fall · fitness · monthly check in

Sam is checking in for November

November is officially my least favorite month of the year. It’s dark by late afternoon.

Today the sun sets, according to Google, at 4:46 pm.

There’s no snow yet to play in. It feels like possibilities are shutting down at the best of times. Add a pandemic and increasing lockdown like restrictions to that, especially ‘celebrate the holidays only with the people in your immediate household‘ to the mix and I was more worried about November than usual.

The good news? I made it. There were some very good days in there too. It wasn’t all a trudge.

Maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit

What helped?

I did daily gratitude posts.

I sat in front of my SAD lamp at breakfast

I got out of the house most days during daylight hours.

I did a lot of riding my bike in Zwift and Yoga with Adriene. I even graduated from Zwift Academy.

It helped that my bad knee has been behaving mostly and that riding helps keep my knee in line. Cheddar and I have been on some pretty long walks. Sometimes I’m not sure if it is feeling better or if I’m getting used to the pain. Either way, I’ll take it.

Cheddar relaxing after a walk

It’s a good thing that my knee is doing well. Given that hospitals are being kept busy with covid-19 patients, my knee replacement surgery is likely to be put off for awhile. University Hospital in London, Ontario which is where my surgery is to take place is currently battling covid-19 outbreaks on almost all of its floors including orthopedic surgery.

My best guess for when the surgery was to take place was December but that doesn’t seem likely now. I’m checking in with doctors next week to find out.

Dark trees without leaves against a cloudy sky

Side note: It was even hard to find November like photos. There are lots of fall colour photos of brilliant red and yellow leaves. There are lots of winter photos of woods in the snow and sunshine. Grey November with bare branches against the grey? Not so much. But in the right mood it’s got its own stark beauty. Doing okay in the rest of my life meant I had the emotional space, even with the pandemic, to see that.

I’m ending November less nervous about the next one, especially since things are looking good for the worst effects of the pandemic to be over.

Here’s my happy dance in anticipation of sun and snow and the gradual end of the pandemic!

fall · fashion · fitness · gear · Seasonal sadness · self care · walking

Thoughts about walking and about rain boots minus gender

Nat’s post about walking in the rain prompted me to take action. Now, I’m no Nat. I meet my very modest step goal most days but I try not to care. My Garmin watch gives me fireworks when I’ve met my step goal and I smile at this little mini celebration but when it asks me to increase my goal, I decline.

About eight months ago I wrote a post about the wonders of walking that asked what if you can’t walk. I can walk but not very far with my damaged, waiting to be totally replaced, knee. There are still reasons to walk, even it hurts, and lots of studies show that walking won’t make the situation worse.

So I do walk a fair bit still thanks to Cheddar the dog but increasing my step count isn’t among my fitness goals.

Cheddar and the fall colours

But Nat’s post inspired me in another direction, the direction of dry feet and dressing for the weather. Like Nat, I’m well kitted out for winter. I have all the gear I need to stay warm on my fat bike, on snow shoes, or while walking Cheddar in January. But rainy weather? Not so much.

I don’t mind winter when it’s here. In January the days are getting longer, there’s snow to play in, and often there’s sun. But November? Ugh. Dark, cold and often rainy, November is my toughest month. I’m on record as hating November.

Given the pandemic, I don’t need any extra anger or resentment in my life. I need to make friends with November. First step, getting better rain gear. I’ve got an excellent rain coat that I bought while on sabbatical in New Zealand. But I don’t have good rain boots. My calves are too wide for traditional knee high rain boots.

The boots needed to be bright and cheerful, because November. And short, because calves.

Here was my short list of choices:

Boots

In the end I chose the Pride boots. I thought seriously about the pink fishing boots but they aren’t available in my size.

But I need to tell you a thing I love about the Pride boots. They’re available in two different kinds of sizes, wide and narrower. Not men’s and women’s.

I’ve written before about gendered sizing, about lady backpacks and women’s bikes, and why they drive me up the wall. Why not just wide shoulders, or long torso? Why tie things to gender even they’re not about gender at all? If some men fit women’s boots and some women need men’s boots, then it isn’t really about gender, is it?

Thks. Hunter boots for getting it right.

Black boots with rainbow heels

Now, assuming they fit, these boots likely aren’t enough to make me love November when it gets here. But I just have tolerate November and likely I will tolerate it better with dry feet.

Thanks for the prompt Nat.

Enjoy your walks with Michel and Lucy. Cheddar and I will be thinking of you!

And Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

A small orange pumpkin being held in two hands outstretched.
fall · fitness · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Getting some light in my life

Usually at this point in the year I start complaining about seasonal dark, associated mood disorders, and the practical challenge of bike commuting and needing headlights, reflective gear etc.

See Struggling with September Sadness and The night is (soon to be) dark and full of terrors.

Occasionally over the years I’ve managed some good feelings about the dark and about September which brings more of it into my life. See I like it in the dark: Winter and the joys of night time riding and running and Sam is Telling New Stories. But mostly they’re bad news blog posts.

This year I’m working from home. The challenges are different. I can see that it might be dangerous to work all day and only think about leaving the house in the dark.

I’m going to try to make sure I leave the house during the day to get outside in the daylight even if I don’t have anywhere particular to go. Cheddar doesn’t care about goals. He’s just happy to walk. Or run!

Cheddar running across the grass

As a back up plan, I’m also bringing my anti-SAD lamp home from work. It’s not needed there now I am only in my office on Wednesdays. I’m also reading about how people who cope with much more dark than we do get by and even seem to enjoy it.

Northern Light Technologies Luxor Desk Lamp | UPC: 870681000084

As we enter the double whammy of fall dark and the second wave of COVID-19 and associated shut-downs, what are you doing to keep some light in your life?

fall · fitness

My fall fitness plans, pt. 1– incorporating everyday movement into working from home

This fall, I’m working entirely from home, zooming for my classes and all manner of meetings. Who knew that the pandemic would bring with it even more meetings? Sigh.

Three things I miss about being at my workplace:

  1. seeing my students and colleagues in actual person
  2. the transition time of my drive to and from school (although I am thrilled to be temporarily shed of late-day traffic!)
  3. the everyday movement I get from walking and standing while teaching and tooling around on campus

With respect to 1, I’ve made camera use for my zoom classes optional, but told them I really like seeing their faces when they’re up for it. Many of them have cameras on various times, and some never do. But we’ve getting to know each other despite the limitations.

For 2, I’ve been meditating first thing in the morning (after coffee, of course). It’s helping me in a hundred ways, of which #46 is: provides transition between getting up and getting to work in the morning. It’ll do.

But for 3, I’ve had more trouble figuring out a plan. Standing with my laptop perched somewhere doesn’t feel comfortable for teaching. I’m sure there are lots of other options, especially with extra A/V equipment. But for now, I put my laptop on my yoga bolster (which is on top of my yoga blocks) and sit in front of it. It’s working well enough.

But that still doesn’t address the everyday movement problem.

Enter short yoga/qigong breaks. After class and in between meetings, I’ve been doing short (5–10 minute) yoga breaks, aided either by Adriene (of Yoga with Adriene fame) or Bad Yogi (another fav of mine) or my own memory of qigong classes I’ve taken (boy do I miss in-person yoga and qigong!). I also have some DVDs, obtained during a bout of late-night online shopping. Usually I do hip openers (to deal with all the sitting), but any movement feels good.

On days when I’m not teaching, I’m using a Pomodoro app to remind me to stop working and get out of my chair every 25 minutes for a 5-minute break. Tracy has used this technique and wrote about it here. Others among our bloggers like it, too.

For these breaks, it’s my choice. Sometimes I use the break to do something practical, like take out trash or recycling (which involves two sets of stairs down and then up). I’m right now thinking about other quick-ish fun exercise-y things to provide some novelty. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

One idea I had yesterday that’s coming back is incorporating the New York Times so-called 6-minute workout more often as a mini-break activity. I wrote about the skepticism and criticism around it here for the blog. But, this post also contains the list of all the exercises, in case you can’t get to the actual NY Times article. The workout takes longer than 6 minutes– more like 15 or so– but that’s still in the mini-category. I’ll report back on how smoothly it gets incorporated into the daily movement plan.

One final idea: set up my bike trainer to do short spins (10–15 minutes? Not sure). For this one, I’m not sure if I want to do this, or what I would do for a short amount of time. Ideas, anyone? Have any of you done short (say 20 minutes or less) workouts on a spin bike or trainer? I know, I can look this up. But I value your experience. Let me know if anything has worked for you.

cycling · fall · season transitions

Fall noodling in the countryside

Big Island Bike Ride

I’ve written lots about how much I love fall riding. See here and here.

Fall is my very favorite bike riding season. All those beautiful colours, all that summer fitness, and sunshine-y cool weather. So much fun. See Reasons to start riding in the fall and Looking ahead: The quiet season and the joys of fall riding.

This weekend Sarah and I were at her family farm in Prince Edward County. We frolicked in the swimming pool. I did swim some laps but mostly I enjoyed splashing about.

We had friends visit for physical distanced BBQ dinners. We ate outside with lap blankets and toques!

This year I want to make sure we squeeze every last drop of pleasure and togetherness out of summer since we know we’re heading into a tough fall and winter.

We also made sure we got out for a Sunday bike ride. Our plan was to noodle around Big Island. What’s “noodling” on a bike? The dictionary says it’s the action of improvising or playing casually on a musical instrument. How does that translate to riding bikes?

Well, we had no speed goals. We went just as fast as we felt like. We were open to route changes.We stopped to adjust things on our bikes. We also stopped several times to take photos (see some of them above.) We smiled and waved at children and dogs. We chatted lots about houses and plans. We also created a new Strava segment, one that reflects the playfulness of the day. It’s called “Osprey2Osprey” and it’s from one osprey nest to another, It’s about 3.5 km. Later we’ll have fun sprinting that stretch and racing one another home but today was all about noodling.

We’ve got two more weekends with bikes planned, one more with road bikes at the farm and another, with our gravel bikes, on the Guelph to Goderich trail.

Here’s what our noodling looks like by the numbers!

cycling · fall · habits · weight lifting · yoga

Fall weather and Sam’s five part fitness plan!

image

What are your fall fitness plans?

I’ve got a few–five in fact–and the first two are new. I’ve never done them before.

First, fall is time to get the gravel bike out and explore. The lovely folks at Speed River Bicycle, my LBS, shared this list of multi-surface rides with me when I took to Twitter with my autumn cycling plans. Sarah and I have a weekend away planned on the newly finished Guelph to Goderich rail trail.

Second, I’ve signed up for Zwift Academy: “Unlock your untapped power with the program that started it all. World-class coaches bring killer workouts to boost your performance on the bike. New friends bring fun.” That’s October 1-November 25.

Third, my mum, Sarah, and I are going to keep working out outside in the backyard with a personal trainer for as long as weather permits. We’re all cold weather hardy. But rain might put us off. But we have flexible schedules. Let’s see! Maybe I’ll even lure my mum into blogging for us.

Fourth, there’s Yoga With Adriene. She’s a bit of a fitness fixture around here.

And finally, fifth, there’s strength training of various sorts. We’ve got lots of resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, and the trusty TRX. Sometimes I think I need to get organized about it. Other times, I think it’s okay to do random, snack sized fitness-y things when the mood strikes.

What’s your plan for the fall? Anything new?

Photos from Unsplash. This one is a white hand holding up a bright red maple leaf against a dark background.
camping · canoe · fall · family · fitness · paddling

Making room for relaxing and basking on rocks

Canoe filled with stuff in the foreground. Sam and Mallory swimming in the background.

My last time out in my canoe, Sarah and I had a big adventure. YMMV, of course, but it was plenty adventurous for me. Each day we packed up camp and paddled to a new location. We paddled down rivers, over beaver dams, and did some long (muddy, hilly) portages. It was extra challenging because Sarah carried most of the stuff and the canoe and I did it with my knee that’s now just waiting to be replaced. I carried the food for six days and five nights. We slept in a teeny tiny ultralight tent. It was fun but it wasn’t exactly restful.

Next year, now we know we can carry all that food, I’m lobbying for a rest day in the middle!

Luckily our next canoe trip, just two weeks later, was of the more low key variety.

Sarah, Sam, and Mallory

This past weekend Sarah, my daughter Mallory, and I paddled to just one place after a couple of short, reasonable portages. We made camp on Ralph Bice Lake where we paddled some more just because, played cards, read books, ate yummy food including the traditional s’mores for dessert, and because Mallory was along, swam lots. We took the big tent and actual camping dishes. No more using the pot lid as a plate and sharing a titanium spork! We even packed some books and our Kindles.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

It was the kind of trip that had room for basking on rocks and reading whole novels, I really enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Thanks Meg for recommending!

Here’s some more photos of our canoe and our tents.

Here’s the card playing. Mallory won, of course. She almost always does but we enjoy playing anyway.

And there was a lot of swimming!

We’re talking lots these days about various ways of getting ready for the long hard winter we expect is ahead.

Cate wrote recently, “August is made for this kind of elastic time, this kind of intuitive listening, this moving for play and exploration, not repetition and discipline. Looking into the fall and winter we’re expecting, I ponder how to keep this elasticity alive. How to keep nurturing this kind of active emptiness. What about you? What are you finding restorative right now? How are you planning for fall?”

Time outdoors, with loved ones, swimming and reading and playing, is part of my answer. For me this year is a bad combo of empty nest and Covid-19. I had imagined more family dinners and visits but it isn’t always possible.

This weekend felt important. Martha wrote about finding her happy place. Salt Spring Island seems like it’s definitely Cate’s happy place. This is mine. I’m back at my desk today with a bit of sun on my face, some bug bites on my calves, new muscles from paddling, and feeling just a little bit better about what’s ahead this year.

fall · running

Bettina tries orienteering: an exercise in priorities

Yesterday, I was supposed to go on an orienteering run during lunchtime. Two members of my workplace’s running club had organised it to see if this was something people were interested in doing more frequently. It sounded cool, so I signed up. In orienteering, you try to find a series of waypoints marked by little flags that are indicated on a map. The goal is to find all waypoints in as little time as possible.

I rocked up to the start already frazzled: this week is the busiest week of the year for us in terms of work – we have a very important conference next week – so the days are currently long and packed. I was given a map and shown a photo of what the little flags looked like. My colleague also explained that each flag would have a little needle punch hanging off it with which to punch a control marker on my map to indicate that I had indeed found the respective waypoint. Each waypoint had a number. Here is a picture of the map (I was supposed to find control points 1, 7, 4, 6, 8, and 9):

Bettina’s orienteering map: a criss-cross of lines on a paper with the pink lines indicating my intended route and the control points (the control points outside of the pink route were for a longer course that was also on offer).

Then my colleague marked my starting time on a paper and off I set. I found the first waypoint well enough (they made it easy). Here it is:

Control point 1: an orange and white orienteering flag dangling off a fence, with a red punch stamp attached to it.

But then things got tricky. I wasn’t exactly sure how to read the map: were all the tiny trails in the forest on it, or only the bigger forest roads? Was what I was looking at the trail we usually took? Because I was generally stressed, and I didn’t have a lot of time, I was impatient. At some point I suspected I’d missed a turn, so I went back on myself. I started losing confidence in my ability to read the map. Then the next people caught up with me (they ran as a pair) and we tried to find the marker together. We thought we knew where it could be, but we were wrong.

At that point I decided to give up. I would’ve loved to go adventuring in the forest, but I just didn’t have time today: I had to get back into the office. And I wanted to get at least a bit of a speedy run in: all this back and forth looking at the map, doubling back on my way, and trying to find markers that weren’t there was stressing me out more rather than giving me the distraction I needed.

Three fellow runners in the distance, on an autumnal forest road strewn with fallen leaves. These three went just for an ordinary run without orienteering – maybe I should have just joined them!

So I decided that getting a good run in, even if it was going to be short, was my priority, and to stuff the orienteering. I left the other two guessing and looking for the control point and set off on my own. Initially I was frustrated with my inability to get the map right and with the time I had already lost: why the hell hadn’t I decided to just go for a normal run in the first place? (Answer: I had wanted to try this because it sounded fun, and also, I had committed to writing this post 😉 .)

But as I settled into a rhythm and ran on through the foggy autumnal forest on my own, I calmed down and started enjoying myself again. This is why I run: the fresh air rushing into my lungs, the regular rhythm of my feet, the focus on maintaining that rhythm – it clears my mind. I’m happy I made the right choice. Had I continued to try and find the control point, I would have gotten more and more stressed and frustrated, and felt guilty about taking too long of a time away from the office on top.

On my way back, I also found another flag (number 8), at which point I finally understood exactly how the map worked: even the tiniest almost invisible trails were marked on it and I hadn’t expected that, which is how I lost my way in the first place. When I got back I had a quick chat with the organiser who promised we’d do it again. I’ll be there – hopefully with more time and a better experience!

cycling · fall · fitness · season transitions · snow · winter

The seasons of cycling

When I first started riding a bike as an adult, I commuted in the winter but recreational riding came to an end with the snow and the cold. Fun riding was summer riding on my road bike with skinny tires in the sunshine. I trained indoors all winter but I did it for the sake of summer riding.

Over the years I’ve changed, as a cyclist, and I’ve come to appreciate the change of seasons for the different kinds of riding it brings.

For me fall means the return of my adventure road bike and fun riding on gravel. It’s my go-to commuting bike but it’s also good for weekend country rides. We dial back the distance and go out for an hour or two on bike trails. It’s relaxing to ride with no cars in sight. This past weekend Sarah and I did some riding in Turkey Point. See the gallery below.

I’ve got my eyes on the Guelph to Goderich rail trail too.

But it’s not just the fall and cyclocross/gravel riding. I’m also looking forward now to the winter and to riding in the snow on my fat bike. It’s a fun and joyful way to play in the snow on bikes. Check out my smile!

I think I’ve honestly come to love all the seasons of cycling. They’re different things, each with their own kind of pleasure.

Some road riding friends don’t get it. They question the fitness benefits of fat bike riding. They ask about my heart rate and training zones. I say that’s not the point. I don’t fess up that I am not even wearing a heart rate monitor. I’m doing it for fun and for mental health benefits. I need to be outside in the winter. I love riding through the woods. Fat bike riding makes me feel like a kid again as I ride over all sorts of obstacles in my path.

I still ride inside all winter. I put a road bike on a trainer and ride virtually in Zwift. That’s fun too and that I do do for fitness reasons.

Fat biking? That’s for fun and the love of riding a bike.

I’m now the kind of cyclist who loves all the seasons of cycling. See you out there in autumn, winter, spring, and summer!

How about you? Do you ride year round? How many seasons of cycling do you like?

fall · family · fitness · habits · Martha's Musings · motivation

Keeping fitness a priority when winter hibernation calls

by MarthaFitat55

It’s turning into a lovely fall here in the far east of Canada. The cold crisp air is a nice complement against the crunchy leaves and the gorgeous fall colours. When the sun shines, brisk walks are great, but already I can feel the desire to burrow, to get cozy under the quilt, and to ponder the virtue of hot tea or hot chocolate on swiftly darkening afternoons.

A line of leaves changing from green to red. Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

It’s the time of year that I find the most challenging in maintaining my fitness routine. This fall seems exceptional — my local pool has been closed since the end of August and won’t reopen until November; my work schedule is a little wonkier than usual; and I am managing some home repairs that will be most appreciated when we are in the deep of winter.

To keep myself on track, I have booked out my training time in my calendar. I know it might get moved around, but at least this way I won’t book something else by accident. When I see the weekly schedule, I know I have made fitness a priority.

I have started slotting out time for other things as well. I’ve always enjoyed doing handwork (although I am an atrocious knitter) and this summer, while on a car trip, I crocheted a whole dish cloth. I signed up for a quilt course in September and to keep on top of the project, I slotted out a chunk of time during the week and on the weekend.

A friend of mine told me years ago she found chunking up projects to be really helpful. Breaking things down into smaller bits makes large things seem achievable. As my schedule grew more challenging, I found chunking my time into slots reserved for fun things not only got me through various projects but also offered a welcome distraction.

I got my Fitbit involved as well. I have a timer set off to go at ten to the hour. This alarm reminds me to get up and move, because all too often I am likely to stay in my chair writing one more paragraph so I can call it done. I’ve already incorporated little tricks like parking at the far end of the lot, going up the stairs whenever I can, or timing myself to see how fast I can get up the hill.

When I was younger, I looked at scheduling as something rather regimented and limiting. Now that I am older, and have way more on my plate, I find scheduling is really helpful on several fronts: fitness, food/grocery planning , family fun, and me time. Balance is what I am aiming for here; not perfection.

Image shows a calendar opened to September. Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Scheduling helps with consistency and for me, if I want to keep on track with my fitness goals, creating routines is what works for me. I know there will be days when the snooze button calls and the duvet wraps itself even closer around me. I also know by choosing optimal times for training and building in the time for the things that matter, I will be able to keep getting my fitness on.

How about you? What tips or tricks have worked for you to keep your momentum going when fall moves in?

MarthaFitat55 is a writer who likes to get her fit on through powerlifting and swimming.