advice · covid19 · dogs · online exercise

Lessons from the Pandemic: a farewell post

As Sam mentioned a few days ago, we’re rejigging the schedule here at FIFI, and as part of that rejig I’ve decided to step away for a bit. It’s been a long few months and I’ve struggled like others; I’ve been cushioned from health and financial blows, thanks to the grace of good government and the privilege of a secure job, but emotionally this has been a roller coaster. I need some time to take stock, and I don’t do that well online.

As I was walking with my dog this afternoon, gorgeous fall colours glowing in the sunshine, the wind whipping past us with just a hint of Old Man Winter to it, I started to think about what joy simple, solitary walks give me, and how I’ll look forward to them as we all lock down, to different degrees, in the months ahead. No matter what happens I know I will still be able to leave my house with my dog three times a day, even if I must do so completely isolated from others. (And obviously: not if I’m ill myself, which I pray will not happen.)

The pandemic is no blessing, but it has had some real teachable moments for me. These crept up on me over the summer and are more and more tangible as everything churns up again now. I’m glad to have these moments with me, as reminders of the good inside the terrible, for the winter ahead, and I thought as a farewell-for-now post I’d share them with you.

Chewy the dog chilling with his toys on the sofa; now THAT is what staying in looks like. Image from Unsplash.
  1. The internet has a lot of great gyms in it. This is the most pleasant discovery COVID has brought me. I can work out multiple times a week for a very affordable rate in my very own kitchen, and I can reap the benefits of amazing feminist energy over Zoom, even if the connection is sometimes unstable. The strength I glean, both physical and emotional, from the wonderful people I’ve linked up with on the fitness web goes some way to making up for the connections I’ve lost or had to pause IRL.
  2. If your home is a safe place, it’s quite wonderful to have permission not to leave it. I always thought I was a full-on extrovert, but no; COVID has helped me realize how much I like not having to leave my house very much, or go very far. I felt a strong pressure to be social in the before times, but honestly social environments are stressors for me. I get performance anxiety. And I’m a hyper-vigilant anxiety sufferer, so the more people in a place and the more formal the event the harder it is for me to keep my eye on everything and make sure everything and everyone are doing ok. Not having to go out and perform Public Kim so often is a huge relief.
  3. If stuff goes wrong so what? It’s a pandemic. I find I learn this lesson best from my students. We’ve had to adjust to A LOT over the last couple of months and they are having to adjust to 5x as much of it as any one of their instructors. When stuff goes wrong in my wacky hybrid/Zoom classroom, I remind us all that it’s going to be fine if we just roll with it. I show them compassion and they show me some too; when the tech dies or the breakout rooms get messed up or, you know, name a thing, we try to laugh about it. Learning to laugh and then carry on imperfectly when things go wrong is also a good thing to take from university.
  4. Incidental movement matters. Boy does it ever! My first day back in my campus office and a real-life classroom last month reminded me what walking around a four-story building all day does for your step count. Finding ways to incidentally move at home is harder, but still totally doable (see dog walking above). I think I might download a step counter app because data helps in a situation like this. And the more I move, the better I feel about everything.
  5. Bodies change, sometimes because the world has changed, and that’s just fine. I’ve put on weight these last few months, though it’s not all COVID-related. Mostly I think it’s aging, the slowing metabolism that brings, and the decision I seem to have made to say to heck with the notion that certain foods are contraband, or only permitted after a killer workout. I love food and my partner cooks beautifully; I enjoy eating and also, um, it’s a pandemic. My body is changing because it is aging, because the routine ways we are usually permitted to move in the world are currently under duress, and because the stress of the situation is something else. I’m working hard on looking in the mirror and reminding myself that I am here, I am loved, and I am proud of my delightfully imperfect body. It is hard work – after a lifetime of terrible body and self-image issues, it can’t not be – but I’m really trying.
Me (in a purple fall jacket) and Emma the Dog (a Black and Tan shepherd-crossed-with-something) during a fabulous autumn walk last year. We are on a park bench (me sitting, Emma standing, ears in curious mode, mouth open in anticipation) and the ground is a blanket of orange maple leaves. I seem to be saying something like “Emma! Look at the camera!” because Emma is NOT looking at the camera. She is looking at HORSES.

So that’s me for now, then; thanks for all the reading, friends. I will be guesting in this space again sometime soonish, I wager, but until then I wish you all a very safe autumn and the very very best to those of you heading to the polls. Thank you for keeping moving.

Kim

dogs · Sat with Nat · walking

Nat on outsourcing motivation

Recommended Soundtrack: I wanna be your dog by The Stooges

I’m not great on making a training plan and sticking with it. When it comes to activity I’m more a go-along with whatever folks are up for. Yoga? Sure! Cycling? Yup! Walk? Uh-huh!

So when my beloved decided he wanted to up our step count when walking our dog, Lucy, I agreed. I offered that we could add 1 block to all our walks, short coffee break and our typical 30 minute morning, lunch & evening walks.

It totally worked. In August my average step count jumped from under 7,200 to 11,500. Partly this is because as Lucy gets older she can go on longer walks. The other part is my beloved’s joy in counting and metrics. He really loves hitting goals.

One night, after dinner and a glass of wine, he asked if we could go for another walk. He hadn’t hit 10,000 steps. I pointed out that 10,000 was an arbitrary goal. He laughed and shouted “Join me in meetng this arbitrary goal! Achievement is as meaningless as the goal BUT IT IS ALL WE HAVE!”

Of course he was being overly dramatic. Many times our common goals are based on best guesses and gut feels. I’m not much for tracking metrics or goals so I’ve happily handed over all of that to my partner. He’s a greyhound who needs a rabbit to chase.

The other being I’ve outsourced my motivation to is our resident gremlin, Lucy. She, like Gollum, both loves and hates our walks. She needs the movement but would rather do high intensity frisbee intervals than walk. But she’d rather walk than lay about.

Lucy, the wonder dog, sits attentively watching the photographer who may gift her with walksies or treats.

I find I don’t have the cognitive or emotional depth for self discipline but I can say “yes” to the asks for walks. Like the dog, I’m just along for the ride these days and I am 100% ok with surrendering to the process.

What do you do to stay motivated to keep moving?

dogs · fitness

Happy International Dog Day!

There were a lot of dogs in my social media newsfeeds this morning. I mean, there are always a lot of dogs in my social media but this was EVEN MORE DOGS. Turns out it’s International Dog Day!

In honour of International Dog Day, here’s a selection of past posts about dogs.

Yoga Dogs!

Can fit be a canine issue too?

Who’s taking the dogs out?

Dogs are Awesome

Guest post: Running with Dogs and Succeeding

Guest post on dogs as fitness heroes

Dogs as intuitive exercisers

Nat is wrangling work, workouts and dog walking

That’s just a quick sampling. There are lot more dog related feminist fitness posts here!

If you like reading about fit feminists and their dogs, let me also recommend Carla Fehr’s excellent blog On the Road with Milo. Carla has guest posted here about Milo and Pokemon Go.

Also, Cheddar and I want to wish you a Happy Dog Day! Enjoy! (You can read about Cheddar the puppy here.)

Cheddar and I do yoga with Adriene and Benji!
cycling · dogs · fitness · racing

Sam’s biggest fans

Sam’s biggest fans

I’ve shared lots of Cheddar participating in yoga photos. But the thing is, he’s my constant companion, especially when I’m the only one home. All of my work colleagues now know him from videoconference meetings.

When I’m riding my bike on the trainer, he’s my number one fan. He sits on the sofa behind me watching the screen, only occasionally nodding off.

I’ve been riding indoors, in a heat wave, in a house with imperfectly operational air conditioning.

Enter the new fan, fan number two.

So last night I was doing the La Bicicletta Toronto Supper Time Trial, a very hard 17.6 km solo effort. Both fans accounted for and I got my second best time on the route. Thanks Cheddar and thanks Heavyweight Honeywell.

dogs · yoga

#YogaWithCheddar

Yoga with Cheddar

I’m doing Yoga With Adriene’s June series, COURAGE.

Tonight we did her Power Yoga Break.

Apparently Cheddar is too.

I love how he follows along even doing Savasana with me at the end. Here’s Adriene by the way on Savasana or corpse pose.

With me working at home all the time Cheddar now accompanies me around the house. He’s in the background of all my Zoom calls. We go for walks when I get a break. But I think his favourite thing is yoga.

#deanslife · covid19 · dogs · fitness · walking

Sam’s pandemic day off and rainy day dog walk

May is usually the month when academics get to catch our collective breath. Grades are submitted. Conference season is about to begin. And even for administrators it’s quieter with fewer faculty and students on campus. But this year isn’t like most years. We’re not on campus. We’re all working at home. For all of us this has been a long semester with unrelenting long days of video conference classes and meetings.

I’ve been reminding staff and faculty of the need to take holidays. We’re all getting worn down. Me too.

Thursday I posted to social media: “I’m taking tomorrow off as a holiday. I’m not going anywhere but I’m also staying off Zoom, WebEx, Teams etc. We need vacation days even during the pandemic. Maybe especially. I just realized recently that I was supposed to have a week’s holiday in California this April, after the conference in San Francisco that was cancelled. I’m going to take Cheddar for an extra long walk. And maybe bake banana bread. Read a novel. Just chill at home. It won’t feel like holiday holidays. But it will feel like a day off and that’s enough.”

How’d it go? Well it wasn’t holiday like exactly but it did feel like a good day off work and that’s pretty good. I slept in. That was an excellent start.

I sat on the sofa and finished Matt Haig’s The Humans which I enjoyed.

It was very rainy and so I was leery of the long dog walk idea initially. Cheddar, however, was not. Luckily it was warm and rainy and so it was actually nice being out there. Cheddar dragged me into the woods to see a dead raccoon. That wasn’t so nice but he didn’t touch it. He just needed me to see it apparently. I have a photo but I’ll spare you.

The nice thing about the rain is that I didn’t have to pay much attention to physical distancing. I think we were the only ones out walking along the river.

While walking I listened to Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. It’s a terrific audiobook. I haven’t been listening to books lately while walking because of the need to chat and coordinate the six feet rule with fellow path walkers. Today was different and I’ve decided I’m going to embrace rainy days.

On our return from the long wet dog walk, Facebook memories reminded me that two years ago I was in Bremen and four years ago I was Innsbruck, Austria.

I was in Innsbruck for the Austro-Canadian Medical Ethics Workshop, “Man at the Heart of a Modern Medical Ethics: Challenges and Perspectives” and my talk was,
“Making Decisions for Children as if Childhood Mattered: Reflections on Medical Decision Making and the Goods of Childhood.”

These days I’m spending some time racing in Virtual Innsbruck as it’s one of Zwift’s cycling worlds. It’s remarkably realistic. Sadly, especially, the hills!

Oh and 12 years ago I was in Canberra, Australia where I was a Visiting Professor in the Philosophy Department at the Australian National University where I also spent some time riding and racing my bike.

Here’s me on the Stromlo Crit Course.

Thanks Greg Long for this photo of women’s C racing.

So Germany, Austria, and Australia. So much travel, all impossible now. As academics begin what’s our usual summer conference season, it feels extra odd not to be travelling. Usually I head out to the west coast once or twice and go to a conference or two in Europe as well. This year I’m pretty settled in Guelph. It’s all been cancelled.

But I am also feeling happy to be home, with family and Cheddar, the dog. I’m enjoying our rainy day walks. I’m impressed that my knee is holding out. These are longer walks and more regular walks than I’ve been able to do for a few years now. I notice that in my post about Bremen, two years old, I was talking about being unable to walk to campus from the hotel.

I’ve been nervous about my knee surgery being put off in these Covid-19 times. But it looks like that will be okay. I’m doing fine. It’s not all bad news. And it’s good for all sorts of reasons, the climate chief among them, to get used to less summer conference travel.

Cheddar, for one, is happy to have me home.

dogs · fitness · training · weight lifting

The missing puzzle piece of Sam’s pandemic home workout plan

You know that I left the gym early. I don’t remember when I last went but I posted about my decision to leave on March 9th. It’s been awhile since I’ve set foot inside the gym, the yoga studio, or the Bike Shed.

So I’ve been working out at home for awhile now. Mostly it’s all fit together pretty well.

Piece one of the puzzle is that I’ve been riding and racing my bike virtually. Hello Zwift! Piece two is that I’m back together with Yoga with Adriene, enjoying her Yoga for Uncertain Times series quite a lot. Piece three is everyday exercise walking Cheddar the dog.

Cheddar, napping post walk

But the fourth piece is not working out quite so well. It’s there but it’s a work in progress.

That’s at home strength training. I’ll confess we weren’t as well-prepared. We have a motley, somewhat random collection of tools. The one great thing is Sarah’s TRX which we mounted in the living room which is now combo home office for two and home gym for three. We also pandemic panic purchased a 25 lb kettlebell the day before the shops all closed. Sarah also has a lone 8 lb dumbbell from her injured shoulder physio days. And we own some resistance tubing with handles, one is not very much resistance and the other one a bit too much. You read about that purchase here.

My son is home from university and he’s regular gym goer. He usually lifts pretty serious weights most days of the week. I think at first he thought he’d wait it out but now he’s planning home workouts for us, scouring Instagram for ideas. I’m really glad he’s here.

It feels a bit like the cooking challenge where you’re given random oddball ingredients and asked to construct a meal. But he’s doing a great job.

How to make chest and triceps day out of this?

Sam’s random home gym bits and pieces

We’re making do but I miss the gym. How about you?

Once it warms up we’re going to hang the heavy punching bag in the backyard. Will report back!

dogs · fitness · yoga

Yoga Dogs!

Sam and her scrappy cat clawed pink yoga mat with Cheddar!

Like many of the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers I’m a fan of Yoga with Adriene.

I like this review of Adriene’s yoga videos because it mentions one of my favourite things about YWA, Benji!

“Adriene Mishler isn’t the only star of Yoga with Adriene. Her fans love her sidekick, Benji the blue heeler, almost as much as they love downward dog. Adriene Mishler exudes plenty of mushy-gushy spiritual thinking, but the yoga evangelist embraces something else, too: self-deprecating humor.”

There’s something about Benji that makes me connect with Adriene and feel like I can do this without getting all self-conscious and serious. We’re two women and our dogs, moving our bodies on our mats. We’re making time for yoga in the middle of our lives, lives that include canine companions.

For me, at home exercise almost always involves Cheddar. All my walking is walking with Cheddar. And getting down on the floor with Cheddar is always a popular move. He likes the company.

Since I’ve decided to stay clear of the gym and the yoga studio in these times of the novel coronavirus, I’m going to be doing more yoga at home with Cheddar in weeks and maybe months to come. Wish us luck!

I’ve blogged about Cheddar and yoga before. See here. And planking with Cheddar too. He’s a very photogenic dog.

So is Benji!

Adriene and Benji
dogs · family · fitness · yoga

Yoga with Adriene (and Cheddar)

I’m sporadically doing Yoga with Adriene this month. Usually it’s Adriene and her dog Benji and me and my dog Cheddar on our respective mats.

I’ve loved all the photos of people doing yoga at home with kids, with dogs, and with cats too. People are sharing them on social media. This weekend I’m doing Yoga with Adriene in a conference hotel in sunny Tuscon, Arizona. The big upside? Space and time to myself.

I realize that paying for yoga classes in a studio is one kind of privilege. Another kind of privilege is having a house with space to do yoga at home. The only room in our house with yoga space is the living room and it’s usually occupied. I’m self conscious, really self conscious, doing yoga with an audience, even a family audience. Also people talk over Adriene’s instructions.

Starting next week, for the first time in twenty seven years, I’m going to have an empty nest. No kids at home once the youngest goes away on a university exchange to Australia. Maybe his room can be the at home yoga studio?

Where do you do yoga at home? Who keeps you company?

aging · dogs · health · mindfulness · new year's resolutions · self care

Kim’s 2020 wellness goals, beyond the bike

Here at FFI I’m one of the “bike bloggers”; along with Cate, Sam, and Susan, I get jazzed about the riding. We all have different styles and prefer different kinds of riding-based holidays, but the bike is our collective thing.

As a committed (and pretty darn talented) road rider, usually my yearly wellness goals revolve around bike training, club riding, and trip planning. This year I still have some of these – I hope to go to my regular South Carolina training camp in March, and I’ll be taking my bike to the west of Ireland in July, while I’m there for a working holiday – but mostly my wellness goals this year are about other things.

Specifically, they are about long-term joint health, and about long-term mental health.

Here I am in South Carolina last March, posing for a selfie in green helmet and orange gilet. I am smiling because RIDING. I’m posing with a sign that says “East Fork Baptist Church”.

First, the joints. I have an autoimmune condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which if untreated can cause incredibly painful skeletal distortion as I age. I’m lucky to work in a town and at a university with an incredible teaching hospital network, and I have a wonderful rheumatologist, whom I trust and appreciate, following my condition.

(I’ll never forget my visit to her the day after the November 2016 presidential election. We had a brilliant chat, woman to woman, about how  dreadful we were each feeling before we talked about my hips. That visit also inspired one of my very favourite FFI posts, “What Women Weigh”; if you’ve not had a chance to read it, please click here.)

Alas, this past year I’ve noticed an uptick in my symptoms. I’ve had too many instances of anterior uveitis (a correlative condition – basically the inflammation of the iris, REALLY), and my hips have been stiff and sore more than usual. I don’t want to have to shift my A.S. treatment, because the next step up is to begin taking immunosuppressant drugs, which I’m very anxious about. (I WORK WITH STUDENTS #petridish) So, instead, I’m committing this year to making more time for yoga at home, as well as at my beloved Iyengar studio, and perhaps I’ll also fold in some sports physiotherapy.

I know this will mean dialing back on “regular” workouts to fit in more joint-focused, low-intensity stuff. I find dialing back on cardio and weights hard – #endorphins – but if I want to keep doing that into my old age, I need to reprioritize.

A group of seven ordinary humans practice ‘hanging sirsasana’ (supported headstand) at a rope wall in an Iyengar Yoga studio. Iyengar uses a wide range of props to ensure all students are safe and supported in poses, which means they can receive maximum stretch benefits without any risk to joints.

Second, the mental health stuff.

I’ve been going to Jungian, talk-therapy based psychotherapy for about 18 years, on and off. My doctor in Toronto is covered by our provincial health insurance (YES to medicare for all, friends! It is literally life-changing!), and he more or less saved my life in the mid-2000s. But after all this time, last summer I realized that I’d learned most of what I could learn from him about the traumas of my past, and yet I was still feeling sadness and far too much unexplained rage.

I chatted with Susan about this on a long dog walk last Christmas. She agreed that I sounded like I’d plateaued in my learning with Dr A, and she suggested I give a different kind of therapy a try to see where it leads me.

(Susan, in addition to being a bike person, is our resident “why dog walks are critical fitness activities” blogger. My favourite of her posts on the topic is here. IT IS HILARIOUS AND PROFOUND.)

Susan’s lab Shelby, in Christmas bow and posing with bedecked tree; this snap is from a post a few short weeks ago. Everyone needs more Shelby.

Thanks to Susan’s advice, I’ve now begun a course of EMDR therapy here in my home city. It’s been remarkable so far: I’m learning to revisit certain of my past traumas in safety, and to dissociate the feelings I carry about them from my traumatizing memories. Already I feel lighter, I have more compassion for those who previously enraged me, and I’m looking forward to making more discoveries in 2020. I know there’s a way to go yet, but I also see that the end can be filled with light.

This therapy is not government-covered, nor does my private work-based insurance cover it (beyond a measly 15 bucks a session. WHATEVS). And it is not cheap.

After factoring it into my working 2020 budget (I paid off my car, and redirected the money from the car payments toward it), I realized that I will also need to scale back some other fitness spending to accommodate it. So I may or may not get back to rowing, as I’d hoped, in 2020; we’ll see. And while I need a new saddle, I think I’ll also need to rely on my fantastic partner for more cycling-related presents throughout the year, rather than let myself wander into any bike shops on whims.

The cover of Bike Snob NYC’s 2010 book, “systematically and mercilessly realigning the world of cycling”. It’s a grand cover, with hand drawings of a variety of nifty bikes around a kind of cycling “crest” with the title in it. It makes a superb Christmas present! Thanks, sweetie.

So, in sum from Kim:

Fitness = anything we do to help our body-minds feel better, move better, move safer, be lighter. Yes this is bikes, and weights, and runs; it’s also dog walks, and mental health work, and joint support, and rest. As we try not to fall into the badgering temptation of the proverbial “New Years resolution”, let’s keep this range of wellness options in mind!

What about you, friends? What are your wellness hopes for the new year? And a happy one to all!