aging · cycling

Sam shelves her ego to go spin with students

So I’ve moved jobs, moved universities, moved gyms, and moved physio clinics. So much change!

At my old physio clinic we began with time on the spin bike which seemed to help with knee mobility and made the other exercises easier to tolerate. This physio clinic is more hands on, less tech. There’s no giant “game  ready” ice compression thingie, no ultrasound, no TENS unit, and no row of spin bikes.

Western’s clinic is full of injured student athletes and physio students. The Guelph clinic is more low key, more staff focused it seems. There isn’t a sports medicine clinic with x-rays and surgeons etc attached either.

I can do without the other stuff but I miss spinning before physio.

Monday I noticed that I had physio at at the university clinic at 7 pm and there was a spin class, 530-630 pm in the gym which is in the same building. Woohoo!

Actually it wasn’t just a spin class. It was Cycle-Yoga. 30 min of spinning followed by 30 minutes of “yoga for cyclists.”

The students were all student age, 18-20 or so. The instructor though was closer to my age. Actually her taste in music put her older than me. Whenever she gave instructions she said it was okay not to listen and just do your own thing. She told the class that she had teenagers and was used to that.

We bonded over knee injuries and agreed I’d just do my own thing, like the teenagers. Right now that’s no heavy resistance and no standing. Instead, I focused on high cadence and that seemed to work okay.

I stayed in the back and I was surprised at how little need I felt to impress undergraduates in a spin class. I was wearing bike shorts. I had my bike shoes. I thought I might struggle with keeping up and with not doing stupid things that hurt, like standing. But no, not so much.

Maybe in my 50s I’m finally growing up?

A row of spin bikes
Photo by Martin Barák on Unsplash
cycling · eating disorders · feminism · fitness · motivation

A return to fitness in 2018 (Guest post)

Biking with a friend

I love to make New Year’s resolutions, although I sometimes have uneven results. My main and most exciting New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to do 218 workouts – they don’t have to be particularly strenuous or any set length but they have to be fun and pleasurable.

I hope that 2018 – the year I turn 40 – will be at my fittest year ever. This isn’t an extreme goal because my fittest year was probably 2011, when I was running regularly, had not yet gotten my driver’s license so cycled everywhere out of necessity, and impulsively bought an expensive personal training program. I was 33, so it is not as if I am trying to re-live athletic teen years, which would be considerably harder. I was actually the type of kid for whom gym class was a nightmare. I walked the field when I was supposed to run, regularly ‘forgot’ my gym clothes, and dreaded group sports when my lack of any skill would be humiliatingly apparent to all my classmates.

I was not fit in any sense of the word until my late twenties when I started to cycle everywhere often, in those years, pulling two children and/or groceries (!!) in a bike trailer. When I was 30 and newly single I decided to try some new activities: running, roller derby, hot yoga, and weight-training. I felt fantastic, met some great people, and began to think of myself as a fit, even athletic, person. I felt strong and powerful and had a lot of fun. I still remember the exhilarating day I ran 13 km for the first time. As someone who a couple years earlier could not run one block, I was extremely proud of myself.

Unfortunately, the fitness activities got confused with and integrated into disordered eating habits, which dulled my enjoyment. Healing from disordered eating, which for me meant restricted eating, and unattainable weight loss goals, meant also giving up some of my fitness goals. But now I am about turn 40, a busy PhD student, community activist, and mom. Giving up a strong focus on fitness may have been necessary for me to heal from disordered eating but it also meant that I lost the physical and emotional benefits of fitness especially the almost magical effect it has on my ability to deal constructively with stress.

I miss the camaraderie that accompanied roller derby practices and group runs. I miss experiencing my body as strong and powerful. When I think about my life in ten and twenty years, I want fitness to be an everyday part of it. So, I have made a plan to get to my fittest this year and to re-discover the joy of fitness.

The plan is simple: do 218 workouts in 2018 which will include some weight-training, a gentle triathlon, and a few no-pressure and fun 5 or 10 km runs.

Maybe I’ll even, finally, attempt a fall half marathon – but only if it brings me joy. I also hope to cycle year-round instead of taking a long winter break after which I always feel hesitant and creaky. The focus, other than doing the 218 workouts, will be on feeling pleasure in moving my body and having fun participating in physical activities with other people.

There will be absolutely no weight loss goals or restricted eating plans and I will steer clear of others who have integrated those elements into their fitness plans and motivations. I’m excited, motivated, and ready to have fun and feel strong!

Kayaking in Venice in 2017

Becky Ellis is a PhD student at Western University who studies the bee-human relationship in cities. She is a mom to four kids and a community activist. Becky loves gardening, cycling at a leisurely pace, and taking millions of pictures of bees. She also maintains the blog Permaculture for the People about social justice and urban permaculture.

cycling · fitness

2017 Experiments with Bikes (Guest Post)

2017 was a lot of things. As far as biking goes, it was the year I tried to be a “cyclist” (picture spandex bike shorts) and then realized that I’m simply someone who gets around by bike and I love it! The “cyclist” title and image aren’t necessary, so I stopped striving to fit that image. Most of my bike rides are still under 5km each way (about 15-20 minutes,) except when I have extra time and energy to explore further along the Thames Valley Parkway. The 2017 Strava video titled “My Year in Sport” really should say “My Year of Active Transportation & Adventures in Nature!”
winter bike

2017 was the year that I decided to try winter cycling. For me, that meant getting studded tires and proper gloves… everything else is typical winter attire with well-planned layering – basically snowboarding/skiing clothes.

In 2017, I discovered how much I enjoy learning how to fix my bikes. Oh yeah, I also named my bikes this year – something I had been mulling on for a few years, but it took a while to settle on the right names for them.

Try new things, don’t worry about fitting an image or comparing yourself with others, celebrate whatever steps towards wellness you take, and have fun!

Happy New Year!!

Joy Cameron enjoys cycling, painting, and tai chi. In 2014, she founded Bikes n’ Brains as a response to a collision she was in. Since then, she has enjoyed getting to know many individuals from the cycling community. She is excited to be pursuing a social work degree at King’s University College.

cycling

How many bicycle ornaments does one Christmas tree need?

Here’s the tree!

Sam’s Christmas tree, next to the family piano

Here’s the bikes!

A red tricycle Xmas tree ornament
A red bike tree ornament
A silver tandem bike tree ornament

The answer is n+1 of course. I’m going shopping. Let me know if you see any good bike themed Christmas decorations.

addiction · cycling

Winter streaming: What are you watching and why?

People reveal their winter streaming habits got me thinking. What do you watch and why?

Me, I’m spending time on the trainer spinning. It’s all with very little resistance, more knee physio than actual exercise.

I’m hoping to be well enough to be playing outside in the snow by the time winter hits for real but for now I’m stuck indoors.

I’m also out of my fave things to watch. There’s no more Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman, Game of Thrones, or Arrested Development. No more Sens8. So sad.

Also, no more Firefly but that’s a sad story for another time.

On my “to watch” list I’ve got Dark, GLOW, season 2 of Stranger Things. What else do you recommend?

Photo by Petar Petkovski on Unsplash, image description: a road surrounded by snow trees with a bike laying down on the center line
Photo by Petar Petkovski on Unsplash. [Image description: a quiet road surrounded by snowy trees with a bike laying down on the center line.]

 

 

accessibility · cycling · equality · fitness

Sports and the public good

A couple of days ago Sam sent me a Facebook message with a link in it. The link was to an advert from Pinarello, the high-end Italian bike manufacturer, for its new motorized road bike. In the ad, a conventionally gorgeous white woman appears in portrait orientation, smiling slightly; she is identified as Emma, 24 years old, a “couple rider”. The text beside her image reads:

“I’ve always wanted to go cycling with my boyfriend but it seemed impossible. Soon everything will become possible.”

I rolled my eyes. I may have laughed at first, though I was pissed off pretty much immediately, for all the reasons readers of this blog can easily anticipate. But I also thought the ad was more or less sexism-as-usual.

A sporting goods company doing something sorta douchy? Shocked. I was shocked, I tell you.

Sam said: “you should blog about this!!” Sigh. Probably I should, I thought. Except I’d already planned my post for this Friday (though not yet written it). And except that I couldn’t think of anything I could say about this issue that wasn’t already being said, loudly and well, from all corners of the public sphere.

TBH, even thinking about it made me feel tired: sexism-induced narcolepsy. Yup.

I hummed and hawed.

Then, while I was in the shower after what I can only describe as a very, very cold late autumn training ride (because, Pinarello: I’m pretty fast for a reason), I realized that the two pieces – my original topic, and the annoying Pinarello story – actually shared an important point of convergence. I could write about them both, making the post about that point.

So here goes.

(This image includes the male and female ads, and the twitter feeds attached to them. Both the man and the woman in the images are white, young looking, and fit looking. Which provokes the question: why do they need an e-bike to “keep up”?) 

The Pinarello advert (which also includes a disparaging “male” version, in which the guy in the image claims he has no time for training rides but wants to keep up with friends at the weekend) is grounded in some pretty basic and also very, very wrong assumptions about women.

First, that women aren’t fast. Second, that women only want to ride because their boyfriends do. (Also: um, paging heteronormativity? Pinarello def doesn’t want the lucrative lesbian market, then…) Third, that women who ride wouldn’t want to, like, train to get faster; because that never happens, in any cycling club or women’s pro team, ever.

All of this is stupid and infuriating. But, for me, what’s most infuriating is that this grade-A sexist bullshit is coming from a bike company with a massive public profile, and whose bikes are ridden by BOTH pro men’s AND pro women’s teams on the World Tour circuit. For lots of people, Pinarello, like Castelli, or Cervelo, or Trek, IS high-level cycling; it represents in its brand not just its products, but a world of sports aspiration that criss-crosses gender lines.

With that kind of high profile in the cycling community comes, I believe, some public responsibility.

With this ad, though, Pinarello made pretty clear where its priorities lie – and it’s not with helping to promote cycling as a sport in which people of all genders (and colours) are welcome and respected for their talent and determination.

Quite apart from being RIDICULOUSLY retrograde in its representation of women and (older?) men, then, this ad works against the public good, where sports and fitness is concerned.

I’m not a philosopher like Sam and Tracy, but in this case I’m defining “the public good” as a set of values that support inclusivity and access for all, and that encourage the removal of barriers to access and inclusion, whether those are physical, emotional, financial, or otherwise. (It’s worth noting here that the Pinarello Nytro ain’t exactly cheap. No Pinarello bike is. Put a motor in one, and guess what?)

So Pinarello gave us this week a textbook example of working against the public good.

What might it look like, though, for an organization to promote sports and fitness as matters of the public good, and to get it, if not perfect, a great deal more right?

I’ve recently moved to Hamilton, Ontario, a city about 50km from Toronto (and 50km from Niagara Falls) at the western edge of Lake Ontario. The area is blessed with immense natural beauty, in the form of the Niagara Escarpment, and all kinds of woodland trails, rail trails, and mountain bike routes snake around and through the city.

Hamilton is in general incredibly green; there are parks everywhere, and the grounds of local heritage buildings are often free to access too.

Lately I’ve been noticing not just how pleasant all this well-cared-for green space is, but also how many subtle measures the city has put in place to help encourage citizens to get fitter and feel better while they are out and about in them.

For example, my local park, just up the street, features: a public swimming pool (a year-long pass to ALL Hamilton pools, all-you-can-swim, is just CDN$106, a massive bargain), tennis and badminton courts that are free to use, a bunch of outdoor, public access fitness equipment (again, free to use, and popular with the older residents of the area), a baseball diamond (you guessed it), plus well paved and maintained walking paths that are sympathetically laid out and are all wheelchair accessible. There’s a playground for the kids, a “paradise” butterfly garden maintained by students at the local elementary school, as well as a community garden – for a small fee local residents can rent a plot or garden table for their own use, or they can volunteer to assist with the butterfly garden if they’d prefer not taking on a larger garden project. (Ours is just one of many community gardens dotted around Hamilton.)

I can’t get over what an asset this space is; the community gets together here. There are always kids in the playground, folks on the fitness equipment, courts in use, and gardeners at their plots. Not to mention dog walkers.

Further up the road, about 1.5km away, my neighbourhood runs into the Niagara Escarpment, and access points for the (to central Canadians, anyway) famous Bruce Trail. Here, a radial trail for walkers and joggers links the mountainside trails, several sets of stairs up to Hamilton “mountain” (about 300 stairs each, and popular with cross-fit types and those looking for cross-training), a public golf course (through which we are invited to walk, while signs ask that golfers be aware of pedestrians!), and a bunch of signed stations where those jogging or otherwise exercising are invited to stop for squats, push-ups, lunges, etc along the route.

chedoke-stairsdundurn-st-stairsDundurnWentworth-stairs2

(These fours images feature the Dundurn, Chedoke, and Wentworth stairs from the top of Hamilton mountain. Two are from fall/winter, and two from summer. The two summer images include City of Hamilton statistics about the stairs’ annual use: the Chedoke stairs, wider than most and popular for exercise, log over 2300 trips a day, and more than 871,000 a year, according to the 2013-14 data.)

I’ve been going to the Chedoke and Dundurn stairs for about four weeks now, and they are a real pleasure. I realize they are not accessible to those without good lower body mobility, of course, but for anyone looking for cardio or leg-strength training at a bargain, they are a gift indeed. Safe, sturdy, and well lit (you can see the lit-up staircases from the freeway!), I would not hesitate to use them after dark, especially because both are very well used and are attached to well-lit traffic areas at their bottoms (a parking lot, and a bus loop).

Now, the City of Hamilton is not the same as Pinarello in any way. Its job is to support citizen well being by plowing the streets and paying the firefighters; Pinarello’s job is to sell expensive bikes and bike stuff to MAMILS (mostly). Hamilton is a not-for-profit civic organization that funnels income back into city costs and services. Pinarello is a successful capitalist, featuring the requisite bit of philanthropy on the side. Apples and apples this is not.

Still, what I want to emphasize here is how easy it is to act in the public interest, even when you don’t have to. Hamilton does not need to maintain a butterfly garden in my local park, where kids can get outside, play, breathe, and learn; it does not need to groom hundreds of kilometres of walking trails or keep thousands of mountainside steps safe in winter, so that even the poorest of our neighbours can get exercise and fresh air. It could just pay the firefighters and the cops and say the rest is too expensive; I’ve lived in plenty of places where that happens.

Similarly, Pinarello does not need to play the old “my boyfriend is so strong and fast!” card. Dozens of fantastic athletes ride their amazing machines every year; why not get a range of those people to promote the e-bike, de-stygmatizing it in the process?

That advert could have been easy, classy, and smile-inducing rather than tiny, shitty, and cringe-inducing. All it needed was some forethought about genuine inclusivity and diversity. In the name of the public good.

cycling

“I would not, could not in the dark.” Yes, yes you can! Making riding at night fun

Lots of my friends who ride bikes aren’t that comfortable riding at night.

And it’s not just the night of course. More like the dark. And depending on where you live that can be 4:30 pm. Yikes.

So if you’re going to use your bike for fall/winter transportation you need to get comfortable riding once the sun goes down.

Here’s some of the things I do to make it okay…

  1. If you’re on the streets, around traffic be sure to be extra visible. Wear something super reflective. I’ve got this jacket.

2. Go for super bright lights, three of them at least. You want a solid red light at the rear and two bright lights at the front, one for your helmet and one for the front handlebar. These aren’t just to be seen they are also to see.

Why two? Why one for your helmet? You want to see where you are going to go, where you are looking. Since you won’t yet have turned your front bar light won’t be pointing there. At speed, in actual dark (as opposed to city street dark) you want a light on your helmet. Trust me. It’ll make sense once you are out there.

3. Go on a glow ride!

4. More tips

Here! “Sure, it’s dark and it’s snowy – but more and more cyclists are taking to the river valley trails each winter. Here’s 5 tips for staying safe from Women on Wheels YEG: www.cbc.ca/1.4391711

Do you ride in the dark? What tips do you have to offer?