aging · cycling

Sam shelves her ego to go spin with students

So I’ve moved jobs, moved universities, moved gyms, and moved physio clinics. So much change!

At my old physio clinic we began with time on the spin bike which seemed to help with knee mobility and made the other exercises easier to tolerate. This physio clinic is more hands on, less tech. There’s no giant “game  ready” ice compression thingie, no ultrasound, no TENS unit, and no row of spin bikes.

Western’s clinic is full of injured student athletes and physio students. The Guelph clinic is more low key, more staff focused it seems. There isn’t a sports medicine clinic with x-rays and surgeons etc attached either.

I can do without the other stuff but I miss spinning before physio.

Monday I noticed that I had physio at at the university clinic at 7 pm and there was a spin class, 530-630 pm in the gym which is in the same building. Woohoo!

Actually it wasn’t just a spin class. It was Cycle-Yoga. 30 min of spinning followed by 30 minutes of “yoga for cyclists.”

The students were all student age, 18-20 or so. The instructor though was closer to my age. Actually her taste in music put her older than me. Whenever she gave instructions she said it was okay not to listen and just do your own thing. She told the class that she had teenagers and was used to that.

We bonded over knee injuries and agreed I’d just do my own thing, like the teenagers. Right now that’s no heavy resistance and no standing. Instead, I focused on high cadence and that seemed to work okay.

I stayed in the back and I was surprised at how little need I felt to impress undergraduates in a spin class. I was wearing bike shorts. I had my bike shoes. I thought I might struggle with keeping up and with not doing stupid things that hurt, like standing. But no, not so much.

Maybe in my 50s I’m finally growing up?

A row of spin bikes
Photo by Martin Barák on Unsplash
accessibility · aging · athletes · cane · disability · inclusiveness · injury · Uncategorized

Sam learns a new trick, walking with a cane, and worries about her own ageism and ableism

Wizard with long white hair and beard, stern expression, side view, holding wooden walking staff

I resisted it at first. When the physiotherapist helping me with my injured knee first suggested walking with a cane, I shrugged him off. “It’s not that bad.” But the truth was, it hurt. I just didn’t want to use a cane.

What exactly was I afraid of? Being seen as old, frail, weak? But that’s not what I think when I see other people walking with canes. Or is it?

Clearly I needed to confront some internalized ableism and ageism here!

A week went by. A friend who’s just had hip replacement surgeries, first one, and then the other, offered me her cane. She’s a fitness instructor at GoodLife. We chatted a bit about rehab and recovery and bonded over “being good at it.” We’re both compliant sorts. We do all the exercises, ice all the things. So why not the cane?

I took it to physio and asked for instructions. I already knew the counter intuitive thing. You use it with opposite arm to the injured knee. That makes sense since that arm swings with that leg.

I still wasn’t entirely at peace with it. I posted on Facebook that I probably chose a bad month to let more of my grey and silver hair show! The cane and the silver seem a bit much. I’m still struggling a bit with self-image here.

I’m channeling Marion whose birthday it would have been last week. She called her cane “nuisance.” Mostly she used it to direct people around and point at things. Could I work at being a bossy cane user? Probably not.

But the thing is it, it helps. I can walk further without knee pain. I’m slowly healing. Also, people are super helpful when they see the cane. I was worried that strangers would start engaging me in conversation about my injured knee but so far, people have just been super smiley and helpful.

The other day I even did a search for stylish canes! The two sets of cane imagery that resonate with me are wizards and their staffs (see above) as well as top hats and canes (see below)

How about you? Have you had experience walking with a cane? Love it or hate it?

A model, front view, on the runway. She's wearing a black suit with turtleneck and a top hat. Posing with hand in pocket holding a silver cane

aging · body image · fitness · Martha's Musings · meditation · swimming

Getting our fit on at all ages

Readers may remember I got back in the pool in late August. I’ve really been enjoying it. After three months, I’ve gotten to know the regulars and it’s been very interesting to see the range of ages and abilities.

There’s me of course, doggedly putting in my laps of the breast stroke and frog kick. I’m more about the meditative aspect of swimming than the speed but since my trainer and physiotherapist have seen the difference swimming makes to my mobility, I’ll keep on keeping on.

I haven’t seen the group since September but it is possible they are going at a different time. The group consisted of four or five women who hung out in the deep end chatting and doing their exercises. It got crowded from time to time but it was good to see friends work out together.

There are a couple of other women I see from times to time. One does laps like me; we nod politely as we pass. She likes to keep her head in the water whereas I don’t. I don’t see well without my glasses and filling my ears with water when I go under doesn’t help.

The other woman is probably 20 years older than I am and she is totally focused on her routine. Each day, she gathers her gear and arranges it at one end of the pool. She works through a series of strokes as she does her laps, some with her swimming tools and some without. She can go quite quickly and as I go through my laps, I sometimes think about how I can add speed to my swim.

But it doesn’t really matter how fast I go, or how slow, as the leisure/lane swim can accommodate my skill level just as it accommodated those of the other swimmers.

During the week, it’s adults in the pool in the early morning but on the weekend, there’s lots of small children, some taking lessons and some just getting comfortable in the water with their parents. I like the fact the kids will see all kinds of shapes, sizes, skills, and ages in the pool, especially women.

I’ve been thinking about taking lessons to vary my strokes so I can work different muscles and different parts of my body. For now though, it’s enough to show up. It is getting colder in the mornings and it’s not the brightest at 7 am but still we show up. We nod and smile; sometimes we chat idly about the weather. Almost always, we say “see you next time.” And we will, because we have found a place where we can get our fit on, without any judgement. If you want to just do it, our pool is the place to make that happen.

— Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant who uses swimming to bring calm and powerlifting to build strength.

aging · Uncategorized

Looking our age: Maybe we ought to, maybe it’s time?

If a group can’t be seen, they’re invisible. I think that matters and I’ve written about it in the context of bisexuality. (See Fashion and sexuality: Why recognition matters–that link is to the Wiley version but I’ve got a copy on the research repository here at Western–and here as well for my contribution to “Margins within the Marginal: Bi-invisibility and Intersexual Passing.”)

But how about age? I’ve written about midlife invisibility for women before on the blog. Here on the blog we are all about inclusion. Tracy has written, for example, about the importance of fitness imagery including older women. See here and here.

Does it make a difference though if the lack of recognition is because you are trying to hide? What if you’re not seen because you take steps not to be recognized? What if no one wants to represent the group of midlife women because all the midlife women are trying to look young? Sometimes I look around at university meetings and wonder, where are the senior women? Now sometimes, indeed often, that’s because there aren’t very many senior women. But also it’s because the women who are senior, don’t look it. They work hard to look younger than their years.

This issue is partly about recognition but it’s also about representation and responsibility.

I thought about that recently in the context of this article and this one from months ago.

The first, Working to Disarm Women’s Anti-Aging Demon, offers the case for letting go and looking older. “When women compete to “stay young,” we collude in our own disempowerment. When we rank other women by age, we reinforce ageism, sexism, lookism and patriarchy. What else we can we all agree on? This is one bad bargain. It sets us up to fail. It pits us against one another. It’s why the poorest of the poor, around the world, are old women of color.”

Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: Activism Against Ageism, writes, “So many women color their hair to cover the gray. Many resent the effort and expense, and it’s a major way in which we make ourselves invisible as older women. When a group is invisible, so are the issues that affect it. Suppose the world saw how many we are, and how beautiful, I mused. Suppose we morphed together, in solidarity: the Year of Letting Our Hair Go Gray! It would be transformative!”

The second describes women in their 40s and 50s and 60s as ageless, as having lots in common with teens and 20somethings when it comes to looks, style, and lifestyles. I think they referred to midlife women as “perennials.” Tracy blogged about the dilemma here. But surely there’s something distinctive about older women? Wisdom? Maturity? Fewer fucks left to give?

Like Tracy, I’m someone who looks younger than she is. Why? Four reasons I think.

I’m chubby and so my winkles don’t much show. They’re all plumped out with fat. See Oh no, skinny face! (I’ve gained weight again so there’s no more skinny face now. Phew?)

I’m an academic and while I like wearing serious clothes to work, I’ve never had to wear make up or pantyhose, or pumps. You know the trappings of gender normative professional middle age. They have passed me by. I’m not about to start figuring out foundation now.

I smile a lot.

And finally, and this connects with the article above, I colour my hair. The thing is, I always have. In the 80s it was short and spiky and blond. Then the spikes were coloured pink and purple. For years, I played with red hair colour. Lots of people even thought some version of that was my natural hair colour. It’s not. Now it’s blonde again. Back to the 80s.

Here’s 80s me (note the typewriter!) and 2016 me! The 80s fauxhawk is the 2016 undercut?

Black and white photo of Sam at CKDU
Sam at CKDU, Dalhousie’s campus and community radio station, 1986
Sam, selfie, 30 years later, 2016
Sam, selfie, 30 years later, 2016

The thing is I come from a long line of hair colouring women. People asked when I started going blonde if I was doing it to match my mother’s natural colour.

She’s not a natural blonde, I replied. She’s been doing her hair blonde until it turned white.

Kathleen, Sam's mum. at Wesley Knox United Church, guessing 2013?
Kathleen, Sam’s mum, at Wesley Knox United Church, guessing 2013?
Sam’s mum, Kathleen, with her glamorous blonde ‘do, 1969?

I come from a line of youthful women. I think my mum looks beautiful in her 20s and in her 70s.

But why do we equate ‘youthful’ and ‘beautiful’? Why do I feel good when people get my age wrong. I’m not happy when they get other things about me wrong.

You’re too young to be Dean. No actually, I’m not. But these days I’m also finding myself wanting to be seen as who I am, a woman approaching her mid fifties.

About five years ago in New Zealand something odd happened. At the church we were attending there someone mistook me and my daughter for sisters and Jeff, my partner, for our dad. They weren’t joking and it was weird. I kind of liked it and I kind of felt odd about it. We’re only two years different in age. While he’s older, it’s not by much.

But if I look at the two of us, hair colour is the big difference. He’s got greying hair, these days with a white fluffy beard. Mine is highlighted blonde.

Since then I’ve made one concession to hair and age. I’ve stopped colouring the undercut and I’ve come to really like the way the silver looks.

For now, I’ll keep highlighting the top I think.

But I like the idea of going beautifully grey in my 60s. See How This 64-Year-Old Woman Learned to Love Her Gray Hair.

How about you? What do you think about aging and the politics of representation?

aging · injury · Uncategorized

Oh, how the mighty have fallen: Step counting with a busted knee

This summer during the workplace step counting challenge I was averaging about 18,000 steps a day. Woohoo!

That was partly a matter of rising to the challenge but largely a matter of living in a very big house and owning a dog that needs walking.

These days though my goals are much, much smaller. I’ve injured my knee and it’s been painful to walk. Stairs are the worst but even flat surfaces take their toll.

I’m not supposed to do anything that irritates my knee so that means no stairs. As a result I’ve been hunting down elevators in all the buildings I work in. It’s been eye opening.

My Garmin sets a step goal for me based on what I’ve actually been walking. The idea is that it’s a challenge but not too big a challenge to be dispiriting. I laughed today though when I met my step goal at 3,998 steps.

Further, I met the goal while walking around a large suburban shopping mall on the Southwest side of Chicago.

My knee is getting better. I’ve seen the doctor. I’ve had an x-ray. Physio starts Tuesday. And in waiting for an MRI. Injury is part of an athletic lifestyle and I’m taking care of myself. Who am I kidding? Injuries are part of life, part of aging. The physio clinic says that inactivity and sedentary lifestyles are worse for arthiritic knees than movement.

And look, while mall walking I bought this new leather jacket. I love the faux fur collar. Life isn’t all bad.

aging · fitness

Listen to your body … when it whispers

Why does it all feel so HARD right now?  

I texted that to my business partner earlier this week, and from what I can see of the world around me right now, I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Last month I wrote about yin yoga, and how when I laid down in silence, I suddenly felt my body ache and tug at me. How had I not noticed that I was powering through my workouts and workdays so hard that I was actually physically hurting? At the end of that post, I wrote something about needing to slow down and listen to my body. A friend read the post and texted me “I think it’s unfinished — I think you are saying listen to your body when it whispers.”

She was right, and for the past month, I’ve been trying to really listen.  The yin class reminded me of how important it is to do the basic guided meditation thing of body scanning — what does your big toe feel like?  the front of your shin? — and even more, to scan what’s happening all over for me.

Physically, the scan turns up a lot of reasons for my bone weariness. I had a flu-cold thing, and am traveling for work a lot, and had a stretch of time where I didn’t have a day off from work for 22 days. And like Susan and Sam and pretty much everyone else in the known universe (except Tracy,!) I find the darkening days mean I just want to hole up in the blankies. In fact, I did just that last Sunday — tucked the kitten under my knees, made a bowl of popcorn and binged several episodes of Outlander without moving.

As I keep scanning, there’s another layer.  The work stuff that feels hard feels like one of those watershed moments — where I’ve reached a threshold of what I can do, and there are opportunities for deep learning. If I fight it, everything gets scratchy — and if I listen hard to what it’s teaching me, my work moves to the next level.

When I scan again, I also realize the obvious:  I’m having what is something like my 490th period of all time.  I started in October when I was 12. I’m 52 and have never had a baby.  At roughly 12+ periods a year for more than 40 years I have menstruated… well, probably more than 99.9% of the women in all of history.

I keep trying to act like this cycle of night sweats and frequent periods and surging PMS doesn’t phase me.  But it does.  I’m almost 53.  I’m tired.  It’s wearing.  And when I listen, I know that’s it’s part of why I feel so slow, so heavy, so constrained.  (And cranky.  Don’t forget cranky).

Right now, my body is just not supplying the boundless energy that makes my neighbour — a yoga teacher — shake her head and say “you work out more than anyone else I know.” I really don’t — but I’m usually pretty consistent. But in the past few weeks, I haven’t had a single vigour-ish workout that felt good — the few short runs I’ve managed to force myself into are plods, and I find myself slowing down in the middle of the weekly spin classes I’ve made it to. I renewed my membership at the Y in September and I’ve been exactly twice. Last week, I signed up — and paid for — two classes that I didn’t even go to. My body is telling me SOMETHING.

What am I hearing when I listen to the whispers? Slow down, move differently, listen to the invitation to learn something, make something new.

Slowly, I’ve started to accept that there is something about the current hormonal and cyclic flux of my body that craves vitamin B and sleep and rest and fresh air more than sweat and deep exertion. I heard a CBC podcast a couple of weeks ago about a Chinese tradition of “sitting the month” after giving birth — basically, giving yourself the space for your body to truly recover from birth, to transition to the next phase of your life.  I took that as another invitation to recognize that there is some kind of transition happening that I need to listen to.

Right now, I’m giving myself permission to do things that aren’t running and pushing myself hard, finding different ways to move, being open to things that feel like mystery. A few weeks ago, I spent 2 hours “ecstatic dancing,” moving my body in yoga clothes and my bare feet to an eclectic blend of music, ranging from bhangra to thrash to classical orchestral to tinkly sitar music. A week later, I went to a yin workshop for a friend’s birthday that included live music whose vibrations were intended to attune us to the vibrations in our bodies as we held deep connective poses.  Both of these things sound “flaky,” but they connected me to my body again.

Ten days ago, I embarked on a 21 day challenge with another friend, to each change one habit.  He’s limiting his sugar intake to one thing a day, and I am trying to shift my habit of mindlessly snacking after 8 pm.   Unless I’m eating out with people and we’re eating late, I ingest nothing but water or mint tea after 8 pm.  It seems simple, but the number of times I’ve almost put leftover dinner in my mouth when I’m cleaning up the kitchen, or felt the impulse to make popcorn or eat crackers and butter after 930 is… well, every day.  But I have adhered to it, and I feel better every morning.

Scanning and listening.

Last Saturday, I went to an all day meditation workshop with my cousin.  She lost her young son a year and a half ago and has been on her own transition journey of living with grief, creating her next self.  We spent a long time talking about what happens when you start to listen to what’s aching under the surface — in your soul and in your body. Most meditation practice teaches you how to be both present to and not pushed around by pain — sitting with it, it flows through you. When you don’t acknowledge pain — physical, fatigue, emotional — it persists until it breaks you.

I’m letting myself acknowledge fatigue, and the effects of darkness and hormones, and letting myself dwell in it.  Not to hide under the blankies, but to listen for what it’s offering, what the transitions are leading to.  And it feels right to nest in it.


Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto.  Cate blogs here the second Friday of every month.  And other times when she has something to say. 


accessibility · aging · fitness · Martha's Musings · motivation

Courtesy, seniors and fitness assumptions

By MarthaFitAt55

I’ve discovered that I can be seduced by click bait. I see the headlines, and boom, there I am reading an article and fuming over the ridiculousness of it all.

It’s pretty easy to dismiss screamer headlines and their unsubstantiated content, but sometimes, you get drawn into an article because you just can’t help yourself.


So I went there and was appalled and a little angry. Appalled as the article recommends not offering seniors a seat as standing is way better than sitting. Angry because the article makes no mention of the risk of falls from a lurching bus or tram.

Seniors riding a bus
Image shows seniors riding the The Rapid (the bus system serving Grand Rapids, Michigan


The Reader’s Digest version is this: older people need encouragement to keep fit. Sedentary activity, including sitting on public transport, leads to negative health effects. Encourage them to be active, like taking the stairs or walking for ten minutes a day. In fact, the expert quoted in the article says we should “think twice before giving up your seat on the bus or train to an older person. Standing up is great exercise for them.”

For those of us under 60 with a reasonable amount of calcium in our diet, the risk posed by an unexpected lurch or stop on the bus is at most a possible wrench or at least a bark of our shins against someone’s briefcase or shopping bag.

For seniors, it’s a different story. I found a guide encouraging active living habits for seniors on line, and even it warned them about the risks of sudden stops on public transport. To wit,

“It is also important to be alert so that you do not accidentally get injured on public transportation. Busses and taxis are notorious for being rough rides, and during quick turns or stops you may jerk forward in your seat. If you are not paying attention, then you could fall out of your seat and injure yourself. Always hold onto the bottom of your seat or onto a railing in the bus or taxi to keep yourself secured.”

According to Indiana University, the impact of falls is great:

  • Falls are the leading cause of a move to skilled-care facilities, often long term.
  • 20-30% of those who fall suffer moderate to severe physical injuries including breaks, cuts, and bruising.
  • Falls often result in long-term pain.
  • Falls involving a hip fracture lead to 10-15% reduction in life expectancy.
  • Older adults who fall are likely to worry about the future and loss of independence.
  • Loss of self-esteem and mobility leads to decreased activity and eventually inability to perform activities of daily living.
  • Because of decreased confidence and physical functioning, patients who fall are likely to fall again.
  • Elderly who fall are less likely to take part in beneficial activities like exercising or socializing because of a fear of getting hurt again and the embarrassment of a fall.

I don’t know about you, but if I were 65 or older, I would rather be seen as someone in need of a seat rather than someone in need of a hike. Mostly it’s simple courtesy as one should never assume that one is either fit or unfit. Maybe they’ve just come back from a rousing afternoon with the grand children; perhaps they’ve just spent time in a gym pushing weights around. Who knows? Sometimes, we just like to sit and watch the passing scene out the window.

Next time I see a senior, I’ll ask them if they want my seat and let them make the choice, not me.

— MarthaFitat55 has been working hard to build strong bones and muscles so she can keep standing for a long, long time.