beach body · covid19 · fitness · swimming

Making Beach Plans

I love zeppelinmoon artwork. You can buy it on etsy here, https://www.etsy.com/market/zeppelinmoon . I think after the sexy beach manatee the sloths are my favourites.

While current pandemic measures here in Ontario discourage travel, even between health units, I’m hoping that by summer we can at least go to the beach. Right now we’re in the “Can I still leave my house?” stage of things. Here’s the answer: “Yes. The province says residents can still leave their homes if travelling for an essential purpose, like buying groceries, picking up a prescription from a pharmacy or exercise.” That order is scheduled to end on May 20.

I know some people are dreaming big dreams and planning far away trips and travel and if that makes you feel good, go for it. For me, after so many cancelled plans I want to dream small and have those dreams come true. I’m thinking canoe trips, weekends at the farm, dinghy racing, bike packing, boat weekends, and days at the beach. Stories like these ones have me following links and imagining swimming and also sitting in the sand with a book under a sun umbrella: Ontario’s Unbelievable Crystal-Clear Beach Oasis Is Like A Trip To The Bahamas and 14 Hidden Ontario Beaches You Never Knew Existed.

I don’t know about you but right now a day at the beach sounds glorious, like a really big deal.

If you’re like me, still living under serious pandemic restrictions, and peeking out the other side, what kinds of plans are you making? Big travel? No travel? Swimming? Biking?

covid19 · fitness

Physical activity and COVID risk: it’s complicated

This week, a new study came out, saying that people who were consistently inactive were more at risk for severe COVID effects– hospitalization, intensive care, and death– than people who were more physically active.

As usual, news sources here and here were anxious to promote what they saw as the take-home message: that if we want to avoid hospitalization and death from COVID, we all need to be consistently physically active (150+ minutes/week of moderate-to-vigorous activity).

Also as usual, I read through the study itself in detail, and found a lot of complications in the data and the analysis, which suggest a different take-home message (which I’ll get to shortly).

First though, the researchers and media coverage conveyed one message with one voice, loud and clear: physical activity is a strong modifiable risk factor for severe COVID.

Modifiable? What do they mean? They mean that our levels (and intensities) of physical activity are under our control– we have the option to increase or decrease the amount of time we spend on physical activity, as well as to change how vigorously active we are.

That’s clearly not true. And it’s not true on several fronts.

First of all, the researchers cite data that, on average, Americans have at least 4–6 hours a day of leisure time, which they tend to use on electronic media. That is, we’re sitting and playing with our phones or watching Netflix. The implicit conclusion is that we should instead be lacing up our sneakers and heading out the door instead.

But that’s just not the reality for most people. We know– from studies, from news, from talking with friends and neighbors, and from looking at our own lives– that the idea of work/life balance is a thing of the past. People are working longer hours and for lower wages and fewer or no benefits in the US and elsewhere. There may or may not be 4–6 hours a day in which people aren’t doing their jobs and aren’t sleeping (which is also rampantly in short supply for most). But there are the matters of childcare, eldercare, cooking, shopping for food and necessities, cleaning, paying bills, etc. You all know this.

So, in this sense, it’s not clear to me that people have at their disposal rafts of time for physical activity. And it’s certainly not uniformly distributed throughout the population. For instance, the researchers did NOT use income as a factor in their analysis. If they had, they might have had more interesting and useful results.

Second, let me dip into the data for a moment to show you another problem with this idea that physical activity is an entirely “modifiable behavior”. Take a look below:

Table showing the breakdown of study participants by level of physical activity.

What we see here is about 48K participants in total. Those who have been consistently inactive (0–10 mins/week) are 14% of the group. Those who are consistently active (150+ mins/week) are 6% of the group. The rest (80%) report 11–149 mins/week of activity.

The researchers are saying that, seeing that only 6% of the participants report meeting the national physical activity guidelines, that everyone else who isn’t meeting those guidelines must be failing to do so because of factors under their control.

That makes no sense to me– that they or anyone would draw that conclusion. We know that changing health behaviors around eating and activity is hard. We also know that many of these targeted health promotion campaigns tend to have pretty dismal long-term success rates. Why?

Because there are lots of structural features of our lives that make regular physical activity very difficult: time, access to safe spaces, nutrition, sleep, income, family and other obligations, physical and mental health conditions, ability/disability, you name it.

So, is physical activity a modifiable health behavior? Yes, sort of. But it’s much more complicated than the researchers are saying. Their recommendation:

We recommend that public health authorities inform all populations that short of vaccination and following public health safety guidelines such as social distancing and mask use, engaging in regular PA may be the single most important action individuals can take to prevent severe COVID-19 and its complications, including death.

My take on this: you can save your breath. We already know that physical activity is important. We’re not uninformed; we’re simply overburdened. It’s not your fault, researchers, but please stop saying in your conclusions that the public needs to be better informed. The public needs to be better served by government, health care, and places of work. Those are what I would call modifiable factors for quality of life.

covid19 · cycling

Sam is riding the waves, on her bike, outside

In the first wave of the pandemic I didn’t ride outside much at all. Last May I wrote Why Sam is still riding inside even though the sun is shining and Riding safely in pandemic times. I didn’t want to risk injury through a bike crash and to require medical care by doing something that’s not necessary. I know that’s extreme but I felt I needed to stick very close to home and ride in a very reasonable way.

This year we’re in the third wave, which is worse than the first and second here in Ontario, and there’s a stay at home order and I’m happy to be riding outside (in Guelph, close to home.)

We’re planning a bike packing trip for June once the stay at home order has ended and getting out for rides in the countryside around Guelph. Want the details? Feel free to follow me on Strava.

This weekend we loaded one of the 50 km routes used by the Tour de Guelph and set out on a sunny Saturday afternoon. When you added on getting to campus, where the ride begins, going for coffee after, and a brief detour where Sarah thought the Garmin directions were wrong but they weren’t, we ended up clocking about 60 km. It was fun and relaxing and I started wondering what felt so different than last summer.

First, I think we have a better sense of what the risks are. I’m riding with one other person with whom I live. Nothing dangerous there. I’m not racing or riding particularly aggressively. And I’m staying away from roads with lots of traffic. We’re choosing routes carefully.

Second, I feel more prepared. I bring a mask. I have people at home who can pick us up if we have a mechanical difficulty. Hi, Miles! It’s year two of the pandemic and I feel more certain about what I’m doing.

Third, I’m partially vaccinated. One shot of AstraZeneca a week ago. My mother is also partially vaccinated–Pfizer at one of the provincial clinics, this one run by the University of Guelph. Sarah is Schrodinger vaccinated. Maybe or maybe not but she will be by the end of the clinical trial she’s taking part in. On the one hand I feel like that shouldn’t be changing my behavior, and it’s not really, but I do feel less anxious. Jeff the boat dweller also got vaccinated this weekend, before taking off on his big boating adventures, the 2021 edition.

Fourth, it’s another summer and I feel like the beginning of the end of the pandemic is in sight. Yes things are very bad right now in Ontario but words like these give me hope: “Countries that have combined a stay at home order with mass vaccinations have wiped out their third wave.” See Third State of Emergency. I’m hoping for a better summer than last, certainly a better fall 2021 than 2020, and a winter that sees us mostly out of the pandemic woods.

covid19 · fitness

Thought: we can workout, run for office, not be haters and wear a mask, all at the same time

Last week, Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene– an anti-mask, anti-trans, anti-Semitic, pro-conspiracy theory member of the US House of Representatives– posted video of herself on Twitter doing her usual Crossfit workout of lifting weights and doing those odd-looking Crossfitty kipping pullups. I’m not linking to her social media, but in her post she said, “This is my Covid protection. Time to #FireFauci.”

Even (or especially) those who find her politics repellent were nonetheless fascinated by her workout. Why? I can only guess that lots of people find politicians (especially female ones) who are working out to be a novelty.

Well, they’re not. How do I know this? The internet told me. Herewith exhibit A: US Vice President Kamala Harris. She spins, she works out with weights, and she even runs up and down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when they’re handy. You can read more about her workouts here, and watch her in action below.

VP Harris also takes time out from her workouts to pose for selfies with strangers, all the time protecting them by wearing a mask.

Vice President Kamala Harris on right, posing for a safe masked selfie with fine folks in DC.

By the way, in case you were wondering who the cover photo person is, it’s New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, working out with dumbbells in a gym before COVID. Just FYI.

The US doesn’t have the market cornered on active female politicians who believe in science and public health. Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne , who Cate blogged about here, is an avid runner. She races when she can, and keeps working out when she’s traveling, as we can see here on her twitter feed from a few years ago:

Premier Wynne, in the middled in a red jacket, running with friends and fans.

I couldn’t find a photo of her wearing a mask, but she’s very clear and vocal about her support of masks, both at the local and national levels.

Lots of local politicians are helping to run cities while also running COVID out of town through their efforts. Take Brad Bradford, Toronto city councilor. He helped the Crush COVID: Ride for Mind 24-hour fundraiser net more than $430K.

Toronto city councilor Brad Bradford in hour 9 of 24 hours of indoor cycling for a CRUSH COVID fundraiser.
Toronto city councilor Brad Bradford in hour 9 of 24 hours of indoor cycling for a CRUSH COVID fundraiser.

What we’re seeing in these three public servants are advocacy for science-informed public health, a commitment to being active for themselves and as role models for others, and sending out positive and accurate messaging about how we can live our best lives. At the moment, that includes wearing masks and getting vaccinated. Oh, and not firing one of the longest-serving government workers with expertise that we all need.

Take that, Congresswoman Greene and see if you can pull that message up.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, wearing a tie and a mask, giving us a thumbs up.

covid19 · fitness

Catherine arrives late to the pandemic party; banana bread, anyone?

Hi there—sorry I’m so late to the pandemic party! Yes, I know the invitation said March 14, 2020; I got it. What kept me?

No, I didn’t get stuck in traffic, because there wasn’t any. At all. For months.

No, childcare wasn’t an issue, because I don’t have any kids to look after and school from home while also working.

No, I wasn’t out in the scary, contagious world, treating sick people, feeding them or supplying them with their essential needs, risking my own life and health in the process.

Nonetheless, I was pretty busy.

March: yoga-zooming like there was no tomorrow (which was definitely a possibility then).

March-April: showing up to teach-lite on zoom and respond to a mass of emergency emails from students in crisis.

May: more zoom work; attending rough-and-ready pandemic-approved substitutes for church, socializing, movement, events e.g. (a friend’s 90th distanced birthday party, everyone shouting their good wishes to the birthday girl).

June: more school zoom events, as if the term had never ended. The work days/weeks went on and on.

July: respite! A defiant, risky but worked-out-in-the-end trip to South Carolina to see family, and a North Carolina mountains distanced family vacation; yes, I’m lucky and grateful for the privilege that afforded me this boon.

August: no idea; maybe pre-semester paralysis? Sadness? Too much time inside.

Sept-Dec: head down, more zoom teaching-lite (no one fails this term); more distraught student emails, more zoom events.

Dec-Jan: another defiant, somewhat risky, but this time with genuine quarantine and rigorous distancing and testing, visit with family.

Feb: Was that last month? Who knows?

There’s this idea out there in social media-land that the pandemic has been an opportunity for people to make use of the shift to time at home (for those whose jobs and lives allow it) to do all sorts of things, like:

  • Bread baking
  • Home renovating
  • Zoom eventing with friends, family, community
  • Outdoor exploring
  • Pet adopting

Yes, some of us have done some of those things sometimes. We’ve also experienced sickness, loss, grief, paralysis, anxiety, depression, isolation, fear. Speaking for myself, I’ve had my share of all of them. And, I’m a lucky person who still has a job working from home and family who are either well or recovered/recovering from COVID.

Now we are on March 7, 2021. The pandemic is still with us, the vaccination roll-out is happening, but very slowly. People are talking about return to normal, or return to new-normal (don’t get rid of those masks, people; they’ll be with us for some time to come).

What do I want to do, now that I’ve finally arrived at the Pandemic Party?

More home improvement:  Last summer I fixed up my back porch for outside safe-socializing. And it was so much fun having people over. I want more of that this summer—more plants, more nice places for people to come to visit me (regardless of pandemic status). I have a front porch that I want to set up as another nice gathering place, replete with flora.

More cooking: During the pandemic I got a lot of takeout, and fed myself as best I could. But there was no joy in it at the time, nor much energy or creativity. Now that we’re maybe seeing an upswing, I’m yearning for new tastes and new domestic activities. I’m currently in love with sheet pan bakes. Boy, I can’t wait to cook for my friends—but that can wait until summer…

More riding and walking and swimming and kayaking and hiking, all outside: over the past year, it’s been so hard to leave the house. Friends help a lot (thanks, Norah!), and many of us have plans. Some involve resuming previous rides (hello, Friday coffee rides with Pata!), and others involve developing skills for bikepacking (hello, Michele and Pata! You said you’d help with this…). I’m planning to commandeer one of my sister’s recreational kayaks next time I’m in SC, bringing it back with me to use in rivers and ponds and flat coastal water. It’ll be a process, getting the routine down. But there’s time.

More writing: this winter, I took a 6-week personal essay writing class online with a great place for teaching creative writing of many genres, Grub Street in Boston (which is all online these days, so check them out). I’ve signed up for a 6-week op-ed class starting March 10, so be prepared for more op-ed-y blog posts to come…

All of these goals and desires and needs of mine pre-dated the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, it seemed to me like I should now use this time to work on them. But I was too busy being upset and paralyzed to do much then. Even though the pandemic is shifting and life-as-it-was may come back in some ways, I am not shifting back to life-as-it-was. I want life-as-it-can-be, focusing on what’s most important to me—friends, family, movement, meaning, community, vocation.

Will I get on a plane again? Yeah (although probably not without a mask for the foreseeable future). But has my view about what kind of life I want changed? Yeah. Like I said, I’m late to the pandemic party, but I’m here, and I made plenty of banana bread to go around.

What about you, dear readers? What features of the pandemic party do you want to keep going when the virus dies down? I’d really like to know what you’re thinking.

219 in 2019 · 220 in 2020 · 221 in 2021 · covid19 · fitness · habits · motivation

Workout guilt (no not that kind)

Image description: two canvas tote boxes tucked under two stacked chairs, yoga mat rolled up and stashed beside the chairs, yoga two wood and two foam yoga block between the canvas totes, two kettle bells in front of the blocks, blanket on chair. (Tracy’s home workout equipment)

Usually when people associate guilt with working out it’s guilt over NOT working out. I don’t agree with guilting ourselves over that but that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, there is a new kind of guilt creeping into my awareness since I started being a part of a group that tracks workouts. This year it’s 221 in 2021. The fact of counting our workouts generates no end of hand-wringing, especially among people who are new.

I get it. When I first started I wanted to know what people “count.” But it’s only since COVID that I’ve noticed people expressing guilt that maybe they are counting too much. I mean if I count a Sunday 10K run as one workout, does a 20-minute walk at lunch count equally? If I counted a vigorous hour at the yoga studio back in the days before COVID, does one of Adriene’s 10 or 15 or 20 minute practices count?

Some people have an idea that it has to be at least 20 minutes to count. Many, including me, work with the idea of deliberate movement. But even then, I often will combine a short walk with yoga of whatever length as one, even if they were both deliberate and at different times. I do this because now that I am working home, almost every time I move it is deliberate. Sometimes I make myself do a short yoga session or go twice around the block or do a short run with hill repeats at lunch just to move. I don’t use a fitness tracker, but I bet I’m not reaching 2000 steps some days. That is not how I used to live pre-COVID. I used to walk a lot. The workouts I counted were at least 45 minutes because I didn’t really do other kinds of workouts back then.

I think there is a worry lurking behind some of the stress people are experiencing over counting too much is that they are somehow cheating. But cheating whom, I ask? There is no prize. There is no “system” to “game” here. All we are doing is tracking workouts. And to me, if someone deliberately works out, then yay! That’s a win.

It’s hilarious actually because lately I’m doing Superhero workouts 4-6 times a week, yoga pretty much daily, and a run or a walk every day. In January I counted them as three separate things most days. Now I’m more likely to count the superhero workout as one, and the yoga and walk or run as one.

It’s the end of February and I just hit 110 workouts. That seems somehow impossible, almost halfway to my annual goal. In fact, I’m bored of counting my workouts. If the point of it was ever to get a habit going, then I’ve achieved the goal already. And now it just feels embarrassing or something to be racking up so many workouts.

I wondered whether this was a “woman-thing” where we deny our achievements and want to downplay them. Kind of took me back to when people were all impressed when I signed up for the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and I would say “it’s just a little triathlon, not an Ironman or anything.” Why do we do that to ourselves? It was a big thing to me, never having done one before! I was terrified and I did it. Yay me. No need to downplay it. Is that what’s going on now with the guilt of counting deliberate movement as workouts during COVID?

We are living through a global pandemic. We are housebound, sometimes in an actual lockdown. We are doing our best to show up for hour upon hour of virtual meetings for work (well, this is my reality) and stay upbeat even when the idea of one more hour on zoom is soul-crushing. We haven’t been able to sit down to dinner with friends since the patios closed last fall. We didn’t see our families for Christmas. We wear masks to the grocery store. We’ve lost family members and friends and not been able to mourn them together in person because of COVID restrictions on travel and gathering and touching one another. We have been unable to make solid plans. We don’t know what life will look like post-COVID.

We have cobbled together home workout spaces over time, tucking our yoga mats and dumbbells in the corner when we’re not using them to make space for our (albeit truncated) daily lives at home. We are actually using that equipment (remember back in the day when we bought stuff to workout at home and it just gathered dust? Remember?).

Given all that, it’s pretty darn awesome if we do something active on purpose. Maybe we’re on track to 650-700 workouts this year and without COVID we wouldn’t be. Silver linings and all. Go us! Let’s check the guilt at the door.

covid19 · equality · vaccines

Marjorie Gets Her 2nd Dose of the COVID-19 Vaccine and Wonders About Privilege, Inequality and Scarcity

Feature photo credit: Mufid Magnun, via Unsplash

I am writing this on Sunday, and today I will receive my second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  Previous to vaccination, I was “high risk” of serious complications if I were to become infected.  I am also White, financially comfortable, and privileged enough to have work that I can currently do from home.  I’m not convinced that I should have been prioritized.

I have multiple immune disorders.  Due to the first of them, I lived in the hospital for over 4 weeks when I was 24.  During that month, I underwent four lung surgeries.  They removed the middle lobe of my right lung because it had necrotized.  I had severe infections in the pleural space between my lung and the rest of my trunk.  My lung collapsed.  At one terrifying point, I woke up on a respirator in the ICU, choking on my own sputum, unable to speak or ask questions to clarify what was going on.  

Since these events, I have been on immunosuppressant medications off and on for years.  Prednisone, chemotherapy drugs, and others, each with their own side effects and complications.  I have been told by doctors that even off medications, I “should never assume that [I] have ever had a normal immune system.”  

In the last two decades, I have developed at least 2 other disorders with varying degrees of life-threatening implications.  I live my everyday life with the possibility that one of them will flare up and potentially do enough damage to put me back in the hospital.  Any of my body systems might become involved. Kidney or liver failure is a real possibility.  One of my conditions causes my airway to constrict more or less at random, making it difficult to swallow, and potentially, someday it may close off my ability to breathe.

I have lived with all of this threat to my life and well-being for nineteen years, and that is irregardless of COVID-19.  

COVID-19 scares me.  I’m afraid of becoming further disabled from yet another chronic condition that requires yet another round of trial and error, medications with their side-effects, and potential new limitations to my abilities.  I am afraid of piling on more uncertainty into my life.  I am terrified of waking up on a ventilator again.  My fears are justified.  I have a medical note from my doctor spelling out in stark and impersonal black and white that I am “at high risk of severe complications and hospitalization,” and therefore must be allowed to work from home for the “indefinite future.”

And still, from this perspective of fear and real danger, I wonder if I belong in this group of prioritized vaccination recipients.  After all, I can work from home, and I have the support of my physician helping make that happen.  My husband and I have enough resources to add ease and safety to our lives.  We order groceries for pick-up.  I have been able to buy and install a small gym in my garage to stay physically active.  It isn’t fun being isolated, but I know I can survive ok for a handful more months without significantly increased discomfort.  I’m not sure that is the case for many others with far less privilege than myself.

There are people whose work requires them to be in contact with the public.  People who are at higher risk for complications because they have less access to healthcare.  People of color, who are only about 20% of Oregon’s population, but are 50% of Oregon’s COVID cases.  Folks experiencing incarceration and folks in congregate care facilities, both have been the worst-hit by this pandemic.  I think these people are at least as deserving of early access to vaccines, but truly, I believe they should have been prioritized over someone like me.  

There are stories of White Americans with resources driving to smaller communities and filling up their vaccine clinics.  I suspect I know a woman who did this.  It disgusts me, the selfishness of this sort of behavior.  Those are the people that during the zombie apocalypse would throw you out of the truck in order to survive the hoard of walking dead pursuing you.  That isn’t me; I am getting my shots earlier than most because of my medical records.  I didn’t seek it out; my doctors sought me out.

I’m not saying all of this to be a hero.  I’m not trying to earn points by impressing you with my compassion.  I would love for you to ask questions, however, of your governments, to push for thoughtful leadership in a time of vaccine scarcity. I would love for all of us to sit with this discomfort and wonder what roles we play in perpetuating inqualities.  So many of us are so afraid.  It is reasonable, this fear, but fear isn’t the best place from which to make policy decisions for the greatest good. From that position, we will each do what is best for ourselves. I acknowledge, it is what I am doing. But I still recognize that what is best for me may not be what is best for us.

We have always been in this together.  The safety of each of us is interdependent upon the safety of everyone else.  We will only be able to return to “normal life,” when we have all been given the opportunity to be vaccinated.  Protecting ourselves isn’t enough to actually make us safe.  We see this as new COVID-19 variants spread around the globe.  Each unchecked population creates an opportunity for the virus to change and complicate the world’s recovery.  These results are not inevitable.  We have choices we are making, individually and at the societal level, creating them.

I will go get my second shot today.  It will be quite a relief.  I already feel safer knowing I’ve had the first round.  I’ve been told that in a month or so, I can expect to be as immune as anyone, with some caveats due to the unusual nature of the workings of my personal immune system.  I don’t know, yet, if or how this might change how I interact with the world, but I know that it will feel good to feel safer and less afraid.  I want all of you, and all of us, to enjoy that same feeling of security as soon as possible.  This period of recovery was always going to be messy and imperfect.  I hope that we all work to make it as fair and safe for as many people as possible.

Photo description: With hands in blue gloves, someone is administering a shot into someone else’s arm. Photo credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found nursing her sore arm, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

covid19 · Dancing · fitness

Bettina’s postpartum fitness parade, part 3: Kanga

This is the final instalment of my little series on the specifically postpartum-oriented workouts I did while getting back into exercise after giving birth (part 1, part 2). I saved the best for last 😉

Kanga is a workout you do with baby. It’s a mix of floor exercises designed to build back core and pelvic floor strength, choreographies and some high intensity and functional training. Normally, of course these are in-person classes. But it’s Covid, so we got to do it on Zoom (*eyeroll*. I’m SO SICK of doing things on Zoom). While the Zoom bit was annoying, the class was a lot of fun!

For the floor exercises, baby lies next to you or you will sometimes pick them up and do exercises lifting them up etc. For the choreographies and other parts of the session, the little people go in their carriers. My son usually falls asleep while Mama sweats, and since he weighs more than 6.5 kg (14.3 lbs) now, Mama sweats a lot. Here’s a video of what goes down in a Kanga class:

A video of women taking a Kanga class with their babies in Brisbane, Australia.

I imagine that whether your experience with Kanga is good or not depends heavily on two factors: one, whether you like this type of workout, and two, your instructor. For me, the choreography part was a bit outside of my comfort zone. After a traumatic experience in an aerobics class many years ago, I’ve been spending my fitness life avoiding anything that requires too much coordination. In this respect, I lucked out with our instructor, who made the choreography only a part of the class. With the instructor, however, come other pitfalls such as potential weight loss talk, which is sadly a very strong motivator for many women in postnatal fitness. In that sense, we were less lucky with our instructor, because there was some of that (getting our bikini bodies back and such). She was nice, but the focus on shedding the pregnancy weight was a part of the class that I didn’t enjoy – although many people probably won’t mind.

Overall though, it’s the one aspect of postnatal fitness I stuck with and I’m currently still Kanga-ing once a week until the end of the month when the course ends. If you have a little one and can find an online class (or even, god forbid, you’re in a part of the world where in-person classes are permissible, an in-person one), I recommend giving it a shot.

221 in 2021 · covid19 · fitness · yoga · Zwift

Will I be this physically active when I have more activities to choose from?

There’s a bunch of us in the 221 in 2021 group speeding along, racking up big numbers of workouts. It’s just the start of February and I’m up to more than 50 workouts.

An aside: Want to join us? Here’s how. It’s a very friendly, supportive group.

We had a discussion the other day, those of us who are often working out more than once a day, about why.

Here’s me: “Yes, I’m working out more than once a day most of the time in these strange pandemic stay at home times. It’s partly the Yoga with Adriene January challenge. It’s partly lifting weights with adult serious lifting offspring who has moved back home. Family bonding over sandbag deadlifts! And then it’s Zwift team stuff. I’m taking Saturday as my rest day with a a commitment to no serious lifting and no Zwifting. But even then there are extra long dog walks and yoga.”

So why? And will it last through 2021?

  • This pace of working out certainly won’t last once there’s evening work commitments out in the world plus theatre and music to go see. So the part of the explanation this year is that it’s a thing I love doing that I can do. I’m missing out on a lot of my work and entertainment activities. There’s no gallery openings and no theatre. No parties on the weekend, no lunch Sunday brunch with friends. Options are somewhat limited right now.
  • I do read books and watch some shows but when I am stressed I can have a hard time concentrating. I have a short attention span when I’m worried and I’m worried a lot through the pandemic. Again, moving my body in ways that challenge me phsyically is both a thing that I can do-it’s an available fun option– and it helps with stress. I sleep better if I exercise in the evenings and go to bed physically as well as mentally tired. See Bikes and Books, about the dangers bikes may pose to books, and Virtual Communites, which talks about my international book club.
  • There’s very little everyday movement in these stay at home lives. All movement, it feels like, is intentional movement. I’m either sitting at my computer not moving much at all, working some ridiculously long days, or I’m working out. In the run of the day on campus I do a lot of walking between meetings. I also bike commute to work. There’s none of that anymore. As Cate said, way back at the start of all this, we’re all indoor cats now.
  • Not everyone has the space to set up a home gym or the means to buy exercise or sports equipment. But we’ve got a lot of stuff and some space. That said, things are cramped even here. I’ve got a combo home office/gym and it contains my desk and computer and several monitors as well as three person’s worth of workout gear including three bikes, a lot of free weights, and soon, a rowing machine. It’s all here. It’s nearby. And I’m wearing workout clothes to work (with some dressier clothes thrown over top) and that makes working out easy. Again, this won’t be the same when I’m back in the office.

So, yes I’m working out more than I usually do during the pandemic for a slew of reasons. You?

I’m not sure I’ll go back to the gym. Maybe the hot yoga studio. Maybe. What about you?

And I’m pretty sure I’ll work out less–but I’ll also have more everyday movement–once the pandemic is over. You?

That’s Sam doing yoga in the dining room with Cheddar the dog

covid19 · Dancing · fitness

(Remote) Dark Dancing (Guest Post)

By Elan Paulson

“Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there, baby, I could use just a little help.”

“Dancing in the Dark,” Bruce Springsteen

After months of being house-bound due to the COVID19 pandemic, folks may be searching for new ways to break up the monotony of their indoor exercise routines. Dark dancing has been there all along, just waiting to be discovered.

Chorophobia is the fear of dancing, which stems from feeling judged as other watch us move our bodies, and it is apparently more common than people think. In the video documentary, Fear of Dancing (2020), director Michael Allcock talks about how chorophobia is something we grow into as we get older.

The documentary features a Toronto-based group whose members “meet once a week to dance together in a darkly lit room.” During the pandemic, some of these dark dancers moved from in-person twilit sessions to dancing together in the dark…in their own homes.

On Monday nights, the Dark Dancing TO DJ sends a Zoom meeting or a Youtube stream link to the group. Requests may be taken in advance; a playlist is made. Then everybody logs on around the same time and just dances to the curated music–together yet apart–for a little over an hour.

cat in front of two computer screens that are lit up by a background display
Pets can see you dark dancing. They don’t count.

I’ve been twice now. One week they used Zoom, and I turned on my camera but draped fabric over the camera for privacy. The next week, with the Youtube stream, there was no “room” to log into. Both times I did turn dance in the mostly dark…for authenticity.

For exercise, I find it fun. I can’t fail to score points like I do with Just Dance, and I won’t forget the choreography like I do in a live or recorded dance class. I get to wear comfortable clothes and have the whole floor to myself (except maybe other than my cat, Theo). And I hear music that I would never find on my own.

shadow of a woman on a door
Dancing with myself…

Both me and another dark dancer agreed that we prefer dark dancing in Zoom to the Youtube stream. You can’t see anyone either way, but there’s something about being with other people dark dancing, even if it’s only in a virtual room.

In addition to Dark Dancing TO, there are other social media groups and streaming sites that provide music and live DJs from around the world for listening and dancing. If you have chorophobia, or are just looking something different, this may be it!

Have you tried dark dancing? What do you think?