Sarah’s Camino Journey (Guest Post)

by Sarah Rayner

A walking vacation I have been dreaming for 10 plus years…and I finally did it.  I walked from Porto Portugal to Santiago Spain, a total of 240 km, which we walked in just 12 days. The walk we did was only half of the Portuguese Way.  Two of my friends decided to join me in the adventure. The path consisted of boardwalks along the Atlantic Ocean, fishing villages, cobblestone streets, dirt paths, one mountain which had a 405m elevation, grape vineyards and eucalyptus forests. My pack weighed 17lbs which was everything for my journey I needed and by the third day I could no longer feel that extra weight.  I could feel I was getting stronger.

A typical day on the Camino consisted of waking up , packing my pack, walking, finding arrows (the arrows showed you the direction to find your way), meeting and walking with pilgrims from around the world, finding food a bed and a shower, do laundry and eat together and sleep again…It was as simple as that.  We ate mostly Pilgrim’s meals that were ½ a chicken or fish, rice, french fries, salad, soup, tea and of course a beer for 7 euros.  Sleeping accommodations were the albergues (hostel) which ranged in cost from 5-10 euros.  So it was a pretty inexpensive vacation. It became an easy, no stress way of life which you could easily fall into.  We walked through many villages and towns meeting some great people from all over the world.  As I walked my last 20km to Santiago I had mixed emotion, I didn’t want this trek to end, so I slowed my pace and stopped several times along the way to really soak it all up.  I was very proud of myself walking the distance and sad that this long dreamed of moment was coming to an end.

Along the way you collected stamps on your Camino Passport from albergues, café’s and churches to prove that you had completed each stage of the walk in order to get your composite. I arrived at St. James Cathedral around noon and was so happy to see other pilgrims I had met along the way and to hear their stories of their journey.  We all had different reasons for walking the Camino.  We attended the Pilgrim Mass at the Cathedral which held 1500 Pilgrims and was presented in English and Spanish.  They also lit the magnificent incense burner which swung in the church…they say it was because the Pilgrims smell after such a long walk.  For someone who is a spiritual but not religious, it was amazing to witness this service because it signified that I had finally completed this amazing journey of discovery.  All in all, it was a life changing walk and I would recommend it to anyone who wants an active and meaningful vacation. Walking is a great way to see the world.  (You can also do the Camino on bicycle or on horseback).  My friend and I got tattoos in Spain because I think your first Camino is something you never forget.  I met a woman from Germany and we walked a lot together…we had the same pace…(which is really important) We have stayed in contact and plan to do more walking vacations in the future.

These are two quotes that have stick with me even after the walk was finished

“You Walk, You Meet, You Share and You Part”

“The Camino Provides” (The Camino always seemed to provided things you needed like a washroom, bed etc. it started to be a daily saying)

Buen Camino

Bio: I’m a 45 mother who was very active as a young adult and has just in the past 10 years has taken up sports again and loving it…I love being competitive in a fun environment.   The friends I have made a long the way have been life changing.  I enjoy the challenge and taking on new adventures.

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Mini cupcakes? Really, Google Maps? (Guest Post updated)

Phew. The cupcake-talk didn’t last. See

“Responding to complaints from people with eating disorders, Google quickly shuttered a test feature from the iOS version of Google Maps that showed how many mini-cupcakes’ worth of calories it would take to walk somewhere.”

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

by Megan Dean

No, Google Maps, I do not want to know that my walk to the post office will burn off a “mini cupcake” worth of calories. This is not useful or motivational or even innocuous information. In fact, it kinda ruined my afternoon.

I have put a lot of effort into keeping “calories” out of my life. I don’t read fitness magazines, I actively ignore the screen on the elliptical machine, I avert my eyes from nutrient breakdowns on prepared foods and recipes, and avoid diet conversations like the plague.

I never expected Google Maps to invade my carefully cultivated calorie-free mental space with unsolicited information about my afternoon stroll, accompanied by a stupid little emoji.

In any case, I KNOW how many calories a 20 minute walk burns. It is etched into my mind and taking up space there permanently, as is the number of calories in…

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“All the other women should love their bodies but I wanna lose five pounds…” (Rachel Lark and the Damaged Goods)

Rachel Lark and the Damaged Goods have a very funny song called “I Wanna Lose Five Pounds.” What’s funny about it is that it’s an almost perfect parody. In the short space of 3 minutes, she manages to capture the angst that many women go through once they recognize that body positivity is actually more liberating than the diet train, and yet they still “wanna lose five pounds.”

It’s like this: everyone else should love their bodies. We can see that this is  a good way to go. But I wanna lose five pounds (Aside: I’m still a feminist).

She does a great job of hauling out all the rationalizations: I’m doing this for me! I’m motivated by self-love! I need healthy habits.

And saying many of the right things: I’m aware that our society tricks healthy women into dieting. But of course “that’s not what this thing’s about.” Nor is it about “looking good for a guy.” No, it’s that “my belly makes a roll when I sit down.

She says, “I know I’ll never be as pretty as my friends; I know that the scrutiny never ends, but nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels, and I deserve to feel confident when I wear heels.”

This is just so close to what you actually hear in places like Weight Watchers (“I’m doing it for me; nothing tastes as good as skinny feels; it’s for health you guys!…”)

Rachel Lark is great at capturing the tension between our feminist ideals and wanting to lose weight (and needing to find just the right reasons). A couple of years ago Nat and I explored this tension. See her “Self-Identifying as a Bad Feminist” and my “Does Feeling Good about Weight Loss Make Me a Bad Feminist?

I said something really similar to what we hear in “I wanna lose five pounds”:

In other words, losing weight has always made me feel kind of good, gaining has always made me feel kind of bad. And at a meta-level, my self-awareness about this fact about me makes me feel a little hypocritical, as if I’m a “bad feminist.” Natalie commented about this and we agreed that there is a lot to say about this issue still.

Intellectually I believe 100% that I am not my weight. I’m 110% behind the view that no one else’s worth or worthiness is determined by the number on the scale. And yet in my own case, at some level, I still think of weight loss as an achievement of sorts.

Nat said:

No one gets to call me a “bad feminist” but myself and let me explain why. I think that term is slung around when we mean other things like sloppy thinking or forgetting privilege or perpetuating harmful and hurtful ideas about body image and weight. I don’t think it’s intended to shame or silence but that is the impact. How dare I write about losing weight when there are so many bad arguments about weight loss! Bad Feminist! Uh, no thank you.

Rachel Lark and the Damaged Goods roll all of these thoughts into the one song and do so brilliantly. Enough about me explaining this to you. See for yourself. Enjoy!




An asana a day: can I make it stay?

I have an approach-avoidance relationship with fitness challenges.  Many of our bloggers have written about, taken on and completed lots of challenges:  steps, running, biking, yoga, etc.  Reading their stories I’m always amazed at their persistence and successes at completing whatever task or goal they set.

You see, I’ve never thought of myself as good at maintaining consistent and long-standing fitness habits.  Sure, I love to cycle, walk, swim, do yoga, ski, play racket sports and paddle, but the only activities I do regularly are cycling and yoga.  And when I get too busy or too tired or otherwise discombobulated, those much-loved activities go by the wayside.  I do resume them, but with a little embarrassment at having dropped the ball (sorry for the wrong sports metaphor here).

Well, it just so happens that about 6 days ago, I noticed that I had done yoga 4 days in a row.  I’d gone to two classes and, apropos of nothing in particular, done yoga at home using yoga DVDs.  Hmmmm, I thought.  Maybe I can keep this up.

So I found an online yoga challenge (among the bazillion ones out there), called the Bad Yogi 30 Day Challenge.  I subscribed, and the links to video yoga workouts started arriving in my inbox.  Great, I thought– I’ll get started.

Well, the Day One Challenge (which was actually day 5 for me) was kind of a bust from the beginning.  It started out seated in what’s called Double Pidgeon pose, which looks like this:

A woman seated on a yoga mat, right leg crossed in front, left leg on top of right leg, left ankle resting on right knee.

A woman seated on a yoga mat, right leg crossed in front, left leg on top of right leg, left ankle resting on right knee.


No.  That’s not happening for me.  I can’t come close to that position.  Sigh.  I sat crossed-legged instead, but it set the wrong tone, and I wasn’t feeling uplifted by the end.

I wondered– is this it for my as-yet-undetermined self-imposed yoga challenge?  Turns out, it wasn’t.  I remembered a blog post written by Laura Rainbow Dragon, called 366 Days of Yoga.  In it she talked about deciding to do yoga every day for 30 days:

There were days when I only did restorative poses. There were days when my practice was only 5 minutes long. There were days when I scoured YouTube searching for routines that were light on upper body work, or just made up my own routine of standing poses only. (My shoulders and wrists were so weak, even downward facing dog was hard.) There were days when I didn’t roll out my mat until 2 o’clock in the morning and by that time was so exhausted all I did was meditate in legs up the wall pose. But I did it. Thirty consecutive days of yoga asana practice.

Yes!  That’s what I’m talking about!  No pressure to do anything in particular, just some yoga each day.  I never forgot that bit about how doing legs up the wall counted as yoga.  yes, I can do that.

A woman in purple leggings and a white tank shirt lying on her back, buttocks on a bolster, legs up against a pink painted wall.

A woman in purple leggings and a white tank shirt lying on her back, buttocks on a bolster, legs up against a pink painted wall.


So I did.  And I found I wanted to do other poses, too, once I rolled out my mat on my living room or bedroom floor.  And Laura’s post was still in the back of my mind– here’s more of it:

[After 30 days of yoga], my practice still was not easy. My progress was slow. I continued to struggle with both mental and physical yoga demons. And I often despaired that my body was just too old now, too out of shape. I feared I was “over the hill” and would never get back what I had lost. But I kept showing up. I kept rolling out my mat every day, getting on it, and doing the practice.

Today marks 10 days of yoga every day.  Right now, I’m all about rolling out the mat and seeing what I end up doing.  I have DVDs, a bunch of Bad Yogi challenge videos links, and my own sequences learned from having gone to yoga classes now for more than 1.5 years at my local yoga studio.  And of course I can go to classes there, too.

I really Really REALLY want to be able to report back here that I completed 30 straight days of yoga.  It’s not clear why I’ve never allowed myself the pleasure of this kind of completion before.  But now seems like an fine time to do just that.  Wish me luck.

How has it been for you, dear readers, to complete or not to complete a challenge you set for yourself?  We’ve talked about this before (I blogged about it here), but it’s still a confounding topic for me, and I’d love to hear some of your thoughts.

Finding Quiet

This month, I don’t feel like I have anything especially reflective or clever to say about fitness stuff.

I just got back from a period in Banff, where I attended a workshop and enjoyed my time isolated in the Rocky Mountains.


Image Description: Sunset over the Rocky Mountains. Hard not to feel both in awe and at peace with views like these. 

While I was there, I fully allowed myself to exist in “The Bubble.” No news. Limited communication with the outside world. Limited mindless Internet browsing. And less coffee. (Gasp!)

I have to say, it was transformative.

It’s amazing what a little peace and quiet will do for your mental state.

Lately, I have felt the painful hum of current events more and more acutely. I have become more anxious about the state of the world, and those who seem to run it. Naturally, I’ve always been a very optimistic person and in the past, the gloom of current events tended not to bring me down as much as they have more recently. It’s as if the world’s worries feel more palpable to me.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older? Or maybe it’s because things are getting worse? Who knows.

In any case, allowing myself to experience what was in front of me was just the thing I needed. I felt my spirits lift, my anxieties decrease, and my overall mental and emotional states improve. I felt a clearer sense of myself, what I value, and how I want to be in the world.


Image Description: Overlooking Bow Falls in Banff National Park. Though it isn’t a steep waterfall, the force (and noise) were incredible. That sound of water rushing over rocks is one of my favourite sounds of all time. Like Mother Nature’s own white noise machine.

In coming back home, I want to find a way to maintain that peaceful state of mind—and I feel myself already worrying that it won’t last long.

Before I left, I was often pulled between several tasks at once, or just felt a general sense of NOISE in the back of my mind. I felt this intense need to hurry up, to keep the pace. I would lose entire weeks without realizing what even happened or what I’d done. Indeed, I have started incorporating a broader practice of mindfulness and meditation into my daily life. But there was something about feeling physically sheltered by mountains from the chaos of the world. It was just so quiet.

As I said, I don’t have anything particularly witty to share today. Only the hope that you too find time for peace, for quiet, and for yourself in this increasingly noisy world.


Image Description: The misty Rockies in view past the Banff Centre. 


Image Description: Walking through the woods alone. 


Image Description: This deer grazed at my window every day! Usually around the same times, too. It felt miraculous to look out my window to see a deer (or a few deer) casually snacking

Why Yin?

peppermint patty dancingWe’ve had a weirdly warm September here in Toronto, but with some truly beautiful days.  A few inspired me to get outside and move my body — I went for a random solo 100km bike ride on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, and Kim and I got out for a 75 ride together, finally (Hi kim!).  And I few times, I managed a couple of those short runs where everything works that make me feel like Peppermint Patty dancing.  (Or doing aerobics — who knew Peppermint Patty had a fitness video?  The world is indeed full).

But — as Sam has written about, September grinds a bit hard on me.  I’ve had a ton of tiring work to do, including a four day intensive I teach in, and a few quick work trips that tuckered me out.  So although I shoved a few workouts in here and there, and managed to get to spinning a couple of times, I just felt tired all the time.  And most of the time, when I was working out, it was either a horrible slog or I’d rev up suddenly and madly and end up overdoing it.  Off balance, a little?

Last week, I was in London (Ontario) for a two day work trip, and I was on my own after my work finished.  It was another glorious sunny day, and I went for a 5K run down on the multi-use path by the river.  It should have been delightful… but it was just… a plod.  I stopped more than I should have, and was sort of vaguely conscious that things just didn’t feel… right.

Earlier that day I’d had the instinct that maybe I needed some yoga, so I’d signed up for a Moksha hot yoga yin class at a studio I’d never been to before.  (Tip:  sign up and pay in advance, because I sure didn’t feel like going after my bleh 5K run).  After my run, I changed my shorts, swiped off the sweat, and grabbed a hotel towel.  I walked over to the studio, through a mostly nice, somewhat sketchy park.


A woman wearing pristine white yoga clothes doing eye of the needle pose

Yin is basically a form of yoga that focuses on connective tissues, where after a warm up (in this class, we did a series of sun salutations and warrior poses for about 20 minutes), you hold a few postures for a long time.  (These tend to be the stretchy deep postures like twists or pigeon, not balancing or strength postures).  I’ve done yin a few times before, but I tend to put it in the “I should do this more” category instead of the “I am actually doing this” category.  It seems like a lot of effort to find my yoga matt, pay $20 and go lie down on the floor in someone else’s studio for an hour or so when I could just lie down on my own living room floor.

Except, of course, I never lie down on my own living room floor.


Cate with messy hair and a certain … glow… after a 5k run and hot yin class

As soon as I sank down on the mat I paid $2 to rent, I listened to what I was feeling.  For the first time in weeks, I let myself notice that the bottoms of my feet hurt.  My hips were tight and sore.  My calves were almost knotted. I used a strap to pull my leg straight up to stretch out my hamstring and it was as taut as an overtuned viola string.  The hot room loosened me up, and I still couldn’t fully stretch out my legs without them yipping at me like a tiny angry dog.  My neck was tight and my big toe and thumb — both showing early osteo-arthritis — downright hurt.

How had I not noticed how much everything ached?

I’m not gonna lie here.  This was not a comfortable class.  I focused on form in the vinyasas, and it was an effort. I wobbled in warrior.  The most basic backbend gave me that “eek I’m being strangled” feeling.   Even the simplest twist — legs one way, arms the other while lying on your back — was a challenge.  Very quickly into the class I realized that while I have been pushing my body through work, through travel, through workouts, through long days in shoes that make my knees hurt — I’ve been ignoring what’s happening under one layer of it.

I’m 52, and I’m really quite fit, and I’m working a lot… I’m tired.

I think, when I get busy, I have this quite phenomenal capacity to keep moving myself forward — I can do a LOT of work and switch gears quickly, I can juggle many things.  I can push myself through a hot 100km ride on sheer will.  But I can easily stop paying attention to the next layer underneath — both physically and emotionally.  When I’m pushing myself through a busy life, I stop stretching and I stop breathing.  And when I start listening, I notice the soreness beneath.

And all of those tuckered out, bickering connective tissues are a built in alarm system telling me “do something different or something is going to break.”  The last time I ignored that alarm system I ended up training for a marathon through a grindingly askew hip/IT-band/knee/calf system, and hurt my knee irrevocably.  Then, I put a postit on my bathroom mirror that said “listen to your body.”

Lying on that mat in yin class, my body squawked loudly.  More stretching, more sleep, more care, please.

Okay.  More yin, I think.

What are your signals that it’s time to lie on the floor and stretch?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives in Toronto.  She works in education and sustainable strategic change, primarily in the space of academic healthcare.  She writes for this blog on the second Friday of every month, as well as at other random times when she feels compelled to yammer.