Sat with Nat · walking

Nat navigates walking to work in a Polar Vortex

It’s been a week of proper cold winter weather in London, Ontario. I live on the little southern bit of Canada wedged between the Great Lakes. It rarely drops below-20C here but when it does it tends to be because the Arctic airmass slips south into the jet stream and it stays that way for a week or two.

Some Canadians lean into the weather quipping “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just not dressing for the weather,” That supposes everyone has both the means to acquire the right clothing & equipment as well as the knowledge to know what to buy, how to wear it and when to stay indoors.

My partner and I are fairly committed to walking to work as part of our fitness and reducing our carbon footprint. I’m also terribly cheap and hate paying $8-12 a day to park my clunker.

Some days we just bundled up with hats, mitts, good boots and faces covered.

A close up of Nat’s face framed by a fake fur hood. You can just make out her eyes between her grey toque and bright orange face cover

My hood is always up when it’s -24C plus wind chill.

We did walk 2/5 days this week but we also chose to drive when the “feels like” temperature hit -39C. It was a week of driving in a cold car, working in a cold office and wearing layers of clothes in the house & in bed.

Brrrrrr

This type of cold weather wrecks havoc on batteries so for folks using electric mobility devices like scooters it was a week of being home. Waiting for buses became so hazardous school transportation was cancelled Thursday.

I think one way we can debunk toxic masculinity is calling out ideas of being able to “tough out” the weather. Sure, there are times to dig deep into your resolve to overcome obstacles. And yes, making our lives consciously more physically challenging can be a way to enhance our fitness. But those ideas must also be balanced against safety and wellbeing.

So I’m ok getting the lift offered by a friend on a snowy afternoon as I walk home. I’m ok driving when I might otherwise risk frostbite. I have been looking for rain pants and insulated snow pants that fit for about 5 years to no avail.

I would like some though so if you know where a woman can find women’s size 20 or XXXL I’d love to hear about it!

family · fat · feminism · Sat with Nat · yoga

Nat ponders being the crying woman in pigeon pose

I’m laying face down on my mat in Sleeping Pigeon with tears streaming down my face. I’ve been there for 3 minutes or so as the tendons unfurl in the heated yoga studio and I cry.

I’ve learned I carry tension about work in my neck and shoulders but worries and stress about my family are in my hips. I joke sometimes that my family is literally the pain in my ass.

I’m in a yin yoga class thanks to my friend & neighbour Kim. We visit on the walk to and from class. The Sunday afternoon routine has become our touch point and my moment to reflect on my wellbeing.

The slow pace of the 90 minute class promotes patience and acceptance. Pigeon is a challenge for my round body, it takes a couple minutes to find the right configuration of meaty thigh, Buddha belly and boobs and then the real work starts.

At first I feel a burning in my hip, a band of lava wraps around my socket then radiates out over my whole body. It’s very uncomfortable but rarely drifts into pain.

I breathe.

My mind wanders as the hip fibers unfurl and I come back, breathing, and watching my body react to the pose. The burning passes, like so many annoyances in my life, and the pleasant settling against the mat begins.

I breathe.

I start to get bored, more waves of heat and pressure move around my hips, glutes, hip flexors and thighs. Each release triggers thoughts and feelings about how I’m challenged in my roles as parent and partner. It has been a very rough go and each band of fibers releasing brings those tensions top of mind.

I breathe.

The tears well up as I imagine enduring through these tough times. Resilience hardens to resolve. Not the flippant, tied to a time of year resolution, but the grim determination of leaning in to my problems.

I breathe.

The time comes to leave the posture and I hesitate. Here, on the mat, in this vulnerability, no one is asking more, there are no other needs to fill, just me, my body, and my heartache.

I’m that fat middle aged woman who cries in Sleeping Pigeon now and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.

My partner recently went on a Vipasana meditation retreat and has shared many great tips on living in the moment and not avoiding the negative sensations in my body. I’m someone who has a complicated relationship with my physicality and my mental health. I often work out to care for both.

My feminism has grown to be a place where I honour my body and don’t worry about my appearance. I work out in resistance to a world that tells me women my age should be invisible, wear loose clothes and not bother anyone.

In a small way, splayed out on a floor, in Lycra, taking up public space and crying are about being visible and existing for my own sake. I like to think other women are encouraged by my messy self and do things that work for them too.

My fitness activities aren’t a punishment or about achieving a specific appearance, they are for me and my well being alone.

I hope you are discovering and doing those activities that meet your needs this year too. It’s a selfie of Nat’s face with a wry smile and slightly messy, short brown hair. She happens to be at her desk at work and trying not to let that bum her out too much.

Sure, we can do this!
Sat with Nat

Ah yes, there it is, the melancholy!

People who don’t know me well are often surprised to learn I have a history of depression and struggle with anxiety. I’m so friendly! I do lots of things and appear to others as fearless, brave…all kind of qualities I don’t actually have but no one seems to notice.

It’s been a grey week with a near constant drizzle and snow mix. Ugh. I’m not sleeping great these days and my partner is on the road 25-50% of the time. Wha-wha-whaaaaaa

Ah yes, there it is, my late fall melancholy. It’s not snowy enough to do winter activities and not warm enough to do other things. Everything is damp. Bleck.

I know the solution is rest, some exercise, some hobby stuff and spending time with friends and family.

So I’m continuing to walk to work, go to yoga once a week and occasionally spin on my bike.

I’ve been stretching and rolling my legs and feet as I deal with plantar fasciitis. I joking posted this picture of rollers and balls for massaging body parts quipping “I use to spend my money on sex toys!”

The picture is looking down at a hardwood floor that displays a large knobby foam roller, a thin rollin pin style roller, and a couple spikey balls

Ah yes, the joys of keeping flexible can help keep the melancholy at bay.

My partner has stopped drinking coffee so we’ve gotten a little cast iron teapot and fancy loose teas. We take a moment and sit on the couch facing each other, legs intertwined and talk about our day while sipping tea.

One of the more ridiculous things I did was get this silly Santa duvet cover for my bed. I’m sure his little open mouth is supposed to say “Ho, ho, ho!” But to me he’s saying OH!

A thin white fabric has stylized trees and Santa’s with red, teal, green and brown tress, presents and sleighs. It looks cheap and tacky and that makes Natalie love it more.

The other usual stressors are in my life: paid work, my last university course and parenting.

However, as one of my friends reminded me, I am doing great despite it all because I have a wonderful support network.

I know my impulse is to withdraw when I’m feeling low but I can always rely on friends replying to plans to get together.

Here’s to a December I hope to remember as a positive one.

injury · Sat with Nat · weight stigma

Nat grapples with plantar fasciitis

It started as a dull ache in the summer around the rim of my left heel. It culminated in me limping home 2 weeks ago from work. Did I take the bus? Oh heck no!

So, first, this is a self diagnoses as I am actively avoiding my family doctor after my last visit. Why? I had gone in to talk about my hay fever and how it has aggravated my snoring.

The doctor recommended gastric bypass surgery. I’d never heard of that to treat hay fever before!

I spoke with my Gran, who weighs 80lbs, and she laughed. Apparently she, as her father before her, is a very loud snoring human. As is my dad (her son).

Anyway, no way am I going to see my family doctor about anything correlated to weight gain unless it’s drastic.

So after much research on the Internet and speaking with many friends I’m quite confident self-help options are going to help me recover.

I really liked the detail and approach in this article about stretching, yoga and things that help & aggravate symptoms.

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-for-plantar-fasciitis

  • Things that have definitely helped:
    • Over the counter insoles
      Calf stretches
      Rolling a hard ball on the bottom of my foot
      Ice
      Ibuprofen
      Rest
      Commuting in running shoes
      Yoga postures that flex & stretch my calves & feet
      Cycling inside on my trainer
    You can see Natalie’s legs stretched out in front of her. She has a yoga belt around the balls of her feet pulling her foot up to 90 degrees, stretching her calves and feet.
    Couch time is a great time to stretch those calves & get!

    It’s taken me a while to get in this much pain so I know it will be a while to recover. Thinking back over the past year I have had a few changes that would exacerbate plantar fasciitis:

    • started commuting with a full backpack
    • stopped doing other activities
    • wore older footwear even when my feet started bothering me
    • Ignored my early symptoms
    • Doubled my walking distances by canvassing
    • Gained some weight

    So, if you start to get that ring of fire around your heel, please, don’t be a Nat! Get checked out by a healthcare provider, try some self help options and talk to friends & family. You may not need to wince in agony for long.

    Sat with Nat · walking

    Fitness & Politics

    I’m finishing up my very last course in my BA. FINALLY!

    It’s a 3rd year course on women & politics that looks at many aspects of women’s participation. I’ve dabbled in politics over the past 15 years, as a campaign volunteer and even once tried to be a federal candidate.

    It’s municipal election time in Ontario, Canada and I was helping a friend on his campaign with door to door canvassing. Yes, folks still walk around knocking on doors and dropping off information about candidates.

    Four smiling humans wearing bright green t shirts standing on a sidewalk
    Nat takes a moment with John, Nancy and her son Olivier to document the fun we are having.

    I have to admit getting a chance to hang out regularly with my oldest son Olivier as well as John & Nancy has been pretty fantastic.

    It’s been 4 years since the last campaign and this time around I was struck by how physically demanding campaigning can be.

    If you stick to a schedule of canvassing 6 days a week the walking, stairs, holding clipboards and even knocking doors start to wear on your body.

    Of course you are squeezing that all in around the other things you do in your day.

    I sat reading my course and popping ibuprofen and realized that we don’t talk much about the ableist approach to politics. Most traditional ways of contacting potential voters rely on being physically present, at the door, debates and community events. But those doors are spread out and have many stairs.

    Locally there is a Women in Politics group that seeks to support women to enter into politics at all levels of government but I’m not aware of much in the realm of analyzing where ableist assumptions and approaches are barriers to more folks running for office.

    I’m glad I can occasionally participate in political organizing & activities and am thinking more about accessibility.

    If I come up with any great ideas I’ll let you know 🙂

    cycling · Sat with Nat

    Nat thinks back on re-learning to bicycle as a grownup

    A couple weeks ago my Facebook memories showed me a post from 5 years ago. It was a sad moment, I had planned on biking down to a festival but at the 5 km mark I had to stop. I ended up going home defeated with a sore backside.

    It was a rough start to re-learning to cycle. To be fair to my 5 year ago self I had made some classic mistakes. I wasn’t wearing chamois shorts and got blisters in my groin. My 20 year old mountain bike wasn’t fit to me. I also had no idea how to effectively use my gears as I mistakenly thought I should mash my pedals in the highest gear I could use.

    After that experience Sam reached out to offer riding with her and that was the first step to me re-learning to cycle as an adult.

    Since then I’ve thought a lot about things I would tell that past me. If you are looking at cycling more or trying it for the first time you may find these thoughts helpful too.

    So, my dear past self, I wish you knew:

    1. Wear cycling bottoms commando (no underwear). Be nice to your body parts that come in contact with your saddle and don’t worry about how it looks so much!
    2. Accept the offer to ride with experienced cyclists sooner. They will coach & cajole you into a sport that you can continue a very long time.
    3. Buy the big bicycle tire pump right away. Don’t run to the gas station every time you need to ride your bike! Air in road tires is VERY IMPORTANT.
    4. Wear a cycling jersey. It keeps you from getting a sunburn on your lower back/upper butt and is more comfortable than anything else. Honest.
    5. Buy the gloves. Your hands will go numb and that is no fun. You are working hard on your bike so being comfortable is super important.
    6. Listen to advice, try it. Not all of it will work for you so keep the ideas that do and dump the rest.

    I would never have thought it possible to go from being destroyed by a 10 km ride to doing 100 km in the same year. It really is about time on the saddle and I was pleasantly surprised how much I’ve taken to riding my bike.

    Sam has written before about how the fall is a great time to get into cycling and I’d have to agree. It’s beautiful in Canada this time of year. I hope to see you on your bike!

    Nat takes a selfie in her bike helmet smiling.

    cycling · Sat with Nat

    Nat enjoyed a pretty awesome MS Bike Tour

    For the second year in a row I got to ride in the Grand Bend MS Bike Tour. This year my cycling was sparse and I was nervous about completing the ride.

    My team, London Lifecycles, is packed with colleagues and friends. I get a lot of joy from hanging out with them.

    Natalie faces the camera smiling. Behind her is a group of people chatting animatedly wearing orange cycling jerseys

    This year I started Day 1 with my friend Tracy & her 7 year old son Tyler. We rode the first 40km together. The Sweeps were lovely but I hoped I wouldn’t see them again. I hopped on my bike and gave my best effort.

    Day 2 I decided to ride on my own. I had a great time seeing friends pass me or chat at the checkpoints. The weather was ideal, 25C with light wind. I finished the route nearly an hour faster than last year. I’m 99% sure that was due to the weather.

    It was still hot though.

     Natalie looks at the camera with a rye face. Her hair is wet and standing on end

    It was a great weekend and the perfect way to kick off my vacation.