ADHD · advice · covid19 · fitness

On The Complications Of Resting

TL/DR: Resting when you are sick is a good thing but it is very complicated when many of your roles are responsive rather clearly defined. It would be helpful if people acknowledged how complicated it can be instead of just telling a sick person to rest.

Truth be told, I had a pretty good run of luck but, alas, all good things must end and last week, despite my various precautions, I came down with Covid.

A woman in a mask is lying on her side in bed
Here I am in my full Covid glamour. This was before anyone else in my house was sick so I was self-isolating and masking even though I was alone in my room. My oldest son was at his grandparents so I sent him this ‘proof-of-life’ photo because he was worried about me. Image description: a selfie of me lying on my side in bed wearing an N95 mask. My face is puffy and I look ill. I’m wearing a grey fleece hoodie. On the nights as behind me you can see my lamp, medications, and my new tea cup that my friend Paula made. It has Cold911 tea in but you can’t tell that from the photo.

(And, subsequently, despite our in-house precautions, so did my whole family. Thankfully, none of us took any scary turns for the worse and we are all improving slowly but it was overwhelming and difficult and worrisome.)

So, I guess that means that my resistance to (and reluctance about) going out last Monday was probably part and parcel of having a virus attacking my system, not just a case of garden-variety I-don’t-wanna.

Now, I know that the key to recovery from any illness is rest and that that goes quadruple for Covid. The internet is full of advice about just how much and how long you should rest during and immediately after a bout with the virus.

But, frankly, it feels a bit like when I was a new mother and I was told to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’

Just like back then, the advice is good and so are the intentions, but…

HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO PULL THAT OFF?

Who is coming to step into my (metaphorical) shoes?

I‘m pretty good at the physical aspect of resting. I can take to my bed like a Victorian lady, surrounded by tea, snacks, books, and tissues.

However, even in the midst of all kinds of practical and moral support, it is damn hard to step back from the mental work of the things I do day-to-day. So my bedside accoutrements also include my phone and a notebook and some lists so I can deal with the things that are too complicated to hand off to someone else.

I am definitely not trying to claim that I am indispensable or any other nonsense like that but I am *used* to the things I have to do on a regular basis. I have practice. I am well-trained for my roles.

I’d need to be able to download the entire contextual net of my thoughts to be able to hand this off easily.

Now, to be clear, my paid work as a writer/coach/storyteller can largely be rescheduled. However, my family and volunteer roles, those can’t be handled the same way.

And a lot of that work can’t wait. I can’t, for example, put off groceries until I feel better. Normally, I would just go once a week or so and pick up the usual stuff and while I cook most of the time, any of us are capable of cooking.

But, I can’t just drop that task. We have to eat, even if we’re sick.

And since our existing system hinges on how my brain works, I have to be involved in the process of reassigning those tasks. Even if I am not going to be the one going to the grocery store, even if I am not going to be the one generating the list, I’m going to be consulted on the details. And since the default system (me going to the supermarket) won’t be happening, we need to figure out who is going to go and when they can go, and so on. Instead of an automatic system, it has become a series of plans and decisions.

That’s just one small part the various details I generally handle for my family.

For my volunteer work, often a lot of things can wait, but my work last week was related to upcoming public events that cannot be rescheduled. Yes, I have a team but I’ve been the person putting all the pieces together to make the big picture and it’s a bit late in the process to plop someone else into that role.

And I know some people reading are probably thinking things like: “Well, if you delegated the work in the first place…If you didn’t gatekeep…If you didn’t try doing everything yourself…If you trusted other people to do their work…If you insisted that other people take responsibility for things at home…”

I get why you might think all of those things. It’s a natural response to wonder if I have had a hand in creating this problem.

However, this isn’t about me trying to be a martyr and it’s definitely not about me gatekeeping or not holding other people responsible to do their part. It’s way more complex than that.

It’s about the roles I have ended up taking on in my life – by choice, by default, by societal expectation. It’s about a series of things going slightly awry and things coming to a time crunch. And it’s about someone with ADHD just doing the best she can most of the time and then not necessarily being able to ‘show her work’ so someone can take things to the next step.

Because of my ADHD, I struggle with creating systems. I have trouble seeing the bits and pieces of a project. I appreciate when I can delegate things but I’m not always conscious of the steps involved in my work until I am in the middle of them so it’s a bit hard to help someone else know what to do.

In fact, I often say that it is only when I am working on step one of a project that step two will float up out of the fog and reveal itself. It’s like one of those adventure movies or video games where the heroine has to be brave enough to step toward the chasm in order for the first part of the floating platform to appear.

So, as a result, way too much of any project I am involved in is in my head. I am working on documenting more of my routine activities but since that is exactly the kind of work my brain hates the most and since I don’t have someone willing to follow me around and take notes, it will take a while to make that happen.

So, while I am not a Type A person and I am not obsessed with work, when I am resting I have extra trouble giving away the tasks I usually take on.

Don’t get me wrong, I would happily hand them off. I don’t even need them to be done ‘my’ way. I’m just not sure what tasks I usually do nor am I necessarily sure what needs to be done next.

And even when I do know what to do next, I find that the coordinating tasks that usually fall to me take a lot of work to pass along to someone else. In fact, it is less stressful to do the thing than it is to to figure out how to share the information that I am waiting on a call from person A and if they say yes then tasks 1, 2, 3 need to happen but if they say now, then task 1 can happen but we need to call person B for task 2, and skip task 3, and do 3B instead.

(Meanwhile, if I do continue with a few tasks, I give the impression that I’m not all that sick or that it is business as usual, and then more work comes my way but that’s a whole other thing.)

Even if I were to try to explain that collection of tasks and what-ifs to someone who has offered to help, it’s likely that they would get completely overwhelmed because it is too much all at once. And since they couldn’t possibly pick up a month’s worth of details in a single conversation, I would end up with umpteen texts and emails to confirm bits and pieces of information.

So, instead of having one set of tasks to do in bits and pieces as I felt able, planning for the kind of complete complete rest that we’re advised to do would actually involve multiple levels of new tasks.

I would essentially be choosing between 1) doing the tasks as they showed up for me or 2) a) struggling to identify the tasks I unconsciously do for a given project b) connecting them to their relevant information in my head and typing that out somewhere c) putting both of that in some sort of timeline d) figuring out who the best person is to take the next steps e) hoping it isn’t too much to ask f) responding to the person’s (completely justified) questions at random intervals.

Which sounds more like rest to you?

A light haired dog standing in a kitchen looking directly at the camera.
Speaking of being helpful, here’s a photo of Khalee who is closely supervising me as I eat a banana. She has indicated that if I need to rest, she can finish this task for me. Image description: Khalee, my light haired dog, stands next to our kitchen bench staring intently at the camera.

In the end, I’ve been doing a hybrid sort of thing.

I typed out as many things as I could think of that needed to be done and added any context that occurred to me.

I farmed out any urgent things to people who had capacity to handle them (and, to be clear, I had lots of offers of help and support and I took people up on them as often as was feasible.)

I did (and continue to do) any things that I could manage, whenever I felt up to doing them.

And, annoyingly, I’ve dealt with some of the same sort of pushback I had when I was a new mom who couldn’t rest when the baby rested because it was my only chance to get something to eat, to put in a load of laundry, or to pick up the things that were cluttering the room and making me feel overwhelmed.

I’m not ignoring good advice.

I’m not pretending that the world can’t get along without me.

I’m not refusing to let other people help.

I’m trying to recover from an illness while I balance my needs against my responsibilities.

And while I could, in the long run, develop systems to make the delegate process easier, for right now, I am doing the best I can with the resources I have and getting grief for that just makes things harder.

So, can I ask you a favour?

If you are advising someone to rest, could you be respectful about it?

Maybe say things like ‘Are you getting enough rest?’ or ‘Is there anything I can take on that would help you to rest?’ instead of ‘The world can get by without you for a few days.’ or ‘You’ll never get better if you don’t rest.’

It’s all well and good to tell people to rest so they can recover but the process way more complicated than them just switching off their lives and heading to bed.

Let’s not pretend otherwise.

PS – I am deeply grateful for all the help and all the offers of help we have received this week. My friends and family have made things a lot easier and I have been well taken care of.

covid19 · fitness · self care · yoga

Tracy goes back to hot yoga

Image description: Ohm symbol commonly associated with yoga.

Long time blog readers will know that I absolutely adore hot yoga. I cannot explain why yoga in a hot room feels so much more satisfying to me than yoga at room temperature, but it does. And so it was a huge sacrifice when I felt the need mid-pandemic to take a stand and leave the hot yoga studio that I’ve been a dedicated member of for over a decade. At the time, I felt that they were making decisions concerning COVID that put their yoga community at risk and violated legal requirements that had been put in place based on recommendations from Ontario’s science table. I wrote about my decision here.

Well I’m happy to say that after more than ten months, I am back at hot yoga at the same studio. I don’t regret taking the position I did last October. Back in October I said, “I don’t know if I’ll go back or if they’ll have me back.” But now I feel that one of the things I’ve learned over the course of the pandemic is that I value relationships that I have built over time and I do not take them for granted. I may have disagreed, even strongly disagreed, with the official position of the yoga studio. But I am not willing to let their position on a temporary situation have permanent consequences for my well-being. To do so would have been a case of cutting off my nose to spite my face.

I have been feeling the itch to go back for some time now. So when I got a notice that they were offering a deal on ten-class passes, I purchased a couple. My goal is to incorporate it back into my life slowly, starting with a class a week. Last week when I went to my first class since October I consciously chose to go with one my favourite instructor. I got there early enough to take up my preferred spot near, but not right in, the hot front corner, and lie in savasana for a few minutes before we started. It was a yang-yin class, which meant it was only vigorous for half an hour, then completely and deliciously stretchy and slow for a half an hour. It felt so right to be back in the hot studio.

I know many of us had to switch up our routines during the pandemic, and some of those routines are permanently altered. But I’ve talked to lots of people who have been extremely eager to get back to their gyms and yoga studios and what have you.

Did you experience any big interruptions or changes in your fitness routines over the past couple of years? Have you gone back to anything that was put on hiatus? If you have, I’d love to hear in the comments about how it felt to go back.

advice · commute · covid19 · ergonomics · fitness · habits · planning · self care

Habits to Offset Being an End-of-Day Grump After Back-to-Work Commuting

Shortly after coming home from my work commute the other day, I found that my partner (and cat) could barely stand to be around me. I was being a total grump—tired and irritable. Why?

I had spent the last two days commuting by car (an hour each way, plus more travel between sites), then sitting for hours at desks that were not my own. Being vehicle- and desk-bound used to be my work-a-day norm. But, after only a few days back at work, and despite all the travel, I felt unusually sedentary and yuck.

A woman hunched over her laptop while seated at a desk
A woman hunched over her laptop at a desk. Posture posture posture!

I have worked from home during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means I’ve had the luxury of walking or exercising before or after work (most days!), and taking short stretch breaks anytime I’ve needed to in a private and comfortable space of my own. More control over how, where, and how much I sit.

You may be thinking—with all this privilege, 5 hours in the car over 2 days is not, relatively speaking, a big deal. Boo hoo, Elan. (At first I thought that too.)

Yet, because I am trying to be mindful and notice things more, I realized maybe I hadn’t prepared myself sufficiently for what back to work would feel like for my body.

Reminders are for people who need reminding. Here is a brief list of reminders for how I might show up more prepared for my return-to-work days a (and be less of a grump around those I love afterwards).

  • Leave 15 minutes earlier than I need to and park at the far end of the parking lot to have time to walk and stretch before sitting in the office.
  • Bring more water and veggie snacks than I think I will need in order to stay hydrated (and avoid the snack machine).
  • Schedule in-person meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour, and use that time to get up and move around, perhaps reacquainting myself with the buildings and their outdoor spaces.
  • Assess the ergonomics of my seated position in my car and in my hoteling office work spaces—try to notice my posture and pack what I need to adjust myself.
  • Make time to stretch before getting back into my car near the end of the day.
Cats and trucks lined up on a highway
That’s me, third car on the right.

What else could help me to manage feelings sedentary and grumpy during return to work? Please share your ideas in comments below!

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?