aging · cycling · hiking · injury · sleep

Memories of the knees I used to have just 7 years ago

Mostly, these days, I don’t mourn the things my knees used to do. I’m forward looking, thinking about knee replacement and about long hikes. Also, dancing. I’m excited about having dancing in my future.

Running is a thing of the past.

Four years ago I wrote that not being able to run made me sad and I admitted that sometimes I cried about it.

Now, I am anticipating dancing. I think often about long walks. I can’t wait until I can sleep without pain. But running? Meh. I no longer cry about missing it.

Still, I’m shocked at how fast all this has happened.

A few people asked if I was doing the Pride Run this year. Nope. No more Pride Runs.

I remember getting the running reprieve from the knee surgeon when we first met. He asked how much I liked soccer and if I was okay with giving it up. I was. But running short distances fast? (Well, fast-for-me.) That could stay.

Here’s my Facebook status update from May 15, 2015, “Knee surgeon appointment was uneventful. As you might wish for with a knee surgeon. I don’t, as yet, even need any of the pre-surgical options. Keep doing physio, stay pain free, ride my bike as much as I want, keep running short distances (5 km) and revisit in a year. Bye bye soccer. But we knew that. And it’s fine to work on running 5 km faster.”

And here’s Mallory and me at the Pride Run 7 years ago.

Mal and Sam post Pride run

What’s on my list of things that I can’t do now that I hope I can do in the future?

  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Walking around new places when I travel
  • Backpacking and back country camping
  • Sleep without pain… That’s a biggie
  • Walking around campus all day without worrying I’m doing too much
  • Standing up at social events and convocation
Thanks to J Williams for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 
advice · fitness · health · hiking · meditation · nature

Hiking with a Book

I almost always go on 2 to 3-hour hikes with friends. I enjoy the great conversation topics, the companionship, and the treats we often enjoy together afterwards.

But one recent morning, and for the first time, I found myself wanting to go on a solo hike outside. Because I also enjoy the company of books, I decided to bring one with me.

The place

three trees and water (The Thames River, London, Ontario)
Spring! Photo by Elan Paulson

Hiking with a book is not exactly like reading in your backyard or on a deck. One of the best parts about hiking with a book is that you have find a spot to read. While I was outside primarily for exercise, I was also side-questing for the best place to stop. On the hill or by the water? On a rock or a log? Behind or facing the sun?

Once I hiked as far as I had wanted to go, I doubled back and settled on the best of my mentally shortlisted spots: a great, flat tree stump that was surrounded by trees but also eye-line to the river. It was perfect!

The book

On sites like Bustle and Goodreads, and on blogs like thehikinglife there are lists and lists of books to take along hiking and backpacking. But I am mostly a short-distance hiker who is not really drawn to stories about radical feats of extreme hiking.

Cover of One Story, One Song, by Richard Wagamese

Instead, I brought a book I had just bought: One Story, One Song (2015) by Ojibway author Richard Wagamese. He is one of my favourite writers, and it was a happy coincidence to read Wagamese’s reflections on what he has learned from the land while being on the land myself.

The experience

Out in the crisp spring air, on my solo hike I savoured both the hike itself and anticipation of stopping to read.

When I sat and read, I paused between chapters under the section titled “Humility,” which put into relief some of the petty challenges that had wound me up over the past week. As I looked at the water and listened to the little birds chirping and flitting around me, I thought quietly about my own humility.

When I resumed the rest of my hike, book in pocket, I set some positive intentions for the upcoming week based on what I had read and thought about. In the middle of my busy week, I plan to find some quiet time by recalling what I had read and where I was when I read it.

So, this week I discovered how outdoor reading that is “bookended” by some alone hiking time can be replenishing for both body and mind. I definitely recommend it!

Do you hike with books? What do you read, and where?

habits · hiking · yoga

The beauty of bite-sized chunks

Remember how my goal this year is to undercommit? Or at least commit less? I’m pleased to report that I’ve actually had some success! Not sure if I’m really “committing” less, but at least I’m maybe committing differently, or to other things: bite-sized chunks of movement.

Last year, I got stuck in a mode where I’d not exercise because by the time the evening came around and I’d actually have time, I was too tired. So I’d crash on the couch exhausted, or pile on the MBA coursework. So far, this year, I’ve managed to integrate bite-sized chunks of yoga into my evenings a lot better. As I mentioned in the group post on this year’s Yoga with Adriene Move challenge, I’ve only done some (I’m writing this having just finished “day” 7), but I’m really enjoying them.

Part of my “overcommitment” problem is that I want to “Do Things Properly”, i.e. I’d want to go out for a run, or do some “Serious Exercise”, be too exhausted for that, and end up on the couch instead. But I’m coming around to the idea that 20 or 30 minutes of yoga are actually feasible at night. I’m quite chuffed! I actually feel like I’m getting a bit of my workout mojo back.

Bettina hiking on a forest road in a foggy winter forest with a child carrier on her back. Tiny human is in the carrier enjoying a nap.

We’ve also started going on bite-sized weekend hikes lately. Rather than overcommitting to half a day or a full day of hiking, we’ll go for an hour or two. Tiny human goes in the hiking backpack (he loves it and usually falls asleep), and since he now weighs 11kgs or so, carrying him is quite the workout, even if the hike is short. They’re also lots of fun, especially while tiny human is awake – his enthusiasm for dogs (WOOF! WOOF!) and other things we see along the way is quite contagious.

Hooray for bite-sized chunks of movement!

hiking · traveling · yoga

Perfect Yoga in Reykjavik

We landed in Reykjavik at 6:30 a.m., jet-lagged from a too-short overnight flight. After a no-nap day, I went to yoga with my friend, Hope, at 5 p.m. Because we didn’t have to pay in advance, we’d both been touch and go about the class all day, but at the last minute we decided to make the effort.

The day was chill and drizzly, which served the purpose of waking me up some on our 15-minute walk through an adorable neighbourhood of plain, flat-fronted houses painted in bright eye-catching colours. When we got to where the studio was supposed to be, there was a bakery. Puzzling. Until we looked up and noticed what seemed to be (and, indeed, turned out to be) a big spacious room on the second and top floor of the building.

We found the entrance tucked around the side in an alley of sorts, left our shoes on the stairs and climbed up into a big, cozy space—cement walls with what seemed to be graffiti relics from another time, half-painted over with more yogic designs; a high vaulted ceiling stuffed with insulation, covered by plastic sheeting taped to the fresh wood beams. One corner was piled with blankets, props and yoga mats, free for anyone to use. In fact, the whole payment system was quite loose. I didn’t have Icelandic currency, and I couldn’t get into my PayPal account on my phone. Then, when I tried to pay after class on my computer, I had another problem paying in Icelandic currency via PayPal. None of which phased the instructor in the least, even when we showed up the next morning for another class and once again forgot cash. I did ultimately pay via PayPal.

The class was in English. A relief. I was tired enough that following along without any verbal cues would have challenged my capacities. Yet all of the other yogis seemed local—I deduce this from the class cards they showed by way of payment. The instructor was a welcoming combination of wry, laissez-faire and yes-this-is-hard-but-give-it-a-try. Plus, she looked to be only a week or two away from giving birth, which added to the earthy, rooted, yet nourishing, ambience. Quick aside here: As a woman without children, I have a sometimes-complicated relationship with my feelings around pregnant women. So, I was surprised by the unequivocal radiance of the positive energy I felt.

The class started with a seated meditation, during which I nodded toward sleep and jerked into consciousness again a couple of times, with that slight feeling of nausea that coats me like Vaseline the day following a red-eye flight. But once we started moving, my body got happy. The class was strong and focused, a Goldilocks balance between challenge and ease (for me). By the end of the 75 minutes, I felt like I had been put back together.

How perfect.

We decided to go again at 9 a.m. the next morning. I barely woke up in time, but we made it to the class. Same great instructor. Shorter class, at 60 minutes. A stimulating morning flow. I was tired. Unsurprisingly. The class cleared cobwebs, reinvigorated and set me up for a day of exploring. Perfect again. Two for two at Reykjavik Yoga.

Plus, breakfast from the bakery below. 

I love going to yoga in a new town; helps me align with the place. Other days, I ran and hiked. The Icelandic landscape cuts me to the quick. It’s an easy place for me to satiate my abiding craving for movement. We did have a slight hiking mishap involving sleet, high winds, an unmarked trail and frayed hiker nerves, but that’s a story for another post.

Landscape on an hike in the Hengill region of Iceland

Traveling is by its nature an adventure. It’s a gift when I can find points of familiarity, which help me locate, while at the same time, immersing me in the newness. Yoga is one of those locators for me.

Do you have locator activities when you’re away?   

Fear · femalestrength · hiking

When a Long Hike Becomes an Ultra Hike: How Fear and Strength Make Friends

This past Saturday, my partner and I set out for an 18-mile (30 km) hike from the Castle Peak parking lot at Boreal (near Truckee, CA) to the Mt Lola parking area (near Sierraville). As the hike is a point-to-point, we prepped by parking a car at the finish on Friday. We set out at 7:45 a.m., looking very much forward to 6 or 7 hours of hiking and a dip in the lake just past the halfway point and another in Independence Lake after we finished.

We’d done the route once before, three years ago, and had happy memories of the effortful day. So, we had only the most rudimentary of paper maps with us. No apps or maps downloaded on our phones. After all, we weren’t novices to the trail and it wasn’t as if the mountains or lake could have changed locations. And the route was simple, follow the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to the Mt Lola junction. Take a right. Follow the only trail past White Rock Lake up and over the top of Lola, then down the other side. We’ve hiked the “other side” of Lola many times as up and down. Familiar turf.  

We found our groove quickly. My partner and I have hiked together a lot and we both enjoy a brisk pace, with a minimum of stops. We passed through familiar spots of the hike, noting with pleased surprise at how much sooner we seemed to be getting to them than we’d expected. As we passed through Paradise Valley, my partner commented that it should only be another mile or so to the Lola junction. He also said that if we got to a traveled road, then we’d gone too far. We hiked on. And on. And on. We crossed a few dirt roads, most of which were clearly logging roads (i.e. untraveled). One had a sign that said “Entering Zone X.9”. We didn’t remember the road, but dismissed it as untraveled. After all, we didn’t see any cars on it as we passed by. We climbed up and over an exposed ridge. We looked back at Mt Lola and kept hiking. We expressed doubt. My partner, who likes to quantify things, said he was 10% uneasy. I was I-don’t-know-what-percent uneasy. We rationalized. We downgraded our assumed pace. We immersed ourselves in denial.

Also, I was annoyed at myself for still not buying a full brim sun hat for hiking. We passed people wearing peaked caps and hoodies as protection against the sun (not just the sun, California Sierra Mountains sun). Every time I felt its hot glow beating against the side of my face, a surge of resentment about my inadequate sun protection coursed through me. Also, I was hiking with a camelback, which had a new 1L bladder, 500 ml less than my previous 1.5L bladder. I was mad at myself for not bringing enough water. Also, I was wearing trail runners that I’d only worn one other time and I wasn’t liking them as much as my standard faves. I had a little hot spot on one of my heels.

Finally, when it seemed incredible that the junction was still ahead of us, we asked the next person we saw. A young woman, a solo northbound PCT through-hiker we caught up to (impressive!). She had an app.

After some consultation, expanding and tweezing the map on her phone, she said, “The junction is 5 miles back.”

IMPOSSIBLE. My mind screamed. I didn’t even feel capable of talking to the young woman anymore. My partner said thank you and good bye to her with great cheer. I was fuming. Why hadn’t I brought the good map we have at home? Yes, it unfolds and is huge. But still. Why hadn’t I thought to download an app? Or even look for one? What kind of self-reliant feminist was I (especially compared to the daring, app-savvy woman we’d just met)? This, in addition to my sunhat and water self-criticism.

As we passed them, we asked two more groups of backpackers if they’d seen the Lola cut-off. No one had. Sidenote: We actually didn’t see any other day hikers. Everyone we asked had apps and assured us the junction was 4.2 miles, then 3.2 miles back. One woman even showed us a picture of the bridge 2/10ths of a mile from the turn off. We knew exactly where it was. Each time, my partner was cheery and friendly with the backpackers. And each time people said things like, “Oh that happened to us yesterday.” Or, “Think of it as more time outdoors.”

I was way too frustrated to be as friendly as I could-have-should-have been. I wanted to say things like, “I don’t f@#*&ing need more time outdoors. Don’t you dare presume to know what’s good for me. I’m not just a jock. I want to read my book, too.” And other such unhelpful thoughts. At one point I sat down on a rock and declared myself done and unable to go on and that my partner should just continue without me. My partner assured me that we would make it. I refused to be cheered. Even though another part of me knew he was right, that resilient voice was getting way outshouted by the catastrophizer. Let’s call her, Apocalyptica.

We filled up on water at a high mountain spring. My partner gave me the rest of his water, which restocked my supply. And then refilled his own from the stream. We had no tablets or filter. He reasoned that it was better if only one of us got sick from the water, if that was going to happen. Thankfully, I can report at this distance of days from our hike that he’s fine! I’m grateful for his taking the risk. And for his calm throughout.

At a certain point on our way back, the resilient voice started to get some airtime. Let’s call her, I-Got-This. Apocalyptica had had her fun and was willing to let someone else take the microphone. I-Got-This reasoned that my partner and I were both strong enough. We had enough water and food and there was no still no pressure to finish. Even with 10 miles extra, we would be home well before dark. Sure, the hiking might get uncomfortable. But hey, wasn’t that what being strong was for? Plus, just think of how rock star we would feel when we finished. Soon, I-Got-This was the only voice I heard. She reminded me of the ultra-marathons I’d run. Yes, they were in 2011. Even better, I-Got-This assured me, this was a golden opportunity to renew the feeling of accomplishment I’d had when I did those runs.

When we hit the crucial bridge, we slowed way down. Our eyes combing the ground. And there it was. A weather worn grey wood sign lying on the grey dusty ground at a bend in the trail. So easy to miss. We changed its location to make sure the next hikers wouldn’t be misled. The path we wanted was nothing more than a thin filament threading through the long grass. Not many people take the cut off. We didn’t see another hiker for the next 7 miles.

What a relief! Just finding the right trail was shot of adrenaline. I-Got-This was dancing. Even Apocalyptica was grooving. She gets her thrills from the possibility of a catastrophe, not from its actual occurrence. I would have busted a move, too, but I was conserving energy. We still had 8.5 miles to go. A mile later, we found the rock we’d eaten lunch on the last time and ate lunch. Took a dip in White Rock Lake. Heavenly. Putting our shoes and socks back on after a dose of cold water was the balm we needed to recoup our spirits for the climb up Lola; an extended effort, which saves the steepest part for the top.

White Rock Lake–from the shore, halfway up Lola and the top of Lola.

Oh, wondrous summit! We lay down on a flattish rock for 10 minutes to replenish. Ate a salty chocolate granola bar. Then set out for the last 5 miles. All downhill. Every twist and turn and change of terrain comforted us with its familiarity. At the sight of our little red pickup truck at trail’s end, we yelped with relief. We. Were. Exhausted.  

The day wasn’t over. We had an hour drive to pick up our car at the starting trailhead. Then we mustered a final drop of energy for ice cream by Donner Lake: Mountain Mint Chip for me; Truckee Trails flavour for my partner (that’s a vanilla with peanut brittle and chocolate flakes). This is ice cream’s calling. To nourish body and soul.

Yes, we agreed that we felt pretty darn proud of ourselves for our 28-mile (46km) hike. And, we agreed that we would have been very happy (equally happy?) with the hike-as-planned; plus, we would have avoided a decent amount of agita.

Still, in these early days of reflecting on the hike, I’m glad for the experience. With each of these conversations between Apocalyptica and I-Got-This, IGT grows stronger and surer of herself; Apocalyptica more willing to step aside. Apocalyptica will never quiet completely. If she did, I’d miss her dramatic flourish in my life. But I sure do appreciate her growing accord with IGT. Together they prepare me for our ever-uncertain future.

cycling · fitness · habits · hiking · holiday fitness · swimming

Getting on board with the slowness plan

You would think that, now more vaccination is happening in the US and Canada, that we would all be waiting at the thresholds of our homes, raring to go, just waiting for Dr. Anthony Fauci’s starter pistol (which, in a way, has already gone off). Time to get out there, do the things, see the people, go to the places!

Track lanes, or the countdown if you prefer. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.
Track lanes 1–7, , or the countdown if you prefer. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

I’ve gotten the message, and am venturing forth. I’ve driven through 9 states and back to see family and friends, had a bona fide dinner party, and eaten in a few restaurants inside, with no masks. I’ve been to the beach and the pool, the grocery store and parks. It’s so nice to see other people I know and don’t know, out enjoying everyday life. Yay! Whew. Thanks, science!

Probably not a scientists pouring COVID-vaccine into a flask. But the color is pretty. Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

But, life doesn’t feel back to normal. Not yet. Not even close. Just thinking about adding new things to my to-do list, filling my social calendar, resuming all the activities I used to do, makes me anxious and fearful. I’m not ready. Or at least not ready to do it all right away and fast, like the pandemic never happened. No sir.

But, but: life is returning, coming at us, speeding up, expanding to fill all available space and time. What are my options?

I can go slow.

What?

You know– slow.

Turns out I already have the start of a library of how-to-do-stuff-slowly books. Here are two of them.

I’m taking a memoir writing course online with an old friend and former colleague, Edi Giunta. One of the things she assigned for us is being part of a 100-word writing group. It works like this: people are assigned different days of the week. One starts, writing 100 words exactly. Then the next person writes exactly 100 words, taking inspiration from whatever strikes them in the previous writing piece. And so on.

I love this! It’s breaking down writing into sentences, words, punctuation. I admit I don’t write my pieces very slowly; but, given that it’s just 100 words, I feel like I have all the time in the world to complete it. What luxury– the feeling of rafts of time to do something, and then doing it within that time. WOW.

So I’ve been thinking: if slow writing feels this good, what else will be very satisfying doing slowly? Here’s one: swimming. After reading the Why We Swim book (which we reviewed extensively, you can start here if you want to take a look), I felt the urge to be in water, but not to swim fast or hard or long. I like just being in the water, moving around at my own paddly pace, stopping and treading water or floating to look around. There are slow swimming groups (here’s one on FB; I’m guessing Diane knows about them), but I am happy (for now) being a group of one or two or so.

There’s also slow hiking. Admittedly, I don’t have much choice on this one: I am a very slow hiker, no matter what my age, fitness level, geopolitical situation, etc. If and when it’s okay to hike slowly, I almost sort of like it a little bit. I mean, the outdoors, and woodsy hilly outdoors, are lovely. Being able to appreciate however much or little I want of it seems like an good approach for me. And yes, there is internet information on it, but I warn you: several pages I went to (like this one) featured a picture of a snail. Sigh… Still, it seems promising. And when I’ve done this with fully-on-board-with-the-plan friends, it’s been marvelous.

And then there’s slow cycling. That one’s hard, because I remember being not-as-slow and am not as satisfied with slow-as-I-am-now. But maybe this is the most important one. Why? Because 1) I love cycling; 2) I’ve missed cycling; and 3) I simply am a slow cyclist. At least right now. Given the choice between slow cycling and no cycling, I pick slow cycling.

My sister and I have done a bunch of slow cycling on beach bikes. It’s so much fun. She likes riding around beach neighborhoods, looking at the houses, and wondering aloud how much they cost. I like riding with her. This situation suits us both. In lieu of my sister (who lives, alas, far away from me), I’ll have to slow-cycle on my own or with friends who I’m comfortable slow-cycling with.

Dear readers, what do you like to do slowly? Anything? Have you considered taking up an activity or returning to it, but in the slow lane? I’d love to hear about it.

fitness · gear · hiking · walking

Christine’s boots are made for walking…well, hiking really.

I bought my first pair of hiking boots recently and I LOVE them.

I’ve *meant* to buy a pair for YEARS but somehow never got around to it.

I do a fair but of walking but I haven’t done a lot of hiking in the last. It seemed weird to buy special footwear when I could just wear my sneakers and do just fine.

But I plan to do more hiking and there’s a difference between doing ‘fine’ and doing well.

Any time that I *have* gone on a hike, my sneakers have let me down. Either my feet have gotten wet or I have slid around a bit or I have almost turned my ankle. My sneakers were fine but I looked in envy at my friends in their hiking boots who seemed to be having a smoother hike than I was.

Often, I’d get home and scope out hiking boots online and then put the search aside for later…and never get back to it until I was once again annoyed on a hike.

Recently though, I came across the perfect hiking boots in my price range.

They remind me of a pair my most outdoorsy sister had years ago, so that’s inspirational. And the fact that she used to wear them out clubbing almost as often as she wore them out hiking bodes well for their potential comfort. (She used to call them her ‘dancing boots, in fact.)

Anyway, I have been wearing them on my walks with Khalee lately and I am really understanding the difference between doing ‘fine’ and doing ‘well.’

Now that spring is here-ish, I would normally have ditched my winter boots for my sneakers. But, since I have hiking boots I have been wearing them instead and they are the perfect in-between for right now.

My feet are dry, I feel sure-footed, and I like how my boots look. I can’t wait to try them on an actual hike.

Bring on hiking season!

A top-down photo of the author’s feet in a pair of brown hiking boots , she is standing on some snow.
There’s still snow on the ground in lots of places but let’s take the upside and note how nicely my boots contrast with it. 😉 Image description: Top down photo of the author’s denim-clad legs and feet. She’s wearing pair of chocolate brown hiking boots and standing on some snow that is lit by sunshine.
equality · fitness · gadgets · hiking · shoes · stereotypes

Do ice grippers/traction systems really have to have genders?

Cue scene: It’s a Thursday afternoon and I’ve finished teaching for the day. I’m looking online for ice-gripper/traction thingamies for my boots. I go to the site of my favorite national outdoorsy merchant– let’s call them REYIYI– and look up popular brands. Quickly settling on two different models, I begin the consumer cogitation process. To give you a picture of this, here are some pictures.

Next step: look at reviews. Both score decently, with more expensive ones rated more highly. To be expected. But how to choose? Which one is better for ME?

Enter the promotional/instructional videos. First, the $29 model.

Please watch this. But if you don’t want to, here are the highlights:

Opening shot: intrepid little yellow-and-white flowers in early spring, off a slushy nature trail. Very subtle music playing in background. A woman is hiking, then one foot slides a little on slush. She puts on her ice traction thingamies. There’s lots of ad copy, pointing out they are packable, lightweight, with a removable strap, blah blah blah. Then, she moves confidently through ice and snow, beginning her trail run. She stops to admire nature. Yay woman! Yay $29 ice traction thingamies!

And then there’s the video for the $59 model.

Here are the highlights for this one:

Right away we hear loud music, like you might hear in this Ford F-150 truck ad. There is ad copy, featuring the words “steel”,”bite” and “aircraft grade steel”. Steel seems to be an important part of the messaging here. We see a man walking in the snow, ice traction thingamies already on. He also shovels snow while wearing them. Then he takes them off to a resounding guitar riff, his large truck in the background. Rock on, man! Rock on, $59 ice traction thingamies!

Here’s what I think.

Angry orangy-yellow face saying Grrr.

Really? All I wanted was to figure out if I wanted the base or upgraded model of the ice traction thingamies. Instead I got treated to throwback SuperBowl truck and beer ad stereotypes.

For the record, I want stability while shoveling snow, walking around my neighborhood and also hiking. It looks like both models do that, but the more expensive model has fancier and sturdier components. That was useful information. Oh, also FYI: both come in sizes that reflect the entire range that men and women wear.

But it’s not useful or nice or even accurate to gender the crap out of otherwise-unsuspecting ice traction systems through dopey and stereotyping ads.

Can advertisers and merchandisers and stores and vendors just stop?

I’d really appreciate it.

Penguin says "STAHP!"
Penguin says “STAHP!”

Readers, have you run into any seriously-gendered advertising of items lately? Care to share? Penguin and I will give them the stink eye on your behalf.

covid19 · fitness · fun · Guest Post · hiking · temperature and exercise · winter

So Many Reasons to Hike with Friends this Winter (Guest Post)

By Elan P

As the days of winter get shorter and colder, we begin shifting our thoughts and habits to account for the winter. Tracy I , Nicole P , and Sam B have all blogged on winter exercise and how they love it, have grown to love it, or have chosen to love it (respectively). 

Of course, there is an added layer of challenge this year, as catherine w describes, when we must exercise during a pandemic. Many bloggers in the FIFI community emphasize how maintaining physical health also supports mental health during COVID-19 isolation.

Over the past few years I’ve posted about group exercise in a summer fun run and winter fun run. In her post, Catherine invited FIFI readers to share our winter pandemic plans: mine will be regular winter hiking with friends.

Just starting out on the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)

Using a social media chat channel, each week those available agree on a 2 to 5 hour hiking route in SW Ontario, of easy to moderate difficulty, then on weekend mornings we just get up and go. If we carpool together, we wear masks. We keep track of our journeys with GPS, pictures, and good memories. Only a few times so far have we canceled due to poor weather conditions.

I asked this group how likely they are to continue hiking outdoors together this winter. Here is what some of them said:

  • I’m very likely to continue group hiking this winter. Why? It’s fresh air. It’s exercise. It’s community with amazing, diverse women who inspire and support one another. It clears my mind, works my body, and fills my heart. (Kimi)
  • As a single person during covid, it’s even more important for me to keep contact with my friends doing what we love, which is being outside being active. It’s all about mental health check-ins. (Sarah)
  • Our small hiking group this summer allowed us a sense of normalcy during a mentally and physically challenging pandemic. Hiking provided the perfect outlet for our need to stay safe and stay connected. I look forward to continuing our hikes this winter as COVID cases continue to rise and our fears and anxieties fester. Fresh air, friends and physical fitness are the remedies that will get us through this darker than usual winter. (Sheila)
  • Hiking has become a regular component of our self-care, especially since Covid. Everyone in our hiking group decided that we need to make time for this self-care ritual. For me, when I immerse myself in nature, combined with the methodical pace of hiking, I am soothed. And as a group, we are sharing this experience. Often we find ways to avoid, replace, or distract us from self-care. The hiking group has kept us all accountable and motivated to keep it a priority. We will continue even in tougher weather as part of our commitment. Self-care is non-negotiable. And snow and cold add a layer of physical challenge. (Marnie)
  • I am likely to continue group hiking over the winter because I’ve found a great group of like minded women who have a desire to challenge themselves to get outdoors, stay in shape and enjoy a beer. (Julie)

Exercise. Support. Clarity. Check-ins. Safety. Normalcy. Accountability. Motivation. Challenge. Sharing experiences. Self-care (which for our group usually includes enjoying a beer during or after the hike). I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Friends hike the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)

One person isn’t joining us for an upcoming hike due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak at her workplace. Here’s what she said:

  • I enjoy doing sports that are social. Hiking in this respect is social, and as Sarah said, for our mental well being this is so important! It might also be the laughing that happens is also food for the soul. Hiking is in the outdoors, and you don’t touch things, so the risk of spread is super low as long as people are hiking a bit apart. I feel our group has been smart and conscientious of our social distancing, while being able to enjoy and look forward to outdoor activities. Still, I will continue group hiking after this gets resolved at work. I don’t want to cause anyone stress.

Even when we hike outdoors together, we can’t forget to be vigilant about staying safe.

So, if you’ve been practicing physical distancing and you’re not showing signs of illness, grab a few friends (well, don’t grab them) and head outside for a winter hike. There are so many good reasons to do it. If you’re looking for a new crew, there are meetup.com hiking groups available. Choose a group with clear safety practices that follow local health guidelines.

A woman walks across a small wooden slat bridge in the forest with leaves on the ground
Marnie M. hikes the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)
advertising · clothing · cycling · fitness · hiking · inclusiveness

Getting gear that fits plus sized cyclists and hikers!

I’ve written about Machines For Freedom before in a blog post about safe cycling in the time of the pandemic where I noted that the model looked like me!

Because despite the stereotypes, you don’t need to be stick thin to be a cyclist yet it can be challenging finding clothes that fit. I keep saying to people who say they’ll ride bikes (or go hiking and camping) AFTER they’ve lost weight, that there is no need to wait. Do it now! Yet, the message you get shopping for clothes and gear is that as a larger person this activity isn’t for you.

I’ll have more to say about this in the future. It’s a theme of mine! But for now I want to just take a moment and applaud two recent success stories:

Finally, Body Positive Cycling Kits For Women

“Diverse populations of women are featured on the brand’s Lookbooks and bibs and jerseys come in a variety of sizes to fit a wide-range of body types. Representation and inclusivity matter to Machines for Freedom and it’s abundantly clear that it’s important to the company ethos.

“I really wanted to change what this sport looked like and to create space for difference and individuality in a sport that values uniformity,” says Kriske. “When we launched, I was very deep into training, often riding 20-plus hours a week and treating it like a part-time job. Yet, I felt like I didn’t fit in, all because I was a curvy woman who valued life and relationships rather than just talking about gear ratios or what new bike I was lusting after. I saw the industry as very flat and superficial, and tailored to folks who ascribed to a very specific, and elite, lifestyle. I wanted to change that, to draw more people in.”

Kriske believes that the sport of cycling has much more to offer riders than tech specs and racing. “There is so much joy, adventure, and confidence that comes from adventuring on a bike. When it comes to storytelling, that is our NorthStar and it’s what has been driving us to broaden our community year after year.”

The hiking and travel world is finally getting its first plus-size backpack, as the industry catches up with the diversity of people who love the outdoors

“Over the last few decades, the outdoor gear industry made innovation after innovation in product designs. Jackets are now waterproof yet surprisingly breathable, tents are so impressively lightweight one might mistake the aluminum poles for bird bones. But you still can’t buy a plus-size hiking backpack.

“When I think about it too much, I get really angry about it,”  Jenny Bruso, the self-described queer, fat, femme writer and hiker behind the popular Instagram account Unlikely Hikers told Business Insider.

That’s why backpack maker Gregory’s announcement that they’re releasing the industry’s first line of plus-size backpacks in Spring 2021 is such big news. Finally, hikers and travelers will have size-inclusive backpacks that reflect the diversity of their bodies. And Bruso, whose frustrations with the industry is a driving force behind her activism within it, is partnering with Gregory to develop the line. The release will include more than 20 different plus-size packs across the day hiking, multi-day backpacking, hydration and lifestyle categories.”