covid19 · cycling

Sam is riding the waves, on her bike, outside

In the first wave of the pandemic I didn’t ride outside much at all. Last May I wrote Why Sam is still riding inside even though the sun is shining and Riding safely in pandemic times. I didn’t want to risk injury, to require medical care by doing something that’s not necessary when other people needed it more, and I felt I needed to stick very close to home..

This year we’re in the third wave, which is worse than the first and second here in Ontario, and there’s a stay at home order I’m happy to be riding outside (in Guelph, close to home.)

We’re planning a bike packing trip for June once the stay at home order has ended and getting out for rides in the countryside around Guelph. Want the details? Feel free to follow me on Strava.

This weekend we loaded one of the 50 km routes used by the Tour de Guelph and set out on a sunny Saturday afternoon. When you added on getting to campus, where the ride begins, going for coffee after, and a brief detour where Sarah thought the Garmin directions were wrong but they weren’t, we ended up clocking about 60 km. It was fun and relaxing and I started wondering what felt so different than last summer.

First, I think we have a better sense of what the risks are. I’m riding with one other person with whom I live. Nothing dangerous there. I’m not racing or riding particularly aggressively. And I’m staying away from roads with lots of traffic. We’re choosing routes carefully.

Second, I feel more prepared. I bring a mask. I have people at home who can pick us up if we have a mechanical difficulty. Hi, Miles! It’s year two of the pandemic and I feel more certain about what I’m doing.

Third, I’m partially vaccinated. One shot of AstraZeneca a week ago. My mother is also partially vaccinated–Pfizer at one of the provincial clinics, this one run by the University of Guelph. Sarah is Schrodinger vaccinated. Maybe or maybe not but she will be by the end of the clinical trial she’s taking part in. On the one hand I feel like that shouldn’t be changing my behavior, and it’s not really, but I do feel less anxious. Jeff the boat dweller also got vaccinated this weekend, before taking off on his big boating adventures, the 2021 edition.

Fourth, it’s another summer and I feel like the beginning of the end of the pandemic is in sight. Yes things are very bad right now in Ontario but words like these give me hope: “Countries that have combined a stay at home order with mass vaccinations have wiped out their third wave.” See Third State of Emergency. I’m hoping for a better summer than last, certainly a better fall 2021 than 2020, and a winter that sees us mostly out of the pandemic woods.

fitness · monthly check in

Sam is checking in for March (late, because sad)

This post is delayed due to bad knee news and sadness writing about it. I seriously couldn’t even face thinking about it and I certainly didn’t want to write about it. But the news has kind of settled now and I’m doing okay.

Regular readers will know that these monthly check in posts have focused on my knee and getting ready for total knee replacement surgery.

In general, I’m a big fan of Canadian healthcare. I don’t mind waiting for non-urgent care. I’m pretty stoical about most things. But it no longer feels okay to be waiting for knee surgery.

Here’s Sam and her knees and her bike before all the talk of surgery even began. Photo by Ruthless Images.

I saw the sports medicine doctor who first referred me for surgery the other day, for the first time since June 2019. I saw the surgeon in person in August 2019 and we made plans. We talked about December 2020. That was a long time away then but I figured it would give me time to lose weight (recommended for easier recovery) and I could plan to take time off and have an acting dean in place for my medical leave.

Since then, August 2019, radio silence. Nothing. Nada. I emailed a few times. I phoned a few times. I read articles about the hospital in question putting all non-urgent surgery due to Covid. There were, for a time, weekly headlines about the hospital having covid outbreaks on surgical floors and about surgery cancellations.

So just a few weeks ago I gave in and reached out to the referring doctor. They took what seemed like dozens of x-rays of both knees. The diagnosis is unchanged–end stage osteoarthritis in both knees. There’s nothing there–no cartilage–just bone grinding on bone in both knees which feels about as good as that sounds.

The sports medicine doctor asked me what’s changed since we talked about my knees almost two years ago now. Well, the big bad news is that it’s now both knees. It’s no longer clear on some days which is the bad knee. They’re both bad. I used to tag blog posts about this issue Sam’s left knee. Sadly I need a new tag, simply Sam’s knees.

Better is that I’m walking okay. Not very far and not very fast. But I’m walking. I take Cheddar out two or three days a week and we can toddle around for 2 to 3 km without too much pain and suffering. (Don’t worry. He gets lots of walks. Other people walk him too.) And of course, I’m riding my bike lots.

The doctor said I could start again and get on a waitlist somewhere else. But I’m loathe to do that.

He said that the student athletes have been able to get surgeries right through covid. Seniors, however, were put off and now they have a backlog of frail, elderly patients who can’t walk around their house or get groceries. I’m in the middle. I’m not a 19 year old varsity athlete needing ACL reconstruction after injury. I’m not an 80 year old who can’t walk either. I’m just a 56 year old recreational athlete who wants to be able to go on longer walks (and snowshoe, and cross country ski, and skate) and not be in pain everyday.

I want to be able to go and do some of New Zealand’s Great Walks. More urgently, I’d like to be able to walk to work sometimes. I’d like to sleep through the night without knee pain. I’d like to take less ibuprofen.

In the meantime, I’ll be here, doing endless knee physio exercises and riding my bike. There are worse things than delayed surgery that have happened as a result of covid. No one in my house is sick. No one died. Some of us are even partially vaccinated now. As bad as things are in Ontario right now, I see the finish line and even though I’ll be limping over it, I’m excited to have the pandemic’s end in sight.

fashion · fitness · inclusiveness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Friday Link Round Up #95, Inclusive Fitness Fashion

Today’s link round up focusses on fitness, fashion, and inclusivity.

Athleta’s Latest Launch Is The Inclusivity Push In The Fitness Industry I’ve Been Waiting For

“Those of us trying to be more active who don’t fit society’s image of what “health and wellness” looks like can often feel excluded. While the fitness industry has made strides in recent years, shopping for activewear can still prove challenging at times. I mean really, how can any of us be expected to start hitting the gym when it’s a challenge to even find workout gear that fits us? The double standard has been weighing on a lot of us for a really long time. But Athleta’s latest push for inclusivity is moving the needle forward.”

6 Women And Brands That Are Making Fitness More Size-Inclusive

“There’s no denying that a lot of work needs to be done to make fitness a happier, more fulfilling relationship for women everywhere, of any size. For so many women, diet culture has morphed movement from a joyful activity to an unsatisfying means to an end. Not only can this rob exercise of fun, but it also continues to make women (myself, included) feel pulled to move for the sake of shrinking ourselves. Luckily, there’s a growing movement of incredible women and initiatives leading the charge towards change. Through their own journeys of rejecting diet culture’s influence over fitness and embracing their bodies, they’ve nurtured a healthier relationship with movement that’s inclusive of all shapes and (finally) filled with fun.”

Sure they’re comfortable, but those leggings and sports bras are also redefining modern femininity

“In our own research, we argue that wearing activewear in public is a way of saying “I am in charge of my health” and conforming to socially acceptable understandings of femininity. In this sense, activewear (not to be confused with its less sporty “athleisure” offshoot) has become the uniform of what we might term the “socially responsible 21st-century woman.” Part of the appeal of activewear is that it is comfortable and functional. But it has also been designed to physically shape the body into a socially desirable hourglass female form.”

Attention Plus-Size Athletes: Superfit Hero Extends Their Size Run To 7X

“This week activewear brand, Superfit Hero, announced that they will phase out their smallest sizes – extra-small, small and medium – in favor of extending their size run through 7X permanently. The change starts with their newest collection, also released this week, which includes sports bras, leggings, and shorts in sizes 12 through 42.  CEO Micki Krimmel said in a statement that this decision came after extensive research that focused on the unique needs of plus-size athletes. During interviews, customers described many of their shopping experiences as “traumatic,” stating that “lack of access, inconsistent sizing, and ill-fitting, low-quality garments” led to a feeling of disenfranchisement. She says Superfit Hero wants to solve this problem.”

Can evil companies change their ways? Yes, that’s you we’re talking about Lululemon

“Me, I like their yoga pants and I guess I hope companies can change. We’re all works in progress, even Lululemon. And yes, capitalism and yes, co-opting. But there’s no pure path. This is the world we live and work in.”

I know it’s an ad but I like it, thanks Under Armour

“This looks, to me, like an inclusive ad done right. It’s not thin white women. They don’t have perfect bodies. They’re working hard and having fun. Count me in.”


fitness

Happy National Unicorn Day!, #NationalUnicornDay

Really!

A bright inflatable unicorn on a bright blue body of water. Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

How to observe National Unicorn Day? I know you’re wondering.

“There are several ways to celebrate this fun day. Try these fun ideas:

  • Make some brightly colored pancakes or cupcakes.  Decorate them with multicolored sprinkles or glitter.
  • Bake cookies in the shape of unicorns.
  • Watch a favorite movie including unicorns.
  • Draw a picture of a unicorn or write a story about one.
  • Read your favorite fantasy novel featuring unicorns.

We’ve also created a coloring page and a picture puzzle. Can you find the differences? Use the key to see if you find them all. Post photos on social media using #NationalUnicornDay”

Or, you can read old Fit is a Feminist Issue posts (below) with “unicorn” in the title!

Kayaking with Unicorns (and Children)

I’m no weightloss unicorn

When it comes to weight loss, aim to be an alpaca not a unicorn

What are the habits of weight loss unicorns?

feminism · fit at mid-life · fitness

Moving for Me, #podcast

It feels like months ago. Maybe it was. I’ve lost all sense of time in the pandemic. I was interviewed for a new podcast, Peace by Piece.

What’s Peace by Piece all about? “While we don’t always see it, gender-based violence is all around us. At Anova, we believe in a future without violence. But what does a future without violence look like? How do we get there? Peace by Piece is a bi-weekly podcast hosted by Dr. AnnaLise Trudell. In this podcast, we have meaningful and educational conversations with experts and innovators about what makes a world without violence.

In each episode of Peace by Piece, we identify tools and approaches that breakdown gender-based violence, unpack the systems that perpetuate violence, and piece together how we can confront and stop gender-based violence all together.

Episodes range between 45 minutes and an hour and are available on all major podcast listening platforms.”

Here’s their blurb about the episode I’m in,” Tune in to our chat with @SamJaneB, co-founder of @FitFeminists about feminism & how fitness can & should be for everyone, no matter their age, size, gender, or ability! Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or visit: http://anovafuture.org/podcast/

camping · cycling · fitness

Planning our bike packing trip with the bob trailer

Bob trailer

Bike packing is all the rage these days. In part, because in pandemic times, it’s a completely independent outdoors thing we can do. It also follows on the heels of the gravel bike trend since those bikes are perfect for mixed surface roads, camping, and carrying stuff.

I’ve done it in the past on rail trails, camping along the way, but it’s been a few years.

This summer we’re trying it again. To help with back country camping trips with our canoe and my bad knees we bought some lightweight camping gear that will also work well for bike packing.

Come June Sarah and I are heading out on the Simcoe Loop Trail: “The Simcoe County Loop Trail is a 160-kilometer loop that travels through nine municipalities, reaches three major bodies of water, including Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Couchiching. And, it is primarily on off-road, multi-use rail-trails! The route is flat, scenic and available as a multi-day tour.”

The plan is to park in Barrie and bike 40 km to Mara Park where we have a camping reservation

On Day 2 we’ll ride from Mara Park to Midland, 60 km ish where we’ve booked a bunkie.

And then on Day 3 it’s back to Barrie, 60 km.

On our gravel bikes with stuff we’re not that speedy–covering about 15-20 km/hr.

Long time readers will remember an earlier appearance of the bob trailer. Jeff and I used it with our road bikes on our biking holiday on Manitoulin Island. That time we didn’t camp and it was just used for clothes etc. This time we’ll be taking tent and sleeping bags etc. I’ll carry clothes etc in my bike panniers.

Do you do any bike packing? Any hints for us? Tell us your bike packing stories in the comments below.

Simcoe Trail booklet
fitness · inclusiveness · Zwift

In favour of April Fools’ Day Trikes and Inclusive Representation

First, the joke.

On April Fools Day Zwift swapped out their regular virtual bikes for virtual trikes. I laughed and laughed. My twenty something son said that I had a low bar for amusement. That might be true. Maybe it’s even part of the joy of aging. But I did enjoy zooming around on big wheel bike, especially in the peleton (see below). They disappeared for our team time trial that day. When we entered the event we were on our regular bikes. Frankly I was just relieved that Zwift didn’t swap our planned route Watopia Waistband for the Alpe on the occasion of April 1.

Top: A group of riders on trikes. Bottom: Sam on her Zwift trike.

Second, the trikes got people thinking.

Rebecca Dobiesz posted this comment in a Zwift women’s group I’m in, “So yes, the April Fool’s joke is funny, entertaining, and a nice surprise. But I wish they spent that graphic design time (or any other time) developing more skin tones, more body types, non-binary avatars, more body feature colors and sizes, non-able bodied avatars, prosthetics, women with more muscle tone, etc. Has this crossed anyone else’s mind today? I hope with all the other initiatives they have started, these avatar designs are already in the works and have been for some time.
(I shouldn’t have to say this but please don’t bash this with negativity. If anything I hope this allows us all to reflect on diversity and the importance of representation.) Ride on!”

Other people suggested that if Zwift could manage virtual rain in London (why, Zwift, why?) that they could also give people the choice to have their avatar bike match the bike they were actually riding. For example, some Zwifters ride handcycles but in the virtual world they’re on road bikes/mtbs like everyone else. It would be great to have other more adaptive cycling options represented in the game. See here for a discussion of this point.

There are lots of discussions of avatar hair options too. Me, I just want an avatar closer to my actual size. In Zwift women only come in small and medium, while men come in small, medium, and large. It’s part of my push for better representation of large and strong women’s bodies.

So to be clear, I loved the joke. Like Rebecca, I just want more options–more inclusion of all types of riders–in my virtual world.

How about you? What would you add if you could to better represent the kind of riding you do and the kind of rider you are?

Left: Sam riding solo on her Zwift trike. Right: Sam riding in a Zwift peloton of trikes.
fitness

Strong women’s bodies and representation

You can buy the print on the left here https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/jasonrainville/the-bather/

It came up in my newsfeed today even though it’s been circulating for awhile.

I’ve been interested in the lack of representation of larger women’s athletic bodies in representations of fitness and women in sport for awhile now.

See Big women and strength and Where are the muscular, larger women’s bodies? and  Bigger, better, stronger? On women and weightlifting and From the Olympics to the Biggest Loser? Say it ain’t so Holley

Why?

Well, partly so that girls and women don’t think their larger bodies rule them out of athletic pursuits. I’d like to see more girls and women taking part in sports.

But also so that those who do start out in sports don’t let our society’s preference for smaller bodies hamper their athletic achievements. While girls and women who are physically active have a better relationship to their physicality than those who aren’t (fewer eating disorders etc) many report trying to balance their sports achievement with looking a certain way.

Until we have young women who don’t let aesthetics constrain their athletic goals, we have no idea how strong, fast, and powerful women and girls can be.

fitness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Friday Link Round Up #94

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page. Sometimes it’s for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right? Other times it’s because we can’t easily moderate comments on the FB page and things get out of control fast. Here, most of the time, conversations tend to be calmer and slower. I’m not sharing these links because I agree with everything in them. I think they are all of interest to people interested in the connections between fitness and feminism.

  • The future of sex in elite sport: Sex has long been used to divide sporting competitions in the name of fairness, but are the current rules and enforcement practices fit for purpose?
  • My problem with the discourse around “obesity” “Fatness and sex actually have a lot in common. The problem with fatness is very similar to the problem with sex. American society doesn’t know enough about these topics because they’re horrifically understudied. And they’re horrifically understudied in large part because they’re so stigmatized. They’re also very gendered. The way people socialized as men experience sex and fatness are quite different from the way people socialized as women experience them.”
  • Fat and Healthy? What the Science Says About Longevity and WeightAccording to a 2014 U.S. study, more than two-thirds of respondents agree with the statement, “one of the worst things that could happen to a person would be for [them] to become obese.” Presumably, there’s a fear of weight stigma, shortened life expectancy, and poorer quality of life. This article aims to examine what the science says about what adipose tissue really does to the body, look at how it affects human life extension, and suggest considerations for larger individuals who are spanners.”  
  • Weight Shaming (Not Free Doughnuts) Is The Real Health Threat. Here’s Why. “Those who have spoken out against the free doughnut incentive argue that eating doughnuts might ruin someone’s health. But other experts pointed out that this isn’t really about health — it’s about fatphobia. “By couching this in terms of health, people can more readily express fatphobic sentiment without repercussion because it’s seen as coming from a place of ‘concern’ for well-being,” said Jeffrey Hunger, an assistant professor and social psychology researcher at Miami University in Ohio who studies the health consequences of stigma.”
  • 5.2 million people die from inactivity each year: what’s the solution? Around 1.5bn people worldwide are so inactive they are risking their long-term health. But fixing this problem could help save both people and planet.
  • Megan Rapinoe: Bills to ban transgender kids from sports try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist “These bills are attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Transgender kids want the opportunity to play sports for the same reasons other kids do: to be a part of a team where they feel like they belong. Proponents of these bills argue that they are protecting women. As a woman who has played sports my whole life, I know that the threats to women’s and girls’ sports are lack of funding, resources and media coverage; sexual harassment; and unequal pay.”
  • Why are Americans Obsessed with Fitness? Historian Jürgen Martschukat argues we’ve lost the joy in moving our bodies, “What’s especially peculiar about the West’s fitness-mania is that it isn’t tied to organized sport, nor to winning a medal, but rather the goal of “achieving a fit body.” That goal has become a mechanism to perpetuate privilege, Martschukat writes. “This body, in turn, stands for an array of partially overlapping forces, abilities and ideals, which point far beyond the doing of the sport,” he says. “These encompass one’s health and performance in everyday life and at work, productivity and the ability to cope with challenging situations, potency, a slim figure, and a pleasing appearance according to the prevalent standards of beauty.”
  • Extreme Exercise Carries Metabolic Consequences “As a researcher at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Filip Larsen would hear anecdotes about the downsides of too much exercise—a common enough phenomenon that nevertheless puzzled him. “All athletes know if you train too much, something’s happening. . . . Your legs feel terrible after a while, and then if you just continue, you have these psychological disturbances too, like mood disturbances,” he says. “That hasn’t been really described in the literature—no one knows exactly what’s going on.” To find out, Larsen and his colleagues recruited 11 healthy young people and put them through a four-week, increasingly intense regimen of sessions on a stationary bike while monitoring their glucose tolerance and mitochondrial function. During the toughest week, the subjects displayed insulin resistance and other deleterious metabolic changes, the team reported last week (March 18) in Cell Metabolism.”
  • Roll flower tattoos celebrate fat bodies in their natural state Artist Carrie Metz-Caporusso created these designs to highlight a part of the body society usually tells us to be ashamed of.
fashion · fitness · inclusiveness · yoga

Can evil companies change their ways? Yes, that’s you we’re talking about Lululemon

Last year I wrote a blog post called Lululemon might still be a little bit evil but now they are also plus sized evil!

“Over the years I’ve gone from thinking that Lululemon is BAD ( Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants) to thinking they are an annoying company (Is Lululemon trying to annoy me?) to buying their leggings when I could find my size online. Sell-out, I know. But I love their high waist Align. In black. Size 14 please. Thanks Ann!

And now you plus sized friends can have them too. Wow.”

They’ve gone from saying that their clothes don’t work for larger bodies to selling clothes designed for larger bodies to appointing one of my fave plus sized fitness spokespersons as a brand ambassador. That’s a pretty big shift.

See Lululemon’s new campaign star has a body-inclusive message: ‘Running is for everyone who has a body and wants to run’

“The athletic apparel brand has tapped ultramarathoner, author, speaker and former Fat Girl Running blogger Mirna Valerio to front its new global “Feel Closer to Your Run” campaign and offer better representation of runners whose body types are typically overlooked within the fitness space. The Vermont-based Valerio tells Yahoo Life that she hopes to inspire and empower both people who have felt excluded by activities like running, and the brands that have the power to provide better quality gear for bigger bodies.

“Make no mistake: All kinds of people in all sorts of bodies want to be able to engage in movement that is meaningful to them, and they need apparel that fits, is functional and well-made,” Valerio says. “There was this prevailing idea that plus-size folks didn’t do or want to do things like running, cycling, swimming, etc. But guess what? We’ve always done those things and have had to contend with ill-fitting apparel — because we’ve been forgotten and ignored — poorly constructed clothing that is not fit for any athletic activity, or if they do fit, pieces in limited colors and styles.”

Never has a post attracted so many likes/comments as this one on our Fit is a Feminist Issue Facebook page. I asked some of our readers if I could share their comments. Mostly, as a group, they weren’t convinced by Lululemon’s efforts at inclusivity.

Whitney writes, “No thanks, Lulu! Not only are their sizes not inclusive, their clothing is prohibitively expensive!”

“Love her but I abhor lululemon and everything they represent is antithesis to this. I hope she gets loads of money out of them and carries on then continuing with her work leaving them in the dirt,” says Sivapraya.

Jessy says, “Well that’s quite a change from the ripping pants at the crotch because “some women shouldn’t wear their clothes” (not verbatim but we get the point).”

What brands did readers suggest instead? Superfit Hero, of course. Here’s my first post about them: I’m a super fit hero and the gym is my phone booth.

Pretty much everyone was a fan of Mirna.

Marlena says, “Yaaaaas Mirna is a goddess, so glad to see her being featured by larger and larger outdoor/athletic companies!”

And I think we can all agree about that.

Here’s Mirna:

Ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio hopes that her work as a Lululemon ambassador shows that
Ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio hopes that her work as a Lululemon ambassador shows that “running is for everyone who has a body and wants to run.” (Photo: Lululemon)

Me, I like their yoga pants and I guess I hope companies can change. We’re all works in progress, even Lululemon. And yes, capitalism and yes, co-opting. But there’s no pure path. This is the world we live and work in.

And I’m happy that the world now contains this billboard.

May be an image of standing and outdoors
Lululemon, Toronto

What do you think? Share your opinions in the comments.