fitness · swimming

Catherine finds joy in exotic hotel pools

Who among us is immune to the pleasures of the hotel pool? Ever since I was little, I always looked forward to checking out pools when we went on vacation. Back then we had diving boards, slides with water hoses affixed to them, and those ropes with blue and white buoys to mark the deep from shallow end.

Those old-style pools have been replaced by shallower and simpler, diving-board-free rectangles, surrounded by a few lounge chairs and devices to make swimming accessible for people with disabilities. There’s a predictable uniformity to them– you know what to expect.

Except… Sometimes you come across a pool that defies hotel-pool expectations. Like this one.

Yes, you are in fact looking at a hotel pool fashioned very roughly after some Grecian-y pool thing. At least that’s what the hotel desk person told me.

I saw a picture of this pool online and honestly thought the columns were photoshopped in. Check it out.

See what I mean?

But I can personally testify that they are real, and they are there. And in the way of any real swimming, although I enjoyed breast-stroking around them, like an aqua-obstacle course.

I imagine that the designers imagined that this pool could transport you to another time, another place, awash in history and beauty. This experience might have been more likely if two workmen hadn’t been there the whole time, trying to fix the hot tub, which was having electrical problems. But hey, as an aquatic time traveler, I should expect the unexpected. So I swam and they repaired in relative peace.

In case you’d like a better look, here are two more views of the pool:

This was not a pool for lap swimming or, indeed, for any real exercise. But it was hilarious and delicious and silly and refreshing for this and other weary travelers. I’ll take it.

Now I’m on the lookout for other, shall we say, distinctive pool experiences while I’m traveling this summer. Any tips will be most welcome. Oh, in case you’re wondering, this was the place I stayed (not to promote any commercial enterprises, of course).

Dear readers, have you encountered exotic or strange pools in your travels? Tell me– I’d love to hear about them and also visit with bathing suit and towel!


To listen, read, watch on a weekend, #ListenReadWatch


It’s Pride Month and there are lots of great Pride playlists on Spotify. Here’s one, Pride Party 2023 and here’s another Pride Parade 2023. You can listen while doing one of the Zwift Pride rides, or not. Just dance in your kitchen. That’s fun too.

Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro on Unsplash. White sneakers on a rainbow.


I’m definitely going to watch this movie. “Les Échappées (The Breakaway) is an inspiring new film that follows Louise Roussel and Océane Le Pape on a 3,000-kilometer ride around France to meet more than 200 women who share a passion for cycling in its many forms. “


I’ve added Coffee First, Then the World to my reading list.

Here’s a description,

“In 2018, amateur cyclist Jenny Graham left family and friends behind in Scotland to become the fastest woman to cycle around the world. Alone and unsupported, she crossed the finish line at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin four months later, smashing the female record by nearly three weeks.

With infectious wit and honesty, Jenny brings readers into her remarkable Round the World adventure, as she takes on four continents, 16 countries – and countless cups of coffee. Her journey swerves from terrifying near road collisions in Russia and weather extremes in Australia to breathtaking landscapes in Mongolia and exhilarating wildlife encounters in North America. Tight on time and money, she resorts to fixing her bike on the fly, sleeping on roadsides and often riding through the night to stay on track and complete her mission.

As she battles physical and mental challenges to race against the clock, Jenny gradually opens up to the joy of the adventure and all its daily discoveries. She gives in to her impulse to connect with people, making friends with strangers across the globe and embracing new cultures.

Coffee First, Then the World is her account of a record-breaking ride, and how one woman and a humble bike conquered the world.”

See Laura Killingbeck’s review Eight Things I Learned from Round-The-World Record Holder Jenny Graham.


Five things we can learn from athletes about physiotherapy

I’ve always preferred to do physiotherapy at a clinic targeted at athletes. These days in Guelph I’m going to Defy: Sports performance and physiotherapy. In London it was the Fowler Kennedy Sports Medicine Centre. Both clinics also see non-athletes but have sports rehab as their main focus.

Since I’ve been spending do much time at physio lately I’ve been thinking about why I like having athletes around me and I like all that I can learn from them. Part of it, of course, is that I also identify as an athlete, if an older less serious one than many of the people around me at these places. But I also I like their company and think there are things we can learn from them about physio.

Here’s five things:

Schedule: Athletes already have a fitness routine and when they can’t do the sports they love, they have time at hand ready for physio. If you train in the morning before you work or go to school and you can’t train, then that’s when you do physio. They’re good at scheduling physio in because that’s how they live. Everyday athletes can do that too.

Motivation: Athletes are motivated to get better. They can’t do the sport they love until they are well again and that provides plenty of motivation to do the physio. I hear them at the clinic talking about benchmarks for return to various activities. They’re keen. When I’m feeling glum (will I ever ride far and fast again?) I try to ride on their enthusiasm.

Know that it works: One of the thing that keeps me going at physio is that I’ve done it before. I’ve had shoulder injuries, knee injuries, even finger injuries and in each case physio has helped. There are a lot of kids in physio, starting young, and learning to take care of their active bodies. Physio is part of heading an active life. It’s not failure. It’s just part of how it goes.

Making it a priority: Athletes make physio a priority. They’ve spent a lot of time practising and playing a particular sport and so they’re motivated to get back at it. That’s what I try to focus on when I’ve got a long stretch of physio ahead of me. I’m planning long bike trips in my mind while I stretch and work muscles.

Pain is okay: Athletes have a tolerance for pain and know the difference often between good pain and bad pain. Physio often hurts. Physio after knee surgery isn’t fun. But it’s restorative pain as opposed to destructive pain.


Other posts about physiotherapy:

Thinking about what makes physio easy

Why is physio so hard?

Why is physio so boring?


It’s Bike Month – Yay!!!

Muppets on bikes

Not only is June a fantastic time to get out and enjoy the outdoors on your bicycle, it’s the time to advocate for safe cycling options for everyone, and connect with other people who ride bikes.

This morning I attended the launch in Ottawa, where OC Transpo had brought their rack and roll bus gear, so you could practice loading your bike onto it, and there was mobile bike maintenance, among other fun things.

Two women chat beside a variety of bicycles, with more people visiting an EnviroCentre information booth in the background.

One of the speakers talked about how important it is to her to be able to cycle safely with her young daughter, and how much easier it is to get around the area where she works by bike. Someone else talked about improved lighting her company is installing to make it safer to bike along nearby paths. And we talked about how cycling can help fight climate change, of course. All these are feminist topics dear to my heart.

Members of EnviroCentre, who hosted the event, pose behind my bike with Ariel Troster and Stéphanie Plante, two city councillors who came by bike to the event (and who bike a lot!).

Of course, there was also talk about evidence. has an app where you can log all your distances for the month. This information will be used to help build the case that there are a lot of people on bikes and they are active every day. I have written before about using Strava to influence city planning. There is still time to sign up for a shift for the annual bike use survey by Vélo Canada BIkes.

There are biking events happening across Canada so find some local to you and join in. If you just want to get out on your own, that’s cool too. It’s a great way to be fit, fight climate change, and help make this activity safer and more fun for everyone. Plus it’s easier to stop and enjoy the scenery.

The Rideau Canal, looking towards downtown Ottawa. You can just make out a cyclist on the path right by the water. I took this picture on my way to work after the event.

fitness · fun · kayaking

Night Kayaking in Costumes

Wonder Woman and a boy of about 11 paddled by on light-bedecked standup boards. “He’s never done this before” Wonder Woman shouted proudly. From their also light-bedecked kayaks, Green Lantern, Poison Ivy, and the Joker cheered.

This was a scene from a free event called “Light Up the Night” kayaking in Stratford, Ontario. Folks meet monthly around 8:30pm to paddle together after decorating their non-motorized water craft with lights. There’s also an optional theme for each outing, including Canada Day, Romantic Evening, and (of course) Superheroes.

It was silly fun to transform this daytime activity into a water-based costume parade of about 40-50 “floats.” I should mention our audience: because we were in town, folks watched and took pictures from the banks of the Avon River as they picnicked or waited for their theatre show.

Participants were instructed to put in before dusk, then paddle together at the same time around a tiny island. So while it was a very leisurely pace, we did end up paddling for quite a while as it got dark. Here is part of my friend’s recorded route.

We were to paddle around the island 3 times, but because we dressed as superheroes and supervillains, we had the strength to do a 4th.

A few of our friends supporting this silliness took pictures from atop the island bridge while we paddled underneath. Afterwards, folks shared their snaps on the group’s Facebook page. Alan Hamberg used a drone to capture in video the paddle as well.

Kayaks and other watercraft on the Avon at Stratford as night falls.
Screen capture of drone footage of light up the night kayaking. The video is available on the FB group.

Overall, this night kayaking event offered outside activity, happy folks, and lots of pretty lights! Next time, my friends and I will likely picnic again before decorating our kayaks, as doing so made the activity into a whole fun evening. We’ll bring bug spray and headlamps for re-packing kayaks in the dark. I may also buy better quality lights and avoid the dollar store glow sticks that ended up glowing in my garbage the next day.

FIFI bloggers: what silly summer fun will you get up to and share about?!

fitness · ICYMI

Top Ten May 2023 Posts, #ICYMI

Cate’s still menstruating post was the most read post in May. It’s usually in the top ten. And it’s often first.

Pain and the human playground was a short review I wrote about a show about endurance athletes and their limits. I’m not sure why but it was the 2nd most read post in May.

May the 4th be with you: Star Wars Day Workouts was our 3rd most read post in May for obvious reasons.

Tracy’s 2013 post The shape of an athlete was the 4th most read post in May. I still love that post too!

In 2019 Catherine wrote about yoga poses she can’t do and what she does instead. Yoga poses was the fifth most read post on the blog in May.

Elan’s Martha Stewart, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model was the 6th most read post in May.

My A real life lesson in muscle loss and aging was our 7th most read post this month.

Diane’s post Using Strava to Mess With The City (and Myself) was the 8th most read post in May.

My post on the 11 knee supporting exercises I do everyday was our 9th most read post.

Mina’s When grief is your running companion was our 10th most read post.

Green and yellow frog. Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash
ADHD · fitness

It’s a good thing I’m not a plant

This has been an incredibly raw and challenging month but I’ve have been doing my very best to take good care of myself.

Or so I thought.

I’ve been asking for help and accepting offered help way more than usual.

I have been resting regularly and keeping things low-key whenever possible – especially after nights when I’ve slept poorly. (That is happening a fair bit.)

I’ve been sticking with yoga and walks and stretching because any time I push myself harder, even a little, I’m instantly exhausted. I suspect that after a certain point any physical exertion feels like stress to my sad and tired brain and it is refusing to play along. *

I have stuck with my daily writing and drawing and meditating routines even when I didn’t feel like it because they lend familiar shape to my days.

I’ve made sure to stay connected to friends and to sprinkle fun activities throughout my week without getting overwhelmed. I’ve kept my work and volunteer tasks to a minimum.

So, that all felt good, like I was taking charge of the things I could take charge of and letting myself do and be the way I needed to be.

How foolish, hey?

Thinking I had everything well in hand, almost like I was trying to do a ‘good job’ of grieving.**

And all along I was forgetting something something important, something incredibly basic.

A most essential element in caring for a human.

 My water bottle (bright green with a black cap) sits on my patio railing. There’s a (still!) leafless tree directly behind it, and in the background there’s a stretch of grass, a few other leafless trees, and my circular swing.
Image description: My water bottle (bright green with a black cap) sits on my patio railing. There’s a (still!) leafless tree directly behind it, and in the background there’s a stretch of grass, a few other leafless trees, and my circular swing.


I have been drinking ridiculously little water.

I’ve had a small glass of water with my meds in the morning.

I’ve had A LOT of tea.

And, sure, I’ve been getting some hydration from my tea (it’s mostly non-caffeinated) but it’s not even close to the same as drinking the amount of water I usually do.

And I felt feeling cranky and twitchy and just off as a result.

But since EVERYTHING feels off right now it took me over a week to figure out what the problem was.

In fact, it was only as I was using the water from my water bottle to water my plants one evening that I realized how little water I had actually consumed that day.

(Yes, I had frequently followed my usual habit of filling my water bottle in the morning. I just didn’t do the drinking water part of the routine.)

If I was a plant, I would be drooped over the side of my pot by now.

I guess my tea helped save me from that fate. – I have been feeling pretty droopy though.

For the record: I do NOT recommend forgetting water.

*Yes, I know a good workout would probably be helpful overall and would probably help me sleep. However, I’m listening to my body and it is saying ‘Nope.’ There will be lots of time for more intense exercise later. Also, my ADHD brain doesn’t do so well with the ‘later reward’ business and I don’t have extra energy to put into convincing it right now.

** I wasn’t literally thinking this but, in retrospect, it kind of comes across that way.


Go live your best life!

Thursday was my six month check in with the knee surgeon. I passed the flexion tests with flying colours. I can bend my right knee well over 90 degrees. And he was impressed with how well I’m walking without the cane. All good.

I’m cleared for return to work. I can drive again.

At the end of the visit I was asked if I had any questions. I see the surgeon again at twelve weeks.

I asked whether I could ride my bike outside and if there was anything I shouldn’t do with my new knee.

I laughed at his reply, Lead your best life!

He said most people are more self limiting than they need to be.

I know the list of things not recommended after knee replacement surgery–contact sports, downhill skiing, running.

But I also know lots of people stop doing other things after knee replacement.

It’s got me thinking about training and where I want to set my sights. Knee replacement or not, so many of us slow down as we age and the reasons why are complicated.

I’ve worked so hard at physio in the past year that I’m wondering about keeping it up. What might some stretch goals be? Obviously I want to get back to long distance riding. But what have I stopped doing that I want to add back on?

I’d like to do more hiking and some more back country camping.

I definitely want to keep lifting weights and get stronger, both because strength feels good but also because it matters for healthy aging.

I’m wondering about Aikido, basic movements at least if not full on training.

This week I head back to the gym and do some workouts that aren’t physio. It’s time and I’m excited about it.

Reach for the moon
fitness · habits

It’s International Starting-Over Day! (well, it ought to be)

I’ve noticed something lately: I’m finding myself having to start over with several patterns that I hoped had turned into perfect habits. Why is this happening? What should I make of it? And what should I do? Let’s see if we can answer some of these questions. This is why I’m declaring today International Starting-Over Day.

First up: Meditation. I’ve been doing it on and off for decades, but made it a sort-of daily habit about three years ago. I’ve had some phenomenal streaks. And then, I’d miss a day. So I’d start over, only for it to happen again, a while later. My Ten Percent Happier App keeps faithful (and ruthless) track of my activity.

I’ve started over a lot, from the looks of this data. 43 times I’ve had to start over after 3 days.

So: 1) why has this happened; 2) what should I think about it; and 3) what should I do? I think my answers here are:

  1. It’s happened because life happens.
  2. This is what life is like– imperfect, filled with gaps.
  3. When this happens, I can just start over.

Second starting-over habit: my no-buying clothes/shoes/accessories plan, January 1–July 1 2023, has been blown to smithereens. Last July, along with Samantha and some of the other bloggers, I embarked on a no-buying-clothing-and-such, and it worked very well through 2022.

But when I re-upped in January 2023, I lost resolve right away. It started in mid-January with the purchase of a teal pair of chaco sandals (my sister and niece have them, which I borrowed during the winter holidays, so I wanted a pair) Then in March I felt like I needed a pair of Dansko shoes for work. April brought a late-night order of two cute shirts and a jacket (they were on sale, but that is hardly exculpatory). May? Another jacket, purchased at a friend’s Cabi clothing party. And now, just before June, courtesy of REI, I’m the guilty owner of incredibly cute summer sandals that I don’t need, but really want.

What should I do now? I get to choose, including starting over. If I want to restart a no-buying plan, I can. The fact that I bought stuff doesn’t mean I can’t slow down or stop or rethink or make plans to curb buying. Whatever I decide to do, I starting over is always an option.

Here’s a tough one: Cycling. For years, I’ve considered myself a cyclist. I rode a lot, under a lot of conditions, on and off-road. Over the past seven years, I found I was riding less. This was distressing, but didn’t help me with reestablishing a regular cycling habit. Last summer I bought a beautiful fancy e-bike, but I haven’t ridden it much. What can I do?

If I want to resume riding, I can start over. It is hard to ride or run or walk or swim when I used to do it regularly, and now I don’t. But that’s the beauty of starting over. I can just… resume.

Of course life isn’t that simple. Habit formation and re-formation aren’t that simple. But they’re important, and they’re always available to us. I’m beginning to think that if we want to live interesting and fulfilling and relatively happy lives, getting more comfortable with starting over will help.

I should say here that I’ve been inspired by Tracy’s blog Vegan. Practically. Her post on Ways to Be Imperfect has made me think of what my options are in the face of my own imperfections. So thanks, Tracy.

What about you, dear readers? Are you avoiding starting over with something? Did you start over recently? How is it going? I’d love to hear from you.

Book Club · fitness · weight stigma

FIFI book club: “You just need to lose weight” and 19 other myths about fat people

CW: in-depth discussion of anti-fatness myths and people’s experiences around body shaming.

If you haven’t heard about Aubrey Gordon, then now’s a very good time to meet her. Gordon is a writer, podcaster and activist. She co-hosts the podcast Maintenance Phase, which we’ve blogged about here. Her newest book, “You just need to lose weight”, and 19 other myths about fat people, has been covered by just about every media outlet, from the Washington Post to Glamour UK to Literary Hub.

I’ll just come out and say it right now: this is a book that a) really needed to be written; b) really needs to be read by everyone (especially everyone who works in health care); and c) is brilliantly done by Aubrey Gordon.

If you decide to read/listen to this book, don’t skip over the introduction. Here are some of my favorite bits:

Many of these myths center around treating fat people as failed thin people, implying that thin people are superior to fat people.

This is one of the best sentences I’ve ever read explaining fat stigma.

Gordon also addresses the question, “why give these anti-fat myths any airtime?” Her answer is:

We may talk about diets differently today, but social mandates to become thin are as strong as ever.


Engaging with these myths, as thin people or as fat people, provides us with opportunities “to interrupt moments of anti-fatness in our daily lives”. Staring down the myths and reducing them to the factually inaccurate and blatantly bigoted views that they are is long overdue.

We’ll be reading and posting on each of the four sections of the book, starting with section one today. We encourage you to read along with us and post comments. We’ll be reading them and responding.

For each section, I’ll list the myths that are covered, and then a few responses by our bloggers. Here are the myths Gordon discusses in section one:

  1. Being fat is a choice; if fat people don’t like how they’re treated, they should just lose weight.
  2. Any fat person can become thin if they try hard enough; it’s just a matter of calories in, calories out.
  3. Parents are responsible for their child’s weight; only bad parents let their children get fat.
  4. Thin people should help fat people lose weight.
  5. Weight loss is the result of healthy choices and should be celebrated.

Here’s Amy’s overview:

I really enjoyed reading this book. As a regular listener to Maintenance Phase I could almost hear this entire book in Aubrey’s voice as I was reading it. There was so much that resonated with me, as a person in a bigger body, in this first section. Like Aubrey, I’ve been stopped by thin people who have suggestions on how I can lose weight. I had a co-worker tell me I looked like I had “had a healthful sabbatical” because I returned in a smaller body than when I left, and received countless lectures on “calories in/calories out.”

The excellent writing and easy style of offering facts without judgment is refreshing in the realm of books about bodies and how much they weigh. I was excited to read this book and I’m thrilled to say it did not disappoint.

Here’s Tracy, focusing on myths about parents, children and body weight:

First, to be clear, Aubrey is preaching to the converted — I already am completely on board with the message and love Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes’s blog, The Maintenance Phase, where they debunk diet myths left, right, and centre. Nonetheless, listening to her book I discovered that I can still be shocked and outraged, and I still have a lot to learn. Part 1 presents five myths that fall under the “Being fat is a choice” theme.

There is room to be outraged at every turn, but the chapter on children (Myth: Parents are responsible for their child’s weight. Only bad parents let their children get fat), really made me despair about how far we have to go. I learned that children have literally been removed from homes and put into foster care. I didn’t know this. Also, in some places, including several US States, there is no lower age limit on gastric bypass surgery and as a result it has been performed on children. I think I heard right that the youngest person to have it was two and a half years old.

Besides horrific stories representing these extremes, the whole chapter made me keenly aware (again, as a sad reminder) of how entrenched ant-fat bias is in our culture, such that children are shamed for being fat. Indeed, it brought me back to the beginning of when I was ushered into the world of dieting at the age of 16 after I gained 15 pounds in five weeks on a trip to Europe. After that, my grandfather had one more story to add to the family repertoire, and that was that when he saw me at the airport he didn’t at first recognize me because [here he would blow out both of his cheeks like a balloon to demonstrate how fat I looked, and then everyone would laugh – or at least this is how I remember that story going every time it was hauled out for fun]. I remember not thinking it was particularly funny, and feeling for the first time that I had to “do something” about my body. So the children chapter resonated and took me back to the beginning of my struggle with food, weight, and body image.

And one more thing I noted: she talked about why anti-fat bias is not “fat-phobia” and that referring to it as such doesn’t capture its far-ranging oppressive impact.

Next up is Diane:

What I loved most was the end section with all the notes. So much is said about the need for low body weight without evidence to back up the claims. I’m an evidence nerd, so perusing the sources made me very happy.

Like Tracy, the chapter on children was also shocking for me. It was also the one where I had to think hard about my own anti-fat biases. I have learned to be much more accepting of all body shapes, but a little part of me still falls for this myth if I’m not careful.

The last myth (Anti-fatness is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination) really made me think because Aubrey pointed out that words without actions are meaningless. Anti-fatness often targets women, Black people, people of colour, poor people, queer and 2SLGBTQI people, disabled people, who also face discrimination that is supposed to be illegal. But discrimination against those groups, regardless of body size, it remains socially acceptable as long as we collectively allow it to happen.

I’m wrapping up, again pointing out some of my favorite Gordon smack-down passages:

When someone tells me to just lose weight, it teaches me that I can never expect their advocacy on behalf of fat people. The best I can hope for is their indifference.

As a person who identifies as fat (and whose weight has gone up and down throughout my life), I’m very familiar with the anger and heartache and sadness that comes with knowing that I’m being judged as less professional, smart, attractive or worthy of respect than the thinner people in every environment. I’m also familiar with unsolicited advice about diets or weight loss from others. To paraphrase Gordon, it’s as if we owe thinness to others, that our very fatness is an embarrassment to them, an offense against them.

But, but… what about your health? I’m just concerned about you.

Yeah, no. I”m not falling for that again.

Health-concern trolling is a bad thing. If you want to read a bunch of reasons why, check out this easy-to-scan-if-slightly-salty article.

Honestly, I could go on all day just about section one, but I’ll leave you with a few comments about the idea that weight loss should always be celebrated (part of myth five). Gordon says this:

Ultimately, weight-loss compliments don’t function without a hierarchy of bodies. Thinness is only worth celebrating if it is an accomplishment, and thinness is only an accomplishment if fatness is a failure.

“Healthiness” compliments work very similarly, which Gordon notes, revealing bodily hierarchies that mirror our other power hierarchies, enfolding racism, misogyny, ableism, etc. to exclude and disparage bodies of those who aren’t in favor. If you’re interested in another great read on this topic, check out Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body: the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia. Gordon cites it, I’ve read it and it’s really worth checking out.

We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment about experiences or views or suggested reading.