fitness · Guest Post · strength training · weight lifting

Do not disturb, or on not having ‘hungry eyes’ for men at the gym (Guest Post)

By Brett

This past month has presented me with plenty of inspiration for a blog post. It was, as per usual, incredibly difficult for me to narrow down what to share. However, despite the volume of vulnerable, queer, fitness-related experiences I’ve found myself in there is one moment that feels heavier than the rest. As most of my uncomfortable gym situations begin, this moment was initiated by a male person approaching me mid-workout.

Allow me to paint this picture more clearly. By ‘mid-workout’, I mean a headphones-on-full-blast-sweating-through-my-tank-top-unaware-of-the-rest-of-the-world state of mind.

Now, I have very few objections to interacting with others at the gym. Developing an open, positive community within the gym environment can remove social barriers that hinder the enthusiastic participation of everyone wishing to pursue an active lifestyle. However, this was not one of those interactions. I retrieved my dumbbells from the ground, stood upright, and proceeded to perform my bicep curls.

Simultaneously, this male person positioned himself about 4 feet behind me, and continued to dance his eyes between the back of my legs and making direct eye contact with me via the mirror that stood in-front of both of us. I have a horrible tendency to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, regardless of how clearly their behavior should be reprimanded. Therefore, using said mirror, I quizzically raised my eyebrows at the male person, hoping he may just be looking for someone to spot him on a lift, or perhaps was wondering which direction the washrooms may be. It must be at this point that you are wondering if I moonlight as a comedian…because, yes, these innocent wishes about his intentions were dead wrong.

His response to my quizzical eyebrow raise was to begin speaking, despite the music blasting from my headphones. I set my weights back down, turned to face him, and slid a headphone back.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“Uh, I was just like wondering if you like compete, or like yeah.”

“Compete?”

“Yeah, in like physique stuff.”

“No, I do not. I’m just a gym rat.”

It was at this point that he began this disturbing soliloquy:

“That’s cool. You should do physique competitions; you have great definition. I was like worried to ask you because so many girls get so offended when I try to chat with them. But, I could just like tell from your form that you know how to work out, and like I knew your vibe was different. Honestly, you’re just so focused, most girls like look at me with like ‘hungry eyes’, but you just are doing your thing. It’s cool, you know?”

When I tell you that I have heard this well-rehearsed chaos on hundreds of occasions, I say so with little exaggeration. Now, a piece of unsolicited advice, if you redirect the topic of conversation onto them, you quickly fade into the background of a wonderfully self-centered dialogue regarding their macro-intake or something equally as unimportant. Which is exactly what I did, and exactly what he did. Fortunately, this led to a perfect opportunity for a swift ending to the conversation, and my ability to slip my headphones back on (my gym version of a “Do Not Disturb” sign).

It is not my intention that this post comes across as scathing, rant-ish, or a generalization of male people in fitness. Rather, I’m hoping that we can let out a big collective chuckle at the absurdity of this moment.

First, the mental image of me participating in the hyper-feminine culture of physique modelling is absolutely comical for anyone who knows me well.

Second, the fact that this person had the audacity to paint himself as a victim when approaching women at the gym and them being “offended” shows so little self-awareness it made me question how this individual managed to think so highly of himself… while clearly having no idea of who he truly is.

Third, and my personal favourite part of all of this, my lack of “hungry eyes” played no role in him recognizing that I truly, sincerely have little to no interest in gazing at men.

Finally, bold of him to refer to me as a ‘girl’.

Regardless of all the technical issues of his little plan, the most curious part was that he could not recognize the hypocritical nature of his actions. My feminist training began running wild. The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy, suffering under a male gaze, r*pe culture and the idealization of ‘the chase’, etc. Luckily, I snapped out of my trance just in time to realize that “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor was playing through my headphones. I picked up my dumbbells, mentally wished all non-conformists a ‘Happy Pride Month’, and purposefully moved those weights with horrible form.

30 lb dumbbells

Bio: Hi! I’m Bret and I hail from Guelph, ON, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. I am currently working towards an MA in Philosophy at Western University, and enjoy engaging in feminist theory, ethics, as well as gender and sexuality studies. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be taught by both Sam and Tracy, and I am excited to join the Fit is a Feminist Issue community! When my nose isn’t in a book, I can be found in coffee shops, at the gym, or taking on car repairs that are far beyond my capabilities.

camping · cycling · disability · fitness · Guest Post · inclusiveness

One Way Bike Camping

The past twelve months of my life have been overflowing with adventures and exciting changes. In May 2021, I began to realize that my beloved London, Ontario community would not be my home forever. But I wasn’t sure what my next steps would look like.

In late August, I hopped on my trusty pedelec (pedal electric assist cycle) loaded with camping supplies and headed north along Lake Huron. At that time I assumed I’d be back in London by November or December, but had no plans set in stone.

In mid-October, I was biking from Wikwemikong to Manitowaning when I snapped a milestone photo showing 1200km on my trip odometer. Although I continued on to Kagawong & Ice Lakes afterwards via a bus-bike combo, in many ways it marked the end (or at least nearly the end) of my first bike camping adventure.

A week later I was supposed to catch the last ferry of the season back to Tobermory… but I didn’t want to leave. In the short time I’d been on Manitoulin, I had already begun to feel a sense of belonging. Community care, breathtaking beauty, and changing scenery around every corner make Manitoulin a place unlike any other that I came across in my travels.

Several weeks of stealth bike camping increased my comfort with making decisions based on rapidly changing contexts, rather than trying to plan everything in advance. Manitoulin feels like where I need to be during this season of my life. So I took a leap and unexpectedly moved to Northern Ontario via bike camping!

This December sunset bay photo feels like a warm winter hug! To the left, a few trees are silhouetted against a pastel pink sky. A couple islands can be seen on the horizon line. A thin row of rocks poke through ice which reflects the sky near the horizon, but is covered with snow closer to the shore line. The shore has patches of snow interspersed with sand and tufts of grass. On the left side of the foreground is the corner of a weather worn wooden fence, with tall dried grass spilling out to the right and gradually thinning out. Despite the busyness of this photo, it somehow feels inviting.
challenge · fitness · Guest Post · walking

Walking with the Conqueror Challenge (Guest Post)

By Kirsten

Greetings!  Your intrepid, approaching 50, woman is back to share her journey to fitness and hopefully inspire both herself and maybe you too!

The pandemic has been hard – we’ve all suffered mentally, emotionally, physically.  The winter(s) were especially brutal if, like me, you dislike having to put on 17 layers to just go outside and don’t have indoor exercise equipment.  Alas, I digress.   Now, onto why I’m really here…

There’s this “new” exercise fad that all the “exercise gurus” on social media say, especially for middle aged/peri/menopausal women (like me!) is way better than hours at the gym or HIIT, etc.  Of course, in reality it’s not new at all. We as a species have been doing this exercise for at least a couple  of millenia now.  What is this, you wonder?   WALKING!  Wild, amiright? 

In April of this year I was working from home and still had primary possession of Giselle. See her photo at the end of this post.

I happened to come across this advertisement on social media that was called The Conquerer Challenge.  I investigated and did some research.   The company behind this challenge has put (I’m sure) thousands of hours of work into it. 

The concept is simple, Sign up on the website, select your challenge, download the app to your phone, and off you go on your adventure!  There’s  so much more to it though – it’s an international community of incredibly supportive people, all on a fitness journey who are challenging themselves and others to be more active.  And when one warrior falls (walking buddies, such as my Giselle, or an unexpected physical ailment – damn knees!) everyone rallies to support and motivate!

In April I started a 75km trek from Cairo, Egypt to the Great Pyramids in Giza.   I paid the company about $30.  My google fit app is paired with the Counquerer Challenge app on my phone and every night my km’s are uploaded and my journey is logged. (You can manually log distance as well. For example, I log 1km for every hour of archery I do and the app provides a conversion chart for other movement activities, from rowing to housekeeping) For every 20% you complete, the company plants a tree.  Along the route you receive random virtual postcards with details of the part of the journey you’re on. 

It took me almost 3 months and I completed my first challenge!  What a ride!  It was very encouraging to see how much progress I made on a daily basis and to see my completion percentage and the amount of time it took.  You choose how long you have to complete the challenge, so it really is a self challenge more than anything.  At the end you get an actual medal in the mail with a completion certificate and the distance on the medal.  I am onto my second challenge and am climbing Mt. Fuji.  It’s another 75km trek because I’m still working up the courage to do a longer walk (Niagara Falls 113km for example, or the Great Wall of China at 259.1km). 

The idea of fitness for me is about attaining optimal health.  Walking is truly one of the most accessible forms of exercise out there and if done in proper supportive shoes, is so incredibly easy on the body (well, on my round body, yours may be different) and it can be a great social activity.  Find a friend and create a team and do a challenge together!  It’s amazing how fast the km’s add up and it’s exhilarating to say – I walked 20km this week.  Sure, some people will walk 20km in one day but each person’s journey is their own and cannot be compared to anyone else’s.  Walking has so many other benefits; fresh air and vitamin D, you can explore new to you places in your city/town, you can spend quality time with your pet, your quality of sleep improves and best of all – IT’S FREE!!!. It takes relatively little energy and you will find in time that you WANT to go out.  If for no other reason to see where you are on your journey every day. At the end you can say  – look what I accomplished!

I have found that I tire the dog out when we go for more than 2 km at a time (she’s not that big really) and I’m about to start a full time in person office job, so my frequent daily walks will be reduced.  It’s your journey, walking will also help your mental health and the movement and sunlight will help decrease/eliminate any depression or anxiety you may be going through.  It can be a great meditative time and you will find as you progress that you are walking a bit faster and covering more distance in a shorter period of time. You can catch up on the newest music, listen to your favourite Podcast, listen to a book.  

Who knows, one day when you get to the Great Wall of China you can say, I’ve walked this and it only took me x number of days!  I’m a Conquerer!  I hope you decide to start a walking journey of your own (and I seriously can’t recommend it enough), so far since April and as of writing this, I’ve covered 93.1km (that doesn’t include today’s kms  yet).  I’m so proud of myself – as a lifelong non active person, this has been such a motivating, enjoyable and rewarding experience!   If you’re in the Kingston area and want to start a walking group – hit me up!  I’d love to walk with you and share a journey!    

Giselle

Kirsten (aka Kiki) is a woman approaching 50 who has struggled with exercise her entire life. She lives in Kingston with her 2 cats and occasionally a Shar Pei named Giselle. She is currently taking archery lessons and hopes to start curling again this year. Kirsten is also an active participant in a virtual distance challenge and is currently walking from Cairo to the Pyramids at Giza.

fitness · Guest Post · injury · running · triathalon

On Seeking a Second Opinion (Guest Post)

By Alison Conway

A year ago, I wrote here about an injury and dispiriting MRI results: complex and degenerative tears in both menisci. The specialist sat me down for the bad news: surgeons in my town were not going to be interested in having a look, believing that meniscus surgery puts knees at risk for joint replacement down the road. I had some questions about my injury—it didn’t fit the meniscus tear stories I had read, which included sudden pulls or twists or pops. Nor was I experiencing the usual symptoms related to meniscal injury: knee locking, clicking, giving way. But the images seemed to speak for themselves. The specialist was sorry. There you go.

As he delivered the bad news, I should have remembered that visual data is always context specific and always read through an interpretive lens. I couldn’t find my way to questioning conclusions that the MRI results seemed to underscore, but I was alert to the significance of a remark made along the way, something along the lines of, “You know, you can burn more calories riding a bike than you do running.”  “Hold up,” I thought, “who said anything about calorie burning?” I didn’t run to manage my weight, nor do I talk about exercise in this way. I suddenly saw myself as, I’m guessing, the specialist saw me–a middle-aged woman who jogs to keep her weight down. I became suspicious of his quick assessments and conclusions. My family doctor also had some questions. To his mind, there was no reason not to put me in front of a surgeon rather than discounting the possibility of an intervention out of hand. He agreed that a second opinion was in order.

Fast forward past the usual long wait time and I’m in front of a specialist in another city. The conclusions he draws, looking at the MRI images, are radically different. The degenerative meniscal tears, he says, are pretty run of the mill. I have probably been running with them for years. There is no need for surgery because they aren’t the cause of the injury.  He puts me through a range of tests relating to meniscal function, closely examines my gait and alignment, and then announces, “Patellar tendinopathy.”  My gait, he points out, is slightly knock-kneed, and in the absence of strength training to support proper alignment, the tendon is aggravated by being dragged over the joint the wrong way. I had been sitting on my butt for months at the start of Covid, leaving the house only for easy runs and not much else—certainly not strength training at the gym. The knee trouble began when I ramped up to longer distances the fall of 2020.

These days I’m running again, shorter distances until I have time to undertake strength training with diligence and attention. Will I run a marathon again? I don’t know. But I do know that I was able reclaim running by advocating for myself. I thank the doctors who respected what running means to me.

I recently finished a sprint triathlon, my first in four years.  The run felt like freedom.


Picture:  AC on the podium for an AG win at the Oliver Triathlon, June 2022. 

Alison Conway trains and works on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan People.

cycling · fitness · Guest Post · traveling

Riding Solo, Part 3: On Hills and Mountains (Or, Learning to Crawl, for Rob West)

by Julia Creet

I’m not built for climbing. I have the muscle and bone mass of a hockey player. I would have made a brilliant rugby player if girls had been allowed to play when I was coming up. (Knocking down girls is still one of my favourite things.)

So climbing has always been a struggle for me. I would attack the bottom of a hill, drive up it until my heart rate soared and my legs and lungs gave out half way, gear down and wobble to the top, arriving spent and anxious and far behind everyone else. I never understood the concept of spinning up a hill or riding at my own pace.

It took Rob West, my excellent cycling coach, two years to convince me that I should learn to crawl hills. Once again, the idea seemed completely counter-intuitive to me. Weren’t hills meant to be conquered? Wasn’t I meant to exhaust myself on them? I bought carbon wheels just to make hills easier, and they helped, but I still arrived at the top panting and worried. Nothing like carrying 60 pounds or so on a bike to make you learn to crawl. Sometimes baggage is necessary to understand weightlessness.

Here’s how to crawl a hill: Start in your lowest gear at the bottom. Forget about carrying momentum into a hill unless you are riding rollers…which are a blast…but at the bottom of a mountain, momentum is a losing proposition. The first little bit your legs might spin too fast and then too slow. The inclination is to throw your weight into your feet, pushing hard on the pedals, quads firing. And then, slowly, once the crawl begins, so does the magic. On a hill with a long, slow incline things begin to shift. Your shoulders relax, core tightens, feet lighten, and the pedal strokes start from somewhere deep in the abdomen, pulling your knees up, until miraculously it seems, you are spinning up a hill, slowly gathering speed. Don’t look up, that’s deflating, unless you are near the top. Look sideways, where the shoulder looks level to the road, and then let your mind both focus and wander.

Focus on breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth, focus on keeping your feet light; wander into writing. There’s no better place to write than on a hill. Everything I’m writing here I have written many times over already. Hills have taught me patience. My impatience to get to the top was the source of my anxiety, and pain. It’s a pure lesson of Buddhism. The hill doesn’t create the pain, our relationship to climbing it is the source of suffering. Crawling will get you up anything, up most hills without getting out of breath or feeling like your heart and legs are pistons. But it means falling back perhaps and putting pride elsewhere.

I rode for a few days with my friend Andrea, which was so lovely. Her legs are thirty years younger than mine and she used to teach spin. Watching her climb, because, of course, I was generally behind, was a thing of beauty. Legs spinning at 90 rpm, back straight, forward on the saddle, and up she sailed. I just want to get it over with she said, out of breath. And I couldn’t help but smile. And then I gave her the tent to carry.

I’ve learned to love the hills. Everything slows down. My thoughts have become tender instead of anxious, and I know of few things more joyful than when your legs have found a rhythm, the pitch lessens a bit and you find yourself a accelerating upwards, as if suddenly lifted by an inverse gravity. Sometimes cyclists call it a “false flat,” when an incline feels like a decline. It makes no sense but tells you everything about flow.

Cape Breton is hilly, I was warned. If someone had said the island is mountainous, perhaps I would have paid attention. While I can wax on about hills, mountains are something else. There are four mountains on the Cabot trail. The French and Mackenzie are long and steep but not punishing if you ride clockwise (which I would recommend). The North is nasty. It’s a four-and-a-half kilometre climb at a pitch somewhere between 12 and 15%, the kind of pitch up which cars must gear down. I never found a happy place on that climb. It was the one time I wondered who thought this was a good idea as I fought for every pedal stroke and to keep the bike from swaying into traffic.

Before I came to the island I stopped at a bike store in Wolfville. Had a nice chat with guy there, one of so many conversations I’ve had here (there will be a blog on conversations), but he looked at me, my bike, my stuff, my gear ratio, and he said, you won’t get up that mountain. I hate it when people underestimate me because I am, no doubt, a woman over 60. He has no idea how much he helped me up that climb.

The guy at the outdoor shop down the street said exactly the opposite. No problem, he said, you can do it. Just stop at every lookout. And he has no idea how much he helped me up that climb. I stopped, a lot. But I never walked, and I never flagged down a passing truck, and I was very patient, and when I got to the top, where the trees were small and patches of snow still lurked in the woods, I put on my vest over my sweat-soaked shirt and my warm ear-band and steamed and wobbled on for another 60k knowing that I could crawl up a steep mountain and not panic. That was a transformative cycling experience, a life lesson… and a metaphor.

The author in a blue cycling cap, holding a beer, smiling.

Julia Creet is a recovering academic who just wants to ride her bike.

See also Riding Solo, Part 1 (Guest Post) and Riding Solo, Part 2: Baggage (Guest Post).

camping · cycling · fitness · Guest Post · traveling

Riding Solo, Part 2: Baggage (Guest Post)

by Julia Creet

I wrote in my first post that every material aspect of touring by bike seems to have a metaphorical one as well. How you pack your bags might be the most obvious.

Baggage. It’s a loaded word that translates directly to a loaded bike.

The multiple decisions of what to take and leave tell you so much about your need for comfort, the things you think you can’t live without, the fear that you might need something and not have it, or suffer for not having it, or feel foolish for not having it, or feel equally foolish for having pushed it and hauled it and never used it.

The novice bike adventurer, that is me, has to rely on other peoples’ lists, what experience has taught them is necessary—or extraneous. The first decision, and one with the biggest consequences for your route and weight is whether or not to camp.

Cruising from bed to bed is delightful—and much lighter—but a tent and sleeping bag and a little mattress and a tiny stove and pot and an areopress gives you ultimate freedom and coffee in bed in the most delicious places. It’s a paradoxical combination of baggage and freedom. Camping will easily add ten lbs to the bike but will allow you to pull off the road wherever you can. Everything else is a question of comfort and fear.

Like most riders, I performed the ritual of unloading, sending home a package of heavy and accumulated light things—each light thing feels like nothing on its own—after riding for just a few days. Some of my protection and comfort and cleanliness went with those things, but hauling them around just wasn’t worth the weight. You see the obvious psychic metaphor here.

And, a week later, as I contemplate the mountains of Cape Breton, I’ve deemed another bag of stuff not worth the drag. The bike is still very heavy. I haven’t weighed it; I don’t want to know. I’ve climbed a few steep hills now and know that I can crawl up just about anything, but no question, I feel every ounce.

Have I missed anything I’ve let go? Can’t even remember what I packed off, except that most of it I bought last minute and because I was checking off other peoples’ lists. What’s the heaviest thing you cannot do without? Water. Unlike everything else, you need more of it than you think you do.

I think about weight and baggage with almost every pedal stroke. If even the minimum I have now feels too much, what about all the things I have left behind? The one object I keep excising and adding back in—and here my attachments as a recovering English Prof are most obvious—is a book.

Julia Creet is a recovering academic who just wants to ride her bike.

clothing · fitness · gender policing · Guest Post

Sweater Vest (Guest Post)

by Brett

Gender dysphoria has plagued many moments of my life. In fact, some of my earliest memories remain stark in my mind as moments of feeling lost in my body. Being at the golf store with my dad, and having a ravenous obsession with the sweater vests. There was something about the sharp argyle patterns, and crisp cuff lines. I couldn’t tell you how my parents responded to my want for the purple and grey one I got my grubby little hands on…but I do know it never made it home with me. I couldn’t have been much older than 6 or 7, but if I close my eyes and imagine the smell of fresh leather and the sound of people testing out clubs in the range area, I am brought back to that store. I can feel the 80% cotton and 20% cashmere in my fists, imagining how it would show off my arms without hugging my petite frame.

However disappointing my sweater vest memory is, it was one of the first moments of clarity I had about my identity. Maybe that vest didn’t hang in my closet, but it hung in my mind as a siren for what was yet to come.

I have been an athlete my entire life. Growing up I was a multi-sport athlete through every season. Winter was hockey and volleyball, Spring included track and field and rowing. Summer featured more track and field, occasionally soccer, and ball hockey. Finally, Fall brought about cross country, and basketball. On top of it all, fitness is a passion that has always ignited my deepest sense of self.

I began my own training around age 9. While the drive has remained the same, the goal has weathered many gender-fluid storms. As a child, I loved the attention of having ‘unbelievable’ strength…especially when it showed the ‘boys’ who was boss! What was so wonderful about this time was that societal pressures, and peer-level interrogations, hadn’t forced me to evaluate my beauty, yet. Instead, all that mattered was doing the most pushups, planking longer, and running the fastest. It was a simple time.

However, puberty wreaked havoc on my gender-fluid being. Suddenly, I was painfully aware that my breasts had been replaced by strong pectoral muscles. I remember foolishly thinking that my back side would have to make up for that, to maintain any kind of desirability. During these years, I tortured my mind into conforming to female beauty standards. I was worried about being too ‘bulky’, not having breasts, and not having curves. I would stand in the mirror, flaunting skin-tight dresses, skinny jeans, and leggings knowing that the aesthetic appearance of my body was ‘to standard’. However, witnessing my body in feminine clothing made me want to crawl out of my skin. Suddenly, the goal was no longer obvious. This was the fantastic beginning of a complex, heartbreaking, and liberating fitness journey.

The transition to ‘men’s’ clothing came gradually. It started with looser fitting jackets; then shirts. Finally, the button-downs began to appear, as well as straight-cut pants. My muscular arms and broad chest started to look ‘at home’. The goal changed, quickly. I began to observe my male-identifying, athletic peers. The way their shoulders filled out the hem of a fitted t-shirt. The infamous ‘triangle’ shape in which your shoulders taper to a narrow waist. What I used to think was attractive for men became the desire for my own form. It wasn’t attraction…it was envy.

My workouts have become fixated on acquiring strength, and I’ve learned to appreciate the painful calluses that stubbornly rest on my inner palms and fingers. While the skin-tight dresses rarely surface anymore, I can tell you that they don’t fit the way they used to. But I’ll be damned if I don’t admit to feeling like a warrior in them. Miraculously, my gender-fluid soul has found appreciation in this strength as it embodies each of my identities in a different way (but more on this, later!).

I am on my way. My ‘men’s’ cut t-shirts are becoming less baggy. My ‘men’s’ cut jeans are pinching too much when I sit down. And I’m proud to tell you all that there is a navy-blue sweater vest hanging in my closet.

Sweater vest

Bio: Hi! I’m Bret and I hail from Guelph, ON, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. I am currently working towards an MA in Philosophy at Western University, and enjoy engaging in feminist theory, ethics, as well as gender and sexuality studies. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be taught by both Sam and Tracy, and I am excited to joint the Fit is a Feminist Issue community! When my nose isn’t in a book, I can be found in coffee shops, at the gym, or taking on car repairs that are far beyond my capabilities.

Guest Post

Joh turns 50 and goes skydiving (guest post in both official languages)

Saut en parachute – 8 mai 2022

Ma bonne amie Lucie et moi avons eu la géniale idée d’acheter une carte-cadeau en décembre 2019 pour un saut en parachute pour célébrer nos 50 ans. La pandémie et la mauvaise météo nous ont obligée à reporter le saut 4 fois : la première date prévue était en mai 2020 (confinement COVID), la deuxième en août 2021 (mauvaise météo), puis en septembre 2021 (montée des cas de COVID), et finalement, le samedi 7 mai (trop de vent). Inutile de vous dire à quel point nous étions fébriles lorsque le saut du dimanche 8 mai a été confirmé! Je me suis donc dirigée vers Joliette, où se trouve l’école de parachutisme Voltige. Le saut est prévu pour 13 h. Le temps de s’inscrire, se peser, suivre une petite formation et procéder à l’habillage avec notre instructeur, et nous voici dans l’avion, en route vers l’altitude de 13 500 pi où nous sauterons dans le vide! Le forfait prévoit une chute libre de 45 secondes, puis une douce descente sous le parachute de près de 3 minutes, bien attachée à mon instructeur, Richard. J’ai évidemment acheté le forfait vidéo-photos pour immortaliser cet événement, que Cédric capturera tout à côté de nous. (Quel métier quand même que celui de photographe-parachutiste!)

Lorsque l’avion atteint l’altitude souhaitée, on ouvre la porte arrière et les tandems commencent à sauter… c’est maintenant vrai, je vais sauter en parachute! Richard me pousse vers la porte, je m’agenouille face au vide et… c’est parti! Nous commençons par faire un 180 degrés et regardons l’avion s’éloigner, puis nous prenons la pause « banane » de la descente en chute libre. C’est vertigineux. Nous descendons à toute allure et ça coupe le souffle. Je tente un sourire pour la caméra et je garde la position, bien docile. Puis, le parachute ouvre et tout change. Nous descendons maintenant tout doucement et je peux regarder le paysage et vraiment profiter de ces moments de pur bonheur. La température est parfaite : beau soleil et ciel complètement dégagé. Nous voyons jusqu’à Montréal, à quelque 75 km. Et, bien sûr, les champs à perte de vue et la rivière L’Assomption qui se déroule en méandres sous nous.

Toute bonne chose ayant une fin, nous nous rapprochons du champ d’atterrissage, qui se produit sans problème, sur les fesses. Cédric est là pour recueillir mes premières impressions, qui se résument à « Wow! Incroyable! ».

Quelle journée et expérience mémorable! Merci à Richard et à Voltige de m’avoir permis de cocher un autre élément de ma liste du cœur (bucket list).

Joh. est traductrice, originaire de Montréal et vit maintenant à Toronto. Elle aime être en plein air autant que possible et fait du vélo, du ski, du canot, du kayak, de la randonnée pédestre et, plus généralement, aime trouver du temps pour être active, malgré une vie divisée entre un travail à temps plein, des contrats et un enfant.

********************************

Skydiving – May 8, 2022

My good friend Lucie and I had the great idea to buy a gift card in December 2019 for a skydiving jump to celebrate our 50th birthday. The pandemic and bad weather forced us to reschedule 4 times: the first scheduled date was in May 2020 (COVID lockdown), the second in August 2021 (bad weather), then in September 2021 (rising COVID cases), and finally, on Saturday, May 7 (too windy). I don’t need to tell you how excited we were when the jump on Sunday, May 8 was confirmed! I headed to Joliette, where the Voltige skydiving school is located. The jump is scheduled for 1pm. Time to register, get weighed, follow a little training and get dressed by our instructor, and here we are on the plane, on our way to the 13,500 ft altitude where we will jump into the void! The package includes a 45 second freefall, then a gentle descent under the parachute for almost 3 minutes, securely attached to my instructor, Richard. Of course, I bought the video package to capture this event, which Cedric will capture right next to us (what a job being a skydiving photographer, isn’t it!).

When the plane reaches the desired altitude, we open the back door and the tandems start jumping… it’s now true, I’m going to skydive! Richard pushes me towards the door, I kneel facing the void and… here we go! We start by doing a 180 degree turn and watch the plane fly away, then we take the “banana” position and start the freefall descent. It’s dizzying. We go down at full speed and it takes my breath away. I try to smile for the camera, and I keep the position, very docile. Then, the parachute opens and everything changes. We are now slowly moving down, and I can look at the landscape and really enjoy these moments of pure happiness. The weather is perfect: beautiful sunshine and clear sky. We can see as far as Montreal, some 75 km away. And, of course, the fields as far as the eye can see and the L’Assomption River meandering beneath us.

All good things must come to an end, as we get closer to the landing field. We land on our butts without any problem. Cedric was there to collect my first impressions, which can be summarized by: “Wow! Unbelievable”.

What a memorable day and experience! Thanks to Richard and Voltige for allowing me to check off another item on my bucket list.

Joh is a translator originally from Montreal and now living in Toronto. She loves to be outdoors as much as possible and enjoys biking, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and generally finding time to be active, despite a life divided between a full-time job, contracts, and a child.

Video of Joh’s jump, dive, and landing. How about you? Tempted?

fitness · Guest Post

Workout Selfies: Yay or Nay?

Woman wearing olive green leggings and matching sports bra doing a yoga pose. A shelf with yoga props is in the background.

A few weeks ago Virginia Sole-Smith at Burnt Toast wrote about posting workout selfies. The internet did what it does, which is have a variety of opinions. I posted a link to the article on my personal Facebook page… some folks messaged me privately to say it was an interesting article and they were thinking more about it after reading. Other friends commented publicly to say they agreed or understood the point of the article. One friend said “I’m sure I don’t agree – not sure on the why,” and there were additional “disagree” or “agree, but that isn’t why I do it” comments.

The article also got posted in the FIFI Facebook feed, and received multiple responses. After going back and reading through the responses I noticed that a lot of them are in favor of workout selfies and felt the article was out of bounds in saying that they were unnecessary. A few folks said they were interested in sitting with the why behind the selfies, as Sole-Smith suggests: “we should sit quietly for a while with why we do it. And name its potential for harm.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article since my first read of it, and have revisited it a few times. I like the nuance Sole-Smith brings to the piece, and the fact that it isn’t presented as an all or nothing argument. I follow many “influencers” on social media who document their athletic movement, most of them doing so in larger bodies. I follow them specifically because I want to see larger bodies doing joyful movement, and my feed is carefully curated to avoid weight loss and diet influencers. If someone I follow is interested in changing their body I support that goal, but I’m likely to unfollow them if they talk about intentional weight loss as a virtuous endeavor, because that isn’t something I’m interested in reading about. There are a few folks that I think manage a good balance between discussing weight loss and activity because they understand the potential harm of weight loss discussions that aren’t contextualized. For me, Sam is a great example of this where she has chronicled her path to knee replacement surgery over the years (sorry that it still hasn’t happened, Sam!)

Image of a sports watch surrounded by a partial pair of running shoes, earbuds, and a jump rope.

Influencers aside, I have several friends who post workout selfies on their social media accounts. Some do it to keep themselves motivated and share their movement journey with friends. They get “likes” or favorable comments which helps them feel supported. One friend runs a monthly marathon for local charities and her daily run selfie includes images of local scenery, social justice-orientated signs/murals, and related social commentary. Another friend is a sociologist studying race in running spaces. She posts her daily running selfie to show a Black woman in our local, white-dominated running environment. I’m so used to seeing these posts that I rarely stop to think about them and what they mean or convey about workout/diet/selfie culture, if they mean anything at all. But I often notice when friends who don’t normally post workout selfies start posting them, especially when they also post about intentional weight loss. Sometimes their commentary comes with statements like “been inactive for too long, gotta get myself back in shape” or other similar sentiments. Those posts always make me a little sad because I don’t feel like they are moving for movement’s sake or for joyous purpose, but rather to try and punish their body for being “bad” or “too big.” And once I start thinking about those types of comments I start to wonder what they think about the “bigness” of other bodies, and how that shapes their perspectives and interactions with folks who have those bigger bodies.

Overall I’m in agreement with Sole-Smith’s perspective on workout selfies. I don’t think they are needed very often. I love being in supportive movement-specific groups and that is where I expect to see, and sometimes share my own, movement updates or sweaty selfies. And I’m not here to tell anyone else what they can or should post on their social media accounts. We’re all different and we all enjoying posting and viewing different types of things. But I think it is worth some self-reflection to understand why we are or are not posting that workout selfie, what the goal is for sharing, and how it might be received.

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

fitness · Guest Post

William tell ain’t got nothin on me (Guest post)

By Kirsten

Picture this, a century far far away, in a little town called Ajax, a reltively inactive girl of 17 who needs to take phys ed in order to graduate. Thankfully, Grade 12 phys ed is all elective so every 2 weeks you switch activities. Perfect! She tries a bunch of activities – horseback riding, bowling, curling and archery.

Fast forward 30 years. Who dis? New century, same girl only now significaltly closer to 50 than 20. She has, over the years gone horseback riding, participated in a bowling league, but has always wanted to explore the world of archery.

You guessed it, that’s me! I moved to Kingston, Ontario at the age of 47 during the heart of the pandemic. Needless to say, starting over in a new city is difficult at the best of times so I decided as soon as it was possible, I would continue my journey of being active with the goal of eventually finding what fit meant for me and my round body.

Google to the rescue: Kingston Archery Lessons. BINGO! Sign me up! I signed up for the newsletter and finally it came – lessons are open!


Cue the rash of Hunger Game references. I told each and every person, no! My interest started when Jennifer Lawrence was still in diapers. I wanted to be the next Geena Davis ( a beautiful, strong woman who in addition to being a phenomenal actor, also was an Olympic Level archer.)

My first of six weeks of 1 hour lessons was on Saturday March 12. There were 2 instructors, 4 men, 5 children and me. I was beyond excited. First step was to determine which eye was dominant so we knew if we shot left or right handed. Point your finger at something across the room. Then look at that spot with one eye. Then the other. Whichever eye kept your finger pointing at the spot is your dominant eye.

Go ahead, try it! I’ll wait!……so then we were assigned a bow (a revcurve bow – best for beginners). We chose an arm protector (so that we didn’t get string burn if the string hit our arms after releasing the arrow) and we were taught that there are 10 steps in archery.. Each week we covered 2 steps and the final class was the tournament!


Here are the steps
Stance – place your legs shoulder width apart and facing straight (perpendicular to your target)
Nocking the Arrow – put the arrow in the bow and attach it to the string (each arrow has a divet in it to put the string into)
Setting the Drawing Hand – ensure your fingers are above and below the arrow, do not touch it!
Setting the Bow Hand and Bow Arm – your bow hand should be at a 45 degree angle and not holding onto the bow for dear life. Hold your arm at shoulder height, straight out.
Predraw and Drawing the Bow – draw the bow back towards your face
Anchor – your nose should be touching the string and your thumb is touching just under your jaw
Holding and Aiming – generally aim below where you want to hit, hold it there for 5 seconds
Release – ka POW!
Follow Through – keep your stance, don’t move the bow


Relaxing–Do your best Taylor Swift impression and shake it off!

Shake it off!

It sounds way more complex than it is. Once you learn the muscle memory, it’s quite simple.


I found archery to be a fantastic sport that is as much mental as it is physical. It takes a great deal of hand eye coordination and the absolute rush of power when you release the arrow is phenomenal! It’s a fantastic sport that does not require a ton of athleticism but is still active as you really use your core and back/shoulder muscles.

There are several kinds of bows – the recurve is best for beginners, the longbow (it’s very tall – like over 5 ft tall), the compound bow and the crossbow., As one progresses in their experience, one can try the other kinds of bows and it very much depends on your environment and what you’re shooting at.


My experience at the beginner class was amazing! I am already signed up for the intermediate and can’t wait to shoot some more! I very likely will invest in my own bow and arrows. A search on the Archery Canada website will take you to archery supply stores. You can also check out your provincial associations, tournaments and general information about archery.

As a non athletic person who likes to be active and is working towards her fit, I can’t recommend archery enough. It’s incredibly empowering and a truly enjoyable sport!

Bio: Kirsten (aka Kiki) is a woman approaching 50 who has struggled with exercise her entire life. She lives in Kingston with her 2 cats and occasionally a Shar Pei named Giselle. She is currently taking archery lessons and hopes to start curling again this year. Kirsten is also an active participant in a virtual distance challenge and is currently walking from Cairo to the Pyramids at Giza.