Why are people worried about “vaccine shedding”? (Spoiler alert: it’s NOT A THING!!!!!!)

I wrote a post last week rounding up the science related to people’s worries about a possible relationship between covid vaccines and various reproductive/menstrual issues. The bottom line was:

  • a recent vaccine MIGHT give you an inaccurate reading on a mammogram, but any lymph node inflammation will subside after about a month (lymph node swelling is a normal effect of engaging your immune system with any vaccine)
  • some people have noted menstrual oddities after vaccines, which may be “just plain stress” or may be, again, a temporary effect of your immune system swinging into gear
  • both the mRNA (moderna, pfizer) and viral vector (oxford astrazeneca and Johnson and johnson) types of vaccine have been tested and found safe for pregnancy

At the end of my post, I noted something I just called “lunacy”: the vague little wave of nonsense making the rounds right now that somehow vaccinated people can “shed virus” (or “shed vaccine”) and cause some sort of magical interference with other people’s uteruses.

I thought that one paragraph and my link to Jen Gunter’s “it’s a vaccine not a spell” would be enough to shut down that discussion. But oh, how naïve I was. Someone on the blog’s facebook page begged me to stop spreading misinformation (while kind of accusing me of being duped by fake science). And then Nicole shared that she’d seen a whole whack of people on twitter yammering about how their hairdressers or what have you wouldn’t take vaccinated clients “because of the shedding of the spike protein.” And then there’s that school in Miami.

I briefly ducked into twitter, eyes squinting and sort of hunching over, trying to avoid getting hit by a nonsense bomb. Four or five minutes was enough to despair for the future of knowledge.

Well, Chemin, I sure wouldn’t want you catching my baby. But you know what? No one is catching ANYTHING from a vaccinated person. Which, you know, as a health provider you should know.

But here goes, one more time. I don’t expect this to “convince” anyone who believes I’m a vaccinated zombie, but it should give you a bit of an understanding of how to respond if you trip over some of this nonsense. The made up story of “vaccine shedding” goes something like this:

  • The concept of “viral shedding” is a term used to describe how much of an actual virus (not a vaccine, the actual virus) makes its way out of one infected person into the air or into another person — through coughing, or blood, of other waste products. This is a term that was used a lot at the beginning of the pandemic to try to determine how infectious COVID-19 was, and how prevalent virus was in things like respiratory droplets. (Why we wear masks, for the record — to contain our own shedding in our own little bubble as much as possible).
  • In the world generally, as COVID vaccines started to be developed, the people with questions about new vaccines (all along the continuum from vaguely and appropriately hesitant to microchip zombie conspiracy pure anti-vax bonkers) put a lot of their energy into asking whether the new vaccines were safe. This is a good and reasonable question — they’re new! Two of the prominent ones have a newish technology! But somewhere in there, ONE paragraph in a 146 page document outlining the study protocols for the Pfizer vaccine got yanked out of context and mis-interpreted as “hidden proof that we are being lied to about the vaccine.”
  • If you wade into the twitterverse of wild-eyed anti-vaxxers, it’s this one paragraph that is breathlessly reposted over and over. This section in the study protocol, which is super standard for any clinical trial, basically says “study participants who are exposed to the vaccine while pregnant or when they are putting sperm into someone to get them pregnant need to report this” (Dr. Jen Gunter does very useful work explaining this in this post). This is a very very standard thing in any study — researchers want to know and account for whether or not someone in their study is pregnant, so they can consider that in their findings. (And note that even THIS doesn’t say “hugging or cutting the hair of a vaccinated person needs to be reported” — the connection to sperm somehow got translated to general proximity).

So let me recap the elements of how this “false truth” became so quickly embedded:

Vaccine hesitancy (or just plain anti-vax beliefs) + a new vaccine + generalized anxiety + alluring language about viral shedding + a boilerplate warning about pregnancy in a study + an enticing and scary term like “spike protein” + [whatever dash of conspiracy theory suits you] = “vaccinated people can shed spike protein, which is dangerous for pregnant people or people who might want want to get pregnant.”

Let me say this really clearly: this is… bonkers.

All vaccines — even those with live viruses, which the Pfizer is NOT — do not inject spike proteins into our bodies, they inject — “the instructions to teach our cells how to make a protein, or even just a piece of a protein, that triggers an immune response in our bodies. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. The immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”

“Shedding vaccine” is just not a thing. It’s a made up thing in a time of great uncertainty.

And then there’s the wisdom of this sailor girl

My personal belief is that these kinds of conspiracy theories arise because people hate uncertainty, and don’t like to accept that there are some things they have no control over. They would rather believe that Someone Out There has some kind of control, and that they can take back that control by exerting some decisive action in their own lives, or autonomy over their own bodies. Defying authority in this way is a way to do that. And really, in some ways, I get that. It’s been very hard to have so much of our lives taken out of our own sphere of influence over the past year and a half. But this? Putting all of your energy into refusing to let vaccinated people come into your school, your midwifery practice, your hair salon? This is not the answer. If you need more autonomy over your environment, get a peloton. Get a dog. Take up knitting. Repaint your bedroom. But try to do those things with just a teensy bit of scientific understanding.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who has a PhD in communication theory, and is much happier when she stays off Twitter.


If Diets Don’t Work, Then What? (#NoDietDay, #reblog, #BlogLuv)

Tomorrow is #NoDietDay. What’s that all about? International No Diet Day is an annual celebration of body acceptance, including fat acceptance and body shape diversity. It was started in 1992 and has its roots in eating disorder recovery movements. In anticipation of the actual day, I’m sharing Tracy’s post from a few years back about alternatives to dieting.


Strong WomenOne of our favorite things about the blog is the way it has generated conversation and a sense of community.   We enjoy hearing from people, not least of which because we’ve had generous comments for the most part. Once in awhile, however, someone calls us on something. That’s okay too. Debate is good. We’re philosophers, and, as Sam said, that’s how we roll.

I was called out just last week when a regular commenter said that I spend a lot of time repeating that diets don’t work, but I don’t offer anything hopeful or helpful. Craig said, “if this blog is about getting fit and healthy, and not simply about “fat acceptance” – give us some clue as to how obese people can lose a lot of fat in a healthy way and keep it off for reasons pertaining to health, as opposed to just reminding us of the…

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Animal hazards to cyclists (#reblog, #blogluv)

Since writing this post I’ve moved to Guelph where there are ‘turtle crossing’ warning signs on some roads. I don’t think it would be fun for me or the turtle if I ran over it with my road bike. What are the animal hazards to cyclists where you live?



I’ve been thinking about animal hazards to cyclists recently, that is non-human animal hazards, and also about how those vary from place to place.

Every morning I ride to work along our riverside bike path. It’s usually got at least a couple of spots where Canada geese, or as we call them here “geese,” are walking across. Geese make me nervous. And it turns out I’m right to be nervous. This summer a woman in Ottawa needed stitches on her face and suffered a concussion after being attacked while riding her bike. The CBC story is here.

An Ottawa cyclist says a surprise attack by a Canada goose left her with a concussion and fractured cheekbone, and a renewed respect for nature.

Kerry Surman was riding along the Trans Canada Trail from her home in the west Ottawa neighbourhood of Stittsville to Carleton Place, Ont., on June 10 when she…

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fitness · fun · kids and exercise · play

May the 4th be with you: Star Wars Day Workouts

Whether you are training to be a Jedi or you just want to mix things up a little, here’s a fitness-based way to celebrate Star Wars Day.

Sure, some of them are designed for kids but that doesn’t mean that adults can’t do them, too.

The key here is to maximize your fun while getting a little movement into your day. You get bonus points if you do any of these workouts in costume.

When I’m looking for a themed workout, I usually check at Darebee first and they did not disappoint. Here’s their Jedi Tribute Workout:

A poster featuring a black and white drawing of a person doing a series of exercises. The text at the top reads 'Jedi Tribute Workout by'
Image description: A poster of a series of exercises entitled ‘Jedi Tribute Workout’ featuring a black and white drawing of a person doing pushups, sit-ups, lunges and other bodyweight exercises.

If that’s not your thing, you could try this Daisy Ridley/Rey inspired workout from Sarah Rocksdale:

Image Description: a still photo from a YouTube video that features Daisy Ridley in character as Rey, holding a lightsaber. She is wearing grey clothing and her hair is in a bun on top of her head.

Or if you are looking for something a little different, here’s a fun, graduated challenge that Nicole P. found on Instagram from one of her local gyms:

And, of course, here are some kids’ workouts that work just fine for adults, too.

Image description: a still image from a YouTube video with text on the left reading ‘Star Wars Jedi Academy Workout’ and a person with brown hair, and white and grey clothing holding a lightsaber standing to the right.
Image description: a person in a blue tracksuit stands on a yoga mat in a virtual version of a scene from Star Wars ( The Force Awakens.) She is holding a lightsaber aloft. A banner that reads ‘Cosmic Kids!’ in pink and purple bubble letters is on the left side.

If you try one of these workouts, be sure to tell us about it in the comments.


Get outside and play! It’s May!

Fitness Challenge Logo

It’s May. I spent Sunday swapping over my winter and summer clothes. I have lots of happy summer thoughts in my head. It was also Cheddar’s six year adoption anniversary.

Here’s puppy Cheddar:

Even the pandemic is looking up. See Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik’s round up. This week it’s pretty good news, “Fasten your seat belts! This ride is almost over. It’s time to imagine a post-COVID world.” See here.

And at my work, at the University of Guelph, it’s Be Well, Be Safe Week in recognition of National Mental Health Week and North American Occupational Safety and Health Week.

Part of that is the university’s kickoff of our May fitness challenge. It’s our Get Outside Fitness Challenge and I’ll be taking part.

Here’s more info about what we can and can’t do outside in Ontario during the Stay at Home orders.

Outdoor Activity during Ontario’s Stay At Home:
Under the provincial government mandate of Stay at Home orders, outdoor exercise or walking your pet is considered an approved activity. To ensure you are exercising safely and following provincial rules please follow these guidelines during this challenge:

– Only workout with those in your same household or alone
– If you are in a park where you may come into closer contact while walking, please wear a mask.
– If you bring a mat and find a spot on some grass to be outside, please ensure you are 3m away from anyone else on all sides.
– Don’t forget to bring your water bottle to stay hydrated
– Wash your hands when you get home and wipe down any equipment you brought with you.

Physical benefits of outdoor exercise: 

Exercise in nature has a more positive effect on blood pressure and mood than exercise in a gym
Being in nature has been found to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, help mitigate disease, and reduce stress levels
Athletes who run or walk on nature trails have reported less fatigue after a 20-minute run than they did following a run on an indoor track.

Mental benefits:

Activities in nature resulted in reduced negative emotions (e.g., anger, fatigue and sadness) as compared to similar activities in a human-made environment
A daily walk in nature can be as effective in treating mild cases of depression as taking an antidepressant
Runners reported lower levels of stress and depression when exercising in nature than when exercising in an urban setting.”

The following pictures are what turn up when you search for outdoor exercise:

Here’s how to join:

“The weather is getting nicer so we want to encourage you to move outdoors for 30 minutes EVERY DAY from May 1st – 31st. What is your movement of choice? We want to see what you are doing to stay active. Take a pic and tag us @gryphons_fitness every time you do. For every picture we receive, you get an additional ballot added to a draw to win prizes. The more pictures, the more chance to win! Contest closes May 31st at midnight.


Step One: Download our GryphFit App to join the challenge

Apple Store here, Google Play here

Step Two: Join the challenge on the “Challenge” icon in the app

Step Three: Walk, run, jog, do yoga, dance, play with your pet… the list goes on.  It’s simple: GET OUTSIDE and move.  You choose how. Don’t forget to take a picture and tag us @gryphons_fitness to show us how you are spending your time outdoors. Contest runs May 1st – 31st.

Step Four: Be entered into a draw to win a Matrix Fitness prize pack worth $300! Winner will be announced on June 1st, 2021.”


Riding bikes in skirts and dresses, totally fine if that’s your thing, here’s how (#reblog, #blogluv)

It’s spring! And time to get on our bikes and ride. And if you want to do that in skirts and dresses, go right ahead. Enjoy.


Frocks on Bikes, New Zealand

Though I’ve been a commuting cyclist for many years, it’s only recently I’ve gotten comfortable with riding to work in skirts and dresses. It’s a sweat thing mostly, not a modesty thing.

It’s hot here and I ride in cycling clothes and change once I get to work.

But the last few summers I’ve had lots of errands, lunch dates etc thing to do basically on my way to and from work. I also took my first stay at home sabbatical which meant more daytime errand running, on my bicycle. I started wearing my regular clothes on my bike and my regular summer clothes are mostly summer dresses and skirts. I love it. I like riding bikes in skirts a lot more than I like running skirts.

How do I do it?

Bike shorts under my skirts and dresses. That was key. No modesty…

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fitness · monthly check in

Sam is checking in for April, with good news and bad news

Last month’s check-in was all about sad knee surgery news.

Luckily, it’s spring and so even during the pandemic it’s not all sad. Sarah and I did get out for our first road ride of the year. On April 10th, Saturday afternoon, we did the Tour de Guelph 50 km route. We liked it so much we’re going to do it again. It’s all country roads, not very much traffic, and beautiful rolling hills.

Our ride on Strava with an image of our bikes

We’ve registered for the Tour de Guelph, a local charity bike ride, chosen that for our route, and talked our friend David into coming along too.

Yes, I miss the crowds and the community but I’m riding anyway because it’s a cause that matters, more than ever in these times. Tour de Guelph supports Guelph General Hospital and other local charities. You can sponsor me here and Sarah here.

What’s the new covid friendly format? “Once again, we’re welcoming new and past riders to register, fundraise, and complete one of our Tour de Guelph routes, or any route of your own preference. Enjoy your ride any day starting Friday, June 4th and by Sunday, June 27th and in compliance with the current safety recommendation on the day of your ride.”

We haven’t picked a date yet but one weekend day in June we’ll go out, ride that fun 50 km, take lots of pics for social media, and BBQ in the backyard after.

So getting out on the road bike was April’s good news. The bad news was that I got sick for a full week. I even had to appoint an Acting Dean for a day. (Don’t worry. Not covid. I was tested twice.) Weirdly there are still serious stomach bugs around. I spent a night in the emergency department after getting severely dehydrated and passing out. The nurses and doctors were lovely. They were glad I came. They did all the heart workups and various other tests, declared me mostly suffering from dehydration and pumped me back up with fluids before sending me home. And I’m fine now. But boy, that wasn’t fun.

Recently I blogged about recovery rides, but last week was all “recovering” rides, as in recovering from illness. While sick I didn’t ride at all and I had a full week off the bike. I went to bed early, started re-watching the Sopranos, and lived on a diet of dry toast, apple sauce, and Gatorade. I’m getting better slowly and felt like doing some things but I wasn’t ready to get back to racing right away. Instead, while recovering, I gave one of the Zwift workouts for new parents a go. I’ve written about them before, see here. “It’s a workout collection consisting of shorter workouts for expectant moms, new parents, or any riders who are looking for “a less intense, yet still motivating, workout.” This one was called Sleepless, which feels about right at 30 minutes.

In addition to that I’ve been doing the HERD Wacky Wednesday and the DIRT family values ride on Tuesday. These are some of the best group rides on Zwift, I think. Friday I worked my way up to racing but just finished two laps out of four. Then on the following Thursday I rode the team time trial staying with the gang for two of three laps. I felt strong (until all of a sudden I didn’t) and I got a PR on that particular course.

Anyway, I’m almost back to normal and I’m looking forward to a)more Zwift racing and b)some leisurely outdoor rides (nowhere too far or too fast with our hospitals in the state of overwhelm that they’re in.) And I’m hoping May is a better month all round. ❤ ♥💕

fitness · weight stigma

Anti-fat-shaming videos: don’t do more harm than good, folks!

CW: Inclusion of an video that depicts a scene of fat shaming and purports to be anti-fat-shaming, but in fact is fat-shaming. Discussion of body weight, eating, fat-shaming. Mention of the “Karen” phenomenon. Mention of an ableist term and its use.

There’s a new anti-fat-shaming video out there, and it’s very sincere in its attempts to alert people to fat-shaming and to explain why fat-shaming is wrong. Here it is (again, note content warnings above):

The initial scene plays out roughly as follows: A fat woman walks up to the counter of a coffeeshop, orders a kale salad and a small chai tea latte. The cashier– a thin woman– calls her “Fatty” instead of her name, Patty. She also interrogates her about the order in ways designed to fat-shame her. When Patty receives her latte, the name written on the cup is “Fatty”. She runs out of the shop.

Customers in the shop look silently on the scene, no one speaking out, until one man comes up to the cashier. He gives a sincere soliloquy about how the cashier– called, yes, Karen– shouldn’t have bullied Patty.

Here’s where things go wrong:

  1. He defends Patty’s right not to be bullied, saying she deserves respect and is trying to change. Change what? Her body size, one assumes. Argh.

2. Then he cites her food choice of a kale salad and small almond milk chai latte as evidence of her desire to change. No, dude. You shouldn’t have gone there.

3. He compares Patty’s state of self to being sick in a hospital, indicating that none of those groups deserve shaming. This is getting really bad really fast.

4. He does go on to connect fat-shaming to stress-eating and point out that studies show that weight discrimination doesn’t “motivate change”. Sigh. This is a more subtle error, but error nonetheless. He’s fully on board with the idea that fat people suffer from fatness and need to be motivated or helped to change. This belief is at the heart of fat-shaming.

5. He uses a ableist word, “lame”, to criticize some views about body image. Gotta be more careful, dude. You don’t want to do more harm here.

6. Here’s my least favorite part: he wraps up his heartfelt speech by entreating the cashier to “accept them for who they are, and lovingly encourage them to be who they could be”.

NO. NO. NO. That is flat-out health concern trolling about body weight. Patty doesn’t need loving encouragement to become something else. Not from her family, not from her doctor, not from her friends, and not from the cashier. What Patty needs is for the cashier to take her order and give her what she asked for in a professional and courteous way. That’s it.

And honestly, I would’ve watched that video and shared it with others.

There are many other flaws in this video, but alas, my blogging time is up. Readers, what did you like or not like about this video? I’d love to hear from you.

blog · fitness · top ten

April’s most read posts, #ICYMI

April calendar, Unsplash
  1. Catherine is hoping… Fervent hope for 2021: that “The Biggest Loser” won’t be renewed for a 19th season

2. Cate (at 53) was still menstruating… I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing?

3. Marjorie was keeping fit… Keeping Fit While Healing from Hysterectomy (Guest Post)

4. Covid vaccines and vaginas, Cate rounds it up

5. Nicole was aghast…My Metabolic Age is WHAT??

6. Cate asked… Where does anti-vax/anti-mask rhetoric fit into the fitness community?

7. Crotch shots and sports reporting (by Sam from 2013!) was our 5th most read post.

8. Sam checked in… Sam is checking in for March (late, because sad)

9. Can evil companies change their ways? pondered Sam

10. Yoga Without Yoga is not Yoga, says Susan

Bonus 5! ( I couldn’t resist)

11. Catherine declared…We can workout, run for office, not be haters and wear a mask, all at the same time

12. Nat sends notes to her younger self… My high blood pressure 7 year anniversary

13. Cold water swimming? Sam is tempted

14. When being too much is just right writes Nicole

15. Catherine assesses physical activity and covid risks and declares it complicated

Tulips, different colours, wrapped for sale. Unsplash.
covid19 · fitness · Guest Post · swimming

Part 1: Covid-19 and the Tyranny of the Pool (Guest post)

by Kathleen McDonnell

An excerpt from my forthcoming book Growing Old, Going Cold: The Psychrolute Chronicles, about my Life as an (aging) cold-water swimmer.

It’s not that I have anything against pools. I’ve swum in plenty of them. They’ll do in a pinch. For competitive swimmers they make perfect sense – separated lanes, straight lines on the bottom, water sanitized to kill bacteria and other undesirable critters – everything is controlled, predictable. And there’s the rub. That’s precisely what those of us who prefer to swim in open, natural, “wild” water are trying to get away from. But in the modern world, pools have become the default option, and the pool mentality intrudes where it doesn’t belong.

Some years back I found myself back in Chicago in the height of summer. It had been a long time since I’d been in my hometown during swimming season, and I was excited at the chance to immerse myself in the waters of Lake Michigan once again. This would be a pilgrimage to Touhy Beach, the very source of my swimming passion. The day was calm, the water warm, and I headed in, anticipating a nice long swim. A Big Swim: A round-trip to a beach a half-mile to the south.

There was a lifeguard in a rowboat a little ways out from shore. I nodded to him as I passed the boat, on my way into the deeper water where I could commence my big swim. I dove in and my stroke quickly settled into a nice, steady rhythm. Until I got near the first of the short wooden piers and saw the lifeguard boat in front of me, blocking my progress. I tried to swim around the boat, but he rowed in front of me again. I stopped swimming and faced him, standing in water that was no more than shoulder-deep.

    “Something wrong?”

    “You’re not allowed to swim lengths here, Ma’am.”

    “Lengths? What do you mean, lengths?”

    He just shook his head at my question.

    “Sorry, Ma’am. Swimming lengths isn’t allowed here.”

    “You mean, I can’t keep swimming in this direction?”

    “That’s right, Ma’am. You have to stay in this area.”

    “Why? It’s not very deep here. I’m a good swimmer.

    “We have to keep an eye on everyone in the water, Ma’am. You’re not allowed to swim lengths here.”

    Again with the lengths! Not only was I not permitted beyond the pier, it appeared I was only allowed to bob up and down in this narrowly-defined area. I’ve been “ma’amed” before by lifeguards at my home beach in Toronto and I usually try to keep my cool. But it was all I could do to keep from yelling at him. “This isn’t a pool, it’s a lake – a BIG lake and I’m going to swim in it!”

    Was I asking for trouble? Would he call the other lifeguards to pull me out of the water? I acquiesced and swam a few strokes back the way I’d come, then swam a few strokes the opposite way, curious to see if this short back-and-forth distance fit his definition of “lengths.” Of course, to show me who was boss, he inched the boat as close as he could without the oar hitting me. We went on like this for several minutes, a few strokes, going a bit farther each time, then turning back the other way, the lifeguard maneuvering the boat so that it was never more than 2 or 3 feet away from me.

    Finally I’d had enough. I’d come to the motherlode, the original source of my Great Lakes swimming passion, and all I’d managed to do was get a bit wet. And be treated to a demonstration of how the act of swimming had become distorted, synonomous with “lengths” of a chlorine-filled concrete hole-in-the-ground. It’s yet another way humans turn away from the natural world, and foolishly insist that the experience of being in water can be replaced or – worse – improved upon. 

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when swimming in natural bodies of water was considered completely normal.

Moats, Swimming Holes and Pools

You might think pools are a modern invention, but in fact they go back several millennia. As far as historians know, the Great Bath at the site of Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Pakistan was the first human-created pool, dug during the 3rd millennium BC. This brick-lined pool was about 39 by 23 feet and was likely used for religious ceremonies. The structure is still there, and has been designated a South Asian World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Both ancient Greece and Rome had extensive public baths that were central to community life as meeting places for socializing and relaxing. Later the Romans built artificial pools in gymnasiums that were used for nautical and military exercises. Roman emperors also had their own private pools in which fish were also kept, hence one of the Latin words for a pool was piscina.

These early pools were used as healing baths for various conditions, rather than for swimming, which took place in natural bodies of water. The Romans built baths in other parts of the empire too, including the one that gave its name to the city of Bath, England circa 70 AD. The original Roman Bath was a renowned healing spa and swimming locale until well into the twentieth century, when a deadly pathogen was discovered in the water. The historic structure is now for tourist viewing only, replaced for swimming with more modern facilities. It’s one example of what Roger Deakin discovered on his epic swim across Britain, lamenting the abandonment and decay of many traditional bathing sites. Deakin’s book Waterlog traces the history of swimming in Britain and its evolution from natural swimming holes to contained, human-made structures. Deakin started his journey from a spring-fed moat on his own property in Suffolk. Typically he would swim from place to place, then walk back to retrieve his clothes and gear at the starting point, basically the opposite of doing “lengths” (So there, Touhy lifeguard!) 

The early twentieth century cemented the transition to enclosed swimming structures, and dozens of open-air lidos were built across Britain. For the most part these lidos are much bigger than modern pools, like the massive art deco Jubilee Lido in Cornwall, and they typically designated separate areas or times for men and women to swim. Mixed bathing only became common from the mid-twentieth century. By tradition, many lidos were kept open right through the winter, and were situated by the seaside to capture seawater in the enclosure. There’s an example of this practice in my hometown of Toronto.  Built in 1922, the Sunnyside Bathing Pavillion is almost twice the length of Olympic size pool and has room for 2,000 bathers. Now known as the Gus Ryder Pool, this concrete behemoth filled with several tons of chlorinated water sits right next to a Lake Ontario beach – an almost perverse turning away from its own environment. As Roger Deakin said of pools, they are “simulations of nature with the one essential ingredient – wildness – carefully filtered out.” 

With the worldwide growth in pools’ popularity came the need for better sanitation measures. Originally they employed archaic filtration systems that required the filters, and the water itself, to be changed frequently. By the time of the polio scare in the late 1930s and 1940s, a panic arose over the public’s fears that children could be exposed to the poliovirus in community swimming pools. In 1946, however, a study showed that chlorine was one of the few known chemicals that could kill the polio virus. As the problem of polio transmission receded, swimming pools regained popularity as a fun and exciting summer venue for families. Moreover, chlorine, as a polio disinfectant, became the near-universal method of pool sanitation, and by the early sixties, strict regulations on chlorine in pools were in place. And it will only get stricter with the rise of a new virus.

Hello, Covid-19!

Kathleen McDonnell is the author of nine books and more than a dozen plays, which have had award-winning productions in Canada and the United States. She’s also been a journalist and CBC radio commentator, and does a fair bit of teaching and public speaking. As befits a passionate swimmer, McDonnell lives on an island; Toronto Island, a unique, vibrant, mostly car-free community a ten-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto where she and her life partner raised their two daughters. Check out her website:

Keep an eye out for Part Two, on May 7th, here at Fit is a Feminist Issue.