accessibility · fitness · monthly check in · motivation

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the April version

What’s up this month? The weather has been miserable this spring! I usually hate March and love April but not so much in 2019. It’s certainly affected my plans to be regularly riding outside now. And my knee pain has affected my ability to dog hike with Cheddar very much.

I’ve been commuting by bike to work but otherwise not really riding outside. It’s been cold, and wet, and windy. The last I can take but the other two have kept me inside Zwift-ing away into April.

As a result I’ve also been spending a fair bit of time inside at the gym: personal training, weight training on my own, rowing, knee physio, and fancy stretching. I love having the university gym so close to my office. It’s probably not the best gym for me but since the best gym is the one you actually go to, it’s best for me right now.

The rowing machine is my fave piece of cardio equipment at the gym and I start most days there with a 2 km warm up at a moderate pace. For me that’s 10 minutes for 2 km, or 2:30 for 500 m, My speedy pace is 2:00 for 500 m, or 2 km in 8 minutes. I’m not doing 2 km tests these days or racing in ergattas but I still love the rowing machines as my go-to piece of cardio equipment at the gym. My heart rate goes up. And most importantly, my knee doesn’t hurt.

I’ve also been doing lots of fancy stretching. I love being able to reply to emails while the machine holds me in a stretch position.

The other machine that I’ve discovered that’s hard but not knee punishing is the Jacob’s Ladder. See photo above. The thing is I like tough, challenging workouts. We can debate whether it’s right to say that I like suffering or whether endurance athletes are really all masochists or whether it’s okay to dub your indoor cycling space your pain cave. It’s been tough for me to find things that don’t aggravate my knee but are still challenging in the way that I like athletic activities to be. I miss CrossFit!

What makes it such a tough workout?

See Jacobs Ladder climbers reach tough fitness rewards.

“Jacobs Ladder, a moving, angled, climbing machine, may be named after the Biblical stairway to heaven, but it packs such a challenging workout people have dubbed it the stairway to hell.

Fitness experts say users of the fitness machine, which is a favorite among Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and “The Biggest Loser” television series, reap total body, calorie-busting rewards.

“It’s a great and tough cardio piece,” said Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine. “Picture a step mill that combines the lower and upper body, and you have Jacobs Ladder. Except instead of steps, you have rungs.””

Here’s an argument for preferring the JL to your treadmill.

In April I’ve also come to appreciate some of my personal features that have helped me slog through this winter with my badly arthritic knees. It’s not just toughness though people say that about me and I’ll nod. Toughness isn’t enough given the nature of the problem. It’s also creativity and being positive when things are difficult. It’s funny because I know those characteristics are true of me in other areas of life but I haven’t thought about it in the fitness context.

Looking forward to spring and the warm weather coming up!

#deanslife · accessibility · standing

Not all sitting is the same: Sam’s new stool

Image description: A row of stools of different heights and colours, orange, red, green, and blue.

There’s an awful lot of news about sitting in the fitness media. The latest bad news about sitting is that sitting too much can undermine the effects of exercise. Chronic sitters become, over time, less responsive to the effects of training.

For the latest in my newsfeed see New Data Shows We’re Still Sitting Way Too Much. Does Exercising Cancel It Out. Selene Yeager writes: “All hope is not lost, however. Though previous research has found that multiple days of being extremely sedentary makes you resistant to the benefits of a bout of exercise, a newly published study on so-called “high sitters” (those sitting more than 6 hours a day) shows that consistent exercise can indeed counteract the ill effects of lots of forced chair time: It’s just a matter of getting regular activity. “

Sitting is of interest to me and my arthritic knees. On the one hand, my knees don’t hurt when I’m sitting so that’s good. But on the other, if I sit fit any length of time my knees hurt more when I get up. And then there’s my back. I used to hurt my back all the time and sitting was one of the problems. That was the reason I got a standing desk in the first place. See Celebrating my standing desk. I still use it some of the time but not as much as I’d like.

All of this means I’m sitting more than I used to. I was reminded the other day that not all sitting is equal. Active sitting is better than just flopping. People can be against chairs but not against all sitting. Back when I first considered getting a standing desk, friends recommended getting a hokki stool instead. They’re wobbly and good for those of us who fidget. You’re sitting but not keeping still. It’s active sitting.

Here is how the manufacturer describes the stool: “The HOKKI is an ergonomic stool that transforms stationary sitting into an activity, ideal for brainstorming sessions and other active sitting environments.”

Image description: Sam’s new purple hokki stool.

My friend Wayne described it this way,
“It’s a chair for people whose spines like yoga (and/or who don’t like sitting still, and are prone to slouching and leg-crossing in a normal chair).”

This month I started to get nervous about all the sitting I’m doing. I don’t want to put my back out again. And then, out of the blue my daughter Mallory asked for a hokki stool for her birthday. I thought of Wayne’s advice. I reread my old blog piece on active sitting. I ordered one for me too and it arrived today.

I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.

What’s your choice? Do you sit in a chair or do you have another way of sitting?

Image description: A thin, young woman with long straight blonde hair wearing black clothes and sitting on a hokki stool. (All the women on the hokki stool website looked like this.)

accessibility · aging · fitness · yoga

Sam has become “that person” in the fitness class!

Years ago I remember watching a woman in a yoga class at the Y who seemed to be just doing her own thing.

The instructor would tell us what to do and sometimes free spirit lady followed along and at other times not. I was puzzled. Why even come to class if you’re not going to do the thing the instructor is doing? What’s that even about?

Zoom ahead twenty years and OMG I’ve become that woman in yoga class. I was at bike-yoga at the university. The instructor kept demonstrating postures I can’t manage. Some are ones I’m positively told not to do. Instead whenever the pose was one of the forbidden/impossible ones I did my own thing.

My knees were happy. I was having a good workout. But some of the university students looked at me in a funny way. I think they thought I didn’t hear or see what I was supposed to be doing. And then it dawned on. I was free spirit yoga lady.

I’m okay with that. I’m with Cate that knowing your body and what it needs and doing that is one of the joys of aging.

How about you? In group fitness classes do you ever do your own thing? How does it feel?


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
accessibility · body image · disability · normative bodies · SamanthaWalsh · standing · wheelchairs

Samantha stands and has complicated feelings about it (Guest post)

By Samantha Walsh

On the weekend I went to @abilities_expo for work. It’s a trade show of disability related services and products. A company called wheelchair88 was showing a standing wheelchair. It was a manual wheelchair you could lock then move the wheelchair into a standing position. You can’t move once you are standing.

Thoughts on standing straight from someone who has never stood straight…

I forget how old I was when I stopped thinking I would be more beautiful if I was standing. I know I was older than 20, but younger than 25.

I forget how old I was when I stopped thinking I would be more powerful if I could meet someone’s eye. It was older than 25, but younger than 33.

I know as a child if asked to draw a picture of myself, I would draw a standing person. I did this till I was 6 or 7. After that I often drew people using wheelchairs, but would still draw myself standing.

I know by grade 4 I started drawing pictures of me using a wheelchair, because I started playing wheelchair basketball and often drew about that for school.

When I was young I had lots of surgery and different interventions so I could stand and walk. It’s interesting that the mark of success for doctors and therapists was always that I could hobble or shuffle. Standing would be an all encompassing lactic acid filled experience.

I am often surprised it is still the gold standard. Facebook and YouTube videos depicting folks with disabilities who vowed to walk to get diplomas; walk down isles; stand for first dances. I have adult friends whose parents refused them wheelchairs. In turn they have internalized that standing, walking, shuffling is best.

A wheelchair to me offers liberty and a stable fast painless way to move. Even with all this I was seduced by the opportunity to stand straight. I picked an outfit I was curious about seeing standing. I compelled a coworker to take pictures.

Standing felt unnatural. My head was too high. My legs don’t go straight the brace had to force them. My spine curves from sitting so it hurt. To me the social significance of standing comes from a culture that privileges a specific kind of body. I feel grateful I no longer understand my own posture as inferior.

Today was interesting…

Samantha Walsh is a Doctoral Candidate in Sociology. She also works in the Not-For-Profit Sector.

You can read all of Samantha’s posts here.

accessibility · fitness · traveling · walking

Sam’s very sad thing

I’m in New York as I start this blog post. I love this city. I even almost lived here and I often wonder what that life would have been like.

How did I almost live here? I had an on campus interview at Barnard College in 1993. That was actually my first visit to New York though the geography was super familiar to me from from television and movies. So “almost” is a bit of a stretch but it’s always felt like it might have been my home. In my “inner life” it’s been an alternate home. Montreal too, but that’s another story.

Over the years I’ve visited often, running in Central Park when I was a runner, but mostly lots and lots of walking. One of the things I love about the city is walking. It’s a walking person’s city. And I’ve often thought that when visiting I don’t need to make a special effort to get exercise because I love being outside and I love walking. That’s one of the ways I’ve identified with New York.

This visit was different. I arrived here this time with sore knees–plural! both of them! And it could tell it was going to be a tough time. Even with my knee brace on I was struggling. I was so slow and this isn’t a good place for slow walkers. Sarah carried bags lots of the time which also hurt my self image because I think of myself as the strong person who lifts and carries things for others. But not while walking. Not this trip. Thanks Sarah!

We defaulted to the subway for quite a bit of our about town travel but unlike Barcelona there weren’t always escalators and elevators available and often they were out of service. Here is my Highline selfie. It was tough going up and even tougher going down as the elevator was broken, awaiting repair.

Image description: Sam’s Highline selfie. Sam is a white woman in her fifties with wild blonde, brown, and silver hair. She’s wearing a black linen jacket and large black glasses.

You get the idea. Painful knees and I city I love to walk around. No amount of ibuprofen helped and I kept coming close to tears. It made me remember the knee surgeon’s advice when I mentioned loving walking. He said something about loving it in smaller doses and finding other things to enjoy. When it come to steps, for me, more isn’t always better.  When I see friends post about walking a zillion steps, I confess I’m jealous and that’s not an emotion I like in myself.

Next time I’m either renting a city bike or bringing my own Brompton. Well, in fact next time I’m here it’ll be for the 5 boro bike tour and I’ll definitely be riding, not walking.

I’m also feeling better about knee surgery! So there’s that.

I still had a great visit and this trip reminded that I don’t just love New York because of walking. While here we saw a great play, Hurricane Diane , reviewed here. We went to the opera! Tosca! And I stopped by the SVA Flatiron Gallery.

Here’s to a well-rounded life with lots of opera, and theatre, and art, and books.  And great food. And a little less walking. While that’s sad, it’s not sad overall. Really it’s hard to complain about a life that contains weekend visits to New York for fun and beautiful music.

Image result for met opera house

accessibility · clothing · fashion · fitness

Online shopping, sizes, and winter. Brrrr! Grrrr!

I’m getting angry about shopping this spring.

And I realize that I’m privileged in terms of my size, my job, and my income.

First, there was my need for a warmer coat for walking to work and walking Cheddar the dog in this winter than never ended. It needs to be above the knee and past the butt. I don’t want black. I have major ethical qualms about Canada Goose brand clothing. Prefer plant sourced down. Oh, needs a good hood and non strangling cuffs. Also, I’m frugal about clothing and I’ve never paid more than $300 for a coat. I also try to be an ethical consumer when it comes to clothes. I’m unsure if I have an ethical commitment to buy from companies that carry the full range of sizes. Those are the challenges.

Then I found one online, size XL, made of milkweed “down.” You can browse the milkweed collection here. Pretty, pricey, ethical. Fine. Two out of three aren’t bad. I ordered.

Photo by Robert Zunikoff, Unsplash. Image description: Milkweed. Black and white close up photo.

It arrived. The XL fit Sarah who is normally a medium and I couldn’t even get my arms in it. Fit tip: Articulated sleeves equals skinny arms. No more bicep curls. Ugh. Part of it was just mislabeling. That was an XL in no one’s books. But the arms were extra bad and I think represented the challenges faced by women who strength train (and who build muscle) when it comes to clothing. See here.

So no more online ordering of coats! I returned it. That part was easy. And now I’m so sick of winter I can’t even stand to try on cold weather coats. See you here next year but in the meantime recommendations welcome.

Second, there’s my ongoing leggings challenge which I’ve written about lots. See my love of leggings post here. But since I need them all of the time for the knee brace I also need different varieties of leggings. I’ve got gym leggings covered and casual weekend leggings under control. But sometimes I need leggings with dressy outfits. If I didn’t need the knee brace then tall boots might be the answer. But a) knee brace and b) cyclist’s calves. I want high waisted size 14. Black. Full length. (The 7/8 ones are in this year and I keep shuddering watching university students with bare ankles and Canada Goose coats. I want to yell in my loudest mom voice, “Put some socks on.” But I don’t.)

Lots of friends recommend Lululemon. I’ve resisted in the past but if they work and last, I’ll pay the big bucks for leggings. So online I go. The ones everyone seems to love–hi Anne!–are “align.” And I know I’m lucky that I’m a size 14 not a size 16 or higher which doesn’t exist in the world of Lululemon.

But it doesn’t matter if I’m a 14 because they don’t have them. It’s a large company. This is one of their most popular items. You’d think they’d keep a size 14 in black in stock. But no.

Argh.

Spring had better come soon. I’m done.

accessibility · Aikido · fitness · injury

Aikido Sundays

I recently blogged about my inability to just walk away from Aikido. I still love it. I miss it.  I found myself back on the mat Sunday morning when the opportunity presented itself. Of course, I logged it in the 219 in 2019 group. I wrote, “Most of an Aikido class including some partner techniques, not just basic movements. Still trying to figure out what I can and can’t do with my knee in this condition.”

It’s not like running. I’ll never run again. I can’t. Even if I got new knees, I couldn’t run.

Obviously, I can’t kneel and some of the breakfalls are off limits. But I found I was able to practice some of the falls which made me happy because with the stiff, sore knee I’ve been more worried than usual about falling on the ice this winter.

And the thing is if I met someone with a knee like mine, I would tell them that Aikido is worthwhile. All the things I love about Aikido remain the same as when I wrote about it in 2012.  I love how gentle it is. I love the rhythm and ritual. I love learning to fall. I love the age range and the diversity of the participants. I wish there were a class with modified movements where I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t do all the things.

The question is, can I keep my ego on the shelf and not wish for the knee I used to have? I think maybe I can.

I think, come fall, I’ll visit the Aikido dojos here in Guelph.