There are lots of things I could write about today. I’ve spent a fair bit of time pondering my choice of topics.
I was going to write about my annual thyroid cancer check up. It’s today. And if all goes well it’s my last annual check up. (Fingers crossed.) After today they’re every five years. My birthday last week was also mammogram day. It’s as if September weren’t a busy enough month for an academic. It’s also cancer screening season for me.
I thought about writing whether Tracy and I want to write a turning 60 book, to follow up our turning 50 project, Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey. We’re having dinner together tonight and no doubt the subject will come up
Let’s see. It’s also blog birthday season. As Tracy posted, happy 9th birthday blog! We’re nearly at 5000 posts too. That’s hard to believe. This post is 4990!
And the blog’s birthday and my birthday, not surprisingly given how the blog got started, are pretty close together. Another possible topic, what does 57 mean anyway?
Here’s a photo from my birthday bike ride!
At this time of year I often write about back to school and trying to stay physically active as work gets busier and busier. This year, unlike last, I’m back in my office. I’m not yet back at the gym.
I’m having big busy days filled with work and people. So many people! I gave a lecture to O-Week students (photo on the right) and hung out with incoming College of Arts students at our Food Truck lunch meet and greet (photo on the left.)
I also biked around meeting parents and students on move-in day. (Round photo at the bottom.)
I’m back in the office now, wearing (mostly) real clothes. I looked at my clothes the other day and wondered why there were so many pairs of yoga pants. Who needs five pairs of yoga pants? Oh right, work from home and the pandemic. I could write about wearing clothes again. I’m working my way back to real shoes but I am not there yet.
In recent years I’ve been suffering a bit from seasonal sadness and trying to tell myself new stories about fall and winter, leaning into the time of cold and dark. I’ve been trying to extend outdoor activities into the fall. We’re going canoe camping again one more time this fall. And we are also looking at more fall gravel riding plans. So there’s that.
I’m a bit nervous that the no travel thing is continuing and it looks like this will be another year in which I don’t get to go somewhere warm with my bike for the winter. I miss the southern US! I miss Florida and Arizona for winter cycling.
In the end, I just want to let you know how much we’ve been enjoying our time in Prince Edward County and likely will continue that into the autumn too.
How’s your September starting out as we move into the fall?
Every year at this time I am astonished that we’ve been blogging for x years, where this year x=9! On August 30, 2012, Sam and I each wrote brief little introductory posts about ourselves called “A bit about Tracy” and “A bit about Samantha.” These inaugural posts show our inexperience at blogging — we didn’t even include our photos! Indeed, many of our initial posts didn’t include photos.
I mention the point about photos because the past nine years have been, for us, as much about learning to blog as about doing our feminist fitness thing. We really were trying to find our way both in the fitness challenge and in what we were hoping to achieve with the blog. As some of you may know but many more recent readers will not know, we didn’t set out still to be blogging nine years hence. We set out to become the fittest we’d ever been in our lives by the time we turned 50, and we had two years to figure out what our respective (and unique) challenges would look like. We didn’t think anyone other than friends and family would follow us.
As the blog caught on, we realized we were wrong about that. Friends and family did support our efforts, but our feminist approach to fitness, down-playing weight loss and highlighting performance and even enjoyment (who knew!?), resonated with lots of people we didn’t know. Soon a lively community had sprung up around the blog. Spin-offs like the Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter got established. Our roster of guest bloggers kept expanding. Then we had some regulars, which has now expanded to an authors’ group that is a community unto itself.
Every year as late August rolls in I reflect on what we have accomplished, both where our fittest by 50 challenge is concerned (there’s a book!) and how the blog itself has blossomed. It’s definitely a team effort these days. That said, people need to know that the real energy behind the blog comes from Sam, whose leadership has kept it thriving even when most of the others of us (myself included) have gone through periods where we’ve had to reduce our commitment or even take a total break for awhile (often to resurface again at some point).
I was going to blog today asking people to think about what they’re proud of. But then I noticed that just a couple of days ago Christine posted a wonderful “Go Team: Find a Win and Celebrate It”. She does that so well that it made me think of the many wins, large and small, that I’ve celebrated through the life of this blog. So many fitness firsts: first 5K, 10K, triathlon, Olympic triathlon, half marathon, around the bay 30K, marathon, bike with clipless pedals, open water swim in a wetsuit, group run, group training in the pool, bike ride with a group, velodrome attempt. I feel good about the wins of pandemic fitness, where it sometimes has felt like an accomplishment just to get out of bed in the morning and make it to a virtual workout.
And I consistently come back to the blog itself and the community around it as a win. Even when I fall to the periphery of the blog team, as I have done in recent years, I count Fit Is a Feminist Issue among the major “wins” in my life and I feel it is worth celebrating every single year. Yay to Fit Is a Feminist Issue on our ninth anniversary, and wishing us many more!
I have blogged previously about group exercise adventures–winter hikes, fun runs, wall climbs, etc.–so it was only a matter of time until we ended up at an aerial adventure park. Set at a western Ontario ski hill forest, this treetop adventure has courses of increasing height and challenge in which participants climb ladders, cross wood and net bridges, and zip line from tree platform to platform.
Through some Wikipedia surfing I learned that aerial adventure courses were borne from military training-style ropes courses and alternative adventure education. However, most of today’s adventure parks are touristy fun that Wikipedia describes as requiring “neither climbing techniques nor special/specific physical fitness experience.”
Judging by our next-day muscle soreness and little bruises, there is at least some physical fitness required. But more than exercise, it was thrilling to hop across wobbly bridges, and stand high in the trees without falling out of them. The course didn’t require teamwork to complete obstacles, but we encouraged and cheered each other a lot.
Among my GoPro pictures, I found one of my handheld carabiners that the trainer had described as “our hands” while we were out on the course. This meant that we were to latch one or both carabiners onto within-reach “lifeline” cables throughout the entire course.
Using a self-belay system in a tree top adventure was a little scary because we were responsible for our own safety. We received some initial supervised practice on a training course, but in the park it was up to us to keep ourselves attached to the steel cables.
Looking at the photo afterwards, I realized that being responsible for my own safety had given my mind something to pay attention to in the trees and on the ladders. Each step was a reminder–in order to move forward I literally had to put one latch in front of the other. The carabiners kept my brain focused on a safety system that wouldn’t allow me to fall, and the constant latching also distracted me from thinking too much about falling.
The above photo also made me realize that I have not always put “safety first” and foremost in my brain when I go to exercise. This is especially true with activities that I perceive as less risky, or when I feel I am more familiar with the risks. But, on the treetop adventure, it was precisely because I was forced to put my safety first in a potentially dangerous situation that I confidently enjoyed the activity all the more (or, I suppose, experienced paralyzing fear all the less).
There is always risk in exercise, which is not an inherently bad thing. But, no matter how strange or familiar the activity may be, we are our own self-safety systems. Safety can create fun. In the future, I think that reminding myself of that fact when I go to exercise will be a good thing.
Nine years ago, on May 23, 2012, Facebook memories tells me, I posted the following note:
“As I approach the two year countdown to 50 (I turn 48 at the end of this summer) I’d like to set an ambitious fitness goal. Roughly, I’d like to be the most fit I’ve ever been at 50. Fifty seems like a good time to peak and it’s doable given that I’m an adult onset athlete (no childhood sports trophies collecting dust in the cabinets for me!) There is a bit of a challenge given that I had a similar goal at 40 and I was 10 years younger then. But then I was starting from close to zero and my goal was to get in shape. Now I’ve got a pretty good basis on which to build. The big problem is how to measure. Not weight. That’s silly. I was my thinnest when I smoked and drank a lot of coffee and didn’t eat much actual food. Looked great but was winded walking up stairs. Those days are gone. I’m strong, fit, robust, resilient but ‘thin’ I’ll never be.
Body composition? Not weight but per cent body fat….maybe. Hard to care about that though and not focus on numbers on a scale, even if they are different numbers.
Running? Maybe. I know my PBs for 5 and 10 km. But I’m also anxious not to invoke another stress fracture. Certainly more than 10km just isn’t doable.
Strength? I do know what I’ve been lifting through the years so maybe. Might work. I’m loving the intensity of crossfit and they are good at measuring progress….
Cycling? Hmmm. Flying laps or centuries? Time trial times are a pretty good measure of fitness.
Aikido: I could aim for a brown belt by 50 but that might be too ambitious.
Yoga: No goals there. I just like to melt and stretch in the heat.
Soccer: My only goal is to have fun….
Suggestions, fitness friends?”
After that little Facebook note, Tracy expressed her desire to join the challenge, and at her prompting we started this blog. Here’s my first post in August 2012.
Things have changed around here since then. We’ve grown into a community of bloggers, a team of more than a dozen regular contributors and more than a hundred guests. There’s a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and we’re on Instagram too. The focus on ‘fittest by fifty’ is long over and while we’re still fitness-focused, we’re now taking part in a much broader conversation about movement, aging, feminism, justice, and the good life.
We’ve also been at it for awhile. I’ve published more than 2200 blog posts, either ones I’ve written or ones I’ve posted for guests. The blog as a whole has published 4800 posts. Maybe we need a 5000th post celebration? Definitely we’re going to have a big bang up blog party for our 10th year in August 2023.
And now Tracy and I have been wondering, what next? Not for the blog. That’s a group conversation and we’re starting that next month. I’m wondering about our next writing project. I called the note I shared to Facebook, “Fifty is for Fitness.” An earlier blog of mine–lost forever when Friendster went away–talked about “forties being for fun.” But 60? What about 60?
At the end of this summer I’m turning 57. Tracy and I have talked about another book, marking the next big decade in our lives. But we haven’t landed on what that book will be about. We’re still very much at the conversation stage. We’ve got 60 in our sights and we’re wondering. Fitness and aging themed maybe, with a broader definition of fitness?
What do you think the start of the sixties should be about? What themes resonate for you?