Hawks, dragonflies and Faerie Doors

This seems like a bad idea.

When you’re hiking alone and you begin scolding yourself out loud, it’s usually a good idea to stop and rethink what you’re doing.

What I was doing was scrambling up a pretty steep rockface, with a sheer cliff drop to my right.

Hm, I thought. Surely this isn’t the actual trail in this sweet little hike.

It wasn’t, of course. I’d stopped for lunch at a beautiful overlook, ate a cheese sandwich while watching hawks soaring above and dragonflies hunting just in front of me, then followed what seemed like the trail to the summit. I’d had a bit of a chat with another pair of hikers who’d obviously also done the same thing, saying that they couldn’t find the summit, that the path had just ended.

Turned out, both of us missed the correct path — along with the couple who came along after me, as I was making my way back to the lookout. The actual trail was, of course, much less treacherous, and led to an amazing view, complete with a sweet doggie memorial. Which two doggies came along and enjoyed as I sat and ate an apple.

I’m privileged to be in BC, on one of the magical Southern Gulf Islands. The west coast has always been the most grounding place for me — give me a run around the Stanley Park Seawall and I’m instantly at my best — and I made the somewhat complex decision to get a second covid test (negative), get on an airplane (face shield and mask, extra money for more room), and spend just over two weeks near the sea. I rented a cunning little tiny house and I’m spending my days writing, reading, hiking, riding my folding bike and sleeping. Storing up reserves for whatever the winter holds.

It feels hard-won, sitting here on my little wooden porch, as pine trees drip sticky sap onto the table I’m writing on. Finding pathways that aren’t as simple as they should be, like my hike yesterday. The directions I found online to the trail didn’t mention that there are two trailheads, just how to get to the “easiest” one — which meant riding my folding bike with the tiny wheels up up up up a looooong hill. And the directions to follow the road “to the top” didn’t say what to do when I reached a T-junction, and I went the wrong way, peering at rough paths into the woods to try to figure out if any could be deemed a trailhead, if I squinted. (Of course, if I’d just looked down the road 200 m the other way, I would have seen the cluster of parked cars that is a pretty sure signifier of a trailhead).

When I found it, I locked my bike loosely to a tree (preventing mischief, not theft — it’s not that kind of place), and set off, covering at least 300m before I realized I was still wearing my helmet.

Hiking like this — even with wrong turns — in an unfamiliar place? This is where I can breathe again. This is where I can breathe through, let slide, the anxiety and worry of so many people around me, the fevered politics, the sense that the world hasn’t stopped tipping upside down. Where I can promise to Susan, by text, with a laugh, that we’ll go to Paris “when the war is over.”

The trail up the wee mount (more than a hill, much less than a mountain) was, actually, simple to navigate — once I paused and thought about it, actually looked at the map that clearly didn’t tell me to inch along the end of the cliff face. And it was peppered with little hidden “faerie doors,” with notes and offerings from kids.

As I ate my apple at the top, I noticed it was astonishingly tart and sweet, and looked at the little sticker. Ambrosia, a breed we don’t get at home. Apparently a cultivar developed in BC in the 1990s. Perfection. Like the open, wide, fresh space around me.

I’ve hiked and ridden alone in many countries, and I often end up fussing between my loose interpretation of the map and what’s right in front of me. That’s a fancy way of saying I’m often a little lost. Yesterday, I was reminded that when I breathe, when I just pull back and think, I’m not lost. We are not lost. We are strong and we have what it takes to navigate whatever the fall and winter hold.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is so grateful to be on the west coast for a couple of weeks.

fashion · fitness

News flash: fashion discovers that bike shorts are a thing

Even amidst all the COVID news and political strife news and racial injustice news and climate disaster news, sometimes there’s a bit of a lull. In that lull, journalists are searching for something, anything to write about that will satisfy our perceived need for news all the time.

Enter bike shorts as proposed fashion item.

A woman wearing bike shorts, a mask, a Balenciaga sweater, a Chanel purse, looking at her phone. In Paris.

The New York Times eagerly reports the latest pairings of the humble bike short with high-fashion runway looks:

So maybe bike shorts were always destined to have a moment in the summer of 2020. But as with 1,000-piece puzzles and sourdough bread, quarantine has given them new appeal: Bike shorts are a comfortable, practical item of clothing that can seamlessly transition through the vague shifts between work, exercise, worry and rest that characterize a life spent mostly at home.

Depending on whom you ask, bike shorts are an enlightened choice for the times or a tumble into a life of permanent sartorial laziness. Either way, they work.

4 images of models on the runway, each wearing bike shorts and about $10K worth of other clothing and shoes.
4 images of models on the runway, each wearing bike shorts and about $10K worth of other clothing and shoes.

The article burbles on:

Bike shorts, on the other hand, walk that careful line between loungewear and actual clothing. Plus, some have pockets. The fact that they are comfortable and form-fitting makes her feel tucked in and dressed, [an Instagram influencer] said.

Tess Gattuso, a 27-year-old writer and comedian in Los Angeles, took it a step further. “I think they’re super sexy,” she said. “I need that excitement in quarantine.”

Sexy? Exciting? Bike shorts? Do I detect just a tiny bit of an overreach here? I get it– it’s mid-August. Even in the middle of these unbelievable times, there’s just less to report on. And people have to make a living. So okay– bring on the bike shorts.

I might add that this is not the first time the New York Times covered a high-fashion/humble activewear collabo with such enthusiasm. In early summer 2019, they wrote about how Tevas (the utilitarian sandal) all of a sudden got cute, courtesy of pairing up with fancy designers and fancy clothing manufacturers.

People wearing color-block design Teva sandale, in a variety of pastels and bright colors. High fashion? You make the call.
People wearing color-block design Teva sandals, in a variety of pastels and bright colors. High fashion? You make the call.

The article is quick to acknowledge that they know these shoes aren’t cool, but their uncoolness, when worn by cool people, rehabilitates them:

Tevas — often grouped with Birkenstocks, Dansko clogs, Uggs and Crocs as “ugly shoes” — are popular in part because of their outsider status. “There’s something so normal about them that if you’re a fashion person and wear them it’s kind of funny and cool,” said the stylist Kate Young, whose clients include Selena Gomez and Sophie Turner, in an email. But that doesn’t rule out genuine appreciation for their functional design: Ms. Young wears Tevas in the summer while camping and swimming in streams with slippery rocks.

“They were way too crunchy for me when I first saw them. Lately they hold this sort of nostalgic minimal sport appeal for me,” she said.

I’m not sure what “nostalgic minimal sport appeal” means. Let me just say that I don’t need nostalgia for Tevas. I can just look down.

My white Tevas. I have these in brown and black, too. And I have a red fancier pair.
My white Tevas. I have these in brown and black, too. And I have a red fancier pair.

Honestly, I think it’s fun when designers take a humble piece of everyday wear and elevate it or incorporate it into something new and creative. What is less appealing is when wearers of the new-new-fashion item feel the need to distance themselves from those of us who’ve been wearing the aforementioned everyday item, well, everyday, and doing just fine.

Long live bike shorts and Tevas!

Hey readers– what items of clothing do you wear that you noticed have become fashionable, or become un-fashionable? I’d love to hear from you.

Book Club · fitness

Starting Aug 18: FIFI book club reads Real Happiness, by Sharon Saltzberg

At Fit is a Feminist Issue, we are all about exploring the ways movement expands our lives and reveals truths about ourselves. Also, we like writing about how fun it is, and how hard it is, and the ways the meaning of movement changes. We’ve even devoted a few FIFI book clubs to diving into a book on movement. We read the 100 Day Reclaim, by Mia Shanks. You can see some of our posts about it starting here.

We also read The Joy of Movement, by Kelly McGonigal. We posted all about it, and you can start reading about it here.

This time, we are switching it up a bit. We’re going to explore the ways that stillness can present new truths and new possibilities for us. We are reading the 10th anniversary new edition of Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg.

The cover of the book Real Happiness, by Sharon Saltzberg.

Sharon Saltzberg is a world-famous writer and teacher and lecturer on meditation. She co-founded the Insight Meditation Society, has taught and spoken and written and worked with people all over the world. You can read more about her long and interesting life and career here.

You can also join us in reading her book, Real Happiness: a 28-day program to realize the power of meditation. There are four weeks’ worth of (optional) meditation and other exercises in the book, along with QR codes to link to some online meditations. You can find those meditations here, so you don’t actually need the new version of the book.

We’ll be posting our thoughts and questions and responses to parts of the book each Tuesday afternoon at 2pm, starting August 18. If you’d like to read along with us, we’d love that. And feel free to post any of your thoughts or responses in the comments.

For August 18, we’ll read the introduction and Chapter 1– What is Meditation?

Also, if any of you have comments or experiences or responses you want to share about practicing meditation, we’d love to hear it. Some of us are new-ish to practicing, others have had an off-and-on relationship with sitting, and some of us are regular meditators. There’s room for all here. As always.

See you all next Tuesday!

competition · cycling · fitness · racing

From DNF to podium, oh, Zwift

I had a odd night on Zwift recently.

I was scheduled to do the Monday night race that my team organizes. Fine. I did a short 5 km warm up. All good but then the race began and the speed was not something I had any hope of maintaining. Wowsa.

Zwift starts are brutal at the best of times. Unlike real road races there’s no gentle rolling away from the start. You’re in danger of losing the group right off the bat. But usually things settle down.

Reader, this race did not settle down. I hung in there and stuck with the front group of women for first 10 km of the Monday night race and then decided it was too long, too fast for me. We were averaging 40 km/hr and I was dying with 30 km to go so for the first time in a Zwift race I pulled the plug without completing the distance.

DNF time.


I was already warmed up though and I still wanted to ride so I browsed my activity options on the Companion app. I might have opted for a fast social ride if one was happening but there wasn’t one. Instead, I saw that a 7 km sprint race was about to begin. I love sprinting. It’s kind of my thing I quickly hopped over to the sprint race and sprinted away. In that race I stayed with the front group with energy to sprint all out at the end.

I came third! Woohoo! The joys of a really good warmup. And knowing your strengths. And knowing when to bail.

My total for the night was 22 km. One DNF, one trophy for my virtual trophy case.

(An aside: Part of the problem and the explanation for what happened in the first race is with the women’s category. I’ve worried about this before. For all riders there’s A, B, C, and D groups based on power and performance. The idea is that you race with people with whom you’re competitively matched. It makes amateur racing fair and fun. There’s also a women’s category and the women’s category contains all women regardless of their power. Lots of the women race in the B category. I’m currently a D but “almost C.” I should race with the D group. That’s the category I won in the Sprint race after bailing on the Monday Night Madness race. Why did I race with the women? That’s the topic for another post. But the short answer is I’m trying to support women’s racing and help out my team and we benefit from having riders in the all the categories.)

A gold trophy, from Unsplash

Running with Stage 2

A couple weeks ago, it was announced that Toronto could enter Stage 3 of “reopening”. Most of Ontario entered Stage 3 a couple weeks before that. Given Toronto’s population density, it took a bit longer for the numbers to be low enough to be “granted” this status. You’d think I’d be happy about this. After the early period of Stage 1, where it felt almost criminal to go out for a jog, and I was getting used to doing my Move fitness conditioning and strength classes in my living room, and ordering in take-out felt novel and was a glorious reprieve from cooking, Stage 2 was a breath of fresh air. Literally. I no longer felt devious going for a jog. Somewhere in Stage 2, Move started offering park workouts which I felt completely safe and comfortable enjoying, and LOVE doing. Gavin and I could go for long walks together. For most of Stage 1 we avoided walking together because it felt too hard to social distance properly with others on the sidewalk.

But I was feeling anxious about Stage 3. It is not hard for me to feel a bit anxious. One of my favourite ways to deal with anxiety is to practice avoidance (see driving on the highway). It works best to alleviate the pressure in my chest. So, I decided that I would stay in Stage 2. One of the things we can do in Stage 2, is eat on a patio (physically distanced). I haven’t even done that yet because it’s still enjoyable to get takeout and eat it on my own patio. And I typically love dining on patios. Eating, in general, in restaurants, and enjoying good food, is one of the highlights of my life, seriously. I remember vacations based on what I ate, where and when. But I digress. I decided I wasn’t ready to eat inside a restaurant any time soon. I have come to enjoy my virtual and park workouts, and continue to enjoy my outdoor running. I miss lifting heavy weights inside the gym. But I don’t feel comfortable yet going inside the gym, even with clearly defined precautions.

Nicole and gym mates jogging on the spot with a band secured to their hips and tied to a fence in the park.

I was repeatedly declaring to friends and family that I was happy to stay in Stage 2. Kind of a pre-warning that I would be the joy kill who would be saying no to certain things. I have good reason to feel this way, given that the greatest risk has been shown to be prolonged exposure to others, in close proximity, inside. It’s not only myself I am concerned for; I want numbers to stay low for everyone. For my ageing parents, for essential workers, to allow for safe circumstances for re-opening of schools. Selfishly, so that one day in the future, Gavin and I can reschedule our honeymoon.

Then I started feeling that perhaps I was being obnoxious. Should I feel guilty that I am comfortable in Stage 2? Was it my Jewish guilt rearing it’s head? Or, was I exhibiting my privilege, the privilege that allows me to be comfortable in Stage 2?

A cartoon (credit: Credit: Richard Jolley via CartoonStock) with “Pontius Pilates” washing his hands and saying “And wash those hands in slow easy movements…feel the guilt and stress flow away…

Throughout the pandemic, there has been data showing that Covid-19 was affecting lower income neighbourhoods and people of colour disproportionately. Some of the reasons that I’ve seen mentioned are that more people in these neighbourhoods tend to work in essential services (and have had more risk/exposure) and live in more densely populated areas where it is harder to social distance. When Toronto released a map showing Covid-19 numbers by postal code, it was clear that areas that were lower income, and that had a larger number of closely-situated apartment buildings, and less green space, had the highest numbers. And this article explains some of the reasons that Black people and other people of colour make up 83% of reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto. I have privilege, white privilege, because these factors haven’t affected me the same way.

I have been thinking lately that I even like my new routine. Feels weird to think that, in such strange times. I miss close gatherings, hugs, travel, concerts, putting on pretty work attire and planning for the future without wondering if things will be possible. Yet, I have been fortunate to be able to work from home, and the company I work for has confirmed we will be working from home until January 1, 2021, at the earliest. I have been able to maintain my exercise routine. The spring and summer months have made getting outside, and not feeling too restricted, a joy, even without trips outside of the city. Both my husband and I are working and are not worried about finances. My “extroverted introverted” nature is a bit relieved not feeling as though we have to be making plans all the time. Thankfully, everyone I know has remained healthy (poo poo poo). But not everyone has been so lucky in Stage 2.

I feel for the small businesses. The gym I love that has had to “pivot’ and function in unplanned formats, that don’t allow for maximum attendance. The independent restaurants and cafes, that make up the fabric of the neighbourhood that I love so much, have also had to survive on much lower numbers, in an industry where it is well known that the margins are razor-thin. I think about the businesses in the PATH (an underground network of stores in Toronto that prevents you from having to go outside in the winter (or in the summer if you don’t like the heat) if you work in the Financial District). The PATH may never be the same, if businesses shift more to work-from-home indefinitely. I think about my friends who are naturopaths, physiotherapists, artists, etc., who have been greatly affected by not being able to operate normally. They NEED Stage 3. And Stage 3 may not even help them, given it is still restricted because of social distancing. I feel for parents who need their kids to go back to school for both their kids, and their own mental health, in a safe way.

So while I am comfortable, indefinitely, in my workout zones, rather than standing in quadrants, spaced at least 6 feet apart, indoors, where there may be more risk of sharing droplets, I am happy for my gym that they can offer these services again. I am happy for the friend that is an avid exerciser who is craving the motivation and community found inside the gym. I am happy for the local businesses that can fight for their livelihood and that I will continue to support in the ways that I can.

I will try to keep my contentedness more to myself. I don’t want to sound smug. I will continue to look for ways to support the vulnerable businesses in this pandemic. I will continue to look for ways, both immediately and in the future, to help those in vulnerable work or living situations, so that they are not as vulnerable, now and in the future.

Have a great workout wherever you choose to do it. Just be safe (and where a mask, on your mouth AND your nose, if inside and not far apart).

Nicole P. lives, works and works out, in Toronto with her husband and two dogs.
accessibility · boats · camping · canoe · fitness

Sam and Sarah’s Big Canoe Trip Adventure

In most ways, this year, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been for me a year of doing less. I’m riding my bike outside now but no big distances. There’s (obviously) no big summer travel. Normally my summers involve academic conference travel, usually in Europe, with vacation tacked on to the beginning or end. Not this year. In 2020 my holidays have been low-key, close to home.

The year of doing less has had one notable exception: Our big Algonquin canoe tripping adventure. I love Algonquin Park. It’s so beautiful and so close to home for me. Yet, in busier years I’ve only had time to go for long weekends. This year is the opportunity to do more.

Since my canoe came into my life in 2015 (thanks Jeff!) what I’ve done are back country canoe trips where you paddle to a place, make camp, stay there for a few days, and paddle around some minus all the gear. Lots of us here at the blog do this kind of adventuring. You can read all the canoe stories here.

Susan has done some longer trips. Sarah too. They’ve done the kind of trips where you start out a place and keep moving to a new campsite each day, eventually ending back up where you started. That’s a new adventure for me.

But I wasn’t sure I could, physically speaking. I was worried about my knee. I was worried about carrying stuff through long portages.

Two things made it possible. First, Sarah’s careful planning (see below). Second, her acquisition last year, when we were talking about hiking and camping, of ultralight weight camping gear. Thanks Sarah!

Here’s what we did:

Day 1

In our usual fashion where work never seems to end or stop, we worked until the last possible second on Monday, piled everything into the car, zoomed north, and arrived at the park office in a bit of a rush. Friends who know us will laugh at this bit of the story. We even stopped several times on the access road to Lake Magnetawan for the final few bars of cell phone signal.

And then we parked, unloaded the car, and loaded up the canoe.

We paddled through Magnetawan then Hambone, and then made camp on Ralph Bice.

Day 2

We paddled and portaged our way from Ralph Bice to Little Trout and Queer Lake where we stayed for the night.

Day 3

This was the first big day, with long portages. 1330 m isn’t that long but it is when you are carrying a lot of stuff! Also, it feels long when there are big hills, ankle deep mud, and narrow paths. But paddling on the Tim River was fun. I got to learn about steering in a downstream current. Less fun was arriving on Shah, our stopping point just as a storm was brewing. We had a bumpy trip across the lake and rejected the first campsite as too grown over. Luckily we got the tarp up fast and stayed dry through dinner.

Day 4

We paddled from Shah to Misty to Little Misty, where we were the only campsite on the lake.

Day 5

We paddled from Little Misty to Daisy via the Petawawa River with portages to bypass rapids. There was also some scrambling over beaver dams with the canoe.

Day 6

No photos because my phone ran out of charge but we paddled from Daisy to Hambone to Magnetawan. We were very happy to have left clean clothes in the car for the trip home.

What did I learn on this trip? Here’s six things.

  1. That even with my miserable, painful, stiff knee I can do trips like this and enjoy myself. I babied my knee. I took ibuprofen. I stretched. I walked carefully and slowly on the portages. Some mornings I’d wake up and think, “wow, this is it, they’re going to have to air ambulance me out of here” and then I’d stretch and walk around a bit. And then I was fine. Deep breaths, Samantha, you’ve got this. And I did.

2. Paddling on the river–which requires active involvement of the person in the bow–takes skill but it’s fun. I like learning new things. Even when things go wrong–like when we landed in the shrubbery on the side of the river–the worse thing that happened is we got covered in yellow furry caterpillars. Navigating the beaver dams also took skill and effort but in the end it was all pretty low stakes. When I messed up one beaver dam the current just took us back and we tried again.

3. Lightweight camping gear–if you can afford it–is an amazing thing. I was shocked at how little the tent and the sleeping bag etc weighed. We had very lightweight gear even down to the titanium spork!

4. The weather spanned from too hot to brrrr! (at night) and I should have brought a warmer layer and possibly even (no joke) gloves. I always forget that about camping in Algonquin.

5. I was concerned about food and about carrying six days of food but we did well. I learned that a warm meal at night goes a long way and that even mac and cheese over the camp stove tasted pretty good.

6. If I were doing it again, I’d book a day off in the middle, a rest day, where we’d stay on one campsite two nights and maybe even bring a book!

Next up? I’m looking at route maps and planning for next year. Now I know we can do this I’m going to do it again. In light of the great squirrel attack on our food bag on the last night, I’m considering more secure food storage and a good pack for me to carry it all in.

Sarah on planning

This year’s planning was made more challenging by the fact that Algonquin was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. Lots of folks spending summer vacations in a tent instead of a cottage. When selecting a route between the few available sites, I used a few rules of thumb. Wanting to have lots of time to rest and explore, I limited the distance traveled to about 5 km on the map each day, and a maximum of 2,000m of portaging. Of course the actual distance paddled would be more than that – we move through the water at about 4 km/h – but there’s a fair bit of time spent wandering toward pretty rocks or out of the wind, stopping mid-lake to pump water, paddling from site to site looking for one that’s free to camp on, etc. It also takes time to get in and out of the canoe at each portage.

In order to reduce the strain on Sam’s knee, we decided that she would carry only her clothes and the food pack (which is not too heavy and gets lighter as we go) for the portages, along with our water bottles, paddles, and PFDs. This meant being minimalist in our packing to bring down the weight of the “house” pack (including my clothes) to a manageable 32 lbs (14.5 kg). When combined with 48 lbs of canoe, this comes in right at the 80 lbs (36 kg) maximum weight this “weekend warrior” can safely carry in the backcountry. We made choices like : a tiny, lightweight backpacking tent; a down quilt instead of sleeping bags; one set of clothes (plus warm and waterproof layers), using pot lids as plates. We also needed to be minimalist in our food, bringing only enough dry, lightweight calories to keep us going, and enough sweet snacks that it still felt like vacation. And two full Ziploc sandwich bags of coffee, because there are some things that one cannot do without!

What did Sarah learn on this trip?

I’ve done nearly all parts of this year’s trip in previous years, so the things I learned this time were largely around food:

  • Naptha fuel to cook breakfast and supper for 2 people = 200 mL per day
  • One serving of oatmeal or pancake mix = 125 mL (1/2 cup)
  • One serving of maple syrup for oatmeal or pancakes = 50 mL (even if we have more, we don’t actually use it!)
  • Unless it’s a rest day or half day, budget for both lunch (sandwich) and a protein bar.
  • We don’t actually eat salty protein snacks like nuts or trail mix except buried in other meals. Better to bring more protein bars and peanut M&Ms.
  • Double check not only the count of meals but also the meal type. We were somehow short one breakfast but had an extra dinner(?!)

Oh, one more thing we learned, the sleeping quilt is toasty down to 6 C. But it works best if no one steals the covers!

fitness · swimming

Pandemic swimming: more fun than the regular kind! (Say what?)

Like others on the blog, I enjoy a nice splash in the pool. And like others on the blog, early in the pandemic my regular swims were probably the thing I missed most (after hugs). Here in Ontario we’ve been able to get back in the pool for over a month now, but that doesn’t mean things on the swim front have been back to normal, exactly.

To my great surprise, I’m totally ok with this.

(Two photos of Thames Park Pool in London, Ontario. One shows kids splashing under a waterfall in the kids area; the other shows the detail of a 50m lane, with a kids’ wading entrance and waterslide in the background.)

I am a hyper-competitive human; I really like going fast and beating others when I’m pedalling or swimming or even yoga-ing. (NB: I realize this is Not At All The Right Attitude in yoga; I’m working on it, I swear.)

I am also, however, not a gifted swimmer. I like swimming, and I can do almost every stroke (butterfly eludes me, alas). But I’m also bottom-heavy, and I struggle not to drag my lower body through the water on an angle. I’ve never trained as a swimmer, so my stroke ain’t anywhere near perfect. For the last few years, I’ve been swimming twice a week with more gifted swimmers than me, and that’s helped a lot. But I’m not exactly going to be Michael Phelps-ing my way up the lanes anytime soon. Or ever.

So swimming, in the before times when lots of people could share a lane and swim together and overtake each other (or creep up behind one another and tap the slowpoke’s toe, what I like to call The Bop of Doom), was a mixed bag for me. Splashing in water = YAY! Swimming with fast people while Type A = performance anxiety and stress! Fretting about why my split time is slower than last week FFS = more anxiety and more stress, plus a soupçon of disappointment in self.

And swimming in the after times? Well I’ll tell ya.

I’m incredibly out of practice on the stroke front, and sore from head-standing with the amazing Alex and bouncing around the countryside on my road bike, and yet – IT IS SO MUCH MUCH MUCH MORE FUN.

A young girl in a purple stripy swimsuit blasts into a swimming pool. Her eyes are closed, she’s blowing bubbles out of her mouth, and her arms are splayed. SHE IS HAVING AN AMAZING TIME IN WATER!

When the world crashed to a halt for me on 12 March, the day after my last shared lane swim, I had no idea it would be until mid-July when I’d get to freestyle up the lane and breast back again. But that’s how it rolled out.

My home city decided to open a limited number of pools this summer, after we entered Stage 2.5, and to make all swims “open”; that is, great fun for kids, but no real lanes to speak of (unless it’s a rainy day or you catch the pool at exactly the right time, and the one sort-of lane is mostly empty of frolickers).

Meanwhile, my work city crafted a booking system that lets registered users book themselves into both lane swims and open swims exactly one week in advance; this means swimmers are guaranteed their preferred time slot, but you have to be really quick about it – lane swims in the two large pools book out within a minute or two of registration opening. Given that I travel to my work city irregularly right now, that’s meant I’ve only had one opportunity to book into my beloved former neighbourhood pool, Thames Park.

A white male swimmer breaststrokes up a 50m lane at Thames Park pool while a lifeguard watches. I was so excited to go for a swim I forgot to take any pictures of ME!

It was a warm early morning in late July when I rolled out of bed and threw the dog in the car to make the 1.5 hour journey up the highway; my swim was booked for 9am, and I had work meetings and a haircut following. I dropped the dog with my folks, aka her besties, and drove to the pool. Thankfully, we were permitted to use the toilets in the change room, where I pulled off my dress to reveal my swimsuit underneath. We were also permitted to bring our own gear with us, so out onto the deck I marched with my pull buoy, my kick board, my goggles and my training fins.

Once on the deck, I found I was nervous but everyone else was chill; I sensed a lot of “regulars”. When the announcement came that it was 9am we chose lanes and jumped in; there were exactly enough spots available for two people to share a 50-m lane. This was a huge treat; morning swims at this gorgeous pool are super busy under normal conditions, and I usually end up swimming there alongside the Phelps-types. Cue stress response.

But today? Under sunny blue skies I took off up the lane; much too fast to start, I realized when I got to the other end and was winded. I breasted back, enjoying the feeling of stretching my sore, sore quads and hamstrings, and then tried to moderate my thrill on the way back up, preserving air for the return trip.

In the before times I’m hard on myself in the pool; even though swimming is cross-training for me, I like to push to ensure I’m getting good cardio along with a range of movements. On this sunny morning, though, I gave myself a “first swim in four months” pandemic pass and let myself do all my favourites: lots of kicking, goggles on my forehead while I took in the happy sights of my fellow swimmers and the guards, the children’s play area and mini-waterfalls all around; lots of pull to practice my stroke gently and give my shoulders some love. I breasted more than usual – I love breast stroke! – and decided not to care that I wasn’t pushing myself to improve! improve! improve! my rusty freestyle crawl.

I mean, who cares? It’s a pandemic! Nobody in this lane to compete with. And see above re not exactly Michael Phelps anyway. Why not just enjoy this amazing, sunny, body-hugging time in the cool splashy water? Especially after the spring and summer we’ve had.

Back at home, I’ve been practicing a similar attitude in one of my local outdoor pools. The sweet little 25-yard job in my neighbourhood park isn’t open for the summer, but the slightly bigger, newly renovated number over the highway bridge is, and after long rides on my bike I drive over, queue up for a few minutes, and then jump in the water just to stretch myself out. I love doing figure-four stretches at the deep end ladders, or star-floating on my back and grabbing my ankles to do a water-supported bridge. I swoop and dive, stand in the shallow end to stretch my quads, and take in the sight of happy kids developing and nurturing the deep love of water that I cherish, too.

A stripy beach ball floating on sun-dappled water. BLISS!

Isn’t it weird that it took a global pandemic for me to remember that swimming is about joy? How about you, friends? Have these strange times helped you reconnect with movement that you’d forgotten brings you joy, too?


charity · cycling · fitness

The year the bike rally went virtual and Sam and Sarah rode 600 km mostly on the trainer

The Friends for Life Bike Rally is a very big thing around the blog. Lots of us have done it in one version or another! Me, frequent guest Sarah, sometimes blogger Joh, Susan, Cate, Catherine, Natalie…

For me it all began in 2014 when I rode the 600 + km to Montreal with David (and a few hundred other riders.) You can read an accounting of the rally over the years here.

But this year? The bike rally, like lots of other charity rides, was forced to move to a virtual format. It’s not just a ride of course. It’s first and foremost a fundraising event for a very important cause. Here’s their description, “The Rally is the only volunteer-led, week-long ride that brings people together for an inclusive, supportive, and life-changing challenge that inspires much-needed help for people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto, Kingston and Montréal.”

According to this CBC story charities that rely on sporting activities stand to raise a lot less money.

What it was: 6 day, 660 km ride from Toronto to Montreal (with 1 day and 3 day options)

What is now? 90 day challenge to ride for either 600 minutes or 600 kms.

I did it mostly indoors on my trainer. And while I love Zwift, indoor riding just didn’t compare to the comradery that is the bike rally. We used an app that tracked our miles. I’m the pink unicorn below. Go me!

How to sponsor me: Here!

Sarah got home from our canoe camping trip last night only to notice it was the last of the 90 days and she was a few kilometers short of the goal. A lesser person would have done it in the morning but not Sarah.

She posted to Facebook, “Okay friends. I just got back from 6 days canoe camping in Algonquin Park. When I got back, before I even showered, I set up my bike on the trainer and rode the remaining 2.8 km of the 600.3 km Friends for Life Bike rally as today was the last day to complete the virtual version.

Here’s a link to my fundraising page if you’d like to send a few bucks my way in support of the wonderful work of Toronto PWA :

cycling · fitness

Remember your first bike ride? Maggie does!

Today’s post is courtesy of my 8-year-old friend Maggie.  She’s an avid bike rider who just reached a new milestone: she rode her bike (sans training wheels) all the way from her house to the beach. And back. Her dad posted a triumphant picture of her on Facebook, and I just had to get the full scoop. Maggie and I zoomed this week and she filled me in on the details.

Maggie says that she used to ride a large trike to the beach. It had a basket for carrying things, so was very useful.

Maggie 1.0, on her three-wheeler with basket and pink helmet.
Maggie 1.0, on her three-wheeler with basket and pink helmet.

However, there was a mechanical failure, resulting in breakage of the bike, a sprained arm and a chipped tooth. Ouch. The trike was now toast, but Maggie was looking beyond to find a new ride. However, bike stores have had limited hours and have been running short on supplies. This means no training wheels are to be had.

Enter her brother Jack’s bike.  It’s a bigger bike and doesn’t come with training wheels. As a result, Maggie had to turn up the volume on skill building, especially with bike handling and turning (I’m guessing this bike has a much bigger wheel base).

Maggie’s dad, Louis, made a deal with her: if they rode together from their house all the way to the beach and back (stopping as many times as she wanted), her reward would be lots of decorations for the new-to-her bike. We’re talking streamers for the handlebars, plastic stars in the wheel spokes, and who knows what all. The offer was too good to refuse.

So off they went. Maggie reported being a bit nervous, but also excited on the way there. They stopped a couple of times, but they made it to the beach easily. Maggie said she was so happy! This meant she could now reliably get to the beach on two wheels instead of two feet. I’m sure we can all relate.

Maggie 2.0, at the beach, triumphant about her two-wheeled power.
Maggie 2.0, at the beach, triumphant about her two-wheeled power.

I asked her if the trip back was harder; she said no, not at all– it was way less stressful coming back. And, Maggie was really looking forward to adorning her bike with the new decorations. Which was the first thing she did when they got back. The second thing was to take a big gulp of water from the hose.

Maggie back home, flush with satisfaction over her successful ride and fully tricked-out bike. Mission accomplished!

Readers—does Maggie’s big ride remind you of a big ride, hike, swim, or some other physical activity you did when you were younger? Feel free to let Maggie and me know here in the comments.


Nat is loving living the leggings life!

Friends, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work from home since late March. I’ve written about doing more yoga and walking my dog. One thing that working from home allows me is dressing for comfort. I love wearing leggings as they allow me to go from walking the dog to yoga to working seamlessly. I’m always dressed for the occasion!

I have had this one pair of capris length leggings for ages. I love working out in them as the waistband is comfy yet stays in place. And the print. Well. It’s a marvelous teal and black paisley.

These leggings are known as “Renegade” leggings. That’s the store where I bought them.

The fabric is tough and people often remark how beautiful and well made they are. I decided I needed more awesome leggings in my life so I found the business online

The business is owned & operated by an awesome roller derby player Sewciopath #0.75 She recently rebranded her business to her jersey number from her derby name. You can read more about that decision on her website.

I used to play roller derby, my moniker was Switch Hit Her. Fifteen years ago it seemed a witty play on words of my role as a blocker and being bisexual. My number was 3+ (threesome, ya. A little on the nose) It didn’t age very well. Were I to resume playing I’d need to change it. I love that Amanda chose to go in a new direction with her brand. The timing worked out great as I had been planning on telling folks how happy I am with 3 sets of leggings I purchased from her this year.

I’m not receiving any compensation or benefit for writing this review except to show appreciation for a great business that is size inclusive.

So here are the reasons I’m loving my 3 pairs of leggings.

1) Awesome prints. Check out this motherboard print!

Lucy the wonder dog power pumps my belly to get me to play.

2) Custom waist, inseam and size! I’m short and round so I like a longer waist to ensure my underwear don’t poke out the back of my pants and that the waistband doesn’t cut in. It also gives smoother lines. And the custom inseam/length allows me to pick a cut that ends at a flattering spot that is also super comfy. I need a 3X legging. That can be hard to find with other retailers but are simply part of the size range Point Seven Five offers.

3) cell phone pockets!

Black compression tights with a bisexual pride racing stripe with wonderfully deep cell phone pockets on both sides!

4) Choice of fabrics. I got terry leggings for yoga and compression tights for soccer and running. The cozy terry ones are also great in cooler weather. The compression fabrics help my stomach from hitting against my legs and supports the skin on my inner thighs and knees. No chaffing! And I feel fast. Zoom zoom!

5) Supporting a women owned business that makes durable, beautiful things that help folks in their fitness journey. I think that is pretty awesome.

I have to admit, I’m wearing my leggings all the time. Functional and the designs & colours make me so happy. If you think you’d like to order a pair be sure to visit and use promotion code FitFeminist. You will get 10% off and she knows you found out about her through our blog!

Have you found fitness wear you love lately? Tell me about it!