ADHD · cycling · family · fitness

Like Riding A Bike…ish

I’ve always owned a bike and I’ve always enjoyed riding my bike but most of my extensive riding was when I was a kid.

Since then, I’ve never really done enough cycling to build skill, strength, or any sort of endurance.

I think the issue started when I graduated to a bike with gears. I could never quite grasp how to use them properly. The knowledge that the gears were supposed to be useful but I couldn’t use them well was frustrating and I got out of the habit of going any real distance.

This is an ADHD-related issue for me – this kind of thinking crops up for me again and again. I have to keep reminding myself of the issue that Geraint Evans describes so succinctly below.

a screencap of a tweet by Geraint Evans (@Geraintworks) The background is black and the text is white. The text reads “NT: Not everything about you is ADHD Me: Ok, which parts of you aren’t anything to do with how your brain works?”
Image description: a screencap of a tweet by Geraint Evans (@Geraintworks) The background is black and the text is white. The text reads “NT: Not everything about you is ADHD Me: Ok, which parts of you aren’t anything to do with how your brain works?”

If I add the frustration with gears to the effort required to get out on my bike and then add those things to my ADHD-fuelled notions that a) I needed long rides in order to get good at cycling and b) that once I had the skills I would have to either head out on steep bumpy trails or head out into traffic (neither of which is a burning desire for me), you can see why my desire to ride didn’t add up to much actual riding.

You can, of course, see the flaws in my (previously unexamined) thinking. But I didn’t even realize that I was working from those assumptions and frustrations until recently when my husband has gotten back into cycling.

I really admire the way that Steve gets into new (or renewed) fitness things. He does enough research to ensure some base knowledge and his safety and then he just gets started.

He doesn’t have to make a big plan, he doesn’t generally have a clearly defined end goal. He just gets started and works in small sessions until he feels an improvement and then he increases the challenge in some way.

This is a stark contrast to the way my brain wants to approach any fitness plan. I want a clear plan with fixed time intervals and incremental milestones…

…and then I probably won’t follow it because it is too rigid and doesn’t allow for the way my life works.

So, as Steve has been getting back into cycling, he has been heading out for short jaunts on the side roads and paved trails near our house. Sometimes he is gone for 10 minutes, sometimes it is half an hour or more, depending on his capacity that day.

I’ve decided to copy his approach.

And I’ve decided that I never have to go on a busy road or a bumpy trail if I don’t feel inclined to.*

Taking those possible end points out of consideration made things a lot easier for me.

The other night Steve and I dragged my bike out of the shed, checked it over, and then I took a little spin around the cul-de-sac. Since I only had a few minutes right then, I would have normally just put the bike back in the shed until I had time for a ride.

But because I am employing the Steve method, I went out for a few minutes. Obviously, not a skill-building ride but it was fun to spend even that little bit of time on my bike.

And while I was riding I had a lightbulb moment.

Not only can I ride in small bursts of time but I have the perfect practice spot nearby.

There are two empty-for-the-summer schools just minutes from my house. One of them even has a significant slope down from the road so I can get better at hills (a necessity in this province!) It won’t be an exciting place ride but it will be a safe and useful one.

A woman stands astraddle a black bicycle in a parking lot. She is facing the camera. There is a light-haired dog in a harness at the bottom of the image.
Steve and Khalee came with me for my first practice session. Image description: Here I am , in black capris, a pink jacket, sunglasses and a white bike helmet, standing astraddle my black bike. I’m in a school parking lot and I look apprehensive. My dog, Khalee, is on her harness in front of me. My husband, who is taking the photo, is holding Khalee’s leash.

So, you may never see me on a road with traffic and I may never go on a bumpy trail, but this will be the summer that I finally use my bike as much as I would like to.

Thanks for inspiring me to rethink things, Steve! 💚

A ‘selfie’ of two people in sunglasses. The person on the left is wearing a bike helmet.
Steve and I after my cycling practice. Image description: My husband Steve and I are facing the camera as he takes a selfie. He’s smiling a little and I’m smirking. I’m wearing my helmet, sunglasses, and a pink jacket. He’s wearing a blue T-shirt with the word Texas on the front and orange framed sunglasses with blue lenses. We are slightly leaning towards each other.

* The bumpy trails may become a possibility, the busy roads are extremely unlikely. My particular manifestation of ADHD makes riding very complex, adding traffic into the mix means waaaaaaay too many things to pay attention to at once. Perhaps that will change as my skills with the bike improve but it’s not even on the table as of now.

family · fitness

Change of latitude, change in attitude: my trip south

I just got back from a 2 1/2 week trip to South Carolina to see my family. It was the first time in 17 months that I was able to hug my mother and aunts. What a wonderful feeling!

Not me or my mom or aunts, but you get the idea.

My trip was also an occasion for a complete change of scene, change of companions, and change of activities. This is always welcome, but doubly so at this stage of the pandemic. It definitely felt like stepping outside of my cocoon, into a much more interesting world than the narrow one I was living in for the past 15 months.

Stepping out, headed for novel experiences after a long time at home!

The trip itself was your garden-variety family visit: my niece was graduating from high school; I spent a few days at the beach with my sister and her kids; I hung out with my mom and aunts; and I visited a friend and her family. Ordinary stuff.

But, it felt more extraordinary than ordinary to me. All the activities felt more fun than usual:

  • dog walking with my aunt Cathy and her elderly statesman dog Baxter;
  • swimming and wave jumping in the ocean with my sister and the kids;
  • walking on the beach;
  • doing a bit of yoga with my aunt or niece;
  • attempting to play volleyball on the beach with the kids;
  • pool swimming with sister and kids;
  • casual biking;
  • walking with family around neighborhoods.

Why?

  • Was it the energizing influence of some place different? YES
  • Was it the company of my family, who I was able to be close to again? YES
  • Was it the impetus to emerge from my pandemic-influenced lethargy? YES

And:

It’s summertime!

Is there anything more summery than blackberries? I think not.

Readers, what are your summer attitude/latitude adjustment plans? I’d love to hear from you.

family · food · overeating

RIP Eric Carle, or the conundrum of food in children’s books

CW: discusses diet, weight stigma

The other day, famous children’s book author Eric Carle passed away. I was a bit sad, since The very hungry Caterpillar is a firm favourite in this house at the moment (picture proof below). The tiny human is still too small to understand the text, but he loves looking at the pictures and sticking his tiny fingers into the holes the caterpillar makes into the different foods it eats.

A baby kneeling on the floor, playing with a copy of the book “A very hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

The Internet was awash with lovely stories about Eric Carle, like this one about how he helped a woman find her missing cat. So the story of an interview he gave The Paris Review about getting into a fight with his publisher over the hungry caterpillar’s diet fit right in: apparently, Carle had not wanted the caterpillar to have a tummy ache after its epic binge fest just before its metamorphosis, but his publisher insisted that the consumption of that much (and, on top of that, unhealthy) food be followed by some kind of punishment.

The only problem: the interview was quickly debunked as a parody. It was part of an April Fool’s issue of The Paris Review. Like many others, I was sad to hear that. Which begs the question: why? Why did it get so much traction in the first place?

I mean, I get it. Even before reading this, I’d always felt a bit sad the caterpillar doesn’t get away with just enjoying its feast. But I hadn’t given that feeling any conscious thought. Now I want to explore it. I’ve done much less structured thinking than my fellow bloggers on here on the issue of weight stigma, body shaming, and how these link with eating, so I’m a bit worried I won’t find the right words here. But let me try.

I think it has to do with an underlying awareness that our relationship with food and eating is fraught, and a wish that it weren’t so. Shouldn’t innocent children be entitled to a story in which a caterpillar gets to give in to its instinct of eating? After all, it needs to, so it can transform into a beautiful butterfly. Instead, our poor caterpillar is loaded with all the fraught feelings adults have around “overeating” and food, and the twisted ways in which we project these feelings onto our kids. Sam has written about this on numerous occasions.

The issue of the fake interview and the reactions it got perfectly illustrates what Sam calls “our romantic ideas of children as ‘natural eaters,’ on the one hand, and as out of control eaters, wantons, on the other” (here). On the one hand, we think the idea of a caterpillar overindulging in a range of foods including cherry pie and a lollipop – like a child might – is cute. On the other, there has to be a teaching moment in this, because we don’t want our children to “overindulge” (and become overweight). And at the same time, the idea that the author himself did not want to include the punishment, but was forced to do so by the publisher, reinforces exactly that dichotomy: wouldn’t it be nice if food were innocent for children? Oh no, but it can’t be! There has to be a punishment! Because what if The very hungry Caterpillar ends up encouraging kids to engage in unhealthy overeating, contributing to what is often framed as an ‘obesity pandemic’? We can’t have that! Somebody (the publisher) has to play the bad cop and stop it (but what a spoilsport).

In this narrative, Eric Carle, the beloved author, takes the side of the “innocent” children, the strict publisher the role of a disciplinarian imposing an unwanted but necessary consequence. Just like with food. Ugh. It’s all quite twisted and there’s a lot of projecting and wishing things were different and we all had a more “innocent” and “childlike” relationship with food.

But the whole thing only goes to show that in our society, food is anything but innocent or something to be enjoyed freely. It has to be regulated and judged. That makes me sad too, and I almost want to change the story for my son before he is old enough to read it himself and demand the “correct” version. Maybe next time, I’m going to tell the part following the caterpillar’s dinner party like this: “That night, he felt quite full. The next day was a Sunday again, and the caterpillar was a little hungry again. He wanted a small snack, so he ate through one nice, green leaf. After that, he wasn’t hungry anymore.” Sound good?

cycling · family · fitness

Bettina is back in the saddle – in company

Woohoo, our family has emerged from the weeks of survival mode! We’re more tired than before, but who isn’t these days? In any case, I’m trying hard (and not managing very well) to shift my priorities back and include more movement in my life.

The youngest member of our family is now nearly 9 months old. In some ways this helps (we can do more things) and in some ways it doesn’t (increased mobility means less ability to just plop him down next to me and do 20 minutes of yoga while expecting him to still be there afterwards) with my exercise quest.

One thing that does help is that he is now fairly good at sitting up on his own, so yesterday we risked putting him in the bike trailer for the first time. Here we are, mama grinning from ear to ear about being back in the saddle and baby looking sceptical behind the yellow star I use to cover his face in an effort to keep his privacy on the Internet:

Bettina in cycling gear next to a bike trailer with a strapped-in baby in it. Both are wearing bike helmets, which makes one of them look rather like a mushroom – up to you to decide whom.

If that bike trailer looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same vehicle as our jogging buggy, which converts to a bike trailer. But while it’s safe to go running with a baby who can’t sit up on their own yet (provided you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and common sense), biking is a different story due to the speed at which you might fly over obstacles. It requires the little human to have a bit more body tension and stability.

Anyway, yesterday was the day. We strapped on his bike helmet (so cute!), hooked the trailer up to his dad’s bike, and off we went. We didn’t get very far because it started raining, as it is wont to do these days around here. But it was fun anyway! Baby didn’t complain much and even fell asleep at the end. So even if we didn’t go for a long ride, we have proof of principle: the parents had a good time and the little one didn’t hate it, so we can attempt a longer family ride next. YAY!

What sports and fitness activities do you enjoy with your kids, if you have children? If your they are older, what did you enjoy doing with them when they were small – and in particular, what did the kids enjoy?

family · fitness

Shifting priorities: Bettina is in survival mode

A month and a half ago, I returned to work after maternity leave. In a way, it was like coming back after an extended holiday: insanely busy. I spent the first three weeks in Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting just catching up. Then, as soon as I felt I sort of had a handle on things, my partner – who is now on parental leave – realised that contrary to what we had hoped, Europe’s major scientific funding body had not moved its application deadline to June because of Covid. The deadline is now 20 April. It’s my husband’s last chance to apply; next year he’ll be too old (well, too many years after completing his PhD) for this particular grant.

A picture of a woman (not Bettina), buried under a stack of books. This is sort of how I feel right now, except I’m buried under a stack of Zoom calls, laundry, dirty nappies, and reports for the finance module of my MBA.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Result: partner is now working every free minute he is not watching baby. This means that I’m on baby duty essentially every minute I’m not working. This leaves very little time to exercise. When I can’t go for a run on my lunch break, or put the little one in the buggy and run with him after work, I basically can’t do much. (On Thursday, partner watched baby for a bit longer while I did half an hour of yoga after work. It completely reset me. The man is a saint.)

It’s Covid, so we can’t spontaneously hire childcare, and our son’s daycare spot doesn’t start until mid-May. Our cleaner retired just before he was born (it was well-deserved and I don’t blame her). The house is a tip. Again, it’s Covid, so we didn’t manage to find a new one until next week (I realise that we are very privileged for being able to hire a cleaner in the first place). I decided to apply for an executive MBA just before I got pregnant, well, and before a global pandemic hit. I was meant to start last March, but it’s Covid (are you spotting a pattern yet?) and we didn’t start until September because they kept holding out hope we’d be able to have in-person classes, LOL, so now I’m in the thick of it when I was meant to be on a semester’s break.

I know it’s “fashionable” to complain how busy you are, but honestly? It’s just all a bit much right now. My priorities have shifted: I’m in survival mode. Eyes firmly set on 20 April. This too shall pass. I have leave booked in for the first week of May, and whether we’re able to go anywhere or not, I’m going to enjoy it. Now I just need to get through the next six weeks somehow… and get a run or some yoga in every once in a while to keep me going.

Have you ever been in survival mode? What got you through it?

cycling · family · fitness · yoga

Lizard Pose with Lizzy!

I confess. I’m partly writing about lizard pose to share photos of a new pet in the house, Lizzy the bearded dragon. My son just moved back home and he was nervous we wouldn’t like her. Luckily, she seems to fit in just fine as part of the working from home crew.

But that’s not the whole story.

In an online cycling group of which I’m a member someone recommended lizard pose as an excellent yoga pose for cyclists.

What’s LIzard Pose? “Lizard Pose is an excellent stretching posture for the hip flexors, hamstrings and quadriceps. Integrating this pose into your regular yoga practice improves hip flexibility and strengthens the leg muscles.”

I’ve been riding lots lately (207 km this week on Zwift) and feeling in need of some bike speciifc stretching in addition to the Yoga With Adriene I’ve been doing. So Sunday morning, ater taking Cheddar for a walk, Sarah and I spent some time with Adriene and lizard pose. I love how low key silly and goofy Adriene is. I feel much more relaxed and happy on that mat with attitude.

As always, there are even more advanced poses.

Here’s flying lizard.

But for what it’s worth, even Lizzy–an actual lizard–can’t do flying lizard and neither can I. That’s just fine by me.

Happy Monday from Sam and Lizzy!

covid19 · family · fitness · fitness classes

Bettina’s postpartum fitness parade, part 2: postpartum gymnastics

So I already have to recant a promise I made in my first post in this mini-series: I cancelled my MommaStrong subscription this week. I just haven’t been doing the workouts because I enjoy other things (running, yoga) so much more and it’s not worth paying good money for something I don’t use. But anyway, on to part two of this little series on what I’ve been doing fitness-wise since giving birth.

In Germany, statutory public health insurance entitles you to a postpartum gymnastics course and will pay for up to 8 sessions (because of my work I have private insurance, but it’s also covered). I think this is kind of amazing and possibly quite unique, at least from what I hear from some of my international friends, who have been astounded by this.

Normally, these postpartum gymnastic classes are fairly mellow, aimed mostly at restoring some pelvic floor and core health after pregnancy and childbirth have left your body in… probably a very different shape than it used to be. They sit somewhere between physical therapy and a light workout and are intended to prepare you for going back to “normal” exercise and life in general without incontinence and diastasis recti problems.

If you’re interested in what these classes look like, here’s a video (in German, sorry) from a couple of midwives who have recorded theirs and put them on YouTube to cater to women who can’t attend an in-person class due to the pandemic:

Video from hallohebamme.de – postpartum PT/gymnastics class. They do their course in a “mummy and me” format, Bettina’s was a class without baby.

I think these are the right choice for most people, but if you were quite active before and during pregnancy and had a relatively uncomplicated birth, you’re probably hankering for something a bit more challenging. At least I was. Luckily, my midwife had caught onto that. She found out about a postpartum gymnastics course specifically for “sporty women” (sic) and I immediately signed up.

“Thanks” to Covid, it was an online course. Run by two midwives, we gathered on Zoom once a week for eight weeks in November and December to restart an exercise routine. The sessions consisted of warm-up, some cardio, a lot of post-pregnancy safe strengthening exercises for arms, legs, and core, and finally stretching and cool-down. Over the course of eight weeks, the intensity increased gradually.

Reader, I LOVED it. The first session, I almost cried when I actually broke a sweat. I know breaking a sweat is by no means a requirement for something to “count” as exercise, but I was really craving a hard workout by that time. The women who ran the class were lovely and funny and did their best to make sure we did the exercises correctly even though they couldn’t physically correct us. The only thing missing was the community spirit that would probably have developed had the class been in-person. Although I’m definitely ready to take up other forms of exercise again, I’m still kind of sad the course is over. I was a lovely way of getting myself in gear once a week.

Are postpartum gymnastics courses a thing where you are?

family · fitness · kids and exercise · running

Running with baby!

My partner and I bought ourselves two things for Christmas this year: a hoover (vacuum) robot and a running/bike trailer to take the little human on sporty adventures with us. So on Boxing Day, we ventured out for our first run as three, which was also my first run since I was 28 weeks pregnant. It was So! Much! Fun!, even though I’m very much out of shape. No regrets on spending our hard earned euros on this new plaything! The small human enjoyed it too, or at least he didn’t complain and even fell asleep.

Bettina in running gear with a three-wheel running stroller and a snugly-dressed baby in it (no photos of baby’s face on the interwebs, sorry!).

Hooray for getting my identity as a runner back, and for making the little one part of it!

family · self care

Postpartum self-care stress, or how Bettina learned to take a chill pill and drink the breastfeeding tea

Cate’s crowdsourcing for her post on self-care in tough times (hello US election amid a global pandemic!) inspired me to think about my own recent experience with self-care. Admittedly, I’m in a special place regarding self-care at the moment, where it’s difficult to disentangle my self from that of another, 11 week-old human being.

In the FIFI blogger Facebook group, we were discussing how self-care is becoming not just commercialised, but also Another Thing Women Are Expected To Do. The discussion prompted me to write out a little rant. Here it is, slightly adapted for the purposes of this post. Because boy, are there expectations and (contradictory) opinions around self-care for new mothers, on top of all the expectations and (contradictory) opinions about motherhood and parenting in general.

A river under a clear blue autumnal sky: walking is self-care after Bettina’s own heart.

On top of “be there for your baby 24/7; put him on his tummy 30 minutes a day (never mind if he screams his head off); play with him and read/sing to him every day; feed him every 2-3 hours (that one’s not so much advice but a necessity of life), spend time doing skin-to-skin with baby, etc.”, it’s “drink this tea twice a day and this other one also twice a day (never mind that they taste horrible); also, drink 2-3 litres of water a day; sleep when the baby sleeps (LOL, considering he will pretty much only sleep on top of me during the day); don’t worry about the housework (but make sure everything is hygienic for the new human without an immune system); don’t worry about the paperwork and admin stuff (never mind that it has deadlines); do your pelvic floor exercises; and oh yeah don’t forget to take time for yourself.”

I’m not sure anyone’s day has the 48 hours it would take to do all of these things, but mine sure as hell does not. I really had to learn not to stress about it. Apparently all the pressure new mothers get about breastfeeding, parenting in general, getting back in shape, and so on isn’t enough. We need to stress them out about self-care as well. I know the advice is well-intentioned, but it can be really stressful at a time where your mind isn’t in a good place to be able set your own priorities and all you want is to make good choices for the tiny human you’re suddenly responsible for. It definitely took me several weeks to figure out that “sleep when the baby sleeps” is not for me except at night, and that I’ll do fine if I just drink one or two cups of breastfeeding tea a day (or on some days, none).

And I say this as a woman of many privileges: my partner was home with me for the first two months, so he could take care of the household and many other things, including his share of baby care duties. I have a generous leave policy that allows me to stay home with baby for several months. Our healthcare system is – compared to many others – excellent at postpartum care, free midwife visits, postpartum gymnastics and other perks included. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for a person with fewer privileges to be confronted with all the expectations and pressure around self-care on top of everything else that being a new mother entails.

family · health · Seasonal sadness

Sam is making a conscious effort to acknowledge gratitude, #NationalGratitudeMonth

November is not my favourite month.

That’s an understatement at the best of times and now there’s a pandemic on.

Serious mood improvement measures are called for. In Cate’s blog post about self-care, I even mentioned candy. I’m bringing out the big guns. I’m also trying to get more light in my life.

A few of my friends do a November gratitude thing. They consciously acknowledge and share each day some things for which they are grateful. I figure it can’t hurt and it might help. I’ve been enjoying reading their gratitude posts. So far I’ve noticed that turning my mind each day to the good bits makes me smile, and even on bad days, there’s always something I’m grateful about.

Here’s a few of my first posts:

“Today I’m grateful for teamwork and getting things done. This weekend we managed to cover the boat in shrink wrap for the winter and move the shed so my mother could have more light in her window. Thanks Jeff and Sarah for working to keep boats and houses in order.”

“November is gratitude month and today I am grateful for working with very smart and hard working colleagues, for Sarah who made dinner while I zoomed the day away, and also for a mother who came home from the doctors with oat cakes.”

“Continuing with theme of gratitude, tonight I am thankful for my smart, generous, creative and caring graduate students, for warm sunny fall days for outdoor in-person office hours, and for the technology that allows us to meet as a group safely online. “

I read up on National Gratitude month too.

See National Gratitude Month is an annual designation observed in November.

“Gratitude is more than simply saying “thank you.”  Gratitude’s amazing powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives. Everything in our lives has the ability to improve when we are grateful. Research has shown that gratitude can enhance our moods, decrease stress and drastically improve our overall level of health and wellbeing. On average, grateful people tend to have fewer stress-related illnesses and experience less depression and lowered blood pressure, they are more physically fit, they are happier, have a higher income, more satisfying personal and professional relationships and will be better liked. “

It seems everybody has good things to say about gratitude.

See 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round.

  • Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • Gratitude improves physical health.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  • Grateful people sleep better.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.

And if 7 weren’t enough benefits, this list has 28!

See 28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings. Is there anything gratitude can’t do?

I also read a thing from the Harvard Medical School about the health and mental health effects of gratitude. Again, there’s a lot of perks for the grateful person.

It’s good for everyone, it seems. Well, almost everyone.

“There are some notable exceptions to the generally positive results in research on gratitude. One study found that middle-aged divorced women who kept gratitude journals were no more satisfied with their lives than those who did not. Another study found that children and adolescents who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter to someone who made a difference in their lives may have made the other person happier — but did not improve their own well-being. This finding suggests that gratitude is an attainment associated with emotional maturity.”

Have you tried a gratitude habit/practice before? What do you think? Did it improve your mood/well-being?