fitness · season transitions

Catherine considers joining a gym in January

For some weeks now, I’ve been thinking: maybe it’s time to find a nice gym. Okay, I admit that reading Samantha’s posts about her fancy new gym has definitely put me in a state of yearning for pools, saunas, nice weight room, interesting classes and pleasant locker room (if there is such a thing). Another friend just told me that she joined the nice athletic club not far from her house and mine. So, what am I waiting for?

I’m really busy and mostly out of town for December, so maybe it makes the most sense to join in January. Or maybe not.

Yes, it's a silly meme about empty gyms in December and overcrowded ones in January. But truth lies therein nonetheless.
Yes, it’s a silly meme about empty gyms in December and overcrowded ones in January. But truth lies therein nonetheless.

If you google (as I did) “should I join a gym in January?”, you’ll get loads of links to articles giving you reasons not to start a membership at the beginning of the year. Here are some:

  • It’s the most expensive time of the year to join
  • 80% of gym members don’t ever use the gym again past February (numbers and months vary by article, but the message is clear)
  • It’s a big schlep to get to the gym when it’s winter vs. working out at home
  • When/if one goes, the January throngs at the club will be rude or clueless about gym etiquette

Yes, yes, I know all of this. But but I still want to join anyway. What are my reasons?

  • January is when I have the time to explore a new club and new classes
  • I’m looking to switch up my exercise routine and get out of the house more
  • The last time I joined a nice club I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking for that experience
  • The pool– I want access to a nice pool!
  • I have a flexible work schedule, so I don’t have to work out at peak hours

The place I have in mind (where my friend just joined) has a 7-day trial. I think checking things out in December makes sense. And then, I’ll need to look over the contract carefully– the devil is in the details, so they have to work for me (cancellation policies, putting membership on hold, etc.)

I’ll report back on progress, but I think I’m gonna do it.

Readers, have you joined or restarted a gym membership during the January rush? What was it like? I’d love to hear from you (I think… 🙂

fitness · motivation · sleep

Sam is singing the nap anthem

I heard a great interview on CBC recently with Fatuma Adar, a playwright and creator in Toronto who has made mediocrity her mission. She’s written a musical play, She’s Not Special, about the pressure to be excellent as a Black Muslim woman. Adar was featured on an episode of the CBC show, Now or Never, talking about the joys of mediocrity.

The theme of the show resonated a lot with me and with some of the questions we take up on the blog. Not every active thing we do needs to be a quest for excellence. It’s okay to enjoy a sport or a physical activity and not excel at it. It’s just fine to be a bad dancer. Many of us who love running are slow runners.

In my post about being a fitness Muppet, I took my inspiration from Brett Goldstein (of Ted Lasso fame) speaking as a guest on Brené Brown‘s podcast, Unlocking Us, about the Muppets.

“Well, it’s like… The secret of the Muppets is they’re not very good at what they do. Like Kermit’s not a great host, Fozzie is not a good comedian, Miss Piggy is not a great… None of them are actually good at it, but they fucking love it…

And they’re like a family and they like putting on a show and they have joy and because of the joy, it doesn’t matter that they’re not good at it.

And that’s like what we should all be. Muppets.”

In that post I wrote about my joy in playing soccer even though I am not a great soccer player. Being willing to be at a thing is thing I’ve written before in the context of motivation.

Anyway, I loved the interview with Adar and think her dad, who appears on the show too, is terrific.

Adar has also written and directed an ode to the nap, inspired by the Nap Ministry. It’s the Nap Anthem and I love it!

fitness

Happy Planksgiving from Margaret and Gemma

Happy Planksgiving! 😉🦃🍁
from Margaret and Gemma.

In these great photos from 2021 Margaret is planking with her dog niece, Gemma. Gemma has her own Instagram account. Follow her on @goldendoodlegemma.

Margaret plans to blog for us in the new year. We’re looking forward to it Margaret!

fitness · fun · soccer

A “chill” league of their own: Part 2

This past summer Cindy created a new FB group for a “chill” women’s rec soccer league (Part 1) that would disallow aggressive play. Many women eagerly joined, and I did too.

What does it mean to play aggressively? It might be described as specific behaviours, such as offensive charging and defensive tackling. Or, aggressive play might also be described more broadly to include any violent, reckless, or dangerous actions that increase—or are perceived to increase—the chances of injury.

What aspects of the game contributes to making soccer aggressive? It may be scores and league-tabling, but it’s also the division or level of play. Those who have been trained for competitive divisions may play more aggressively, especially if it is encouraged. According to the Barcelona Premiere Soccer Club,

“Aggressive Soccer is important for competitive players. It helps them play the game with more accountability and responsibility. Playing soccer requires a lot of hard work and determination.”

Some may play aggressively due to their prior competitive training. Conversely, players without prior training may also appear aggressive if they lack the skills to avoid collisions or strikes.

Then there are “old feuds” between players on opposing teams, which can easily spark tensions and aggressive play. Some folks may seem to be playing aggressively based on their reputations alone.

How to manage aggression in soccer that is part game structure, part skill level, and part perception? League organizers provide divisions to create play at different levels of competition levels. Rec divisions—the least competitive—would also presume to have the least aggressive play. Leagues also enact safety policies, rules, penalties, and paid referees in order to keep gameplay in all divisions fair and safe for everyone.

But judging by the number of women who joined Cindy’s FB soccer group, it seemed that typical measures were not enough. By attempting to self-organize, the group could perhaps find new ways to minimize competitive and aggressive play.

So, it was interesting to me that when Cindy asked what folks wanted, the vast majority of FB members voted in favour of keeping “typical league” with scores, statistics, and teams.

I want to play in a non-aggressive league without scores, stats, etc. 13%

I want to play in a typical league, just not with anyone aggressive 87%
Screenshot of results from vote.

Judging by the result, the group seemed to think that the source of aggressive play was the players, not teams or scores. They still wanted competition, just not the aggression competition can bring. Rather than change the game, perhaps the league could enact measures to prevent aggressive players from playing or playing the way they tend to do.

But when approached with requests to prevent players or teams with a reputation for aggression, the league manager explained that the group could not form a private “chill” league so long as actual scored games were being played (which the women voted they wanted). The provincial association overseeing all rec leagues (Ontario Soccer) puts no restrictions on barring skilled players from joining non-competitive divisions. Anyone could join this new “chill” division, even if they weren’t part of Cindy’s FB group.

As well, the league wouldn’t implement stricter penalties in just one division. As I understand it, the league manager was supportive of the idea of a non-aggressive league but wasn’t prepared (or perhaps resourced) to enforce unique rules that could lead to multiple complaints or challenges to rulings.

So, neither the players, the league manager, nor the governing professional association were willing to make systemic changes to the division or the game to avoid or minimize aggression. The “problem” of managing aggressive play still seemed to reside at the level of individual players.

Meanwhile, by the time all the information started to surface, it was late in the summer and the FB group had over 100 people in it—everyone still wanted to play in a non-aggressive league.

Could a group of women wanting “chill” soccer address aggressive play if everything about the division and the game stayed the same? Find out in Part 3!

aging · fitness

Aging, Activity, and Myths

I saw this on Twitter and love the assignment and the results.

Here’s Number 1: Frailty is “Inevitable”

I especially love the tips about avoiding self-identifying as frail.

Follow the full thread for the others myths, such as “older adults are not crucial members of society,” “Older adults should skip exercising to avoid injury,” “All older adults should skip strength-based exercise,” and more.

Nice work Healthy Aging students! I’m busy grading my own students work but these all look like As to me.

Help share if you’re still on Twitter.

fitness

I’m a Winter Cyclist (for real!)

Way back in September I wrote about winter cycling and now that wintery weather is here, it’s time for an update. TLDR: I like it!

It took me a few tries to get my gear to my satisfaction. The seat was lower than I remembered. I needed to move some lights and my basket. I accidentally installed my bell upside down (still need to fix that). My pannier actually works better with the new bike than it does on my summer one, so that’s a bonus.

And then there were clothing questions: which hat fits under my helmet? Surely I have a balaclava or two in the closet? I did find my rain pants so I can block the wind on chilly days. My woolen mitts work for now, but I have a pair of pogies in my Amazon cart that I will need to order before it gets much colder.

It’s harder to pedal than my summer bike because of those studded tires that keep me safe on the ice. But I sure appreciate them on the section of pathway that doesn’t get ploughed in winter, despite heavy use by walkers and cyclists. Eventually I will need to choose a different route to work; it will be on quiet streets, but I’ll miss the paths that keep me completely separated from vehicle traffic.

Snow-covered path filled with foot and tire prints, in a snowy park under grey skies. There are park benches and trees along the path, and a building with a construction crane in the distance.
Snow-covered path covered with foot and tire prints, in a snow-covered park under grey skies.

I make sure I’m really visible, with a reflective construction vest and bright head and taillights. I’m still fussing a bit with the fairy lights, but they work well and look rather pretty in the dark.

Bicycle with lit fairy lights wrapped around the front basket and frame, inside a darkened storage room. There is snow on the tires of the bicycle, and the wheel of another bike in the front left of the picture.
My bike with the fairy lights lit, inside my storage area so they will show up in the dark.

The best part of being a winter cyclist is the camaraderie with other cyclists, and the feeling that you’re a bit of a badass. I love the community of people sharing pictures of “not taking their kids to daycare” or “not going to the grocery store” because “no-one bikes in winter”.

White woman wearing an orange and yellow construction vest over her coat and a hat and ear protectors under her helmet. Her red and white bicycle is parked in the snow, with houses in the background.​
Diane, “not biking in winter”, while wearing an orange and yellow construction vest over her coat and a hat and ear protectors under her helmet. Her red and white bicycle is parked in the snow, with houses in the background.

Diane Harper lives in Ottawa.

fitness

When to work out? Sam is back to lunch hour workouts

Oh early winter, dark days. It’s a struggle.

And while in theory I like the idea of winter as a quiet restful at home low key season, nestled on the sofa with a stack of books, thanks to the pandemic I’ve spent quite enough time at home. Thanks to recovery from surgery I’ve also spent enough time on the sofa.

I also know it’s better for my mental health and energy levels if I keep moving. Rest sounds good but it doesn’t always make me feel good.

But when to workout? At 6 am in the dark? At 6 pm in the dark? Neither seems to be working right now.

It doesn’t help that my big busy job is also extra busy right now with lots of days starting at 8 and going into the evening.

The one time that’s been working for me is lunch hour. Meg and I meet for personal training then and I’ve almost always got lunch hour booked off. It’s also nice to get out of my building and walk to the gym when the sun is shining. Yes, there are complications around work clothes and gym clothes but end of term makes that less of a conflict. I’m going to try to make the lunch hour workouts a thing in December. Wish me luck!

When do you workout in the winter? Does the dark affect your ability to get out in the evening?

fitness · research

Is high-intensity exercise the new cancer drug? Way too soon to tell

Last week, a new study came out on the effects of high-intensity exercise on metastatic (late stage) cancer. Medical news sites and medical Twitter have been all abuzz about the results. Take a look:

From Medical News Today: metastatic cancer risk reduced by as much as 72% with high intensity exercise.

For those of you who know me or have read some of my critiques of medical journalism, you might think I’m about to lower the boom on the journalists and twitterers who are very enthusiastic about the results of the study. I’m not doing that. Not today… But, a little unpacking and clarifying of what we now know (and don’t know) about exercise and cancer is in order.

Please, take a seat. But I promise not to be long.

First of all, what were the researchers looking for in this multi-part study?

Researchers hypothesize that exercise-induced metabolic reprogramming of organs transforms them into metastatic-resistant metabolic micro-environments by limiting nutrient availability to the cancer cells thus creating a metabolic shield.

That is, they were investigating whether the metabolic effects of exercise might increase the likelihood that our organs would consume more glucose than usual, depriving tumors of the nutrients they need to grow and migrate.

Spoiler alert: the results of their study suggest a “yes” answer.

Exercise protects against cancer progression and metastasis by inducing a high nutrient demand in internal organs, indicating that reducing nutrient availability to tumor cells represents a potential strategy to prevent metastasis.

But (and as RuPaul says, it’s a big but), the details of the study show the results to be promising but still preliminary.

from the study:

Epidemiologic data from a 20-year prospective study of a large human cohort of initially cancer-free participants revealed that exercise prior to cancer initiation had a modest impact on cancer incidence in low metastatic stages but significantly reduced the likelihood of highly metastatic cancer.

In a 20-year prospective study of 2734 men and women in Israel, researchers found that high-intensity exercise lowered the relative risk for more advanced/metastatic stages of cancer (e.g. spreading to other sites in the body) 72%, compared to low-moderate exercise. Note, this is relative risk, not absolute risk. And, this is population-level, not taking into account other factors that strongly influence individual baseline risk. One more and: the researchers say that much more research is needed to know more about which particular cancers respond to increased exercise. All of this is TBD, if incredibly promising.

The study also included an analysis of this effect in mice.

In three models of melanoma in mice, exercise prior to cancer injection significantly protected against metastases in distant organs. 

Note, this experiment was done with melanoma, one form of cancer. It’s well known that different cancers set up shop, as it were, in the body in very different ways. Again, the effects of increased exercise on other cancers is still TBD.

There were other analyses done, and if you’re up to the task, you can access the whole paper here.

The authors themselves issues a bunch of caveats at the end of the article. For instance, the literature doesn’t show how long the tumor-starving effects of intense exercise last. They also point out that high-intensity exercisers, like Olympic athletes, are not themselves immune to various cancers. This suggests to them that “a personalized exercise regime for each patient might provide better clinical outcomes.”

Yes, I fully concur. Until we know more– a lot more– we can conclude that all forms and intensities of exercise are, in many ways, good for health ad longevity. A Healthline article on this study agrees:

High intensity also might not be possible depending on age and other factors. For these people, even moderate exercise still has a protective effect against cancer, Hicks said.

“Hundreds of epidemiological studies, comprised of millions of participants, provide strong evidence that regular, daily activities like brisk walking significantly reduce the risks of many cancers,” he said. “These results show 10 to 20 percent risk reductions for bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal adenocarcinoma, and renal and gastric cancers.

Well, yay for that! Reading those words has given me enough energy to maybe do this high-intensity move:

A woman in jeans and a sweatshirt, Jumping for joy! By Hannah Busing, for Unsplash.
Jumping for joy! By Hannah Busing, for Unsplash.
ADHD · dogs · fitness · motivation · walking

Resistance, ADHD Time-Math and that time that Khalee and I were both so good despite everything else

Picture it:

Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, November 21, 2022.

The weather is chilly (1 degree Celsius, 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit), there’s a wind warning in effect (80kmh with gusts to 95, 49.71mph with gusts to 59mph)

A GIF of people, animals, and plants being blown around by a grey rain cloud.
There’s no rain here at the moment but otherwise this feels about right. Image description: a cartoon drawing of people and animals being blown around in the wind. Text on the image reads “It’s just a little rain and wind. We’re fine.”

My house is noisy from the wind but it’s warm and cozy.

I’m a bit off track because several of my usual Monday things got changed and because I spent a good part of the day in waiting mode.

Why waiting mode? Tomorrow is my youngest son’s birthday and his present was due to arrive sometime today. Our address is often mixed up with a similar address nearby so I was on alert in case it was delivered to the wrong place.

Waiting mode is one of those situations where a neurotypical person (at least one who wasn’t anxious) would probably be able to put thoughts of the possible mix-up aside and carry on with their plans for the day. And if I had a strict schedule today, my neurodivergent brain *might* be able to do the same.

Alas, my schedule today was flexible. So between that flexibility, the loss of my usual Monday anchors, waiting mode, and the windy weather, I spent my day puttering from task to task.

And then, once the package arrived (yay!), I wanted to settle into my work.

That’s when this process started:

A woman looks intently forward as a variety of mathematical formulae flash over her image.
This could be a depiction of my brain during the following though sequence – if all of those formulae were related to the timing of going for a walk. Image description:GIF of a woman looking slightly to one side of the camera. She looks intent and focused while a series of mathematical formulae appear in white in front of her. The formulae calculations for area and volume of various geometric shapes.

Khalee would need to go for a walk later so my brain was telling me that I probably wouldn’t want to dive too deeply into whatever I was doing right now.

So, maybe we should walk now. After all, the weather isn’t going to improve until tomorrow – and at least it is still light out.

But if I walk now, I might not be able to switch into work mode when I return.

So maybe I should skip the walk, right? After all, the wind warning clearly states that outdoor objects should be tied down. It could be *dangerous* out there, couldn’t it? Stuff could be flying around.

Hell, Khalee and I could blow away, couldn’t we?

Yeah, it’s often like this inside my head – it’s not all that fun.

But then, luckily, I saw a post on Instagram from someone local who was out for a walk, wearing their mask because it was the only way to keep warm – and probably the only way to catch their breath.

That’s when I remembered that I have fleece lined pants to wear over my jeans. And I have a warm coat and my hatphones. And a scarf my sister made. And I could wear my favourite mask.

So, I bundled up, got Khalee into her harness (today was apparently NOT a day for a dog to wear a sweater – I have to give the pup some autonomy, don’t I?) and headed out.

And, like most things – it was far worse to think about than it was to do.

It was stupid windy out. It was quite cold.

An outdoor selfie bundled up in winter clothes with a mask over the lower part of my face.
It is hard being things glamorous all the time but I have gotten used to it – ha ha! Image description: a selfie of me wearing my green winter jacket, a black hat, my glasses (which are a little steamed up) and a black and white half facemask that has a depiction of a martial artist on the white side. I am also wearing a blue scarf that my sister made for me. My eyes are almost completely shut, the wind is blowing my hood backwards, and my hair is sticking out on one side and blowing in the wind as well.

But it was manageable. And it wasn’t totally awful.

And Khalee and I were both so very good for dragging ourselves outside even though 50% of us were not keen on it.

I mean Khalee is automatically good, obviously, what with being a dog and all, but she bravely forged ahead into the wind until I called out to her so I could take a photo.

A light haired dog stands on a path looking back towards the camera.
Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog on a neon yellow leash and a blue harness, looks back toward the camera as she stands on the edge of an asphalt path next to some grass. Her right ear is blown backwards, her eyes are slightly squinted, and her fur is ruffled from the wind.

So yeah, she’s super-good but I’m pretty damn good too – overcoming so much resistance even though it would have been much easier (and quite understandable) if I had decided to stay home.

(And, I’m sorry to report, that I did indeed feel better after being outside and zipping through my walk. It was worth getting out for Khalee’s sake but, damn it, it was apparently also worth it for my own sake, too.)

Anyway, long story short (too late!), Khalee and I both get gold stars for our windy walk.

Image description - two hastily-drawn gold stars, one each for me and my dog​
Image description – two hastily-drawn gold stars, one each for me and my dog

How about you?

How have you triumphed over resistance lately?

Was it worth it?

Would you like a gold star? Khalee and I will share!

PS: Happy Birthday to my youngest son, J, who is my baby but is not, apparently, actually a baby at all any more. In fact, he’s a newly-minted adult.

fitness · injury · Zwift

Regaining speed and trying not to care

Let’s recap last week’s ups and downs while recovering from knee replacement surgery (12 weeks ago).

I began last week declaring that I was back to training again and not just doing physio. Life could be about more than range of movement and balance. What this means is that I started riding in Zwift again, watching my avatar and the related metrics, not just watching My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Never Have I Ever. But then I managed to hurt another muscle. See Sam discovers another weird and painful muscle .

So I spent part of the week back on crutches and back to all the physio. Bah.

But that setback didn’t last long and now I’m riding again in Zwift actually watching the screen, which means that I can see I’m gradually getting faster.

Here’s my time on the Fuego Flats spring three times since surgery:

But just as it’s nice to see I’m getting faster, I’m nowhere near as fast as I was. That’s to be expected but I am trying not to care! I’ve ridden that particular sprint segment 171 times and my fastest time was 41 seconds.

The fastest time ever for a woman is 27 seconds. My fastest time puts me in the 16,479th spot of the 127,073 women who’ve ridden it.

I’m trying to take pleasure in getting faster in my recovery from surgery while not caring too much about not being as fast as I used to be and not being as fast as some of the women out there Zwifting,

Wish me luck in the return to bike training and wish me luck finding comparison useful and motivational in some contexts and ignoring comparisons when they’re neither of those things.