This post is a group of loosely connected thoughts in a blogpost-shaped trench coat but let’s just roll with it.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a lawn chair on my front lawn awaiting trick or treaters – Khalee is too much of a chaos agent for me to easily answer the door over and over so I take the treats outside and drink tea while waiting for the kids.
Tomorrow, or today by the time you read this, is November 1, just a little over a week away from my 50th birthday.
A few months ago, I thought I would have a good fitness routine by now. I thought I had a solid, low key plan.
Turns out, I was still trying to do too much at once and I have basically been kind of ambling along trying to figure out my how and when, exercising more some times and less other times.
At the beginning of October, I thought I would have a straightforward month with two challenges to work on, but I was plagued with migraines and frustration and never really found my groove.
One tiny part of my brain is telling me ‘You should be more disappointed in yourself, don’t you think?’
But another part is reminding me that the word should is at least 90% evil and that, at almost 50 years old, I don’t have to put up with people being mean to me – especially if that person is me.
So, instead, I’m thinking that I must not have found the easy thing. I must have had too many steps or too many decisions, I must not have smoothed the path, I must not have included enough fun. Oh well! Too late to worry about those past plans now.
I’m not trying to revamp them, though, I’m just focused on what’s ahead of me.
I’m looking forward to my birthday month with the goal(s) of finding more ease, seeking more fun, and looking for ways to move more often on any given day.
There’s no overarching plan, there’s no big idea, there’s just me experimenting with trusting myself in the moment. Let’s just hope my brain will cooperate.
It took me a couple of Halloweens of trying different things before I figured out that I could circumvent the stress of the dog-related chaos by taking the treats out to the kids but I was making little changes in my approach the whole time.
I’m hoping the same is true for this whole figuring-out-routines thing, that I *am* making adjustments and learning as I go, even if it’s hard to see while I’m still in the middle of it.
PS – In case you have a tendency to worry: I am completely ok, by the way. I’m mostly just interested in how and why I feel so at ease with not having done what I had set out to do. And why I don’t feel the need to poke into what went “wrong.” I like the fact that instead of my brain leaning into the meanness, I veered off into the ‘try this’ of taking things moment by moment. I’m observational and reflective, perhaps a little melancholy, but I’m not sad, not upset, and there’s nothing wrong.
My birthday bike ride, my soon to be age in kilometers! That’s 58. I turn 58 on Wednesday.
I was worried that we’d forgotten to plan it. But in the end we decided not to go to the boat and instead visit the boat after knee surgery when I’m feeling okay but still not mobile. By then Jeff will be in the Thousands Islands which is super pretty. I’m looking forward to it.
Can you do them on a trainer? Yes. Can you choose miles or kilometers? Yes. Do you need to do them on your birthday? No. Does it need to be the same number as your age? No.
That said, my preference is for outside, my age in kilometers, before my birthday. And that was today.
We did our favorite rolling hills route that we’ve borrowed from the Tour de Guelph, adding on a few extra kilometres. See the weird sticking out bit that goes nowhere? That’s our bonus couple of kms needed to make it 58.
I was a bit nervous and super cautious. I really didn’t want a bike crash to spoil my surgery date. But all good. It was a happy chatty sunny ride and I think we saw every road cyclist in Guelph out there today, including a group of women on road bikes with a bride or soon to be bride, wearing a wedding veil.
Best of all, on our way home we ran into friends from Toronto, in Guelph as part of a motorbike outing. And we all got to have high tea together at the Boathouse. Yay!
Though a long-time reader of FIFI, I joined as a regularly contributing author not long ago. It has been a joy for me to re-visit the FIFI blog on this date in its first year of publication and think about how events of the past 9 years confirm the need for FIFI long into the future.
A decade ago
The FIFI blog was launched at the end of August 2012. Almost a year later, the August 25, 2013 post invited readers to submit to a special issue of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics: See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness (Spring 2016).
Co-blog/issue editors Samantha Brennan and Tracy Issacs describe how the special issue—like the still-new blog from which it emerged—looks critically at the impact of fitness on women and “the very assumptions about what constitutes ‘fitness’ in the first place” (p. 3).
In forms of writing both scholarly and personal, the articles surface four key and connected themes related to fitness and feminism:
Equality – the gender disparity that starts in childhood and widens in adulthood,
Inclusivity – the exclusion of women and minorities from domains of sport and the lack of diversity in the fitness media,
Empowerment – competitive sports, body performance, and the linking of sports to personal confidence and public life, and
Aesthetics and feminine embodiment – the complex relationship between women, their fitness goals, and their bodies.
These themes have since featured prominently as the cardinal compass points guiding thousands of FIFI blog posts by more than 165 authors over the last 9 years.
Nearly a decade later
FIFI continues to examine and re-define fitness from an anti-homophobic, anti-racist, anti-ableist feminist lens. Over the last decade, this blog has helped readers to reflect on the many history-making moments in sports and fitness. Here are just a few:
Equality: Since 2013, wage and other gaps between men and women in sports (like basketball, surfing, and hockey) have been spotlighted. For instance, in 2017 the women’s hockey team announced a boycott of the world championship if U.S.A. Hockey did not increase the women’s wages. Despite greater attention to inequality, gender gap in sports participation, funding, and media attention still continues.
Inclusivity: Athletes have become more vocal about gender, race, and mental health in sports. For example, in the media gymnast Simone Biles confronted the myth of the strong black woman affecting women athletes of colour. Tennis player Naomi Osaka also articulated the need to address depression, burnout, and toxic spaces that athletes face. Yet, CAMH notes that stigma continues to be attached to mental illness as a sign of unfitness in sports.
As well, inclusivity and diversity in sports are subject to ever-changing rule books. Since 2013, some rules have shifted to promote greater inclusion, while others have not—such as the recent exclusion of transwomen athletes from sports such as rugby, swimming, and track and field.
Empowerment: Over the last few years, research has found that gentle exercise benefits women, especially at older ages. A greater focus on happiness and health, as well as recovery time, has also appeared in emerging fitness research. Social media movements addressing fat bias, such as #StrongNotSkinny, have helped to shift how women relate to athletic performance and body acceptance as a form of self-empowerment.
Aesthetics and feminine embodiment: And yet, also since 2013 more fitness influencers have greater…well, influence…than ever before on idealized body norms and commodified aesthetics. Gear such as fitness trackers have been lauded for helping women to be more fit. But their use may be concerning for reasons of data privacy and whether this tech actually matches women’s wellness and fitness goals in the first place.
A decade (or more) more
What has changed since the first year of FIFI is a more collaborative approach to publication. Under the continued leadership of Samantha, a larger collection of blog authors help to manage the blog while being a supportive global writing community for each other.
Our reading community is larger since 2013 too—tens of thousands of subscribers, readers, likers, commenters, and sharers from around the world. (We appreciate you all!!)
And yet, like the special issue the blog is a mosaic of diverse reflections that encourages making the world of fitness—and the many lived experiences of that world—more equal, inclusive, empowering, and embodied for everyone.
A decade goes by quickly, but this brief retrospective on key themes and tiny number of big fitness events show us the value of the FIFI blog then, now, and well into the future.
But a birthday ride is a kind of a tradition for me.
And if I am going to do it, I have to get my birthday ride in soon. My birthday is next Wednesday, the 31st, but I have knee replacement surgery Monday. We’re spending the weekend on the boat.
So maybe it’s a 58 km before work on Friday? (Off to check sunrise times…6:37 am, so that is doable.)
But the weather looks miserable…
Maybe I divide it up between Thursday and Friday morning, two 29 km rides? Zwift if it’s raining. This is feeling less celebratory though…
Now it’s my view that there are no rules for birthday rides so I could do it after my birthday but recovery from knee replacement takes awhile and I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to ride 58 km. It might be winter by then!
Hey, Western University (where I taught for 24 years before coming to U of Guelph) just asked me for a legacy gift. They did remember to call me “Professor.” I do feel old though after that email. Legacy, huh?
I’m coming up on my 58th birthday this summer, moving from my mid to late fifties.
I’ll have to be careful I don’t jump the gun too soon. Each year I start thinking about the age I’ll be soon and think about what it will feel like to be that age. The difficulty with thinking yourself at an age before you get there is that sometimes you might get to your birthday and then add a year. Yes, I did that. It took awhile before I did the math and realized I was over counting.
It’s not just reminders like the legacy gift email. I’m also thinking about my age because we’re coming up on the blog’s 10th anniversary this fall. Wow.
Tracy and I started the blog on the countdown to our 50th birthday. Remember our “fittest by fifty” challenge? But since a decade has gone by that means we’ve got 60 in our sights.
People can get weird about 60. I remember visiting a friend of my mother’s who, when the subject of her age came up, said you know the decade you’re in (my fifties) and you know the decade your mother is in (her seventies) I’m in the one in the middle but I never say its name. What’s so bad about the sixties, I wondered. I guess I’m still wondering.
Sixty doesn’t particularly scare me. I think it helps that I have lots of older friends and colleagues in their sixties, leading lives that excite and inspire. I’ve always liked older people.
I’m spending the weekend in Montreal as I’m writing this, here to visit family but also to see Sally Haslanger give a series of lectures
I mention that because Sally is in her sixties making that decade look pretty good. She’s here giving a series of lectures based on her new book about understanding social change in complex systems. I loved the final lecture on hope. I think we’re all needing some hope right about now. There were excellent commentaries too. I was there for the commentaries by Jonathan Ichikawa (University of British Columbia) and Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University), both excellent.
There are lots of remarkable women in philosophy, far too many to list, many of them over 60.
I’m not planning on retiring for awhile yet although as Dean I’ve been noticing the wide range of ages that people choose to stop work. I’ve just expressed my willingness to stand for a second term as Dean and undergo the review, and potential reappointment, process. After that, whatever the outcome, I’ve got some leave coming to me and then I’ll likely return to teaching for a few years in Philosophy.
I’ve always thought that rather than retire immediately I’d love to swap to half time for a few years first. Teach in the fall term, winter somewhere warm sounds like the dream to me.
I joke with Tracy that we have excellent role models in aging with our mothers. We look just a little bit like them. See above.
I think the other reason I’m looking forward to my sixties is that I’ll have my knees in working order then. I realized the other day that I’ll soon be eligible to do some retirement age (if not actual retirement) activities with my mother!
I don’t think I’ll get her on a bike but with my knees fixed we could do some walking together.
There are bloggers here who have reached the 60 mark and they’re doing pretty well too. See Catherine‘s blog post about her recent birthday.
So far I’m not feeling the urge to think about 60+ as the last stage of life.
“When I was about to turn 60, I realized that I was approaching my third act — my final act — and that it wasn’t a dress rehearsal. One of the things that I knew for sure is that I didn’t want to get to the end with a lot of regrets, so how I lived up until the end was what was going to determine whether or not I had regrets. And it also then dawned on me that in order to know where I was supposed to go, I had to know where I’d been,” she said.
I recently wrote a paper on women and aging, “To Grandmother’s House We Go”: On Women, Ethics, and Aging. It’s forthcoming in the Cambridge Handbook on the Ethics of Aging. I was struck by Carolyn Heilbrun’s conceptualization of the years after sixty as the last gift of time. Sixty seems a bit early for last gift talk.
To be clear, it’s not that I don’t take mortality seriously. I’ve taught a course on death. I’ve coedited a textbook on philosophy and death. It’s more that I’ve been thinking about it for years.
I think life post retirement will feel more like a final act but I am very much not there yet. I find my work rewarding and exciting and important. It brings me happiness and keeps me engaged.
However, I am thinking about decade ending fitness goals. Fittest by fifty and still moving at sixty? I’m not sure. Will blog more about decade ending fitness goals later, I’m sure.
Are you a blog reader over 60? What’s ahead? What advice do you have to offer? What goals, if any, did you set for 60?(Also if you turned 60 during the pandemic, that’s enough. No goals needed.)
This week I turned 60. It’s kind of exciting and also a little daunting. I’m excited at reaching what feels like a milestone. My father died 15 days shy of his 60th birthday, of metastatic lung cancer. My mother is 78 (yes, she had me young) and still chugging along. At 60, it feels like I’ll be joining her, my aunts, and older women friends, being inducted into the membership of… some metaphysical organization of which I currently know not.
So, given that some aspects of my future seem ineffable, I’m pragmatically turning to the mundane: what does turning 60 mean for my wardrobe choices? What do various clothing styles mean for women, 60 and older?
Again, I find myself soaring into abstract territory; perhaps it’s just pre-birthday flutterings. Maybe I should just talk about clothing now. Okay, I’ll do that.
Most of what I read online was a miscellany of what NOT to wear, of which I’m choosing to ignore ALL their ill-considered tips. However, I continued searching for articles on style, and style for older women. What are my choices?
There’s always classic and elegant:
They look lovely (the women and their outfits), but this look doesn’t really suit my personality, lifestyle or bank account.
I do love me some color, though, and you see bright-colored costume-y ensembles on some fashionable older women.
These are fabulous, but… not really for me. I like the harem pants and also the flowing green coat, but these are bolder style messages than I think I want to send on a day-to-day basis.
There’s a lot of commentary on what older women wear, and most of it isn’t good. They get lampooned on TV and elsewhere. Who can forgot grandma Yetta from the TV show The Nanny?
By the way, here is what actor Ann Morgan Guilbert, who played Grandma Yetta, looked like in real life:
You may be beginning to get the message that, for older women, style means bold and extreme, maybe bordering on satire. That’s fine if that’s what you want. But I don’t want these to be my only options:
I mean, they’re totally fab. But not to go into my wardrobe rotation.
Don’t despair for me, gentle readers; I did find a fashion exemplar whose style works for me. I present, for your consideration, looks of Queen Latifah:
Queen Latifah’s looks feature comfortable shoes, unfussy components, some tailored style, and above all functionality. These are clothes to live in, not pose in. I admit I might pick some pieces with bolder colors too, but I like the combo of useful and chic. Thanks Queen Latifah!
Now, time to go shopping in my closet and see what combos come out of it. Stay tuned for updates.
Readers, what kind of looks are you sporting these days? Any fashion tips or aspirations you want to share? Let me know.
Today is my Mom’s birthday so my first suggestion for making some space for yourself is to do what I can remember her doing when I was a kid – putting on your favourite music and humming along while you do the things you need to do and want to do today.
My Mom’s selections back in the day (and probably still) included Helen Reddy, The Mamas and the Papas, The Fifth Dimension, and a fair number of Girl Guide recordings but you can pick your own soundtrack, of course.
My second suggestion is this fun cardio workout that is entirely unrelated to the fact that it is Mom’s birthday.
I had to modify the first part of this one quite a bit because jumping is not on my exercise menu right now but I enjoyed the video all the same.
And for our relaxation/meditation video today, I thought you might enjoy this tutorial about box breathing. I find this type of breathing exercise extremely helpful when I am agitated and maybe you will, too.
Whether you do these videos, spend your day humming along to your favourite songs, or whether you try something else entirely, I wish you ease.
That kind of makes me sound like I’m starting a band, doesn’t it?
If that was my band name, what would our first album be called?
Back on topic:
Wednesday was my birthday and I had a great day.
Usually, on my birthday, I’m trying to cram in so many fun things that I actually end up amplifying my usual feeling that I *should* be doing something else.
I always have fun but I tend to feel a bit tightly scheduled and a bit frustrated.
This year, I noticed that feeling creeping up the day before my birthday and I made a conscious decision to get over myself and be clear about the facts:
I don’t have to limit my fun to one day a year. *
In fact, I can add more fun to every week.
I can even add a bit more fun to every day.
I can take my birthday attitude into the rest of the year.
In a surprise to no one, making that decision took all of the pressure out of my birthday.
And instead of keeping a tally of accumulated fun, I just did what I felt like doing in any given moment.
And that’s how I found myself dropping everything to take Khalee for a walk while the sun was out (instead of at a more ‘logical’ time.)
And, it’s how I found myself sitting peacefully, all by myself in the 5pm darkness, watching the small fire I had set in our fire pit.
Normally, I would have talked myself out of lighting a fire just for me. It’s a little bit of hassle and I didn’t have a lot of time before supper, but I had that bit of birthday ‘permission’ going for me so I crumpled some paper and got the kindling from the shed and settled in next to the fire.
I felt calm and restful and so very grateful for all of the good things in my life.
I even felt a bit more patient about the challenges I tend to encounter
It was a wonderful way to round out a day of giving in to my whims.
And, my birthday gift to myself is the decision to prioritize things like an early evening fire far more often.
I challenge you to do the same. 💚
*To be clear, I do take time to relax and do fun things on a regular basis. But, on my birthday, I give myself permission to maximize my fun.
So I turned 57 yesterday, and though I didn’t much feel like celebrating (because it’s hardly any sort of milestone birthday), I did. I took the day off and did only things I enjoy, starting with a 6 am workout with Alex and a hot yoga class a little bit later. I had lunch with a friend at my new favourite lunch spot (The Tea Lounge) and we each bought some of the art that was hanging on the restaurant wall. My parents drove in to spend the weekend with me, which is a celebration in itself that makes up for many missed visits during the pandemic. We went out for dinner to a fancy place (fancy at my mother’s request and it was amazing) and my mother baked two cakes for this afternoon. And we are getting take-out tonight (also at my mother’s request: “why should we cook?” she said. Why should we, indeed?!).
Birthdays always make me take stock, reflecting on what the year has brought, where I am “in life,” what’s working and what might need to change.
What has the year brought? The past year has brought a sense of monotony that I have not known before. At times, during pandemic stay-at-home orders, I felt as if I was living one long day. Yes, it was punctuated by sleep and meals, zoom sessions for this and zoom sessions for that, but oh the sameness of it all. Some days it took real effort, I have to say. Thank heavens for the kittens!
And yet, I developed routines, like regular workouts with Cate’s trainer Alex’s virtual training sessions, running, walks (sometimes with a neighbour in my building) and at-home yoga (mostly with Adriene). Despite the joy of being able to get out again, I am resenting having to revise these routines (so I can get out the door to get to work in the morning now that I’m not longer working at home).
The virtual world also opened up some new rituals with friends and family out of town. Movie night on Friday and Monday night dinner (all on Zoom) with my friend and former grad-school housemate Diane who lives in Iowa. Regular family zooms on Sundays with my brothers and parents, everyone joining from a different part of the province. Daily check-ins with my friend Steph, who lives in London but during lockdown (especially through the winter) we couldn’t see each other in person much. Fairly regular Wednesday evening fireside gatherings with a great group of women (even through last winter). Another Sunday call with my friend Manon who lives in Guelph. And periodic check-ins and occasional visits from a few other reliables, including Sam (but I guess we’ve been doing that since she moved away a few years back) and my step-daughter Ashley who lives in Vancouver.
Looking back then, I would say this year brought: monotony, consistency, and a focus on valued relationships.
Where am I “in life”? I think even writing this post indicates that I am in a sort of existential moment. Maybe that’s another thing the pandemic brought. Let’s just say I’m not where I expected to be as I turned 57. I’m on my own again, for the first time in a couple of decades, and not feeling super-motivated to change that. Though I do sometimes miss having a steady companion, I appreciate my solitude more. I’ve got a few more years of career ahead of me before I retire, and am trying to decide whether to ramp up or start winding down. If ramping up (the likely choice), ramping up in which area? Research and teaching? Administration? Still mulling.
Work is not life, of course, so where am I with other things? I’m reading more. Doing less photography. Doing more yoga, less running. Sleeping more, travelling less. More attention to family and close friends, less spreading myself thin across too many commitments.
A consistent theme for me of late, and I think it has come with age, is that I feel less “beholden” to others. I’m at a place in life where I really do feel tired of being so concerned with what others think of my choices. It’s exhausting to wonder whether I “measure up” to some external standard(s) that I may or may not embrace. I’ve had a lot of time through the pandemic to consider what I value. Experiencing more quietude and solitude has brought me in touch with my inner compass, with less of the magnetic pull of noise and busy-ness and the opinions of others to interfere with where it’s pointing me.
That can make me feel strangely and paradoxically untethered sometimes, but radically free and unburdened at other times. That’s where aging has a certain liberatory power. I have wondered at what age will I stop being so motivated by the prospect of approving others. It may be this age: 57.
What’s working? Hey, you might be saying: isn’t this a fitness blog? Well one thing that is working lately is my approach to fitness. And that’s partly because more and more it is guided by what I feel like doing. I realize that some people will say they can’t do fitness that way because they don’t usually feel like doing anything. In fact, I myself have said in the past (2013) that “intuitive fitness” doesn’t work for me. But I came to change my mind about that (2019).
My word of the year, “mindfulness,” is working. I’ve had a lot of time to pay attention and cultivate awareness in ways that make me feel more and more grounded. If I feel “off,” which has happened a lot during the pandemic, my commitment to mindfulness has helped me uncover what is going on with me rather than distract myself from it. Over time, this has been a great practice that always keeps me hopeful.
Doing less, which has been a theme of mine throughout the life of the blog, is definitely working for me these days in the rest of my life. I am not one of those people who idealize the pandemic for the way it made us all hit “pause,” but I have to concede that I like having more unscheduled time, more quiet evenings at home, and fewer social commitments (despite that it sometimes felt monotonous). I plan not to return to the old, overfull schedule.
What needs to change? I’ve had a lot of change over the past three or so years, and I’ve not quite settled yet. I called this post “the liberatory power of aging” because I really feel free to go in whatever direction I want. I’m less beholden to people, as I noted earlier, but that’s partly because I’m at an age where people aren’t expecting anything much. Rather than lament that, to me it’s a source of freedom. What that means to me is that although there are some things (within my power) I would like to change, like more photography, more writing (both scholarly and creative), more meditation, more knitting, and more consistent running, I’m still uncertain where this “transition” is going to land.
And I’m okay with that, and with this rambling blog post that may not be all that interesting but still felt good to write. Happy birthday to me.
August 2021 is looking more like August 2020 than I might like in terms of the pandemic. As a result the pause on my gym membership continues until January 2022.
August is also the month when we start to lose the evening light and activities that depend on the light come to an end. The evenings are getting dark early for outdoor riding. No more weeknight Snipe racing either.
It’s not all bad news. I did just order a new fancy wheel off bike trainer from Speed River Bicycles and I’m about to sign up for Zwift Academy Road. I’ll blog more about that later.
August is also the month the blog celebrates its birthday. Happy 9th Birthday blog! (We’re also coming up to our 5000th post. Wowza!)
August is also my birthday month.
I turn 57 on Tuesday. Friends tease me about the multi-event birthday celebrations but with family scattered and with conflicting schedules, I tend to celebrate my birthday with friends and family over a few days.
Here’s photos from Celebration #1, with Gavin in Guelph.
Celebration #2 involved riding 57 km with friends and family.
It was a stinking hot day (heat alert!) but we did it. Actually almost 60 km for my 57th birthday. There are no rules for birthday rides in my opinion but I’m glad we managed the distance given the weather. Phew!
There’s more celebrating yet to come on my actual birthday, August 31st, including an afternoon mammogram. Wish me luck.