I hope today finds you with the space you need to take good care of yourself.
And I hope that you can recognize your own efforts to make that space, even if you didn’t always succeed.
You matter, your needs matter and your efforts matter.
And here’s a gold star for those efforts:
Now, onto our movement and meditation for making space. (As always, feel free to do these or to do your own thing.)
One of my favourite ways to get moving is to join my friend Elaine Dunphy in either an ageless grace or a Nia dance class. Since I can’t bring all of you to one of her classes (what with Covid restrictions and the laws of physics and all), I asked her to create a short video for today’s post.
Here’s Elaine, in full positivity and joy, with a New Year’s Eve message and a short and fun movement practice for you to try as you create a little space for yourself today.
And as for a meditation, I am offering two today.
The first one is for people with a lot of space in their day, the second is for people with just a sliver of time for themselves.
And if you just have a minute, here’s a meditation for you.
I hope that these posts have helped you find space for yourself during the month of December when time seems to telescope, dragging on or collapsing without any relationship to the clock or to the calendar.
As we move into 2022, may you have the space you need in your mind, in your heart, in your days, in your schedules, and in the places where you spend your time.
That kind of makes me sound like I’m starting a band, doesn’t it?
If that was my band name, what would our first album be called?
Back on topic:
Wednesday was my birthday and I had a great day.
Usually, on my birthday, I’m trying to cram in so many fun things that I actually end up amplifying my usual feeling that I *should* be doing something else.
I always have fun but I tend to feel a bit tightly scheduled and a bit frustrated.
This year, I noticed that feeling creeping up the day before my birthday and I made a conscious decision to get over myself and be clear about the facts:
I don’t have to limit my fun to one day a year. *
In fact, I can add more fun to every week.
I can even add a bit more fun to every day.
I can take my birthday attitude into the rest of the year.
In a surprise to no one, making that decision took all of the pressure out of my birthday.
And instead of keeping a tally of accumulated fun, I just did what I felt like doing in any given moment.
And that’s how I found myself dropping everything to take Khalee for a walk while the sun was out (instead of at a more ‘logical’ time.)
And, it’s how I found myself sitting peacefully, all by myself in the 5pm darkness, watching the small fire I had set in our fire pit.
Normally, I would have talked myself out of lighting a fire just for me. It’s a little bit of hassle and I didn’t have a lot of time before supper, but I had that bit of birthday ‘permission’ going for me so I crumpled some paper and got the kindling from the shed and settled in next to the fire.
I felt calm and restful and so very grateful for all of the good things in my life.
I even felt a bit more patient about the challenges I tend to encounter
It was a wonderful way to round out a day of giving in to my whims.
And, my birthday gift to myself is the decision to prioritize things like an early evening fire far more often.
I challenge you to do the same. 💚
*To be clear, I do take time to relax and do fun things on a regular basis. But, on my birthday, I give myself permission to maximize my fun.
Have you played scrimmage, shinny, or pick up? Until this past summer, I had not (as for many years I lacked a team sport to play, as I guest blog about elsewhere). Friends, let me tell you that I think scrimmage is AWESOME. I didn’t realize how awesome until after the end of our short “season” these past few months.
If you already know scrimmage or pick up is awesome, this post will not be news to you. But still, read on to re-affirm what you and I now know together.
No Refs = Self-Regulation
In regular team games, a referee is there to make calls so no one else has to. But when you are self-reffing, everyone has to monitor their own potentially illegal moves. Obviously, this leads to more individual accountability during gameplay, but it got players talking to each other about the calls. One time I saw players stop to discuss what might have been a hand ball, and compare what they knew about the rules about hand balls, but then play happily resumed.
In reffed games you always want rulings in your team’s favour, but without refs everyone seems to take more responsibility to play fairly, and the talking creates both game understanding and player camaraderie.
Slower Pacing = Safer Play
When you’re in a traditional team game, everyone wants to hurry up and score. But in scrimmage everyone takes their time, sets up, passes more. One striker with a killer goal shot deliberately eased up when she came in to shoot (which was fortunate for me when I was in goal). The result of slower play seemed to be that everyone got more chances to touch the ball, yet folks didn’t get tired out.
Also, no injuries. In the half dozen games I played in, I think I was the only one to get a minor injury—because I overextend myself. Once I took cues from others about pacing, I eased up and could play the whole game without getting myself hurt.
Friends on Both Sides = No Losers
In regular games, things are pretty fixed: everyone on your team has their positions, sub rotations are often pre-set, and the point is to win the game. In scrimmage, there is much more fluidity and choice. People felt free to take a water break whenever they needed, even if their team was short-handed for a minute. Most everyone took turns in goal, unless someone was nursing an injury and wanted to play there longer. I spent a little time as a forward, where I learned that “give and go” passing is not a skill that is totally beyond me. I even scored a goal! 🙂
When friends are on both sides, the stakes were lower. Goals were scored (or not), efforts were congratulated—but no one kept score. Maybe there were no winners each week, but no one walked off the pitch on the losing side either.
Is Scrimmage for Everyone?
As someone trained to look at stuff through the lens of feminist theory, I see many overlaps between the values for which many feminists strive and the kind of play that scrimmage affords. Why aren’t we playing more scrimmage? If feminism is for everyone, and certain aspects of scrimmage reflect the values of some feminisms, then is scrimmage for everyone too?
Three reasons why not all of us are playing more scrimmage:
Logistically, scrimmage only works up to a certain numbers limit, and someone has to volunteer to take the added responsibility to be a convenor. (One of our wonderful friends put the extra work in to make ours happen.)
Usually the fields, courts, and ices are perhaps usually spoken for by organized sports associations, so it’s only in these strange pandemic times that these spaces may be more available than usual.
There are probably plenty of skilled and competitive types for which scrimmage/pick up is not speedy or challenging enough. Some people thrive most when there is structure and competition.
So, maybe scrimmage isn’t for everyone all the time. But for me, as a late-to-the-sport rec soccer player, the less structure the better. Whether you get to play for fun each week with a long-time bestie or a sister, or make some new friends (as I have), scrimmage is WHERE IT’S AT.
Dani Donders is a kayak enthusiast and kicksledder who works for the federal government and lives in Manotick, Ontario with her family.
She is also an excellent role model for how to maximize your fun.
Dani and I have never actually met but we’ve known each other online since our kids were young and we both enjoy trying new things…but only on our own terms.
I have long enjoyed her writing and her photography and I love experiencing her various hobbies from afar. In the past few years, Dani has gotten into two activities that have especially intrigued me – kayaking and kicksledding- and I wanted to know more about them. I thought that the Fit is a Feminist Issue readers would enjoy hearing about them, too.
Thanks for the great interview, Dani!
Small confession: I didn’t know that a kicksled was called a kicksled and my interview questions originally called it a ‘winter slide thingy’ but now I know that it is either called a kicksled or a spark. Yes, I could have left that out of this post but then you wouldn’t get to grin a little at my expense…what’s the fun in that?
What drew you to kicksledding and kayaking? Now that they are part of your regular routine, what do you enjoy about them?
I live on an island in the Rideau River and have pined for a canoe for the 10+ years we lived here, but for some reason I thought I had to get one that I could cram all three kids and both adults into – which would have been very expensive. Now that the kids are older, I felt comfortable buying a kayak and taking the time to go out on my own, away from the family. I’ve always been drawn to water, though. I’ve rented kayaks and canoes and even peddle boats and always loved them. I only wish I’d bought one years ago.
The kicksledding was more random. My friend Annie got one for Christmas, and I loved the idea of it. I’m afraid of falling, so I don’t really like skiing or skating, but I loved the fact that I wasn’t strapped to the kicksled – if I felt it was out of control or going too fast, I could just hop off. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but from the moment I tried it, I loved it. I absolutely love zooming down an icy trail, hugging the edge of being in control. It’s very exhilarating, while being quite safe!
I might have a bit of an obsessive personality, so for both kayaking and the spark, I didn’t just do it once or twice a month. I go out on long adventures on the sled (a 10 km run is my favourite length) and I have paddled more than 300 km so far this year in my kayak. Winter or summer, I’m out doing my favourite activity at least once a week but usually several times each week.
What sorts of physical activities did you do before getting into kayaking, etc?
I had a gym membership, and did hot yoga, but I did not do a lot of outdoor activities. I would say I struggled against being sedentary and am not a very “athletic” person. When I started kayaking last summer and then kicksledding last winter and started spending hours each weekend outdoors, I’d jokingly say, “why didn’t anyone tell me outside was so awesome?” This new-found outdoorsiness is very uncharacteristic for me.
How do your current sport activities contribute to your life?
Especially during the pandemic, both kayaking and kicksledding were enormous stress relievers, and while I go solo most of the time, both lent themselves well to social distancing so were a key form of socializing during the pandemic. What I didn’t expect was how empowering they would be. There’s something that makes me feel like a badass when I can lift my own kayak on top of my car and tie it down and then undo it all and get my kayak in the water by myself. I am actually afraid a lot of the time when I’m kayaking – I don’t like deep water, or seaweed, or bugs, or wide open spaces, and spend a lot of the time when I’m paddling talking myself out of being scared. So that’s empowering, too.
I’ve also gotten enormous peace of mind and stress relief from being physically active. This level of activity is unprecedented in my life. I was a regular but unenthusiastic attendee in the weight room of the local gym, and I did enjoy weekly yoga, but the idea of spending hours outside sweating in -30C temperatures is definitely new for a girl who always considered herself clumsy and unathletic. And it’s made me love my body, for all its softness and pudge, because it’s proven amazingly strong and capable. I used to get aching knees and hips from walking anything more than 5 km, but I can easily paddle 15 km or kicksled 10 km across ice on a winter morning. I would have never imagined I’d be capable of doing that, and I’m really proud of my middle aged body for showing up, if not a little late to the game.
If someone you knew wanted to take up kayaking or kicksledding, how would you advise them to get started?
Both sports have relatively low barriers to entry in that they’re pretty easy to just hop in or on and go. In both cases, there was a cost of about $400 for equipment. I’d recommend anyone who is thinking about it go ahead and get started – one of my only regrets is that I waited as long as I did to get a kayak. Both kayaks and kicksleds are often available locally for rent if someone wanted to try it out before plunking down an impulsive $400 each time like I did. I’m just happy it worked out – both the kayak and the kicksled would have made awkward, expensive paperweights if I happened to not love them as much as I did.
This blog is called ‘Fit is a Feminist Issue,’ how does the idea of fitness as a feminist issue resonate with you? What meaning does it have for you?
This gets back to the empowerment issue, I think. In both cases, kayaking and kicksledding are activities I do entirely for me, and largely by myself. As a mom to three kids, it’s empowering to carve that space for myself back into my life. I tend to go for excursions very early in the morning so it doesn’t interrupt our other family rhythms too much, but I’ve made taking the time to enjoy these activities a priority in our family routines. I think this teaches the family that it’s okay to do things for yourself, and that taking care of yourself is an act of love.
Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself, your activities, fitness, or feminism and fitness?
Kayaking is a pretty common sport, but the spark is very unusual and my friends all thought it was (might still think it is) pretty weird. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out that someone hasn’t stopped me to comment on it – usually with a smile in response to how much FUN I’m obviously having. So I’d also say don’t be afraid to follow your heart, even if other people think it’s a little unconventional.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a conventional gym again. Fitness used to be a chore that I did – going to the gym was important because I know exercise is a big part of a healthy life. What I didn’t realize was that when you find an activity that makes your heart soar, it’s not even remotely a chore. When I’m zooming down an icy trail or paddling up to a turtle sunning itself on a branch, I’m transported with joy and my muscles are just along for the ride. I haven’t been to a gym or done a yoga class in a year, but I’m in the best shape of my life. So whether it’s gardening or ultramarathons, don’t be afraid to try new things (even if you are on the far side of 50 like me) and don’t be afraid to follow an unconventional path.
See what I mean about Dani as a role model for fun?
Do you have a kayak or a kicksled or do you find your fitness fun in other activities?
I have blogged previously about group exercise adventures–winter hikes, fun runs, wall climbs, etc.–so it was only a matter of time until we ended up at an aerial adventure park. Set at a western Ontario ski hill forest, this treetop adventure has courses of increasing height and challenge in which participants climb ladders, cross wood and net bridges, and zip line from tree platform to platform.
Through some Wikipedia surfing I learned that aerial adventure courses were borne from military training-style ropes courses and alternative adventure education. However, most of today’s adventure parks are touristy fun that Wikipedia describes as requiring “neither climbing techniques nor special/specific physical fitness experience.”
Judging by our next-day muscle soreness and little bruises, there is at least some physical fitness required. But more than exercise, it was thrilling to hop across wobbly bridges, and stand high in the trees without falling out of them. The course didn’t require teamwork to complete obstacles, but we encouraged and cheered each other a lot.
Among my GoPro pictures, I found one of my handheld carabiners that the trainer had described as “our hands” while we were out on the course. This meant that we were to latch one or both carabiners onto within-reach “lifeline” cables throughout the entire course.
Using a self-belay system in a tree top adventure was a little scary because we were responsible for our own safety. We received some initial supervised practice on a training course, but in the park it was up to us to keep ourselves attached to the steel cables.
Looking at the photo afterwards, I realized that being responsible for my own safety had given my mind something to pay attention to in the trees and on the ladders. Each step was a reminder–in order to move forward I literally had to put one latch in front of the other. The carabiners kept my brain focused on a safety system that wouldn’t allow me to fall, and the constant latching also distracted me from thinking too much about falling.
The above photo also made me realize that I have not always put “safety first” and foremost in my brain when I go to exercise. This is especially true with activities that I perceive as less risky, or when I feel I am more familiar with the risks. But, on the treetop adventure, it was precisely because I was forced to put my safety first in a potentially dangerous situation that I confidently enjoyed the activity all the more (or, I suppose, experienced paralyzing fear all the less).
There is always risk in exercise, which is not an inherently bad thing. But, no matter how strange or familiar the activity may be, we are our own self-safety systems. Safety can create fun. In the future, I think that reminding myself of that fact when I go to exercise will be a good thing.
After years of planning to buy a rowing machine, I finally got one a couple of months back and I am thoroughly enjoying using it.
I love that I don’t have to put much thought into the how and the what of exercising with the rowing machine. I can use it at any time without having to put on specific clothes and I can choose to have a harder workout or an easier one without having to make a specific plan.
It’s a kind of automatic exercise for me which is really good for my ADHD brain – there are few, if any, choices to make in advance and that means there are very few potential obstacles between me and my workout.
Plus, I like the very nature of the movement back and forth, the repetition has a soothing element to it.
And, I like that I can do a very specific type of multi-tasking – watching YouTube videos – while I row.
I enjoy learning by video but I don’t often make time to do so. Combining my exercise with videos is a win-win situation – I am doing two enjoyable things at once and my brain and body are both busy so I don’t get any of my usual feeling that I should probably be doing something else.
I even pick out my videos the night before so there is little between my pyjama-clad self and my exercise session in the mornings. I can get up, let the dog out (and back in!), grab some water, take my meds, and then head to the basement to row. It’s all part of my waking up routine and it really feels great.
Speaking of feeling great, my rowing has brought me an unexpected positive side-effect – my hips have loosened up considerably.
Because of long-ago sessions at the gym, I knew that my arms, back, and legs were going to benefit from using the machine but I hadn’t really thought about how the set of movements required to row would help my hips, too.
I sort of have a ‘trick’ hip. It’s mostly fine but every now and then I’ll do something that will wonk it out and it will take me a few days to get it to calm down again.
Practicing kicks at taekwon-do has often triggered my hip in that way but I only realize it *after* I have done it. I’ve done a variety of things to work on it (with various degrees of consistency – I’m still me after all) but nothing has been especially helpful. Until now.
About three weeks after starting regular rowing sessions, our Thursday night TKD class was all about practicing sidekicks and angle kicks. Normally, with a night full of those kicks, my hip would wonk out at some point during the evening and I’d either have to reduce my movements or do something else entirely.
This time, however, I was tired but my hip was completely fine. I was puzzled at first but as I was pulling my leg up and back into position for one of the kicks, I realized that the motion was familiar. It’s not exactly like the position of my leg as I pull all the way forward on the machine but it’s similar.
I didn’t have any trouble with my hips that night. And, more importantly, I didn’t wake up stiff or in pain the next morning. In fact, I rowed for a bit longer than I had the day before.
It turns out that my rowing was setting me up for new success with taekwon-do.
That’s a pretty good side-effect for an activity I was enjoying already.
Have you ever had one type of exercise ‘accidentally’ help you in another like that?
Tell me about it in the comments! (Pretty please.)
Owning this item has also spawned three new things that delight me:
1) My son J connected my hat headphones via Bluetooth to my phone under the name ‘hatphones.’ It makes me laugh every time I see it. HATPHONES! HA!
2) I get to say ‘Oh, I have to remember to charge my hat!’
3) I get to say ‘Hang on, I can’t hear you yet, my hat is still talking to me.’
Yes, I find my fun where I can.
PS – I sometimes wear my hat inside for practicing TKD patterns or doing yoga. Unlike my other wireless (in-ear) earphones, my hatphones are sitting comfortably OVER my ears and while they reduce how well I can hear other sounds they don’t block them entirely. Also, I can easily pause (by pressing on the button over my ear) the video without having to scramble for my phone or for the remote control.
If meditation is your goal, perhaps choosing a new space, a fuzzier blanket, or a different guided meditation* might increase the fun factor.
Obviously, the choice is yours and it all depends on what *you* enjoy in a workout. The key here is that by adding your own kind of fun, you will look forward to your workout.
You don’t have to make fun your goal every day (although it’s not a bad idea!) but if you make sure to sprinkle fun into your workouts whenever you need it, it will make it easier to keep exercise in your schedule.
Here are your gold star(s) for your efforts. (I picked a fun drawing of mine to go along with today’s theme. )
* If you really want to mix things up, go to YouTube and search ‘cursing meditation.’ Those meditations aren’t for those who object to strong language but if you are ok with it, you’ll probably enjoy the (surprisingly useful) irreverence.