impactful.

I’m still here, you’re still there. Our time in this moment is fleeting. What will you do next to sustain your sense of connection?

I’ll probably call my mom or my sister. I’ll then go for a walk and post a picture about it.

Natalie smiles at the camera, wearing a knit grey toque, knit green mittens and yellow crocheted cowl. yes, she made those herself and is totally bragging about it. In the background her partner Michel is a blur in his grey toque and brown leather jacket. Their 40 pound dog is excitedly grabbing Michel’s arm wondering why everyone is indulging in a selfie when it’s cold and dark out and we really should be on our way.
Sat with Nat · WOTY

Nat’s Word of the Year is Rest

Recommended Soundtrack: Lay Me Down by Loretta Lynn featuring Willie Nelson

I thought about a lot of things I could focus on in 2021. While I thought restore, recover, re-emerging, recharge…what I really need is to rest.

For folks like me, who are privileged to work from home, there is a real problem of overwork. Even when I’m mindful of the hours I work it’s the pace & intensity that has really ramped up. No more casual coffee with colleagues after a meeting. They can be booked literally back to back.

There’s also the emotional work of supporting folks and it is exponentially more intense and frequent. Both in my paid work and social life. There seems to always be that one more thing I can do.

Many times in 2020 I would get to the weekend and sleep. Sometimes a whole day punctuated with 2-3 hour naps and a loss of interest in anything.

One thing that has drastically improved is my sleep schedule. Keeping the same routine regardless of the day has me now routinely getting 8 hours of sleep.

I fall asleep quickly & sleep soundly until the morning. I’m less groggy. No more 2 am wake ups. I sleep until 6. It’s marvelous.

So I want to keep this newfound bounty of sleep. More than that I want to honour the pace of my body, the need for rest, relaxation and not being productive.

When I rest I can meet the next challenge fresh. I can tap a reserve of energy for a big push.

My fitness plans are waking, yoga and cycling. Nothing epic, nothing impressive because I will need time to recoup from 2020 and be sure I don’t wring myself out in 2021.

I don’t need to justify my existence by being productive or impressive or inspiring. I need to take care of myself like a good friend would.

I’ve really enjoyed reading the other words folks have picked this year. Are you up for picking a word? What will it be?

Natalie smiles with her eyes closed while her beloved gives her a kiss. Thank you to Ruthless Images for our wonderful photos.
new year's resolutions · Sat with Nat

Nat’s 2021 Stop Doing List

Recommended Soundtrack: This One’s For The Ladies (THAT LUNGE!) by Rufus Wainwright…trust me

A million years ago I wrote My 2017 Stop Doing List. I’m a big fan of keeping commitments and tasks to the minimum required to get results but struggle to find balance. Maybe it’s because I’m tired? Or overcommit? Or am ridiculously optimistic about what I can do?

Whatever the cause, I often notice my plate gets too full. I remember to add new things but forget to stop doing other things to make room. Then I get tired. And cranky. And overwhelmed. And anxious. And depressed. Seriously not good. Sooooo here’s my new & improved Stop Doing List for 2021!

Stop letting my expectations get away from me

I’m highly creative and that means I can imagine all kinds of things but it also means I can accidentally set too high of expectations that I can’t meet. So. Smaller, achievable, incremental goals this year.

Stop comparing myself to others

I’m on my own fitness/wellness journey. I can learn a lot from others but this isn’t a competition, it’s a collaboration.

Stop and think before taking a new thing on.

Is this something I’m passionate about? Is it in line with my goals? What opportunity cost does this have?

Stop limiting myself

That sounds like a direct contradiction to other stopping steps but it is about not artificially limiting myself. I thought a lot about What I have achieved in 2020. I’ve learned I overestimate what I can do in a day but underestimate what I can do in a month/year/remainder of my life.

What do you think?

Are you able to balance building on your strengths & the familiar with trying new things? How do you do that?

I’d love to hear about your perspective.

Photo credit Ruthless Images. Headshot of Natalie outside and backlit from the sun. She is smiling and feeling pretty good about life in general.

holidays · motivation · Sat with Nat

Reflecting on vulnerability, resilience, and limits

Recommended Soundtrack: Free Your Mind by En Vogue

I don’t remember exactly when I realized I was at higher risk of COVID 19 complications than others my age. Sleep apnea, asthma, high blood pressure, and weight are all factors in folks outcomes. As a result I got quite risk averse in the summer and as it turned to fall the second wave started. I didn’t ride my bike outside. When restrictions loosened in my community I kept my own restrictions in place.

This awareness of my own vulnerability and that of people I know & love really impacted me. It shook free the last bits of invulnerability I had left.

That vulnerability feels at odd with how incredibly resilient you and I have been. If you told me last March I would work from home for a year and do it well I would have laughed. Not possible! Nope! Me? Arguably the most social person on the planet, working AT HOME ALONE? Unfathomable, yet that’s exactly what I’m doing.

We’ve experienced loss of loved ones, friends, and anticipate more loss. Economic impacts, the loss of social rituals, group activities…

And yet, there are so many things we’ve learned this year and changed. From hand washing and social distancing to the benefits/limits of technology to connect us.

I learned I can stick to an exercise routine and dial in my nutrition. Working at home and not going out with friends brought those two components into sharp focus.

I’ve learned I can walk more, stretch more, sleep better, and be more present in my life. That’s mighty powerful stuff.

The upheaval of the year and my responses to it have made me realize something profound about self imposed limits, especially around fitness.

By reflecting on all I learned and what I’ve changed, I realized it’s time to let those limits go. It’s humbling and scary to realize there are a great many things I can do when I need to.

Michel in the foreground and Natalie in the background, arms up in a celebratory pose at the end of a 5 km Christmas Day walk. It’s a snowstorm and Natalie is knee deep in snow.

So while I’m cleaning up from the holidays I’m packing up old ideas of constraints and limits. Yes. There’s risks and vulnerability and things I need to do to be safer during a global pandemic. There’s also a whole lot of potential to do radically different things. New scripts. New connections. New ways of moving through the world. Most importantly, new priorities.

I don’t know how this ruminating will impact how &. when I move my body but I’ll be sure to share where I’m at in January.

Head to toe shot of Natalie in a snow covered field. Her parka is open so she can show off her super cute orange knit sweater, the hem of a new merino wool camisole and new grey mukluks.

For now I’m feeling hopeful and confident in facing the coming weeks. After all, looking back over the year, I dealt with a lot and am the better for it.