We’ve got some fit feminist groups doing the PaarticipACTION challenge this year. You can read about our kick off here. There are at least two teams that I know of. Teams are limited to 8 so we had to break into groups.
My team has made it to Saskatchewan so far.
So far I’m enjoying the challenge and the hope of winning the team trip to the Yukon. It’s been a good reminder for me to get out and walk everyday. I’m still biking lots too.
With my horrible end stage osteoarthritic knees, I’m never sure how much is too much. Yes, walking hurts but it’s not making things worse and I like being outside and walking with family members and our dogs.
Mallory, Sarah and I are considering a hiking back country camping trip this spring and I’m really curious to see if I can do it. Knee replacement seems to be on hold forever and I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not sure if I’m just getting used to being in pain or if walking is actually less painful some days.
Here’s galleries from three of my walks since the challenge began!
Over the course of about ten days, I spent several hours on the phone with Elections Canada being transferred to one person after another as I tried to get correct information about my voting options, figured out how to vote by mail, and how to resolve complications with the process. I could have voted at any Returning Office before the 14th, but by the time I learned that I was in Espanola and was under the impression that I still had plenty of time to vote by mail since September 14th was listed as the deadline to apply.
Unfortunately, this is misleading since in reality it wouldn’t allow for enough time to receive the special ballot via Canada Post and then get it back to Ottawa by 6pm on September 20th. That’s right, post mark dates aren’t what count here; it has to physically arrive in Ottawa by the 20th. That sort of turn around *might* be possible, but only for those who can afford $85+ to courier it there.
Why is the government not footing this expense for all mail in ballots given the impossibility of the deadline they have listed? Disabled folx and those in remote communities (like Northern Ontario) will be disproportionately excluded by this process. How many ballots will arrive late and thereby be excluded? During the last election “11.1 percent of national ballots and 11.8 percent of international ballots were returned late” (Elections Canada Vote by Mail FAQ). Clearly this is a significant issue even outside of a pandemic.
I applied on September 9th, but even this wasn’t enough time by regular post and maybe not even by express post. My ballot finally arrived to Iron Bridge on September 15th. At that point I was in Thessalon and had been told by Canada Post that the mail left at 5pm. Express post should get it there in three days – just enough time. I packed up as quickly as possible and rode hard and fast to get there in time.
On the way I made a quick stop at Little Rapids General Store for food. I’d heard they had lots of delicious smoked meat and cheese and I needed food anyway to get through the next stretch without grocery stores. Little Rapids did not disappoint. The smoked rainbow trout and taco flavoured cheese curds were delicious. Beyond that though, the town is a beautiful hole in the wall spot that most drivers would likely miss. I was disappointed that there wasn’t time to hike out to see the salmon spawning or take in the heritage museum. It also had lots of spots that looked great for stealth camping.
About half way to Iron Bridge I realized that without taking the highway I’d never make it. Pro tip: avoid this stretch of highway 17 at all costs. There’s no paved shoulder and drivers will risk your life here. If I hadn’t been so emotional about the messed up system I likely would have bailed and hoped it would get there anyway. As it was, I plowed on.
My cousin didn’t have time to drop my ballot off and I knew there was no way I’d get to the their place and then the post office in time. A random kind gentleman in his driveway picked up the ballot from my cousin’s (only a few blocks away) and dropped it off at the post office across the road. I made it to the Iron Bridge post office just before 5pm!
But I got misinformation for the bajillionth time: mail left at 3pm, not 5pm. Couldn’t have gotten there earlier anyway. I cried… not for the first time about the likelihood of my ballot not being counted. I jumped through so many hoops trying to get this ballot in – including changing my route multiple times. Right now it’s not looking hopeful – as of now it’s showing a Tuesday arrival and has no updates since it left Iron Bridge on Thursday.
As someone who has lived in poverty since my teens, the right to vote is a huge deal. It’s how we raise our voice, call for change, and hold our government accountable. If you weren’t planning to vote today, please get moving and go vote. My vote probably won’t be counted, but yours still can (if you have the privilege of accessibility). If transportation is a barrier phone the office of anyone who is running and a volunteer will help you get there!
By the time I reached Whitefish Falls on September 7th, I was tired. More tired than I realized at the time.
I called my cousins who recently moved to Iron Bridge to let them know that I was heading their way. They asked if it would be cheating for them to pick me up. I was *relieved* at the offer. My body needed a break. I told them I wanted to bike one direction, but didn’t need to bike both ways. Miles are fun to celebrate, but for me it’s about the adventure far more than kilometres ridden.
The next day I biked to Espanola, had a delightful visit with Ben & Hector (en route to Victoria), bought a few necessities for the cooler weather, and then loaded my bike into my cousin’s car. In the next couple days, I was surprised at how frequently I conked out on the couch in the middle of an admin task, too tired to even bother moving to my hammock.
People who have chronic health conditions marked by fatigue often call ourselves “spoonies” or make comments like “I’m low on spoons today.” I’m a spoonie, so in contrast to the average person with a full set of spoons it’s easier to overdo it (even when I’m *not* on a bike tour!) and more challenging to return to my baseline after overdoing it. On the Patients Rising blog, Johnprovides a great overview of what Christine Miserandino‘s Spoon Theory means to so many of us with invisible chronic health conditions.
I’d always planned to prioritize pacing and sufficient rest, but this is easier said than done. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing tug of war with myself… trying to find the ever elusive line between challenging myself *just enough*, but not so much that I push into a crash.
Ableism makes this more challenging as well. People who have never done bike camping generally think that 30-60km in a day (my original goal) is an astonishing amount to aim for, while many (most?) people who have done bike camping think it’s a really slow pace. These opposing perspectives on what constitutes a great accomplishment mean I must pay close attention to my own goals and not allow my sense of success to be swayed by how others view me or my abilities. As far as spoonie life goes, paying attention to my physical and mental health needs are key, which subsequently means that flexibility is key… so focusing on numeric based goals feels like asking for disappointment.
After four days of rest, on Sunday evening I rolled onward with strategies for a slower pace including:scheduling rest days, scouring Google Maps in advance for mid-ride rest spots (which could double as an early overnight spot), and ordering freeze dried meals so that running out of food doesn’t force me to ride further than I have energy for. Sunday evening I employed many of these tactics after leaving later than I’d planned. I rode 10km before enjoying a freeze dried chicken stir-fry while watching a beautiful sunset at Roe Park (aka Sunset Beach). It was perfect.
For those of you who are wondering, I’m writing this from the cute city of Thessalon after a very eventful night… but that’s a story for another time!
There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” “Oh but my darling, What if you fly?”
This quote by Erin Hanson has strengthened me in an enduring way that only a couple other quotes can lay claim to. The start of it is engraved on my iPad as a form of resistance to the impact of perfectionistic ideals that often hold me back. But since my collision in 2013, these words have encouraged me to push beyond my comfort zone in countless ways.
As recently as last summer, I was super anxious about everything that might go wrong on a hypothesized weekend canoe trip with a friend. But interestingly, internalized ableism was a significant contributor to my camping trip fears. Because of this, solo camping (even bike touring) actually feels less daunting: I can go at my own pace without fear of slowing anyone down.
Even so, it’s plenty daunting! I’ve never biked on country roads, never ridden more than 40km in a day, and I pitched my first tent this July… I’m a newb in every possible way and I’m diving in anyway!
I finally made it out of London on Saturday evening and was shocked that I made it to Lucan without needing more than brief water breaks on the side of the road. Not sure if that’s thanks to electrolytes or adrenaline, but I’ll take it!
Even before I made it out of London there were plenty of hiccups! I figure that’s par for the course given the steep learning curve! But I’m fumbling my way through, figuring it out, and pushing back against gender stereotypes and ableist views that say I shouldn’t do this… especially as a solo female. I’ve heard “you’re so brave” way too many times already in response to these plans. Do people also say that to men embarking on solo bike tours? I’m guessing not.
Adventure was not the initial driver of this trip, but despite the complicated backstory it appears to be shaping into a delightful adventure. I’m doing all the things that excite and also terrify me… but I’m more excited than anything… which is a major shift even in the past few weeks! I’ve no doubt this adventure will significantly change me and the decisions I make through life… I think it already has in many ways. Because how could showing myself all that I am capable of not change me?
Melissa Bruntlett and Chris Bruntlett’s new book Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in our Lives is coming out this summer. Curbing Traffic argues for an end to auto-dependency and supremacy, through the lenses of equity, well-being, resilience, and social cohesion.
It’s also part of their case for a low car city that a low car city is a feminist city. It‘s better for our mental health, it fosters social trust, and it enables people of all ages and abilities to travel in an independent, safe and comfortable way.
I first saw the story on Twitter–Nike unveils first hands free trainers that don’t require you to bend down–clicked through and read, “Nike has unveiled its first hands-free shoe, meaning that it can be easily put on and taken off without the assistance of one’s hands. It is one of the first times that the sportswear giant has created a footwear product suitable for people with a range of physical abilities. Although the trainers have been designed with adaptive athletes in mind, and the campaign is being fronted by Paralympian champion fencer Bebe Vio, Nike says the style will also be useful for everyone from students or parents in a rush.”
A friend commented on Facebook, “A great example of how accessibility can benefit everyone. I’m sure so many moms (and dads) would find great help from this!”
I thought about my recent purchase of crocs, one of the virtues of which is the ability to kick them on and off easily for quick runs to the hot tub, or to the curb with our recycling. Bonus: They’re leopard print! Did I mention that?
And then I started read the comments. There was lots of talk about lazy people, and fat people and how the world is ending now that shoe manufactures are pandering to people who don’t want to bend over and tie their own laces. So much judgement.
These look terrific for all sorts of reasons, for all sorts of people. Yes, the elderly and people with disabilities and those carrying babies. But also the busy runner of errands and the teenager who likes to kick off their shoes. You do you.
There’s a very moving ad making the rounds about a grandfather strength training for Christmas so that he can lift his granddaughter up to put a star on top of the tree. I got teary watching it and likely you will too. You’ve been warned.
I love his grit and determination. I also love his smiles.
It’s called Take Care of Yourself and it’s the Doc Morris Christmas Advert for 2020.
I also love its message of functional fitness and strength training as we age for all sorts of very practical reasons.
I share a lot of ‘keep strength training as you age’ motivational material on the blog’s Twitter and Facebook page.
“A small 2013 study of people between the ages of 88 and 96 years old found that those who performed strength-training exercises for two days a week over a 12-week period showed improvements in balance and a lower incidence of falls when compared to those who didn’t exercise. “It’s safe and important for older people to include strength training,” Jackson says. “Even simple bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, and dips can help with strength and muscle building.”
Answer, “As people age, they often focus on cardio. They shouldn’t forget strength training.”
I’m not here to criticize the beautiful and moving strength training grandad commercial. Don’t worry. But I do worry that the focus on strength training for independent living buys into the message that physical dependence is a necessarily a bad thing. I hope to put off the time when I need assistance with everyday household tasks and personal care as long as possible. But I also hope when I need help that I and others can accept it without thinking I ought to have done more kettlebell swings or that it was a moral failing of mine to not care enough about my own health and strength.
I worry that our affection for the weightlifting grandfather is connected to a kind of ableism that celebrates movement and blames those who move less, even when we have no choice. In my own case I’ve talked about that in the context of becoming a non-runner and slower walker.
Regular long time readers will know that it’s hard to hold these two thoughts in balance. You’ll know that it’s something I struggle with.
Thought 1 is that older people are encouraged to slow down. It used to be that when people retired we bought them reclining chairs and told them to ‘relax.’ After all, they’d worked hard their whole lives. Not so much now as times are changing but it’s still true that gyms and fitness culture generally are geared towards young, fit, able bodied people. Older women worry they’ll look foolish exercising. If all of our fitness culture is geared towards aesthetics and maintaining beautiful youthful bodies, no wonder older people feel like they don’t belong.
We see this in the ad above when his neighbour looks to be judgemental of his fitness efforts. She seems puzzled about what he’s doing and why.
And yet, there is a huge cost in losing muscle, losing mobility, and increasing our risk of falling if we don’t continue to exercise–including weight training–as we age.
Older people have far more at stake than the young. The young can get away with a lot. They recover quickly if they are injured. And they bounce back from time off fitness efforts pretty speedily too. All of this gets more difficult as we get older. Indeed, if gyms should be there for anyone, it’s for the elderly.
Thought 2 worries that some of our dislike of old age is a tangled mess of ageism and ableism.
The thought here is that we engage in blame about the failure to age successfully when lots of people encounter the kinds of illness and injury in old age that can’t be overcome with kettlebells and powerwalking. In my post about what 74 looks like I talked about my very fit and physically active mother-in-law who used a wheelchair for mobility in the time after her diagnosis with ALS.
See Valuing Old Age Without Leveraging Ableism by Clara W. Berridge and Marty Martinson. They argue that our medical model of “successful aging” without disability sets up the majority of the population, especially women, for failure. Berridge and Martinson write, “Phrases such as “70 is the new 50” reflect a “positive aging” discourse, which suggests that the preferred way of being old is to not be old at all, but rather to maintain some image of middle-age functionality and appearance.”
We want to encourage ourselves to keep moving and to stay strong. At the same time we need respect and compassion for those who can’t move and lift in the same way. It’s a battle I feel personally as I struggle to accept my physical limits without self-blame and still push myself in those areas of physical fitness where I can push. Wish me luck!
I’d appreciate your thoughts about keeping these two thoughts in balance, the push to stay fit and strong and mobile, on the one hand, and the understanding and acceptance when it’s not.
One thing I would say, going back to the video that began this post, is that I wish he wasn’t lifting alone. I wanted a community centre for him to go too. I wanted peers for him to lift with and walk with and drink tea after. We need to do better as fitness communities making inclusive spaces for those who are aging, those who move in different ways, and those for whom both these things are true.
“So give me your poor, your tired, your weak of spine and crumbling of bone. Give me your mushy of muscle and burbly of digestion and bored of treadmill-hamstering.
Give me your old and young and everything between early bipedalism and death. And while you’re at it give me your non-bipedal: your limps and gimps and wimps and wheeled and caned and casted and bandaged. Untangle your sweaty hospital sheets and IV tubes and tentacles of fear and shame and move whatever isn’t strapped down. A finger, a leg, an eyelid. Whatever you can move, keep moving it. Next week, add some weight to that.
Give me your saggy, your baggy, your faggy, your haggy. Give me your freaks and geeks; steers and queers; sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, preppies, jocks, stoners, poindexters, punkers, rockers, hicks, drama dorks, superstars, homebodies, farmers, New Wavers and socs.
Give me your bodies wracked with life’s whims; your hormonally challenged; your rattling bottles of pills like morbid maracas; your diseases of disuse. Your old knee injury from when you tried drunken trampolining.
Give me your your shit-talkers and funk-walkers; the voices in your head who sing the Rocky training montage; your sniveling inner toddler who stamps and says “No!”. Leave your inner critic at the door, or do five pushups every time you speak to yourself seriously in her voice.
Give me your clueless big-eyed newbies and grizzled gray-prickly veterans. Give me your squashy and scrawny. Give me your chickenshits; you people hunting for your fighting spirit and tending the tiny flame of Yes we can inside your ribcage.
It doesn’t matter who kicked the sand in your face. Spit it out and let’s get to work.”
There’s more…go read it. And I love how it ends, “Wherever you are in your journey of strength, you are welcome here. This place is for you.”
This post brings together two common themes here at Fit is a Feminist Issue.
Theme one is making our way through COVID winter. Winter isn’t easy for some of us at the best of times but this year hiding out indoors until it passes isn’t really an option. You can cozy it up, sure, hygge style, but you might be lonely. Possibly also depressed. Maybe both.
So along with hygge, people are recommending that we adopt the attitude of friluftsliv. Read about the latter concept here.
“Friluftsliv is a word used by Swedes, Danes and Norwegians. It translates literally as ‘fresh-air life’, and is all about embracing the great outdoors whatever the weather, being active, and immersing yourself in nature.
Scandinavians spend time outdoors no matter what season it is. For Kim Lindqvist, a volunteer with the Swedish Outdoor Association, Friluftsliv means “to be outdoors and in the air, and just enjoy it in nature. To listen to the leaves, or watch the clouds”.
Friluftsliv sounds like a good fit for the FIFI blog community. We like to spend time outdoors. We’re active. And we all want to enjoy the company of friends through the pandemic winter.
I completely agree that spending time outside is key to enjoying winter. I’ve been recommending winter biking, here and here. But the thing about friluftsliv is you’ve got to dress for it.
OK, on to the second theme that we talk about lots on the blog. Theme two is about finding gear that fits all bodies, in particular plus sized bodies. It’s not always easy. See our post about finding plus sized cycling and hiking gear.
It’s not a far away problem. It’s an issue for some of the fit feminists who blog here, me included. See Catherine’s post and my post about the challenge of finding winter coats that fit. We’re not even particularly large plus sized people, shopping in the L to XXL range. Also, we’re professors with reasonable salaries so we’ve got the option to buy new. It’s harder still if your income means you’re trying to find discount clothing or used gear.
This matters because of the message we send about which bodies belong outside in the winter. It’s symbolic and meaningful and all that. It’s also practical. Winter (in Canada at least) means we worry about frostbite and getting cold. Spending time outside–even just walking the dog–sometimes requires snow pants, parkas, hats, mitts, scarves, and good boots.
This year, more than ever, we’re all going to have get outside and spend time with friends and family during the winter. My kids are talking about winter camping in backyard so we can all spend Christmas holidays together!
So I was thinking about these themes–getting outside and enjoying Canadian pandemic winter–and the necessity of finding the right gear, when along came these guys Plus Snow.
“What she wants to see is more of the joy that her customers share when they can finally play in the snow with their kids.
Balon said she is looking for people to model the clothes she sells. She currently uses #curvystoke to raise awareness and celebrate people who wear plus sizes playing in the snow.”
What I didn’t expect when I shared the story on our Facebook page was thanks from Mon Balon herself,
“Omgosh you guys!!! Thanks so so much for sharing this article about my business and my launch in North America! It’s not a perfect model (you have to wait about 2 weeks to get your gear) yet but I do have lots of CHOICE and lots of measuring charts and our help and customer service is unparalleled (I think anyway!) Shop Your Shape is our brilliant feature which helps you find the perfect fit if you need it https://plussnow.com/shop-your-shape/“
I also didn’t expect the flurry of readers with their own issues finding plus sized snow gear. There were a lot of comments on that post.
One of the commentators was Richelle Olsen who owns outdoor wear she bought from Plus Snow.
Here’s Richelle modeling her gear.
I asked Richelle if I could share the photos and she said yes.
Here’s what else she had to say:
“I’m in Tasmania, an island off the south coast of Australia. I lead body positive adventure trips for Escaping Your Comfort Zone 2-3 times a year, and each time I go a few days early and just drive and see where I end up. This time I ended up in this prehistoric rainforest called the Tarkine, in the rain, camping amongst giants with no one else around.
I’m wearing the Raiski Fuchu R+ Women’s Longline jacket in size 22. I love it because it’s super long and covers my butt, its slightly stretchy and is reliably waterproof after days of constant rain in Tasmania. It’s from Plus Snow – Plus Sized Snow Gear 💚💚
Fun fact: The Tarkine Wilderness Area is one of the last undisturbed tracts of Gondwanan rainforest in the world, and one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal archeology in the Southern Hemisphere. This place, which remains largely as it was when dinosaurs roamed the planet, is currently at the mercy of destructive logging and mining. There’s an amazing short film about this called “What if running could save a rainforest?” Featuring a good friend of mine, Nicole Anderson, who is a doctor, ultra runner and passionate rainforest protector”
Are you a plus sized snow loving person? Are you planning to get out this year? Where’d you buy your gear? What counts as essential for the snow loving activities you do?
FWIW, and in case you’re wondering, this is isn’t a promotional post. I didn’t know Richelle or Mon prior to sharing the story on our Facebook page.
They’re still not perfect if you prefer your capitalism with consistency, see here: ‘This is peak 2020’: Multi-billion dollar sportswear company Lululemon is ridiculed for promoting a ‘woke’ class on ‘resisting capitalism’ while selling its signature yoga pants for $128.
But they are lovely leggings and yoga pants and I’m glad they now go up to size 20.
I’ve been enjoying my exchanges with David Isaac on Twitter. Like me, he’s got both the word “philosophy” and the word “cyclist” in his bio. We’re also both interested in the issues facing women cyclists. I’m just on the edge of the cycling advocacy community here in Guelph but David is quite involved in bike advocacy in London, Ontario, the city he calls home.
Here’s our recent chat about women and bike safety.
Hey, welcome to Fit is a Feminist Issue! Maybe we can start by you telling us a bit about your background as a cycling infrastructure advocate and also as a cyclist.
David: I have always been a cyclist – I’ve been riding a bike to work and school for over a decade in Kitchener-Waterloo and London. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve started to get more involved as an advocate. I’m a personal injury lawyer, and in my line of work it’s not uncommon to see cyclists who are hurt in collisions with drivers. As I started looking into why these collisions were so frequent, it became clear that infrastructure played a big role. Where proper bike infrastructure is in place, more people ride bikes, but collisions are less frequent. As I came to understand this better, I started advocating for proper infrastructure. A lot of that advocacy is just on Twitter, but I’ve also given a few talks and interviews about cycling.
What’s the connection, do you think, between good safe cycling infrastructure and the goal of getting more women on bikes?
David: Research shows that where safe cycling infrastructure is built, more women will ride their bikes. “Safe infrastructure” generally means bike lanes that physically separate the cyclist from vehicles – the old joke is that “paint isn’t infrastructure”. It’s important to note that the research does not show that this correlation is due to a sort of evo-psych explanation about women being inherently risk-averse. Each person’s risk tolerance is different, and this of course intersects with race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.
Léa Ravensbergen, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, has done some excellent research into the differences between what women and men use bikes for. She uses a great term “vélomobilities of care” to describe the ways people meet their and others’ household needs using bicycles – for instance, by taking kids to school or running errands. She notes that because women take on a disproportionate amount of this work, the types of activities women use cycling for are often different for women than for men. So the location of infrastructure matters. If it only serves commuters, but doesn’t connect to a daycare or a grocery store, it will mostly benefit male cyclists. Protected bike lanes are the go-to example of safe infrastructure, but it isn’t the only thing that matters in getting women on bikes. Bike parking that is well-lit and safe is also important.
Cycling has a reputation of being a male-dominated activity, and the discourse around cycling infrastructure suffers from this same problem. This can lead to issues in determining where cycling infrastructure is built. If cities only listen to advice about bike lanes from white men, they will end up building bike lanes that are primarily useful to white men. Viewing infrastructure through a feminist lens means building cycling infrastructure in places that benefit women, and making sure cyclists are protected from gendered violence. Again, it goes without saying that other identities play a large role in this. Bike lanes in wealthy neighbourhoods will only increase cycling among wealthy women.
I’ve heard it said that women are the “indicator species” for safe happy community cycling. Countries with a big number of cyclists also have lots of women out on bikes–commuting, recreationally riding, etc. Why is that, do you think?
David: I think there are probably two main factors at play here. The first is that those countries generally have a large network of bike lanes, which are more likely to connect to places that women are more likely to cycle to. The other is if you are a woman who wants to ride, and there are lots of people riding, it’s easier to find other people to help you get started. Ravensbergen noted that trips that are considered difficult by bike (such as a grocery shop or taking children to school) can be made easier if you have mentorship opportunities to teach you how to make those trips more easily.
Why is safe cycling a feminist issue?
David: People who cycle regularly have significantly improved health outcomes compared to non-cyclists. This applies to both mental and physical health. Cycling can save you money and is better for the environment. Plus, it’s fun! It’s important that these benefits are available to everyone, not just men.
Safe cycling is also key to creating healthier, more interconnected communities. If people live in disconnected places, they can’t access things they need like social connection, fresh food, healthcare, or child care. Safe cycling infrastructure can make cities more equitable.
David Isaac is a personal injury lawyer and cycling advocate in London, Ontario. He specializes in helping pedestrians and cyclists who are injured. He tweets about cycling, law and philosophy at @DIsaac8.