fall · fitness

Catherine learns about activity, care and relationships from her logic students

It’s back-to-school time for me and everyone around me. It feels strange after being away for 18 months, teaching on a small screen to even smaller students. It feels strange teaching in-person, all of us wearing masks (my campus has a mask and vaccine mandate). One of my current students introduced herself to me last week, reminding me that she was in one of my zoom classes last spring. I commented that she looked different in person than she did inside a small square on my laptop. She said the same was true of me, and we both chuckled, a bit nervously.

Some things, however, haven’t changed. I’m still teaching online introduction to logic–two sections. I’ve been doing this for more than ten years, and it has its plusses and minuses, both for the students and for me.

One of the plusses (for me, at least) is this: at the start of the term, I ask the students to introduce themselves. I offer them a variety of questions to answer to get them started (all optional):

Who are you? What should we call you? Where are you from? What’s your major or interest (if you haven’t declared one yet)? Do you have pets? Siblings? Kids? Favorite house plants or T shirts? What do you do when you’re not schooling? Tell us whatever you’d like.

They always deliver. I’m in awe of how much they do, how many relationships they sustain, how many hours they work at jobs to help support themselves, their families, and their educational goals.

So, in honor of the start of the school year, here’s what 58 logic students do to be active, caring, and satisfied, in the form of lists.

They take care of a LOT of pets:

  • 23 cats
  • 28 dogs
  • one horse
  • one bunny
  • one betta fish
  • 3 mice
  • 11 chickens
  • indeterminate number of other farm animals

They take care of other humans:

  • 13 children
  • 15+ younger siblings
  • loads of other peoples’ kids (as nannies, babysitters, daycare workers)
  • elderly people (as caregivers, aides)
  • school-age kids (as teachers’ aides)
  • kids’ sports teams
  • vulnerable people (in centers, schools, hospices)

They keep active:

  • horseback riding
  • cycling
  • running
  • basketball
  • football
  • yoga
  • dancing
  • softball
  • hockey
  • hiking
  • fishing
  • snowboarding
  • gym workouts
  • water skiing
  • playing with their animals

They go to places that make them happy:

  • the beach
  • the park
  • the woods

And they do all of this while working many jobs. Many or most of them work full-time AND are full-time (or close to it) students. Their lives are, in short, full.

I am in awe of these people. I already like them and am proud of them for their courage in taking on two lives’ worth of activity and caring and work. I hope to learn more from them as the term goes on.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

fall · fitness

Catherine’s training/shopping plan for starting the school year

It’s happening for real– school is restarting in the Northern Hemisphere and lots of us are returning to in-person teaching or learning. Of course, the people with the other jobs have been or are dealing with the transition from remote to in-person work. I feel like I’ve not been sufficiently sympathetic up to this point. But now I am.

Returning to in-person work (outside of my house, that is) feels scary and weird. And when things feel scary and weird, making lists seems like a way to approach them. So here I go:

Logistical list:

  • Try on work clothing to see what still fits. Oh joy.
  • Order a bunch of clothing online, now that I’m going to be teaching in person AND some things from February 2020 don’t fit well now.
  • Order a lot of masks, including N95 ones, for teaching in person, along with regular surgical masks to hand to students who invariably forget/destroy theirs. It’s going to happen.
  • Download a new meditation app (Calm), because if one is good (Ten Percent Happier), two must be awesome…
  • Plan, prep and cook meals on the weekends that I can thaw or pull out of the fridge when I get home from teaching, and other meals I can take to school for lunch. I prefer not to eat in a school cafeteria, and I certainly won’t have the spoons to cook after being on campus all day.
Spoon inside. red circle with a line through it. The rest is left to the reader.

Activity list:

  • Up my meditation game to include a 15-25 minute sit each day (in addition to my early morning and late-at-night short meditations). I’m going to need as much equanimity as I can get as I shift into campus work mode. I’ve already started, so am hoping to keep it up.
  • Charge up my long-dormant fake-o FitBit to track my hopefully-soon-to-be-ordinary campus movement, which will: a) provide positive feedback/reward for each day’s courageous act of getting out of my house and car; b) provide data and set the stage for new goal-setting; c) remind me to accessorize with a real bracelet on the other wrist.
  • Pick an outdoor activity I would like to do on my way home from work, and do that activity. After all, I’m out of the house and in a moving vehicle– how hard can it be to swing by somewhere-or-other and swim or walk or cycle or do yoga or paddle? Honestly, this seems like a great idea. I think I might actually do it.
  • Put together a bag or bin with after-school playthings for swimming or walking or yoga or cycling or whatever. Wow– I think I might do this, too!
It would be double-cool to get one of these tents to change from work clothes to play clothes. Thinking on it...
It would be double-cool to get one of these tents to change from work clothes to play clothes.

Emotional list:

  • Give myself a break about how hard the transition to an on-campus regular work schedule will be. I’ve had serious insomnia for the past 18 months (and no thank you, I don’t need any sleep tips– I know them all). It’s not going away magically on Sept 2. My schedule won’t be ideal, but what is?
  • Give myself a break about how bumpy my transition is, especially in cooking and activity schedules.
  • Be flexible about what comes up in the course of the transition; if swimming is too complicated, how about walking? Or yoga? Or youtube dance videos?

This isn’t for beginners at all. I’ve studied and taught dance, and could barely manage it.

Accountability list:

  • Report back in four weeks’ time on how the transition is going. That car-tent is backordered, so likely I won’t have one, but for the rest of it, I’m looking to breathe and move through this.

And I can’t wait to see my students!

Not my students or colleagues, but you get the idea.

Hey readers, what about you? Are you in the transition back to school? Have you already done it? What’s it like? Are you headed back to in-person work? What’s working for you? I’d love to hear from you.

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!