221 in 2021 · habits · Happy New Year! · new year's resolutions

A serial overcommitter tries undercommitting

I’m a serial overcommitter. I’ve always been bad at not having some sort of side project going – at least one. But last year, I really overstretched, and it showed. Having a baby/toddler at home, going back to work full-time, and doing an MBA on the side would have been difficult in normal times. Add a pandemic, and it became a recipe for constant exhaustion. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to glorify “being busy” (quite the contrary)! I’m not burnt out either, not in the true sense of the word. I’ve sailed close to it a few times over the last year and a half though – too close for comfort.

As a result of my overcommitment, I didn’t exercise nearly as much as I wanted. In fairness, some other factors also conspired against me achieving my “221 in 2021” goal – the pools were closed until May due to Covid, I caught a few of my son’s daycare colds, etc. I made it to just over 160 and was honestly a bit disappointed with myself. But I’m trying to take a page out of Christine’s book and go easy on myself this year (see also: here. Christine is really killing it!).

A picture of a kite flying in the blue sky. This is the ease Bettina aspiring to this year.
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

My new year’s resolution this year is to try undercommitting. I’m nearly done with my MBA – I just need to finalise my thesis/field project, which is nearly finished, and take a few more online lectures. The only things I want to do more of this year are reading (which also fell by the wayside last year, mostly because I’d normally fall asleep after a couple of pages) and exercising. I’ve joined 222 in 2022 and we’ll see how I do this year. Here’s to hoping the pools stay open, but I also want to bike, run and hike a lot, which will be easier as the days get longer and my weekends free up from MBA coursework. A bit of yoga every once in a while would be nice too, but what did we say about overcommitting?

How about you – are any of you trying to commit less this year? And how are you planning to do that? Let me know! I’ll keep you posted how it’s going for me (I’ll confess I was very close to making a monthly check-in commitment on this here blog. But I won’t. Ha!).

commute · cycling

Bettina’s quick bike commute check-in

First things first, if you celebrate: merry merry! But if you need a quick respite from the festivities, I’m going to talk about something decidedly un-festive: bike commuting.

Last time I wrote (a while ago) my e-bike had just arrived. Now we already have a few commutes under our belt so I quickly wanted to check in. It’s been going reasonably well. I say “reasonably” because I didn’t get as many commutes in as I’d hoped so far.

Picture of tiny human inspecting our commuting set up: a black gravel e-bike and a blue and black trailer. He approves.

The main obstacle, on which many other things hinge, is that I don’t currently work in my usual office. Our building is being renovated and we’re a few kilometres down the road at an interim location. So my routine is: put kid in trailer, zoom up the hill, get kid out and deliver him to daycare, unhook trailer and lock it at the campus bike storage, zoom to work. And back in the afternoon. It’s a bit of a schlep. It’d be so much easier if once I was at daycare, I wouldn’t have to bike another 3k. It’s not far, but it takes time and… logistics.

Then there’s the weather. I’m a fair weather cyclist as is, but we don’t have showers at our interim offices and I can’t show up soaked because I’d be freezing and feeling like a wet mouse for the rest of the day. So when it’s raining, or threatening to rain, we don’t bike.

And there’s time. It’s been stressful at work and with daycare hours, I have to power through. It’s an “every minute counts” kind of situation. I go to work, emerge bleary-eyed from my office at lunchtime to grab a sandwich and munch it at my desk, and then emerge bleary-eyed again to run off to daycare pickup. The bike commute doesn’t take a lot of extra time, but it adds up.

I know all these things are going to improve once we move back into our building, but right now I’m unimpressed because I’m LOVING my bike commutes and I wish I could do more. Anyway, onwards and upwards. Better times will come!

commute · cycling

From contemplation to action: Bettina’s e-bike is here!

In my last post, I shared that I was contemplating the purchase of an e-bike for my commute with tiny human in the bike trailer. Well, that escalated quickly – I ordered one the next day! I spent a weekend thinking about it and researching, and then a great offer came along that I couldn’t refuse. And now it’s here: my Bergamont E-Grandurance RD Expert (mine is the 2020 model and this link is the 2022 one, but you get the gist). And here’s a picture:

Bettina’s new e-bike leaning attractively against an industrial staircase, black and new and shiny in the sun.

It’s basically a gravel bike with a motor, which I really like. What I like even more is that it comes with all the trappings to make it road safe and comfortable (rack, fenders, lights etc.). It’s marketed as a commuter bike, which is exactly what I need, and it’s sporty, which is exactly what I want.

So far, I’ve tried it on an even surface and using the motor (which has three levels of support) is like someone pushing you along. Zooooom, swoooosh!

The reason I haven’t used it for its actual purpose yet is that we’re currently lacking the correct through-axle adapter to attach the bike trailer. It took me longer to research the bloody adapter than it took me to find a bike I liked, and in the end it turns out I have to have it shipped to Europe from the US *facepalm*. Apparently, through-axles are a lot less standardised than would be good for them. I mean, we have two adapters already in the house and neither one fits, and the trailer’s manufacturer doesn’t have one that fits my through-axle. It took us several e-mail exchanges with their customer support to work that out. In the end, the good folks at the Robert Axle Project came through for me and set me up with the right thing (if you ever need a through-axle adapter, these are your people – stellar customer service and they really do seem to have everything!). Let’s hope it doesn’t get held up in some global supply chain debacle.

So far, even though it’s mostly been sitting in our basement, I’m thrilled with my new toy. Will report back on how it goes with the trailer-pulling and commuting!

221 in 2021 · commute · cycling

Bettina contemplates an e-bike

The truth is, my high-flying fitness plans aren’t going all that well. I’m swamped at work and life is… well, being life. I miss moving, but I just don’t have time to do more than swimming once a week and maaaaybe a run, if I’m lucky. I look at my count in the 221 in 2021 challenge and it’s just laughable at this point. There’s no way in hell I’m going to make it, and as a completionist this bugs me more than I’d like to admit.

A person on a teal-coloured e-bike.
Photo by Gotrax on Unsplash

So I’ve been thinking about how I could get more movement in. I used to get a lot of my exercise through my commute, either biking or running. But now that the tiny human goes to nursery at the staff kindergarten where I work, I’ve been going by car every day and I’ve completely lost those workouts. If you look at the old post about my run commute I’ve linked above, you’ll see that I work up a very steep hill from where I live. Biking up with a normal bike and a kid’s trailer is just not feasible.

That’s why I’m very seriously contemplating an e-bike. I see other parents with kids in the same daycare do it and I get an itch. It would be perfect. I’m going to do it, I just need to find the right bike and make friends with the idea of parting with a whole bunch of my hard-earned euros (wow, these things are expensive!). Wish me luck on my search!

covid19 · kids and exercise · swimming

Starting them young, the pandemic swimming edition

One of the things I was most excited about when tiny human was born was eventually introducing him to water by means of baby swimming. What I had in mind was more or less what the cutie in this video is doing: splish splash!

Video of a baby splashing around in the water.

But alas, tiny human is a pandemic baby. For the longest time, pools were closed altogether, and even now many places that usually offer baby swimming courses still don’t. The few that do are ludicrously oversubscribed (or offer their classes during working hours, which – baby activities during working hours in general – pisses me off no end and is a topic for a separate rant). So, no baby swimming for us. Out of all the baby-related things the pandemic has deprived us of, this is the one that makes me really sad.

I’m still determined for this baby to be an aquatic baby. I watch the websites offering baby swimming courses like a hawk to see if they’re coming back on. We’ve taken Mini to the pool a few times (loved it until he got cold) and he tested the sea while on holiday (he was sceptical but loved messing around with his uncle and aunt in the water). We have a paddling pool on the terrace we were hoping to get a lot of use out of, but our summer has been horrible and it’s been too cold most of the time. So we still mostly splash around in the bath, which is… not quite the same.

Overall, introducing baby to water isn’t going as swimmingly (see what I did there?) as I’d hoped. Still, I’m not too worried yet, he’s tiny and will hopefully have plenty of opportunity to get wet. I do worry about older kids who haven’t been able to learn swimming or continue. From what I can tell with my lifesaving club, which cautiously started practice again in early summer, many of them aren’t coming back after such a long break. My colleague’s daughter, who used to swim regularly, became a body-conscious teenager during Covid and refuses to go back to the pool. My heart breaks for her. And all that’s without even thinking what it will mean for drowning incident numbers if several cohorts worth of kids aren’t learning to swim (properly).

I don’t quite know where this post is going, just that I’m sad for all the kids who don’t have the chance to enjoy the pleasure of getting in the water now. Ugh 😦

racism · sexism · swimming

Dear Swimming, Bettina forgives you

Dear swimming,

you’ve been giving me a hard time these past few weeks. There was the news about swim caps designed for swimmers of colour’s hair being banned from the Olympics (the explanations were ridiculous). There was the woman who was attacked by a man in the pool for the audacity of being faster than him. And there was the former international competitive swimmer who still has to deal with men who can’t deal with her being faster.

An open air swimming pool glistening in the sunlight.

There was also the time I went to the pool to find three (!) less than mediocre male swimmers who were holding up all traffic in a highly populated pool because they thought they were entitled to being in the fast lane by virtue of being able to float (don’t get me wrong – it’s great that these guys are getting their movement in, but did they have to do it in the fast lane when they weren’t, I don’t know, fast?).

I mean, WTF? You, dear swimming, have been trying your hardest to ruin things. The racism and the sexism, it’s just not on. Get with the programme!

And yet, you somehow manage to redeem yourself every time I get in the water. You’re so meditative, splish splash, back and forth, breathe-two-three-breathe-two-three. You let my mind drift and get a fresh perspective on things. You’re exhausting in a good way. You make me feel free.

So these horrible things are not your fault, I suppose? They’re the fault of some people who are intent on ruining things for others, or who simply don’t care about the impact their behaviour has on their fellow humans. I forgive you, dear swimming, but I certainly will have a hard time forgiving those people.

With much love,
Bettina

family · food · overeating

RIP Eric Carle, or the conundrum of food in children’s books

CW: discusses diet, weight stigma

The other day, famous children’s book author Eric Carle passed away. I was a bit sad, since The very hungry Caterpillar is a firm favourite in this house at the moment (picture proof below). The tiny human is still too small to understand the text, but he loves looking at the pictures and sticking his tiny fingers into the holes the caterpillar makes into the different foods it eats.

A baby kneeling on the floor, playing with a copy of the book “A very hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

The Internet was awash with lovely stories about Eric Carle, like this one about how he helped a woman find her missing cat. So the story of an interview he gave The Paris Review about getting into a fight with his publisher over the hungry caterpillar’s diet fit right in: apparently, Carle had not wanted the caterpillar to have a tummy ache after its epic binge fest just before its metamorphosis, but his publisher insisted that the consumption of that much (and, on top of that, unhealthy) food be followed by some kind of punishment.

The only problem: the interview was quickly debunked as a parody. It was part of an April Fool’s issue of The Paris Review. Like many others, I was sad to hear that. Which begs the question: why? Why did it get so much traction in the first place?

I mean, I get it. Even before reading this, I’d always felt a bit sad the caterpillar doesn’t get away with just enjoying its feast. But I hadn’t given that feeling any conscious thought. Now I want to explore it. I’ve done much less structured thinking than my fellow bloggers on here on the issue of weight stigma, body shaming, and how these link with eating, so I’m a bit worried I won’t find the right words here. But let me try.

I think it has to do with an underlying awareness that our relationship with food and eating is fraught, and a wish that it weren’t so. Shouldn’t innocent children be entitled to a story in which a caterpillar gets to give in to its instinct of eating? After all, it needs to, so it can transform into a beautiful butterfly. Instead, our poor caterpillar is loaded with all the fraught feelings adults have around “overeating” and food, and the twisted ways in which we project these feelings onto our kids. Sam has written about this on numerous occasions.

The issue of the fake interview and the reactions it got perfectly illustrates what Sam calls “our romantic ideas of children as ‘natural eaters,’ on the one hand, and as out of control eaters, wantons, on the other” (here). On the one hand, we think the idea of a caterpillar overindulging in a range of foods including cherry pie and a lollipop – like a child might – is cute. On the other, there has to be a teaching moment in this, because we don’t want our children to “overindulge” (and become overweight). And at the same time, the idea that the author himself did not want to include the punishment, but was forced to do so by the publisher, reinforces exactly that dichotomy: wouldn’t it be nice if food were innocent for children? Oh no, but it can’t be! There has to be a punishment! Because what if The very hungry Caterpillar ends up encouraging kids to engage in unhealthy overeating, contributing to what is often framed as an ‘obesity pandemic’? We can’t have that! Somebody (the publisher) has to play the bad cop and stop it (but what a spoilsport).

In this narrative, Eric Carle, the beloved author, takes the side of the “innocent” children, the strict publisher the role of a disciplinarian imposing an unwanted but necessary consequence. Just like with food. Ugh. It’s all quite twisted and there’s a lot of projecting and wishing things were different and we all had a more “innocent” and “childlike” relationship with food.

But the whole thing only goes to show that in our society, food is anything but innocent or something to be enjoyed freely. It has to be regulated and judged. That makes me sad too, and I almost want to change the story for my son before he is old enough to read it himself and demand the “correct” version. Maybe next time, I’m going to tell the part following the caterpillar’s dinner party like this: “That night, he felt quite full. The next day was a Sunday again, and the caterpillar was a little hungry again. He wanted a small snack, so he ate through one nice, green leaf. After that, he wasn’t hungry anymore.” Sound good?

cycling · family · fitness

Bettina is back in the saddle – in company

Woohoo, our family has emerged from the weeks of survival mode! We’re more tired than before, but who isn’t these days? In any case, I’m trying hard (and not managing very well) to shift my priorities back and include more movement in my life.

The youngest member of our family is now nearly 9 months old. In some ways this helps (we can do more things) and in some ways it doesn’t (increased mobility means less ability to just plop him down next to me and do 20 minutes of yoga while expecting him to still be there afterwards) with my exercise quest.

One thing that does help is that he is now fairly good at sitting up on his own, so yesterday we risked putting him in the bike trailer for the first time. Here we are, mama grinning from ear to ear about being back in the saddle and baby looking sceptical behind the yellow star I use to cover his face in an effort to keep his privacy on the Internet:

Bettina in cycling gear next to a bike trailer with a strapped-in baby in it. Both are wearing bike helmets, which makes one of them look rather like a mushroom – up to you to decide whom.

If that bike trailer looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same vehicle as our jogging buggy, which converts to a bike trailer. But while it’s safe to go running with a baby who can’t sit up on their own yet (provided you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and common sense), biking is a different story due to the speed at which you might fly over obstacles. It requires the little human to have a bit more body tension and stability.

Anyway, yesterday was the day. We strapped on his bike helmet (so cute!), hooked the trailer up to his dad’s bike, and off we went. We didn’t get very far because it started raining, as it is wont to do these days around here. But it was fun anyway! Baby didn’t complain much and even fell asleep at the end. So even if we didn’t go for a long ride, we have proof of principle: the parents had a good time and the little one didn’t hate it, so we can attempt a longer family ride next. YAY!

What sports and fitness activities do you enjoy with your kids, if you have children? If your they are older, what did you enjoy doing with them when they were small – and in particular, what did the kids enjoy?

family · fitness

Shifting priorities: Bettina is in survival mode

A month and a half ago, I returned to work after maternity leave. In a way, it was like coming back after an extended holiday: insanely busy. I spent the first three weeks in Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting just catching up. Then, as soon as I felt I sort of had a handle on things, my partner – who is now on parental leave – realised that contrary to what we had hoped, Europe’s major scientific funding body had not moved its application deadline to June because of Covid. The deadline is now 20 April. It’s my husband’s last chance to apply; next year he’ll be too old (well, too many years after completing his PhD) for this particular grant.

A picture of a woman (not Bettina), buried under a stack of books. This is sort of how I feel right now, except I’m buried under a stack of Zoom calls, laundry, dirty nappies, and reports for the finance module of my MBA.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Result: partner is now working every free minute he is not watching baby. This means that I’m on baby duty essentially every minute I’m not working. This leaves very little time to exercise. When I can’t go for a run on my lunch break, or put the little one in the buggy and run with him after work, I basically can’t do much. (On Thursday, partner watched baby for a bit longer while I did half an hour of yoga after work. It completely reset me. The man is a saint.)

It’s Covid, so we can’t spontaneously hire childcare, and our son’s daycare spot doesn’t start until mid-May. Our cleaner retired just before he was born (it was well-deserved and I don’t blame her). The house is a tip. Again, it’s Covid, so we didn’t manage to find a new one until next week (I realise that we are very privileged for being able to hire a cleaner in the first place). I decided to apply for an executive MBA just before I got pregnant, well, and before a global pandemic hit. I was meant to start last March, but it’s Covid (are you spotting a pattern yet?) and we didn’t start until September because they kept holding out hope we’d be able to have in-person classes, LOL, so now I’m in the thick of it when I was meant to be on a semester’s break.

I know it’s “fashionable” to complain how busy you are, but honestly? It’s just all a bit much right now. My priorities have shifted: I’m in survival mode. Eyes firmly set on 20 April. This too shall pass. I have leave booked in for the first week of May, and whether we’re able to go anywhere or not, I’m going to enjoy it. Now I just need to get through the next six weeks somehow… and get a run or some yoga in every once in a while to keep me going.

Have you ever been in survival mode? What got you through it?

covid19 · Dancing · fitness

Bettina’s postpartum fitness parade, part 3: Kanga

This is the final instalment of my little series on the specifically postpartum-oriented workouts I did while getting back into exercise after giving birth (part 1, part 2). I saved the best for last 😉

Kanga is a workout you do with baby. It’s a mix of floor exercises designed to build back core and pelvic floor strength, choreographies and some high intensity and functional training. Normally, of course these are in-person classes. But it’s Covid, so we got to do it on Zoom (*eyeroll*. I’m SO SICK of doing things on Zoom). While the Zoom bit was annoying, the class was a lot of fun!

For the floor exercises, baby lies next to you or you will sometimes pick them up and do exercises lifting them up etc. For the choreographies and other parts of the session, the little people go in their carriers. My son usually falls asleep while Mama sweats, and since he weighs more than 6.5 kg (14.3 lbs) now, Mama sweats a lot. Here’s a video of what goes down in a Kanga class:

A video of women taking a Kanga class with their babies in Brisbane, Australia.

I imagine that whether your experience with Kanga is good or not depends heavily on two factors: one, whether you like this type of workout, and two, your instructor. For me, the choreography part was a bit outside of my comfort zone. After a traumatic experience in an aerobics class many years ago, I’ve been spending my fitness life avoiding anything that requires too much coordination. In this respect, I lucked out with our instructor, who made the choreography only a part of the class. With the instructor, however, come other pitfalls such as potential weight loss talk, which is sadly a very strong motivator for many women in postnatal fitness. In that sense, we were less lucky with our instructor, because there was some of that (getting our bikini bodies back and such). She was nice, but the focus on shedding the pregnancy weight was a part of the class that I didn’t enjoy – although many people probably won’t mind.

Overall though, it’s the one aspect of postnatal fitness I stuck with and I’m currently still Kanga-ing once a week until the end of the month when the course ends. If you have a little one and can find an online class (or even, god forbid, you’re in a part of the world where in-person classes are permissible, an in-person one), I recommend giving it a shot.