health · Sat with Nat

Nat learns a little more about the nuances of blood pressure

It’s that time of year for my annual “my high blood pressure journey” post. (Please remember I’m not a health care professional and what follows isn’t advice on what you should do. )

Last month the guidelines around what constitutes high blood pressure were changed in Canada and the US. You can read about it here. It created a mild ripple of panic as folks were surprised to find they suddenly had “high blood pressure”. It certainly gave me pause to think about my own numbers just days before my regular check up.

I showed up to my appointment to discover my family doctor no longer working Wednesdays. The thought of seeing a different doctor filled me with panic. I’ve been having follow ups for many years and am really comfortable with my doctor. Other doctors, well, it’s a mixed bag. I tried deep breathing and relaxing while anxiety washed over me.

I met with the new doctor, a lovely human who stared at my stomach while we talked. I had shared that my numbers were creeping up over the years and I was worried. She offered that once hypertension sets in it slowly worsens over time as we age. She talked about how lifestyle changes were very important and that pills only did so much. I smiled and waited for her to go on. I couldn’t muster the courage to confront her assumption that I hadn’t already made those lifestyle changes, initially 20 years ago and really honed in on things about 5 years ago.

She asked how my at home monitoring was going. I had never seriously tracked my blood pressure at home despite having been gifted a monitor.

She offered that I didn’t need to come in unless my at home blood pressure was regularly over 130/90 as my prescription could be renewed via fax.

I walked out confused but committed to tracking my blood pressure at different times at home.

I was shocked to see a few trends. After my morning coffee my blood pressure spikes by 20 points. By mid afternoon I’m regularly sitting at 105/60. Way lower than the reading at the doctor’s office. It was such a shock I had my partner measure his to make sure the monitor was working. I tried different sizes of cuffs. All good.

I keep thinking about those “lifestyle factors” that are within my control. The big ones most folks are familiar with: be a non-smoker, move your body, avoid high amounts of alcohol, eat a healthy diet. Just this week a CNN article boasted we can all extend our longevity by 10 years doing those things and maintaining a healthy BMI.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2018/04/30/health/life-expectancy-habits-study/index.html

I’ve got 4/5 and, as the Meatloaf song goes, that ain’t bad. I have decided that the long view of my health and wellness are the biggest assets for me. I look for ways to make it easy to make healthy choices and get movement in my day and that seems to be working out damn fine.

Four smiling humans gather in for a sidewalk selfie on a warm sunny day

Me and my favourite humans walking from home to see a movie downtown.

media · Sat with Nat

Nat won’t sit in an ice bath anytime soon but thinks survival training is a great idea.

This all started with Sam sharing this article with Nat:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/physical-fitness-third-pillar-diet-exercise-a8254061.html

The book’s premise is that a component of fitness could be the ability to handle harsh environments.

It’s been a long time since I did my survival courses in the military but the lessons I learned were very helpful. Take my winter survival course, I learned that when you live 24/7 outside with the right gear and skills your body will adapt to daytime high of -40C. A few days into the 1 week course I shed my heavy mitts, balaclava and parka and walked about in my sweater and snow pants. My body adapted and could provide the extra BTUs to keep me warm.

The thing is, that adaptation is temporary. One night in a heated room and I was back to bundling up. The long term impact for me was understanding what I needed to be safe in that weather. I learned that while I would be cold at first I could survive and adapt to the environment. I learned that lined winter tents are fantastic but also that a thick bed or fir boughs with a tarp as a lean-to and a small fire can keep you going a long time.

There are lots of reasons to get used to being outdoors for extended periods of time and working through difficult situations. Along with the skills comes, well, a mental toughness that prevents me from giving up in bad times. Will I cry when tired, frustrated or in pain? Oh heck ya, almost always.

Do I think people should take ice baths? Uh, no. Definitely learn about boating safety if you are in the water, what to do if you fall through the ice if you skate or cross ice in winter.

Learning what to do in emergencies is helpful, you learn how to overcome the first impulses to panic by self soothing as well as the techniques to ensure the best outcome.

I’m skeptical of the claims that we all need to swim in icy water. Those conditions are dangerous and I’m not persuaded that the benefits outweigh the risks.

However, if you want to build skills and confidence definitely learn survival or emergency response skills. First Aid and CPR are a great way to start building up skills.

I hope you have awesome adventures and not have any emergencies.

Sat with Nat · yoga

Savouring Yin Yoga

Many of my regular fitness activities have fallen by the wayside over the winter. Some of it was treacherous sidewalks and multiple slips & falls. Other things, like starting a new role last December, have changed when and how long I’m at work and if I can make fitness classes.

One thing I’ve been able to consistently do is hot yoga on Sundays with my friend & neighbour Kim. We did a few flow classes in December and January. One day we decided to try the yin yoga class. We’ve both fallen in love with these 90 minute classes of gentle movement and lengthy stretches.

I had a preconceived notion that the class was for, well, people much older than me. The class is typically a mix of ages from university students to retirees.

In many aspects of my life I’m driven by achieving and squeezing more out of or into my day. This class is not about any of that and I’m getting a great deal of joy out of being in the moment and adopting passive postures that are surprisingly intense.

Sometimes my mind is rushing and impatient. When I first did a reclined crescent posture I thought “This is a waste of time. I’m not feeling anything. Are we going to move on soon?”

Funny enough, as I laid there stretching, my side started burning and the intensity traveled up and down my side as well as wrapping around my hip. Whoa. Unexpectedly intense and very pleasant.

I keep going back with Kim and we visit a bit walking back and forth to class. We share what worked for us in the class or sensations or cranky body bits.

I love the whole package: walking to class, visiting, and the class itself.

I’m not sure how long I will keep going to the class (I’m horribly fickle) but for now I’m savouring the class and all that it is doing for me. Natalie is taking a selfie on a sidewalk looking up at the camera. She is wearing a neon green crochet hat, a bag of yoga gear and her favourite Enderman hoodie.

accessibility · athletes · body image · bras · clothing · Sat with Nat

The Proliferation of (Some) Plus Sizes

I’m seriously stoked that it is easier and easier to find clothes that fit, especially workout gear.

One clothing retailer, Reitmans Canada, I’ve frequented for having Plus Petit now simply carries all clothes up to size 20. Now that is not going to cover all the sizes people wear. I’m fortunate I hover in the 18-20 range for North American sizing.

So now I can walk in and look at a whole store of clothes instead of one, picked over rack.

I’ve been able to find great workout leggings on sale for under $20 CDN.

A photo of a person from the waist down wearing Lycra leggings with a purple pattern on black fabric

I’ve also noticed my favourite thrift stores are now carrying more plus size clothes, especially pants.

I needed to upgrade my wardrobe and found several pairs of dress pants that fit. Partly this is due to some stretch being in all dress pants these days.

The biggest surprise was when my sister gifted me pajama pants for Christmas that were sized XL. I was very nervous trying them on as I usually need a XXL or bigger.

Turns out the pants were sized generously and did relax & have lots of stretch. They have crabs on them and read “Crabby in the morning”.

Natalie stands on one leg with the other foot drawn up to pelvis level with a silly look on her face

I’ve no doubt this change in availability of sizes up to size 20 is due to the agitation of activists and women insisting on more clothes being offered in more sizes.

That being said there are very few places I can find that offer sizes beyond 20. Let’s keep insisting and agitating until with have greater proliferation of more plus sizes.

Sat with Nat · yoga

Revisiting Hot Yoga

It’s been a long time since I first tried hot yoga. My friend and neighbour Kim had scored a free pass to try hot yoga and asked me if I would like to join her. I agreed to go but wasn’t sure which studio we were heading for.

I’m very lucky that I live within walking distance of many yoga studios. As we walked down in the squeaky snow I realized it was a studio my oldest son goes to as well as a few other friends.

I knew to bring a towel and water. We did an evening community class. It was not too crowded and the instructor was lovely.

I enjoyed chatting and walking to and from with Kim. We both decided to get 5 class passes and have been going to a noon flow class for 3 weeks.

Since I now manage cold hands and feet from Raynaud’s the heat feels especially good.

I’ve had the chance to have a different instructor each class which keeps it interesting. The timing worked out that we were in class both on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

It felt great to move with intention and take time to support my wellbeing during potentially hectic days.

One surprise has been the muscle fatigue, especially in my gluteus medius. It’s the crescent shape spot on my upper glute that joins to the bone and fans outward towards my hip.

I’m taking that as a sign that the other muscles are doing enough work that new muscles are engaging. I’m delighted that my piriformis is not aching.

Natalie stares at the camera wearing a brown and orange toque, a mustard yellow cowl and an army green parka. The background is a narrow lane with apple trees covered in snow

I keep forgetting to snap a photo after yoga but here’s one of my outside, walking to meet Kim.

bras · Sat with Nat

My latest sports bra

I was so sad in September when my 5 year old high impact bra suffered a catastrophic failure during a soccer match. I loved that bra. It contained and supported my bust in this lovely engineered unpadded bra. It was so lovely I save it only for running and soccer. Goodbye Old Faithful.

Cycling I can get away with the department store Lycra compression bras. For yoga and cxworx I use a thin shelf type top. When it comes to high impact sports I prefer a lot of structure and support.

I’m not overly busty but because I’m plus size I rarely find the 40 F at athletic wear shops. So I went back to the bra shop I had gotten Old Faithful. Since it has been so long the designs were different. Now everything is lined with foam cups. I’m round and sweaty at the best of times and I was skeptical of all the padding.

The shop attendant quickly eyed me up and down and grabbed the perfect size. She assured me this was the bra she sells to the university rugby and soccer players.

A close up photo of Natalie’s chest invaded in a navy blue band of padded Lycra

The cut is comfortable and my chest is neither compressed nor tucked under my arm pits.

Natalie faces the camera looking skeptical as you see the reflection of her back over her right shoulder

Unlike other sports bras that have zippers and complex mechanisms this is a simple triple eye and hook closure with an adjustable clip to form a racer back. It’s super comfy, I like the lines and I can breathe.

My new boob buddy is made by Chantelle and is a high impact line.

Bras are a funny thing. In the 90s the Canadian military tried to design a combat bra. After years of research they concluded no one design would provide support and comfort for the wide array of breast configurations.

Some of us are set wide apart, others close together. Breast density changes over time. There’s a lot to consider. The military decided to give members money for bras so we could buy what worked for ourselves.

All that to say, I’m super happy with my $95 bra but your mileage may vary. It also took me two months to have the cash on hand. I can’t run without it and some running is an important part of my fitness routine.

Sat with Nat

1 year of off again, on again fitness classes. 

A year ago I tried a 30 minutes fitness class:

https://fitisafeministissue.com/2016/12/03/i-cant-believe-im-saying-this-i-found-an-instructor-led-group-exercise-class-i-actually-like/

Given my past in the military I have a lot of challenges to taking instructor led fitness classes.   I’m so glad my work colleagues cajoled me into taking that first class. 

I enjoy cxworx because the exercises target the areas of my body that complain the most from my sedentary job. My balance and coordination have definitely improved. I feel strong after each class even if I don’t often feel like going. 

I have a lot of challenges in the class as I’ve not yet developed the core strength necessary for the moves. With the help of the instructors I know how to modify the exercises to get a workout for where I’m at. I tried taking a locker room selfie:

Her short hair tousled, Natalie makes a wry face like “oh this sucks”. She’s wearing an orange soccer jersey and black tights. The background is beige lockers.
Natalie does not enjoy locker room selfies.

I don’t make it to every class but I certainly enjoy and value each one I get to take.