traveling

Tracy’s India Travel Plan: Start with a good jacket

I’m in India for a couple of weeks, this time for six days in Delhi first (including a day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal) and then four days at a feminist and gender studies conference in Puducherry in South India before heading back home. I left Toronto in an icestorm turned snowstorm that closed many things in the region on Tuesday, including my campus (and thankfully not Toronto Pearson Airport).

There are loads of exciting things about going to India, but one of the things I was looking forward to enroute was testing out my new Baubax bomber style travel jacket. My friend Dawn and I responded to a Kickstarter and ordered a jacket each. I ordered the bomber (in black) and she ordered the windbreaker (in red). I’m not promoting the company and have no stake in either it or the jacket. In fact, Dawn has had a heck of a time exchanging her jacket for the same one in a size that fits her better. And the earlier version of the jacket (ours is take 2) did have some negative reviews, like this one here.

Having said that, one of my objectives on this trip was to get enough sleep on the trip over, or at least something approximating enough. I also wanted to have my stuff close by but not have to fuss with bags and such. That made the many pockets and the hood/eye cover/neck pillows features super attractive. Also, did I mention that I left in the middle of Canadian winter? And I was going to India? That meant I wanted a jacket that could do the job for the parts of the trip in Canada, but that wouldn’t be a big pain in the butt taking up too much precious luggage space (because: shopping!) while in India.

The jacket came through big time on all those fronts. The many pockets allowed me to keep my phone, passport and boarding pass, charger cable, and even my kindle on my person. The hood with a built in eye cover that comes down and a stored inflatable neck pillow enabled me to get two good hours of sleep while we were still on the tarmac for de-icing and waiting for the runway to be cleared of snow. It also made an additional hour or so possible on the leg from Abu Dhabi to Delhi. You just pull the hood up and the eye cover down, inflate the pillow, close your eyes, and zzzzzzz.

Image description: Black Baubax bomber style jacket, upper portion, showing hood up, eye cover down, and everything snapped in to place. Wood cabinet in background, retractable pen hanging from zipper.

It kept me warm enough for the Canadian outside parts, and was light enough to remove and carry when I got to India. I forgot a bottle of water at home, but the collapsible water bottle that comes with the jacket meant I could get my own from any water fountain at the airport. Which I did. And it felt great to do that instead of adding to landfill.

It’s also quite stylish, in my opinion, and super practical. I really appreciated not having to rummage around excessively in my carry-on because I could keep things in my pockets. On the last leg of the flight, even the pen came in handy (which sort of surprised me because originally I thought, “I always have a pen.” But in fact my pen was in the overhead bin, which was not all that accessible because of the guy beside me, so it was convenient beyond description to be able to pull one out of the zipper handle).

Image description: full body shot of Tracy, short cropped hair, wearing travel jacked, slim fit khakis, ankle boots, and a patterned shirt, standing in a hotel room on a carpeted floor, bed, desk, and curtains in background.

So far, I’m to plan on hydration, warmth, sleeping, neck support, having stuff easily at hand, and a pen. I managed a good 7 hours of sleep on the 12.5 hour flight, plus the two hours I got before we took off from Toronto. Once we took off, I removed the jacket and got cozy after a cup of green tea. For various reasons that are not always at play in my travels, I was able to purchase a business class ticket for this trip, so I made my seat flat, pulled the comforter up around me, and had a full night of light, though reasonably satisfying sleep.

That was just the first leg of the trip, though, and there was another ten or eleven hours to go — a five hour layover in Abu Dhabi, a further four hours in the air to get to Delhi, the frustrating wait time in the line at immigration once we were in the airport, and then the long slow drive from the airport to my hotel. By the time all that was over, I was ready for another nap.

Like I said, I’m prioritizing sleep. I touched base with Nandi, who was already at the hotel and is one of the friends I’m meeting in India for our combination work-play adventure, who kindly made me a cup of tea. We made plans to go for a walk after I’d had a chance to unwind. Air travel is an odd thing. Even with plenty of sleep and with the comforts of business class, all that sitting and lying around turns out to be exhausting. So I went for another three hours of sleep and then we ventured out into the streets of Delhi for a lovely walk through Lodhi Garden and then the Khan Market.

We passed over offers from auto-rickshaw drivers to take us to the Garden as we walked, and I’m glad we did because it turned out to be no more than about one km away. A very pleasant afternoon walk with a cool breeze and completely tolerable temperatures in the mid to high teens on the Celsius scale.

My plan for the morning is to take advantage of the hotel gym’s treadmill (fingers crossed because I’ve not actually seen the facilities yet) and put in some Around the Bay training. That’s another part of my India strategy this year. Last year, I didn’t even try. This year, I packed the gear — which usually means I will use it.

So: so far so good on the India plan. A good jacket, pretty good sleep, a nice walk, and a probable run, and I’ve only left home about 48 hours ago.

Image description: First light of day peeking up over grey clouds, shot from above the clouds, approaching New Delhi, India.

When you travel long distances for short-ish periods of time, what is your strategy (or strategies) for managing the challenges?

fitness

Yann Moix can kiss my ass, but he’ll have to catch me first (guest post)

By Alison Conway

Image description: Alison Conway, short blond hair bouncing as she runs a race, wearing race bib, shorts, tank top over short-sleeved t-shirt, other runners in the background.https://free.finisherpix.com/gallery/2019pasahalf/

The French author Yann Moix made waves when, in a recent interview with Marie Claire, he announced his sexual preference for young women. “The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary,” he said, “The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all.” The response was swift and ferocious. French women, notable for their public celebration of the sexual pleasures they continue to enjoy as they get older, sent witty and biting responses to Moix’s Twitter account. He was reduced to begging women to stop sending him pictures of their asses and breasts.

The picture I would send along, if I could find a punchline that would translate well into French, is a photo of me running. These days when I find myself listening to a jerk, I want to say, “Let’s take it outside and put on our sneakers.” This fantasy has a pre-history. Once, a long time ago, my neighour responded to her son’s teasing of his sister by having the children race around the block. The younger sister won, handily, and her brother stopped teasing her. Twenty years later, upon hearing I’d won my age group in a triathlon, my friend’s son asked how it felt to win the “old lady” category. I looked forward to running with him in a half marathon a couple of months later, where I made sure I beat him.

It seems particularly important to hold on to this fantasy as I pace myself through my fifties. Now is the time when, apparently, I become invisible. Now is the time when no one on the street will catch my eye or give me the stare from across the bar. I might as well be a house plant at the dinner party. Funny thing is, I don’t feel like a house plant. More like the fire blazing in the hearth. 

When I line up for a race, I am jumping out of my skin with excitement. The rush of adrenaline has a lot to do with it, of course, but there’s a more intimate moment occurring, as well. When I stand at a start line after training for weeks or months, I am finishing something I have started, a journey filled with good days and bad days, self-doubt and hope. I have made myself vulnerable, opened myself up to my body’s needs and pleasures, and I have listened. I’m not sad about my desires, as Moix confessed he is about his. I take delight in them and understand that I am where I need to be, at the right time, whatever the outcome of that particular race on that particular day.

I know that for some people, running is about mastery, about disciplining the body, turning it into a tool for achieving some kind of cultural ideal of performance or appearance. But for many of us, I’m convinced, it’s more like good sex than a plunge into the cold pool. I see the pleasure in the bodies of my running friends, the sweaty grins and ferocious appetites. I love the way runners carry themselves, their strong legs eating the ground they cover. Sexy!

Recently I finished a half marathon, then circled back to the finish line to cheer for a friend. There, I watched younger men raising their arms in victory as they crossed. And I was happy for them! But I was also happy to think that, at 54, I had beaten them. It wasn’t a point I needed to make to anyone in particular. It is a point that needs to be made more generally: The body of a woman of 50 is extraordinary. It has covered so many miles, and it knows so much. It has lived in the crosshairs of cultures that want to demean and control it. Nevertheless, it remains a force to be reckoned with.

“I’m a bit too dangerous,” sings Lion Babe, “treat me like fire.”  Yann Moix, when you’re ready to lace up, I’ll meet you at the start line.

Alison Conway teaches English, and Gender & Women’s Studies, at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. She spends her free time running the beautiful hills of Kelowna, BC.

fitness

So you want to start a blog? Tracy’s tips #tbt

February seems like a great month to start a blog. Here are some of my thoughts on how to do that, from some rare and little-viewed video footage that got recorded and I promptly forgot about. I’ll take this moment to add this: this blog with Sam and the wonderful other authors who post for us, both our regulars and our occasional guests, is one of the things in my life I am most proud to be associated with. One reason for its success is that its success doesn’t depend fully on one person (though if Sam wasn’t as good as she is at coordinating things it may well have fall en apart).

If you decide to start a blog, let us know (especially if it’s feminist, but we’ll check out almost anything at least once). TI

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

A couple of years ago I was interviewed at work for a short series on creative writing and blogging. I went for the taping and then promptly forgot about it. Yesterday, I stumbled upon my interviews on YouTube. Two of them were about blogging.

Since they seem to have disappeared into the ether with very few views (38 and 17), I thought I would post them here. In fact, there are some useful tips (if I do say so myself).

I firmly believe that blogging is an excellent way for writers to promote their own platform and generate a community around their passions. Sam and I had no idea when we started Fit Is a Feminist Issue how it would unfold. But we went with it and today we have built up a community around the blog that makes us proud.

If you’ve ever wanted to start a blog of…

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health · injury · running · yoga

Yoga for what ails you

The idea of yoga as a strategy for managing what ails you is far from new. Before yoga was the trendy lifestyle package it has become today, I had B.K.S. Iyengar’s book, Yoga: the path to holistic health. It was an illustrated book that laid out sequences of asanas (poses) recommended for different health conditions. It addressed physical and mental health, with an entire section devoted to stress. Back then, there was no YouTube. As a student of Iyengar yoga, I attended one class a week with the goal (as was the goal for most followers of Iyengar) of developing a strong home practice.

On occasion, if I was experiencing particular issues, I might flip to the section of the book that recommended a practice for those issues. But mostly I didn’t really take seriously the idea of yoga as a go-to for dealing with specific mental or physical health issues.

Fast forward 20 years. On Sunday, when my outer knee started to bother me at about the 7K mark of my 12K run, I knew my IT band was the culprit. I hate icing, but I know ice is recommended for the first 24 hours of any injury or flare-up. Besides that, though, it seemed obvious to me that there must be a sequence of yoga postures that would stretch that tight IT band and provide me with relief.

And I was right. I did an internet search for “yoga for IT band” and up came articles and videos for preventive and therapeutic yoga for runners with IT band issues. I zeroed in on one from Do Yoga with Me, specifically titled as a stretch class for runners for the IT band. I set up my mat and hit play.

Though I wouldn’t call the instructor the most engaging yogi I’ve ever taken a class with, I did get a lot out of the sequence. It was a half an hour of basic yet effective yoga postures with holdings that took some effort yet weren’t too terribly long.

I’ve also had some great luck lately with a neck and shoulder sequence from Yoga with Adriene (whom I just love doing yoga with because she is good and yet not overly earnest). I happened upon it by chance sort of because Christine sent me the link by mistake, thinking it was a link to a much shorter session. I did it anyway (it’s only 18 minutes long) and of all the things I’ve done for my neck since I injured it in a car accident nine winters ago, it’s offered me the most release and relief. It’s also great for general neck and shoulder tension, the kind that kicks in when we spend too long at our desk working at the computer. Check it out:

With all of the online content available these days, it’s easy to find what you need if you need a yogic solution. I know that at some level, all yoga is therapeutic and that regular practice can keep the body in tune.

I also know it’s not a cure-all, but it sure does provide tried and true relief from mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual and has been known to do so for ages (literally for millenia).

Do you ever use yoga therapeutically to help you work through minor injuries, health issues, or other ailments? Do you have any particular internet sources that you’d like to recommend? If so, please chime in in the comments.

Namaste.

competition · eating · food

Competitive Eating: Is Excelling at This Good for Women? Good for Anyone? #tbt

We are in the middle of a deep freeze here and I’m drawn to this past post to totally take my mind off of it. Here, I considered the case of competitive eating and whether it’s something we should be impressed with.

I confess that I love the idea that this 120 pound woman can scarf down a 72 ounce steak and all the accompaniments in record-breaking time because it challenges stereotypes. It’s also fascinating (that’s the best word i can come up with) to watch her in action.

But my thoughts about competitive eating haven’t really changed. Of the various things we can aim to be good at, shoving down as much food as we can in as little time as possible doesn’t seem like the most worthy of pursuits. And could even be dangerous and is almost certainly bad for one’s health. Nevertheless, here you are. Draw your own conclusion. And Go, Molly!

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

Molly Schuyler with a 72 ounce steak dinner.Last week I saw a report of a competitive “achievement,” in which a small woman did what no one expected her to do.  Now, I’m usually pleased by this sort of thing. I like it when women, large or small, do things that defy “type.”

But this time I wasn’t so sure about the achievement. Molly Schuyler from Nebraska is a competitive eater. She weighs just 120 pounds.  What did she do?

She ate TWO 72 ounce steak dinners in less than 20 minutes at Amarillo’s Big Texan Steak Ranch. This happened in May, but it got another round of attention when it got recycled by Fox news in January.

My reservations don’t stem from my vegan convictions.  It’s nothing like that at all.

It’s just that in the realm of things that it’s a good thing for women to be good at, competitive eating doesn’t make my…

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fitness

Toughest winter run of the season: a gear victory (if nothing else)

I woke up Sunday morning and looked out the window to see fresh snow a few centimetres deep. Damn! Anita and I agreed we would do 18K with the Running Room Around the Bay training group. So I got myself out of bed and took my time putting on the gear I’d laid out the night before, prepped for a chilly morning with a cold wind.

That meant: my thickest running tights, a t-shirt, a thicker long sleeved running top, my windproof jacket, a double layer of socks (since for me it’s the feet that get the coldest), insulated gloves, a buff, a thin hat (my head heats up if I’ve got too thick a hat on but I had a fleece balaclava style thing as back-up, and my running belt with insulated water bottles so my water wouldn’t freeze. I tossed in a few dates rolled in coconut, anticipating that I’d be out there for at least 2:20.

We set out shortly after 8:30, heading a little bit south and then west. The sidewalks went from difficult to completely unnavigable by the time we got to Riverside. As a result, we ended up running in the bike lane. There were eight or so of us, so it’s not as if we were invisible to drivers. Nevertheless, having had a terrible car accident on Riverside nine years ago (with a lingering neck injury that never healed), I was in a panic as we ran, knowing that a car skidding on winter roads will easily barrel into a group of people whether the driver sees them or not. Even as a driver, I do not take Riverside in the winter because I relive that accident each time I do.

I felt terribly unsafe and was vocally opposed to our route. One reason I felt that way is that London, Ontario has a great system of pathways and typically the path through Springbank Park is cleared of snow (especially on weekends when there is a lot of pedestrian and running traffic). I didn’t (and still don’t) understand why we were taking a route that required us to slog through uncleared sidewalks or risk ourselves on roads when we could be doing the majority of our distance on a safe pathway.

Anyway, let’s just say I complained and then went quiet. Anita ran up ahead and I didn’t really connect with her again until we got back to the Running Room almost two hours later. About an hour into it, we ducked into a subdivision. The snow wasn’t cleared but there had been enough traffic that it was at least packed down. I wouldn’t call the conditions easy though. By then, the wind was whipping into our faces and we were running through a blizzard. Grumble grumble — I checked my Garmin and we were not even half way yet.

I did manage to turn my attitude around despite the blizzard. We weren’t any longer on Riverside, so I wasn’t reliving the trauma of my car accident anymore. I also became conscious of how every spot on my clothing choices had been. I felt just right — not at all hot, and yet also not cold. Yes, sometimes I needed to pull my Buff up around my face a little more, but everything from my core to my hands to my head felt just fine. My toes got a bit cold, as they do, and I couldn’t really feel my butt. But in the body temperature department I had no complaints.

And then my left knee started to speak to me. It said, “ouch.” Every time I put my foot down in the thick snow, I could feel a twinge on the outside of my knee. And then my left hip flexor or was it my IT band — I don’t know — joined in the chorus. I checked my Garmin and estimated (because by then a subset of us had slightly changed our route) another 7 or 8K to go. We were still trudging our way through the subdivision. All the houses and side streets looked the same. But ultimately we made it out of there and onto one of the main-ish roads, hoping for it to be clear.

Nope!

We pushed on though, because really, unless someone called a cab we kind of had to. By this time we had been out there for almost two hours. Anita went the long way, so she was nowhere in sight. I’d totally gotten used to running through the deep snow on the sidewalk by then. My left side pains tried screaming at me but I mostly just ignored them in that way I taught myself to do the last time I was training for Around the Bay 30K in 2014, which is the last time I felt these same pains (so I know they’ll go away).

Then something magical happened — we crossed over an intersection and the sidewalk clearing machine had actually cleared the sidewalks! For the next 2-3K, we skipped along as if it were summer time. I imagined it would be that way all the back to downtown (it was not), and for those few kilometres, with the right gear and clear sidewalks, and by then the sun had come out, I completely forgot about my knee and my IT band.

We endured a couple more tough bits, especially crossing over a greasy bridge where each step we backslid, but soon the home stretch came into view. The Running Room was just about half a kilometre away when we made our turn onto Richmond Street. I ran-walked it and even ran past to tack on an extra little bit to get an even 17K (1K short of the planned distance, but under the conditions I didn’t mind one bit).

I went into the RR and stretched out my aching limbs at the back of the store where people had congregated. Anita wasn’t back yet but I expected her soon. As my group debriefed (i.e. shared our war stories of the run we had just finished), Anita showed up. She had the most serious war story of all — a mega bruise from a fall she had taken after we parted ways. “I bruise easily,” she said, claiming it wasn’t serious.

“I’m hungry,” I said.

“Me too,” said Anita.

And off we went for breakfast.

Image description: Tracy on left, Anita on right, inside after their run, smiling. Tracy in crocheted winter hat and a black coat with a button on it that says ‘ask me about my feminist agenda,’ and Anita, short dark hair and wearing a grey sweatshirt. Sun pouring through window in the background.



fitness

Body-shaming in fashion and beauty industries still as much a thing as ever

Sometimes as a feminist who’s been around for awhile and has watched feminism diversify, become more intersectional, and strive for a kind of inclusivity that may or may not be possible, I (wrongly) think that some of the “old faithful” issues have fallen away. I think here of issues like normative femininity and the feminine beauty ideal. The imperative that women should be thin, lean, and small.

These issues are really old hat. We’ve been talking about the oppressive nature of the aesthetic of normative femininity for decades. But sadly, that doesn’t mean they’ve been resolved.

A stark reminder that body-shaming and the thin-lean-small ideal are still alive and well in the fashion and beauty industries came across my newsfeed in the form of two different stories this week.

First, there was Jameela Jamil against Avon. In case you missed it, Avon had an ad with copy that read: “dimples are cute on your face (not on your thighs).” Even as I read it I can hardly believe this would get through whatever approvals process an ad needs to get through before it goes public. I mean, if Avon is trying to win over women and sell products, shaming them in this manner is hardly a winning strategy.

Jamil called the company out on Twitter:

Jamil has a lot of influence and her tweet made the rounds, with over 10,000 retweets. That made Avon respond with an apology and a decision to pull the offending ad:

Jameela Jamil is great at calling out body-shaming and inequities without mincing words. She calls it as she sees it. That’s an admirable use of her social position and fame.

The other incident involved the fashion industry. For years feminists have been pointing out the unrealistic ideal represented by runway models and magazine models in high fashion circles. This week I read that Bebe Rexha reported that several designers declined to dress her for the Grammy’s because she’s too big. She’s a size 6-8. TOO BIG?!

Her response was spot on. She said:

“If a size 6-8 is too big, then I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t want to wear your f**king dresses. Cause that’s crazy. You’re saying all the women in the world that are size 8 and up are not beautiful and they cannot wear your dresses…So all the people who said I’m thick and I can’t wear dresses, f**k you and I don’t want to wear your f**king dresses,”

I love how these guys on ET Canada are saying how they don’t believe it’s still a thing. Right? I agree: why is this still a thing? Here’s a video of the ET Canada guys and how perplexed they are, and also of Bebe Rexha telling the designers who don’t want to dress her, “fuck you!”