I never thought I’d be one of those parents lamenting their children leaving home. Mostly I’m really excited for them finding their own way in the world. I’ve always had my own life in addition to family life, and I assumed that children moving out would just change the mix. Without kids at home there’d be more friends and less time with family.
I imagined I’d still see lots of the adult children. We’ve always enjoyed meals together, playing games, watching movies, etc. I expected that to continue. In normal times it would.
But along came COVID-19. So much for all of our plans. I know I’m lucky. I live in Canada. No one in my family is sick. We’re financially okay. We’re also at a stage in the pandemic where we are able to enjoy lots of time outside together. Recently Mallory, Sarah, and I got to go camping in Algonquin.
Still, I’m not seeing friends as much as I’d like. I’m also not seeing the kids as much as I’d like.
I’m very nervous about winter, about Thanksgiving, and about Christmas. Those are times when we’d come together inside.
Frankly, I’m sad and I miss my children a lot and I didn’t expect it to be so bad.
You need to know that I am the kind of parent who happily sent kids off to Australia and New Zealand on their own. Bye! But this, this is worse. First, they’re all gone. Second. COVID-19, makes seeing them more complicated. Third, I worry about them a lot.
Okay, end of the sad part of the story. I want to share the only possible upside. There is more room in my house.
The backroom is now my home office and the official Zwift home headquarters and Yoga With Adriene studio. Check it out! Our home weights finally arrived too.
Also, while I miss my fitness oriented son for our noon hour workouts, I’ve now talked my mother into working out with me at lunch with a visiting backyard personal trainer. Living with my mother also helps to remind me too that although kids move out–as I did at 19 or so–families can stay together through a lifetime.
On the bright side, August saw me riding outside and paddling my canoe. It felt like I finally got to do some of my usual summertime things. I even got to ride with someone in addition to Sarah. Hi Kim! Thanks for riding with us.
On the one hand, it felt like summer at long last. Yay! On the other hand, it also felt like the end of summer, because of course, it is.
Time is weird enough in these pandemic days. Add the start of the university year/end of summer to that and it’s very definitely a bit of a fuzzy mess.
I’ve been moving lots through it all though. I think in the 220 workouts in 220 groups I’m in, I’m up to more than 260 workouts. That’s a lot for me. But it’s been a bit random. And I worry that as the work pace picks up in September, workouts will fall by the wayside.
In light of that worry, I’ve signed up for a 30 day women’s cycling training program. So far, I’ve learned, that for me racing is easy but working out alone on the trainer is hard. I mean, I’m doing the workouts in the virtual world that is Zwift but I’m not connected with anyone riding in Zwift. It’s a struggle.
Of course racing isn’t actually easy. Sometimes it’s very tough. But I’ve got lots of motivation that can be hard for me to find in other contexts. I’ve been loving the team time trials the best.
Let’s see if this 30 day challenge works. I’ll report back when it’s over and let you know how it went.
We’ve also got a personal trainer coming to our backyard to workout with me, my mum, and Sarah once a week. It’s lots of fun. We’re going to keep that up until the snow is too much, I think.
That’s been terrific because my fitness oriented/weight lifting son moved out to live with friends. We’re worrying a bit less about covid-19 without him here and he’s enjoying a bit more freedom but I really miss working out with him at lunch.
Looking ahead for September I’m also doing a different kind of 30 day challenge, one focused on equity.
30 Day Challenge: A Daily Practice Challenging Barriers to Equity
“Throughout the month of September, Wellness@Work is challenging you to register and participate in the 30 Day Challenge from Wellbeing Waterloo Region. This challenge is focused on daily practices challenging barriers to equity. Each day, there is a short activity to help you learn, reflect and practice small actionable steps you can take. The challenges help to increase understanding and build capacity on topics including, unconscious bias, social inclusion and various forms of privilege. The daily practices include short videos, articles, reflection questions and suggestions for actions you can take.”
I’ve been enjoying my exchanges with David Isaac on Twitter. Like me, he’s got both the word “philosophy” and the word “cyclist” in his bio. We’re also both interested in the issues facing women cyclists. I’m just on the edge of the cycling advocacy community here in Guelph but David is quite involved in bike advocacy in London, Ontario, the city he calls home.
Here’s our recent chat about women and bike safety.
Hey, welcome to Fit is a Feminist Issue! Maybe we can start by you telling us a bit about your background as a cycling infrastructure advocate and also as a cyclist.
David: I have always been a cyclist – I’ve been riding a bike to work and school for over a decade in Kitchener-Waterloo and London. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve started to get more involved as an advocate. I’m a personal injury lawyer, and in my line of work it’s not uncommon to see cyclists who are hurt in collisions with drivers. As I started looking into why these collisions were so frequent, it became clear that infrastructure played a big role. Where proper bike infrastructure is in place, more people ride bikes, but collisions are less frequent. As I came to understand this better, I started advocating for proper infrastructure. A lot of that advocacy is just on Twitter, but I’ve also given a few talks and interviews about cycling.
What’s the connection, do you think, between good safe cycling infrastructure and the goal of getting more women on bikes?
David: Research shows that where safe cycling infrastructure is built, more women will ride their bikes. “Safe infrastructure” generally means bike lanes that physically separate the cyclist from vehicles – the old joke is that “paint isn’t infrastructure”. It’s important to note that the research does not show that this correlation is due to a sort of evo-psych explanation about women being inherently risk-averse. Each person’s risk tolerance is different, and this of course intersects with race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.
Léa Ravensbergen, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, has done some excellent research into the differences between what women and men use bikes for. She uses a great term “vélomobilities of care” to describe the ways people meet their and others’ household needs using bicycles – for instance, by taking kids to school or running errands. She notes that because women take on a disproportionate amount of this work, the types of activities women use cycling for are often different for women than for men. So the location of infrastructure matters. If it only serves commuters, but doesn’t connect to a daycare or a grocery store, it will mostly benefit male cyclists. Protected bike lanes are the go-to example of safe infrastructure, but it isn’t the only thing that matters in getting women on bikes. Bike parking that is well-lit and safe is also important.
Cycling has a reputation of being a male-dominated activity, and the discourse around cycling infrastructure suffers from this same problem. This can lead to issues in determining where cycling infrastructure is built. If cities only listen to advice about bike lanes from white men, they will end up building bike lanes that are primarily useful to white men. Viewing infrastructure through a feminist lens means building cycling infrastructure in places that benefit women, and making sure cyclists are protected from gendered violence. Again, it goes without saying that other identities play a large role in this. Bike lanes in wealthy neighbourhoods will only increase cycling among wealthy women.
I’ve heard it said that women are the “indicator species” for safe happy community cycling. Countries with a big number of cyclists also have lots of women out on bikes–commuting, recreationally riding, etc. Why is that, do you think?
David: I think there are probably two main factors at play here. The first is that those countries generally have a large network of bike lanes, which are more likely to connect to places that women are more likely to cycle to. The other is if you are a woman who wants to ride, and there are lots of people riding, it’s easier to find other people to help you get started. Ravensbergen noted that trips that are considered difficult by bike (such as a grocery shop or taking children to school) can be made easier if you have mentorship opportunities to teach you how to make those trips more easily.
Why is safe cycling a feminist issue?
David: People who cycle regularly have significantly improved health outcomes compared to non-cyclists. This applies to both mental and physical health. Cycling can save you money and is better for the environment. Plus, it’s fun! It’s important that these benefits are available to everyone, not just men.
Safe cycling is also key to creating healthier, more interconnected communities. If people live in disconnected places, they can’t access things they need like social connection, fresh food, healthcare, or child care. Safe cycling infrastructure can make cities more equitable.
David Isaac is a personal injury lawyer and cycling advocate in London, Ontario. He specializes in helping pedestrians and cyclists who are injured. He tweets about cycling, law and philosophy at @DIsaac8.
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.
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.
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.
My maternity leave from work officially begins on Monday, so it’s only fitting that I also start maternity leave from the blog now. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve started to understand why mat leave is a thing, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have a fairly generous policy at work: things do get exhausting as you grow bigger, especially now that it’s also hot. I also find it harder to focus, and pregnancy forgetfulness is definitely real for me.
Taking a break now feels right. I’m not due for another few weeks, but I’m going to start focussing on getting everything ready for our new arrival.
I won’t return to work until February next year, but I hope to be back to blogging earlier than that! I’ll definitely keep you posted on how things go once I can go back to exercising after the birth.
It is officially summer now. The solstice was yesterday, Saturday June 20. We’re having a hot spell in the Northeast, which means I just installed my bedroom air conditioner unit more than a week ahead of my usual schedule (I always shoot for July 1 for no particular reason).
Today, I was taking a break from an online bioethics conference (which involves sitting at my computer looking at an endless– if very interesting– list of powerpoint presentations with audio). The break was the perfect antidote to sitting: hauling plastic chairs and stools downstairs to the driveway to soap, scrub and hose them off, in preparation for spruce-up spray painting.
As I said, it’s hot hot hot outside. I had a garden hose in my hand, multiple spray settings at the ready. It didn’t take long to put two and two together. Dual results: clean plastic outdoor furniture and a soaking wet, refreshed, happy Catherine.
This reminded me of how much fun I had as a child in my yard with garden hoses, sprinklers, kiddie pools, and a Slip ‘n Slide. I think my original one looked a bit like this:
Apparently they’re not designed for adults. Bummer. Look here for ominous tales about Slip ‘n’ Slide hazards.
When I got back inside, dried off, changed clothes, and sat down at my computer, I took a minor detour from bioethics talks, and searched for water-delivery-system fun toys or contraptions for local summer fun. It turns out there’s little to nothing for grownups. Here are some of the things I checked out.
Backyard inflatable splash/spray pads:
Novelty backyard sprinklers for kids:
Kiddie wading pools, of which there are many variations:
Note: I searched and looked at a lot of pool-related products, and not one of them had pictures with black kids or black families. Not one. Perhaps such photos are out there, but they are not used for advertising any of the hundreds of products I perused.
If you have a bigger space or grander wet and wild ambitions, here’s something for you:
This baby weighs 375 lbs (170kg) costs $USD 275/day to rent. It also requires a large area for maximum frolicking fun, either wet or dry.
Sadly, none of these options were what I had in mind. I live in a three-family house that’s been condo-ized, and I’m the second floor owner. We share a backyard, but in reality I never use it. I do use my back porch a lot, but even a small wading pool seems like a very bad idea.
Here’s a promising idea: maybe I could have something like this for refreshing water dunking from time to time.
But what if it’s just me, in need of outside cool-water immersion? Yes, I could hang a solar camp shower bag on my porch and get a cool water shower outside (you can tell I’ve really been avoiding those conference presentations today), but where’s the wild and giddy fun in that? Sigh.
So readers, you heard it here, maybe first: I think there’s a marketing opportunity here: fun water toys for 1) adults; and 2) anyone who lives with minimal outside space, like a porch, deck or balcony. Any thoughts? Product ideas? Recommendations for items I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you.
A few weeks before official ‘stay at home’ recommendations were issued, I left the gym and started working out at home. We started out strength training with resistance bands, the TRX and a lone kettlebell.
It all began in the livingroom but with the nice weather we’ve moved to the back deck and the back yard. The first purchases were a mount for the punching bag and a giant tire for flipping.
Recently, we’ve added sand bags and water jugs to our lifting repertoire. Both work well for workouts with partners who lift different amounts. Here it’s me and my 22 year old son who significantly stronger than me.
I confess these purchases were his, both the inspiration and the execution. He’s been planning and provisioning for our back deck workouts. In the “220 workouts in 2020” someone called me a “badass.” That’s partly true but it’s more true I raised one and he is good about including his mom in his workouts. He owes me for all the time on the 401 when he played rugby! Also, it’s nice to workout with company.
The sandbag is one large bag with handles and then smaller bags filled with sand go inside. You buy the bags and the sand separately, of course, for reasons of shipping.
What do you do with sandbags? Pretty much anything you’d do with dumbells.
What’s the advantage of working out with sandbags?
First, there’s the one I mentioned above. You can load up the bag with a different number of sandbags for different people or different exercises.
Second, the instability of the sand gives the workout an added edge.
“One of the most versatile tools you’re probably not using, a sandbag is great for when you want to work out but also don’t want to spend all day working out. With a sandbag, the center of gravity is always shifting, because the sand moves back and forth, causing your core to engage in a different way than with a stable weight, even when you aren’t doing a core-focused exercise, explains Patrick McGrath, a certified personal trainer at Project by Equinox and SLT studio in New York City.”
Here’s a sample sandbag workout.
If you find they are all sold out online, there are lots of DIY solutions. Fill up your own bags with sand. We’re not travelling now anyway. You can also weigh them using the handy scales that we used to use to weigh our luggage–back in the before times.
The water jugs are the same idea. We have two sets of different sizes and you can (obviously) fill them up with different amounts of water. As with the sand, the water is unstable making for an extra challenge.
Today we used the heavy water jugs for deadlifts and farmer walks.
But here are some more ideas.
I will say that we aren’t the neatest when it comes to filling and emptying the jugs so for us it’s a good thing that these are outdoor workouts. Also, I think the lawn appreciates it!
Today, I am mourning the optimism of March 11. The last ‘normal’ thing I did before the pandemic shattered so many parts of our home life was to sign my kids up for summer camps. In a moment of inspiration, I also signed my 5.5 year old up for a ‘learn to ride a bike’ course. I was focused on the future. On planning. On aspirations. I look wistfully back at that day, and I miss the part of me that was able to plan so coherently. Any future orientation is difficult at the moment.
On March 12, school closures were announced for our jurisdiction. The day after that, parks and recreation programs were shut down. The day after that, most private and indoor recreation spaces chose to shut down (the climbing gyms, the trampoline park, the pools). A couple of days after that, even the playgrounds and most outdoor recreation spaces were covered in caution tape.
Our family is very active, and also very activity oriented. My kids are 3 and 5 1/2, and in ‘the before times’ we went to the climbing gym as a family every week. Our kids were always in swimming classes. The kids had yoga at school, and physical education every few days. We have the kids in skating classes and circus camp, and our kids are fearless at every playground play structure within a 3km radius of our house. The kids had unstructured outdoor time more than once per day.
Any one of those options feels unfathomable right now.
The first phase of the pandemic shut down hit us hard. Many of our activities were in spaces that could not be modified to accommodate physical distancing. The kids had a number of birthday parties cancelled, their climbing classes were cancelled, their daycare was closed, and many of their friends disappeared from the neighbourhood. Some friends left the city to help with physical distancing from their front line worker parents, and most others retreated to backyards and indoors.
Our initial coping mechanism was to head out on long walks and bike rides. Big parks, long trails, and stay away from the main roads. As more and more businesses succeeded in shutting down or moving online, the trails and sidewalks became too crowded. We now tend to prefer alley ways, because they are wide enough to accommodate physical distancing. 5.5 and her dad initially headed out on a 5km bike circuit with her training wheels still on her bike. They did this most days for a week, while the 3 year old and I would head out with a balance bike and a jogging stroller, and would combo bike/walk and push until everyone had received their requisite vitamin D.
Within 2 weeks, we started to work on removing the training wheels for 5.5. My partner removed both pedals AND training wheels, and turned the bike into a balance bike. After about 3 days, we put the pedals back on the bike. We pushed the bike up to the school yard (by this point, there was caution tape on all of the playground equipment, and plastic bags covering the basketball nets, but the open concrete space remained open). My partner turned his back on 5.5 while he put his jacket down on the school steps, and he turned around to see the kid pedalling past him. She had figured it out without the requisite parent running along behind the bike, and no one could suppress a smile.
So much for the ‘learn to ride a bike’ course.
All things considered, we are doing great. We get to spend time with the kids when they would normally be cared for by other people. We get to witness the firsts, and be part of the excitement. They are growing up in tangible and exciting ways. My 3 year old is much more confident on a balance bike and scooter, and my 5.5 year old is working on tricks with her bike. The kids have learned to play together. They are working on throwing balls and chasing butterflies. They are excited to look for weeds in the garden. They re-draw the chalk obstacle course in the driveway after every rainfall. They climb fences, and chase bubbles as is appropriate to their age. Yesterday, they got absolutely soaked through jumping in puddles in the rain – and proclaimed it “The best day ever”. We try to get out every day, and encourage dancing along with any and every viewing of Frozen II.
Thanks to a recent New York Times article, I now know that the recommendation for kids ages 3 to 5 is 3 hours per day of physical activity. That is a lot, for an age group who sleeps about 12 hours and eats about 6 times per day. I suspect that we make it occasionally, but I doubt that we hit the target more than 3 times per week. But for now, we are doing just fine.
Yesterday, on May 15, the city announced the official cancellation of all summer camps. I am still mourning the optimism of March 11. The future filled with Nature Camp and Learning to Ride a Bike and sending my 3 year old to swimming lessons without a parent in the pool. We are doing okay in this new world where we are forced to live in the moment. I barely look at the forecast these days, because what would be the point? I’m not looking forward to the future, and I am okay with focusing on today. But I play over March 11 in my mind on a regular basis, and grieve the future that was but will not be.
Jenny Szende is a philosopher, writer, climber, cyclist, and mother based in Toronto.
It’s gradually been dawning on us, here at home in Guelph, that fitness-wise, we’re in this for the long haul. I stopped going to the gym awhile ago now. On March 9th I wrote, Sam decides to take a break from the gym. And by “this” I mean working out at home.
If there were a work Covid-19 bingo, for sure one of the squares would be about this being a marathon and not a sprint. I even wrote a Dean’s blog post with that as a title. I hope I wrote that before we all got sick of hearing it. Maybe not. And while I am sick of hearing that phrase too I am only now realizing that it’s not just about work. My personal life has changed too. I won’t be flying anywhere soon.
And the more that I think about it, the more I realize, that even if gyms re-open, I’m not going back anytime soon. I’ve written about my 7 part physical distancing fitness plan and about the missing puzzle pieces of my at home plan. Now the missing pieces are mostly filled in. I’m getting lots of physical activity and it’s helping me with stress and sleep. It’s also a source of pleasure and achievement in these strange times.
I expect I’ll return to the gym if we have a vaccine or if/when we have reached herd immunity without a vaccine or I suppose if we develop effective treatments for Covid-19. Either of those options is more than a year away. Before that I am more likely to go back to our 24 hour discount gym, in the off hours, than I am to the campus fitness facilities.
Maybe I’ll change my mind. But right now I’m thinking if I can do a thing with less risk, I’m going to stick to that path. Hence, the backyard gym.
Inside, we have the TRX and yoga mats and resistance cables. We’ve also got a kettlebell and a lone 8 lb dumbbell. We’re pretty well set up for riding inside too though as things loosen up in Ontario, I’m looking forward to physically distanced rides with friends. Obviously, there’s still some shopping to do. Outside, we now have skipping ropes, the punching bag, and a giant tire. Between those things and the phone tabata app, and a few family members to work out with, it’s a good time.
Usually I envy my big city friends with their boutique gym options and a vast array of theatre, music, and food options. But right now. I’m feeling pretty good about life in my small city where we have a backyard and space to flip big tires. The streets aren’t crowded for walking and running even if the city parks haven’t re-opened yet. Yes, I’m privileged to have these options. I’ll totally understand if others choose differently.
Come winter we may end up with even more indoor fitness equipment in the room that was our livingroom but is now mostly a two person home office which turns into a home gym when we break for lunch, or do yoga after work or before bed. I’m not sure it will return to its pure living room status. On and off, I think we’ll be working at home (those of us whose jobs allow it) for awhile yet.
What fun piece of backyard fitness equipment would you buy if you had the summer ahead of you?
Today is her birthday. She’s turning 28 years old. That strikes me as unbelievable. Some days I still feel like I’m 28! I’ve written lots about making fitness part of my family life and Mallory is a big part of that story.
She does some things that have never really been part of my life–swimming and rock climbing, for example. Together we both love camping and cycling. She’s also an intrepid outdoor adventurer, having done lots of solo tramping, in New Zealand, and winter camping, here in Ontario. I’m in awe of those things.
Thanks to covid-19 we’re not together physically for her birthday. And we aren’t camping or biking or rock climbing or swimming. Instead, we are physically distancing. We’re doing our part to flatten the curve. We’ll save the real party for later but today we’ll chat on Zoom, and have cakes in separate houses and separate cities.
I’ve been annoyed lately at the all people posting about how what we are being asked to do is simple and easy, just stay home and watch Netflix. But being apart from your children–even if they’re adults–on birthdays isn’t easy. Even a few weeks ago we were all talking about going away together for the weekend.
These are pictures from just a few of our adventures together. There will be more.