Walking is tricky these days. I have good days and I have bad days. I’ve been worried about my future walking. I’ve been jealous of friends posting very high step counts on social media and angry at friends who say they can’t imagine a life without walking.
Saturday was glorious. Here in Guelph it was 13 degrees and sunny. Cheddar needed walking and my son, Gavin, and I wanted to go back to the Rockwood Conservation Area. I did all the right things. I’d biked that morning (Zwift in Central Park), and stretched, and taken pain killers. My knee is always better after riding and that’s a great thing.
It worked! We walked 5 km on mostly level trails and boardwalks, saw some beautiful scenery, met lots of dogs, and had a great afternoon. I was relieved that my dog hike days aren’t over. I think Cheddar was happy too!
Here he is with other family pets napping after the walk.
I’m laying face down on my mat in Sleeping Pigeon with tears streaming down my face. I’ve been there for 3 minutes or so as the tendons unfurl in the heated yoga studio and I cry.
I’ve learned I carry tension about work in my neck and shoulders but worries and stress about my family are in my hips. I joke sometimes that my family is literally the pain in my ass.
I’m in a yin yoga class thanks to my friend & neighbour Kim. We visit on the walk to and from class. The Sunday afternoon routine has become our touch point and my moment to reflect on my wellbeing.
The slow pace of the 90 minute class promotes patience and acceptance. Pigeon is a challenge for my round body, it takes a couple minutes to find the right configuration of meaty thigh, Buddha belly and boobs and then the real work starts.
At first I feel a burning in my hip, a band of lava wraps around my socket then radiates out over my whole body. It’s very uncomfortable but rarely drifts into pain.
My mind wanders as the hip fibers unfurl and I come back, breathing, and watching my body react to the pose. The burning passes, like so many annoyances in my life, and the pleasant settling against the mat begins.
I start to get bored, more waves of heat and pressure move around my hips, glutes, hip flexors and thighs. Each release triggers thoughts and feelings about how I’m challenged in my roles as parent and partner. It has been a very rough go and each band of fibers releasing brings those tensions top of mind.
The tears well up as I imagine enduring through these tough times. Resilience hardens to resolve. Not the flippant, tied to a time of year resolution, but the grim determination of leaning in to my problems.
The time comes to leave the posture and I hesitate. Here, on the mat, in this vulnerability, no one is asking more, there are no other needs to fill, just me, my body, and my heartache.
I’m that fat middle aged woman who cries in Sleeping Pigeon now and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
My partner recently went on a Vipasana meditation retreat and has shared many great tips on living in the moment and not avoiding the negative sensations in my body. I’m someone who has a complicated relationship with my physicality and my mental health. I often work out to care for both.
My feminism has grown to be a place where I honour my body and don’t worry about my appearance. I work out in resistance to a world that tells me women my age should be invisible, wear loose clothes and not bother anyone.
In a small way, splayed out on a floor, in Lycra, taking up public space and crying are about being visible and existing for my own sake. I like to think other women are encouraged by my messy self and do things that work for them too.
My fitness activities aren’t a punishment or about achieving a specific appearance, they are for me and my well being alone.
I hope you are discovering and doing those activities that meet your needs this year too.
There’s so much that’s difficult about the holidays but one of the things I love is getting gifts from my family members. That may seem obvious. What’s not to like about new shiny stuff? But what I love are the identity affirming aspects of gift giving. These are the gifts that say, I see you, I know you.
What’s relevant to the blog are the gifts that recognize sporty me. I got sailing booties and a spray top from Sarah. I love the feminist fitness themed t-shirts I got from university age son. See above. And Jeff got my commuting bike in order for winter riding with snow tires and fenders. Part of the gift was putting them on.
The winter bike tires aren’t studded. They’re more like car tires. Here’s the Mountain Equipment Co-op description: “Studless tires for northern winter, these ones grip when other cyclists are left spinning their wheels. Hundreds of lamellae (tiny biting edges, like those found on gecko’s feet) interlock with slick road surfaces.”
I’m looking forward to trying them out.
Did you get any fitness-y gifts that recognize your sporty self? Please tell us about them in the comments.
I’ve written lots about finding time that way and sometimes about how I can struggle with it.
Still it’s my go-to way of finding time for work and for fitness.
If I’ve got a big thing due the next day staying up late to finish it doesn’t occur to me. Instead, I go to bed early and set the alarm at 4 or 5 as needed, even 3 rather than staying up late.
I admire celebrities who are very early risers. How does The Rock, for example, find time to work out? He gets up super early. My Rock app alarm time gives me the option of getting up at Rock Time. I can get set my alarm for whatever time he chooses. Usually that’s at 330 am.
Can you imagine going to bed at 7:30 and rising at 2:30? He does it he says to get the exercise out of the way before his family wakes up.
For Wahlberg and the Rock looking fit is part of their job. They need those muscles and those visible abs.
I’m an academic dean. There’s no merit pay for muscles in my role. But still I’m fascinated by the super successful extreme early risers.
My mother’s theory, at least I think it’s my mother’s, is that nothing good happens in the evening. Usually it’s a time to sit around and relax. Few people write or workout in the evening. Instead, so this theory goes, we eat cookies and watch television.
(Note to friends who are super productive night owls. I see you. I know you. And I know it’s not true for all people. That’s why I attributed the view to my mother. Sorry mom. I know night owls who struggle with trying to fit into society’s norms around work and schedules.)
My youngest son—who we refer to as Son 2 when we talk about him on the internet–is 10 years old, and bikes crazy. Along with my husband, who cycles on an amateur team and loves long roadbike rides, he often goes out for 12 or even 20 mile rides. I don’t often go with them because I have a hybrid. However, in the summers when I take the kids up to the Traverse City area in the northern peninsula of lower Michigan (AKA the Mitten), Son 2 only gets long rides if I am game. Two years ago, we noticed a long stretch of lovely trail up near Petoskey and Charlevoix along Lake Michigan and vowed to ride it. Last year, we rented hybrid bikes for a few hours and followed through; I blogged about it here.
This year, Son 2 and I decided to try a new-to-us trail on the Leelenau peninsula. Only completed 6 years ago, the dedicated Leelenau Trail rail-to-trail system is 17 miles from just north of Traverse City up to Suttons Bay, criss-crossing major roads at stop-signed intersections. At the three trailheads with dedicated trail parking lots, bike servicing stations provide manual pumps and bike tool sets as well as water fountains and trail maps. Along the way, the trail is well-maintained with the occasional rest stop and port-a-potty provided by the TART trail system.
Perhaps most importantly when cycling with kids, there is a bike-and-ride system incorporated into the trail. Whether you ride the trail one way from TC to Suttons Bay, or Suttons Bay to TC, you can catch the bus back. Don’t want to ride roundtrip, for your own reasons or to save kids’ legs so it stays fun the whole way? Just catch the bus back.
We chose to start a little north of Traverse City at the easily-accessed Cherry Bend Road trailhead, which was quite close to the corresponding return bus stop on Cherry Bend Road. Our plan was to rent a hybrid for me, while Son 2 would use his own wee road bike which we were able to fit handily in the back of the van on the trip from Illinois to Michigan. We intended to ride the remaining 14 mile stretch of trail up to Suttons Bay, have a nice lunch, walk past some shops downtown, and pick up the bus at the Suttons Bay library on the way back. And this is exactly what happened.
The Cherry Bend Road trailhead had ample parking. From there, we could have gone south into Traverse City, or north up to Suttons Bay, which we did. The trail is even, with only some elevation. Since both TC and Suttons Bay are on the west arm of the Grand Traverse Bay, both directions have the same amount of up and down; there is no easier direction in this respect. The Leelenau peninsula is covered in agriculture, from cherry orchards to grapevines to grains. The stretches of the trail which pass through these fields are only occasionally shaded, but flat and speedy riding.
Benches are placed far more frequently than needed. Son 2 says “the benches were placed about halfway between where people needed it and where they didn’t need it, and they were also strategically placed at beautiful spots.” He speaks truth. Occasionally we would go by one and he would say “I want to stop here, too, but we just stopped!” (we rested twice for water and the view).
Our first stop was on a bit of a hill with woods behind and fields below, the bench in the shade and our water bottles still cool.
Before we took off, we agreed a mom-and-kid selfie was in order. As we came back out into the fields, we stopped again really quickly to take in the view, which included fields of grass shaded green and light purple.
Carrying on, we passed signs for turns to vineyards, shops, and more. One family had placed a handmade hand-varnished picnic table under a tree on their property with a few snacks in a box labeled “take one”, and the word “welcome” carved into the end of the table. Another resident had built an elaborate garden along their entire stretch of the trail, with American flags and pennants of many colors strung along and across the trail. There was a sculpture of frog in a straw hat riding a bike, and a windcatcher sculpture turning in the wind that blew refreshingly across the trail.
At one point, we saw a building with one full wall intact, the others crumbled, made of concrete with smooth river stones set into its exterior walls. We stopped here for another break, accidentally gifting a small pink water bottle to whomever next stumbled upon the shaded picnic table nearby.
When we got to Suttons Bay, the trail carried on a bit, and we turned off towards downtown, walking our bikes until we came to a rack and then locking them. We walked around a bit, hit some of Suttons Bay’s many pokestops for our ongoing family game of Pokemon Go, and grabbed a special treat of steak at a decent restaurant we picked out by using Yelp. A short bikeride later, we arrived at the Suttons Bay Library right next to a lovely park with a good playground near the marina. The bus stop was clearly marked right out in front and a shelter was provided. I realized belatedly that I didn’t have exact change for the bus, and popped into a redolent tea shop where the proprietress kindly broke my $20 bill for me, and I dropped $1 each in her donation bowls for the local LGBTQ support center and the local Women’s Center.
The bus pulled up right on time, and we put our bikes on the front. When the bus pulled up to the next stop, just south of Suttons Bay, a family of three children and one adult joined us, putting most of their bikes on the interior rack. The converted school bus has the capacity for eleven bikes, as indicated in this picture Son 2 took from his aisle seat.
The bus dropped us back at the Cherry Bend stop, we unloaded our bikes, and rode half a mile to the trailhead where we found our vehicle unmolested and put our bikes in the back as happy cyclists rode past on the trail behind us.
The trail had many people, but did not feel crowded. There were enough folks that we could ride for a bit with someone and strike up a conversation, or meet someone at a rest stop, and loads of people commented on Son 2’s speed with his wee road bike. I want to emphasize that I am not a cyclist. I am not steeped in cycling culture. I am not regularly on a bike, though I do walk a lot and occasionally run and do a startling number of pushups for someone my size. I found this ride, even on a rented hybrid whose saddle was an insult to my buttocks, entirely doable. Son 2 said afterwards that he could probably have done the 28 mile round trip, but was glad he didn’t have to.
I heartily recommend either the trip we took last year, or this one. Both can be pushed out to be a very long pleasant ride through beautiful terrain for seasoned cyclists, or easily shortened and, in this case, combined with the bike-and-ride bus, for those with less training or who are habituated to shorter more leisurely rides. Because of this, both are suitable for individuals and families with kids, of a variety of age ranges and fitness ranges. Folks who enjoy shopping and/or cute downtowns will get a big kick out of Suttons Bay where the downtown theater still operates a single screen for residents and visitors.
I will close by noting that more than once, Son 2 was complimented on his kit, and it was clear to everyone that the youngest of us was the most experienced. This had the merits of being both flattering to me as a parent, and true. Also true: this was a wholly pleasant experience with not a single downside except the loss of a single water bottle, pink, which I hope someone else found and now loves.
I’m not training for anything these days. I’ve got the one day version of the bike rally that I’m still hoping I can do. Please, please sponsor me here! But really my main goal is staying active while managing my knee issues, avoiding pain and surgery.
This means that my workouts look like a little haphazard. They’re more like active lifestyle than anything you’d call exercising or working out. It’s definitely not training. I’m still having fun.