fitness

Toe spreaders, oh my

Are you ready to start wearing toe spreaders? A certain running magazine says it might be time. “The spacers can be used while running or as part of a post-workout rehab routine. “Toe spacers can be helpful for conditions where compressive forces through the midfoot can create discomfort and pain. Many people with toe neuromas or degenerative changes to the foot or toes find that toe spacers can provide good relief, even while inside their shoes. As long as the spacer doesn’t negatively impact your foot strike biomechanics, they can be very useful to allow a wide and comfortable forefoot splay.”

I swear there are days when I feel like the list of “extra” things I need is getting silly. Like Nat, I wear a sexy bite guard for sleeping. It goes without saying that there are orthotics in my shoes. I wear glasses. Then there’s my knee brace. “You look like a steampunk cyborg, mum.” Thanks child of mine. And I know, I know that my worrying about this is ableist and on a good day I feel lucky that we’ve got these things and I’ve got benefits that allow me to buy them.

My latest adventure is my second toe, next to my big toe, on my left foot. You read about its xray as an exercise in self care. It tends to overlap the big toe now and my toes no longer line up in a nice orderly fashion. At the bottom of my foot there’s a patch of “ow” where the base of the toe isn’t sitting properly. What’s the answer? Toe spacers of course. I should have known this was coming. My mother has arthritic toes that don’t line up. And we’re basically the same person. We share all the same health problems! Luckily, I think she’s gorgeous (and she’s well and active) and so mostly the idea of gradually turning into her doesn’t fill me with fear. But toe spacers? Really. Well, one toe spreader. But still. Argh.

Bustle even has a piece on the best toe spreaders to wear with shoes.

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fitness

Exercise and self-esteem: Motives matter

One of the things I often say when I talk about the benefits of exercise is that exercise, on its own, helps with body image and self-esteem. Student athletes, for example. have fewer struggles with body image issues even controlling for size and shape. That is, it’s not that you look better after working out and so feel better about your body. It’s that doing active things with your body makes you feel this way.

But it turns out that motives matter. Students athletes love sports. They’re competitive. They’re exercising for performance. They’re not trying to get thin, or lean. They’re not even exercising for fitness.

Middle aged women who work out also have better body images and self-esteem and even if they’re not competitive athletes, they might be working out because it feels good, or for social reasons, or for health reasons.
Active women are more likely than inactive women to be happy with their bodies, even at the same size. See Few Middle-Aged Women Are Happy With Their Body Size: The ones most likely to be are highly active. There are lots of reasons for being active and they all lead to improved body image and self-esteem. That is, except for one.

If you’re working out because you hate your body, because you’re unhappy with the way it looks, then exercise might make things worse.

See Study shows exercising for appearance’s sake a blow to body image:

“Deakin School of Psychology researcher Associate Professor Matthew Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, said while exercise was typically found to improve feelings of body satisfaction, the effect was reduced or even reversed for people who are seriously unhappy with their appearance.

His paper, recently published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, studied 178 women and found those who were dissatisfied with their bodies in general were more likely to exercise for appearance-related reasons, and went on to record the worst results for post-exercise wellbeing.

“While we know exercise has lots of benefits for mood and physical health, that it generally makes us feel better about ourselves, the benefits may be lessened for some groups of people,” Associate Professor Fuller-Tyszkiewicz said.

“What we found is that exercise can actually make people feel very self-conscious about their bodies, and some people can have worsening body image immediately after exercising. People who have really high body dissatisfaction are most at risk of this.”

We say this all the time on the blog, exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it. This is further proof that exercising because you hate your body is a really bad idea.

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aging · Crossfit · fitness

Love these new CrossFit videos

Moves such as burpees and squats are often seen as intense or extreme fitness activities. And that they can be. Ask Tracy or me about our summer of the 100 burpee challenge. But they are, when you get down to it really about functional fitness. Squat not so that you can get a great butt or win a powerlifting competition, squat so that you can get out of chair without help as you age. Burpees are all about getting down on the ground and getting back up again. People tend not to believe but scalability is at the heart of CrossFit workouts. Yes, there’s a recommended range of movement or recommended reps or amount of weight but the basic exercises can be adjusted for all ages and abilities. You have to leave your ego on the shelf but that’s a different sort of struggle.

I had the same thought watching CrossFit athlete and sports nutritionist Jennifer Broxterman doing her post-surgery rehab exercises in her CrossFit box. She was doing sit to stands with the aid of a cane. Functional fitness, it’s what it’s all about. (I’ve been doing sit to stands too as part of my knee physio.)

You can read about Jennifer’s Fight Gone Right.

And in the meantime, these CrossFit videos have been making me smile.



The burpee is a mainstay movement in CrossFit used to develop fitness. In certain populations, the burpee (prone to stand) is a critical skill required to safely lower one’s body to the ground and stand back up. ” 

“The squat (sit to stand) is essential to your well-being. The squat can both greatly improve your athleticism and keep your hips, back, and knees sound and functioning in your senior years.” 
new year's resolutions

Now that’s a whole 30 challenge I can get behind!

I think we’re finally seeing a shift in the landscape about health and new year’s resolutions. There are far fewer articles in my various social media newsfeeds about dire diets and impossible plans. Instead, I’m seeing some reflective reporting on evidence based plans for how to make your life better, if that’s what you’re after this January. Now maybe that’s just better news algorithms but whatever, I’ll take it.

For example, the BBC this week ran a great list of health tips that weren’t about restricting foods, running unhappily on a treadmill, and weighing yourself. Instead, they made recommendations like smile more, get enough sleep, and get a dog. I can’t find the link for you! (Sorry about that. It’s been a busy week back to work.) (Edit/update: It’s here. Thanks Keri for helping out!) My favourite though was a 30 food challenge. Not the dreaded Whole 30 challenge which restricts foods, this challenge is to eat 30 different plant based foods in a week:

According to Megan Rossi, “We should aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods per week, she says. That is because plant-based diversity is thought to have a key role in good gut health. The bacteria in our gut – collectively known as the microbiome – have a profound role in our health. Allergies, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, and even depression have all been linked to the bacteria in our gut. One way we can get more plant-based diversity in our diets easily is by being a little savvier about some of the foods we purchase, says Dr Rossi. “Instead of just buying chickpeas go for the four-bean mix. Instead of buying one type of seed buy the four-seed mix,” she says.”

Lots of different vegetables: Image from Getty.

Now Matt Fitzgerald wonders if we ought to strive to eat different foods everyday. In his Is Dietary Variety Overrated? he looks at the advantages of eating the same healthy foods everyday. And there are some advantages. Planning and meal prep is easier and you can choose healthy meals you like and stick with them. That said, when it comes to fruits and vegetables there are nutritional reasons for striving for variety.

He writes, ” For example, in one study researchers from the University of Colorado divided 106 women into two groups and placed them on different diets. Both groups consumed 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but one group ate 18 different varieties of fruits and vegetables while the other ate only five varieties. Blood tests taken after two weeks revealed that while both groups showed a reduction in lipid peroxidation (due to increased antioxidant intake), only the wide-variety group exhibited a reduction of DNA damage caused by free radicals.”

Do you eat 30 different plant based foods in a week? Looking at my food log (yes, I track, I like it, still!) I’ve got a ways to go. So far I’ve had apples, onions, celery, mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli.

How about you? How many different plant based foods do you eat in a week?

Happy New Year!

Top 10, Part 2: Our most viewed posts in 2018 from 2018

Tracy’s boudoir photo shoot

Why make it all about weight? Can’t it just be a good hair day?

Once upon a time there was a leather jacket (Guest post)

Why we can’t promise a feminist space will be a safe space

Other books we love!

I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing?

Four worries Sam has about intuitive eating

Nat gets her hearing checked and encounters unfettered sexism

An open letter to Kathleen Wynne (Guest Post)

Guess which body shaming phrase Sam doesn’t ever want to hear again?

Bike with basket resting on a pink wall.
Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash
fitness

Top Tens of 2018: Part 1

Top Ten of 2018 : Our most viewed posts of the year 

It’s not that different than the Top Ten Posts of 2017 which is why I decided to do a separate post, Part 2: Top 10 posts of 2018 from 2018.

Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies

CrossFit and women’s bodies: It’s complicated

Finding clothes to fit athletic women’s bodies

She May Look Healthy But…Why Fitness Models Aren’t Models of Health

“You’ve Lost Weight! You Look Great!” Isn’t a Compliment

Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program: A Year in Review

Padded sports bras and nipple phobia

Luna Bars: “Nutrition” for Women

Body hair and winter months: Will the extra leg hair keep me warm?

I walk 20K steps a day… and I’m getting rid of my Fitbit (Guest Post)


Photo by HENCE THE BOOM on Unsplash

Coming up: Our most viewed posts in 2018 from 2018

cycling · fitness

Sam rides around New York Saturday morning (virtually)


As readers know, I’ve got my winter cycling options all lined up. I’ve got my bike in a trainer in my home office and Netflix awaits. But I’ve also been watching friends post their Zwift workouts and I’ve been feeling intrigued. I’ve also been looking for indoor bike trainer classes in Guelph. I miss Chris Helwig’s basement.

Enter the Bike Shed. It’s a bike studio in Arkell just outside Guelph  I first spotted it on my way back from a ride around the country side east of campus though I wasn’t sure then exactly what it was. Turns out it’s a converted schoolhouse set up with bike trainers and screens. You bring the bike and the owner, Neil, supplies the trainers and technology.

What’s Zwift? Part video game, part bike training software, it places you in a virtual world with cyclists from all over the world. Your speed on the actual physical bike translates into your bike avatar and if you’re on a smart trainer, like the kind the Bike Shed has, hills translate into much harder pedaling. You can ride in groups, with friends, or do your training plan.

We rode in a virtual New York the Big Apple but with no cars and added hills.

That morning there were more than 9000 cyclists from around the world on Zwift.

What did we think? On the whole, Sarah and I both found it pretty engrossing. The time on the trainer passed quickly. I loved trying to keep up with people, just like in real life. 

Sarah says she didn’t find the smart trainer accurately reflected riding up a hill. She found you had to spin faster rather than harder – like you had already downshifted. She joked that it was like riding a bike with an automatic transmission.

I liked that the were segments you encountered over again and it reported how much faster or slower you were on subsequent rounds and ranked you against other riders.

It was odd not steering! And not crashing. And riding right through other people. There’s no way to go around them.

Back to the Bike Shed: The studio owner Neil was super welcoming. We felt at ease pretty much right away.  He was encouraging and enthusiastic and proud of the space he’s created. You can see it in the video below.

We’ll be back!

Here’s a shot of virtual New York.

Here’s the Bike Shed owner talking about his studio:

Are you a regular rider on Zwift? What do you think? I know I’m late to the party but I’m anxious to get back out there.