Yes, your yoga pants are destroying the planet but so too are hockey clothes, cycling kit, and climbing gear

The following story keeps appearing in my newsfeed: Your yoga pants are destroying the planet. 

Every time you wash your yoga pants, gym clothes or any other garment made from synthetic material, you’re shedding microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers” into natural waterways, which eventually make their way to the ocean.

University of Florida researchers are now discovering that more than 80 percent of the the micro-plastics found in the ocean are actually micro-fibers from synthetic clothing:

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the researchers launched a two-year study earlier this year to discover the source of the micro-plastic pollution accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico.

When they set out they expected to find mostly micro-beads, tiny brightly-colored plastic balls found in body washes, face scrubs and other bath products, until the U.S. Government banned them in 2015, because they were harming fish and other sea life.

Instead, they found the majority of the pollution, 82%, is originating from our closets — stretchy yoga clothes, sweat-wicking athletic wear and synthetic jackets.

Now this is bad. It’s awful. We’re killing the planet. I teach a course on Fashion so the clothes link is no big surprise. Fashion is pretty high on the list on polluting industries, equal to livestock. We watch the movie True Cost in my class and it shocks my students.

Still, there was something about the yoga pants story that was bugging me. I couldn’t put my finger on it until a friend on the internet shared it with this comment: “Wow, that’s horrifying. It’s also depressing, though, that the headline and the article repeatedly go on about yoga pants in particular when, as it also says, the problem is simply “anything that’s nylon or polyester.” It has literally nothing specifically to do with yoga pants. Someone would have to own an impossibly massive yoga pant collection to be a bigger problem than me, with my hockey stuff, cycling clothes, gym clothes, thermal fleeces, etc. It’s kinda gross how concerns about plastic pollution still have to be wrapped up in a handy single reason to both use a hottie pic as the cover shot and have a central theme that shames women for their pretensions to fitness and activity.”

Right? Right! Why pick on yoga pants? The story combines environmental concern with mocking women for fitness pursuits and uses a photo of a conventionally attractive woman doing yoga on the beach.

Also, how shocking is this?

Another friend chimed in: “Yes, and you’d also think they wouldn’t write in such a “plastic turns out to be plastic!” tone. No, I would NOT think that spandex and lycra clothing would be made of recycled organic etc. The credulity makes my eyeballs itch.”

I’m no great fan of yoga pants. See Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants. 

But picking on yoga pants and leaving out all the other sports gear strikes me as picking on women in particular when the point is a general one about synthetic fibers.

Silhouette of a person doing yoga at the end of a pier
Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash



On the home stretch!

I entered my 202nd workout of the year in the 217 in 2017 Facebook group.

There are 19 days left in the year and I have 15 workouts left to complete.

I’m on the home stretch. I can do this.

Yes, the injured knee means no snowy dog hikes, no winter bike commuting, no cross country skiing, and no fat biking but it does mean an awful lot of physio and spinning.

My Facebook friend Jason Breen is at it again for 2018.

Jason asks,


For the past two years, I have been hosting a fun and free fitness accountability group. We each did 216 workouts in 2016, we are on track for 217 in 2017.

I would love for you to join us for 218 in 2018.

LEAVE YOUR NAME and “I’M IN” in the comments and I’ll add you to the 2018 group.

You can read below for more info.

WHAT: The idea is simple. In 2018 there are 365 days. We are going to challenge ourselves to workout 218 times in those 365 days.

WHY: (1) Consistently doing deliberate exercise is one of the most important factors in developing good health and fitness. (2) Choosing to complete a workout or not is something we can control.

HOW: (1)Workouts are defined as any form of deliberate exercise/movement. Some examples are, lifting weights, doing gymnastics, a CrossFit WOD, a hike in the great outdoors, practising a martial art or yoga. Taking a dance class or playing rec softball with the folks from work also count. Do what inspires you to move your body. (2) Use a spreadsheet, a habit tracking app, or a notebook and give yourself a check mark for every workout you complete. (3) Share your progress with the group.

Let’s get cracking!


Violin hips and arm pit vaginas, oh my

It’s been three years since I’ve blogged about names for badly behaved body parts. You know, muffin tops, dinner plate arms, and cankles.

I just hate it.

Some poor innocent body part that has hitherto escaped public and private scrutiny now discovers that there are standards and its lacking.


What are violin hips? Do you really want to know?

There’s articles about how to recognize them, articles about how to get rid of them, and now articles about reclaiming them in a body positive fashion. I feel old and lucky not even knowing what they are.

Here’s the positive:

“A bunch of body-positive Instagrammers love their “hipdips,” and they want you to love yours, too (if you have them). “Hipdips” or violin hips” are indentations where your hips meet your thighs. … But no matter what they look like, your hip dips—or violin hips or whatever you want to call them—are totally normal.

Jun 22, 2017, see more in Self

Last week we were all laughing on Facebook because we couldn’t figure out arm vaginas. Like what they were and whether they were good or bad.

There in various comment threads were very smart women and some men looking at photos of arm pits trying to recognize arm pit vagina and failing.

And in the end I think we all felt a bit silly but also like it didn’t matter at all.

I’m thinking this is one of the advantages of being in midlife. I’m not up on the cool lingo. That’s true. I had to ask my son today what “hundo p” meant. (One hundred percent, obviously.)

But the upside is that I’m no longer in the loop about badly behaved body parts. That suits me just fine.

I confess that is occasionally tempted to try and create one. Write a post about it. “Worried about potato knees?” But that would be cruel if it worked so I won’t.


How many bicycle ornaments does one Christmas tree need?

Here’s the tree!

Sam’s Christmas tree, next to the family piano

Here’s the bikes!

A red tricycle Xmas tree ornament
A red bike tree ornament
A silver tandem bike tree ornament

The answer is n+1 of course. I’m going shopping. Let me know if you see any good bike themed Christmas decorations.


“I am the cyclist in my life,” says Sam

Dear bike shop staff,

Please don’t assume that female customers are Christmas shopping for that “special cyclist in their life.” They might actually be taking a break from shopping for others to look for something for themselves.

When someone asked me that, I smiled and said that I was the cyclist in my life.

All fine, all fixed.


A pink bike with a blue basket leaning against a black fence
Photo by Dana Vollenweider on Unsplash
weight lifting

G-y-m not J-i-m

Recently Tracy and I got an email from a new post doc at Western. Her name is Stephanie Coen and she works in the Geography department. The cool thing, and the reason she got in touch with us, is that she works on gender and spaces for physical activity. Her website says, “My research in health geography is driven by an overarching concern for how everyday social and material contexts matter for health and health equity. I am particularly interested in how taken-for-granted—and often unquestioned—features of our day-to-day environments become implicated in the production of health outcomes, behaviours, and inequities.”

We had a great lunch and talked about powerlifting. That’s Stephanie’s sport. And we talked about academic life in general. We also talked about her latest publication. It’s called, “It’s gym, like g-y-m not J-i-m”: Exploring the role of place in the gendering of physical activity.”

There’s a link to the paper here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617306536?via%3Dihub#sec6

And Stephanie gave us an author link that gives open access till the end of December so everyone can read it: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1W0uu-CmUdwEe

ABSTRACT: Although gyms are potentially sites for health promotion, they may also be places where gendered inequities in health opportunities emerge and are sustained. Our findings demonstrate that micro-level processes at the scale of the everyday exercise environment work to routinize gender disparities and differences in physical activity. Public health efforts to close the gender gap in physical activity must account for the socio-spatial processes that reproduce, as well as challenge, gender hegemony in everyday physical activity places such as the gym.

One of the things I love about the blog are meeting researchers from around the university and further afield whose work connects them to the blog.
A rack of colourful weights in an empty gym

Photo by Ricardo Estefânio on Unsplash