fitness

Everest: I don’t get it

This year’s “Everest Season” was deadly, with at least 11 deaths. Reports say that nine of those 11 were the direct result of long waits to get to the summit. People line up for all sorts of things–concert tickets, sales, general admission events, tables in restaurants, movies.

But to line up to get the summit of Everest has a huge physical risk associated with it because time is of the essence. Weather can change. People need not just to get there, but–importantly–to get back to the base camp too. And this all before their oxygen runs out.

It’s become a tourist opportunity for those who can pay, with very little monitoring of the experience level of the people who sign up. According to the New York Times article, “‘It was like a zoo’: death on an unruly , overcrowded Everest,” this means crowds that cause dangerous delays: “According to Sherpas and climbers, some of the deaths this year were caused by people getting held up in the long lines on the last 1,000 feet or so of the climb, unable to get up and down fast enough to replenish their oxygen supply. Others were simply not fit enough to be on the mountain in the first place.”

There are multiple factors that contribute to the Everest “problem.” I call it a problem because there are people dying there every season. Yes, it’s a risky undertaking anyway. But when the deaths are the result of overcrowding and inexperience, there is a problem. Not only inexperienced climbers die — but they are more at risk and they create issues for all.

I have a strange fascination with Everest, not because I ever wish to climb it, but because I cannot imagine wanting to do so. As a result, I’ve read lots about it — about how it’s a garbage can of discarded oxygen tanks and human waste, an inhumane graveyard where the corpses of climbers who didn’t make it lie frozen because they cannot be retrieved, a place where empathy for those in need is replaced by a survivalist attitude of everyone for themself, about how people’s judgment falters at such a high altitude and they feel driven to make the summit even when deteriorating conditions on the mountain make it every likely that they will die trying.

I’ve seen shocking pictures of line-ups on Everest in the past, but this year’s show traffic jams as I’ve never seen before. I’m having technical difficulties uploading photos (which are probably copyright protected anyway), so I’ll just refer you to the New York Times piece referenced earlier. This article about a Canadian climber who almost died but in the end made it to the summit and back also shows the crowd of climbers lining up for their turn.

Now, I get the idea of liking a challenge. But I don’t understand what the appeal of this particular challenge is anymore. When a sacred mountain has become a tourist site for people who can pay (most Everest tours are in the neighborhood of $50,000) for a chance to climb the world’s highest mountain but may die in the process, the nature of the challenge has taken a turn. It’s not just “me against the mountain.” Add to that the environmental damage (see “How much trash is on Everest”) and you just have to wonder.

There have to be other ways to respect the mountain than to conquer it.

Do you understand the desire to climb Mount Everest (taking all considerations into account)?

fitness

Good news: Late start to an active life has similar benefits to lifelong activity

Image description: Head shot of Tracy, dressed for running in a ballcap, buff over top of it, sunglasses, earbuds, urban setting in the background.

Sam is right when she says I like good news stories. I’m a big fan of good news, especially for aging people who are thinking it might be too late to start getting active. After a certain age, we usually assume that we can’t make any physical gains (other than weight gain). But studies show otherwise.

A recent study published in JAMA reports similar lower mortality risk in life-long active people than in those who take up activity later in life. The study found as follows: ” This cohort study of 315 059 participants found that maintaining physical activity from adolescence into later adulthood was associated with 29% to 36% lower risk for all-cause mortality and that being inactive but increasing physical activity during midlife was associated with 32% to 35% lower risk for mortality.”

It translates this to mean: “Although long-term participation in physical activity may be important to lower mortality risk, the present study provides evidence that becoming physically active later in adulthood (40-61 years of age) may provide comparable health benefits.”

I consider myself anecdotal evidence for this study’s legitimacy. I’ve never been an athlete. I’ve had different times of my life that I’ve been active, but I was definitely not at all active as an adolescent or a young adult. And I’ve only really just come into my own in terms of consistent physical fitness since Sam and I started blogging about it in 2012, just before we turned 48.

We committed to being the fittest we’d ever been in our lives by the time we turned 50. You can read about that two year commitment in our book, Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey. (it’s also available as an audiobook, by the way!)

And guess what? Having trained for and completed two Olympic distance triathlons by my 50th birthday, I can attest that yes, I was the fittest I’d ever been in my life by the time I turned 50. And I can attest further that I have a higher level of fitness now than I did then.

So it’s kind of amazing to think that the probabilities are in my favour for lower risk of mortality comparable to what I’d have if I had been a lifelong athlete. That’s really good news.

Okay, I get that it’s just one study. And I get that we can’t really draw direct conclusions about our own lives from one study. But I like it anyway. It’s good news for all of us who started late or who may still be able to get more physically active but are still stuck in the view that physical decline as we age is inevitable so “why bother?”

I don’t want to go so far as to say that it’s never too late. Things happen. Not everything we might have liked to try remains available to us at all times in our life. But it’s almost never too late for a great many people who might be thinking of getting more active but might feel discouraged before they even start. And that’s a good news story.

fitness

Dear Spring, We are ready for you…

Image description: magnolia bud against a blurred background.

Everyone in my part of the world is complaining about our terrible spring. It’s been cold. It’s been wet. Yes, we have more light. But mostly the weather has been so horrible that the extra light hasn’t made the dramatic difference it usually does. I like running in the morning when it gets light early. But lately it’s been hovering just above zero in the morning. No thanks.

I’m reminded of a book a read some years ago by Jose Saramago, the author best known for his novel, Blindness. In this lesser known novel of his, Death with Interruptions, people in this one town stop dying. Like, not matter how old they get, they just don’t die. Though perhaps that seems like it would be something awesome, and at first it is, eventually it creates all kinds of havoc. It turns out [SPOILER] death decided she (death is a woman in this novel) was tired and needed a vacation. So she took a break.

I feel like that’s what Spring is doing this year. She’s taking a break and maybe, just maybe, she’ll be ready to get back to it really soon. Like yesterday was kind of a nice day. Not exactly a “leave your coat at home” day. But close. And today promises to be even better.

By the time we get to this point in May, everyone is eager to get outside into warmer weather. Granted, it’s warmer than winter. I went for a run at lunch time on Monday and I had to take off a layer because I got warm. But the weather is nowhere near what its should be.

And I’m aware that in no time we will be complaining about the heat and humidity. Just yesterday I was telling a colleague who is visiting from Texas that sometimes it is so hot and humid here that even first thing in the morning you’re dripping in sweat after 5 minutes of running.

But we’re not there yet. Spring, if you’re out there having a vacation, please come back. We need you.

What do you plan to do when the weather becomes beautiful (if you’re somewhere were you too are patiently or not so patiently awaiting Spring)?

Crossfit · running · weight lifting · yoga

Tracy is taking suggestions…bring ’em on

mage description: Tracy's shadow on sidewalk, dry mud beside, running shoes and lower legs visible in bottom left corner.
Image description: Tracy’s shadow on sidewalk, dry mud beside, running shoes and lower legs visible in bottom left corner.

I’m bored with my workout routine. It’s not that I don’t like the things I’m doing. I’m getting stronger in personal training. I love yoga and feel as if I don’t do enough of it these days. And I’m itching to get back to running after my back injury took me out of it for more than a month and I’ve only just dipped my toe back into it since then.

But I feel as if a change is in the air. As much as I’m enjoying personal training, there have been quite a few developments in resistance-training these days, with more small gyms popping up offering different kinds of weight training in more of a group-class setting. One example, that I’ve not yet tried but has been recommended to me is Revkor. We have a studio here in London, and the idea of resistance band training intrigues me.

Another option, which I also have never tried, is something along the lines of CrossFit. My friend Tara has been going to a gym downtown where they do that sort of group workout and she is loving it.

I’m kind of old school and worry that if I’m not hitting heavy free weights in a gym setting I won’t actually get stronger. But at the same time, with my 14-month leave coming up, I feel as if I might need some more opportunities to be around people, and that these group workouts at specialty gyms might be just the thing. And though not cheap, they’re cheaper than personal training.

I’m also planning to spend the summer doing 10K training, 3-4 times a week. And I want to up my yoga classes from once a week to 2-3 times a week. At least that’s what I’ve got in mind.

But I’m open to suggestions. Have you tried anything lately that’s different and that you’re so jazzed about that you want to encourage others to give it a go? If so, please tell me about it and why you’re attracted to it.

eating · fitness · tbt

Vegans and Protein: Yes, We Like It, Too #tbt

Yesterday a friend posted about how her kid’s lunch got knocked off the table at school and so she had to get a school lunch. The child is vegan. And because of that the school could come up with nothing but a few lettuce leaves for her to eat. That made me (and a bunch of other people ( both sad and furious at the same time. But it also sort of amazed us (not in a good way). I mean, how is it that people who specialize in food preparation can’t come up with something a little more subtantial that has no animal products in it?

That made me remember one of my favourite blog rants, which was this rant about chefs who can’t figure out a vegan meal with protein. As if a pile of veggies, no matter how wonderfully prepared, stands in as a satisfying meal. That was 2015. Things have actually improved somewhat in 2019, with more vegan restaurants or “plant-based” sections on a menu in omni restaurants. But still!

Have a good one. TI

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

Photo of a vegan chickpea burger from Jamie Oliver, with lettuce, an artisan bun, and tomato. Jamie Oliver’s best vegan burger.

Last night I went out to one of the best restaurants in London (Ontario). It’s the only place in town that makes it onto lists that get national recognition. Even on a Wednesday night, there was a group at every table in the compact, dimly lit space. My two friends were already sitting at the table in the warm and bustling room when I arrived for our late dinner.  The restaurant offers a delicious winter vegetable salad, a heaping portion of beets and carrots, turnips and leeks, peas and even corn, all roasted or grilled, served in a dressing with fines herbes and excellent olive oil.

That was a definite for my starter. But I’d been at a lunch event earlier in the day where the lack of vegan options meant I’d had only a dinner roll and two kinds of salad, and I’d been…

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fitness

Happy first birthday to the book!

Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey is a year old. Sam and I have both been getting some sweet memories on our timelines lately: memories of the book excitement from last spring. We had all sorts of wonderful happy experiences around the launch and promotion of the book.

In the “hometown” launch in London, Ontario, we got to celebrate with friends and family, and had this great photo op with our mothers (guess who’s whose mother lol):

Image description: Tracy and Sam in middle, flanked by mothers, all smiling, all short-haired, all well-dressed, standing against a plain wall, podium in the right foreground.

A few weeks later, because Sam had recently taken up a new position in Guelph, Ontario, we had another book launch there. Here we are at the Guelph book launch talking about how the Fit at Midlife came to be:

Image description: Sam and Tracy standing on a stage, each at a standing mic, Sam on left smiling and wearing a dress, Tracy on right apparently in mid-sentence and smiling and wearing a skirt and top, book in the middle on a podium facing the audience, windows to outside in background, the backs of two women’s heads in the left and right foreground.

We also did a lot of radio and even some TV. Here we are at the little cafe downstairs in the Global TV studio in Toronto just before we went up to the green room (is that what they called it?) where we had our make-up done and waited for them to call us onto the morning show for our interview:

Image description: Sam and Tracy, head shot, leaning in towards each other and smiling, cafe in the background.

It’s fitting that on the one year anniversary of the book, the audio book just came out. If you’d like to get the audio book or the print book or the kindle version, you can find them all at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. Or even at a brick and mortar bookstore near you, or your local library.

Meanwhile, we’d like to wish the book a very happy first birthday. We had a ton of fun bringing it into the world!

blogging · fitness · tbt · Throwback Thursday

Why so much personal writing on a feminist blog? #tbt

I just finished grading papers for my class “The Art of the Personal Essay” and I continue to have so much respect for personal writing and the stories it enables people to tell. So it’s got me thinking (again) about personal writing. We do a lot of it here on the blog — the majority of our posts involve personal writing at some level, even if it’s a post focusing on commentary. I thought it might be good to revisit why we do that. So here is a post from a couple of years ago as a #tbt that considers why our blog has so much personal writing on it. Have a good one! T

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

Black and white combination of the "mars-venus" symbols for M and F, with a shared circle and an equals sign in the middle of the circle. Black and white combination of the “mars-venus” symbols for M and F, with a shared circle and an equals sign in the middle of the circle. You may have noticed that here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue we write a lot about our own experiences: our latest training plans and decisions (like when I hired a coach to train for Around the Bay); events we’ve done (like Sam’s account of the Five Boros Bike Tour on Sunday), thoughts on food (like Sam’s cooking), weight (and why I don’t talk about it), and body neutrality or body positivity; that new sport we’re trying out (like Catherine’s kayaking); stuff we like (speed work!); stuff we don’t like much (me and the bike). It can all seem so self-centred!

There are actually good reasons a lot of feminist writers favour or at…

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