fashion · feminism · fitness · gear · running · swimming

Bettina’s quest for a multi-sport watch – small wrists and designing with women in mind

Following the untimely demise of my wristwatch, I’m currently in the market for a multi-sport watch. Tracking can be problematic in a variety of ways (see posts e.g. here and here), but I like data, and I like tracking my exercise performance over time. So I’ve wanted a multi-sport watch for quite a while, but could never quite justify the expense because I had a functioning watch. There was also a second problem that persists and is currently thwarting my watch acquisition project. I have small wrists.  Very small wrists.

So I can’t find a watch that fits me. With some models, the body is literally wider than my wrist (I’m looking at you, Samsung Gear Fit Pro 2). It’s uncomfortable and looks ridiculous, but also has the potential to become dangerous since it increases the risk of getting caught on something, say a pool line. In the past I’ve owned a Garmin Swim that I wore exclusively in the pool. Tracking swimming was literally all it did, and even though it was chunky, it was just about ok. It did a good job at recognising strokes and provided other analyses I was keen on having, like stroke efficiency and such like. Later, I started looking into multi-sports watches more seriously, since I’d also gotten into running and wanted something that could track that too. This was the start of my sizing troubles. In the end, I settled for an activity tracker that counts lanes very reliably and does a reasonable job at estimating distance when running, although this is inaccurate enough to be annoying.

Bettina’s current fitness tracking setup: a Misfit Ray. Not bad, but there is room for improvement. Also exhibit (a): small wrist.

One would think that over time, manufacturers would catch on to the fact that there are people with small wrists around, but no. I still can’t find anything that suits me, and I’m starting to get quite angry. I’d really like a Garmin Forerunner 645 or Vívoactive 3, but even these smaller models are really too big. I might just about be able make the Forerunner 645 work – but it would be a big compromise practically and aesthetically.

I wonder why there are no suitable watches around. Yes, my wrists are small, but I wouldn’t say they’re extraordinarily tiny. One possible explanation for the lack of options is that manufacturers can’t currently fit all the functionalities one would want into a smaller watch. If someone can convincingly demonstrate to me this is true, I’ll rest my case. Another reason could be that you need a certain display size for the watch to be functional. I get that point. Still, I have trouble buying those arguments. The Apple Watch has loads of functionalities and is still relatively small. The difference: it is very clearly aimed at men and women. My hunch is that this isn’t exactly the case with multi-sport watches.

Yes, there are multi-sport watches out there with a more “female look”, usually rose gold and white. But they’re still massive! Even for instance the Garmin Fenix 5S, supposedly designed with women in mind. Not to mention that not all women are keen on the rose gold/white colour combo. My theory is that it still has something to do with “designing with women in mind”. I’m not talking about “shrink it and pink it”. That would probably actually imply a loss of functionalities. In fact, many activity trackers seem to fit exactly that purpose, and there are plenty available that are explicitly aimed at women. Fitbit even launched a “female health tracking” functionality earlier this year that attracted some excellent snark among our blog contributors (Would the messages come in shades of pink? Would it do emotional labour for you on the variance in your numbers? – It ended up reducing “female health” to “menstrual cycles”, which has a whole other load of problems, but that’s not under discussion here).

So is it carelessness? Or laziness? Are the people who design these watches a bunch of men whose effort to think about potential female customers stops at “oh, let’s slap some women-y colours on it and be done already”, combined with a dose of “women aren’t interested in a serious multi-sport watch anyway”? Is the number of women with small wrists and a desire for detailed sports tracking too small to make it worth the effort? Maybe. But I’d still like one. With swimming analytics beyond lane counting. With GPS. With music streaming integration. Yes, the full deal. Really.

If any of you have tips for a device that might fit the bill for me, please shout. I’d really appreciate it! Or are you running into the same problems?

Dancing · fashion · femalestrength · fitness classes

Nia With My Mum

Nia girl drawing
Self-portrait stick figure drawing of Mina doing Nia

A few weeks ago I went to my mother’s Nia class with her. I like trying new things. Especially ones that ask me to move my body. I was inspired, too, by Tracy’s report on her new SUP on this blog. I didn’t have any good idea about what Nia was. I had gleaned that it was something dance-y, with maybe a dash of martial arts. Yes. And more. I’ll get to that. I also assumed that it wouldn’t be too challenging physically. After all, my mother, who is vigorous but in her 70s, does the class. I imagined it peopled with other women her age. I imagined it would be a dawdle. Nope.

I go to a lot of new-to-me movement studios. One of the first things I do when I’m traveling somewhere is research my workout options (besides running) for while I’m there. Going to a studio in a new city is a fun way to check out the vibe of the whole town. On occasion I’ll look back through the studios that pop up on my Mindbody app, reminding me of some of the places I’ve been—yoga in Asheville, Toronto and Boulder; spinning in Phoenix, Calgary and Portland; aerial in Reno and Paris, plus rowing and SLT in New York. Susan Meehan’s Nia class in London, Ontario is one of the friendliest, warmest new places I’ve ever been.

I was still nervous. I don’t go to dance classes terribly often. I’m a bit awkward, and I’ve never been good at following choreography. I get self-conscious about my lack of grace. In this case, I added the extra fear of being a disappointing daughter, all elbows and knees. To be clear, that’s a self-generated thought, not anything my mother says!

First thing I noticed—the age range in the class seemed to go from mid-thirties through well into the seventies. I revised my expectations around anticipated exertion. The class started quickly, which I like because it keeps me focused. I was a couple of beats behind for most of the class, but the sequences repeated enough times that I started to catch the groove. Nia is indeed dance-related, plus martial arts, plus women’s empowerment, plus root-chakra-flirt, plus wild and free, plus a red face and a fast heartbeat. And a whole lot of sassy booty.

That’s another thing I’m not good at: inhabiting the traditional sexy-hips-and-shoulder moves. They feel false in my body, like something put on to please other people, not myself. I feel sexy when I’m just home from a strong run, or striding across town in my favourite green velvet boots. Have I mentioned the Nia outfits? Love them. Pants that widen outrageously below the knee, possible ribbon adornment, sleeveless off the shoulder on one side and sheer on the other. That’s just what I witnessed at the class I went to. This is a workout with fashion flair potential.

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Photo of woman wearing black flared Nia pants with ribbon at the knee

The class also included a portion of free dance, or really free-to-move-however. I relish any opportunity to let my body climb inside some music and see what happens; so energizing. By the end of the class, despite my various bits of fear, I was sweaty and limber, and my heart felt big and full.

Will I go to Nia now that I’m home in New York? I’m not sure. I’d have to give up one of the other workouts I love so much. But just knowing that I have it as an option in my back pocket is great; for a day I might need a bit of vavavoom. And I have a workout for with my mum.

How about you—any Nia practitioners? Or other saucy workouts you suggest?

cycling · fashion

Sam gets new back to school spd sandals

The image above is from Instagram. It’s my tried and true, very old and very dusty, cycling sandals. I loved the contrast between my bright shiny pink toenails and my shabby sandals.

Speaking of images, my newsfeed is full of photos of kids going back to school with their smiles and shiny faces, new backpacks and new running shoes. I love back to school.

I don’t buy a lot of back to school stuff these days since the weather won’t get cooler likely until October. I got a new Chrome messenger bag last year and I love it so there’s no new backpack equivalent on the horizon either. But, I was super excited to put new spd cleats into my new spd sandals. They’re my go-to summer commuting footwear for cycling. I usually change sandals when I get to work. They are totally utilitarian and not at all work appropriate.

People love to mock them. It’s true they are ugly. They aren’t good for actual mountain biking. Mud, sticks, rocks, etc.  But those of us who love them for commuting and touring love them a lot. See A love letter to the spd sandal.

I wear them with skirts and dresses. See Riding bikes in skirts and dresses, totally fine if that’s your thing.

About my sandals I wrote, “My road bike has Look pedals, but my cyclocross bike has SPD.  They are not the femme-est sandals in the land but they work. I keep fancy sandals, in colours other than black, in my office but often I don’t change.”

My old pair are very old. They’ve been me through 10 summers. But they’re ripped and torn and not fully functional any more.

I was so happy when Sarah found me a new pair. (They’re also a bit of niche item, hard to track down.)

So my big back to school excitement was my new spd sandals.

How about you? Did you but a new back to school thing? What is it? 

 

 

Image description: Black Shimano spd sandal. Tag reads, “turn every ride into an adventure.”

fashion · feminism · fitness

Let Women Wear What They Want

serena williams' catsuit at the french open
Serena Williams in a kick-ass catsuit at the French Open

The powers-that-be in charge of the French Open, aka French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli, deemed the catsuit Serena Williams wore back in June as a fashion choice “gone too far”; one he considered did not “respect the game and place.”

Oh please, seriously?! After I picked myself up on the floor from the outrage of the headline alone, I read the whole story. Apparently Serena wore the outfit because she wanted compression for her legs, because she’s been having problems with blood clots since she gave birth to her child. Also, because she felt like a superhero in the catsuit, along the lines of a Wakanda warrior (a reference to the movie Black Panther, which, if you haven’t seen it—go see it. It’s feminist film candy about strong, smart women saving the day). The headline reminded me of the kerfuffle around Brandi Chastain’s sports bra in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, when she tore off her shirt to celebrate her incredible goal (a soccer tradition practiced by the men) and was roundly criticized for indecency.

Should players be able to wear whatever they want at the French Open? There are probably outfits that should not appear on the court—one’s birthday suit, perhaps, or an offensive item in the hate-speech category—but a full coverage catsuit? The outfit literally covers more skin and is less revealing that any number of other sports outfits we see regularly in world-class level sports. I won’t stray into my pet peeve about women’s vs. men’s outfits in beach volleyball. Not to mention that Serena has worn far more outrageous (and fabulous!) outfits over the years.

Is Bernard’s outrage because the French tennis boys don’t want strong women to feel like superheroes? Well, I could see why that might be threatening. But it certainly doesn’t disrespect the game. In fact, doesn’t it take the game even more seriously by suggesting that it takes a superhero to play?

Tennis is hardly known for its forward thinking. Wimbledon, for example, insists on using “Mrs.” on its leader board. So it ends up with silliness like, Mrs. Williams, for Serena Williams, who did not take her husband’s name. They call that a “courtesy” tradition. More like discourteous, refusing to address women as individuals separate from their husbands. And remember when the former Indian Wells CEO, Raymond Moore said this, “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried this sport.”

Coming back from my run this morning, I was struck by the stark contrast between the Serena Williams controversy and this advertisement for a portrait session in a photography studio I passed, because all girls should want to look like Disney princesses.

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Window of a photography studio, offering girls a “princess dress” photo session (and that’s my reflection, in my running not-a-princess outfit

I’ve been annoyed by this poster every time I’ve come back from my runs lately, thinking about all the implicit gender socialization in its message. I wonder how Bernard would feel about Serena in a white tutu? Less threatened, I bet.

I can’t help thinking that when men police women’s bodies in the way of Bernard, that it’s their own lack of decorum and respect that they are protecting themselves against. Don’t let a woman wear a provocative outfit, because then I can’t help but be provoked (into wanting her/hurting her). Again, I don’t actually think that Serena’s outfit was particularly provocative on the scale of sexy-world-class-sports-outfits. Her catsuit was strong and insouciant and utilitarian.

Exactly what a woman wants to wear when she’s competing in her sport. The same reason I love a running skirt.

What do you think?

 

Mina is a writer, performer, fableog-ist, citizen, traveler, enthusiast and author of Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives and other books. She’s working on a new book about the transformational impact of sports on women’s lives. http://www.minasamuels.com

body image · diets · eating disorders · fashion · fitness · Martha's Musings

We are more than a collection of parts

 

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Women being active and not worrying about thigh gap, or hip cleavage, or any other nonsense Photo by Kyle Pham on Unsplash

It’s tiring to be female in this world. I can only speak from a cis-perspective, of course, but it occurs to me, that howsoever you come to identify as a female, there is an endless list of things you must have or prevent if you are to present acceptably as female.

 

First it was thigh gap, that space between a woman’s thighs — the wider it is, the thinner and more desirable the women. Then it was the concave navel. Now we have a new one: hip cleavage, or what I knew as high cut underwear or swimsuit bottoms to show off the hip bones.

We are all familar with the term cleavage as associated with breasts. Plunging necklines in dresses are designed to show off cleavage. There are right ways and wrong ways to show off cleavage in the upper body.

Too much in the wrong way means you end up with sideboob reveals; too much in the right way means you may risk a wardrobe malfunction and subject unsuspecting bystanders to a glimpse of the “girls.” These days, the focus, and perhaps the parts in question, has shifted to the underboob (I can hardly wait to see if there is an upper boob!).

Regardless of the terminology, the prinicpal issue is that women continue to be divided into parts. Perhaps it’s the legs (although it and the toes had cleavage back in the day). Let’s not forget the butt or the breasts, with fashion dictating whether they were perky, ample, lean or sleek.

When I used to deliver media literacy sessions to high school students, we would talk about the techniques used to separate, disconnect, and isolate girls and women from their bodies. Instead of being seen as whole, unique individuals with our own kind of beauty, women and their bodies are broken into parts and given meaning and value by others.

The obsession with thinnness as a beauty standard has fueled anxieties and nurtured the development of eating disorders; sadly, girls and women continue to starve themselves to fit a largely artificial construct of “female” beauty.

In Canada, those of us who work in health promotion talk about the vitality message — eat well, be active, live smoke free, and support mental wellness. Being active offers tremendous health benefits and it makes me sad to see fitness being used negatively to coerce women into creating and maintaining a body shape that is not natural to them.

 

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Another picture of fabulous women not caring about articifial body constructs. Photo by Clarke Sanders on Unsplash

 

Focusing on hip cleavage is just another stick we use to bash away at ourselves. It’s a stick handed to us by the arbiters of fashion and trends (I keep meaning to ask, who died and made them the rulers of the universe?) and quite frankly, I’m tired of it all.

We need to rewrite the script and start talking positively, frequently, and loudly about all the good things we can with our bodies: how strong our legs are to drive our bikes and our feet on our runs; how powerful our arms are so we can lift, wheel, and strike; how big our chests can be to ensure we can take in the oxygen we need to keep going; how wide our hips can be to birth children or to cuddle them.

We are enough as we are. In fact, we always were. Let’s remember that.

— Martha is a writer and powerlifter in St. John’s.

 

 

accessibility · clothing · fashion

Leggings are for life, says Sam (#leggingscanbepants, #leggingsforlife, #feministfashion)

Image result for leggings pants fighting humour

Readers know that I’m not a big fan of pants.

My main complaint is sizing. If they fit my thighs and calves, they’re enormous at the waist. See Finding clothes to fit athletic women’s bodies.

But also if I gain or lose even as little as 5 lbs, they don’t fit. So I end up with a range of sizes to cover a very small range of difference in weight.

And don’t get me going on the leg length thing. I usually have to hem pants which adds $10 or so to their price. Men’s pants seem to come in a variety of lengths but women, I guess, are all the same height.

Also don’t get my going on jeans, especially skinny jeans, which they all are on me. Aside from my yoga jeans, I might be done with jeans.

Last year I went on a leggings binge, trying lots of different kinds to find the perfect pair of plain black leggings for everyday use. I tried the full gamut from Lululemon (on sale!) to Hue to Joe Fresh. The price range was $90 (Lululemon, on sale) to $20 (Joe Fresh). The Lululemon are fine for yoga but too athletic for everyday. I’m not a big fan, especially given the price. The Joe Fresh were fine for PJs and hanging about the house but not really for work.

In the middle were the Hue leggings which I had great hopes for since I like their tights. But it wasn’t to be. They share the pants problem. The large isn’t stretchy enough for my legs. The XL falls down pretty much right away.

When friends who play roller derby recommended a Canadian brand I was intrigued. They’re also middle of the road price wise. And made in Canada.

ZENITH Leggings

Nice. I’m trying not buy stuff made in countries with sketchy labour laws. See this post for my call for ethical fashion. I struggle with sports clothes in particular.

Even without the “made in Canada” bonus point, they were my favourite. I’m setting out now to order more. They are high waisted, they stay up, and they work for either the gym or the office.

(For working out in my favorite leggings are by SuperfitHero, available in a very wide range of sizes.)

Why I am blogging about leggings now? My knee brace, above. That’s my snazzy custom fit, zero pain knee brace. But it’s causing a bit of a fashion crisis. It needs to be tight against my legs. I can either wear skirts and tights or leggings. No pants. Well, I could wear really wide leg pants and wear it under I guess. That’s what men do. But that’s not my thing.

Dresses and skirts need to fall either above the brace (very short) or below (very long). With short skirts I’m happiest in leggings so that’s what I am doing these days

So now I’m one of those people wearing leggings for all of the things.

Until summer (if it ever comes) and then I’m back to bike shorts under skirts.

aging · body image · fashion · fitness · swimming

Guess which body shaming phrase Sam doesn’t ever want to hear again?

As you are likely sick of hearing by now, I’m on a cruise ship in French Polynesia. We’re currently anchored just off Bora Bora. I think it’s trademarked as the most beautiful island in the world but it’s also the most developed and touristy of the places we’ve visited. It’s known as the honeymoon capital of Polynesia. That might be a reason to pick another island to visit if you’re not honeymooning though we weren’t inundated with honeymooners at our end of the island.

It’s a big deal for me, this holiday. I don’t usually do big vacations. I think this is the longest holiday of my life. It’s certainly the most luxurious. (Thanks best sister-in-law in the world, thanks again.)

One of the things I really like about this cruise ship experience is that it’s not just North Americans onboard. There are loads of Australians, Canadians, also a lot of Europeans. There are a lot of different languages being spoken over breakfast.

But that makes for some interesting cultural differences across a range of areas including bathing suit choices. Some of the older American women are wearing what look like cute beach dresses. I’ve written about these before when I considered buying one but decided not to in the end. I’ve stuck with my standard issue athletic bikini through the years.

Blue sky with some clouds, lush tropical forest and a beach. Also, Sam in a blue and black two piece bathing suit.

The Australians, older Australians anyway, are not so modest. Ditto the French and the Germans. There are much older men and women of all shapes and sizes wearing fairly minimal swimwear. String bikinis and speedos all round. Who cares right? Exactly. Personally, I think it’s great.

Now we could each all do our own thing without comment. You do you! Nice beach dress! Cute string bikini! That’s my preference. But no. There’s always one person who uses my most hated body shaming phrase, “we don’t need to see that.” See here for my last blog post about it!

Often the phrase is accompanied by further editorial comment meant to make it clear that it’s not that no one could ever wear such a bathing suit, you know, it would be okay if they were younger, thinner, more fit, whatever.

I’m not a person who argues with other people I don’t know on small boats. But I kept thinking of replies. My mother’s reply: Don’t like it, then don’t look. Simple. Or my own thought, I don’t think she’s dressing for you. Or how about just, that’s bullshit.

Now this year, this time, I don’t think they were talking about me and my bikini. I’m hoping I can maintain my “that’s bullshit” attitude when it is. Because I plan to keep wearing a bikini into my 60s, 70s, and beyond. See you at the beach!