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?

covid19 · cycling · fitness · yoga · Zwift

Fall In Love With Zwift Cycling to Avoid Stress Seven Days a Week!

Polar bear in pink shoes on a yellow bike

True confession: That’s not my blog title. Thanks blog title generator. I tried a bunch of them. They also suggested:

Need More Time? Read These Tips To Eliminate ZWIFT PANDEMIC CYCLING STRESS 7 DAYS A WEEK

Everything You Wanted to Know About ZWIFT PANDEMIC CYCLING STRESS 7 DAYS A WEEK and Were Afraid To Ask

Also true confession: The blog content is all mine. Life hasn’t been easy lately. On the one hand, I’ve got a great job I can do from home, a supportive family, some lovely pets etc. On the other, there are stay at home orders and rising  SARS-CoV-2  infection rates in the province where I live, and attempted coups in the country to the south. I feel like I am holding my breath until the transition of power takes place and then again until we’ve vaccinated the most vulnerable members of our society. I’m sure that ‘holding one’s breath’ feeling is worse for American family and friends. I also have family in the north of England where things are very bad and I’m nervously watching the situation there too.

All of that said, I have been really enjoying myself on my bike and it’s a thing that spills over to the rest of my life and keeps me calm and relatively happy. I sleep better after riding my bike. I smile more often. As a result, I’m riding lots. I’m alternating feeling proud of this and feeling ridiculous about this. Yes, it’s good to relax but surely I should be reading more good fiction. (Are bikes really beating books as they worried in the 1890s?) But the fact of the matter is I’m struggling like everyone else with attention span and distractability. I still read a lot but riding helps even when reading doesn’t.

I’m also socially engaged with my bike teammates. I’m even meeting up with real world cyclist friends on Zwift even though we’re trying to get out on our actual bikes at least once a week.

Mental and emotional health and well-being turn out to be a pretty good motivation to ride.

What’s a typical week of riding look like? I thought I’d share my last week of riding with you.

Here’s a rundown:

Sunday

What: Riding trails around Guelph on our fat bikes

How far: No idea really! We didn’t even take our Garmins

How long: We didn’t really even keep track of time. Somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours.

Purpose: Fresh air, fun

The rest of my rides are on Zwift

Club social ride

TFC Social Ride on Zwift

What: Team social ride, we split into two groups, one at sub 2.0 watts per kilo, and one at sub 2.5, we banter on Discord, and ride tightly packed as a group except for designated sprint and regroup sections. We also race at the end for those who are keen.

How far: Usually about 30 km

How long: One hour

Purpose: Connect with teammates, promote the club, share info about TFC racing

Monday

TFC Monday night race, a rare sight, me in the QOM jersey

What: TFC Monday Night race, D category

How far: 40 km with killer hill at end, Keith Hill After Party was the route

How long: approx 90 min plus warm up and cool down

Purpose: Race!

Tuesday

What: DIRT family values ride

How far: 30 km

How long: 50 minutes

Purpose: Dad joke ride at recovery pace

My favorite dad jokes from the Dads Indoors Riding Trainers (DIRT) ride tonight:

What do you call an apology that’s made up of dots and dashes? Remorse Code

I trapped some vegan burglars in my basement. I’m not sure they were vegans but they kept saying, “Lettuce Leaf, Lettuce Leaf.”

Thanks for the company Jim Peyton

DIRT ride. That’s me in the pink cap

Wednesday

Here’s our race poster

What: Team route recon, getting ready for Thursday race

How far: 30 km, Watopia Figure 8 reverse

How long: One hour

Purpose: Connect with teammates, discuss race strategy, practise paceline techniques

Thursday

Team time trial

What: Team Time Trial WTRL

How far: 30 km

How long: 55 minutes ish (time includes my cool down)

Purpose: We raced in Mocha class and came 15th out of 65 teams. Woohoo! (More importantly, we raced well together, had pretty smooth transitions, and kept up a nice pace–40 km/hr on the flats.)

Personal achievement: I stayed with the group up two climbs!

Friday

At the end….

What: TFC Christmas Smash Fest

How far: 35 km, 18 laps in crit city

How long: One hour and five minutes

Purpose: No category racing! So much time in the red zone. I was able to jump on the back of faster riders as they lapped me and I did okay in the end as a result

Saturday

Rest day

No riding, just gentle Yoga with Adriene.

covid19 · family · fitness · fitness classes

Bettina’s postpartum fitness parade, part 2: postpartum gymnastics

So I already have to recant a promise I made in my first post in this mini-series: I cancelled my MommaStrong subscription this week. I just haven’t been doing the workouts because I enjoy other things (running, yoga) so much more and it’s not worth paying good money for something I don’t use. But anyway, on to part two of this little series on what I’ve been doing fitness-wise since giving birth.

In Germany, statutory public health insurance entitles you to a postpartum gymnastics course and will pay for up to 8 sessions (because of my work I have private insurance, but it’s also covered). I think this is kind of amazing and possibly quite unique, at least from what I hear from some of my international friends, who have been astounded by this.

Normally, these postpartum gymnastic classes are fairly mellow, aimed mostly at restoring some pelvic floor and core health after pregnancy and childbirth have left your body in… probably a very different shape than it used to be. They sit somewhere between physical therapy and a light workout and are intended to prepare you for going back to “normal” exercise and life in general without incontinence and diastasis recti problems.

If you’re interested in what these classes look like, here’s a video (in German, sorry) from a couple of midwives who have recorded theirs and put them on YouTube to cater to women who can’t attend an in-person class due to the pandemic:

Video from hallohebamme.de – postpartum PT/gymnastics class. They do their course in a “mummy and me” format, Bettina’s was a class without baby.

I think these are the right choice for most people, but if you were quite active before and during pregnancy and had a relatively uncomplicated birth, you’re probably hankering for something a bit more challenging. At least I was. Luckily, my midwife had caught onto that. She found out about a postpartum gymnastics course specifically for “sporty women” (sic) and I immediately signed up.

“Thanks” to Covid, it was an online course. Run by two midwives, we gathered on Zoom once a week for eight weeks in November and December to restart an exercise routine. The sessions consisted of warm-up, some cardio, a lot of post-pregnancy safe strengthening exercises for arms, legs, and core, and finally stretching and cool-down. Over the course of eight weeks, the intensity increased gradually.

Reader, I LOVED it. The first session, I almost cried when I actually broke a sweat. I know breaking a sweat is by no means a requirement for something to “count” as exercise, but I was really craving a hard workout by that time. The women who ran the class were lovely and funny and did their best to make sure we did the exercises correctly even though they couldn’t physically correct us. The only thing missing was the community spirit that would probably have developed had the class been in-person. Although I’m definitely ready to take up other forms of exercise again, I’m still kind of sad the course is over. I was a lovely way of getting myself in gear once a week.

Are postpartum gymnastics courses a thing where you are?

covid19 · fitness · racing · running

Virtual Races: Yes and No

Since COVID sidelined so many runners from taking part in organized events where we feed off the energy of running alongside (hundreds and sometimes thousands of) others, race organizers have had time to come up with alternative approaches. A few friends have talked about “virtual races,” where you sign up and do your own route on the appointed day. This year, the Around the Bay 30K organizers are offering a virtual race, recognizing that it’s likely a done deal that we won’t all be vaccinated by the end of March.

The virtual event will have a 5K, 10K, and 15K options as well as the full 30K. Runners who register (or who transfer their registration from last year’s cancelled event) will pick a day between March 25 and April 25 to do their chosen distance, and will be able to submit their result to be recorded on Sportstat. Information about this event and about the Around the Bay Fun Challenge (a new challenge a day for each day in January, like January 1st: “do 5 jumping jacks everytime you say or type ‘happy new year'”) can be found on the ATB website.

Different people have different feelings about virtual events. Today, we will present two perspectives. Nicole likes the idea. Tracy, not so much.

Nicole: Yes, please!

When I first heard about the Virtual Run Around the Bay, I thought “that could be a good way of increasing my mileage throughout the winter”. I also thought “that’s a definite maybe”. I already have a lot planned for the coming months, with my regular HIIT workouts, spinning at home, yoga, walking and weekly run. Plus, non-exercise things, such as a new university course I’m starting in January and the usual things such as work, books on my list to read and downtime. I love my downtime.

I am going to sign up and these are the reasons why:

  1. While I have continued running throughout the pandemic, my last long race was the half marathon I participated in, in October 2019. I did get up to 10k in the summer and part of what helped me stay on track was signing up for the virtual Run for the Cure and setting a personal commitment of 10K, even though the Run for the Cure is 5k. That’s because I already run 5k on a regular basis and if I am going to sign up for a cause, I feel it should be more of a challenge than the every day routines.
  1. I signed up for the Run Around the Bay 10 years ago. I signed up just before I met someone and started a romantic relationship that lasted about 4 months. I let my training slide, partly because it was a very messy, cold, winter, and partly, because I was preoccupied with the new relationship. That new relationship ended really badly and I would have been better off focussing on training for the Race! Needless to say, I didn’t run it that year and that’s the only Race I’ve everysigned up for that I haven’t completed.
  2. I don’t drive anymore and I don’t have a car. Sure, I can ask my husband, who I affectionately call Uber Gavin, to drive me to Hamilton, when the Race is back to real life, but I like that idea that I can run the distance of the Run Around the Bay, without having to go to Hamilton (from Toronto). Might seem silly, but that’s a factor 🙂
  3. I like the flexibility that will be allowed by a virtual Race. It can get really messy in January and February, which can impede longer runs. Also, it’s a bit late already to start training for 30k for March 25th. So, I’m going to pick April 25th and commit to completing the 30k race by April 25th.
  4. Unlike Tracy, I don’t love the crowd aspect of a race. I enjoy the in-between part, when runners are more spread apart. There is definitely incentive, adrenaline and camaraderie that is gained from running with a group. But I don’t enjoy the before or after part when there are large crowds. I’m a bit crowd-adverse. I don’t enjoy the chatter at the beginning from others talking about how well they think they are going to do. I liken it to chatter before an exam. Happy to do without it. I will sign up for an in-person race when I can, because I enjoy the in-between part and the finish, but I will also appreciate the solitary race. I run mostly by myself and I enjoy running by myself for the active meditation it provides me.
Nicole finishing her first marathon at the Toronto Marathon “awhile back”.

Tracy: No thanks

Image description: Batman on left, Tracy on right, both smiling under a blue sky, at the Around the Bay 30K in 2015.

First, let me be clear that this isn’t actually a hard “no.” But the idea of a virtual event just doesn’t move me. What I love most about actual events like Around the Bay is the race day energy. I mean, I guess we can run 30K whenever and wherever we like if we’ve trained for it. But doing it with 9000 other people is so much fun and impossible to replicate. I did the ATB 30K in 2015 and 2019, and the two-person relay in 2018. (Reports here, here, and here).

When you’re struggling up a hill, someone else is struggling up the same hill just ahead of you. You get to fall into pace with similarly paced runners, and it’s a comfort to see them just up ahead, taking turns overtaking each other and then dropping back, or even pacing alongside for periods of time. You develop a bit of camaraderie with those people who were strangers at the beginning of the race.

Also, when you do the event with someone with whom you’ve trained, like Julie (2015) and Anita (2018), you’re in for a nice long chat if you decide to run together for most of the race. And then of course there is the post-event feeling of individual and collective satisfaction, of having all endured the same thing — those knowing looks exchanged as you try to stretch seized up legs or eat that green banana (I often don’t get to the food before the only remaining bananas are green lol).

A virtual race won’t do that. And though I do like to challenge myself to exceed my previous time, I don’t think I’d be able to stay motivated for 30K without the energy of others, even the bystanders offering encouraging words or holding up inspirational signs.

At the same time, I do recognize that race day is just one day, and that it is motivating to have an event to train for. My Around the Bay experiences were themselves really satisfying, and it’s unlikely that I would have trained as consistently with that level of dedication if I hadn’t had the spectre of a 30K event pushing me to do so. Knowing myself, I can’t see a virtual event inspiring the same sort of commitment for me. It might be different for someone who has a training partner or small running group. But through COVID I have taken to running on my own again, so that’s not my situation at present.

While for me a virtual event has little allure, I am looking forward to signing up for an in person something — probably 10K — as soon as we are able to do that again. I love race day. I miss race day. I hold out hope that there will be a race day for me in 2021.

Question for you: does a virtual race appeal to you or not? Let us know in the comments, including your “why.” 🙂

camping · canoe · charity · covid19 · cycling · fitness · fun

Plans? Do we even get to have plans? Sam nervously makes some anyway

A friend posted asking about 2021 plans and then said, “Joking. It’s 2021. Do we even get to make plans?”

To do list: Nothing

And I agree plans feel a lot more tentative this year. In the third week of January last year and the year before that, I was riding my bike in the Clermont area of Florida. This January there’ll be no travel.

It’s been a long blurry year of cancelled travel plans starting with, for me, the cancelled Pacific APA in San Francisco and attached vacation. Followed by a big trip to Melbourne cancelled. All of my summer bike holidays and charity rides were likewise cancelled. I did four charity rides, all either solo, with Sarah, or on Zwift. Two weddings, cancelled. You get the idea.

And in light of all the illness, unemployment, loneliness, overwhelmed hospitals, and death it feels a bit off to complain about not being able to make 2021 cycling plans.

I’m grateful for Zwift, don’t get me wrong. But still, I’m making some plans. They’re just more local and much more tentative. What makes them plans and not mere hopes? They involve things like registration forms and reservations, time booked off work.

We know there are vaccines, and that’s good, even if the timeline for things like races, group bike rides, and travel are still uncertain.

In January in addition to TFC team time trials and our Monday and Friday races I’ve agreed to take part in series hosted, on Zwift, by Team Vegan. You don’t need to be a vegan to take part. They’re hosting the series in the same way that TFC hosts a series. They’re the organizers.

Team Vegan racing

I’m also committed to Yoga With Adriene’s 30 day yoga journey Breath.

In February, Sarah and I have booked yurts in a provincial park to go cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and fat biking. Some adult kids might come along and winter camp. We’ll see. I’ve committed to taking vacation even if I can’t travel very far away.

In March and April, in early spring, before it gets busy, I’d like to finish the Guelph to Goderich rail trail.

In later spring, we’ll be back out Snipe racing on Guelph Lake. Whee!

Come summer we’ve also committed to spending more time at Sarah’s farm in Prince Edward County. What’s perfect is that there are two houses on the property, loads of lovely biking nearby, and a swimming pool. Even if close up visits with friends are still restricted we can host people in the other house and socialize outside. BBQ time!

We’ll also book some Algonquin canoe camping trips. Again, they’ll likely go ahead even if travel in general isn’t recommended. We do back country camping and there aren’t too many other people around.

I’m really hoping that the Friends for Life bike rally goes ahead in person this year. You can sponsor me here.

Jeff is also heading east on his new boat Escapade to Nova Scotia and there’s some talk of visiting there once he’s settled with the boat. That crosses the line from “plan” to “hope” for me since it relies on not having to self isolate after traveling east, assuming we’re even allowed into Atlantic Canada’s bubble. You can follow his boating adventures here.

Oh and for added uncertainty that’s not pandemic related, all of this is dependent on the date for my knee surgery. I’ll need recovery time after. I was hoping for December 2020 but that didn’t happen. With the hospital it was to take place in cutting back on non-essential surgeries due to covid, it might be awhile.

I’m trying to be flexible and not too nervous.

Wish me luck!

He he he he he

How about you? Are you making any fitness related plans for 2021? Plans in general still on hold?

covid19 · holidays · mindfulness

We Wish You a Meh Christmas

The holidays are a bummer this year, and I’m ok with that.  I’m ok with it being a bummer; I’m ok with being bummed out.  I appreciate that my husband and I have enough privilege that our discomfort this year is about disappointments, not serious suffering.  We are not food or housing insecure like far too many people; we aren’t yet mourning the loss of anyone close to us due to the pandemic. In that context, being bummed out is actually a pretty good place to be.

Buddhism teaches that expectation is the root of all suffering, and while I’m not a Buddhist, I see wisdom in this perspective, and I’m working on letting go of my expectations.  Expectation management looks like telling Mom a few weeks before I was on winter break that I won’t be seeing her during my vacation.  It looks like shipping gifts to friends with notes saying, “I miss you” rather than “I can’t wait to get together.”  It looks like planning a tasty but modest meal for celebrating the holidays with my husband, alone in our house.  We’re keeping low expectations to avoid regretting that it isn’t more.

That’s not to say that there aren’t real consequences to not getting together this year.  I have family in poor health, family I never see except at the holidays and may not see for another year, and family with problematic lives I’d love to see face to face to KNOW they are actually ok.  I am sad and concerned to miss this yearly check-in and opportunity for connection.  But we agree that the risks outweigh the benefits, and I will not be seeing any of them in person until it is safe to do so.

I’m doing what I can to celebrate the little joys–the smells of fresh-baked, spiced lebkuchen cookies and boiling candied orange rinds, the glimmer of Christmas lights in puddles as I walk through the neighborhood, a quiet evening at home with my fireplace, my cats, and a puzzle.  It’s a kind of mindfulness that I can get behind, being present and not wishing, hoping, yearning for more.

My goal isn’t to convince myself it’s all exactly as I would wish it to be; the lack of validation that can coincide with the forced seeking of silver-linings doesn’t make me feel better.  I’m not a gratitude practice kind of person.  That sort of list-making seems to make me focus on what’s missing rather than on what’s there.  Instead, I’m acknowledging it, that it’s not quite right, that it’s not what I want, and that it’s still ok, good enough even.

My family is Danish-American, and Christmas Eve was traditionally the day we celebrated growing up, a day for a big family dinner and opening the presents under the tree.  (Only stockings stuffed with treats from Santa to be enjoyed on Christmas morning.)  Christmas won’t be that this year, it’s going to be a bit disappointing, and I’m fine with that.  I hope you are able to be ok with your holidays, too, in whatever form they come.  “Meh Christmas to all, and to all a good enough night.

Photo description: Five people on bicycles wearing Santa Claus costumes. Photo credit: Rocco Dipoppa photographer, Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found making tins of homemade candies and cookies to send to her family, picking up heavy things, and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

covid19 · illness

Virus talk then and now in our fitness communities

March seems a very long time ago.

I remember back in the beginning of the pandemic when some of the fitness spaces I occupy tried to declare some times and places free of ‘virus talk.’

That was back when all talk of COVID-19 among American sports communities seemed highly politically charged. “Do you even know anyone who has this virus?” they asked. People speculated that it was all made up for political causes.

How the world has changed. These days COVID-19 is everywhere and I meet very few people who don’t take it seriously and pretty much everyone I know knows someone who’s had it.

I blogged here and here about blog adjacent friends recovering from COVID-19. A former regular guest blogger has been sharing her story here too.

And last night in my team time trial we had one team member just back from his COVID-19 recovery period, round two. He tested positive and then negative and then got sick again and tested positive again. Did he get it again or not fully recover the first time? Doesn’t matter. We’re very happy he’s healthy and riding and racing again.

Meanwhile another team member was struggling a bit because he’s part of a vaccine trial. We all hoped for him that he got the real thing and not the placebo, likely because he didn’t feel well.

We’re all talking lots these days about COVID-19. It’s a presence in lots of our lives and affecting the way pretty much everyone lives. It’s also exciting that vaccines are in sight and that the light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly enough to capture our collective attention. The days of “no virus talk” being a thing you could say are over and I’m looking forward to COVID-19 being over too.

Bye!
covid19 · fitness · Guest Post

Hanging on to my mental health while quarantining with COVID-19 (Guest Post)

Image: A photo-collage of several different ink and coloured pencil drawings

Past contributor Michelle Lynne Goodfellow was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November 2020. To pass the time during her quarantine, she wrote about her COVID experience.

(Content warning: Recovery from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

I’ve written and re-written this post so many times over the past several days. When I’m really honest about how much I struggle with my mental health (Complex PTSD), the writing feels like it “over-shares,” to the point of self-immolation.

So then I start writing the post all over again, leaving out more of the graphic parts. This is, like, my fourth or fifth attempt at describing how I coped with having COVID-19.

I have Complex PTSD. All I’m going to say about that is, I live pretty much 24/7 with an underlying feeling of unease. And if I examine my feelings too closely, (or if something happens to trigger my lifelong, maladaptive coping mechanisms), the unease quickly escalates into existential despair, and it’s a bit of a horrorshow.

Please don’t worry about me – I have very, very good (and accessible) mental health care. We have a treatment plan, and we’re hitting some really reassuring milestones. I’m encouraged, for probably the first time in my life, that my traumatized brain can be retrained, and I can feel safer, and eventually make different choices about how to keep myself safe and relate well to others.

But for now, I’m still in the middle of things.

So getting COVID-19 was… a bit of a hiccup in the road, shall we say. Kind of like a flat tire, I guess. I could tell that the driving was rough, and it took me a bit of road to realize what was going on. And then I pulled over, and assessed the situation, and got out the spare tire, and worked on replacing the flat. And realized that there was a second flat…

And now that my quarantine is over, I’m driving back down the road again, and I have two repaired tires, but it’s kind of a little hazy how I got things sorted. I have the feeling I spent a lot of money on towing charges and the repairs on two flat tires, and I don’t want to look too closely at my bank account right now. Figuratively speaking.

If you can relate to any of the above, here’s my best recollection of how I made it through several days of quarantine in my 120-square-foot bedroom, with no face-to-face contact with my 77-year-old housemate (my mom), in order to protect her from catching the disease. (And thankfully, we were successful – she has since tested negative for COVID-19, and we’re happily sharing air again…)

Lots of sleep
I’ve suffered from very severe insomnia for nearly 15 years, and for most of that time I’ve really *been* suffering. It would probably take a whole other post to describe how I’ve solved my insomnia problem, but suffice to say, I seem to have solved it. And for two weeks before I caught COVID, I got the best sleep of the past 15 years – at least seven, and usually eight, hours per night.

And I was really noticing the benefits of all of the sleep, in many areas of my life. I was less tired, for one. I had more energy. I was also able to cope better with minor frustrations, and let things roll off my back, when in the past I would start spinning out, emotionally.

So continuing to get good sleep was a conscious priority, once I got sick. And I can report that, apart from the night immediately following my positive test result (when I got maybe five hours of sleep), I was successful in continuing my good-sleep streak. I still wake up in the middle of every night, and it’s not always easy to get back to sleep (it’s a habit that I’m still trying to instil in my brain), but I know it’s had a huge positive impact on my ability to cope with having COVID, and being stuck alone in my bedroom for days on end.

Grounding myself physically in the present moment
The first few days of my quarantine were the toughest, and I spent most of those days in a kind of frantic, mental running-away from my emotional (and physical) distress. To go back to my flat tire analogy, it’s like I drove on those flat tires for a while – probably longer than was good for my rims – before I could admit to myself that yes, I needed to get off the road and take a look at what might be wrong with my car.

And when I finally pulled to a stop, the first thing I did was, I just stopped all the frantic busywork (the phone calls to friends, the texting, the social media scrolling, the YouTube scrolling, etc.). I knew that in the past (when I was in breast cancer treatment) I’d really enjoyed doing some bodywork – especially qigong. I have some favourite qigong videos on YouTube that I like to follow along with. I watched those videos, and I did the movements.

I did some Alexander Technique lying-down work. (Again, it would probably take a whole post to describe the Alexander Technique, but I trained for a year to become an Alexander practitioner, and it’s a form of bodywork that is deeply engrained in my brain, so it was easy for me to pick it up again.)

I also did a really soothing foam rolling routine that was developed by a certified structural integrationist (Rolfer), that I learned several years ago from my registered massage therapist. And finally, I did some restorative yoga poses that I really enjoy.

All of the above calmed down my nervous system, and helped ease my constant anxiety and hyper-vigilance. I also went outside for a twenty-minute walk around my property every day, as well.

Finding healthier (for me) replacements for my compulsive behaviours
To numb my emotional distress, I turn to many different “unhealthy” diversions to block out or numb my feelings. I could see early on in my quarantine that I was getting pretty compulsive about things like napping, social media and device use, watching videos, and talking to or texting friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those activities – I was just bouncing from one to the other so frequently that I knew I needed to find some more grounding alternatives.

Cleaning and organizing my spaces is one of my favourite ways to calm my mind. I need to have my spaces very spare, very minimalist. Clutter (even rumpled sheets) agitates me too much. I usually have a pretty simple and tidy bedroom (I try to avoid doing anything in my room but sleep, when I am well). So I was already starting from a good place, but I got into the habit of “tidying” my bedroom several times per day during my quarantine. I would make my bed (yes, more than once every day), put away any dirty clothes, remove any garbage, and put away anything I’d been using (like my ukuleles, or my sketchbooks, or my yoga cushions, or my foam roller).

Drawing became my favourite go-to activity during quarantine. It’s slow, it requires attention (but not too much brain power or focus), and the kinds of drawing I like to do require tiny, repetitive movements that slowed down my body, and in turn, my brain. It got to the point where I cleaned out one of the drawers in my dresser, and filled it with a lot of my drawing supplies (several sketchbooks, pens, coloured pencils, markers).

When I look back over all the drawings I worked on during my quarantine, I feel proud of my ability to self-soothe, and regulate my emotions. I hadn’t done much drawing in recent months, and my quarantine reinforced to me that a daily drawing practice would probably be a good thing for me in the recovery of my mental health.

By the time my quarantine was over, I had a daily routine that felt comfortable and reassuring. If anything, it panicked me more to end my quarantine (and expose my self to my mom again, even though I knew that logically that I was no longer contagious) than it did to be in quarantine in the first place.

I think everyone who gets COVID will have a different experience with the disease; I know I definitely had a very mild case. But I hope that everyone who gets COVID can find a way (or ways) to deal with the emotional and psychological aspects of being ill during a pandemic, with a potentially life-threatening virus.

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is a writer, artist, and maker. You can see some of her creations on her Instagram feed.

covid19 · fitness · fun · Guest Post · hiking · temperature and exercise · winter

So Many Reasons to Hike with Friends this Winter (Guest Post)

By Elan P

As the days of winter get shorter and colder, we begin shifting our thoughts and habits to account for the winter. Tracy I , Nicole P , and Sam B have all blogged on winter exercise and how they love it, have grown to love it, or have chosen to love it (respectively). 

Of course, there is an added layer of challenge this year, as catherine w describes, when we must exercise during a pandemic. Many bloggers in the FIFI community emphasize how maintaining physical health also supports mental health during COVID-19 isolation.

Over the past few years I’ve posted about group exercise in a summer fun run and winter fun run. In her post, Catherine invited FIFI readers to share our winter pandemic plans: mine will be regular winter hiking with friends.

Just starting out on the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)

Using a social media chat channel, each week those available agree on a 2 to 5 hour hiking route in SW Ontario, of easy to moderate difficulty, then on weekend mornings we just get up and go. If we carpool together, we wear masks. We keep track of our journeys with GPS, pictures, and good memories. Only a few times so far have we canceled due to poor weather conditions.

I asked this group how likely they are to continue hiking outdoors together this winter. Here is what some of them said:

  • I’m very likely to continue group hiking this winter. Why? It’s fresh air. It’s exercise. It’s community with amazing, diverse women who inspire and support one another. It clears my mind, works my body, and fills my heart. (Kimi)
  • As a single person during covid, it’s even more important for me to keep contact with my friends doing what we love, which is being outside being active. It’s all about mental health check-ins. (Sarah)
  • Our small hiking group this summer allowed us a sense of normalcy during a mentally and physically challenging pandemic. Hiking provided the perfect outlet for our need to stay safe and stay connected. I look forward to continuing our hikes this winter as COVID cases continue to rise and our fears and anxieties fester. Fresh air, friends and physical fitness are the remedies that will get us through this darker than usual winter. (Sheila)
  • Hiking has become a regular component of our self-care, especially since Covid. Everyone in our hiking group decided that we need to make time for this self-care ritual. For me, when I immerse myself in nature, combined with the methodical pace of hiking, I am soothed. And as a group, we are sharing this experience. Often we find ways to avoid, replace, or distract us from self-care. The hiking group has kept us all accountable and motivated to keep it a priority. We will continue even in tougher weather as part of our commitment. Self-care is non-negotiable. And snow and cold add a layer of physical challenge. (Marnie)
  • I am likely to continue group hiking over the winter because I’ve found a great group of like minded women who have a desire to challenge themselves to get outdoors, stay in shape and enjoy a beer. (Julie)

Exercise. Support. Clarity. Check-ins. Safety. Normalcy. Accountability. Motivation. Challenge. Sharing experiences. Self-care (which for our group usually includes enjoying a beer during or after the hike). I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Friends hike the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)

One person isn’t joining us for an upcoming hike due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak at her workplace. Here’s what she said:

  • I enjoy doing sports that are social. Hiking in this respect is social, and as Sarah said, for our mental well being this is so important! It might also be the laughing that happens is also food for the soul. Hiking is in the outdoors, and you don’t touch things, so the risk of spread is super low as long as people are hiking a bit apart. I feel our group has been smart and conscientious of our social distancing, while being able to enjoy and look forward to outdoor activities. Still, I will continue group hiking after this gets resolved at work. I don’t want to cause anyone stress.

Even when we hike outdoors together, we can’t forget to be vigilant about staying safe.

So, if you’ve been practicing physical distancing and you’re not showing signs of illness, grab a few friends (well, don’t grab them) and head outside for a winter hike. There are so many good reasons to do it. If you’re looking for a new crew, there are meetup.com hiking groups available. Choose a group with clear safety practices that follow local health guidelines.

A woman walks across a small wooden slat bridge in the forest with leaves on the ground
Marnie M. hikes the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)
athletes · covid19 · fitness · illness

More stories of active people and COVID-19 recovery

Earlier this week I started sharing stories of athlete friends who’ve come down with COVID-19

I wrote, “Through my social media networks–mostly academics, but also fitness types–around the world– I know more than 20 people who’ve had COVID-19. The group has had the full gamut of experiences, from spending time on a ventilator in hospital intensive care units to weird, mild flu like symptoms.

What’s been most striking, to me, is the way it’s hit my very fit friends. Some of the people were sick at the start of the pandemic and they’re still not well enough to return to the sports they love at least at their former intensity. Others bounced back quickly and are full steam ahead in their fitness pursuits.

At the same time I keep hearing other friends, most notably ones who haven’t had COVID-19, say they’ll take their chances with the virus since they are fit and active and likely won’t get a bad case of it. I try not to scream “it’s not about you.” It really isn’t. It’s about spreading the disease and hurting someone who is more vulnerable. But it’s also not clear that even a mild case of COVID-19 should be taken lightly.

Personally, for me, I worry about the long term health effects of this particular virus. I mean, don’t get me wrong I find death terrifying too and I find dying alone especially terrifying, but assuming COVID doesn’t kill me it’s the long term effects that scare me. In particular, given that it’s a huge source of pleasure and purpose in my life, I’d hate to not be able to be active as I age.

Of course lots of people have mild versions of the illness and the range of experiences is itself striking. Here’s the blog we’ll be sharing some stories of active people who’ve had COVID-19.”

Here’s the three more voices. I know Michael through the Ontario cycling community. I met Barrett and Brandon on the Friends for Life Bike Rally. Speaking of which, you can sponsor me here!

Michael

Age: 69

Sport: Masters track cyclist

I held the Canadian Hour Record for Masters Men 65-69. That record was eclipsed by my friend, Peter Leiss, in 2019. I also hold the record for the most kilometers/laps on the Milton track. When the Milton Velodrome closed Mar 14, because of the pandemic, I had cycled 208000 laps or 52000 kms on the track since it opened in 2015.

I contracted the Coronavirus in March. We found out by email, after the fact, that I most likely came in contact with an employee of Fortino’s Grocery Store in Oakville on or around Mar 20. The employee had tested positive and was in the store at the same time as I was. Although my wife and I were being careful, going out as little as possible, except for shopping, observing the standard protocols at the time, masks had not been standard, and I was not wearing one.

On April 3, a Friday, I woke feeling out of sorts. By this I mean very angry. Everything was irritating. I remember going out to do a bit of shopping in the morning. Friday evening, I had a burning sensation, at the back of my throat. This is usually a sign that I’m coming down with a cold. Mind you, I rarely get sick, rarely get colds. This back of throat irritation rapidly escalated. I was tired and still very irritated. I went to bed. Next morning, I awoke to the feeling that I had been hit by a runaway train. My entire upper body was in pain – back, chest, shoulders, everything, It was painful to breath. I was short of breath because of this. I was coughing. This caused extreme pain. I could barely move. Going to the bathroom, a few steps was very difficult. Lying down was difficult. In fact for most of 12-14 days that I was really ill, I slept sitting up in an easy chair, with a heating pad on my back, and an humidifier going in the room.

 This continued through Saturday and Sunday. My breathing became more laboured as time wore on. Sunday, we decided I should take Tylenol for the pain. This seemed to help, as least to make it bearable. Please note that I neve ran a fever the whole time I was sick. My temperature average about 36 degrees. We tried calling Public Health to see about getting tested. In April, they asked you if you were running a fever, and if you had traveled out of the country. Since the answer to both questions was no, I did not qualify to be tested. Please isolate, get lots of rest, and fluids. If we had known about the email from Fortino’s, (we did not see it until mid April. For some reason we were distracted), the contact would have meant I could get tested.

The pain and shortness of breath, etc, continued through Sunday. Monday morning, I woke up and the pain was all but gone! However, I couldn’t breathe. I was gasping for air. Any kind of activity, for example, going up stairs to take a shower, would leave me gasping for air. It would take at least 20 minutes for this to calm down enough for me to breathe at a normal pace. I was still coughing. Any effort, change positions on the couch, could trigger a coughing fit. That would be excruciating because it felt like a knife in the diaphragm. And contracting ribs was very painful. I took Manuka Honey to calm these fits. We tried contacting the authorities again Monday with the same result. Monday afternoon, I was so short of breath I was getting very frightened. We actually contemplated calling an ambulance and going to the ER. But the thought of being isolated at the hospital, away from my wife was even more terrifying. So we decided to see if I could calm down enough, sitting still, to get by until the next day. This worked. I got through the night. And each subsequent day. As the days progressed, I felt less pain, except for coughing. The shortness of breath continued. I couldn’t speak. I did not have enough air to form words. This would get worse the more I tried and then start a coughing fit.

I gradually improved over the course of 12 days. By the 14th day of quarantine, I felt like I was over it. We even went for a little walk in the neighbourhood. I could not speak for long. And I was still sort of breath, but I felt much better. We started going for walks each day. I think I even went to a store. About the fifth day, I relapsed. Coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and back pains. This lasted almost a week. When I ‘recovered’, we went for a walk to test the waters etc. Back pains and pain though my shoulders persisted. This continued off and on for a month. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the coronavirus and I was getting very concerned about the constant shortness of breath. I was concerned that Covid19 was doing damage that I was unaware of to my organs. So at six weeks I spoke with my doctor. He said go to emergency and get a chest x-ray.

I presented at the ER. The triage nurse, took down the particulars, checked my pulse and blood pressure and then sent me for an EKG. It spiked! 20 minutes later, I was in a bed, connected to monitors, with an IV line in. They took blood. Then came back later and took more. Next thing I knew I was getting a CT instead of an x-ray. I had suffered from pulmonary embolisms, and my lungs were chocked full of little blood clots. They put me on blood thinners. It’s now almost 7 months since the CT. I have permanent lung damage. I just had another CT to see if there was improvement. The ‘vampire’ my hematologist, took a lot of blood for specialized testing and I will have the results of blood analysis and the CT next week.

I have not been able to return to the level of exercise I was used to before Covid-19. I have suffered from a rotating cycle of back pains, chest pains, shortness of breath, and fatigue since April. My balance was off. My ability to grasp things, to gauge distance was off, meaning I dropped or knocked things over. I had proximity issues. That imaginary space that you observe round yourself that allows you to walk through spaces or around obstacles, was way off. I had to double it. I would wait until my wife moved out of the way before I did anything. I was forever banging into things. Any extended effort, I tried cycling after the vampire felt that I had improved in July, (an echocardiogram had shown no damage to my heart). I took it very easy, riding around the block (an oval similar to riding the track).  I built up slowly. But any kind of extended cardiovascular effort resulted in a flare-up of symptoms. After two weeks, I suffered from sore back and shoulders, and major chills. I was cold all the time. Three sweaters cold, even outside on a warm day. This lasted about three weeks. I have not tried cycling again. But assuming a good result from the CT, I plan to put the bike on the trainer, and start perhaps just 15 minutes twice a day to see if I can begin to get back to my former fitness level. I have spent the last five months doing daily walks. That seems to be fine. I can walk several kilometers but I’m not physically taxing my body in the same way that I would cycling. I’m not sustaining a 130 heartrate for any length of time. But before Covid19, I could do that for 5 hours or more. I could ride the track for 3 ½ hours non stop at that rate.

Another problem – I have memory problems. I forget things right after I do them. And I have a very quick trigger on my state of mind. I can go from calm, cool and collected to rage in the blink of an eye, for the slightest of reasons. This is not normal for me. For the longest time, after the initial illness, I was an emotional mess, depressed, and extremely angry that Covid-19 had robbed me of my fitness and good health.

So, the long and the short of it is Covid-19 really messed me up. I am slowly recovering. The issues today are a fraction of what they were in the first three months. But I’m not the person I was. I do intend to get back to that level. But it will take time and patience.

A final note, my wife, who is 75, remained symptom free the whole time. We remain vigilant and we isolated in a very tight circle. I do not consider myself immune. I have tested negative, but that was after the fact. I never tested positive! I am very certain I suffered from Covid19 and the doctors agree. But without that test, or an antibody test, there is no way to be certain. So we remain cautious.

FB Pages:

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The custom Mariposa bicycle that Michael Kolesar used to set the Canadian hour record M65-69 Category.

Barrett

Age: 42

Sport: Weight Training/Cycling

When: Got Covid mid-October, had very mild symptoms, lost smell, some lethargy and felt run down. Otherwise, fine.

How long it took you to get well and whether you’re back to your former activity levels and athletic performance: Took about ten days to feel myself again, but smell has not returned fully. The pandemic situation has definitely impacted my athletic performance in general, I spent most of my days moving and walking, now mostly sitting. In terms of recovery from the virus, I feel that it took another ten days after I’d recovered from my symptoms that I felt I could do the same amount of work during exercise routines that I had before. And sometimes still feel that my energy levels are not quite the same. I did two exercise classes two days in a row and was exhausted by 8pm on the second day.

Barret is part of Bionic Fitness based in Toronto.

No description available.
Brandon and Barrett

Brandon

Age: 36

Sports: Water polo, cycling, weightlifting

I contracted it on October 5th, symptoms arose mildly on October 9th, more seriously on the 10th and I got tested on the 12th. Positive results came back on the 14th I think. It was awful, I’ve never been that sick in my life. It started with muscle aches which at first I attributed to DOMS (post workout muscle pain) but then it got so bad that I couldn’t be touched. Then I started coughing, getting a tight chest, and headaches. Then I started getting fevers that progressed so badly that I was constantly sweating, I was dehydrated and became delusional. Barrett afterwards told me about things that happened during the worst 4 days and I didn’t remember a few things. If my fever didn’t get better by the 5th day of bad fevers I was going to go to the hospital but luckily I started to recover. I couldn’t eat much during this time because of nausea and I found things tasted very bad, any kind of spice, lemon, ginger, sweetness etc. tasted like metal to me. I lived off of just bread for a few days. Recovery was slow. I’d say I’m not fully recovered yet, my right bronchial tube feels hardened and I still have very mild congestion/post nasal drip. I’m able to exercise and do cardio again but it comes with mild discomfort. I can tell I am improving but it’s very slow. My doctor is sending me for an ECG test.