camping · cycling · family · holidays

Bettina goes on holiday

Yes, you read that right. After two plus years of pandemic and nearly two years of life with a little one, we are going on holiday. As in, travelling somewhere that’s not to see our family, or visit friends (we are, in fact, going to visit friends on the way, but we’re also going to be on our own for a bit).

We’ve rented a camper van and will be cruising around Dutch campsites. We’re taking our bikes (the adults) and trailer (the toddler), in the hopes that it will stop raining for long enough that we can do some cycling tours through very flat landscapes. This may not sound very adventurous, but right now I think it’s going to hit the sweet spot of being active but not overexerting ourselves, and fun for everyone in the family. We also have a kite, beach toys, and swimwear – not that we’re planning the brave the North Sea (though who knows?!), but the weather forecast really isn’t great, so if it won’t stop raining, at least we can go to the indoor pool.

When you read this, we will actually already be on our way back, but I’m writing this post before we even leave, since I don’t know how much Internet we’ll have along the way (the campsites all promise wifi but I also honestly don’t know how much I’ll feel like posting when the alternative is frolicking around a campsite or the beach!

I’m very excited about this trip.

Do you have holiday plans already? What are they?

nature · self care

In her next life, Bettina wants to be a surfing hippo

That’s it. In the title right there.

I don’t know if any of you have been watching what a friend of mine described as “peak millennial”, the new Netflix documentary “Our Great National Parks”, narrated by Barack Obama. If so, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, here’s the official trailer, and right away at 0:05, you can catch a glimpse of my new favourite animal: the surfing hippo.

The official trailer of the Netflix documentary “Our Great National Parks”.

These wonderful beasts live in Loango National Park in Gabon. They hang out in freshwater lagoons during the day, but at dusk, they stroll down to the beach to catch some waves. They then drift along the shore with the current to where they know the best juicy grass to grow, and graze on that overnight.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty desirable lifestyle right now. When I was in high school in the UK, I was a lifeguard and part of our training included surfing to really get to know our local beach and its currents. I loved it, and one of the very few gripes I have with where we live right now is that it’s awfully far away from the sea. Catching those waves was always so much fun and really gets your mind off of everything going on around you, and as we know, things are hard right now.

Just watching these majestic creatures drifting through the water and playing in the waves last night made me feel infinitely more relaxed (a Yoga with Adriene session just before may have helped too). If I believed in multiple lives, I would definitely want to be a surfing hippo in Loango National Park in my next one.

I’ve only seen one episode so far, but if you need soothing, I would highly recommend “Our Great National Parks”. Stunning pictures of epic nature, animals, and Barack Obama’s calming voice, it’s a winning combo in my book.

climate change · covid19 · Fear · fitness

Oof… Things are Hard right now

I honestly didn’t know what other title to give this post, and I’m also not quite sure where it’s going (nowhere, is probably where).

Where is all this going? Bettina wonders. In the image, a forest road lined by bare trees disappears into thick fog.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Over here in Europe, we’ve got our eyes turned eastward in horror. We pack boxes of baby items, nappies, cereal, fruit purée pouches, and face masks, and send them off in a lorry in the hopes they will reach the desperate people who need them. We wonder whether we should start stocking up on non-perishable goods and have a survival backpack ready to go just in case. At work lunches, we talk about whether we should be ready to flee to a different country, and if so, which one (Canada comes up a lot). And we try to guess whether Putin will stop in Ukraine, and what will happen if a Russian soldier so much as puts one little toe over the border of a NATO country. We wonder if, in the face of a never-ending pandemic, global warming, and war just one country over, bringing a child into this world was really the right thing to do.

Thinking about fitness, or doing fitnessy things, doesn’t come easy these days. It feels shallow to care about whether I will achieve 222 in 2022 (probably not). I catch myself thinking, “what if war happens and we have to survive outside or flee on foot, and I’m as unfit as I am right now?” But at the same time, when I can get myself to move, it helps. It distracts me, it gets me out into the sunshine (finally, a hint of spring!), it gets me away from the onslaught of horrible news coming at us from all angles right now. An hour in the pool makes me feel invigorated. A short Yoga with Adriene session makes my body feel less stiff. And a long walk in the sun with friends makes me feel more optimistic.

And then our very own Sam shares an article on Facebook entitled “What to do when the World is ending”, and I realise that, as hard as it seems right now, and as much as I want to curl up in a dark corner, close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears, I will continue trying to take agency and working to build a good life amidst all this chaos. Thanks for sharing that article, Sam, it was exactly what I needed the other day.

habits · hiking · yoga

The beauty of bite-sized chunks

Remember how my goal this year is to undercommit? Or at least commit less? I’m pleased to report that I’ve actually had some success! Not sure if I’m really “committing” less, but at least I’m maybe committing differently, or to other things: bite-sized chunks of movement.

Last year, I got stuck in a mode where I’d not exercise because by the time the evening came around and I’d actually have time, I was too tired. So I’d crash on the couch exhausted, or pile on the MBA coursework. So far, this year, I’ve managed to integrate bite-sized chunks of yoga into my evenings a lot better. As I mentioned in the group post on this year’s Yoga with Adriene Move challenge, I’ve only done some (I’m writing this having just finished “day” 7), but I’m really enjoying them.

Part of my “overcommitment” problem is that I want to “Do Things Properly”, i.e. I’d want to go out for a run, or do some “Serious Exercise”, be too exhausted for that, and end up on the couch instead. But I’m coming around to the idea that 20 or 30 minutes of yoga are actually feasible at night. I’m quite chuffed! I actually feel like I’m getting a bit of my workout mojo back.

Bettina hiking on a forest road in a foggy winter forest with a child carrier on her back. Tiny human is in the carrier enjoying a nap.

We’ve also started going on bite-sized weekend hikes lately. Rather than overcommitting to half a day or a full day of hiking, we’ll go for an hour or two. Tiny human goes in the hiking backpack (he loves it and usually falls asleep), and since he now weighs 11kgs or so, carrying him is quite the workout, even if the hike is short. They’re also lots of fun, especially while tiny human is awake – his enthusiasm for dogs (WOOF! WOOF!) and other things we see along the way is quite contagious.

Hooray for bite-sized chunks of movement!

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