aging · clothing · fitness · Martha's Musings · training

When tools help

by MarthaFitat55

Last month, I invested in a pair of knee sleeves after trying a borrowed pair for several training sessions. I said I would comment on the results of any changes that I observed.

First the qualitative results: I noticed right away that when I wore the knee sleeves, I felt more comfortable squatting more deeply. My trainer noticed this too. Goal of ass to grass is well underway!

What I didn’t expect was how I would feel in between sessions when I didn’t wear knee sleeves. There was an obvious decrease in knee pain from the grumpy left knee, and I also noticed that my hip joints didn’t ache. I don’t know why this is happening but I am thinking that my knees are being retrained in how to support my body.

With my knees feeling better able to support my body, I feel more comfortable in completing certain exercises, so much so, my trainer has added a few variations in the split squat department. I have been doing more cage squats and heavier weight goblet squats and my ability to get closer to the ground and feel more comfortable there has increased too.

In the last week of May, I recorded the following records in my notebook:

Bench 42 kg/ Squat 186 lbs/Deadlift 101 kg

By June 5, with almost three weeks of training using the sleeves complete, I achieved the following PRs:

Bench 48.5 kg / Squat 200 lbs/Deadlift 105 kg.

The squat is particularly pleasing as it represents a 14 lb jump. The bench represents an unofficial provincial record too.

If you have been thinking about incorporating some of these tools, like the sleeves or belts to increase your core stability and to support your (possibly aging) joints, then perhaps my experience may give you the extra push you need.

I’m happy I made the investment. They have made a difference for me in a short time, and I am looking forward to seeing what this summer’s training will produce in both qualitative and quantitative results.

— Martha is a writer getting her fit on through powerlifting.

body image · clothing · fashion · fitness

Not about our health, not really, not at all actually

So Nike introduced plus sized clothing, and that’s good. A bit late, but still a good thing.

Ragen Chastain writes, “Nike makes clothes for sports and physical activity. They figured out that they could make those clothes to fit fat people, and the Nike plus size line was (finally) born. As someone who has been both fat and an athlete for as long as I can remember, I would just like to say — it’s about damn time. To be clear, this line has size limitations. Most items go up to 3x, and the sports bras only go up to a 38. But it’s progress.”

And then there was a backlash, not good at all.  Lots of awful stuff was said about Nike encouraging people to be fat.

Again Ragen writes, “If these trolls would prefer that I work out naked, I have no problem with that (except maybe for the chaffing). But somehow, I doubt that would please them either. What they are looking for is a world where fat people live in shame — hiding in our houses, unable to participate in a world that, if they had it their way, wouldn’t accommodate us at all.”

What’s striking about the backlash is how much vitriol there was aimed at people who wear pus sized workout clothing,

See Nike Backlash Proves It’s Not About Fat Peoples’ Health.

I shared Ragen’s story on our Facebok page and our community responded. With permission I share their comments here.

“I think it’s worth noting too how much shade we get when we try to work out in public places. Straight sized people seem to be offended when I work out near them. Or sit beside them on the subway, or eat near them. Or exist.”

“I don’t really get this. I mean, I get making clothes for larger people – I’ve suggested as much to a few lines of athletic clothing (it’s an untapped market! Why wouldn’t you?), but I don’t get why people care so much about what other people do with their bodies. Don’t they have their own to worry about?”

“When I lost weight about 6 years ago I went to the gym every day. I wanted to look good and be comfortable, which made going to the gym easier. Working out in daggy stretched pants and an oversized shirt that absorbed the sweat didn’t cut it. Kudos to Nike for meeting this need.”

“They hate fat people and want us to be unhappy or ashamed. Nothing new here.”

“People hate fat and fat people so viscerally it’s actually terrifying.”

“Because then they might have to look at us? How dare we befoul public spaces with our bodies!”

Thanks everyone! 

Like many of you, I don’t get the hate. I mean, I get it. I’m sometimes the recipient of it. I wrote about being yelled at for being a fat woman on a bike in this blog post.

But I’m an unreasonably cheerful, resilient person and I reset to my default of expecting good from other people each time after something like this happens. When it happens again, I’m surprised anew.

How about you? What’s your reaction to the negative response to Nike?



clothing · fitness

Nevertheless, Sam persisted

My t-shirt arrived! It’s from Superfit Hero.

10% of proceeds go to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Caitlin at Fit and Feminist writes, “And if you aren’t familiar with Superfit Hero and its amazing founder Micki Krimmel, you should fix that soon. SH makes awesome performance gear for women of all sizes and it’s all produced in the USA. I’ve worn their compression capris for everything from 17-mile runs to barre class to post-IM recovery. Highly, highly recommended.”

I’ve also got their tights, which I love, and a feminist hoodie. See Superfit Feminist Selfie for my blog post about that too!

clothing · fitness

Superfit Feminist Selfie

We don’t promote or review very many sportsy things here on the blog. But one exception is the wonderful clothing at Superfit Hero.

See here

I just got a new FEMINIST hoodie from them. And since I’m the selfie queen, here’s a feminist hoodie selfie.

Pretty soon I’ll get to wear it with my nasty woman t-shirt.


charity · clothing · competition · fitness · Guest Post · health · stereotypes

Party Run: 2016 Mudmoiselle London (Guest Post)

By Elan Paulson

(Shown above: Team “Slick Chicks” post-race)

This is a follow up to my previous blog post on party runs, which I published in anticipation of the 2016 Mudmoiselle London fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society. In my previous post I had signaled some concerns about party runs, highlighting examples of runs that are currently available in North America. So, here’s me reporting back on where the Mudmoiselle stands in relation to these concerning issues.

The corporate issue: The event was well-organized and fully stocked with smiling volunteers; cheerful music; and a series of tends for registration, bag check, and changing. The Mudmoiselle “template,” with standardized pink/yellow/teal colours, was used for signs and medals. Registered participants received modest draw string swag bags with a shirt, trial-sized protein bars, and assorted gift certificates. About the only noticeable corporate branding was a guy at the photography booth dressed up like a Best Buy ticket.

What I think I liked most about the run was the camaraderie it inspired. There were some cooperative obstacles, but it was the occasion itself that brought out our team’s support for each other. That’s something no amount of sponsorship could buy, and perhaps it was in part because there was little corporate presence that we could focus on motivating and having fun with each other.

The “dress up” issue: Our team chose “business slick” attire: white men’s dress shirts, ties, sunglasses, and lipstick. Our costume was determined less by gender norms and more by what was comfortable but also ironic for a mud run. At our after-run lunch back at the captain’s house, our team was already talking about next year’s costume. Most seemed to like the idea of formal gowns.

The health issue: The course was not competitive, or even timed. An announcer warmed up teams at the start line. The obstacles were challenging, but not insurmountable. And some were quite amusing. Our team particularly liked the diagonal pole we had to slide down (with the aid of applied lubricant) to avoid falling into a mud pit. We encountered encouraging signs (“It’s just a hill; get over it”), water stations, and cheers from by volunteers and medical staff. So, it was a healthy activity, but afterwards we chose to have pizza and beer.

The environment: On this well-marked course we ran up and down a local ski hill on a beautiful, sunny day. We pulled jeeps in neutral, flipped large tires, and navigated through strings pulled taut across woody bike paths. Other than the water and soap to make a “slip ‘n slide” down a larger part of a hill, most obstacles seemed to use existing spaces well, and did not seem environmentally damaging.

The fundraising issue: The London Mudmoiselle met its fundraising goal—nearly $80,000—and our team met its own goal as well. I took my fundraising seriously, and through asking friends and family for donations raised almost $900. While I may have ran the Mudmoiselle run, it’s those who donated to the charity who are the real champions of the day. So, I’m listing below those who donated for me to acknowledge their generosity.

I had only one family member refuse to donate to the CCS because he thinks they aren’t transparent about how they manage their funds compared to other charities. And while the day served the purpose of fundraising, at the starting line there was no explicit mention by run organizers of the charity or its efforts (at least none that I had heard).

Overall: As an event that emphasized fun, friends, and health, but without over-the-top competitiveness or a barrage of corporate gimmicks that undermined the run’s social purpose or personal benefits, Mudmoiselle’s pros and cons netted out pretty evenly for me. It was a party run, but it was fun and it promoted an inclusive type of “partying” that many would find to be a welcome alternative to a traditional booze bender on a Saturday (complete with ties around our heads).

Continue reading “Party Run: 2016 Mudmoiselle London (Guest Post)”

clothing · fitness · Guest Post · stereotypes · weight lifting

Getting Equipped

By Martha Fit at 55

My sneakers died last month. I loved them, my bright turquoise and green shoes that always perked me up, but they gave up the ghost after a rather epic hike.img_3072

Luckily I have another pair, as a result of acquiring some proper lifting footwear.

My beloved walking shoes, fabulous as they were for walking through miles of bog and barren as well as unevenly paved urban streets, simply weren’t suitable, even when brand new, for the heavy work I was now undertaking in the gym environment.

After a winter spent rebuilding my fitness foundation due to a misbehaving knee, I started working on gaining more depth with my squat, and also establishing more stability for my deadlifts. Fortunately, my trainer realized I needed proper squat shoes as well as deadlift shoes, so I could get closer to the floor, literally and figuratively.

I am the first to admit they are the oddest things I have put on my feet. The squat shoes are inflexible, while the deadlift shoes are a souped up version of ballet shoes. Both involve complicated laces, and they are rather dull in colour (one is black and the other is a dark grey) and as an added bonus, the squat shoes come with Velcro.

But they do the job they are meant to do. And I love them. Plus they were way easier to acquire than any of my other workout gear. Take my search for a swimsuit last month. It was, admittedly, not an ideal time to be looking. Nonetheless, I had hope. At the very least, I thought I could pick up a cute pair of gym shorts and a tank, and call it a day. After all, spandex is spandex.

No such luck.

After trekking through multiple stores, I had to ask: where are the cute prints, the funky suits, and the sassy, saucy tops I see all over Instagram and Facebook?

They’re not in my hometown, that’s for sure.

Nor are they to be found all that easily online. If you are lucky enough to find something in your size, there’s little variety, it’s often uninspiring in design, and if it is actually pretty, it’s totes expensive.

So why do I embrace the solid, frankly unsleek, squat shoe and its equally uninspiring-looking companion the deadlift shoe, all while chafing at and whining about the miserable selection of available pants and tops? Why do I love my unpretty lifting shoes that have changed how I work in the gym? Is it because no one cares what’s on my feet? That it doesn’t matter if you are a size 8 or a size 18 when it comes to shoes?

I’ve been thinking about the contradictions my desire for new workout gear poses for me, and I don’t yet have a lot of concrete conclusions. As I get more assertive with my lifts, more committed to my training, and more confident in my results, I want a bolder exterior to match the inner changes I’ve made these past three years. After all, outside the gym, I’m not one to shy away from advocating, arguing, and persuading, so why skulk around the corners, metaphorically speaking, in the gym?

Because it’s not always that simple or easy to walk into a gym when you are so often surrounded by norms for attractiveness and appropriate size that do not reflect your own experience. Nor is it comfortable to always be told “I’m sorry; we only carry clothes that go up to size 12.”

However, lifting has taught me something worth remembering: when you commit to picking up heavy things and putting them down, you take up space, and there’s no running away from that. Quite simply the strength you bring is visible, unavoidable, and yes, audacious. And just like my much-loved sneakers, there comes a time when you have to say goodbye to old ways of thinking/seeing, and say hello to something so new, it will take you further than you have ever imagined.

— Martha is a writer living in St. John’s who finally caught her reindeer last week, and is now looking for a new target to aim for in her deadlift.

clothing · fitness

Product review: around-town cycling shorts

As anyone who ever lays tush to saddle knows, having the right cycling shorts makes the difference between a distressed derriere and a blissful bum.  And, apart from general brand quality advice, it’s hard to rely on others’ recommendations about which shorts are right for you, partly because cyclists differ about all sorts of features of bike shorts.

We vary in our preferences for thickness and material of the chamois, leg length (I prefer longer shorts and my friend Pata really likes shorter ones), waistband design, bibs or not (although I came out strongly in favor of bibs here) you name it.  We are a fussy lot, we cyclists, and it really comes out in our very particular shorts preferences.

However, this summer I purchased a pair of around-town cycling shorts that I just looove.  Sam suggested I do a product review.  So here it is:  The Terry cruiser short.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 10.27.51 PM

This is a bike short that is not meant for super-long rides, at least in my view.  It has what Terry calls an urban chamois, which means (to them) that it’s wider and thinner, meant for riding more upright.  I find it perfectly comfortable for riding any of my bikes (commuter, cross, road, mtbike), although I wouldn’t wear it on a long road ride (mainly because I bow to cycling fashion convention and wear my bibs instead).

I like it because it is smooth and form-fitting, and also stretchy but not super-tight like spandex.  It looks like shorts that are worn around town, and it even has a jaunty little zipper pocket on the side.  It reminds me of my favorite Athleta pants, called Bettona classic pants.  I like them for the same reasons– they are smooth fitting but not too tight, they have a few nice details, and they are easy to wear in lots of different situations.

But there’s another reason why I like these:  they fit me.  Women who are a US size 14+ (like me) often have trouble finding shorts that fit and feel comfortable, and look good, with enough coverage and the right fabric feel.  These shorts have enough length to make me feel well-covered, fabric that stretches and is smooth, and sizing in the legs and elsewhere to feel comfortable.  And, the size L (14-16)  fits me.  Yay.  They also come in  XL, which will definitely work for women sizes 18-20.

This shorts design is proof positive that clothing manufacturers can indeed design attractive and well-fitting clothing for women who are size 14 and up.  I’ve blogged here about the nonsense we have to put up with in trying to find pretty clothing in larger sizes, and Sam and others have written about similar troubles with athletic clothing (finding the right sports bra is a quest in itself).  Terry is one of the athletic clothing manufacturers that sells 1X–3X sizes.  Good for them.

However, they don’t make this short in 1x–3x.  Why not?

I have no idea.  Terry’s selection of 1X–3X shorts and tops is a very small fraction of  the range and variety they have in smaller sizes.  It’s not true that there’s no market for them– the average American woman is a size 14, which means lots of women are larger than size 14 (because math).  It’s also not true that they can’t figure out how to make this clothing for larger-sized women, because they already figured out how to make shorts, tops, skirts, etc.  They should just make more of them, using the same styles and fabrics as they do for sizes 2–14.

Yes, there are some specialty manufacturers of larger-sized athletic clothing; through the wonder of the internet, we can find them.  But 1) they tend to be more expensive, sometimes lower in quality and often limited in fabric options; and 2) we often have to put up with cutesy, euphemistic, or even downright mocking brand names.  Witness this brand– Fat Lass at the Back.  Sam has blogged about them here.  In all fairness, they are an equal-opportunity mocking brand, as they sell Fat Lad at the Back cycling wear, too.  I guess this is supposed to be good-naturedly ribbing, but:


Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 11.13.37 PM


Okay, I guess this was a combo product review and rant.  So, to summarize:

These shorts are comfy and cute.

They fit really well.

They should come in lots of bigger sizes too.

Of course, one can simply opt out of the whole what-to-wear problem entirely (by the way, this is Victoria Pendleton, who’s a jockey and former track cyclist).

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 11.25.20 PM.png


In lieu of going au naturel, readers, what are your recommendations for around-town cycling wear?  Do you wear cycling shorts under a skirt?  Do you wear special cycling-casual clothing?  Are you super-tough and wear jean cutoffs on your fixed gear bike?  Let us know.