fitness

Say Good Morning

I was in Collingwood, Ontario on Canada Day. It’s a small town about 2 hours north of my home in Toronto.

Picture of downtown Collingwood.

I love living in an urban centre. Small towns are perfect for little getaways though. One thing small towns do well, is fostering an atmosphere where people say Hello to strangers. Waiting in line for ice cream. Walking down the street. And runners say Hello to other runners.

I went for a run in the morning in Collingwood. One runner passing by said Hello. Then a group of runners said Good Morning, one by one. So nice.

A group of friendly runners.

It is not my experience that runners in Toronto say Hello or Good Morning (I rarely run in the evenings) to other runners. I tried for awhile. When I went to Victoria, early on in my running habit, I noticed this lovely practice. I also remember my Aunt Bev, who lives in Victoria, and who inspired me to start running, saying Good Morning to passersby on our jogs together in Toronto. She would look at them directly, give a big smile, and say Good Morning. Nice, I would think, but Toronto runners weren’t likely to say Hi back. But some would.

I have tried, here and there, to say Good Morning to fellow runners. But to no avail. Perhaps, it’s in my delivery. My Aunt expected a response. I don’t. Perhaps that shows?

A picture of a smiley face and the caption “Good Morning” on a lime green coloured background

To be fair, it’s not just Toronto. I don’t recall people saying Good Morning when I’d run by them in Guelph. Smaller than Toronto, but perhaps not really “small town”?

I understand why it’s not innate to Torontonians to say Hello or Good Morning to strangers. We learn to go about our business. Stay out of other people’s business.

I have found even saying Hi to neighbours, which I insist on doing regularly, is not always reciprocal.

In the beginning of the Covid lockdown, it felt funny to be outside. When we learned that we should stay 6 feet away from others, I noticed that people seemed reluctant to even look at each other on the street. Never mind stay physically separated. It was so nice if someone actually looked up and locked eyes, maybe nodded their head.

It is a treat when fellow runners acknowledge each other and wish them well. Especially in these uncertain, and sometimes stressful, times. Such gracious actions can go a long way to spread goodwill. I wholeheartedly endorse saying Hi, Good Morning, etc. to your fellow runners. Go for it. Give it a try. Even fellow Torontonians! Just don’t ask me to smile. That’s a whole other discussion.

“Stop Telling Women to Smile”
Nicole P. is going to practice saying Good Morning to fellow runners.

fitness

What’s Your Healing Ritual?

What’s your healing ritual? Mine is walking. Some might consider walking to and from work every day as more of a routine. But, it also has a healing, or spiritual aspect to it. It felt more like a ritual.

Part of Nicole’s typical walk to work in Toronto. The “flatiron building” in Toronto is centred in the picture.

I can still go for a walk during the pandemic. In the beginning of the lockdown, it felt very eerie to walk outside on deserted streets, where there was some uncertainty if one should even be out and about. But now, there is good information out there, to provide comfort that walking past people outside, not lingering, keeping your distance, etc., is pretty low risk. Not as low risk as some people behave, forgetting to social distance, as if we are in Stage 5, not in the cusp of Stage 2 in a Toronto. But, still, low risk.

Most of my walking these days is to run errands. Everything is within a 10-15 min walk radius. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not the same as walking to work every day.

Some days, with walking both ways to work, walking both ways to the gym, running errands, meeting people for social engagements (Remember those? Sigh), I could easily get in close to 25,000 steps in a day. That is a great activity boost, with or without my HIIT workouts and running. Now I walk from my second floor to my first floor for work. From the dining room to the living room (technically, same room) for my virtual workout.

I could get used to working from home indefinitely. But, I miss the routine of setting out fresh, on foot, in the morning. Enjoying the more sparsely populated sidewalks on the eastern portion of my route. And the bustle as I got closer to the financial district. At the end of the day, I may be a little mentally tired (or numb). The rush hour crowds near the office can seem a bit too much, but with each step away from downtown, I’d find energy that I didn’t know I still had in me for the day.

It’s not that every part of my daily walk was enjoyable. There are always reasons to be irritated. Mostly because people can be very irritating. But between absent-minded wanderers, entitled sidewalk hoggers, reckless drivers and flippant cyclists, would be pleasing city views, sights and senses unique to each season, friendly faces and courteous individuals.

A busy Toronto sidewalk, with people walking.

And walking the same route every day is meditative. At least for me. I love active meditation. I love long runs for the same reason. Other than being aware of traffic hazards, I am free to get lost in my head. Let repetitive thoughts move freely and not get stuck. I can explore my creative thoughts. Give angry thoughts an outlet with each step on the pavement.

I have other fitness routines. I still do my regular HIIT workouts. I still go for jogs and do some yoga. None of these things, save for the special 108 Sun Salutations that I do each solstice, seem like a ritual, the way walking does.

Do you have routines that feel more like rituals? What are they? Are you able to do them during this pandemic?

Nicole P. is looking for more opportunities for daily long a

fitness

Push Ups As Ego Boost

I participated in a company organized workout via Zoom, today (led by Maneki Fit). Typically I do my Zoom workout a few times a week with my regular gym. The company organized workout was scheduled around the same time as my usual workout. I wasn’t sure if I should do it, or follow my regular routine. I’m glad I shook it up a bit. Not because I don’t love the typical workout I do with Move Fitness Club. But, because it’s worthwhile to switch it up every once and awhile. Also, today felt like a bit of an ego boost. I am not above admitting that an ego boost can go along way in amping up the good feels derived from a great workout.

The Move workout typically involves 2 or 3 sets of EMOMs (every minute on the minute) or Tabatas, along with a warm-up or a cool down. We use whatever weights we have around at home for a lot of the exercises. It’s always a good, sweaty workout.

The Maneki workout was a warm-up, followed by 5 sets of 3 exercises (100 scissor jumps, 8-10 push-ups and 12 sit-ups). That’s it. Simple. I love repetitive things, whether in exercise, baking, making pasta, etc. Especially simple moves.

I was one of the few participants on the Maneki workout with my camera on. Since I am used to being on camera for the Move workouts, I wasn’t worried about it. I think many of my colleagues were not as used to participating in virtual workouts, so they chose to be off camera. So, the coach was often calling out me and a couple of other people that he could see on camera.

If I were doing Bulgarian split squats, or step-ups, it may not have been a good opportunity for my ego to shine. But push-ups and sit-ups and scissor jumps. Right up my alley. And the coach noticed. He called out my great form for the push-ups a few times. He liked the fact that I used one of my weight plates for the sit-ups. I enjoyed the shout-outs. I enjoyed being recognized for being good at these fitness things. It helps remind me, when I still have Imposter Syndrome, that I am a dedicated, and regular exerciser (still not sure if athlete qualifies).

Who couldn’t use an ego boost these days? A reason to feel as though you are not in an exercise plateau. Because things are starting to feel a little too similar day-in and day-out. It’s nice to have a distraction from the idea that maybe you are not doing enough in the world with the talents you’ve been given.

That’s it. I enjoyed the ego boost today through fitness. I hope you enjoy an ego boost today or soon, in whatever form it comes in.

Nicole P. is riding a wave of happy push-ups today.
fitness

Milestone Month Motivations

June is a big month in my household. My husband’s birthday is June 14th. Our (1st) Wedding Anniversary is on June 15th. And, my birthday is June 23rd. Along with reflection and celebration, comes the urge to seek motivation. What goals am I looking to achieve as I enter my 49th year? What do I want 50 to look like? How much control do I have over what it will look and feel like?

So far my husband and I have been relatively comfortable during the pandemic. We are both able to work from home. Close friends and family have remained healthy. In fact, the cases in my local Toronto neighbourhood are relatively low. We have some outdoor space on our rooftop patio so that we don’t feel overly confined. I have been able to figure out how to safely run outside, without feeling like an asshole (I have been assured I am not an asshole) and take comfort that the weather is nicer and the risks of outdoor exercise are low.

A bridge on one of Nicole’s runs. Inspiration for more running outside.

We did have to cancel our planned honeymoon. We were supposed to go to Spain and Portugal on May 1st. It was an eagerly anticipated vacation. We are not big travellers. We have not been on a real vacation together in the 5+years that we have been together. The last time I was in Europe was several months before I met Gavin when I went hiking in Tuscany. It was a fabulous trip and I am grateful for the experience. Gavin hasn’t been on a trip in many years and hasn’t been to Europe since his early 20s (he’s 52 this month). We’ve enjoyed a lot of highs, emotionally, in the last couple years, and I am so grateful we were able to gather friends and family last year for our wedding. We’ve also had some very low moments emotionally because my stepdaughter decided several months before our wedding that she does not want to be in our life. That has not changed (yet, hopefully). All of this is to say that, a honeymoon trip to Spain and Portugal would not have been taken in vain.

In a world rife with despotic leaders, systemic racism that won’t go away, a virus that is changing most people’s daily lives in some way, it feels trite to be thinking about what goals I have for my own wellbeing. But I also think there is no harm in looking after yourself as much as you can, while still trying to be a good citizen of the world.

So my personal wellness goals as I turn 48 are:

  • be grateful every day that I am safe and healthy.
  • Try to be an ally to others in meaningful ways. [For example, my summer reading plans include “The Person You Mean To Be by Dolly Chugh” and I am committed to donating to charities that support BIPOC individuals in my area (Black Lives Matter Toronto – http://www.blacklivesmatter.ca, Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough http://www.esbgc.net and Aboriginal Legal Services http://www.aboriginallegal.ca, come to mind).
  • Get a little faster on my jogs. I’ve never paid too much attention to my pace while running, but adding the Strava app to my phone has reminded me that I can stand to pick up my pace a little.
  • But my other goal is not to worry about the above too much. I starting realizing that the new Strava app was creating a little bit of anxiety for me. How slow will I be today? Do I want to post that result if I am slower today. Well, I don’t want running, which HELPS my anxiety to create more anxiety, so I have vowed not to worry about it, and I will post whatever my result is, and be happy that I got out, regardless of my pace.
  • I miss doing heavier weights on the barbell, but for now I would like to continue doing my virtual workouts regularly. Both my HIIT style workouts with Move Fitness Club, and yoga with the lovely Lisa V.
  • Speaking of yoga, I don’t always find it easy. I find doing a HIIT workout or a run much more appealing to my noisy mind. Also, I have always had tight hips and hamstrings and find a lot of the stretchier parts of yoga HARD. But that’s exactly why I need to do more yoga, not less.
  • I would like to put my phone down more in the evening. Perhaps try not to be using it all the time, even when I am watching a show, or making dinner.
  • Have more focus with work, and/or have more work that I am passionate about.
  • I want to be a patient, helpful, joy-bringing, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, friend.

What types of goals and motivation do you look for around your birthday?

Nicole P. is pondering her milestone month motivations. While continuing to run outside, do virtual workouts and hug her two dogs.
fitness

On Being a #ThinAlly

(CW: discussion of weight, fatphobia, body image).

Despite my lifelong body image issues, I am in the “thin” category when it comes to being a #thinally. I am squarely average. I am in the range of the average North American woman – size 10-12″, except for those times when I’ve restricted myself for a prolonged period of time, and have been around a size 6-8. I’ve rarely been a size higher than a 10.

I’ve never been treated differently, rudely, or been the butt of someone’s joke, because of my size. I may still have an Imposter Syndrome when it comes to fitness. But I have privilege in this area. I am aware of this.

That’s why when I see people making jokes about others’ weight, even if it’s someone like Trump, who is reprehensible for a whole host of reasons that have nothing to do with his appearance, I bristle just a little. I read Ama Shriver’s post on Instagram today and I agree with her. As Schriver says in her IG post: “There are many things President Donald Trump has done wrong. “Hell, Evette Dionne (@freeblackgirl) on Twitter put it best when she said “you don’t have to resort to being fatphobic to express dislike toward someone”. She goes on to say that “…almost immediately, the hashtag #morbidlyobese started trending on Twitter and the fatphobic comments were awful….In the last 24-48 hours, I have seen so many fat advocates and allies speak out about why these things are wrong and just how these comments can hurt your fat friends who have to constantly engage with and read your comments.” Shriver mentions @_sophiack_’s post on Twitter, where she wrote, “Would love to see some thin allies speaking up” and Shriver says she feels the same way.

Well, I agree, and I am speaking up. Stop using fatphobic comments to insult people. Stop using them to compliment people also. Stop worrying about the Covid_19 too.

I felt the same way, years back, when Rob Ford was the Mayor of Toronto. There were a lot of reasons I didn’t like him as Mayor. I didn’t like his policies around “inefficiencies”. I didn’t like his idea to cancel all marathons in the city, and move them to parks (as if that would ever work), but I never liked the arguments about him relating to his weight. I think any time you criticize someone based on their appearance, it cheapens your argument anyway.

Lately, I am more aware when hearing these types of insults and jokes in places I wouldn’t expect to find them. Very popular sitcoms from just a few years ago, for example. Backhanded compliments about Adele, who can’t win anyway – she’s either too thin or too fat.

Picture that says, “If you compliment weight loss you may be inadvertently complimenting: cancer, an eating disorder, severe depression or anxiety, acute grief and loss, an otherwise invisible illness

I try to catch myself when I openly lament that my jeans are getting too snug. However I choose to deal with that, I know it’s not helpful to anyone to vocalize that concern. Let that shit stay in my head, or better yet, pass through like a feather, in meditation.

Typically, I try to speak up when I hear racist, fatphobic, generally out of touch, and potentially hurtful comments, often hurtful to the people that are saying them, themselves. I find it difficult to do so. It is often uncomfortable, no matter how delicate I try to be. My heart may race a bit. It may ruin the evening for myself if I feel like people didn’t get what I was trying to say. But I imagine my discomfort is nothing compared to fat people having to hear silly fatphobic comments and criticisms, day in and day out. So for that reason, I pledge to speak up. I am a #thinally.

Nicole P. is a #thinally
fitness

Happiness is a feeling, not an image.

(CW: post discusses body image)

Scrolling through my Facebook Memories, the other day, I noticed a status update from 6 years ago where I stated that “Happiness is a feeling, not an image.” Sage wisdom? Trite nonsense? I believe this, wholeheartedly, now. But at the time, was I trying to convince myself of this statement? Probably a bit of both, if I had to guess.

I remember when I was dating years ago, before I met my husband (at 42) that someone said that when you are looking for a potential partner, you should focus on how you feel with them, more than how they look, or how you look together. Fortunately, my husband is very handsome and we look smashing together, but more importantly, I have felt noticeably happy when in the company of my husband, from our first date.

However, we live in a very visually-focussed world. Most of us are not immune. We all have different ideas of how we want to present ourselves to the world.

There was a time in my youth when I acutely remember catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and not being pleased with what I saw. I was working at Cotton Ginny at the time, unpacking clothes from a box, and saw my reflection in the mirror and I didn’t like it. I was probably about 15. The specifics of what I didn’t like aren’t important. But it didn’t match how I felt, or thought that feeling should look on the outside.

When I was a kid, I had chubby cheeks, thick glasses from the age of 3, sometimes unruly, curly/frizzy hair. None of those things bothered me. I was a VERY happy kid. I loved hugging people. Even kids I barely new in the schoolyard at recess. I was naturally curious and did well in school. I made friends easily and teachers liked me.

Around the time I turned 11, as is often the case, with girls especially, I became very self-conscious. This sudden self-consciousness took up so much of my energy through my teens, that I’m sure it contributed to my gradual, declining interest in school, which heightened around Grade 10 and continued until the end of high school. I wasn’t thrilled with how I looked and I wasn’t happy. This sounds so trivial, wasteful, and silly, from an adult perspective, but I’m sure it’s true. My lack of confidence with my image, contributed to my problems with anxiety and I know (without having a degree in psychology) that the type of anxiety I experienced sapped a lot of my energy. Closed me off a bit from living fully and thriving in all areas, including academically and in athletics.

I recently read that a teacher who taught both math and science in my high school passed away. I don’t have a lot of specific memories of teachers other than my political science teacher begging me to come to class, and this math and gym teacher reminding me that it was just as important to look after your body, as it is to look after your mind. At the time, I was still doing well in math and still had a terrible relationship with gym class. I remember his advice in a positive way. He seemed to genuinely be trying to inspire me to be more athletic. As an adult, and as a fit female in midlife, I wonder if there might have been different ways to encourage athleticism to girls like me. For example, the only time I remember enjoying gym class was when it turned into an aerobics class. I loathed any team sports. Perhaps kids like me could have been allowed to do more of what they like in gym class.

One of the things I decided I wanted done in my teen years, was a nose job. I had a big nose and I didn’t like it. 47 year old me would say that is ridiculous. How un-feminist of me. How unevolved. How immature. But it wasn’t uncommon in my circle of friends and family. And when I was about 27, I managed to save enough money, found a plastic surgeon I heard was good, and I went for it. I felt relieved to some extent at the time. I preferred my new nose. Although, it didn’t heal quite the way it was supposed to, and I had it “tweaked” a year or so later. For the most part I was glad I had it done. The reason I mention this, is because I know in hindsight, it didn’t make me happier. There were still things I didn’t like about my new nose, for one thing. It was still pointed out by strangers, on occasion, as a prominent nose. But also, and of course, I know this now, it was never about my nose. It was about my perception of my nose. What my society told me about my nose. Part of me wishes I had the type of personality that would have OWNED the nose I was born with.

I often talk about how, when I started running, it changed my life (that and adopting my dog, Barley). And it wasn’t only because I felt fitter and stronger. It was because I felt good in my body. I felt a strength and confidence that came from within. That flowed outwardly and I’m sure made me seem happier. I remember a snap shot that was taking of me on route, during my first full marathon. It is a goofy picture for a number of reasons. But I still loved that picture. I was running a marathon! I was a runner! That trumped any goofiness I found in the image.

I know that when I was dating, that the times I attracted dates that were better suited for me, and definitely when I met my husband, Gavin, I was in periods of my life, where I felt happy because I felt good in my skin. And that feeling usually came from doing the things that lend themselves to real happiness. Exercising, spending quality times with friends, laughing and talking, learning things at work or elsewhere that stimulated my brain. Those things might make me seem happier, and therefore, might translate to a more vibrant image, but the feeling of happiness is not derived from the image itself.

I am an over-sharer on social media. I change my profile picture regularly. I don’t think this is because of vanity. I change it because I like to change it to the way I feel at a given time. I like to embrace that I am OK, and happy with however that image looks, because I am happy with where I am in life now and being OK with sharing my image is part of recognizing that.

And when I catch myself in a pose, whether at the gym (in the before times), doing a heavy back squat, or laughing with friends, or having dinner with my family, I want to remember the substance, the good times, the feeling of happiness, recognize my ability and strength in that moment, that just happens to be caught in an image.

Nicole P. is working from home during this pandemic, working out at home, jogging (responsibly) on occasion, and Netflixing with her husband, while cuddling her two dogs. Happily.
fitness

Is Baking a Sport?

My first thought for this blog post was “Of course, baking is not a sport. Not in the proper definition of the word.” Then I searched the internet for definitions of “sport”.

According to Oxford’s online dictionary, “sport”, as a noun, is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Baking does, sometimes, involve physical exertion (see kneading dough for 10 minutes, especially if it is made of a tough wheat, such as “spelt”) but it does not involve competition against others (oh wait, Great Canadian Baking Show…or relatives who leave out an ingredient in a favourite family recipe so that theirs is still the “best” version – not that I would ever do that, seriously!).

Picture with the words “The Great British Bake Off” over a chocolate cake studded with raspberries.

As a verb, Oxford defines “sport’ to “amuse oneself or play in a lively, energetic way.” I am definitely amused by baking and can sometimes be lively and energetic while whisking egg whites or walking to and fro from counter to mixer to measuring cups. I prefer to think of baking in a happy and soothing way, as opposed to in a rage-full way as Martha describes in this post about Rage Baking.

Even in the before times, before self-isolation became the norm, I have enjoyed baking and cooking. They are a little different in the joy they provide. Both tap into my creativity, provide a comfort that is innate for me, typically end in something tasty and pleasing that I can share with others. However, baking typically provides more preciseness. More concentration. More focus for my “all browsers open, all of the time” mind. I don’t make intricate works of art like some people I know. But I find beauty in golden and shaggy crusts, floury and buttery batters, lemony curds and eggy plumes of meringues. I feel connected to my mother, my aunts, my relatives I’ve never met, who have passed down recipes for mandlebrot, rugelach, jammy thumbprints and challah.

Besides the dictionary definitions, how does the action of baking compare to the movement of fitness or sport for me?

Number one, they both provide me with a level of joy. Also, they can both challenge me.

When I am feeling anxious or unsettled, movement will typically help. So will a random muffin bake.

Active meditation, either in the form of a long run, or repetitively shaped cookies, is a great way to deal with “being forced to be alone with my thoughts”.

Both a heavy deadlift and a satisfying bite into a delicious, home baked treat, can be a kick in the ass to diet culture and fatphobia.

I have felt just as tired (and satisfied) from 12 hours of non-stop baking, as from a challenging, long run. It’s just as important to stretch your hamstrings, hips and lower back, before and after both activities.

Sometimes when I am working out, I will choose alternates. I know I need a step vs. a box, for step-ups, for example. Similarly, I know I can choose alternates when I am baking. I don’t have cardamom handy? I can use cinnamon. In both cases, I can choose the alternate that works for me. And, really, I will always add more cinnamon, vanilla, pepper, than the recipe suggests. I’ve never measured a 1/4 tsp of a spice in my life.

I have seen people get all academic with exercise, and also with baking. Not me. I am not going to be the one obsessively checking my heart rate or timing sprints. Nor am I going to be watching several YouTube videos and reading every bit of literature on the subject of making sourdough. I find out what I need (ingredients) and follow a recipe and then use trial and error from there. Both work for me. I use a bit of intuition in both cases. I am a sensory explorer. For example, with running, I have been running long enough, that I know when I am running at an easy pace or when I am doing speed training, without checking a HR monitor. Similarly, I know when bread dough looks right based on sight and feel. I stay close to the recipe directions, but I play around a bit too. I enjoy running and baking (and have good results in both cases) without being too specific about how to do either.

I have never been good at team sports. If I’m at the gym and they decide to incorporate a game into the warm-up that results in teams competing against each other, the 8 year old who feels inadequate, dodging volleyballs and shielding her eyeglasses from an awkward collision, rears her head. But with individual sports, such as running, or weight lifting, I have found ease and confidence. If baking were a group sport, I wouldn’t find as much solace in it. I do, after all, own a dish towel that says, “Get the Hell Out of My Kitchen”. Baking, as an individual sport, provides a similar ease and confidence as running or weight lifting. A solitary respite from day-to-day stresses. Although, I love nothing more than sharing the fruits of my labour with others. Especially if I can see that they enjoy them.

Dishtowel that pictures a woman holding a ladle with the words above her head “Get the hell out of my Kitchen”

So, what have I learned from this comparison? Baking may not be a sport that will be included in the next Olympic Games. But it provides: a healthy distraction for both my mind and body; challenges and joy; is complimentary to my preference for hobbies that are more solitary than team-oriented; and in these pandemic times, I appreciate it as a “sport”, more than ever.

Does baking feel like a sport to you? Do you have other past-times, not typically considered a sport, that you think should be considered as such?

Nicole Plotkin is busy these days, working from home, enjoying some virtual workouts and some outdoor jogs, and cooking and baking a lot more than usual!
fitness

I Am a Devious Runner

It used to be so simple. I would plan when I would go for my run. I would wake up, knowing that running was going to be one of the first things I did that day. I might have a coffee first. But I wouldn’t let too much time go by, before heading out for my run, lest I get a little lazy and stall so much that I (gasp) miss my run all together. Despite being fully aware of the benefits I would reap from the run, the active meditation, the hit of fresh air and outdoorsyness, the undeniable endorphin rush, and bragging rights (even if only in my head) for the remainder of the day, some days, I would still stall a bit too much.

In the last couple of weeks, that stalling has been filled with different emotions. To the point that I hadn’t been out for a run for over 2 weeks.

Sunday was different. Despite having been sick over 2 weeks ago, and despite the anxiety I was feeling about the new rules about running, during Covid-19, I went for a run. I was devious, and it was a good run.

Part of the stress was created because of articles such as this one, which I will note doesn’t say one shouldn’t run. Just that runners should be at least 10 feet apart from other people, while running. While articles such as these, make running during Covid-19 times, sound stressful, the real stress came from reading some people’s commentary on community Facebook pages about runners now being inconsiderate assholes. The people that scream the loudest are typically self-professed non- runners. They don’t seem to hold the same contempt for people walking in packs. People walking in groups of 2 or more who are oblivious to the idea of moving over and yielding, while “hanging out on the sidewalk”. The venom doesn’t seem to be directed at cyclists who whiz by on urban streets, which are designed to make it impossible to be the desired distance from pedestrians trying to keep appropriate distance on the sidewalk. Nor do they think there is anything hypocritical about a person admitting to be completely oblivious, whether by themselves with earbuds in, or with a stroller, and at the same time, publicly shaming the jogger who is doing their best to stay far away from them, without their cooperation. And when I say venom, I mean some people were encouraging others to physically assault people who dared to run by them.

I am an inherent rule follower. I internalize emotions from all directions. The climate for runners described above, even with me making sure I was being a responsible runner, made me too anxious to run for a bit. I still manage virtual strength and conditioning classes and yoga from my favourite proprietors (mentioned in this blog post), but I have been deeply missing my runs.

Running was my path to greater self love in my early 30s. It has been a constant for almost two decades. It keeps me balanced and sane and helps me manage my ongoing underlying feelings of anxiety.

I had already planned to get out this past Sunday. But when my niece asked me on Friday if I had ever used Strava, I responded in an old aunt manner and said, no I usually just map it out and go. But when she described to me, how it works, I thought it sounded like extra incentive to get out and test Strava.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at 7:30 instead of the originally planned 6:30 (part of my strategy to avoid crowds). I had a coffee in bed with Gavin and the dogs while doing my usual skim through social media. Part of my brain was continuously reminding myself not to linger too long and to GTFO and run.

At 8:30, with the Strava app newly added to my phone, I headed out for my first run in awhile. The weather was in my favour, as it was slightly overcast and threatening to rain, presumably keeping too many walkers off the sidewalks. If the weather had been more similar to Saturday, sunny and 12, the sidewalks might have more resembled the crowded, non-social distanced, sidewalks on High Park, where we went for our first drive in over a month, to drop off goodies to some of Gavin’s colleagues. But I digress.

The sidewalks were nicely empty on my usual, near 6k route. There were a couple times where I saw someone ahead in the distance and planned to safely divert onto the curb, but that person would turn off before I had to do so. The couple times I saw people approaching from the other direction, I was able to safely move into the bike lane (running the opposite way so I could safely see any incoming cyclists).

My run started off with my chest slightly heavy. I am not sure if I have seasonal allergies, cabin fever syndrome (not sure that is a real thing in relation to heavy lungs) or I am still slightly recovering from whatever ailed me over two weeks ago. But as I continued, the heaviness went away. I found my usual stride. I was able to push whatever Covid-19-related anxiety away and enjoy the run. It was medicine for my soul.

My new Strava app showed I was a little slower than usual. Understandable for many reasons, and perhaps a little incentive for this typically non-competitive runner, to pick up the pace a little.

The stats shown on Strava from Nicole’s run on Sunday. 3.27 mi distance, Avg Pace – 11:44/mi, Moving Time – 38:21.

When the pandemic was in its early stages in Toronto, mid-March, and it was publicly understood that running was one of the few things we would be able to continue doing outside, I boldly thought I would start training for my own half marathon or more. Now, my goals are much more realistic. With new information, and new experiences, my current goal is to get out for a short/medium sized run, a couple times a week, while responsibly keeping my distance from others. I am just as psyched for this opportunity, in the current climate, as any marathon distance could provide.

Be safe. Keep your distance. And be kind to others and assume they are doing the best they can with new rules.

Nicole Plotkin is a law clerk, who enjoys good food, spending time with her husband and two dogs, and her regular workouts, including (now deviant) running.
fitness

Small But Mighty

The world is currently small but mighty.

The 900 square foot stacked townhouse that I share with Gavin and our two dogs, Miggy (Miigwetch) and Barley, is small but mighty.

Nicole’s main living area in her townhouse.
Nicole making homemade pasta in her kitchen

The kitchen, that provides me with focus, joy, an abundance of senses, is small but mighty. My senses are engaged each time the egg whites peak and glisten in the mixing bowl, or the onions and garlic sizzle in a pan, or the bread dough rises in its bowl, and further in the oven, or the parmesan cheese scatters across the pasta just so.

My lens to the outside world, via the camera on my computer, or an app on my phone, to my friends, colleagues, virtual workout mates, immediate and extended family, is small but mighty. Each imperfect angle, disheveled hairdo, laugh, nod of recognition, ebb and flow of conversation, sharing of information or exercise.

A screenshot of the workout community via Zoom from Movefitness Club in Toronto.

My movements are small but mighty. Each journey from room to room, or arms raised overhead under a stream of hot water hitting my face, in the shower, or sun salutation stretching my hamstrings, or push up testing my back and arms, or air squat saying hello to my glutes, or socially-distanced walk or jog expanding my soul, each of these movements are small but mighty.

Nicole, mid-Sun Salutation

My heart is small but mighty. The capacity for it to love is great, love my husband, family and friends, the safety of my environment, my socially distanced community, the front line workers and scientists working to make things better, the signs of spring in the air, and so many more things.

The world is vast and interconnected. So interconnected that a virus starting in one place, has stretched its tentacles throughout the world. Joining us in an unfamiliar, scary, but now common, experience. But even with this inter-connectedness, each of our households has become small but mighty. We have been implored to look at the small things that are left, and savour and magnify those things.

I am honouring the small but mighty. What do you honour that is small but mighty?

Nicole P. is a law clerk who enjoys cooking, exercising, watching a lot of Netflix, these days, reading, and spending time with her husband and dogs.
fitness

Some Things That Make Me Happy

There are so many emotions to be had during a pandemic. I don’t have a way of quantifying it, in comparison to other people, but my hunch is that I am a person who absorbs more emotions floating around me, than the average. I am good at keeping things in perspective. I count the things I am grateful for. But even when I am aware of all of the things that I am fortunate to have, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the emotional overload. Particularly in a time of great uncertainty.

One thing that is causing me stress these days, is all the rules about exercise (outside). I have been going for short jogs outside, typically early in the morning. It is fairly easy to stay 6 feet away from people, and as a rule-follower, I am very careful to ensure that I am staying far away, even if it means I have to go into the road or on the grass and wait until a less mindful person passes. Even though I know I am acting within the rules, I am stressed that someone is going to tell me I can’t continue doing what I am doing. It’s insignificant to other stresses people might be experiencing (say, by health care workers, grocery clerks, people with Covid-19 symptoms, or those living alone, who don’t have good support), but it’s the type of thing that causes me stress. Those jogs, once or twice a week, significantly improve my mental health. I like to keep my mental health in good order!

Also, when I do go outside, things are strange. It is quieter than usual. People are keeping 6 feet apart, for the most part, but also diverting their eyes. I think people are afraid that if they look at each other, they will be drawn closer physically. We Torontonians are not used to feeling uncertain about our freedom to move about. It’s a weird feeling, knowing that this freedom of movement is restricted, even if it’s for our own benefit. I mentioned on my personal Facebook page, the other day, that I feel as though I am in an episode of Black Mirror. I’m walking or running on eerily quiet streets. Neighbours are blank eyed. A team of enforcement officers suddenly come out of the bushes and apprehend me for walking about in the daylight. How will this episode end..

With all those emotions and sense of weirdness, I count on things that make me happy. Balance things out. Currently those things are, in no particular order:

  1. Movement. Whether it’s a jog, a virtual Zoom workout or Facebook Live Yoga, movement clears up the clog of emotions that feel stagnant in my body.
  2. My husband. Gavin and I have been together over 5 years. Married since June. I am lucky to have him as the one person I’m allowed to be within 6 feet of. He enjoys my cooking, my jokes, my handholds, and he tolerates my occasional grumpiness. He is funny, uplifting, when he’s not tired :), hard working and smart.
  3. Dog cuddles. My dogs are the cutest of course. Miggy gives the best cuddles. Barley likes to lick my face. Everyone else thinks it’s gross that I let him lick my face. Oh well, I love it. They are little, reactive, shits on their walks outside, but at least they give us a reason to be allowed to walk outside!
  4. Food. I’ve always loved food, making it, thinking about what I will eat next, being satisfied with what I’ve made, trying out something new, enjoying the predictability of something I’ve made a thousand times before.
  5. Coffee. Yes, it’s a food. But it deserves its own category. It’s the first thing I want when I wake up. I am drinking way more coffee at home than I did when I was working outside the home. And I enjoy every cup. My jam are freshly ground, good coffee from local roasters. I’m not a snob about it, it’s just what I like. Coffee is like a little escape in a cup if I savour it properly.
  6. Zoom calls with friends and family. Technology that allows me to connect with the people I love, makes me happy.
  7. Coffee check-ins with my work team. We had our first call the other day, where I was live on camera. I didn’t expect to be live on camera at first, but then it made me laugh and lightened my mood. It’s nice to chat with my boss and colleague, in a lighthearted way, and see them on camera.
A picture of spelt bagels, Nicole made recently.

What makes you happy these days, dear readers?

Nicole Plotkin is trying to focus on happy things today. Also, she wishes there were more testing of EVERYONE for Covid-19 antibodies.