accessibility · clothing · covid19 · fashion · fat · gear · snow · winter

Winter fun is for every body

This post brings together two common themes here at Fit is a Feminist Issue.

Theme one is making our way through COVID winter. Winter isn’t easy for some of us at the best of times but this year hiding out indoors until it passes isn’t really an option. You can cozy it up, sure, hygge style, but you might be lonely. Possibly also depressed. Maybe both.

So along with hygge, people are recommending that we adopt the attitude of friluftsliv. Read about the latter concept here.

Friluftsliv is a word used by Swedes, Danes and Norwegians. It translates literally as ‘fresh-air life’, and is all about embracing the great outdoors whatever the weather, being active, and immersing yourself in nature.

Scandinavians spend time outdoors no matter what season it is. For Kim Lindqvist, a volunteer with the Swedish Outdoor Association, Friluftsliv means “to be outdoors and in the air, and just enjoy it in nature. To listen to the leaves, or watch the clouds”.

Friluftsliv sounds like a good fit for the FIFI blog community. We like to spend time outdoors. We’re active. And we all want to enjoy the company of friends through the pandemic winter.

Here on the blog we’ve been worrying about this since the end of summer. Catherine wrote about making plans to spend time with friends outside in the winter way back in August! Cate waited until September, after Labour Day, to post about her plans for a fit distanced winter.

I completely agree that spending time outside is key to enjoying winter. I’ve been recommending winter biking, here and here. But the thing about friluftsliv is you’ve got to dress for it.

If you choose not find joy in the snow, you’ll have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.

OK, on to the second theme that we talk about lots on the blog. Theme two is about finding gear that fits all bodies, in particular plus sized bodies. It’s not always easy. See our post about finding plus sized cycling and hiking gear.

It’s not a far away problem. It’s an issue for some of the fit feminists who blog here, me included. See Catherine’s post and my post about the challenge of finding winter coats that fit. We’re not even particularly large plus sized people, shopping in the L to XXL range. Also, we’re professors with reasonable salaries so we’ve got the option to buy new. It’s harder still if your income means you’re trying to find discount clothing or used gear.

This matters because of the message we send about which bodies belong outside in the winter. It’s symbolic and meaningful and all that. It’s also practical. Winter (in Canada at least) means we worry about frostbite and getting cold. Spending time outside–even just walking the dog–sometimes requires snow pants, parkas, hats, mitts, scarves, and good boots.

This year, more than ever, we’re all going to have get outside and spend time with friends and family during the winter. My kids are talking about winter camping in backyard so we can all spend Christmas holidays together!

So I was thinking about these themes–getting outside and enjoying Canadian pandemic winter–and the necessity of finding the right gear, when along came these guys Plus Snow.

I first read about the company in this story: Online entrepreneur launches plus-size snow gear store in North America. The article talks about the company owner Mon Balon and her motivation for making plus sized snow clothes.

“What she wants to see is more of the joy that her customers share when they can finally play in the snow with their kids.

Balon said she is looking for people to model the clothes she sells. She currently uses #curvystoke to raise awareness and celebrate people who wear plus sizes playing in the snow.”

What I didn’t expect when I shared the story on our Facebook page was thanks from Mon Balon herself,

“Omgosh you guys!!! Thanks so so much for sharing this article about my business and my launch in North America! It’s not a perfect model (you have to wait about 2 weeks to get your gear) yet but I do have lots of CHOICE and lots of measuring charts and our help and customer service is unparalleled (I think anyway!) Shop Your Shape is our brilliant feature which helps you find the perfect fit if you need it https://plussnow.com/shop-your-shape/

I also didn’t expect the flurry of readers with their own issues finding plus sized snow gear. There were a lot of comments on that post.

One of the commentators was Richelle Olsen who owns outdoor wear she bought from Plus Snow.

Here’s Richelle modeling her gear.

Richelle: “All my current wet weather gear is from these guys, they don’t just do plus snow gear, but they do plus outdoor gear in general. Love that they celebrate that adventurers come in bigger bodies 💚 Plus Snow – Plus Sized Snow Gear. Plus Outdoor.”
Writes Richelle, “Here’s one extra pic of our group of body positive adventurers, near the Tarkine, at a place called Cradle Mountain.”

I asked Richelle if I could share the photos and she said yes.

Thanks Richelle.

Here’s what else she had to say:


“I’m in Tasmania, an island off the south coast of Australia. I lead body positive adventure trips for Escaping Your Comfort Zone 2-3 times a year, and each time I go a few days early and just drive and see where I end up. This time I ended up in this prehistoric rainforest called the Tarkine, in the rain, camping amongst giants with no one else around.


I’m wearing the Raiski Fuchu R+ Women’s Longline jacket in size 22. I love it because it’s super long and covers my butt, its slightly stretchy and is reliably waterproof after days of constant rain in Tasmania. It’s from Plus Snow – Plus Sized Snow Gear 💚💚


Fun fact: The Tarkine Wilderness Area is one of the last undisturbed tracts of Gondwanan rainforest in the world, and one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal archeology in the Southern Hemisphere. This place, which remains largely as it was when dinosaurs roamed the planet, is currently at the mercy of destructive logging and mining. There’s an amazing short film about this called “What if running could save a rainforest?” Featuring a good friend of mine, Nicole Anderson, who is a doctor, ultra runner and passionate rainforest protector”

Are you a plus sized snow loving person? Are you planning to get out this year? Where’d you buy your gear? What counts as essential for the snow loving activities you do?

FWIW, and in case you’re wondering, this is isn’t a promotional post. I didn’t know Richelle or Mon prior to sharing the story on our Facebook page.

fall · fashion · fitness · gear · Seasonal sadness · self care · walking

Thoughts about walking and about rain boots minus gender

Nat’s post about walking in the rain prompted me to take action. Now, I’m no Nat. I meet my very modest step goal most days but I try not to care. My Garmin watch gives me fireworks when I’ve met my step goal and I smile at this little mini celebration but when it asks me to increase my goal, I decline.

About eight months ago I wrote a post about the wonders of walking that asked what if you can’t walk. I can walk but not very far with my damaged, waiting to be totally replaced, knee. There are still reasons to walk, even it hurts, and lots of studies show that walking won’t make the situation worse.

So I do walk a fair bit still thanks to Cheddar the dog but increasing my step count isn’t among my fitness goals.

Cheddar and the fall colours

But Nat’s post inspired me in another direction, the direction of dry feet and dressing for the weather. Like Nat, I’m well kitted out for winter. I have all the gear I need to stay warm on my fat bike, on snow shoes, or while walking Cheddar in January. But rainy weather? Not so much.

I don’t mind winter when it’s here. In January the days are getting longer, there’s snow to play in, and often there’s sun. But November? Ugh. Dark, cold and often rainy, November is my toughest month. I’m on record as hating November.

Given the pandemic, I don’t need any extra anger or resentment in my life. I need to make friends with November. First step, getting better rain gear. I’ve got an excellent rain coat that I bought while on sabbatical in New Zealand. But I don’t have good rain boots. My calves are too wide for traditional knee high rain boots.

The boots needed to be bright and cheerful, because November. And short, because calves.

Here was my short list of choices:

Boots

In the end I chose the Pride boots. I thought seriously about the pink fishing boots but they aren’t available in my size.

But I need to tell you a thing I love about the Pride boots. They’re available in two different kinds of sizes, wide and narrower. Not men’s and women’s.

I’ve written before about gendered sizing, about lady backpacks and women’s bikes, and why they drive me up the wall. Why not just wide shoulders, or long torso? Why tie things to gender even they’re not about gender at all? If some men fit women’s boots and some women need men’s boots, then it isn’t really about gender, is it?

Thks. Hunter boots for getting it right.

Black boots with rainbow heels

Now, assuming they fit, these boots likely aren’t enough to make me love November when it gets here. But I just have tolerate November and likely I will tolerate it better with dry feet.

Thanks for the prompt Nat.

Enjoy your walks with Michel and Lucy. Cheddar and I will be thinking of you!

And Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

A small orange pumpkin being held in two hands outstretched.
gadgets · gear · trackers

Fitness trackers as health trackers and COVID-19

Last September I decided I was done with fitness watches that track steps (and other stuff). See Why Sam isn’t getting a fitness watch. I bought an analog watch for work so I could keep track of the time without looking at my phone.

From that post, “The problem is that they mostly track steps and my steps are very limited these days. When I wear one I’m conscious of how little I’m walking and sometimes I walk when I shouldn’t. My knees are happiest on days with fewer than 5000 steps. I get that just walking around campus and taking the dog around the block. I try to put step counts away but it’s so hard. See You are so much more than your step count.”

And then COVID-19 hit and I started tracking my daily temperature. I struggled a bit with sleep and I was curious to know what was going on with my resting hours. I’m feeling much more at ease with walking less and I’ve got a pretty good idea of the amount of walking that feels good for my knee.

I’ve had pneumonia a few times as an adult and I’ve had nurses track my blood oxygen levels and I was intrigued that new fitness trackers also contain pulse oximeters. No, they’re not medical devices and they’re not as accurate as having a medical professional measure it but they are supposed to be good at measuring change over time.

One of the problems COVID-19 patients have is that feel like they are breathing comfortably but their blood oxygen levels can be scarily low. Does that mean you need a home pulse oximeter? I’m going with no but if a fitness watch came with one or would be a definite bonus, right?

Interestingly the pulse oximeter trend started before COVID-19. See here. It’s useful information for athletic recovery, mountain climbers and others who train at altitude, as well as for detecting sleep apnea.

The other COVID-19 tracking capability that fitness watches might be useful for is resting heart rate. More than fever, a rise in resting heart rate can be a sign your body is fighting off a virus. This is true even in otherwise asymptotic people. “Every single time someone got sick with a viral infection, we could pick up their heart rate increasing well before they were symptomatic.”

I’m worried about getting COVID-19 and getting sick but I’m also extra worried about getting it and not knowing I have it. That’s why I’ve been regularly taking my temperature.

YMMV, but for me, tracking this stuff makes me feel less anxious and more in control.

You can either just track your own individual information to gather intel about your health or agree to be part of one of many studies pooling the data to track COVID-19.

Here’s more to read if you’re interested:

Can Fitness Trackers Detect Coronavirus Symptoms?

Apple Watch, Fitbit May Help Spot Emerging Coronavirus Outbreaks

Scientists Want to Know if Fitness Trackers Can Detect Covid ..

I bought a Garmin vivoactive 4, image featured above. I’ll blog more about the watch and its other fancy features in a bit. This is my first time owning a watch that can do so many things and I’m not sure I need to read my email on my watch.

 I’m curious though, are you tracking any of your health data differently since COVID-19?

body image · fitness · gear

Maternity fitness gear – where are the shorts?

I’ve had a good gear rant before (fitness watches for small wrists, cycling gear for women that’s not pink), but alas, it’s time for another one.

I pretty much need maternity fitness gear now. Some of my workout clothes only just fit me still – below I am in a cycling top and shorts (I folded the top of the shorts down to make room) a good week ago. I highly doubt folding the shorts down would work even now, just 10 days later. I can still wear one pair of my old leggings. But that’s it, everything else will not come over my belly or be very uncomfortable.

Pregnant Bettina in a blue cycling top and black cycling shorts, holding her bike.

Finding nice capri yoga pants was easy. They are the comfiest things ever and everyone should wear them always, pregnant or not. The way they give way at the top is divine. Great for breathing room! For tops, I just bought a couple of long, flowy running tops that will cover my bump (you can see a picture of me wearing one in this post), and finding actual maternity options seems to be easy enough as well.

But I’ve been trying to find maternity fitness shorts and been straight out of luck. It’s mid-May now and summer collections are everywhere (not to mention it’s very warm here already!), but maternity fitness shorts are yet to appear. I’ve found exactly two models but they were sold out in my size. Searching online, I’ve found some (limited) options across the pond in the US and am envious. But not in Europe. Capris and leggings, no issue, but what is a pregnant person who wants to work out in real summer weather to do? I don’t understand. Are we just supposed to stop being active? There is a non-zero chance I actually won’t feel like exercising once it gets really hot, but at least I’d like the option, please.

I also don’t understand why. At first I thought it was because of body image issues. I read so many stories from pregnant people who feel unattractive in pregnancy because of the changes their bodies go through. But there are plenty of other maternity shorts, some of which are short-short, so that can’t really be it? Unless it can, because people aren’t comfortable working out with their changed bodies? I’m worried that that’s what it is after all. Any other ideas? Bonus points for anyone with tips for where to buy maternity workout shorts in Europe – I would be forever grateful!

Fear · gear · yoga

First Time Ever Surfing

I’ve never boogie boarded. I’ve never really body surfed. I’ve never skateboarded. So, when friends convinced me to take a surf lesson a couple of weeks ago in Costa Rica, I was flat out scared. Surfing felt like going straight to the big time, without any warm up in small venues. It was no help that my friends were proudly showing me scrapes, cuts and bruises on their legs and lips. Yes, they were all big smiles and it’s-so-fun and you-should-try-it. But was it really fun? (If you’re a Bojack Horseman fan, you can read that last sentence with Mr. PB’s voice.)

I wasn’t scared of the inevitable humiliation of being a beginner. I am more proud of being a beginner at my age (53) than I am embarrassed by my total lack of skill trying something I’ve never done. I was scared of injury and in my worst pre-lesson moments a vision of being conked out by a surf board and drowning presented itself as a possibility, alongside all the other theoretically lesser bodily harms. Pain was a factor, yes. But more than that, I didn’t want to be out of commission for all the sports I love (and consider to be my mental health support). Especially, as I’d be getting back from Costa Rica in time for my last weeks of cross-country skiing, likely until 2021.

But … I like to think of myself as a gamely person. Also as someone who doesn’t run away from every fear she has (I’ll sit with my fears in meditation sometimes). I said yes, to prop up that particular aspect of my self-image.

That’s how I found myself prone on a surfboard on the beach, pretending to paddle with my arms and then push up quickly to a standing position. So easy on the beach. Kind of like a quick-quick transition from yoga’s chataranga pose to warrior one, with cupid-like arms.

Oh, and if you’re a surfer, I will also mention that I’m goofy. Yes, my goofiness pre-dates surfing, but now it’s been certified.  For non-surfers, that means that my back foot on the board is my left foot. To determine which foot is your back one in surfing, launch yourself into a sock-slide on a smooth floor and notice the position of your feet. Right foot back is regular. Left foot is goofy.

All this beach practice was one thing. You will not be shocked to learn that it’s a whole different story in the water.

Since there are no pictures of me surfing and I didn’t want a random woman from Unsplash (also–what’s with all the giant breasts and tiny bikinis when one searches “woman surfing” on Unsplash??), this is a picture of Tamara surfing bigger waves than I did (by Cat Slatsinsky). I interviewed Tamara for my book and this picture is in it.

Nosara is supposed to be one of the easiest places to learn how to surf. From my vantage point of absolutely no expertise, that sounds plausible. Over the course of my first hour on the surf board, I stood up and surfed to shore four or five times. When I say “surf”, I’m using that term loosely, to describe what might not be immediately identifiable to the outsider as surfing. Picture everything in frame-by-frame slo-mo on tiny waves and you’ll have an idea of my version of surfing. An exhilarating challenge, yet also just playing. Plus, ocean. Plus, deliciously physically tiring.  

Yes, I fell off the board more than I stood on the board. Yes, I seem to still be discovering bruises I hadn’t noticed and can’t remember exactly which mishap caused them. Not to mention the carpal tunnel syndrome ache in my left wrist from guiding the board through the waves walking out to where I was going to theoretically catch a wave. And yes, I was scared each of the two more days I surfed. But not scared enough not to do it.

Because my friends were right; I reveled in the total liberation of the novice. With no expectations of how things should be, the experience of right now is super charged. Every victory is epic.

I will surf again. Some extra items I’ll acquire before then: a water-worthy hat with a 360 brim and a chin strap; ultra-zinc-y sunscreen for my face and the backs of my hands; water shoes to alleviate fear of sharp shell cuts; maybe even a surf shirt that isn’t too big.

Because I found the surf shirt I wore at my apartment a while back, after so many guests had come through that I claimed it as my own, instead of contacting every different person to see if they’d mislaid a surf shirt (why had they even brought it on an NYC trip? Surf shirt owner—if you are reading this and it’s yours, happy to send it back. I only wore it three times for extremely light surfing).

To offset total novelty, I also did a lot of mat yoga in Costa Rica (I say “mat” because these days I usually I do aerial yoga, easier on my hamstrings). How could I not? Nosara is overflowing with yogis. I took my first class at The Gilded Iguana, where I was staying. The studio was small and gorgeous, reminiscent of a glass-enclosed tree house. Disconcertingly, the class ended up being private, because I was the only person to show up. In this land of yoga, the studio was so new that it hasn’t caught on yet (check it out if you go!). That was an intense class. Then, on the instructor Violeta’s recommendation, I went to two other classes at different places, with teachers she loved. At the first class, packed with 20 and 30-somethings, in full yoga retreat mode, I was initially daunted. They would all be so much better than me. They were all so young. Then I thought, wait, I’ve been doing yoga since before they knew how to walk. The classes were excellent—one with Emily at Bodhi Tree and the other with Zack at Harmony. The studios were beautiful, shaded, open-air, wood-floored oases. The wind was up during one class and we practiced to the soothing clicks of bamboo trees knocking against one another.  

By the time I boarded the plane home, every muscle in my body was exhausted. That’s a good vacation, for me. 

Yesterday, I was out cross-country skiing, one of my absolute faves (no offense surfing). When I got to the top of my most-loved climb, I paused to take in the view and breathe, and once I’d caught my breath, breathe in some gratitude for the gift of the ski.

gadgets · gear · trackers

Bettina’s sports watch situation: a quick update

Following my frustrations with finding a small multi-sport watch and the premature demise of my Apple Watch (which had been the compromise solution for my small-wrist problem), I’m pleased to report I’ve opened a new chapter in the saga.

As of a couple of weeks ago, I’m the owner of a Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, and so far I’m very happy with it. Yes, it is chunkier than the Apple Watch, but it’s still just about OK on my wrists. It actually hasn’t bothered me at all – I suspect this is because the Apple Watch acted as a “gateway drug” to my wearing larger watches and I was already sort of used to a large-ish thing round my arm.

Black Garmin watch on Bettina’s wrist.

It also has some pluses over the Apple Watch, which I’m either already enjoying or looking forward to:
+ Battery life. I charged the Apple Watch every night, but the Garmin lasts at least a week. This is phenomenal.
+ Music. I bought the AW on the speculation that an autonomous app for Spotify was coming that would allow me to listen without bringing my phone along. Not so. Apparently they’d rather push Apple Music on people by refusing to do this. I have Spotify Premium but don’t want to pay for two music streaming services. Garmin has such a standalone app, though I have yet to try it. I think it will be very nice on solo runs.
+ Sturdiness. The Garmin looks like it just might survive a fall of the kind that killed my AW (I’m still not planning on trying that out).
+ Sports stats. I prefer the way Garmin presents those to the AW ones. It seems cleaner to me and less gimmicky. Though there are definitely some gimmicky tracking features, like the “body battery”, I could totally live without, but I recognise that this is entirely down to my personal taste. YMMV. And I like the way the stats are presented mid-exercise more. The display is easier to read while running than the AW one. I also still need to explore all the sports functions it has! I haven’t taken it on a bike ride yet, for instance.

There are also some aspects where I preferred the Apple Watch though:
– Size. The Garmin is noticeably bigger, though as I said above, it hasn’t bothered me that much
– Look. The AW was sleeker, and it was really easy to switch out the sports wristband for a more elegant one, e.g. for fancy work events. I think in future, I will appear watchless at such occasions. Not a big deal, but it is nice to have a watch around for these. I’ve never been one to own multiple watches, but I might rethink that philosophy and buy a small, nicer-looking watch for “fancy times”.

And then there’s one difference I’m neutral about:
= Smartwatch functions. The AW is clearly a smartwatch with great sports functions, while the Garmin is clearly a great sports watch with smartwatch functions. I’d gotten used to some of the smartwatch functions on the AW and turned others off, but I’m also not missing those I did use all that much. I still have my phone for reminders etc. So far, I haven’t been in a situation again where I wanted to send a text from my watch – doesn’t happen often, so I can live without that feature.

I haven’t regretted my purchase. Overall, so far I feel like the Garmin’s skew towards the sports functions is more in line with what I wanted than the AW was. Let’s see how it goes!

fitness · gadgets · gear

Should I buy a belly fat measuring machine for $379? an FAQ for you

January is not just the month of motivation; it’s also the month of measurement. Yes, we join gyms, buy equipment and sign up for 8-12 week programs to transform our bodies. We’re also pushed to take stock of what we’ve got going, from head to toe. We are expected to weigh and measure ourselves in every dimension, and at arbitrary levels of precision. Why all this detail? It’s not as if we’re planning on mailing ourselves to Argentina. Are these numbers helpful to us in pursuing our physical activity and health-according-to-us lives?

On the one hand, numbers can provide us with concrete information. I’m reminded of my absolute favorite New Yorker cartoon:

Numbers sitting in a police interrogation room. One guy says to the police, Look, the numbers don't lie.
Look, the numbers don’t lie. This always cracks me up.

On the other hand, numbers don’t always mean what we might think they mean. Case in point: the Bello belly-fat scanner.

The Bello belly fat scanner, in its box and out in nature.
The Bello belly fat scanner, in its box and out in nature.

Bello is supposed to tell you how much belly fat you have, rate you based on it (ranging from best to worst– really!), and then offer you tips on what to do about it. The tips include “exercise more” and “eat more vegetables”. All for the low low price of $379. How could you say no?

Well, that’s what we at Fit is a Feminist Issue are here for. As a part of our consumer products debunking division services, here’s an FAQ about Bello (and probably other so-called belly fat scanners).

  1. Should I buy this thing? NO.
  2. Why not? There are a bunch of reasons.

First, It says false things in its advertising. On its indigogo page, it says, “subcutaneous fat is a big issue, and an indicator of a number of metabolic issues, like diabetes and heart disease”. This isn’t true. Visceral fat (not subcutaneous fat) is a standard indicator of risk of metabolic disorders. How do I know this? I read about it in this journal article:

In contrast to visceral fat, it is reported that subcutaneous fat might even be beneficial against metabolic abnormalities…the relative distribution of body fat might be more important than visceral fat area (VFA) or subcutaneous fat area (SFA).

There’s also this article’s info, which contradicts Bello central:

no studies to date have explored the relationship between DXA-assessed SFM and T2DM.  Which means: using the state-of-the-art medical Dexa scanners (which cost considerably more than $379), there haven’t been studies looking for a relationship between subcutaneous belly fat and type 2 diabetes. So they can’t say there’s a relationship at all between the two.

Second, it’s not clear that Bello accurately measures either subcutaneous or visceral fat. It predicts them, based on its proprietary technology. Here is one of the messages it displays, which doesn’t list percentage of visceral or subcutaneous fat.

Bello app showing 89% outer fat, which is bad according to Bello.. I have no idea what outer fat is supposed to be.
I have no idea what outer fat is supposed to be. But it certainly looks bad here.

It may be able to predict overall belly fat. But belly fat, in and of itself, isn’t an indicator of medical disorders. And, according to the studies I’ve read, it’s the ratio of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat that is more predictive of medical risk for various populations. Bello doesn’t and can’t provide that. So, whatever measures it gives you aren’t that meaningful in assessing medical risk. To assess your risk for various metabolic disorders, we need a lot more precise information. This includes information that medical research knows it needs but doesn’t have yet. Like this, from another journal article:

…abdominal fat distribution defines distinct obesity sub-phenotypes with heterogeneous metabolic and atherosclerosis risk.

And this, too, from yet another article:

These observations suggest that clinically relevant sub-phenotypes of obesity can be defined by abdominal fat distribution, supporting the notion of obesity as a heterogeneous disorder with varying cardiac and metabolic manifestations.

What do these quotes mean? Just this: the researchers believe that, among populations with BMI>30, groups with different body types and also different distributions of abdominal fat will have different types and degrees of risk of future medical problems. They don’t have the full picture yet, but are working on it bit by bit.

3. Will Bello help me spot reduce fat on/in/around my belly? NO.

Bello suggests that it will help you reduce your belly fat by using their device every day and following the advice on their app. However, it’s not possible to do spot-reducing of fat. How do I know this? I have to admit, this time I just asked Google, and it said:

Targeted fat loss, often refered to as spot reduction, is not possible and there’s no solid scientific evidence to suggest that you can burn fat on specific areas of your body.

Thanks, Google.

4. Just out of curiosity, how many colors does it come in? WHITE ONLY.

5. Suppose I want to keep track of my belly size but don’t want to spend $379. What do you suggest? Funny you should ask. Here’s one idea:

A nice full-length mirror. Prices start at $7.
A nice full-length mirror. Prices start at $7.

Here’s another idea:

Don't worry! Be happy!
Don’t worry! Be happy!

6. Does the blog have any other targeted advice about bellies? WHY YES WE DO.

Check out Natalie’s post about belly patrolling, which celebrates her belly and bellies in general. Sam wrote about lizards loving their bellies, and what we can learn from them. There are plenty more where that came from– for more belly love posts, look here.

fitness · gear

What a difference a lighted helmet makes… Maybe. I hope.

I just got the coolest new bike helmet. It’s by Lumos, and has lights on the front, lights on the back, and lights on the side.

The lights on the side aren’t on in these photos, but they are amber lights and work as turn signals. You operate them from a remote you strap onto your handlebars. That is so cool…

A Lumos bike helmet from back, with red triangle light in center, and V-lights in amber on left side. Remote is below, with L button lit.

So why did I buy this shiny new toy, uh, new safety device for cycling?

Well, there are two answers. In philosophy, we used to (and I suppose some still do) distinguish between what people call “the context of discovery” and “the context of justification. Yeah, I know– it sounds super-stodgy. I can’t take full responsibility for this– I just work there (that is, in philosophy…)

Anyway, the distinction is meant to show the difference between a story of how something came to say, believe or do something, and what justifies us in believing for doing that thing.

First, the discovery part: my friend Rachel (avid cyclist of all sorts and sometime guest blogger here) texted me to ask if I wanted to ride to meet some folks for dinner Saturday night. I had been planning on going, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me to ride my bike there, even though it was a scant 2.4 miles/3.8 km one way. Of course I said yes, and then got out my lights. Rachel rolled up to my house, wearing one of these beauteous helmets– hers was a lovely shade of blue.

Blue Lumos helmet, with lights on front, side and back.
Blue Lumos helmet, with lights on front, side and back.

I was impressed, the more so on the way home. She showed me how the turn signals worked, which was soooo cooool! We both used lights on front and back of our bikes, but her helmet made her much more visible to everyone on the road.

Rachel is a year-long distance bike commuter, using a bike to ride 22–24 miles home from her job most days. She knows from good lights and helmets. I quickly decided I needed one, too for night riding. Easy peasy– order and it arrives a few days later.

Now to the justification part: I so enjoyed riding to and from the restaurant with Rachel on Saturday night. I love love love riding at night when the weather is warm or even a bit fresh and cool. But I don’t do it that often. I’m just not in the habit, and sometimes I worry about being visible enough.

Enter the lighted helmet. I am firmly convinced (don’t try to persuade me otherwise! 🙂 that having this helmet will put me in mind to figure out ways to ride at night more. For instance, this Sunday evening, a bunch of friends are going to dinner and the movies (Downton Abbey– don’t judge us). It is 3.5 miles/5.6 km each way, which is an easy ride. And I’m doing it, thanks to my new lighted helmet.

Now the trick is to keep this going. I’ll report back in a few months to see if the new helmet is luring me outside on my bike in the evenings more. Here’s hoping…

Readers, do you get inspired or motivated by new active gear or clothing? Let me know.

clothing · cycling · fashion · gear · stereotypes

Bettina shops for cycling clothes: too much pink and a happy ending

My partner and I are currently on holiday in Spain. At the time of your reading this post, we will hopefully just have hiked three stages of the GR11 Transpyrenees trail. That’s why the other day, we found ourselves last-minute shopping for some hiking equipment. We also had a quick look around the cycling section of the two large sports shops we visited (we had spare time and road cycling is very serious in the Basque Country, so we thought we might make interesting finds).

In both shops, we were taken aback by the differences between the male and the female sections for both hiking and cycling. The men’s sections were larger and much better equipped. In particular, the cycling section at one of the shops was so cliché it was basically a joke: it was about one-third of the size of the men’s section and everything, really, I swear, everything was fluorescent pink, or had elements of fluorescent pink on it. OK, I exaggerate. There was one fluorescent yellow jacket. One. No, not one model in various sizes. One. Single. Jacket. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture, I was too busy bringing my blood pressure back down. Urgh. I often find myself getting annoyed at the lack of choice and, in particular, the lack of not-pink sports clothing for women, but this was out of this world. It’s not that I don’t like pink at all, I just don’t want all my gear to be hot pink! I’d quite like some choice, please. This was a public display of gender inequality in sports even at the most basic level, that of equipment.

Luckily, our story had a happy ending: we found a charming bike shop in the city centre of Bilbao, which kept its promise of “interesting finds for cycling in the Basque Country”. I bought one of their long-sleeve jerseys. The shop was the kind where you immediately start chatting to the guy who runs it, get competent advice and a sense of community. And they had the same-size shelf for women and men, with an ample selection of not-pink clothing. Yay!

Shot of a person from the back in a long-sleeved cycling jersey.
Bettina from the back in her new cycling jersey, which reads “Véloze Cycling Club Bilbao”, and looks sort of powdery pink in this picture, but is actually beige in real life.

I will say that it was also the sort of shop you might be hesitant to enter if maybe you were still a bit intimidated by a new sport, perhaps didn’t feel like you belonged just yet, or were self-conscious for any other reason. It’s not the kind of place where you can shop in undisturbed anonymity, which is sometimes preferable to one-on-one attention. It was also more expensive than the large multi-sports department stores we had been at earlier. It’s one of those annoying situations where you just can’t win: if you don’t have a certain level of privilege, you don’t make it into the shop that sells the good stuff, and if you go to the shop that might look more accessible in the first place, you don’t get much choice, either style or size-wise.

Oh world, you still have a long way to come.

commute · cycling · gear

Am I a cyclist yet?

If you’re a regular reader, you might know I bought a new bike a little while ago. Its delayed arrival tested my patience, but since I finally got it, I’ve been enjoying it very, very much. Here it is:

Bettina’s light blue bike leaning attractively against a rather unattractive garage door.

Before I took the plunge on buying a bike, I did some fairly exhaustive research. I didn’t want to sink a lot of money into something I wouldn’t enjoy. (What can I say, I was raised in the Southwest of Germany, home to the (in)famously loath-to-spend “Swabian housewife“. An icky and sexist stereotype if there ever was one, but nevertheless, something must have stuck.) I asked my bike-savvy colleagues. I interrogated my equally bike-savvy co-bloggers. I interviewed a friend who purchased my bike’s predecessor model a few years ago. Eventually, I settled on a gravel bike: I wanted something versatile that could take on my pot hole-riddled commute as well as, potentially next season, a first stab at a triathlon. I’m extremely pleased with my decision. My Cucuma Casca is a joy to ride!

I’m so smitten with it, I want to ride it all day long, everyday, to the point where this is slightly endangering my half-marathon training (a topic for another post). It is so light and nimble, and so almost-effortlessly fast. It makes riding up the hill to work actually enjoyable. Luckily, once I had placed my order, my partner got a bit jealous and purchased a gravel bike of his own, so now we both have a joint new hobby and I have a partner in crime! Just this past Sunday, we went off on a nice long ride, making the most of the wonderful late summer we’ve been having. Here’s my partner, trundling along on our latest adventure:

A cyclist on a bike path alongside a river with his back turned to the camera. The sky is blue and the path is part awash with sunlight, part overshadowed by trees.

What I do now is a very different type of riding than what I’ve ever done before. Here’s my old pair of wheels, which I still use for city commuting when I know I’m going to leave my bike locked up somewhere unattended for a longish period of time, like at the train station:

A black commuter bike with a basket on the rear rack, snow in the background

As you can see, old bike is very much a city commuter. It has eight gears and is fairly heavy. It has taken me on some longer rides as well, but it certainly isn’t speedy or good at mountains. For my current commute, I need “good at mountains”, and I want (at least somewhat) “speedy” for longer rides and the aforementioned potential triathlon. So far, I’ve done several longish rides, the longest being last Sunday’s 67 kilometres, lots of commutes to work, 5.5km each way, and a couple of rides to the pool for swim practice, which at 12 km each way is further away than it sounds.

Does that make me a cyclist now?

If your definition of cyclist is “a person who rides a bike with some frequency”, I’ve actually been one for a long time, since I was a kid. But if your definition is “a person who rides a bike for the sake of riding a bike in a sporty fashion”, then I’m essentially a complete newbie. I don’t use clipless pedals (yet?). At 40mm, my tires are way too thick for a proper “roadie”. I put fenders on my bike first thing, although they are the easily removable kind, should I tire of them. I’ve learned to appreciate the padding in cycling shorts and the pockets and longer back of a cycling jersey, although I don’t always wear one. I’m planning to try my hand at basic bike care myself, rather than letting others (my partner or the shop) sort it out. I’m planning to try out thinner tires next season. I’m ridiculously excited about my new sport. It’s a new adventure and I’m keen to see where it goes!

Bettina wearing a pink top, black bike shorts, gloves, sunglasses, a small trail running/cycling backpack, and a helmet, with her blue bike in the shade of a tree in a park.

I’m a cyclist, but a different kind than I used to be.