Summer has officially arrived, and warmer temperatures are here! This means many things, one of which I’d like to discuss/complain about: Major sweating. I’m not referring to a healthy pink glow here. We’re talking dripping, red-faced, soggy sweat– even at 10am. Even while doing very light activity. Even while dressed head to toe in moisture-wicking fabrics whose marketing materials guarantee a dryer, more comfortable active you.
I’ve written a feminist guide to mid-life sweating post with my tips here. Mina and Sam and others have also blogged about sweating in affirming ways.
But I’m back because I just last week learned a thing that science has known, but didn’t bother to tell me: the medication I take (an SSRI anti-depressant) is a known contributor to excessive sweating! When I asked Madeline, my psychopharm doc, she said, “Oh yes! This is definitely a thing.”
Did everyone else know this already? Am I the last to be informed?
Given that medications helped get me into this soggy mess, I wondered whether medications could help me out of it. The answer is maybe a little bit, but not for me. Why? Because science is complicated.
HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is commonly prescribed for menopausal symptoms. There’s lots of say about this, but you should do your own google search and consult your own experts. For me, it’s not an option.
There are other anti-sweating medications around, but they have all sorts of side effects and varying levels of effectiveness. Dr. Madeline (who knows what she is about, imho) says no to the sweat-be-gone drugs.
Instead, she recommended a portable battery-operated fan, ice packs or cold compresses on the back of the neck. The fan is a hard no for me, but I do have an extremely cute ice pack.
Should I start carrying it around? That seems a bit much. I already tote a bandana for mopping up sweat around my face. Maybe go all in and order a rubber ducky tote bag to carry my sweat-mitigation gear?
Honestly, maybe it’s not a terrible idea– toting around sweat-mitigation gear, that is. And engaging in sweat-mitigation and sweat-acceptance habits. After all, the body I have now is worth caring for just as it is. And this body sweats a lot. Time to deal. Cold drinks, bandanas, changes of clothes, cool breathable fabrics, fabrics that don’t show sweat as much, cool bedrooms, and more cool/cold-water swimming are all promising strategies.
Readers, do you have any sweat-mitigation or sweat-acceptance tips? We’d all love to hear anything you have to offer.
My first, and only, stand up paddle-board (SUP) experience was a few (okay, 8!) years ago while visiting friends. They were members of a premier sports & fitness club that had a quarry on the property which they used for a few different water sports. Our friends had recently taken up SUP’ing as part of their regular gym-going routine, and we (my spouse and I) were excited to try something new. It didn’t hurt that it was October and the water temperature was in the high 70s, whereas it was already turning cold at my house.
I am not the most coordinated person. That is to say I have a serious lack of coordination and occasionally just tilt over while walking in a way that confuses most other people. I’m also in a larger body and despite my efforts to pick things up and put them down, I have never had a lot of upper body strength. So I felt like my best chance for getting on and staying on the board was to step onto it right off the dock, and then don’t get off of it until I was done. I did not kneel. I did not sit down. I stood. I paddled. I jumped off and enjoyed a refreshing swim, and then pushed my board back to the dock while I remained in the water. I don’t know if I could have pulled myself back onto the board because I never tried.
Despite feeling uncoordinated and generally suspicious of new things, I really enjoyed the adventure. We tried to go again on our trip but other activities in the new-to-me city won out, and we ran out of time. Fast forward four years, and I now live near a small body of water. Our community calls it a pond, but it would be described as a small lake in most other places. Within a month of moving in we had purchased two kayaks and began enjoying the water. As soon as it was warm enough to swim in the pond, I pulled on my wetsuit and hopped right in. In the summer I will often grab a pool noodle and a beverage and go “float” near the dock, relaxing in the water and chatting with neighbors as they boat or paddle by. In those early days I searched for a SUP that met our needs and our budget. The hard boards were often heavy and carried a lower maximum weight than what we preferred. The inflatables had a wide range of ratings and user experiences, and most of them were a bit above our price range. I still kept an eye out on community “for sale” pages and summer sales flyers, but it wasn’t a priority.
Until this past weekend. The universe worked to remind me of how much I wanted to SUP on our little pond by sending a couple of paddle-boarders by as we were enjoying breakfast. Later that morning I was on a page for a community group I am in and saw that someone had posted a link to their new inflatable SUP, which happened to be on sale for a very reasonable price. I knew it had to be mine, but let it percolate for a few more hours before pushing the “buy” button.
And now, friends, my new SUP is on the way to me, reported to arrive before next weekend when I can try it out and get familiar with our combined quirks. The kit comes with everything but a life jacket, which I already have. Although I can step onto the board right off the dock, I know I am going to need to get proficient at pulling myself back onto the board, and at getting to a standing position from sitting or kneeling. I’m sure there will be a host of other things I need to figure out, including sun protection for longer paddles. I’m excited to try something new and open to doing it poorly for a while while I work on these new skills. Please share any SUP tips you have in the comments!
Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.
Things to know about me: I am a rule following kind of person. It’s hardwired. It’s what I do.
But I confess that until today, I didn’t have a bell on my commuting bike.
I mean, I had one, years ago, but it broke, and I never replaced it, mostly because I only had it to comply with the law. I rarely, if ever, used it.
Why not? Well, it startled people. And I was finding that either people have headsets on, in which case it doesn’t matter what noise I make, or they seemed less startled, and more appreciative of a cheery “Good morning.”
To be clear, our gravel paths along the river and through the Arboretum are wide and not at all crowded so my bike commute is pretty stress free. So far even the off leash dogs have been well behaved and my only near collision was with turtles the other morning.
Here’s some scenes from my long commute:
But last week, as I was cycling through the Aboretum on my long way to work, I passed an elderly man with a small dog and my “hello, good morning” wasn’t enough. “Don’t you have a bell on that thing you could ring?” he yelled back.
The pink bell clashes. I think it was a stocking stuffer meant for the Brompton which also doesn’t have a bell. Will remedy that too, get a new one for the commuting bike and put the pink one on the Brompton.
In the meantime, cyclists and non-cyclists alike, which do you prefer, bell or no bell? “Good morning, hello,” or “bring bring”?
However, I came across a Facebook group recently for OWLS! That’s Older Women in Lycra. Here’s the group’s description: “Designed to EMPOWEROWL.bike (Older Women in Lycra) made with ❤️ for women cyclists UCA age 55 and older. OWLs are changing societal messages on aging…one ride at a time!”
From the article, “Such men have acquired their own acronym, and it’s entered the language. Mamils – middle-aged men in Lycra – are a recognised demographic who are a target market for advertisers, with considerable buying power and much to enjoy spending their money on, from beautiful carbon-frame bikes to stylish cycle-wear. But the Mamil only tells half the story. There are also what I call Owls – older women in Lycra – and we enjoy all those things just as much. And if that makes us objects of satire as much as the Mamils are… then fine.
British Cycling, the sport’s umbrella organisation, confirms that women cyclists – including a significant number of older women – are rapidly on the increase. BC’s women-only Breeze Rides – its scheme to encourage women to take up cycling – have attracted more than 13,000 women since the beginning of 2015. Of these, 59 per cent are aged 35 to 54 and 29 per cent are 55-plus. In the 50 to 59 age group in last week’s Ride London 100 – the biggest sportive in Britain – an impressive 26 per cent of entrants were women. Next month no less a 51-year-old than the Countess of Wessex is taking part in a charity bike ride from Edinburgh to London. A few years ago I cycled from London to Edinburgh myself, and it’s a hell of an undertaking.”
The OWLS race on Zwift and while I can’t join them yet–they race in the afternoon spot for the TTTs–I do appreciate that they’re there.
Might also be nice to just have a mature riders group for all people, including those who don’t identify as men or women.
The Charles River in Boston: I’ve kayaked there many times– with Samantha, even! But I’ve never swum in the river. Why not? Because the river was too polluted. This is a sad truth about some of the great rivers in some of the great cities– the Seine in Paris, the Thames in London, the Tiber in Rome, the Yongding in Beijing, and on. Centuries of no sanitation procedures followed by decades of neglect resulted in water water everywhere, and not a place to swim.
Boston has something similar in mind. But it takes a while. So they’ve started out with a one-day-a-year Charles River in a deep-water roped-off area, with timed entries and lifeguards. Here’s what the Charles River Conservancy says about it on their website:
The Charles River Conservancy’s first City Splash on July 13, 2013 marked one the first public community swims in the Charles River in more than fifty years. Swimming has been prohibited in the Charles since the 1950’s when a growing awareness of the health risks posed by pollution in the Charles caused the beaches and bathhouses lining the river to close. After years of environmental health progress, most notably the EPA’s Charles River Initiative, swimming is now allowed through state-sanctioned events such as the Charles River Conservancy’s City Splash events and the Charles River Swimming Club’s annual One-Mile Swim Race, which began in 2007.
I’d intended to do this swim for several years. But, with the added motivation of going with my friend Nina, I managed to score a ticket (they’re free and run out in a couple of hours). So off we went on Saturday June 18.
We waited in line, and then ambled to the dock, our identities checked twice– once on the way in, and once on the way out. They don’t want to lose anyone…
The water was warm– around 72 F/22 C. Nina and I swam and chatted and got out and dived back in, making satisfying splashes. Most folks got out after 5–10 minutes, but the die-hards (including Nina and me) swam for half an hour.
You can probably tell from these pictures that it was very big fun for everyone who went. Seeing (and being one of the) adults squealing and laughing loudly, using their outside voices– we need more of this.
The Charles River Conservancy has a vision to create a seasonal home for swimming in the Charles. Here’s what their vision might look like:
Readers: have you done any urban swimming in rivers or lakes in cities? Was it sanctioned or wild swimming? How was the water? I’d love to hear any stories you’d like to share.
Before I go, I’ll leave you with the song my blog title was based on. Please to enjoy the Standells with “Dirty Water”, an ode to the Charles River in Boston.
Now that the stresses and fun of the past month or so have passed, I’m looking forward to the mixed blessing of a flexible summer schedule.
I mean, I love having my evenings free and since I work for myself, at home, I can shift things around to take advantage of good weather or some pop-up fun.
Since my brain has a very casual relationship with time under any circumstances, the flexibility of summer can also be a challenge for me. If I don’t make my decisions in advance or if I don’t pay close attention to how I spend my time, I can suddenly find myself at the end of summer, frustrated about all of the things I missed out on for no good reason.
So, one of my projects for this weekend is to figure out how I want to spend my summer.
I’m considering when to work and when to rest (and thinking about what ‘rest’ includes). I’m figuring out what to include in my day-to-day and which larger summer activities I want to organize and do. I’m thinking about the projects I want to complete in the house and in the yard and deciding when I’d like to work on them.
Basically, I want to make sure that I actively choose a shape for my summer instead of just reacting moment by moment.
(By the way, if a summer of reacting moment by moment is your ideal, please have at it! Do what works for you.)
I’m planning to include things like revising my novel, practicing my TKD patterns outside where there’s more room, hula-hooping, going swimming, reading in my hammock, taking a few hikes, taking Khalee on longer walks, going for longer bike rides, creating some zines, and spending a lot of time hanging out outdoors with my friends.
What do YOU have planned for your summer? Let me know in the comments!
Or if it isn’t summer where you are, what do you have planned for the next few months?
With less travel these days, I decided to take a fresh look at what London, Ontario has to offer. I landed on a city-run trail running program and a basic skill Stand-up paddleboard (SUP) class, both of which I’m doing with Anita. Today I’ll take about the trail running.
The trail running program is a Learn to Run Trails (5K) every Wednesday for eight weeks. At $55 you can’t really go wrong even if you’re going to miss one or two of the outings. It’s listed as an outdoor/nature program, and part of the objective is not just to learn to run trails but also to discover and learn about our city’s trails, which are designated as Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs). In the service of that, the city sends us an info sheet on each week’s trail. It’s a five-page PDF that describes it and talks about the ecosystem and wildlife in the area and what makes it environmentally significant. This week we ran in Kilally, and this is the first page of the info flyer.
We had our first day out two Wednesdays ago on the literal hottest day so far this season, where it was in the high 30s C with a humidex of 43 degrees C. If it wasn’t the first night of a new program there is no way I’d have gone running at 6:30 pm that evening.
But at least 25 of us, mostly women, gathered at Westminster Ponds for a 4.5K in a shaded quite technical trail (I think that mostly means lots of roots, mud, winding parts, and ups and downs). Three of the four coaches were there, and they assured us that no one would be left behind or forced to push their pace. There was a coach up front, leading, one in the middle who sort of went back and forth keeping track of people, and one at the rear of the group making sure no one was falling behind.
We started off easy, with lots of pauses and walking (especially walking around the mud). The shade of the trees made it quite a bit cooler, but even so it was a tough running day and I immediately wished I’d brought two waters instead of one. The trail had quite a few muddy bits, and at the first one I realized I’d forgotten to wear my trail running shoes and instead wore my regular shoes for running on pavement. I will not be making that mistake again.
I mostly ran in the middle of the pack, sometimes falling back because I took more frequent walk breaks than some. It was uncomfortably hot and I was feeling it, and we hadn’t settled on any prescribed intervals (like this week’s 3-1s). We did a 2K loop and I was under the mistaken impression that because of the heat and it being day one, that’s all we were going to do. But when we stopped to regroup at the end of it, Terry suggested that we do it again in the other direction “if that was okay with everyone.” He explained how taking a trail in the other direction is almost like doing a new trail. Everyone was so darn agreeable about doing a second loop. Maybe no one wanted to be the naysayer. Granted, 2K is a pretty short run. But OMG.
Many walk breaks later, and quite a few short spurts of “I can make it to that tree” and “I can make it to that bend” and “I can make it up this hill,” and we made it. In all we were out there for just under an hour, which makes it the longest 4.5K I’ve ever done, but also the hottest. And on a trail.
We gathered in the parking area after and the coaches explained that every trail is different, and that in trail running you can’t really compare your times from one trail to another. They’re all different, and you’re bound to run a trail more slowly than the same distance on a paved pathway. Even the same trail can be quite different on a different day or in a different direction. They also challenge us in different ways, using more muscles because whereas in road running you are consistent in the way your foot hits the ground and your stride and so on, in trail running that’s not the case. You need to go over or avoid roots, adjust to different conditions under foot, watch out for tree branches in your face or on the ground, and go around (or through) mud.
This week we did a much easier, flatter trail in Kilally Meadows. It wasn’t quite as shaded but it also was considerably cooler (still about 30 degrees but less humid). We divided into two distinct groups this week — the fast and the slow. I chose the slow group, which the lead coach Joelle called “party pace,” and we did 3-1 intervals (3 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking), covering about 3.5K in half an hour or so. It didn’t feel nearly as brutal as the previous week, and I was able to keep up with the pace and the intervals without any trouble. I might try the other group some time but I liked being able to enjoy the whole experience rather than feeling like I was pushing the pace just to keep up.
I had some concerns about it being buggy, and especially about ticks, which lots of people are talking about this year. I bought a special “tick key” that removes them without breaking them off. Lyme disease is a risk when you pull out a tick wrong. They burrow and it is easy to break them, releasing the toxin that carries the disease (that’s my lay understanding of it anyway). But the coaches also assured us that if we shower when we get home, we’d probably be fine because they are slow to move and the burrowing takes about 24 hours. That was reassuring. But I did do a quick tick check anyway. And I sprayed myself down with deep woods insect repellent.
Anita and I are out of the habit of taking pictures every time we go out, so I have no photo of either night, so I can’t prove that we were smiling but we were. Trail running is a great way to get out for a run, learn about the city’s trails, and discover new places to run when it’s hot and shade is welcome, or when you just want a change of scenery. I’m excited to discover the other trails in the area, and definitely want to add trail running to my roster of activities.
I have mentioned a few times in previous posts that one of my motivations for being active was to avoid some of the health issues I see in my parents.
I inherited Mom’s varicose veins, slow thyroid and tendency towards osteoporosis. Lately I have also been getting some twinges of arthritis too, though thankfully nothing like what has led her to have three hip replacements.
Keeping myself fit and mobile was all I needed to worry about, until very recently. Dad has always been capable, and Mom is stubborn, so elder care mostly involved visits, and occasionally helping with a meal. Then Mom had a fall and broke several ribs.
Luckily, I had booked six weeks of vacation and live in the same city, so I will be available to take care of cleaning, meals, supervise physiotherapy exercises between visits, and help with personal care.
So far, I have sitting with her or with Dad, trying to get answers from hospital staff, and making sure I have the necessary arrangements in place for once she gets home. I treasure the moments brushing Mom’s hair, and don’t mind sitting quietly for hours while she naps, but at the end of the day that non-activity leaves me more ready for bed than a a physically demanding day.
If ever there was a time for meditation, yoga, or an early morning swim, it is now. I am not one for traditional meditation; I prefer to cook instead. Some nights, there is a lot of cooking.
I am pretty comfortable thinking about my own health – how to maintain it, accepting certain limitations as I age. And I knew there would come a time when my parents would need more care. What has been a surprise was exhausting it would be.
For the next few weeks, I plan to do some early morning gardening or go for a swim before heading off to do elder care duties. I will take advantage of every offer of assistance from my sister. I will keep some sort of craft on-hand to work on rather than doom scrolling. And I will work on getting enough sleep. More than ever, I want to be alert and avoid injury myself.
This past month has presented me with plenty of inspiration for a blog post. It was, as per usual, incredibly difficult for me to narrow down what to share. However, despite the volume of vulnerable, queer, fitness-related experiences I’ve found myself in there is one moment that feels heavier than the rest. As most of my uncomfortable gym situations begin, this moment was initiated by a male person approaching me mid-workout.
Allow me to paint this picture more clearly. By ‘mid-workout’, I mean a headphones-on-full-blast-sweating-through-my-tank-top-unaware-of-the-rest-of-the-world state of mind.
Now, I have very few objections to interacting with others at the gym. Developing an open, positive community within the gym environment can remove social barriers that hinder the enthusiastic participation of everyone wishing to pursue an active lifestyle. However, this was not one of those interactions. I retrieved my dumbbells from the ground, stood upright, and proceeded to perform my bicep curls.
Simultaneously, this male person positioned himself about 4 feet behind me, and continued to dance his eyes between the back of my legs and making direct eye contact with me via the mirror that stood in-front of both of us. I have a horrible tendency to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, regardless of how clearly their behavior should be reprimanded. Therefore, using said mirror, I quizzically raised my eyebrows at the male person, hoping he may just be looking for someone to spot him on a lift, or perhaps was wondering which direction the washrooms may be. It must be at this point that you are wondering if I moonlight as a comedian…because, yes, these innocent wishes about his intentions were dead wrong.
His response to my quizzical eyebrow raise was to begin speaking, despite the music blasting from my headphones. I set my weights back down, turned to face him, and slid a headphone back.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
“Uh, I was just like wondering if you like compete, or like yeah.”
“Yeah, in like physique stuff.”
“No, I do not. I’m just a gym rat.”
It was at this point that he began this disturbing soliloquy:
“That’s cool. You should do physique competitions; you have great definition. I was like worried to ask you because so many girls get so offended when I try to chat with them. But, I could just like tell from your form that you know how to work out, and like I knew your vibe was different. Honestly, you’re just so focused, most girls like look at me with like ‘hungry eyes’, but you just are doing your thing. It’s cool, you know?”
When I tell you that I have heard this well-rehearsed chaos on hundreds of occasions, I say so with little exaggeration. Now, a piece of unsolicited advice, if you redirect the topic of conversation onto them, you quickly fade into the background of a wonderfully self-centered dialogue regarding their macro-intake or something equally as unimportant. Which is exactly what I did, and exactly what he did. Fortunately, this led to a perfect opportunity for a swift ending to the conversation, and my ability to slip my headphones back on (my gym version of a “Do Not Disturb” sign).
It is not my intention that this post comes across as scathing, rant-ish, or a generalization of male people in fitness. Rather, I’m hoping that we can let out a big collective chuckle at the absurdity of this moment.
First, the mental image of me participating in the hyper-feminine culture of physique modelling is absolutely comical for anyone who knows me well.
Second, the fact that this person had the audacity to paint himself as a victim when approaching women at the gym and them being “offended” shows so little self-awareness it made me question how this individual managed to think so highly of himself… while clearly having no idea of who he truly is.
Third, and my personal favourite part of all of this, my lack of “hungry eyes” played no role in him recognizing that I truly, sincerely have little to no interest in gazing at men.
Finally, bold of him to refer to me as a ‘girl’.
Regardless of all the technical issues of his little plan, the most curious part was that he could not recognize the hypocritical nature of his actions. My feminist training began running wild. The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy, suffering under a male gaze, r*pe culture and the idealization of ‘the chase’, etc. Luckily, I snapped out of my trance just in time to realize that “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor was playing through my headphones. I picked up my dumbbells, mentally wished all non-conformists a ‘Happy Pride Month’, and purposefully moved those weights with horrible form.
Bio: Hi! I’m Bret and I hail from Guelph, ON, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. I am currently working towards an MA in Philosophy at Western University, and enjoy engaging in feminist theory, ethics, as well as gender and sexuality studies. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be taught by both Sam and Tracy, and I am excited to join the Fit is a Feminist Issue community! When my nose isn’t in a book, I can be found in coffee shops, at the gym, or taking on car repairs that are far beyond my capabilities.
Shortly after coming home from my work commute the other day, I found that my partner (and cat) could barely stand to be around me. I was being a total grump—tired and irritable. Why?
I had spent the last two days commuting by car (an hour each way, plus more travel between sites), then sitting for hours at desks that were not my own. Being vehicle- and desk-bound used to be my work-a-day norm. But, after only a few days back at work, and despite all the travel, I felt unusually sedentary and yuck.
I have worked from home during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means I’ve had the luxury of walking or exercising before or after work (most days!), and taking short stretch breaks anytime I’ve needed to in a private and comfortable space of my own. More control over how, where, and how much I sit.
You may be thinking—with all this privilege, 5 hours in the car over 2 days is not, relatively speaking, a big deal. Boo hoo, Elan. (At first I thought that too.)
Yet, because I am trying to be mindful and notice things more, I realized maybe I hadn’t prepared myself sufficiently for what back to work would feel like for my body.
Reminders are for people who need reminding. Here is a brief list of reminders for how I might show up more prepared for my return-to-work days a (and be less of a grump around those I love afterwards).
Leave 15 minutes earlier than I need to and park at the far end of the parking lot to have time to walk and stretch before sitting in the office.
Bring more water and veggie snacks than I think I will need in order to stay hydrated (and avoid the snack machine).
Schedule in-person meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour, and use that time to get up and move around, perhaps reacquainting myself with the buildings and their outdoor spaces.
Assess the ergonomics of my seated position in my car and in my hoteling office work spaces—try to notice my posture and pack what I need to adjust myself.
Make time to stretch before getting back into my car near the end of the day.
What else could help me to manage feelings sedentary and grumpy during return to work? Please share your ideas in comments below!