fitness

Sam rejects your ‘amazing arm shapers!’

A video about ‘amazing arm shapers”

Things in my newsfeed that I definitely won’t be ordering…how about “arm shapers.” The ad says, “GET SLIM ARMS IN SECONDS.” First thought: Hey, I worked for these muscles. But then, oh, right, I remember. There’s all that angst about having arms in good enough shape to wear sleeveless dresses. That’s what this is about.

Facebook algorithms, do you even know me? I am the author of Bingo wings and dinner plate arms: Let’s put our wit to work elsewhere. 

I am a fan of learning to love our bodies as they are. I am not a fan of the continual search for women’s body parts that must be improved. I won’t recite the list of unruly body bits. Reader, I’m sure by now you know it as well as I do. 

There’s a review of them by someone who more practical, and less philosophical, objections to the very idea of arm shapers. She asks Would you wear arm tights?

” I, and everyone I know who has ever declared their bingo wings to be a ‘body hangup’, all have one thing in common. We only dislike our upper arms when they’re out. A sleeveless dress at a wedding, a spaghetti strap top on holiday – these are the times that you might want a miracle sartorial solution to swoop in and hold up any surplus arm jiggle. On a day that I didn’t want to show my wings, I would simply choose a dress or top in my wardrobe with sleeves to cover them. There would be no point in having a sucky-in, long-sleeved layer underneath that, unless the outer top’s silhouette was also skin tight. Any other shape would ruin the streamline illusion. “

Her answer is no. Mine too, even though I didn’t get to the practical considerations she sensibly raises.

More images of arm shapers modeled by people who clearly don’t need arm shapers. Never mind, no one needs arm shapers. So they might as well be modeled by thin women.

 

aging · beauty · fitness

Women over 50 don’t find Yann Moix extraordinary, either…

Hi FIFI readers– in case you missed it: the latest episode of “international douchebags in the news” features childish and churlish French writer Yann Moix, who was interviewed by the French magazine Marie Claire and shared his dating preferences with us. No, I won’t make you wait– here it is (from a New York Times Op-Ed):

…he isn’t attracted to 50-year-old women…. he prefers to sleep with Asian women in their 20s. “The body of a 25-year old woman is extraordinary,” he explained. “The body of a 50-year-old woman isn’t extraordinary at all.” Falling in love with a 50-year-old would be out of the question: For him, women that age are “invisible.”

Well, the French and American fashion media just can’t let this jerk throw down such a misogynist gauntlet and not pick it up. So what do they do? They fight back by finding 50-year-old movie stars and celebrities to prove this bozo wrong. And who do they enlist but Julia Roberts, who happens to be 51. Here she is:

Actor Julia Roberts on the cover of French magazine Gala, with headline reading "Julia Roberts is 50 years old. So!" At least I think it says that. I took French in college, which was a long time ago.
Actor Julia Roberts on the cover of French magazine Gala, with headline reading “Julia Roberts is 50 years old. So!” At least I think it says that. I took French in college, which was a long time ago.

Yeah! Take that, you bumptious troll. Julia is showing us that women over 50 *are* extraordinary, because she is. I mean, look at her on the November 2018 cover of Harper’s Bazaar– she’s rock climbing, and in a humongous pink tulle cotton-candy confection of a dress. If that’s not extraordinary, I don’t know what is.

The cover of Harper's Bazaar magazine, with Julia Roberts clinging to a rock outcropping in a very big, very pink tulle dress.
The cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, with Julia Roberts clinging to a rock outcropping in a very big, very pink tulle dress. While smiling.

Okay, I’ll be serious now. While it is true that Julia Roberts seems pretty awesome and fun and dreamy-looking on these magazine covers, even she can’t overcome such contemptuous views about women (all of them– it’s not like the 20-somethings are thinking, “Whew! We’re really glad we’re still considered attractive by this vainglorious piss-ant.”).

No, she needs reinforcements. And they are on the case, most notably in the form of French women, who submitted evidence of the extraordinariness of women over 50.

They… submitted evidence to rebut Mr. Moix’s view of older women, including photos of gorgeous middle-aged actresses like Halle Berry. In case a former Bond girl didn’t redeem the whole age class, ordinary women offered themselves up for inspection. One 52-year-old French writer posted a photograph of her admirably toned derrière, and other 50-plus women followed suit — hundreds, according to Mr. Moix. (“I would like 50-year-old women to stop sending me photos of their bottoms and breasts,” he pleaded.)

New York Times

Thanks (or rather, merci beaucoup) to all those French women, who delivered up themselves in their own 50-something glory to show him who’s fabulous.

But I don’t think we’re done yet with Monsieur Meh here. He needs a more substantive response to his “women over 50 aren’t extraordinary” claim. Here are some of my thoughts.

Why do we have to have extraordinary bodies to be worth something? Ordinary bodies are lovely, practical, functional, sustainable, and probably also more economical than extraordinary ones (I can’t even guess how much that huge pink dress costs, not to mention the pain of cosmetic surgery, diets, etc. that some extraordinary-looking people go through).

I think all bodies are extraordinary. And all women’s bodies in particular– we do extraordinary things with them. And they differ gloriously– like wildflowers in a meadow– in various shapes and colors.

You, Yann “messed up” Moix, don’t get a picture of my stupendous ass. No no no– you gotta earn the right to a viewing. And you’re missing out, loser.

Youth is sparkling and chaotic and confusing and uncertain. Life over 50 (speaking for me) has more clarity, sweetness, complexity and community. I don’t look the same. I don’t feel the same. That’s life. One of my aspirations as an over-50 woman is not to be oppressed or made low by attractiveness standards that overlook or ignore me.

Readers, what do you make of this “women over 50 aren’t extraordinary” business? Should we just sail on past it? Take a stand and fight back? Continue spamming this dork with butt shots aplenty? I’d love to hear what you think.

fitness

High intensity interval spinning

Last week, I wrote about the 6 week challenge I’m doing with my spinning studio that is a good, challenging blend of all the fitness things — working out, sleeping, hydration, thinking more mindfully about the things I’m putting in my mouth.  screenshot 2019-01-19 09.19.07In my little burst of “trying new things” as part of this challenge, I noticed a new class on the Torq schedule:  a High Intensity Interval Training (+!) class.

Normally, I find most spinning classes aggressive enough for me, and I’m all about the intuitive movement these days, as I wrote about last week.  But I was looking for something to fit into a window of time for working out last Friday morning, and this fit my weird logic:  “I don’t love spinning first thing in the morning — it takes so long for me to wake up — but it’s only 30 minutes!  How bad could it be?  Then I’ll be done working out for the day!”  Also, I like Marawan as a teacher — he’s not shouty — so I got myself to an 840 class last Friday.

Because it’s a new class (and maybe because of all of the explosive language in the description), there were only four of us in the first class.  I had had a terrible sleep — still jet lagged and insomniac from my trip to Australia — and I had a busy day before I had to travel four hours the next morning for a family funeral.  I arrived a bit of a worn out rag, and gave all sorts of qualifiers to my Clear Intention Not to Work Hard.  Marawan was just gently encouraging — do what you can.

The class was… highly intense.  But in a really doable way.  I won’t say the 30 minutes “flew by,” but I was deeply engaged the entire time.  Marawan took us through a simple series of 3 patterns of about 12 minutes each, each marked by harder, more intense, intensest, briefly return to a hard baseline again again for a version of “recovery”, repeat.  We use torq sticks at this studio to increase and decrease the weight on the bikes quickly — moving the torq stick to the middle of the gear is similar to 1.5 full turns on the flywheel, to the right is like 3, then you can fling it back to your baseline quickly.  For part of the class, we used the monitor at the front of class to track our wattage output (total class average energy).

It was simple… and it did all of the things HIIT is supposed to do — pushes you hard with pockets of near-recovery, pushes you hard again, then you’re done, sweaty and pleased with yourself.  (A lot of people are HIIT evangelists, but there is a fair bit of argument among exercise researchers about whether it’s really “superior” for anything other than efficiency — but it’s definitely a way to get a really good workout quickly).

That class really stood out in a super busy week as my most intense, focused workout — I managed a quick run here, an exhausted trip to the gym there, a few self-guided yoga workouts.  But it was a week of a lot of driving and facilitating huge groups into the evening, and on Thursday night, I skipped my planned yoga class in favour of lying in bed, eating popcorn for dinner and watching netflix.  (See:  honouring what my body needs).

When Friday morning rolled around again, I had to really persuade myself to get out of bed and show up for class.  I am often daunted by knowing my workout is going to be intense, no option.  I try to fool myself into thinking “I can just take it easy.”  I know that in this class, there’s no room to coast — not in the structure of the actual class or the fact that there are so few of us.  I can’t hide behind the pole on bike 18, my preferred spot.

img_5509Yesterday, Marawan had us all (five of us this time) line up in the middle row and he sat in the middle, riding with us.  A really simple sequence:  three long climbs, with a tone going off every minute to increase the weight on the wheel by half to a full turn.  Within each series, sequences of hard, harder, intense, brief recovery, always to the baseline of the gradually increasing weight.  Between the three long climbs — 12 minutes, 10 and 7 — a minute of actual recovery.  (The pic is me in one of those moments).  In the last sequence, Marawan came around and had each of us work to our absolute highest output for 10 seconds as he encouraged us.

I was exhausted when I got on the bike, and energized when I got off.  I found the recovery I’d given my body by taking two rest days in a row, and felt… strong.  I was still well worn out, but in the best, internally glowing way.  I felt… human again.

img_5511

I’m probably not going to do this more than once a week — but doing something this intense reaffirms for me that I’m engaged in a long-term project of fitness and health — and even when I’m mostly tooling around in lighter workouts, there’s a warrior inside me.  Marawan is the best kind of teacher — light touch, firm effort, kind.  And I got a blue star for nailing my first week of the 6 week challenge.

img_5514Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto.

fitness · Guest Post · walking

Posting one step at a time (guest post)

(Here’s a guest post by blog reader– and friend of Catherine W: Fernanda F— on taking her relationship with Fitbit public. CW: very brief weight loss talk.)

Last year I decided that I wanted to be more fit and lighter. Okay, I am lying. I decided that a long time ago, but only in March 2018 did I start walking and posting my daily steps. The big difference was that I was posting my daily progress on social media. I didn’t think anything of it, except it was a way to make me feel better and boost my morale by getting the inevitable “likes”. Along the way I started feeling that I _had_ to walk, because gosh darn it, I have to post my goal for the day. So I walked.

Here’s an example of one of my “goal” days:

Fernanda's step count for a sample day, posted on Facebook.
Fernanda’s step count for a sample day, posted on Facebook. This one is 10,136 steps.

Now of course, if you are a bundle of insecurity and self-doubt like me, you don’t want to look bad. So sometimes I would skip the days I didn’t hit goal (note: my goal progressed and is now 10 thousand steps a day.) It’s not like there is an imaginary Facebook God keeping track of when you skip your posts. Or, your friends are not going to say, hey, what happened to Monday’s step goal? Did you have Wi-Fi problems or something? Of course not, people have lives. But I needed to practice honesty in all of my affairs, and I asked myself what would happen if I posted a non-goal day. I would give it a try.

Here’s an example of a “non-goal” day:

Sample step count for a "non-goal" day; this one is 5,630 steps.
Sample step count for a “non-goal” day; this one is 5,630 steps.

Then a funny thing happened. I got the same “likes” as with the goal days. On top of it, I also got encouraging comments. People would write “it all counts!” or “don’t give up!!”

So I kept on walking. And posting. The thing about Fitbit (and this is not an endorsement of any particular brand, that’s just the one I use) is that you can post either to their own platform or you can click on “elsewhere” and post to your social media. I tried posting to their platform but did not get anywhere. The few responses I got would invariably be from people whom I did not know. So by selecting the place where I usually go to (admittedly way too often) I was able to get the incentive and the feedback I needed. The very neat thing is that there is a way to post your daily progress with a picture instead of just a green background.

A screenshot of Happy Fernanda, reporting 10,334 steps, a nice lunch of lemon poundcake, and a nap. She is proud of enjoying the pound cake! Yum.
A screenshot of Happy Fernanda, reporting 10,334 steps, a nice lunch of lemon poundcake, and a nap. She is proud of enjoying the pound cake! Yum.

Because I did not want to bore people with my daily posts, I tried to write something different every day. I would write something simple like the exclamation “Boo Yah!” of something longer, explaining how I got to goal that day, writing about how I just walked in place in front of the television to get to ten thousand steps.

Most of my friends on social media are also colleagues at work. I was walking down the hall one day and someone I only see occasionally said to me “getting those steps in?!” I replied, “Yeah, I am walking down to the copy center…” and it took me a second to understand what she was saying. She was taking about my posts. Seeing my frown (those who know me understand that I do not have a poker face) she explained that she was inspired by what I was doing, and that she herself had decided to walk more, seeing my daily progress. I was stunned and a little embarrassed. I didn’t realize that this simple act of being accountable was having some sort of impact on others.

Then the “non-goal” days became more frequent. I was sick for about three weeks with a viral cold that would not go away. I didn’t walk some days or had very few steps each day. It did not stop people from being supportive, either on social media or in person. I found that to be even more amazing and supportive.

One stunning example was when I was mowing the lawn last summer, and a person stopped her car in the middle of the road in front of my house and yelled “get those steps in!” It was my neighbor, who is also a Facebook friend. It’s entirely possible that I have way too many “friends” for my own good. But in this case, it was indeed for my own good.

(Fernanda F is a professor of Foreign Languages, a determined and exploration-minded soul, frequent traveler, and fit feminist.)

fitness · gear · Martha's Musings · Tools

Tools to help ease cranky muscles

By MarthaFitat55

I love a good massage for my muscles bothered by cranky hip joints and uncompliant vertebrae. But I needed to find some useful and affordable alternatives that would provide some relief in between appointments and training sessions.

In the last five years, I have collected and learned how to use some pretty nifty tools and I thought I would talk about how I use them and some possible options for cheaper alternatives.

When I first experienced problems with my back, my massage therapist recommended a theraband, which looked like a giant plastic sash. I usually wrap my hands around each end then flip it over my head to stretch out my back. You can also use it to strengthen arms. Put one end under your foot on the floor and then wrap it around your hand, tuck your elbow into your body and raise your hand to your shoulder or mid-chest.

The advantage of the theraband is that it can also fold up pretty small so it’s the size of a small wallet. That makes it very handy for toting on travels. I often see them at Winners (or TJ Maxx for our American readers) for cheap. A yoga belt can also work well, although I find for the back stretches, there isn’t the same give as what you get with the Theraband. If you think of it during spring time, one of those springy bubblegum pink skipping ropes will work as well and they have that flex you need.

When my hip joint decided to get all fussy on me, I had some pretty miserable muscle cramps. What gave relief was a rolling pin. I had an extra one that I didn’t use but if you don’t have a pin, a sturdy long-necked bottle from wine or vinegar will do as well. I just rolled my calf muscles whenever they felt twitchy.

screen shot 2019-01-17 at 9.34.42 pm
The Tigertail, a portable massage stick

If you have some ready cash, you can buy something similar called a tigertail. The company that makes them calls them a portable massage stick. It comes with a small index-card sized guide with nifty exercises and you can travel with it pretty easily. It’s thinner and longer than a rolling pin so you can get in more hard to reach places. There are different types with smooth rollers or bumpy ones. I prefer the smooth roller but you may find the ridged one better for your needs.

I travel for my work a fair bit so I started putting together a small kit I could pack. Along with the Theraband, I added a couple of portable handwarmers, my travel size tube of Voltaren, a topical pain relief gel, and a lacrosse ball. You can use a tennis ball but that’s squishier than a lacrosse ball. This bright orange-coloured ball, which is also about the same size as an orange, is very firm. As such, it does a good job getting rid of muscle knots. You can also relax your feet by rolling it with the ball of your foot, and you can also have fun trying to pick it up with your toes.

Most recently, I have acquired a Swiss ball and a textured foam roller. I borrowed the ball from my trainer after she showed me some exercises I could do at home to provide some relief for tension in my lower back. I loved it so much I ordered one for myself. They cost around $15 so not really a huge cost. They are slightly bigger than a softball and they are my new favourite way to use a wall or a floor to work out the knots. I usually put the ball just above the glute muscles and then shimmy back and forth against the wall. I will be honest: it’s not the most pleasant sensation when you start. However, about an hour after you stop, you will notice you can move so much more easily.

50210526_10155746167005614_1026468050980831232_n
A round black ball and a bright turquoise tube rest on the floor with a pillow.

I haven’t had great relationships with foam rollers. I find it hard to balance on them for leg work, hence my preference for the tigertail or the swiss ball. If you are super flexible, you can sit on it and roll back and forth. I am not so I tend to use it right now just for my upperback.

I spend a lot of time sitting or standing over my laptop. This leads to hunched and very knotty shoulders. I put my foam roller on the floor and then I lie down on it so that it’s about three to four inches below the base of my neck. I roll back and forth gently and it really works out the kinks.

I lucked into my bright blue textured roller at Winners on deep discount. It’s also hollow inside, so if I wanted to take it with me on my travels, I could use the hollow space for my shoes or slippers, or a hoodie. But you can do similar exercises with the Swiss ball if you only want to invest and own one thing.

To keep the tools where I can see them (and thus remember to use them), I have a bascket in which I corral the works. As I like to learn and try new things, feel free to share in the comments what nifty gadgets you have found or used that can also work in a pinch for a massage.

 

fitness

Tracy makes peace with the treadmill

Sam has a stellar memory (among many other great qualities). So when I posted in our 219 in 2019 group that I had done speed work on the treadmill yesterday she recalled a few years ago when I said how much I didn’t like training on the treadmill.

I didn’t even remember coming right out and saying that. I mean, I don’t know many (any?) people who think treadmill running is the best kind. So it didn’t surprise me that at some point I may have said something negative about it, but I didn’t recall saying that in a post.

Sam forward me a link to where I said it, in my post on hitting the winter running wall. It was just a brief remark in the context of a larger discussion about winter marathon training, cold, ice, wind. I said, “I could take it inside, but those long runs especially are a tough slog on the treadmill at the gym.”

To me that doesn’t really say “I hate the treadmill.” Rather, it is more along the lines of “the treadmill is a tough slog if you’ve got any distance to cover.” And that I will stand behind still today.

But…I do find the treadmill great for my speed work, hill training, and tempo runs when the weather and icy conditions are a deterrent that would keep me from running altogether. Lately, I have taken to the treadmill down in the little gym in my condo building and had really good experiences.

I’m appreciating how you can adjust the speed for timed intervals and adjust the incline for hills. I’m able to get a good rhythm going, speeding things up and then dialing them down for rest intervals, then amping it back up again.

And I can wear shorts and a tank. No need to bundle up. I also like it when there are other people in the gym doing their workouts. We don’t necessarily chat but having others in the room keeps me company.

It does have its limits though. I know that back in 2016 when Anita and Julie and I were training for the Around the Bay relay we did a really long workout on the condo treadmills one Sunday when the winter conditions were unreasonable. But mostly you can’t get me to do more than an hour on the treadmill. That may change as Around the Bay approaches, the winter rages on, and the long runs get longer. My thought about it right now though is that I hit my limit at an hour.

For all that, I can certainly attest that if I ever hated the treadmill, I don’t hate it now. The last week or so, with the windchill temperatures being colder than -15 degrees C, I’ve taken to the treadmill a few times, pounding out a tempo run or some speed intervals and it’s been exhilarating.

I can’t imagine a day when I’d rather run on a treadmill if the outdoor conditions were inviting, but I’m happy that it’s an option that could fend off a winter running wall in the midst of my training for Around the Bay. What I haven’t done is indoor track running. It’s another option, but it’s not right downstairs like the treadmills.

What’s your view of treadmill running?

fitness · motivation

Exercise is not a substitute for change

It’s the new year and my newsfeed is full of inspirational images and sayings. Mostly I’m not a fan but I do love the ones generated by Inspirobot: “an artificial intelligence dedicated to generating unlimited amounts of unique inspirational quotes for endless enrichment of pointless human existence. “

In all caps, the words “exercise is not a substitute for change,” are displayed across an image of a sunset, a body of water, and a tree.

Thanks Inspirobot! Generate your own inspirational saying here: https://inspirobot.me/.