cycling · fitness

Tracy gets back in the saddle again…for fun

Image description: Selfie of Tracy in bike helmet, work top, necklace and sunglasses, smiling. Background: partial wall mural and sunny green space.
Image description: Selfie of Tracy in bike helmet, work top, necklace and sunglasses, smiling. Background: partial wall mural and sunny green space.

In a completely undramatic turn of events, I’m back on my bicycle this season. I’ve documented the ups and downs of my bike history on this blog. From doing my first triathlon with my sturdy commuter bike (which has and continues to serve me well), to buying a road bike and learning to ride with clipless pedals, to the enthusiasm of triathlon training up to the Olympic distance, to buying a second fancy bike specifically designed for riding in the aero position (worst decision of my cycling “career”), to mounting angst over road training… and finally facing the anguish of a road bike phobia that wouldn’t abate and quitting triathlon.  It turns out that the answer to the question “Will Tracy find a healthy balance between bike fear and debilitating anxiety?” was “no, she will not.”

I made the decision to give it up in November 2016. Last summer I let myself off the hook entirely, not even dusting off my commuter bike. I sold both fancy bikes to people who would use and love them much more than I did. I still have a couple of pairs of bike shoes, some clipless pedals, and some cool kit kicking around. But the days of trying to be a cyclist are over.

This spring something unexpected happened. I was downstairs in the condo getting something from the storage locker and I had to move my commuter bike out of the way. When I did, I felt a pang of nostalgia. Now, I should say that I have never felt dread concerning my commuter bike (a Specialized hybrid Globe San Francisco model). I pretty much associate it with leisure cycling on the bike path along the river. It has a basic computer on it, but the battery has long since died and I decided that I can get way more enjoyment out of this bike if I don’t know or care how fast I’m going.

What with the liberating decision not to participate in the 100 days of step counting,  I no longer feel pressured to get as many steps as possible. Biking on the path has become a live option that won’t interfere with the team’s efforts (because: NO TEAM! Freedom!) or mess with my need to get as many steps as possible (because: NO NEED! Freedom!). So that pang of nostalgia translated into a decision I feel good about: I will walk some days, but I will also ride my bike some days. To that end, on the long weekend we just had I pumped up the tires, located my helmet, and found my saddle bag.

Door to door it’s faster for me to ride my bicycle to campus than to drive even at the best of times. But this summer, with construction season upon us, that’s more true than ever. The first test came this morning. I was in a hurry. No time to walk (it’s 50 minutes to walk) and way too beautiful out to drive. I hopped on the bike in my work clothes (it’s still cool enough that I can do that — when the heat of summer sets in I’ll need to change).

I had a calming and leisurely ride by the river to campus, coasting whenever I felt like it, saying “wheeee!” down the hills just like Sam does, and basically feeling like a kid again on my bicycle. I’ve got all the safe riding skills — shoulder checks, signalling, letting pedestrians know I’m coming by one polite ring of the bell — and I like not caring about how fast I’m going (even if I was sort of in a hurry; it wasn’t that much of a hurry).

I’m keen to do it again. And I’m not feeling the least bit regretful about my decision to give up “serious” cycling on fancy bikes.

When you commute on your bike, do you care how fast you go or do you just enjoy the ride?

fitness · running · training

Tracy gets ready for the next 10K (and gets some company to make it more fun)

Image description: Upper body selfie of Tracy in ball cap, sunglasses, earbuds, and a t-shirt that says "EMPOWERED" on it, smiling, grass and sunlight in the background. [She is running in Springbank Park, along the river]
Image description: Upper body selfie of Tracy in ball cap, sunglasses, earbuds, and a t-shirt that says “EMPOWERED” on it, smiling, grass and sunlight in the background. [She is running in Springbank Park, along the river]
I’m prepping for the next instalment of my 10K season. My goal this summer is to get faster at the 10K distance. This is partly because I want to get faster at the 10K distance and partly because training for that distance is more manageable than training for further. That said, I do plan to do the Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon in Toronto October, in honour of Anita’s return from the UK (she’s been gone a YEAR!). It was the first half marathon we did together, my first ever, and we’re doing it again.

The MEC race series, which is what I’m doing my 10Ks in mostly, is an affordable race series that runs from spring to fall in cities across the country. The next race in the London series is actually this coming Saturday. But besides throwing myself into the 10K this summer, I’m also throwing myself into photography. To that end, I’ve signed up for a photography course that starts on Saturday morning, in conflict with the MEC series race.

So instead, I’m doing the Guelph Lake 10K on June 10th (a Sunday). One thing I discovered during our Fittest by 50 Challenge (which is where the blog began back in 2012) is that I love gathering groups together for events. It’s much more fun. For the Guelph event, I’ve recruited Ellen and Violetta to do the 10K, and Julie is considering the 5K. All of us need something to focus our training, and a race three weeks out is just the thing.

I’m feeling totally back on track with my training. Once again, I’m eager to get out the door to go running. It feels great to have that enthusiasm back again. I’ve got Linda from Master the Moments supplying me with fresh training plans every two weeks. But she offers so much more than that. She’s probably the most upbeat person I know — always throwing a positive spin while at the same time pushing me ever so gently beyond my comfort zone (with training paces that challenge me, for example). These days, she’s even meeting me some weeks for an early morning run, pretty much guaranteeing that I will indeed get out of bed to hit the pavement at 6:30 a.m.

She also asks me to check-in after each run. I like accountability. It gives me that extra little nudge. That may seem odd, considering I am opposed to tracking. But again, checking in with an actual person really works for me. I like feeling connected to others through my training. I enjoy working with coaches and trainers (though I recognize this to be a luxury and a privilege).

The hardest thing we are working on this summer is continuous running with no walk breaks. Instead of walking, I can sometimes run super slowly if I need to catch my breath or lower my heart rate. But she has encouraged me not to take it all the way down to a walk. I’ve never really done it that way before in a consistent way. I learned to run with the Running Room, using their 10-1 interval system.

But I know continuous works for some people really well. Both Ellen and Violetta have told me that they simply cannot effectively get going again if they walk. For that reason, they do not take walk breaks. But then there are those who live for walk breaks. Julie probably wouldn’t run without them. When I said I was trying to phase them out, Anita seemed puzzled and asked me why I would want to do that.

I had to think about it for awhile, knowing that some of the research shows that taking out the walk breaks just slows down the running–over some distances, some people who take walk breaks do better than they would if they didn’t.

For my 10K training, I’m doing 3-4 sessions a week, mixing up long easy runs, with shorter runs that intersperse strides (basically short intervals or pick-ups) to work on speed. I’m sure it’s about to get a bit more intense, as Linda’s approach was to ease me back into things after a winter of interrupted routine (illness and travel). Taking it easy has paid off because I actually want to get out there now, and I’m ready for the more challenging workouts. I’m sure the next round will involve tempo runs at a push-the-pace pace.

I’m also seeing my personal trainer twice a week, yoga once a week, and walking to and from work as much as possible (despite NOT doing the step counting challenge this year). On the days that I’m in a hurry and it’s not raining I will ride my bike (yes, Sam, you hear that right. I pumped up the tires today!).

My goal for Guelph is to do a continuous 10K, which I have done once before (last fall), and can likely do again if I don’t let my head talk me out of it.

feminism · fit at mid-life · fitness · racing · running · training

On Running My First Marathon (Guest Post by Alison Conway)

by Alison Conway

Image description: Alison on left, smiling, with short hair, sunglasses, and a t-shirt hugging a friend, longer hair, also smiling, stadium stands in the background.
Image description: Alison on left, smiling, with short hair, sunglasses, and a t-shirt hugging a friend, longer hair, also smiling, stadium stands in the background.

[Note from Tracy: Alison sent me this in April and her race was a few weeks ago. Congrats, Alison!]

Eighteen months ago, Donald Trump became president of the United States and I wrote here about my determination to limit my running time so that I could devote more energy to politics. Most immediately, my goal was to become active in the civic affairs of my home town.

Life had other plans for me. A year of upheaval included new jobs across the country, the sale of the home where I raised my children, the turmoil of a big move. My father became ill and he died. That family home was cleaned out and put on the market. It was, let’s say, a wrenching twelve months.

Through it all, running kept me grounded. Or rather, my running families kept me grounded. My Ontario friends ran with me in the weeks and months of packing and grieving. They convinced me to sign up for a spring 2018 marathon as a goal to work toward, whether or not I ran the race. I found a running club in my new home town and the folks in that group went out of their way to help me find my feet. I ran miles and miles through the roads and trails of my community, learning its spaces and hearing about those who live there.

As the ground under my feet was shifting, so too was the ground underneath American politics. Out of the ashes of the election arose the phoenix #metoo and a widespread protest against workplace harassment and sexual violence. From the Women’s Marches of January 2017 onward, energy and momentum built as women filed complaints and shared their stories.

When people remark on the difficult year I’ve had, I have often noted that running saved me. I began to wonder if it wasn’t doing more than moving me forward. The feelings I have toward the women who have helped me move and those who are helping me settle in British Columbia feel like the basis of a larger, collective feeling that has emerged in a wider sphere, one that helps women act together in an effort to shift cultural norms. It is, for me, both about harnessing anger and generating laughter. It is about looking down the road toward the goals that might take a while to reach.

A friend once said, casually, “Anyone can run a marathon. You just have to train for it.” What that remark misses is how difficult it is to train for a marathon: the discipline it takes to get out there day after day, week after week, in terrible weather, on days when other demands weigh heavily, when your mind says, “Enough.” There was a moment, maybe a month before the marathon, when I felt bone-tired. But I had friends waiting to run with me, so out I went.

Last month, race weekend arrived and I flew back to Ontario to meet the women who first encouraged me to sign up. One was injured, so couldn’t race—but she drove me to Toledo, OH, anyway. Another had just raced the Tokyo marathon, but she came along, too. They went over every detail of the race. I was shown how to make arm warmers, out of socks, that could be thrown away on the course (who knew?). They listened to me fuss and fret. They told me I could do it.

When I pulled on my arm warmers, the morning of the marathon, I felt like I was pulling on my armour. It was an armour I would not have been wearing, had it not been for the friendship of women, those who inspired me with the examples they set. It was an armour built, too, by the new friend who sent me a card, a week before the marathon, filled with messages of advice and encouragement; by the marathon veteran in my new running group, who slowed her own pace to help me speed up mine; by the colleague at my new job who trained with me, week after week, through rain and snow. It was the armour made by women everywhere who fight for the right for women to move freely in public spaces.

My marathon was a run of joy and gratitude, supported by the women who cheered me on as I faced down the miles. I have come out of a challenging year stronger and wiser. I can take that strength and wisdom into my community and help to make the changes that need to be made. The ground beneath my feet is made up of so much more than pavement. Mostly, it is made up of the feeling that emerges when women believe in each other: love.


How the fitness challenge took the fight out of me #tbt

Oh, the corporate fitness challenge! ‘Tis the season where everyone st work is getting their trackers ready for the 100 days of counting steps. And guess what? True to my word, I’m not doing it. Because I tend to experience FOMO even over things I don’t want to do, I’m posting what I wrote last September at the end of the challenge. This is to remind me that I really meant it.

Do you like fitness challenges that last 100 days or more? Do you like counting steps?


image description: the word weary, written in a casual purple, lowercase script-like font, over a white background and lighter purple. image description: the word weary, written in a casual purple, lowercase script-like font, over a white background and lighter purple. overlapping circles.

I’ve complained about the 100 day corporate fitness challenge a few times over the past 100 days. Here and here and here. When I said to Renald last week that I will not be doing this again next year, he said, “yeah sure.”

But I can promise you, I will not. I lost interest in counting steps at about the half way point. My interest waned for several reasons, not the least of which is that counting steps is about the most boring way to track “fitness” that I can imagine. Sure, some days it’s challenging to hit the target, but for me the reason those are challenging days is that I do a lot of things besides counting steps.

Yoga — no steps. Personal training —…

View original post 561 more words

diets · food

Every day is “eat what you want day”…because we are grown-ups and food is beyond good and evil

I don’t know if it’s a real day, but apparently May 11th was National Eat What You Want Day. I missed it.

I get my info mostly from this:

Image description: Cartoon of hippo (?) against a purple background, sitting at a table surrounded by pies, cakes, cookies, and chocolates, with a cookie in one hand and a chocolate bar with a bite out of it in the other, chocolate smudged on face.
Image description: Cartoon of hippo (?) against a purple background, sitting at a table surrounded by pies, cakes, cookies, and chocolates, with a cookie in one hand and a chocolate bar with a bite out of it in the other, chocolate smudged on face. Image credit: Sandra Boynton.

Okay, I get that this cartoon is supposed to be a joke. And though I am not familiar with Sandra Boynton’s body of work, a reader of the blog got in touch with me to say her work “is consistently affirming, food positive, body positive, women positive and [she] deserves credit for her work in this post.” So yes: credit where credit is due.

And perhaps in the larger context of Boynton’s work, this is whimsical, funny, and affirming. I can see that. But when I first encountered it, it gave me pause because of the way it represented what Eat What You Want Day would look like.  I’m told too that the day apparently originated as a response to our diet-laden cultural mindset.  It’s a way of breaking free.  And that’s a good thing. But only for a day? Seriously? I want to say: that’s not enough.

First, every day is an eat what you want day as far as I’m concerned. It’s not just because I’m an intuitive eater. It’s also because we’re adults and we get to make our own decisions about what we eat. Literally, at every moment, you get to choose what you want to eat. So do I. And so does the person in front of you in the line up at the coffee shop who wants an apple fritter for breakfast instead of the egg white frittata.

Second, why does everyone always assume that if we eat whatever we want we will choose to eat only cookies, cakes, candy, and chocolate?  This narrative is a product of the deprivation mentality that is entirely encouraged in our society. Since veggies and fruits and all that other “healthy” stuff is what we “should” be eating (RULES!), all the fun food is what we actually want to be eating (BREAK THE RULES!).

I venture that if we only have one day where we give ourselves permission to eat what we want and if the rest of the days we are eating plain salads where the only dressing we get is the one tablespoonful that we get to dip our fork into before spearing each cucumber slice (if you’ve ever dieted you’ve done this, right?), then when we take away the rules we’re going to go for the flavour burst foods that we’re not “allowed” to eat.

But if that stuff was always on offer, without the rules, it would lose its lustre after awhile. I know this from experience. When I was a grad student my housemate and I experimented with a candy bowl as part of an assignment given to my by the amazing psychotherapist who was trying to help me recover from disordered eating and chronic dieting.

We were to keep the bowl heaped full. Just buying those mini-chocolate bars to fill it gave us an adrenaline rush. And the first week or say we went to town on those candies. We had to fill up the bowl quite a bit. Less so the second week. By the third and fourth week we weren’t as interested anymore. And today I always have a few chocolate bars on hand that I keep in a bin and that last months. Because sometimes I want salad or hummus or a farro bowl with steamed rapini and stir-fried tofu drizzled with tahini and Frank’s Red Hot, not a piece of dark chocolate-dipped crystallized ginger.

Third, this brings me to the point I really want to make, and that we’ve made many times on the blog before, in various forms: food is beyond good and evil. You’re not morally good if you eat a salad and morally bad if you eat fries. Steamed broccoli isn’t virtuous and banana tempura in syrup isn’t sinful and decadent. It’s food. You can eat it if you like.

I just despise food policing, the food police, and any kind of moralizing about food (other than vegan moralizing, which I’m totally down with even if I tend to stay silent unless asked or unless it’s totally relevant and people are saying ridiculous things to defend their participation in unnecessary animal cruelty…oops). Susan shared a story yesterday with the other blog authors about how she was at a coffee shop (buying a muffin) and a woman came in and literally lectured the owner about how muffins are cake.

You know what? Cake is awesome. So simply telling me that muffins are cake makes me want to say, “And your point is…?” All over the world people eat pastries and stuff for breakfast. If you’re eating muffins because you’re counting calories or fat grams and you think they’re low in those, then you might want to think again. But if you’re eating the because you like them, which is basically the best reason to eat whatever we eat, then someone telling you muffins are cake might go a long way to explaining why they’re so damned delicious.

I’m not the only one on the blog who feels this way about food policing. Here are some of our posts about this topic, gathered in one place, for your reading pleasure. Next time the food police make an appearance, ignore them, refer them to the blog, or tell them to go ahead and arrest you for taking pleasure in your food choices!

Why Food is Beyond Good and Evil (Tracy I)

Do You Get Sucked into Food Shaming Trends (Tracy I)

Food Demonizing and the Perils of “All or Nothing” Thinking (Tracy I)

Beyond Good and Evil (Food) (Catherine W)

Follow-Up to Last Week’s Beyond Good and Evil (Food) Post (Catherine W)

Just Eat the Damn Cupcake (Sam)

Don’t Get Sucked in by the Rhetoric of Eating Clean (Tracy I)

Diets Disguised as un-Diets: The Food Police Strike Again (Tracy I)

Disclaimer: I’m not discounting that some of us may have added reasons not to eat some foods. If I was diabetic, I would need to be careful about sugar. I do have a garlic intolerance that means I cannot deal with anything other than trace amounts of cooked garlic and almost no amount of raw garlic. That doesn’t make me want garlic. Also, there are ethical reasons for avoiding some foods. I’m an ethical vegan who pretty consistently avoids animal products because of my beliefs about the industry’s impact on the environment and my desire not to contribute to animal suffering and exploitation (two hallmarks of industrial animal agriculture). That’s a reason. And it doesn’t make me want filet mignon and veal parmesan.

Question: How do you deal with the food police?


Raspberry Ketone, Pure Green Coffee Extract, Garcinia Cambogia, Weight Loss, and the Fallacy of Appealing to Authority #tbt

In this era of “fake news” I thought for sure I was reading a joke when I saw the headline “Trump appointing Dr Oz to his sports, nutrition and fitness council” But apparently not. Despite that he has been denounced by the medical community for “an egregious lack of integrity,” Dr. Oz is indeed being appointed. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me but it did. Dr Oz spends a lot of time on his show championing miracle weight loss products that have no scientific backing to support the claims made about their efficacy.

It seems apt, therefore, to reblog something I wrote back in 2013 about his endorsement of these things and why we should take pause. Enjoy (or read it and weep).


raspberriesMy usually skeptical husband forwarded me an email message late last week with the subject “weight loss.” It contained a short video of Dr. Oz endorsing pure green coffee bean extract as a miracle weight loss potion.  My husband’s question to me:  “what do you think?”

The clip I watched showed an enthusiastic Dr. Oz with the creator of the product.  Oz declared it a weight loss miracle.  When I went back to the link a few days later, the link led me to something different. This time, Dr. Oz was interviewing someone about a different weight loss miracle:  Garcinia Cambogia.  Apparently it’s also an amazing fat burner! Like pure green coffee bean extract, this product is supposed to result in weight loss without any changes to diet or activity.

Neither the green coffee bean extract page or the garcinia cambogia page would let me leave them without not one…

View original post 835 more words


Rocketbody Tracker? No thank you, says this intuitive eater

There’s a kickstarter fund for a new fitness tracker called Rocketbody. It tells you when to eat and workout based on tracking your metabolism. As an intuitive eater, I had a negative and visceral reaction to this.

For one thing, it’s no secret that I dislike tracking. It feels like a type of surveillance under which I do not thrive. See my post about tracking as the panopticon.  It’s a topic I’ve revisited a number of times. See here and here and here (for an alternative approach).  We also recognize on the blog that there are diverse views about it. “For and against” tracking post here.

It took me a long time to get into the rhythm of intuitive eating (took 27 years to be exact), where I actually sense hunger, respond to it with the food I want in the amount that satisfies me, and get on with my day. It has been the key, for me, to freedom from obsession. That more than anything to do with weight and body image, was a transformative outcome for me, increasing my sense of well-being and my confidence in my ability to make good decisions for myself, and my ability to have a loving relationship with my body.

The very idea of Rocketbody, a fitness tracker that monitors metabolism to tell you when to eat and when to work out, is antithetical to every value I hold dear. In this age of trackers, where monitoring our steps and our activity, tracking our food intake, and deciding in advance when/what/how much we should be eating, I’m often a voice in the wilderness in my call for less (no) surveillance and more self-love.

People are often surprised to discover that I do not use a fitness tracker. Who ever heard of such a public fitness enthusiast who doesn’t wear a thing on her wrist 24/7 to monitor activity and report to her about how well she slept? I’ve taken various forays into tracking and they always end badly.  I am in the process of resisting the temptation to enter the corporate step challenge at work — 100 days of counting steps as a member of a team. The first year I signed up without thinking, vowing never to do it again. The second year (last year), I caved after some time, ultimately becoming my team captain. To see how I felt about it that time, read my post “100 days of counting steps is like a marathon, only longer.” This year…not doing it. I already said that at the end of last season. 100 days of step counting just does not work for me, even if it did (I admit) get me to walk further last summer than I otherwise would have.

I know not everyone is of this mind and that for some people, who have adopted tracking as a way of life, the possibility of having a thing tell them when to do things like eat and work out is a welcome way of taking the decision-making factor out of the equation. When it’s the tracker’s decision and not yours, you might be more inclined to do it. I get that, and if that’s your style, go for it.

But this intuitive eater is sticking to her hard won freedom from surveillance and won’t be signing on to the kickstarter campaign for the Rocketbody tracker.

Would that sort of tracking be welcome or unwelcome to you?