climate change · covid19 · Fear · fitness

Oof… Things are Hard right now

I honestly didn’t know what other title to give this post, and I’m also not quite sure where it’s going (nowhere, is probably where).

Where is all this going? Bettina wonders. In the image, a forest road lined by bare trees disappears into thick fog.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Over here in Europe, we’ve got our eyes turned eastward in horror. We pack boxes of baby items, nappies, cereal, fruit purée pouches, and face masks, and send them off in a lorry in the hopes they will reach the desperate people who need them. We wonder whether we should start stocking up on non-perishable goods and have a survival backpack ready to go just in case. At work lunches, we talk about whether we should be ready to flee to a different country, and if so, which one (Canada comes up a lot). And we try to guess whether Putin will stop in Ukraine, and what will happen if a Russian soldier so much as puts one little toe over the border of a NATO country. We wonder if, in the face of a never-ending pandemic, global warming, and war just one country over, bringing a child into this world was really the right thing to do.

Thinking about fitness, or doing fitnessy things, doesn’t come easy these days. It feels shallow to care about whether I will achieve 222 in 2022 (probably not). I catch myself thinking, “what if war happens and we have to survive outside or flee on foot, and I’m as unfit as I am right now?” But at the same time, when I can get myself to move, it helps. It distracts me, it gets me out into the sunshine (finally, a hint of spring!), it gets me away from the onslaught of horrible news coming at us from all angles right now. An hour in the pool makes me feel invigorated. A short Yoga with Adriene session makes my body feel less stiff. And a long walk in the sun with friends makes me feel more optimistic.

And then our very own Sam shares an article on Facebook entitled “What to do when the World is ending”, and I realise that, as hard as it seems right now, and as much as I want to curl up in a dark corner, close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears, I will continue trying to take agency and working to build a good life amidst all this chaos. Thanks for sharing that article, Sam, it was exactly what I needed the other day.

covid19 · Happy New Year! · motivation · new year's resolutions

4 “Old Year” Resolutions for the New Year

New year’s resolution web articles normally help readers to set and achieve their big goals. This year, some authors—including Christine, Catherine, and Natalie at FIFI—have shifted to encouraging smaller “micro-resolutions” or to changing our approach altogether. The author of this article from The Atlantic claims that resolutions aren’t “vibe” for 2022, and instead encourages folks to reflect on “small good things” that reveal why our goals matter in the first place.

Working from home last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve started a few random habits that motivate me to help me care for my health. After reviewing this article on the “small good things,” I realized that these are behaviours I’d like to carry over from the previous year because they connect with things I value.

So, here are four of my “old year resolutions” for 2022:

#1 Sun Salutations – D&D Style

D20 on a yoga mat
A die with 20 sides on a yoga mat.

Because I work at my desk all day, I need to stop and stretch. But I find stretching boring. So, for my stretch breaks I’ve started doing sun salutation sequences while regulating my breath. But how many cycles do I do?

I also like to play games. So, when I get up for a stretch, I’ll roll a D20. Whatever my roll, that’s how many repetitions of the asanas I do. I get a needed break from sitting and the die roll connects with how I value games and keeping exercise fun.

#2 Empty and Refill Station

Over the years I’ve tried so many ways to drink more water–setting a timer, drinking a glass of water at every 3rd hour, toting water bottles around with me everywhere, using flavour crystals, etc. Nothing seemed convenient for me (my value) to work.

This past year, I discovered that I will have multiple glasses of water in a day if I drink them…right after my pee break. So, I keep a water glass in every bathroom now, because while I’ve already got the faucet on and am washing my hands, I might as well fill’er up. I also wash the cup now and then with the soap!

#3 The “Hungry Enough” Apple

Because I enjoy snacking, I normally don’t wait until I am hungry to eat. Snacking has been made easier during WFH. But I have a sensitive tummy, I will snack mindlessly until I start to feel sick.

Then, I remembered the “hungry enough” apple (or any fruit equivalent) to avoid over-snacking, a tactic I learned from a past colleague. Now I keep a piece of fruit on my home desk, and if I am “hungry enough” to snack I tell myself to eat it first.

I am NOT suggesting that others should police their food consumption in any kind of way–everyone’s relationship with food is their own and I fully respect that. However, I’ve found that I feel better when I eat fruit before other snacks, even though fruit is not my first snack choice.

#4 Permission to Feel Comfortable

I have about 6 pairs of dress pants in my closet that I used to wear regularly for work, but they have not seen the light of day since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

At first, I reproduced my time-consuming rituals and put on uncomfortable clothing items in order to “dress for work.” But after many months of WFH, I have started giving myself permission to be more comfortable. I still make myself presentable for a professional work environment, but at my desk I use a heating pad, aromatherapy, and stim toys that help me to manage my fidgeting.

I am fortunate enough to have the space and the freedom to adjust my clothing and working environment, but comfort while working was a value I never knew I had until recently.

Making Evolutions, Not Resolutions

These are small behaviours I stumbled on over time that have become helpful habits for my health. They are evolutions, not resolutions, that I hope to keep this year and as long as I can because they reflect what I value.

What “Old Year” resolutions do you hope to keep or maintain in the new year?

covid19 · cycling · fitness · holidays · self care

When plans change and our usual coping strategies fail, or have you ever gone to bed at 7 pm with a box of chocolates for dinner? Sam has…

Changes are especially tough when you’ve been hoping and planning for a thing to see you through rough times. For months Sarah, Jeff, and I have been planning a boat and bike trip in the Florida Keys over the holidays. It’s been a strange and difficult fall, thanks to the pandemic, and biking somewhere warm and sunny sounded like an an excellent idea. In the Before Times I’ve gone south most winters to get in a week or two of warmer weather biking. And then of course everything changed. Our last trip was January 2020.

There’s been a lot of planning and discussion about this trip. Jeff had to wait in Nova Scotia on the boat until the US border opened and he could make the dash to the east coast US. Once there, he motored quickly to make his way south. He’s now in Florida but, and it’s a big but, Canada has issued a travel advisory and everything feels all wrong.

We know we can drive. We know no one will stop us. We’d be outside, etc etc.

But as the CBC reports, “Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos is asking Canadians with plans to travel abroad to cancel their trips as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads worldwide. To prevent travel-related infections at a time of mounting case counts, the federal government has changed its official guidance to advise Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country for the time being. “To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly — now is not the time to travel. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst,” Duclos said.”

When the thing I’d been looking forward to all semester looks now like it won’t happen, I was pretty upset. And I’ve got to say, as Omicron rages across the province and the city of Guelph issues work from home orders, my usual coping strategies aren’t working.

For the first time since the pandemic began, I lost my “we can do hard things and get through this” spirit. I won’t argue here much about these things but I have been very keen to follow the advice of public health and do what I am asked. I stayed home when asked to stay home. I got vaccinated, I’ve had a booster. And now there is a new variant moving so quickly through the population of my province that even having done all that the hospitals might be overwhelmed anyway? It’s hard not to despair and I am not the despairing sort.

I shared this with our Facebook page I Can’t Self-Care My Way Into Feeling Better Anymore. I confessed that I wasn’t yoga-ing with Adrienne through this wave of the pandemic. I mean I might get there. I hope I get there. But Friday at least I was in the ‘go to bed with a box of chocolates at 7 pm and watch Only Murders in the Building’ stage of coping.

Only Murders in the Building

It’s the whiplash that’s hard. Things were going so well.

I’m a resilient sort and I’m surrounded by people who love and support me through difficult times. The weekend got better. Sarah and I went to a friend’s backyard party on Saturday and felt very festive, very covid-safe, and very Canadian eating wonderful food and celebrating the Yule with friends, wearing snowsuits, gathered around a fire. Thanks for hosting Nancy!

We used an old sail to keep the snow off the food.

Images from a backyard Yule celebration

Sunday, we decorated the house, even though few friends will see it except on social media. Family will enjoy when the kids visit for Christmas. (Yes, we’re all fully vaxxed and we’re rapid testing first and we’re a small group.) It makes me smile and we’ll have our annual ‘bring cookies and eat them’ party next year.

A decorated house with bonus sleeping dog.

Sarah and I also went for a dog walk with Kim and Emma, Cheddar, and Charlie in the sun and the snow. That helped too.

Sarah and Kim, me, and Cheddar

In the evening we drove around with my mother looking at the most decorated houses of Guelph. All very safe and very festive.

Here’s one with a minion choir!

Here’s one more festive house!

No final decisions have been made but we are thinking we’ll head south and bike and boat whenever the travel advisory lifts. We don’t have to go now.

I’m breathing a bit better and feeling less sad, anxious, and panicked.

Maybe we’ll do the Festive 500 after all.

covid19 · fitness · traveling

Traveling while COVID: tips from the FIFI team

My post last Thursday was all about traveling properly for the first time since the pandemic began, and figuring out how to move with joy and purpose, and not get too caught up in the anxiety. I asked my fellow FIFI pals for their thoughts on the topic, and today we’ve got some reflections and tips from Cate, Elan, Sam, and Mina.

MINA

I just traveled to Montreal last week! And I enjoyed my first run up Mont Royal, which grounds me here. Before I left jillions of hour early to get to the airport, because of how travel is in The Time of Covid, I was extra vigilant about getting in a good (aka fierce) pre-departure workout. I knew I’d spend hours breathing hot masked air, thus feeling even more trapped than usual in an airport and airplane. And I’ll sacrifice all variety in my wardrobe to bring my running kit, so I can get outside at my destination.

A wide-angle shot of downtown Montreal (busy with buildings) under a blue, clouded sky, the greenery of Mount Royal in the foreground. Seen from the top of Mount Royal; photo by Matthias Mullie on Unsplash.

The travel I’ve done during the pandemic has been about moving outside: hiking in Iceland and Italy; doing things where there are no crowds once I’m out of the airport. Travel has become a bigger commitment, given the regulations, so I notice my partner and I are going back to places we’ve been, instead of taking the chance on new destinations. Too much other uncertainty to want to gamble on a half-good outdoor experience.

ELAN

I’m travelling over holidays to a condo in Mexico – not a resort for fear of too many folks in a concentrated place. I’m looking forward to swimming in the ocean after 2 years of shut down gyms and beaches. But, I am also wrestling with the urge to be outside and move around with others, with the dilemma of having my partner forced to be around others by proxy because I will then be around him when I get back.

CATE

I’ve traveled more than most people during the time of COVID, mostly within Canada. Since the onset of the pandemic my workout routine hasn’t been much different than it was before, and when I am traveling my goal is always just to move at least once a day, with no expectations about weights or formal movement. My primary activity when I’m traveling, if I’m not on a bike trip, is just moving outside, walking or running, even when I’m not running much at home. When space is tight, I always pack my favourite trail running shoes, which are both excellent light hikers and decent runners for shorter distances.

In strange cities, I find myself doing different walk/run workouts than I would at home, maybe with a few fence-assisted pushups, an occasional stair or hill repeat, etc, thrown in. (In Vancouver recently, I did the 12 km Stanley Park seawall traverse a few times, twice with a 5k run embedded in the middle.) When I can, like Sam, I bring my folding bike, or take advantage of city-bike type rentals. I have also invested in a super-light yoga mat (too thin to use on concrete but fine on a hotel rug), which I wrap a stretchy band around, and throw in a few YWAs (Yogas with Adrienne) or my own little mobility routine.

A close-up of concrete steps, with a pair of legs in orange and grey Nike runners climbing. Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash.

I’ve been grateful recently that hotels I’ve been to have opened up gyms with a sign up sheet, capacity limits, and vax requirements. I enjoyed the crap out of hurling around a medicine ball in a hotel gym in Ottawa recently, for the first time in a couple of years. I’m heading to Uganda for three weeks in a couple of weeks, and I’ll bring the yoga mat and the trail runners, and just make sure I keep my body moving a bit. It’s not about Being an Athlete for me, it’s about tending to my body and keeping it flexible and limber during the stress of travel on top of the Stress of These Times.

SAM

COVID travel: I haven’t done it. But if I were travelling, a challenge for me these days, is that I can’t walk very much. I look in awe now at my huge step count days in Europe pre-COVID. So getting enough movement in when traveling is a challenge. I used to always do in-hotel room exercise routines, yoga, etc. And I love hotel gyms, and I love it when I can I fly with my Brompton and bike around a new city.

But all that feels like a blurry, distant memory. I both really miss travel, and yet I’m not sure we should be flying around the world given the worsening climate disaster.

Check in with me in a few years!

A pink Brompton, not unlike Sam’s beloved folding bike, rests against a stone wall. Somebody is bound to come along and hop on any minute now!

Readers, how is the return to travel sitting with you? Are you flying about again, and if so how’s it going? Are your climate concerns affecting your travel choices? What about lingering COVID concerns? Share thoughts, tips, and movement tricks with us in the comments.

covid19 · eating · food · holidays · overeating

What Serving Love Can Look Like

Growing up, no one needed to explain to me what I already seemed to understand: Grandma cooked big meals (especially over the holidays) to show that she loved us, and we ate as much as we could to show her we loved her.

That dynamic worked for me a kid because the food was delicious and I didn’t care about things like portion sizing, calorie counting, bad cholesterol, etc. At the time, I wasn’t fully aware of the complex dynamics involved in eating food and showing affection—which also involves aspects of power, tradition, expectations, guilt, body rights, etc., as other FIFI bloggers have described.

And, as Tracy recently reminded us, how food is offered and received can create much stress in social situations. In turn, these dilemmas focus our attention away from being merry and grateful for eating together in the first place. This is especially true if we are able to feast with loved ones while the pandemic continues.

Soon I am hosting our family’s upcoming holiday meal. While others may be planning how to respond to offerings of food, I am thinking about how I can create a dinner in which everyone feels attended to but not unduly pressured. Here is what I am thinking:

Share the menu in advance, and ask for dish suggestions.

It’s no secret I am planning a menu in advance, so why not share it to let people know what’s for dinner? I’m not doing exotic food theatrics like a on-fire baked Alaska, so I will leave the surprises to the wrapped presents under the tree. I will try to seek favourite dish requests–and put extras on the side–to ensure everyone gets something that accommodates their dietary needs.

Make the traditionals

In one of my favourite Christmas movies, The Ref (1994), Caroline experiments with an off-beat Christmas dinner menu, serving (to her family’s horror and disgust) “roast suckling pig, fresh baked Kringlors in a honey-pecan dipping sauce, seven-day old lutefisk, and lamb gookins.”

While I might enjoy preparing elaborate dishes with strange ingredients, I know my family mostly likes to eat the basics: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Unless I plan on making guests uncomfortable (and eating 16 portions of 8-day old lutefisk afterwards), it’s more realistic to give them what I know they will enjoy.

Plan an outdoor stretch break

Not everyone likes to feel trapped in a place where they can only eat and drink, and I can’t see my family getting into a lively game of charades, so I will remind everyone to bring their warmies for a relaxed winter wonderland walk outside at some point. I will make available extra scarfs, and maybe some travel tea, so this activity will be inviting and comfortable.

Ask once, judge not

I will only ask folks if they want more food ONE TIME. I will not repeat my Grandma’s loving mantra, “Eat eat eat.” I will not take offence to food that is not touched or finished. I will remind myself that people choose what, how, and how much to eat for their own reasons that have nothing to do with my cooking.

I admit this one will be tough for me, but I will remember that paying less attention to other’s plates means I can focus on conversation and fun. (And if folks really don’t like the food, then they should be offering to host dinner next year).

Provide takeaways

My own habit is to overeat so food “doesn’t go to waste,” even if I don’t really want more. But I can avoid waste-guilt all around by making takeaway containers readily available, so folks can eat more when they want. (If I get my act together in time, I can get neat lidded dishes from a second-hand store.)

So, this for this holiday dinner–instead of focusing all of my energy on the food prep and on the eating habits of others–I plan on giving people information, choices, and a little optional exercise to let them know I love them. If they show up and seem to be having a good time, then I know that they love me.

This post is dedicated to my late grandmother, Margaret Stanski, who was a loving person and a wonderful cook.

covid19 · fitness · traveling

Traveling While COVID, or, same body, new movement reality

Last month, I got on an airplane. For the first time since December 2019.

For me, this is a big deal: usually, in The Before Times, I’d travel (for work and for me) several times a year, doing at least two round trip long haul journeys (family overseas; work all over the place). Since COVID, like so many of us, I’ve grown home-bound and weary, and wary of being adjacent to humans I don’t know. But we cannot live inside the pandemic’s trauma-inducing reality forever. And I had a voucher for British Airways to use before March 2022.

So I got on a plane one cool October evening, and flew overnight from Toronto to London.

A seductively blurry shot of a rank of British Airways tail fins at Heathrow terminal 5, taken from the inside of an airplane cabin through the little porthole window. It feels very 1969 to me, even though my plane was a 787 Dreamliner.

Normally (aka “Before Times” normally), going to London for me is going to my second home. I bring my bike; London and southeastern England is where I fell in love with road cycling, so I do lots of rides. I keep a swimsuit, cap and goggles in my travel bag, and I like to hit at least a couple of my favourite London-area pools with UK swim friends (London Fields Lido!!!). I walk a fair bit too, because London is a fabulous walking city, and sometimes I head to the Surrey Hills for organized hikes with family or other pals.

This time around, I knew this movement landscape would be radically curtailed. Though it’s still riding weather in the UK right now, bringing the bike, on top of all the other COVID-related travel admin and anxiety, was just too much to think about. Swimming is still by-booking-only at many pools, so I had to think well ahead about when I’d swim and how I’d get to where I was going. Those pools that accepted walk-ins made me nervous (no UK vaccine mandates in place at pools or gyms), so I knew I wouldn’t want to do that. Hiking would have been grand, of course, but everyone is 120% busier with getting back to life now that COVID is “over” but not, well, over – and many folks are still reticent about getting involved in day-long excursions with people outside their households.

What did I do instead? How did I navigate the moving-while-traveling-under-COVID reality? How did I cope with residual COVID anxiety?

A shot of half my face and neck, wearing sunglasses and a smile, standing in front of a bright blue sky and roiling sea. In the background you can see Brighton pier. I’d been for a sunshine walk on the sand while waiting for my friend and colleague Ben.

First, I doubled down on walking. I did an average of 5-8km a day, some days much more, some days less. I brought my comfortable, light-as-air walking shoes (I like Solomon Speedcross, though your mileage may vary!), and I made sure my orthotics were always in. Instead of taking the tube (more below!!) I strutted across Mayfair into the West End and across to the South Bank; on other days, after journeys to the south coast for work, I strutted along the beach in Brighton.

My foot injury still flared up, though, so I tried as much as possible to stretch; I bought an inexpensive yoga mat and blocks to keep at home with my UK family, and I also tuned into my regular Iyengar class on Zoom. I had a plan, as well, to keep up with Alex Class as much as possible, but the time zone difference got in the way more than I would have liked. I had my bands with me, though no weights, so when I did tune in for Alex I managed a light, largely body-weight, workout. That was, as it turns out, perfect given the accelerated walking regimen.

So much, so self-propelled movement; in (public) transit things were harder for me. In the UK, there are no mask or vaccine mandates in place, and cases are still pretty high. I experienced culture shock over my first couple of days – Canadians, as Cate reminded me, are perhaps among the most COVID-compliant people on earth, and pretty anxious about it! – but I found I adjusted surprisingly quickly. To keep myself safe, I wore N95 masks whenever I was in close proximity to more than a couple of dozen people (on the subway; at the theatre), and if I woke up with a sniffle or scratchy throat I took a rapid test. (In the UK these are free and widely accessible, which is brilliant, though I would have preferred a mask mandate much more.)

My big take-away for moving safely and happily while in COVID transit? Trust your body, and know that whatever movement you manage is good movement. Trust your (high quality) mask, and if you are vaccinated know you are very safe. This is not forever; you’ll get back to running/riding/swimming hard, lifting heavy, standing on your forearms while traveling soon enough. You’ll also get back to a feeling of relative safety in transit soon enough! Movement during travel is about keeping joints limber, moving with joy, keeping things loose and free, and combining movement with pleasure as much as possible. It keeps our brain cells healthy and our cortisol levels under control, too.

We know this is American thanksgiving, and lots of folks are traveling at the minute. So, tune in over the weekend for more ideas and thoughts from some of our regular Fit Feminist travellers. We hope we can offer a few options to help make the most of moving your body and staying safe and well while also moving about this holiday season.

And if you are celebrating this weekend – enjoy!

A peacock struts the grass at Holland Park, west London, where I walked a couple of times with my friend Erin. Please do not cook this bird at home this weekend!

Readers, what are you doing to stay safe and move well in transit? Let us know!

covid19 · fitness

Learning About Curling

By Elan Paulson

For my whole life I knew nothing about the sport beyond that it resembled the shuffleboard table in my grandparents’ basement and it was a Winter Olympics sport (again). I hadn’t even seen the Canadian romantic comedy, Men with Brooms (2002), with Leslie Nielson.

Then, in 2020—pandemic year 1–I joined a curling club. I am not amazing at curling, but thanks to many supportive players I picked it up faster than I picked up soccer as an adult.

Now in my second season of curling, I’ve discovered that this sport is growing its inclusivity and fitness focus, yet remains rooted in etiquette and community. Let me tell you a little about what I’ve learned about curling!

Curling is for Many People

Curling is an olympic and paralympic sport, with medals for four-person women and men’s teams. Men and women can play and compete together in mixed leagues and on mixed doubles teams (two people instead of four), since finesse matters as much as strength.

Curling is also a recreational sport for youths, seniors, and everyone in between. Learn to curl clinics are put on annually by curling clubs, and online information for new curlers is widely available.

There are various support tools for all types of curlers. These “sticks” and “crutches” aid the release of the curling rock that travels down the 146 to 150 feet of ice, providing stability and balance for players. The supports also alleviate pressure on the knees and body, giving all kinds of bodies a chance to curl.

Screenshot of Google search for “curling sticks and crutches”

Curling associations, such as Curling Canada, encourage the sport’s accessibility. The Ontario Curling Council explains that wheelchair curling leagues and curling competitions are available for those who are non-ambulant or can only walk short distances. Canada boasts talented, award-winning visually impaired and wheelchair teams.

In terms of gender inclusivity, my teammate tells me that some larger clubs have open and LGBTQ+ leagues. More clubs are also drafting inclusion policies, showing that this once traditional and gender-siloed sport is striving to grow and change with the times.

Curling is in Many Places

Curling clubs have existed in Canada since 1807, with the first curling club located in Montreal. Today, you can find curling clubs throughout Canada, but more than half of these clubs are still located in small towns.

Sports and recreation foster not only healthy activity but also local community. Studies have shown that curling supports the health and wellness of rural women and older adults. I hear that many people grew up with curling in the family (so kids learn to play whether they want to or not).

In the country and the city, curling has a reputation for courtesy. League games are non-refereed. Curlers are supportive and unpretentious. (When you throw a rock really well, you celebrate by complimenting your sweepers.) It is customary for the winning team to buy the first round of drinks for the losing team after the game. (This tradition of sitting together post-game was temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Fitness of Curling

Curling has a reputation as a sport for being more recreational than rigorous. However, the author of this article from The Cut describes how throwing and sweeping rocks over two hours led her to conclude curling is a good interval workout. One study that measured participant heart rates after sweeping suggests that fitness training can help avoid fatigue during curling. At the competitive level, where athletes curl 10 ends a game and play multiple games in a tournament, mental and physical training is now standard.

The media is increasingly hyping the athleticism of the curling, and paying more attention to the bodies of players. An NPR article from 2014 describes the need for curlers to be extremely fit, not just for the sport but for the tight uniforms. The fitness element of curling also got press when “Superwoman” curler Rachael Homan won curling titles while 8-months pregnant and then again just 3 weeks after delivery.

My Oura fitness tracker ring tells me I don’t yet get a high intensity workout from curling, but I only play one 8-end game once a week. Watching others, I’m pretty sure that I would be a stronger sweeper and have more controlled throws if I were in better shape. So I might pick up one of the books available on curling training and strategy, such as Fit to Curl (2016) or Curl to Win (2010).

Still Learning about Curling

Curling was going to be my “retirement sport”—in another 15 or 20 years. But without other regular indoor winter sports to keep me active during the COVID-19 pandemic, I advanced my timeline (not the retirement part, sadly). I’m glad I did. It’s been a physical and social activity that has had many benefits for me.

Thanks to my teammates and my league, I am eager to continue to learn more about this sport, which is in fact way more complex than grandparents’ basement shuffleboard. I am grateful to the St. Thomas Curling Club, which has gone to great lengths to adjust the rules and maintain the safety of its members during the pandemic.

If you curl, what brought you to the sport? If you don’t, would you like to try?

covid19 · fitness · mindfulness · planning

What’s in a number? a lot and a little

These days, I’m living by the numbers. As of today’s writing, I am:

  • 80 consecutive days of meditation
  • 66 consecutive weeks of mediation
  • 189 workout days in 2021
  • 32 workout days away from my 221 number in 2021
  • 12 classes away from winter break
  • 184 days to go until my 2022 sabbatical
  • 150 days until my birthday…
  • at which time I turn 60– another big number

We live by the numbers, which are constantly changing.

Maybe one of those old-fashioned number displays, that makes a clacking sound as it changes. By Mick Hillier on Unsplash.
Maybe one of those old-fashioned number displays, the kind that make clacking sounds as the numbers change. By Mick Hillier on Unsplash.

Right now my life feels like a lot of sitting around, staring up at those number displays, waiting for them to flip and clack and change to reflect the next thing on my life itinerary, the next train I need to catch to whatever I’m supposed to be doing. If that’s true, then all I have to do is stand there patiently, and the new plan for me will soon roll over, clacking authoritatively.

Normally I’m too busy to stop, look around and assess where I am; I just hurry on to the next class, meeting, load of laundry, friend to see, or paper to grade. But this weekend is different. I’m at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health with my friend Norah. I’ve been here several times for yoga, cooking classes, extremely yummy vegetarian food and a woodsy break from regular life.

This time is different. The feel is different: there are fewer people (pandemic restrictions), fewer activities, and a more subdued atmosphere. In my yoga classes, I look around. People seem tired. Some of them are doing their own thing. Some are opting out and lying down, wrapped in blankets they brought with them. One woman near me was scrolling through her phone during a thread-the-needle exercise. I frowned in her direction, but in hindsight I feel sympathy. Electronics have been much of what we’ve known over the past 18 months; they’ve been our companions. I guess she felt the need to check in, even during a purported retreat weekend. I get it.

It’s hard to be in the now, live in the now, rather than impatiently checking whatever, looking to see when the next thing is. My numbers reflect my own impatience. I regularly google “how many days until May 10, 2022?” Google tells me. Thanks, Google.

I just tried googling “how many days until the pandemic ends?” Here’s what I saw:

Screenshot of results of "how many days until the pandemic ends? google query. It seems the McKinsey agency knows.
Screenshot of results of “how many days until the pandemic ends? google query. It seems the McKinsey agency knows.

McKinsey doesn’t know. I don’t know. No one knows. All we can do is either stand in that large open space, waiting for the clacky departure board to clack, or go about our business–life– until such time as clacking occurs.

This yoga weekend, away from regular life, is making it clearer to me that those X number of days before all those things are worth something in themselves. Doing something other than waiting.

Readers, how do you spent time when you have a big event or big change coming up? Are you waiting, planning, wondering, expecting? Do you pretend it’s not happening, distracting yourself? Do you go about your business? I’d love to hear what your strategies are.

covid19 · fitness · yoga

What to do when your hot yoga studio proudly breaks the law?

Last week Sam tagged me on something I wish I didn’t have to know because it was so incredibly disappointing. It’s a site called Ontariobad.ca and it’s a place where businesses who intend not to follow the province’s COVID restrictions proudly announce their intention under the misguided banner “Businesses against Discrimination.”

I call the banner misguided because discrimination goes against someone’s human rights, and requiring proof of vaccination does not. This is an important point because who could not be on the side of “businesses against discrimination”? But if they are confused about what constitutes “discrimination,” well that’s a whole separate issue.

Because so many people who I like and thought were smart and reasonable have turned out during the pandemic to have views that have shocked me, I have tried to see “the other side.” But Zoe Whittal’s tweet really resonates:

Image description: photo of a tweet from Zoe Whittal that says: “I looked at the list of businesses refusing to check vaccine status and it confirms my belief about who is responsible for the pandemic dragging on & how do I put it – Mass death? White people who support ‘wellness’ themed clinics, cafes, restaurants, RMTs, gyms, etc.”

So back to my yoga studio. I missed hot yoga terribly during the various lockdowns and restrictions. Before the pandemic I had spent $1000 on a one-year unlimited pass that I didn’t get to use because of lockdowns. Not wanting to leave the studio with a financial hit when I had the privilege of continuing to work and be paid, I didn’t ask for a suspension or any sort of compensation. The year came and went. The pass expired.

I was ready to go back to the studio in late-August after an 18-month absence. I bought a ten-class pass to start, not sure how it would feel. After ten classes I felt ready to commit to a monthly membership (instead of shelling out all at once for another annual pass) that had an initial contractual commitment for four months.

Not quite a month into my commitment, government regulations to quell the spread of the delta variant kicked in, requiring fitness facilities and various other businesses to ask for proof of vaccination. My studio refused. And advertised their refusal on the OntarioBAD website.

Zoe Wittal’s tweet resonates because let’s remember what we are trying to prevent here: not just death from COVID (which seems not to be motivation enough for some) but the collapse of the health care system. Alberta is on the brink of that right now, where ICUs are dominated by unvaccinated COVID patients. COVID doesn’t eliminate other emergencies. So if you need an ICU bed for another reason, you may be out of luck. You may be sent to another province (if they can accommodate). You may die or worsen before you can receive adequate care.

When people frame this as an issue of freedom, choice, and discrimination, they are ignoring the provision in the first clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms where it says that the rights and freedoms are guaranteed “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Have the people who make the freedom and discrimination argument ever looked at the Charter? That “reasonable limits” part is key. That’s why we can have laws that limit people’s exposure to second-hand smoke. That’s why we can have speed limits. That’s why we can limit people’s freedom to do other things that harm others, like murder, assault, and stealing. These things don’t infringe on our rights because they are reasonable limits that can be demonstrably justified.

And such is the case with COVID restrictions that are “demonstrably justified” by the current science. Is it perfect? No. Does it change? Yes. But is it more or less on track and getting better all the time? Yes.

Remember at the beginning of the pandemic when they said wearing a mask was doing your part to protect others? Vaccines are similar (and when we see who is filling the ICUs right now we can see it also protects the vaccinated). So when a yoga studio, which purports to care about health and “wellness” flouts the legal provisions which are in place, based on the current science, to limit outbreaks that could result in death and the collapse of the health care system, they are terribly misguided. They are putting their clientele at risk. And they are not doing their part as citizens.

My studio took this position without any communication whatsoever with its members. They simply stayed silent, offering no statement about how they would handle the proof of vaccination legislation one way or the other. I learned of their stance when someone outside of the community sent me a link to OntarioBAD. This too does a huge disservice to the members, not allowing them to make an informed decision about supporting a business that will now attract unvaccinated people who have fewer places they may frequent at present. This in turn increases risk of exposure to the highly contagious Delta variant.

My studio agreed to release me from my contract. I was very sad to have to go because I have been part of the community for over a decade. I don’t wish them ill and I acknowledge that this is not an easy time for fitness outlets. Many have closed their doors permanently. The studio has managed to keep its doors open under difficult circumstances. And that made many people grateful, including me. But at a certain point in these challenging times we need to stand on principle and science or lose integrity.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to go back or if they would have me back.

But my answer to the question “what do you do if your yoga studio breaks the COVID laws with righteous ignorance?” is: Cancel your membership.

What would you do?

covid19 · fun · play · soccer · team sports

In Praise of Scrimmage (Guest Post)

By Elan Paulson

Have you played scrimmage, shinny, or pick up? Until this past summer, I had not (as for many years I lacked a team sport to play, as I guest blog about elsewhere). Friends, let me tell you that I think scrimmage is AWESOME. I didn’t realize how awesome until after the end of our short “season” these past few months.

If you already know scrimmage or pick up is awesome, this post will not be news to you. But still, read on to re-affirm what you and I now know together.

No Refs = Self-Regulation

In regular team games, a referee is there to make calls so no one else has to. But when you are self-reffing, everyone has to monitor their own potentially illegal moves. Obviously, this leads to more individual accountability during gameplay, but it got players talking to each other about the calls. One time I saw players stop to discuss what might have been a hand ball, and compare what they knew about the rules about hand balls, but then play happily resumed.

In reffed games you always want rulings in your team’s favour, but without refs everyone seems to take more responsibility to play fairly, and the talking creates both game understanding and player camaraderie.

Slower Pacing = Safer Play

When you’re in a traditional team game, everyone wants to hurry up and score. But in scrimmage everyone takes their time, sets up, passes more. One striker with a killer goal shot deliberately eased up when she came in to shoot (which was fortunate for me when I was in goal). The result of slower play seemed to be that everyone got more chances to touch the ball, yet folks didn’t get tired out.

Also, no injuries. In the half dozen games I played in, I think I was the only one to get a minor injury—because I overextend myself. Once I took cues from others about pacing, I eased up and could play the whole game without getting myself hurt.

Friends on Both Sides = No Losers

In regular games, things are pretty fixed: everyone on your team has their positions, sub rotations are often pre-set, and the point is to win the game. In scrimmage, there is much more fluidity and choice. People felt free to take a water break whenever they needed, even if their team was short-handed for a minute. Most everyone took turns in goal, unless someone was nursing an injury and wanted to play there longer. I spent a little time as a forward, where I learned that “give and go” passing is not a skill that is totally beyond me. I even scored a goal! 🙂

When friends are on both sides, the stakes were lower. Goals were scored (or not), efforts were congratulated—but no one kept score. Maybe there were no winners each week, but no one walked off the pitch on the losing side either.

Is Scrimmage for Everyone? 

As someone trained to look at stuff through the lens of feminist theory, I see many overlaps between the values for which many feminists strive and the kind of play that scrimmage affords. Why aren’t we playing more scrimmage? If feminism is for everyone, and certain aspects of scrimmage reflect the values of some feminisms, then is scrimmage for everyone too?

Three reasons why not all of us are playing more scrimmage:

  • Logistically, scrimmage only works up to a certain numbers limit, and someone has to volunteer to take the added responsibility to be a convenor. (One of our wonderful friends put the extra work in to make ours happen.)
  • Usually the fields, courts, and ices are perhaps usually spoken for by organized sports associations, so it’s only in these strange pandemic times that these spaces may be more available than usual.
  • There are probably plenty of skilled and competitive types for which scrimmage/pick up is not speedy or challenging enough. Some people thrive most when there is structure and competition.

So, maybe scrimmage isn’t for everyone all the time. But for me, as a late-to-the-sport rec soccer player, the less structure the better. Whether you get to play for fun each week with a long-time bestie or a sister, or make some new friends (as I have), scrimmage is WHERE IT’S AT.

Are you in praise scrimmage too? Why or why not?