Should I give my forehead a name?

Serafina? I like that name.

I know it’s not very feminist of me to care about the crevice in my forehead.

It bothers me though.

I tell myself it bothers me because I feel together and happy. I haven’t always felt together and happy. I wish my forehead looked how I feel. But why do we associate ageing with unhappiness? I am happy to be ageing. I should think the crevice in my forehead speaks of happiness. A life being well lived. I’ve always loved the meme with Lauren Bacall stating:

A photo of Lauren Bacall and the quote “I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.”

I mentioned on my Facebook status recently, that it would be great to live two lives. One where we learn how to be our best selves. The other, where we get to be our best selves from the beginning. Of course, this means, understanding the important things to focus on (helping others, self improvement and learning, caring for one’s body that carries us around through life, not worrying about comparison to others or measuring ourselves against unrealistic or unimportant criteria, learning how to manage goal stymying anxiety at a younger age). It does not have anything to do with my physical appearance. But, as far as such second lives would go, it’d be great to have my 30 year old forehead, coupled with my 49 year old wisdom. Not an original thought, but true.

I know the crater between my brows is a privilege of age. I am grateful to be in such an otherwise lucky position, that I have mental energy to waste on my forehead. As I write this, I know it’s ridiculous.

I should care about more important things and others (and I do). But caring for more important things doesn’t mean that occasionally when I see my forehead in a picture or on camera, I am not subconsciously trying to erase it with some kind of magic eraser. My brain is capable of creating a wide range of emotions, seemingly thousands at a time, some big, many small! Also, as we know, many of our thoughts are just wrong and we shouldn’t give to much credence to them.

“Don’t Believe Everything You Think (Suffering is Optional)”

But then, I think about how some women seem to age without intervention and own it and they look great. I think about how some women look like they’ve done too much to their faces and it doesn’t make them look younger, just like they’ve done a lot to their faces. I also think about how I shouldn’t care about what other women’s faces look like. And, I don’t really. I care that the person seems happy and comfortable in their own skin. Do I feel happy and comfortable in my own skin? Yes, for the most part. Some of the mojo I had several years ago would be great too. I’m so greedy.

I have a rough idea about how Botox works, how much it costs, what other women who have done it have to say about its effectiveness. I think being a feminist means being supportive of whatever they do as long as they seem comfortable with their choices and not coerced into doing anything (and that while they are not being weakened by the patriarchy, they are also not weakening others who are equity-seeking).

I keep telling myself that I don’t want Botox because I feel like it would be a losing battle. The start of a never ending quest for an unachievable goal that I don’t really want anyway. But I still find myself wondering.

I want to love my forehead, crevice and all. It is merely a cover for my healthy brain.

I think I should give the crevice in my forehead a name. I think by naming it, it will feel like mine. A loved part of myself that I chose to keep and give a name. Any suggestions?

Nicole P. is learning to accept her forehead, dips and crevices and all, and is thinking of naming it Serafina.

What type of fitness makes your heart smile?

So much of the fitness industry and chatter about fitness focusses on “what you should do”. This type of workout may help you live longer. That type of workout is better than the other type for X reason. If you want to be truly fit you need to be able to do chin-ups.

Just today, I was listening to a mental health webinar about “boosting happiness and thriving in an ever-changing environment” and one of the tips was that, 30 minutes of walking daily, has proven mind boosting benefits. “It’s one of the best options there is for mind boosting interventions.”

That is great, for people like myself who love to walk, and are able to walk for long distances. I don’t take this for granted. But, what about people who experience discomfort when walking? Or, who are not able to walk at all? What are their options? There are often alternatives.

When determining what alternatives work best for you, I would consider (1) what you are able to do, and (2) identifying movement that brings you joy.

Then try to incorporate those things regularly. Schedule them in your day. Even if it is 10-20 minutes at a time.

An image of a brain with legs, holding barbells. Presumably creating joy-creating juice.

Finding movement that brings me joy extracts the juice that makes a switch go off in my brain that says “this makes me feel alive”. I want this for you too. It may make you feel like you matter in a day where you might otherwise not feel that way.

On a morning where I hadn’t slept well the night before, where my thoughts got stuck on daily minutiae and my Fitbit confirmed I didn’t get nearly enough REM sleep, I commiserated with my workout buddies before we started. Perhaps, I said, I wouldn’t have my usual mojo that day.

A close-up photo of an old-fashioned typewriter, with a page that has the typewritten words “Where’d My Mojo Go?”

As soon as I started with our usual warm-up jogs with jumping jacks and mobility work, I could feel the defiant part of my psyche say “this is exactly what you need today. So there!”

When I moved through each 9 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible), I felt capable.

While I smashed through the windmills and hip thrusts (ahem, it’s just a good way of describing a kettlebell swing movement) and push-ups and step-ups, my insecurities in other areas of my life seemed even more insignificant.

I’ve always tried to focus on how my workouts make me feel, rather than any kind of visual results or other metrics. Barring bad luck, this way of thinking may come in handy in the coming years.

What if, instead of listening to advice about what types of creams or exfoliants will uncover a more youthful glow, we focussed on what activities make us laugh more, and feel that glow radiated through our cheeks?

What if, instead of worrying about what size pants we fit into, year to year, we focussed on how simple stretches can ease achiness in our joints?

What if, instead of considering the metabolic benefits of running or swimming or cycling or rowing, we expressed gratitude for the heart-pumping juice that makes anxiety feel alleviated?

What if, even, you need to take medication for sugar or blood pressure? It’s still very useful to find movement, that works for you, that makes your heart smile. Fine, hearts don’t actually smile, but it FEELS that way, sometimes.

A GIF of a heart drawn with red pencil cray and brown eyes and mouth, jumping up and down with joy.

In the grand scheme of things, my workouts are insignificant. But, daily, in my life, they are priceless. Because I focus on the movement that brings me joy. The ones that make me feel alive. For me that’s the park conditioning and strength workouts with familiar faces, my solo running, the occasional yoga or spin.

What movement brings you joy and makes you feel alive?

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and two dogs and tries to move (with intention) daily.

Reasons I Exercise

Alanis Morissette has a song called “Reasons I Drink”. I’m not a person who drinks to cope. It’s not the only reason I exercise, but exercise sure can help me cope.

Here’s a short list of Reasons I Exercise:

The headline Monday morning “Thousands protest vaccine mandates in Calgary, as hospitals struggle with rising COVID cases” with a photo of someone holding up a picture of Anne Frank (!) that has the words “The law is not a moral compass. The people who hid Anne Frank were breaking the law. The people who killed her were following it.”

If I have to explain to anyone why this is a horrendous and inaccurate comparison, I need to go for a run. I may just keep running to a new planet where we can start fresh?

An animated woman in green t-shirt, black shorts, black cap and grey shoes, running mid-stride.

I was in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario on the weekend. It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I was happy to see that most people were observing the mask requirements. I was also happy to see a little “vegan, keto bakery” on a little side street, of an otherwise unappealing selection of snack options. I am not vegan or keto, but appreciate this type of food amongst a sea of fudge, ice cream and chocolate. That was until I walked in and noticed most of the people working there were not wearing masks. This is a clear choice these days. And the person who seemed to be in charge of the kitchen kept playing with her abundant blond hair in between plating food. That’s a bad choice, while preparing food, any time. That was enough for me to leave without ordering.

I’ve seen this in other ways, enough to recognize a weird conflation between people catering to wellness lifestyles and an alarmingly large number of those same people who are opposed to vaccines and mask wearing. In case, some weren’t aware, you can appreciate the benefits of regular movement, healthful food, etc., AND, also understand why vaccines are a good choice. This makes getting close to 30,000 steps that day necessary.

A brick wall with large white letters saying BANG HEAD HERE and a white circle and arrow, in case one doesn’t know where to bang head. This was my option, if I didn’t get more walking in, instead.

The idea that we may have a Conservative government, federally, by the end of the month. At the same time that we still have Conservative governments in Ontario and Alberta. That makes me crave a 60 minute endurance spin. Maybe if I spin long enough, I’ll spin away this possibility.

Increasing waves and lengths of PMS these days. While some days, this makes me want to couch surf or hide in a bubble bath, it also makes me appreciate my long runs and the lingering endorphins. There are not enough endorphins in the world these days, but they help.

Picture of a white tub filled with (hopefully hot) bubble bath water and legs immersed in that water, resting the side of the tub.

What are ways you cope with things that annoy you?

Nicole P. lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs. She likes to run (mostly solo), do group outdoor conditioning and strength workouts, spinning and a bit of yoga.

Does working out make you weep?

“I would give everything I own give up my life my heart my home….just to have you back again..”

This was the song (by Bread) playing during my 45 minute Yacht Rock Ride with Peloton’s Jenn Sherman, when I could feel the well in my chest. That moment when endorphins from the ride mix with cheesy 70s “yacht rock” and encourage a spontaneous release of emotions.

It’s a familiar sensation, while spinning, sometimes, while running, whether because of music or not.

It’s more common for me to feel that well in my chest when not exercising lately. What’s going on? I am not a weeper. I’m the one who doesn’t always cry at funerals. Not because I’m not feeling it, but it is more likely to hit me in private. When I’m walking somewhere – or exercising. But not so much lately. Seeing as PMS seems to be a 3 week/month event these days, tears are more common than usual.

Frustration can make me feel weepy. So can happiness. Telling the group of women I exercise with, that this might be the most fun of my day, as I head off to to work from home, can make me feel weepy as I walk away. My husband was cleaning out an old drawer and found a journal where I was apparently trying to summon up a soulmate. Seeing that journal and the reminder of how alone I felt at one time, how juvenile my words look in retrospect, made me feel weepy. Weepy can mean happy, not always sad or nostalgic or fearful or anxious.

Crying, whether because of sadness or because of happiness, can be beneficial, as it helps regulate emotions. Don’t believe me? This article says that: Crying is an important safety valve, largely because keeping difficult feelings inside — what psychologists call repressive coping — can be bad for our health. Studies have linked repressive coping with a less resilient immune system, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, as well as with mental health conditions, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Crying has also been shown to increase attachment behavior, encouraging closeness, empathy, and support from friends and family.

I can use help with regulating emotions these days. As my hormones seem to be making me feel more inadequate lately. Less useful or competent. As they make me feel more angry sometimes. Or more resigned. Or more tired and unmotivated. More unsure if I can be honest about how I’m feeling, and whether it will be held against me (in the workplace). I’m grateful for exercise and movement more than ever. Even if the endorphins seem to wane more quickly post workout. Exercise seems more necessary for my survival, than ever. I’m grateful for every emotion that is heightened through movement. Including tears.

How about you? Can exercise bring out your tears?

Side note – certain songs make me weepy, regardless of what I’m doing:

Coming Around Again – Carly Simon
Tell Yourself – Natalie Merchant
Somewhere Only We Know – Lily Allen cover

Which songs do this to you?

Nicole P. lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs. She enjoys moving in the form of running, group park conditioning and strength workouts, spinning on her stationary bike, walking around her East End neighbourhood and the occasional bit of yoga.

Is running or swimming or cycling better for you?

The one that you enjoy doing.

This is not a novel idea. But it bears repeating. Sometimes, we share articles with such titles. And, even though they often contain helpful information beyond the title, the title annoys me and I usually mutter to myself, “the one you enjoy doing”. Duh.

On occasion, when someone hears that I enjoy running, they will say “Oh, I wish I enjoyed it, but I don’t”. “I’ve never been able to achieve that “runner’s high”. To which, I will say, that’s OK, it’s not for everyone. What do you enjoy?

Most advice about moving for wellness, boils down to a few main ideas. Any movement, you enjoy, that you can do safely, and that raises your heart rate a bit, is useful. It may prolong your life (it may not) and it will likely make you feel better, day to day.

As I get older, it feels ever more important to me that I remain consistent with fitness. Consistent with doing the things that work for me. A mix of running, indoor cycling, walking, HIIT-style workouts that are careful and thoughtful, some strength exercises and mobility. The strength and mobility are mainly so that I can continue running.

How many times have you seen a person say “I hate running!” but “I’m doing a couch to 5K program!”. They may complete that program, but if they hate running, it’s not likely to stick. It’s not likely to become consistent. The consistency is where the gold is. It’s where the brain-rewarding, juice-flowing, joint-soothing gold is.

I don’t like to ride a bike outside, mainly because I never became a good cyclist and I don’t have the interest to become better at it. So, it’s not for me. But, I love spinning on an indoor bike.

I hate treadmills. My brain wants me to jump off as soon as there’s any real movement. I prefer running outside, in the weather (all of it, rain, sun, light snow).

It doesn’t matter if a study comes out that suggests that riding a bike outside is going to give my heart health a slight edge. Because, I won’t become an outdoor cyclist suddenly. So, I’ll take whatever benefit (and there’s always a benefit) and enjoyment I get from spinning indoors.

Don’t let anyone convince you that you have to do a specific exercise for it to be worth it. Find what you enjoy. Discover what works for your body, whatever it’s abilities. Figure out a way to do it regularly and safely. That’s it. So simple.

Nicole P. enjoyed her Sunday run with glorious mid-August weather and is hoping you enjoy whichever movement you choose to do this week.

Seeking free flow vibes

Oh no! It’s chin-up day. How can I practice this without dangling from the top bar on the rig? Can I do those alternate ones with the band placed horizontally? Or on the shorter rig. The one that I can reach easily? These are the types of thoughts that go through my head when there is something on the menu I don’t want to entertain. They can make my brain freeze, and sometimes, the best way to deal with them, is to avoid the offending item all together.

This is why I enjoy long distance running. The repetitive motion forces me to get out of my head in a meditative way. Much more effectively than a long shavasana, where my mind is likely to get busy. This is nice, but are we done yet?

Being this type of person is why I haven’t worked on my chin ups. I can’t get my head to stop thinking about dangling off the bar from a high place. I mean, I haven’t been back INSIDE the gym yet, and I probably won’t be any time soon, but even when I do, I’m not likely to run to the high bar on the rig. Which is a shame, because I am confident that I have the necessary upper body strength.

When I do let myself get out of my head for brief moments, it’s nice.

Whether it’s the start of a sprint during a park workout and I let my whole body move without worrying too much about form. Or, during jumping jacks or kettlebell swings, where I can feel the adrenaline rush. Those moments feel special. Luxurious. I’m not suggesting that people don’t employ good form, but if you do something often enough, you should naturally have the form down, so that you can let go and enjoy.

I was thinking about these things for this post. I figured it was a little ode to free(ing) movement. Free from inhibitions. Free from overthinking. Letting them spill out into other areas of our lives.

Then I read Bitch Media’s review of Alison Bechdel’s, “The Secret to Superhuman Strength“. I read this graphic novel a couple months ago and enjoyed it. Cate wrote about it here. While not quite as “sporty” as Bechdel, and though I discovered my love of fitness later in life, I can relate to her quest for a higher sense of herself through movement. Or, if nothing else, bliss that comes from turning off an anxious mind. There were two things that stood out to me from the Bitch review:

  1. “Khloé Kardashian has an E! show called Revenge Body whose entire premise revolves around people sticking it to their exes by losing weight and getting jacked.”
  2.  “Early in life, Bechdel discovers that she can blunt the utter awkwardness of being a human being through vigorous physical activity. She’s looking for the bliss that comes through forgetting yourself, a way to turn off the relentless grinding of an anxious mind.”

With respect to the first, I’m so glad I don’t have cable and I’m not tempted to watch crap like that.

With respect to the second, this is me, in a nutshell. Some parts of exercise are hard. But there are lots of moments that feel good, that are fun, and more importantly, result in that bliss that comes from forgetting yourself, from turning of the relentless grinding of an anxious mind.

And, then I thought, because I’ve been feeling typical feelings of annoyance and frustration with myself, about my career (and ruminating over school choices)….what if instead of distracting myself through exercise, I channelled some of that sweat equity into more meaningful endeavours through work? What if I tried to find artistic and cerebral activities that provided the same hard work, and way to turn of the relentless grinding of an anxious mind? What effect would that have on my hampster in a wheel feelings of making some ground with new experiences, and then hitting the same barriers (external and internal) over and over? What would happen then? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but it is something I am thinking about. I’ll let you know if I figure out a way to jump off the wheel. If this rambling paragraph makes any sense to you, and you have any wisdom to share, please do!

In the meantime, I will keep moving through it. Seeking those blissful moments.
This sweaty glow is courtesy of a hot Sunday morning in Toronto, but also, from letting go and enjoying my morning run.

A collage of photos from a jog in Toronto. Top left is the view from Church St. looking West on Adelaide towards the financial district. The pink coloured Scotia Plaza is prominent. Top right is the flatiron building at Church and Front/Wellington. Bottom right is the entrance to the Distillery District from Parliament St. with the heart display in the centre. Bottom right is Nicole with blue cap and black tank top, sweaty from a hot but happy run.
Nicole P. is in a “slow and steady” season, both with exercise, work and play.

Stop “looking for results from working out” and kick guilt to the curb

Content warning: post includes talk about dieting and weight loss

I’ve been working out regularly for close to 20 years. That still amazes me when I think about it, because for the first 30 years of my life, I was not an active or fit person. I hated gym class, smoked on and off, hated my body, punished it with diets, binging and wished it would be different.

When I started working out regularly, it didn’t change my perspective about my body overnight. But I didn’t focus on my body’s shape as the primary reason I was working out on a regular basis. And, over time, it has become the least important reason for why I get my sweat on. I focused on:

  1. Amazement at what my body was capable of doing (you can spin your ass off for 3 hours and still feel like you can keep going! You can run a WHOLE MARATHON! Aren’t you lucky you’ve been given a body that can do these things!).
  2. This may be a bit controversial, but at first I was a little surprised at how well I could keep up to the people in some of my classes who were smaller. My brain, conditioned to think smaller was always fitter, learned many times over, that this was not the case. Not for me and not for those with larger bodies, who would often whip my butt in class. Learning this, added to my understanding of how little someone’s appearance relates to their level of fitness.
  3. How much stronger my body felt.
  4. I did enjoy how my body felt firmer. But that is not something that always happens. And bodies of all shapes and sizes can be firmer.
  5. How much my mind benefitted from exercise. It’s still my number one factor. I always say that if I don’t exercise for a couple days “I don’t feel right”. It’s just a fact. I can get too much in my head. I can get too anxious. I can get tense for no particular reason. I don’t think I’ve ever exercised, and not felt noticeably clearer afterwards. Lighter. My chest unclenches. My outlook on my day improves. It’s often stated but not overstated. Exercise is completely beneficial for my mental health (this is not to say that if someone needs other medical interventions, such as medication, that exercise is a substitute for medication).
  6. Helped me quit smoking for good. Knowing I was going to run in the morning, stopped me from going for that cigarette one last time. As I got older, and found that alcohol made me more tired the next day, it also stopped me from going for that 3rd or 4th drink.
  7. Community. Exercising, regularly, allowed me to meet like-minded people. It’s a reason to smile and say Hi to familiar faces. It enables you to see that fitness comes in all shapes and ages and demographics. The pandemic has made the importance of this connection even more evident.
Nicole doing a push-up on dumbbells, in the park. Enjoying what her body is capable of, the weather, the scenery, the camaraderie and so much more.

My experience of body hate and disordered eating is not unusual, unfortunately. Aspects of these experiences can be attributed to diet culture and, particularly, North American views that part of being a successful woman is taking up as little physical space as possible. I am not going to go into the evils of diet culture and why we shouldn’t succumb to these pressures. We’ve talked about this many times on this blog. It’s not news.

black script on a light acqua background with the words “Just say no to diet culture”

But, I’m still surprised at how often, women I know, from all walks of life, all shapes, ages, levels of education, etc., say things like:

  1. I have been eating “better”. I feel less guilty. Or, the opposite.
  2. I enjoyed girls’ night last night, but I need to be extra careful today.
  3. There’s no point in me working out until I get my diet together, because I don’t see results until I eat better.

Variations on all of the above. It’s not surprising that these thoughts are so common, when all around us is “advice” about “Why you might not be seeing fitness results”.

An ad for a fitness coach, showing a young, white woman running in grey shorts and light aqua tshirt, with the words “why you might not be seeing fitness results.

I’ll tell you why some people “may not be seeing fitness results”. They are only looking for one factor. Weight loss. When there are so many other results from fitness, that are much more important.

I can tell you from my own experience:

  1. No amount of guilt is going to steer you in the direction you seek (whether you should be seeking that goal or not).
  2. When you stop looking for visual results from working out, you will notice a whole host of other results from exercise.
  3. If you focus on the visual results of exercise, it may hinder you. It may prevent you from exercising. The “what’s the point” mentality. I don’t want this way of thinking to stop you from enjoying all the amazing benefits that come from regular, intentional movement.

Some of my friends or family who know me might say, “That’s easy for you to say. I’ve noticed you’ve lost weight recently”. This I would address by saying, (1) Losing weight isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes it means you’ve lost muscle tone. Sometimes, losing weight means a person has been unusually stressed or unwell. In my case, I currently feel neutral about losing weight. It’s neither good nor bad. Nor was it my goal. (2) My exercise schedule hasn’t changed much over the years. Sometimes, I’ve been bigger. Sometimes, I’ve been smaller. (3) I eat how I enjoy eating. I happen to have lost weight recently. Because of the pandemic, I have also been doing less heavy weight on the rig. That may be part of it. The way I eat, and my weight, may fluctuate. But one thing is for sure, the way I eat does not involve guilt, body hate, praise or other virtues about my food intake. I am not punishing myself. I make sure I am satiated. I try not to overthink things. How others may enjoy eating, without assigning virtues to the food, may look completely different. And their bodies may look completely different and be equally as fit. You can’t tell how fit someone is by looking at them and you can’t tell how kind someone is to their body by looking at them.

Occasionally, I mention my thoughts about food and exercise, around people who indicate they are upset with themselves because of how they have been eating. I try to gently remind them that beating themselves up isn’t going to help. My thoughts are clearly not that influential. But, I feel the need to try, because it is my sincere wish, that people understand two things about food and exercise:

1. Only do things out of love. You will only be content with how you eat, if you love yourself. If you choose what you want to do because you love yourself. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Nothing good comes out of hating yourself. Ever.
2. Exercise benefits you with mental clarity, strength, joint health, managing things like blood pressure and blood sugar (sometimes, that doesn’t mean you still won’t need medical intervention, it’s not one or the other, in all cases), and so many other things, REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE MIRROR. Don’t lose all those other benefits, or let that one thing prevent you exercising. PLEASE. Is that too much to ask?

I long for the day when work meetings, backyard bbqs, and social media threads, refrain from feelings of guilt about food, and espouse the virtues of exercise beyond how people see themselves in a mirror.

This is what will happen if you stop “looking for results from working out” and kick guilt to the curb:

You will appreciate exercise for more important things that add up to overall wellbeing. And, it’s more likely to become a regular habit (not just an occasional reminder to “fix” yourself.

You will be kinder to yourself. If there is one thing this pandemic should have taught us, is that it is important to be kinder to ourselves and others. It should not have taught you to deride yourself or to be ungrateful to your wonderous living being because of outdated, unhelpful, time-wasting, life-wasting, brain-wasting societal norms.

Nicole P. is determined to make choices for her body out of love.

Sneaking out for a yoga class in the park

I snuck out for a gentle yoga class in the park today.

I woke up a little bit groggy. Perhaps some pollen in my eyes. My husband is in Ottawa for a couple nights and I felt a little out of sorts last night. It’s funny how even a small disruption in our routines can make us retreat to old feelings of anxiety and aloneness. One of the dogs got up at 5:15 to go downstairs and throw up (he’s the especially nervous one, when one of us is not home). I managed to get another 45 minutes of sleep after cleaning up, but was still feeling cloudy.

I wasn’t planning on any intentional movement today as I had two days in a row of strength and conditioning class. Saturday was in the park. Sunday was virtual. My hamstring has been a bit annoyed with me lately and I am trying to give it a bit of a break from long runs (not easy for runners to let go of our regular run days).

Scrolling through my newsfeed, I noticed a “slow flow” yoga class scheduled for the park near me. I knew I had a light meeting day ahead. I calculated in my head, can I walk the dogs, log into work, get a few things done, make it to class and back in a decent amount of time. I figured I could. One of the benefits of working from home, is that if I take some time for me during the day, I can make up for it later on, if necessary. Those nagging minutes that need to be finished can wait.

I got to the park and introduced myself to the instructor. There were only two other women there. They were having a conversation about easing back into things. The ways this can be stressful after closing ourselves off during the pandemic. I know I am trying to manage how much I do as we re-connect. Too much at once doesn’t feel right. But I am grateful for every little thing we can do again. Even doing exercise in park (which wasn’t allowed again in my city until a few weeks ago). In fact, today is 2 weeks post second vaccine. I am so grateful for full immunity. I feel lighter already. Looking forward to lunch, indoors, with family soon. Back to the women in the park, we all agreed it felt too soon to re-schedule cancelled overseas trips.

As I lay down my mat, I noticed how perfect the weather was. Sunny with a bit of shade. Warm, but breezy. I could feel the grass underneath my mat. The instructor took us through some gentle exercises to wake up our toes and feet. This was followed by really gentle movements from head to toe. It was perfect. The clouds had separated. Just what I needed today.

As a bonus, today was the first day of “CampsTO” and there were a few small groups of young campers walking by. One of the kids told us that he too does yoga, in his basement. A dog came by and did shavasana with us. These small, but meaningful signs of the city going back to normal activities after a stressful year, enhanced the lovely escape from the work day.

As I walked back home, I picked up coffee from my favourite place. I enjoyed its subtle taste of walnuts as I appreciated the gorgeous weather, and wished for a moment, that I could stay outside instead of go back to work. But, there’s always part of me that knows that a little taste is often just what you need to appreciate the goodness.

Sneaking out to yoga in the park was a perfect choice. What will you sneak into your day?

Nicole P. is looking for ways to sneak goodness in her days.

Sneezing while walking: middle age lessons

The other day I was walking back from my friend Barb’s house. There and back was about 15km. It was lovely, early June, walking weather. I felt great, even with the mild hamstring soreness I’ve been experiencing lately (time to re-focus on strength exercises, specifically my glutes).

Going for long walks is one of my favourite things. Long before Covid, walking has been my preferred mode of transportation, as long I have the time and the right shoes. My husband’s also become an avid walker. He’s a convert to “walking provides endorphins” and tries to get as many steps in as possible, each day, which can be anywhere from 10,000 to 35,000. We love to walk.

Going back to my return walk from Barb’s, this is when I discovered why it might be time to change my style of underwear… For as long as I can remember, I’ve been wearing lacy ones, the kind that don’t have much to them. They fit fine. I think they still look cute. At 49, I’m no stranger to feeling a sneeze coming on, particularly while walking, and engaging my pelvic floor muscles to prevent a mishap. Well, on this day, the mishap was not to be avoided. And my flimsy, lacy undies, under my sporty summer dress, were not enough of a barrier to stop a small trickle down my leg. UGH.

A pop art style picture of a woman in a purple top, red lipstick, blue eyes open wide and the caption “OOPS!”

Thankfully, it was warm, which means it dried quickly. And, I was on my way home, where my plans were to immerse myself in a hot bath and read my book (Crying at the H Mart, a very well-written book about the author losing her Mom to cancer prematurely). No one was around. If I had not mentioned it here, no one would know it happened! It did get me thinking that maybe I should be wearing better protection when wearing a dress in the summer! Other people could be around the next time it happened and that would be quite embarrassing.

I guess this is one of those things one learns from experience. I guess, in addition to doing “reverse kegels” for pelvic floor health, I should be doing more regular kegels. Perhaps, I haven’t been paying enough attention to my pelvic floor after all.

I’m also going to try out some new underwear. Maybe some sportier ones that aren’t too much bigger but more of a barrier. I understand now why Knix have leakproof options (not just for periods!).

If anyone has any suggestions, particularly for strength exercises that might help, now’s the time to send them my way!

Edit: After posting this yesterday, Sam sent this article my way. I like it because it provides a few basic exercises at the end:–XRVz5_6wuQNBai3dUQmw&_sm_vck=QfJsssQSnMHjN4J4R5sVvPV0T7LPL7rp0stLFWqSJRsssp8pWSTn

Nicole P. lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs. She loves to run, do strength workouts, walk (but without mishaps).


Are you a runner?

Do you run? Then you are a runner.

Whether you run a mile a day or you are training for a marathon. If you are smashing PRs or going slow and steady. Whether it took you 3 hours to run a full marathon or 5 (that would be my full marathon average). Regardless of whether your running shorts are a size 6 or 22. If you run on a regular basis, you are a runner.

The other day, I was watching the British television game show, Pointless, as my husband and I often do, when we don’t feel like watching an intense drama or dark comedy. Each contestant typically provides a little tidbit about themselves, as an introduction, before providing their first answer. On this occasion, a woman said “I love to run. I run 6 miles a day and I’ve run two half-marathons.” Then she gestured up and down her body and laughed, mockingly at herself, and said, “I know I don’t look like a runner.” The host, Alexander Armstrong, said, “who wants to look like a runner anyway?”

Aside from Armstrong’s response being rubbish, I said to Gavin, “ugh, it’s sad that she feels she has to qualify it. She should read Fit is a Feminist Issue!”

I used to do this too. Many times, mostly in my thirties, when I was still surprised by myself being a runner. If it came up in conversation that I was training for a marathon or similar (as it often would, because, hey, I am a runner), I would say the same thing as that contestant, “I know I don’t look like a runner.” Giggle, to make sure others knew I might be preposterous too, for calling myself a runner.

I’ve talked before (my first guest post on FIFI) about my Imposter’s Syndrome around fitness.

Here’s the thing. If you run, you are a runner. If you swim, you are a swimmer. If you do any sport on a regular basis, I would argue you are an athlete. You don’t have to perform at the top of your sport, to be considered an athlete. To me it has more to do with the importance it plays in your life and the consistency with which you practice. Let’s stop apologizing, minimizing, qualifying anything relating to ourselves (this extends beyond fitness), especially based on a false notion of “what a runner looks like” or “what fit looks like”.

Believe in yourself. Don’t make something you enjoy so much that you mention it as part of your bio, a joke directed at yourself. The more people say “I am a runner” or whatever sport they participate in, in a way that isn’t up for question, regardless of their outward expression, others won’t question that expression either.

Oh, and to Alexander Armstrong, I love looking like a runner.

Nicole P.