family · fitness · motivation

Sam craves early mornings but just how early?

Readers know that I’m a morning person. Here’s my piece on the allure of very early mornings.

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.

I reported on my week with the Rock Clock here.

Now Mark Wahlberg has one upped the Rock, sharing his sleep and workout and prayer schedule with the world. He gets up even earlier at 2:30 am. He’s in bed by 7:30 pm.

Here’s a plea to save Mark Wahlberg from this schedule.

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.)

But for people like me who are “Alive, Alert, Awake, Enthusiastic”  in the morning, the evenings can be a sink hole of inactivity.

We likely need some of that down time, true. But how much?

As far as getting to your goals, it’s wasted time. But I’m never tempted to turn on Netflix in the morning. The most procrastinate-y stuff I get up to is dog walking and house cleaning.

So the morning, the early morning, feels like the best time to exercise.

How about you?

clothing · cycling · family · Guest Post

On cycling with my son and not being the one in a proper kit (Guest post)

By Alison Reiheld

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.

Gratuitous bonus shot of east arm of Traverse Bay, from the city beach in Elk Rapids, MI.
family · fitness · injury

How was your weekend?

Selfie of Sam with white bike helmet and her Sweet Ride Cycling bike jersey.

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.

Catherine’s post on Sunday really resonated with me.

This weekend I logged two workouts over the weekend in the 218 in 2018 group I’m part of.

97. Short hike through fields and meadows, lots of moving things around, mini archery lesson.

My son Gavin got a new bow and we took it to Sarah’s family farm so he could practise shooting into balloons, hay bales, and dirt piles.

98. Bike 30 km to cheer Tracy in her Guelph 10 km running race. Great to have her in my new town. A group of us got together for brunch after.

How about you? What did you get up to this weekend?

A picture of Sam trying out her son’s new bow. She’s wearing wide leg blue pants. There’s a backhoe in the background.
family · fitness

Moving at a family pace– lessons in easing up

This week was family celebration and vacation time for me. My nephew Graham graduated from high school, and the next day my sister and her kids and some of their friends and I decamped for the beach in South Carolina. The weather was perfect: 80s (27–30C), and sunny every day.  The water there is warm (78–80F, 25–26C), great for swimming and splashing around.

Being active with a bunch of kids of different ages and interests is fun, but involves compromise, patience and improvisational skills. I don’t have kids, and am used to doing my own thing or joining a group of adult friends for active vigorous fun. Every time I get together with niece and nephews I have to remind myself that the cadence of activity will be different. And with them growing and changing, each time is different from the last.

This week, I rented beach cruiser bikes for everyone, which were a huge hit. We rode them everywhere– to the beach, on the beach, around the area we were staying, and on a local bikeway to a marsh area and the next town over from where we were staying. My sister said to me, “I’ve never ridden a bike to another town before”.

My sister and some of the kids, posing before departure.
My sister and some of the kids, posing before departure.

The bikeway is a 6-mile section of a proposed 17-mile paved path in the woods. It’s lovely.

The pace was leisurely, with several stops for water and regrouping. There was picture-taking and laughing and chatting. It was the sort of bike ride I take only with family or kids.  Hmmm– why is that?

Me with my beach cruiser at a marsh near the bikeway.
Me looking very happy, with my beach cruiser at a marsh near the bikeway.

We also rode bikes on the beach, tides permitting. Again, we didn’t cover lots of ground, but had loads of fun. I even staged a family race, in which no one cooperated and everyone was laughing and riding in all directions.

The place where we stayed had a mini water park, with lazy river and various water features, along with pools and hot tubs. My nephew Gray and I were the most ambitious about trying out everything.

My nephew and I being deluge by a bucket of water pouring on us at the water park.
My nephew and me, being deluged by a bucket of water pouring on us at the water park.
My nephew and me, getting drenched again by a barrelful of water.
My nephew and me, getting drenched again by a barrelful of water.

Of course we walked on the beach, too, and swam in the pools and in the ocean, and walked and biked all around the area where we were staying. There was lots of activity, and everyone slept soundly at night.

I’ve been writing a lot on this blog about my attempts to deal with my decreased fitness, feelings of loss about past fitness, and also about what moving through those feelings is like. Well, this week I found that I was able to take a vacation from those feelings. I simply had fun moving around in all the ways I described. Swimming, walking, cycling, playing, drifting in a lazy river, jumping in waves– all of these were pure pleasure. It certainly helped that I had a 12-year-old at my side for virtually all of this (thanks, Gray!), but it occurs to me that maybe I can do this at home too.

Easing up– on myself, on my cadence– that seems like a good idea.





family · fitness

Fa la la! Exercise isn’t always what you think

Singing in a choir could be a new form of exercise. See here.

Exercise is one of the few activities in life that is indisputably good for us,” writes Daniel H. Pink in his new book, “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.” “Choral singing might be the new exercise.”

“Choral singing calms the heart and boosts endorphin levels. It improves lung function. It increases pain thresholds and reduces the need for pain medication,” Pink claims, citing research published in Evolution and Human Behavior. It also seems to improve your outlook, boosting mood and self-esteem while alleviating feelings of stress and depression.

These aren’t simply effects of singing. “People who sing in a group report far higher well-being than those who sing solo,” he notes. It’s about synchronizing with others. Rowers and dancers have similarly shown a greater capacity to endure pain when performing in time with others.

That’s good news for the young people in my family, two of whom sing in choirs.

Mallory’s next concert is a 100 voice mass choir at Wesley Knox United Church in London, Ontario: MISSA GAIA/EARTH MASS, SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2018, 8 PM.

Gavin’s next concert is a week later, April 28, the day of our book launch.


Dad strength? Is there a mom version?

My son spends a lot of time at the gym strength training, building muscles. He’s got a schedule, theories about nutrition, and a plan for spring. But he’s part of a young men’s gym culture that cares more about looks than about function, I’d say. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

That came home the other night when we were all carrying stuff from the house to a trailer to take it to our storage locker. Our house is going to be for sale soon and we’re moving out half the stuff. Don’t talk to me about staging. I’m annoyed and stressed.

Back to the carrying heavy household things…

My partner in parenting doesn’t lift weights. He’s in his fifties like me but he doesn’t go to the gym. So my son and I made a comment about being impressed with how easily he picked up stuff as he carried it out of the house. We’re talking big stuff like appliances and church pews. Family legends tell stories of him moving hot tubs, pianos, and dryers out of tight basement spaces.

My son said, yeah, that’s dad strength for you.

What’s dad strength, I asked.

Just check out his forearms. You get forearms like that from actually doing stuff, not from lifting weights at the gym. He’s got muscular hands and lots of grip strength.

And it’s true Jeff does a lot around the house. He does home renos, builds things, and lifts household objects. He also works on his boat. Last summer he hauled the motor with Sarah and the two of them worked on rebuilding it. That’s demanding too.

So the contrast seems to be between gym strength (bicep curls, bench press, etc) and dad strength (firm grip and strong forearms). I get it.

But it also got me wondering if there’s a mom equivalent, a contrast between gym fit and mom fit? (I’ve wondered that before about mom bods. See The dad bod? Fine. But what about the mom bod?)

Sure she can do the eagle pose in yoga, but can she wrestle a struggling toddler into a snowsuit? Yes, she can swing a 30 lb kettle bell but can she carry a heavy infant in a car seat and an arm load of groceries at the same time.

It’s not just wrangling children, of course. It’s also lifting bags of cat litter at Costco. It’s about shoveling snow. It’s about planting shrubs in your backyard. Like dads, moms do lots of heavy lifting. It’s not gym strength. It’s mom strength.

Personally I’m not much of a mom. I’m more of a parent. I prefer my parenting to be gender neutral.

But I like the idea of mom strength. Do you have any examples of mom strength at work?

A white woman with brown hair in a ponytail, wearing a green and white stripey sundress is holding a toddler in a pink hat. She's standing between two cars, one red and one green. Year? 1950-something?
Photo from Unsplash, A white woman with brown hair in a ponytail, wearing a green and white stripey sundress is holding a toddler in a pink hat. She’s standing between two cars, one red and one green. Year? 1950-something?
family · gender policing · injury

Would you let this kid jump?: Gender, the play gap, and the protection paradox

This video came across my newsfeed recently. It’s a little girl  kid (I’m not sure if they’re a boy or a girl–see the reader’s comment below) attempting and failing a box jump. The ponytail made me think girl. Watch til the end!


What’s striking about it is that their dad doesn’t stop them. Instead, he encourages the child to keep trying? How about you? What would you have done? I confess I fretted a bit. “Don’t hurt yourself!” Does it make a difference to you if it’s a boy or a girl jumping?

And then I got thinking about it in terms of my work on the “play gap” between boys and girls and between men and women.

Canadian kids don’t move a lot. Very few get enough daily movement.

The grim facts are that Canada’s children just got a D- in physical fitness for the third year in a row. Just 9% of Canada’s children between the ages of 9 and 15 meet the recommended guideline of one hour of activity per day. Experts are blaming the dismal showing on the so-called “protection paradox.” Parents try to keep children safe by not allowing them to move freely between home and school, or engage in active, outdoor play, but as a result our children are leading increasingly sedentary lives. See here.

But of course it’s not just that kids don’t get enough movement. It’s also the case that girls move less than boys. More on that in another post. I promise!

If the protection paradox is indeed part of the story about kids’ increasingly sedentary lives, we might wonder if the protection offered is gendered.

Do we stop girls but not boys from risky physical behavior? I bet we do. I’m still thinking about this and welcome your thoughts and ideas.