fitness · menstruation · soccer

Marginal gains and menstruation

I love the idea of marginal gains. See Tracy’s blog post about the idea here.

I first heard about in the sports content reading Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes–and What We Can Learn from Them which, by the way, is a fun book about sports performance.

The main idea as I recall it was that when you are working with elite athletes at the top of their game you aren’t going to be able to make big changes and see big improvements. All the athletes are working at near capacity. Instead you focus on making lots of small improvements in all areas.

My favourite example concerned cyclists and sleep quality. It turns out, not surprisingly, that athletes sleep better at home. How to replicate those conditions on the road? The coach had them bring along pillows and blankets from home.

But coaches traditionally haven’t much attention to women’s menstrual patterns. Until now.

See Ending period ‘taboo’ gave USA marginal gain at World Cup.

” One emerging issue in women’s sport is the menstrual cycle and its impact on performance, player health and injury risk,” explains Dawn Scott, the USWNT’s fitness coach, exclusively to The Telegraph. “I’ve known about these effects, the research, for a long time – but working with 23 players, I had always struggled to know how to accurately monitor that and how to individualise strategies for players.”

It’s a great story. Go read it! But what I love is that the coaching team decided to be open and talk about it–not keeping the competitive edge a secret.

““We want to end the taboo,” says Scott. “At the elite level, but also for teenage girls. They should feel comfortable talking about this with their coaches.” Bruinvels admits that awareness and improved education are key motivations for her work. “Often we are afraid of discussing this because we don’t really understand it,” she says. “I feel particularly for male coaches, who wonder how they would start this discussion.”

Open air stadium with soccer field

 Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta, Indonesia
cycling · fall · fitness · season transitions · snow · winter

The seasons of cycling

When I first started riding a bike as an adult, I commuted in the winter but recreational riding came to an end with the snow and the cold. Fun riding was summer riding on my road bike with skinny tires in the sunshine. I trained indoors all winter but I did it for the sake of summer riding.

Over the years I’ve changed, as a cyclist, and I’ve come to appreciate the change of seasons for the different kinds of riding it brings.

For me fall means the return of my adventure road bike and fun riding on gravel. It’s my go-to commuting bike but it’s also good for weekend country rides. We dial back the distance and go out for an hour or two on bike trails. It’s relaxing to ride with no cars in sight. This past weekend Sarah and I did some riding in Turkey Point. See the gallery below.

I’ve got my eyes on the Guelph to Goderich rail trail too.

But it’s not just the fall and cyclocross/gravel riding. I’m also looking forward now to the winter and to riding in the snow on my fat bike. It’s a fun and joyful way to play in the snow on bikes. Check out my smile!

I think I’ve honestly come to love all the seasons of cycling. They’re different things, each with their own kind of pleasure.

Some road riding friends don’t get it. They question the fitness benefits of fat bike riding. They ask about my heart rate and training zones. I say that’s not the point. I don’t fess up that I am not even wearing a heart rate monitor. I’m doing it for fun and for mental health benefits. I need to be outside in the winter. I love riding through the woods. Fat bike riding makes me feel like a kid again as I ride over all sorts of obstacles in my path.

I still ride inside all winter. I put a road bike on a trainer and ride virtually in Zwift. That’s fun too and that I do do for fitness reasons.

Fat biking? That’s for fun and the love of riding a bike.

I’m now the kind of cyclist who loves all the seasons of cycling. See you out there in autumn, winter, spring, and summer!

How about you? Do you ride year round? How many seasons of cycling do you like?


While Cate went running, we went singing! La la la..

As readers of the blog know my running days are over. Mostly I’m okay with that but not at stressful times like this election season. Today’s the big vote here in Canada. Yesterday, I was super stressed. Anxious, grumpy, and a bit panicky.

I read Cate’s post about running and election anxiety and felt jealous, adding that to my range of unpleasant emotions. I’ve written before about comfort eating and the US election in defense of food that makes us feel good but I was away from my kitchen and it’s home cooked food that makes me feel better usually.

Instead, I did something new. I sang. Sarah and I went to the Big Sing with my daughter Mallory who is a singing regular. She’s a member of the Karen Schuessler Singers and conducts a children’s choir as well.

What’s a Big Sing?

“Big Sing London! is an event where a couple hundred people get together to just sing. It’s not a concert—we do all the singing ourselves! With our need to come together and engage in community, what better activity could there be to do that than singing?” says KSS Artistic Director and Conductor Karen Schuessler.

The songs we’ll sing will be all kinds—traditional songs. Songs that unite us. Fun songs. Inspiring songs. Simple songs. Songs we can just sing out and not worry if we’re singing too loud—because we’ll all be singing loud! We’ll use word sheets so everyone can join in.

Bernie Gilmore is a well-known folksinger, singer-songwriter, guitarist and banjo player right here in London. Bernie is passionate about the power of community singing and the right of every person to be able to sing. He loves leading Community Sings! You can be sure he’ll get the whole room rocking!

As he says, “Get the heck off your favourite chair at home and out from in front of the big screen. If you love to sing great songs come on out to Big Sing London! for an afternoon you will thoroughly enjoy—and get ready to sing your socks off!”

I’ve written before about the fitness benefits of singing. I can’t actually hold a tune so it’s not something I usually do. But yesterday I sang, Canadian folk songs mostly, and I felt just a little bit more relaxed. I think it’s the breathing. Thanks Mallory for having us along!


Sam is waking up in Munich to bikes in the sunshine and beautiful bright leaves

Sure I’m still jetlagged and sleepy. But today I started to feel a little bit more alive. I asked questions in the talks at the conference. I sat outside in the sunshine and smiled. I’m having a wonderful time in Munich. There are really good papers at this conference and really interesting people here presenting. I’m meeting colleagues from all over the world. And I got excellent feedback on my talk which I’ll be rewriting as a chapter in the edited volume we’re putting together. Exciting.

There are also little things to enjoy such as delicious apples and salads in glass jars at lunch time. Since Martha asked, I’ll tell you, the dressing was also in little glass jars. No plastic in sight.

What else is making me smile? There are brightly coloured leaves everywhere. There are also bikes and bike lanes (so many bikes!) and I’m already thinking I need to come back. Maybe I’ll bring my Brompton next time.

I’m not moving here though despite what social media thinks.

First LinkedIn offers me German health insurance for my big move. Now all my Facebook ads are for German classes.

The latter might come in useful.

Bis zum nächsten Mal!

Alcohol free white beer!

Belly Patrolling #tbt

We’ve had a reader ask us about waist size and bellies. Cate will be posting about that next week. But in the meantime I’ve been reading through some of our older “belly” posts. Here’s Nat on belly patrolling.


So I’ve touted my comfy no-bra summer styling and up until last week I had not gotten one piece of negative feedback.


I love this combo, cool in the August heat and delightfully free of the boob jail thing called a bra. So I’m standing at a busy intersection at night wearing something similar to above. It’s after midnight on a Tuesday spent laughing with dear friends at Rock’n’Roll Bingo and a car drives by. A man in his late teens or early twenties yells out “I just LOVE YOUR BELLY!”

The sarcasm was pretty clear. I wasn’t terribly upset but I was perplexed. Why on earth would he feel entitled to comment on my belly?

My partner was quick to pick up the point “Oh women must be, at all times, attractive to all men or suffer the wrath of being patrolled.” Of course! How silly of me to forget sexism.


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rest · sleep · traveling · yoga

Sam has a bad flight and is fighting jet lag

I often claim that sleep is my superpower! 

I am one of those people who can sleep almost anywhere, anytime. I sleep on planes and I rarely experience jet lag. My trick is simple: arrive well-rested, spend time outside, make it through the day, and then bang, I’m good to go after a night’s sleep in my new location. It’s a good trick and I benefit lots from it. I’ve flown to New Zealand for four days and returned to work not much the worse for wear.

But right now I’m in Munich, speaking at a conference on Neglected Relationships.

” Personal Relationships have been a topic of philosophical research for quite some time. And rightfully so: they can contribute more to our well-being, give meaning to our lives, and generate salient moral duties and responsibilities. However, the debate has been focused on just a few types of relationships: friendships, the nuclear family, romantic partnership and co-citizenship. In this conference, we aim to explore the focus and explore what we call neglected relationships. These are kinds of relationships that play important part in our personal and moral lives, but that have gone largely underexplored by moral philosophers so far. ” My talk was on chosen family.

My flight turned out to be the Lufthansa equivalent of Air Canada Rouge. (It’s Rouge on the way home, I think.) I’m flying Basic Economy. I flew here on the “overnight” flight–scare quotes because it was just a 5 hour flight. The seats were super small, hard, and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep but I also couldn’t work because the person in front of me reclined into my lap. So I arrived sore and scrunched up and very, very tired. Thanks to my compression socks I didn’t have swollen ankles. But my knee hurt a lot from sitting squished into a small space with my knee brace on.

I walked to my hotel and that helped a bit. I napped too before settling down to work on my talk. But I was still really sore. Luckily Yoga with Adrienne came to my rescue! I discovered YWA through the 219 in 2019 fitness challenge group. I knew if I was going to make it to 300 workouts in 2019, I’d need an at home/travel plan. This series of moves really helped with the unscrunching. Indeed, after a day of sitting in talks I might just do it again!

My talk went well. I got some really good comments and I’m looking forward to working on it some more.

Here’s another good thing. Yummy vegetarian/vegan conference food. Also, no single use plastics. These are salads and dressing in glass bowls.

Glass bowls of salad and dressing. Yum!

Sam won’t be wearing a lady back pack

pink backpack
A woman with blonde hair wearing a pink shirt and denim shorts, holding a drink, wearing a pink backpack. Photo by Unsplash.

The Atlantic announced that this is the year that professional women started wearing backpacks.

Excerpt: “Each woman’s conversion to the double-shoulder lifestyle is unique. Anna Swanson told me she started coming into the office with a backpack instead of a purse when she began work as a bureaucrat, which seemed, to her, to be a more “masculine” sphere. I corresponded with dozens of women for this story, and they told me they had grown tired of juggling multiple bags on public transportation or while walking—in heels, no less! They shared tales of trying to squeeze a laptop, makeup, gym clothes, a water bottle, notebooks, and a phone into a classy tote, then giving up and saying, Screw it.
“A year ago, I would have said, ‘You’ll have to pry my leather satchel purse from my cold, dead hands,’” says Silver Lumsdaine, a marketing specialist in San Francisco. “But after standing in a jam-packed bus for a 45-minute, swaying, nausea-inducing commute over the hills of San Francisco with my hand cramping in pain from holding my laptop-burdened purse, I did what any reasonable person would do.” Reader, she got a backpack.”

That’s fine. I was once asked to speak at a student event called From Backpack to Briefcase and I had to confess that I had never really made the transition myself. As a cyclist, I’m a fan of backpacks, also messenger bags.

The Atlantic called their story The Rise of the Lady Backpack. Of course they did. because women can’t just wear backpacks. We have to wear “lady backpacks.” Likewise, we ride “women’s bikes.”

What’s with the unnecessary gendering? A friend explained that lady backbacks are built for the female frame. They’re smaller. But what about small men? I asked. Well, said the friend, they can buy a lady backpack.

But they’re not a lady! They’re a small person. Wouldn’t it be easier if backpacks came in sizes to match differently sized people?

FFS. And they’ll probably come in pink.

A friend recently raised the issue of step-through bike frames. He wanted one because he’d had knee surgery and couldn’t swing his leg up over a traditional cross bar. The bike shop told him he wanted a women’s bike. He said, no, that he wanted a step through frame. How hard is this to understand, people?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a women’s specific anything is likely just a very bad idea.

Humans come in lots of different shapes and sizes. How about you just label the stuff by measurement and let us choose? Leave gender out of it, thanks.