I’ve just emerged from a couple of solid days in the kitchen (a treat for me, since I love to cook and don’t usually have time to make it a priority).
Sam posted the other day about pacing yourself after the holidays. But since by my count we still have a week of revelry to go, I thought it might not be too late to post about pacing yourself during the holidays.
I’m not talking about food, though of course there is that. No shortage of magazine articles telling us how to deal with holiday parties and cookie exchanges and a time of year when it seems we’re surrounded by delicious food almost every where we go. My advice on that isn’t all that helpful: eat it.
I’m more interested in pacing ourselves activity-wise. For some of us, when the routine gets thrown sideways, even by good things, it’s…
It’s not even December 1 and I have been seeing a non-stop stream of ads, posts and recommended links on all manner of cleanses. Some are short, some are long, some are liquid, and some are minimal. All are useless.
Timothey Caulfield at the University of Alberta debunks the latest holiday cleanses in this article. Caulfield writes:
The idea that we need to cleanse and detoxify our bodies seems to have become a culturally accepted fact. This feels especially true around the holidays which are associated with heavy foods and even heavier shame about what that turkey and gravy and wine might be doing to our insides. After a weekend of indulgence, wellness gurus cry, your body is begging for a detox. But is it?
While there is something to be said for countering a week (or two) of indulgence with lighter fare, unless you were born liver-less or you lost your liver along the way, the human body has its own detox system right inside you: the aforementioned liver and kidneys.
There’s a huge market out there and if you build it, make it, sell it, they will come. The promises are endless but the long and short of it is simple: today’s cleanses and detox programs are primarily designed to relieve you of your money.
The sellers of these cleanses rely on fear and vanity, and also on society’s preoccupation on thinness. The messages are often wrapped upin social beliefs about health and wellness.
We empower people to take charge of their health, especially women who are often responsible for managing their well being along with those of their families. Who wants to be known as someone who does not care about their health? Not me.
While the social imperative to diet, to cleanse, to eat clean is present year-round, there seems to be special pressure in December to do any number of things to ensure we have the perfect body.
All the ads I have seen lead me to believe that we must cleanse the body the same way we cleanse our homes for special occasions this time of year. In January, when the new year has begun and we barely have had time to vacuum the pine needles and expunge the last piece of glitter from our homes, we get a different chorus but still with the same tune.
I suggest, if we are to cleanse anything, it is these sorts of unhelpful and unhealthy approaches to wellness.
So if you are confused and challenged by all that you see, remember this: everything in moderation. Your body will do what it needs to do. Fuel it appropriately. Move lots (preferably outside if it isn’t blowing a gale). Get lots of sleep. Drink lots of water. Have fun.
In my no excuses winter cycling plan I talked about making big summer cycling commitments as one of the ways I motivate myself to train for cycling through the cold snowy months of winter.
I thought I’d share those summer commitments with you. Now I’m doubly committed. I planned to do the thing and I told you about it.
In May Sarah, Jeff, and I kick things off with the Five Boros Bike Tour.
“The Five Boro Bike Tour is an annual recreational cycling event in New York City. It is produced by Bike New York. Conducted on the first Sunday of May, the 40-mile ride includes over 30,000 riders. The route takes riders through all five of New York’s boroughs and across five major bridges.”
Here’s Kim and Sarah R and me and Sarah lining up at the start.
June is our biggest thing. We’re doing a ten day bike tour of the northwest coast of Newfoundland. It’s a lot of riding, a lot of hills, and also likely some rain. It’s June 29-July 8. So far it’s Sarah, Cate, David and me. But if you’re interested, sign up!
On August 11 we’re doing the One Day Friends for Life Bike Rally. Sponsor me here.
I’ve had some great holiday running streaks. See here and here and here.
But I’ve said a sad goodbye to running. I still struggle see here. When Running World put out their annual call to streak, I shared it on our Facebook page and said I wouldn’t be joining in.
What’s the #RWRunStreak? The rules are simple: Run at least one mile per day, every day, starting on Thanksgiving (November 22) and ending on New Year’s Day (January 1). That’s 41 consecutive days of running.
And then it hit me. I could do a bike version. Ride everyday from November 22 to January 1. I laid out my winter options here.
I’m going to count riding outside (obviously) but also spin classes and riding on the bike trainer. 41 days in a row of riding over the holidays. I’m in.
Join me? (You can do your own version. Running, biking, swimming, whatever. You choose.)
I’ve never stayed at a resort before. Weird, I know.
But going south in the winter isn’t something I’d ever done before last year’s cruise. And going south in October? No way.
But Sarah’s work was having a celebration of a successful year and so I found myself in Mexico on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend at a resort just outside Cancun.
Fitness? I’m swimming, of course. But I was also happy to see that the resort had bikes. Nice ones, even. And they offered guided rides every morning at 9:30. Yes, it was a zillion degrees with lots of humidity there was a good ocean breeze and the paths that wound around the resort were reasonably well shaded. Usually we’d been driven around by the staff on golf carts so it felt nice to see the place under our own steam.
We got to see some cool old ranch buildings that were abandoned after Hurricane Wilma and nature had taken over them. But the highlight of my ride was the iguana on the path. I know they’re common but I’ve got a soft spot for lizards.
Everything you need to know about iguanas. A sign at the resort on the path.
At the beginning of this year I listed a bunch of activity and fitness plans. I won’t bother linking to the page, as nothing really went as planned. Life, menopause and fitness– all zigged and zagged in unexpected (to me) ways. I know you all want to get back to the business of wringing as much as possible out of the remaining days of summer, so let’s get down to business.
What didn’t happen: the plan that my making specific physical activity goals would somehow of its own accord lead to enough training for me to complete them.
I planned some charity rides this summer (including the PWA Friends for Life ride that Sam and Sarah are doing as I type), but I just wasn’t ready for them. I’ve been cycling often since spring, but have found I’m traversing a much slower fitness curve this year. I’m talking really slow. At this point in the summer I can comfortably ride 30–35 miles (up to 60k), and can push it a bit further, but that’s it for right now.
What did happen: many opportunities opened up for varied activities with friends and family, and I rediscovered the joy and utility of daily yoga (for the nth time– someone needs to remind me that this is always a good thing for me).
I’ve been enjoying my new cycling pattern immensely. My friend Pata and I do weekly Friday coffee rides– ride to coffee shop, sometimes picking up other friends on the way, and then out to the country for a nice ride. I bike commute for errands around town several times a week. I’ve also done lots of slower, shorter-distance riding with friends and family. My niece Grace told me yesterday that renting beach bikes on our family vacation was the most fun thing she’s done this summer. Big win!
This summer of fitness has been one of group and friendly activities that I don’t normally do, but love love love, if I can do them at a pace that feels non-life-threatening. Take hiking– I went on a few hikes in the Arizona desert in summer with my friends Don and Kay, and they were satisfying and fun (if rather sweaty). Norah and I are going to do some new England hiking (hear that, Norah? :-)) this fall. At my pace. This I can sign onto gladly.
My trip to Arizona gave me another fitness present: yin yoga. I found a cute storefront funky inexpensive yoga place that had yin yoga classes, and I happily sunk into them, stretching and relaxing and releasing. I’m planning to try out some yin yoga in Boston, but for now have found some nice youtube classes.
Finally, my level of fitness and drive has put me in the mood for home organization and projects. I’ve been moving furniture in and out, doing work on my porch, tending to plants, and starting some painting projects. All of this is making me feel good, opening up paths for more happy activity– physical, mental, creative, and domestic.
Which is my idea of a perfect summer– a happy jumble of fun.
How is your summer of activity going? Any surprises? I’d love to hear from you.
I have steadily gained weight since having my two kids. It’s been so gradual that with each gain, I told myself that this was the new normal for my body. I have never dieted (that’s another story) but I have tried to exercise at various points in my life. Early last year (2017), I managed to get into a groove of walking/jogging on a treadmill for two miles, about three times a week. I don’t think I lost any weight during that time (but that wasn’t my goal), but I stopped gaining more. My purpose was to build stamina and strength and I developed a decent routine. Then, around end of May, Ramadhan came and I stopped exercising altogether. I thought to myself that I will pick it back up after, but I never did.
Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Last year, it started around May 25th (each year, the month shifts by 10 -11 days). Muslims around the world observe this month by fasting from right before sunrise to right after sunset. During this period, Muslims abstain from all food, liquid, and from any sort of physical nourishment. We also abstain from (or are supposed to anyways) from any sort of bad behavior, such as telling white lies, being impatient, or rude, etc. Anyone who cannot fast because they are ill or pregnant, etc., can make up the fast later in the year. Ramadhan is also the month when we develop the habit of giving to folks less fortunate. It is considered a deeply spiritual month, when one is a guest of God’s hospitality and mercy.
By February 2018, I had gained another 10 pound from May 2017. I also had my blood work done and found out that I had high cholesterol level (the bad kind) and borderline A1C numbers (thing that measures if I am diabetic). I decided to get a personal trainer at my local YMCA and we began to meet once a week around Mid-March. She built a good steady plan with me, though there were weeks where I didn’t do the expected 30 mins, three times a week (I would think to myself: let me do a little bit more grading/work-related-emailing/course prepping because …. life ). Despite building a (more or less) good regimen, I was dreading what would happen to it all during Ramadhan. If I can’t eat or drink for almost 17 hours, I could not possibly workout.
Fortunately, my (non-Muslim) trainer had spent time in a Muslim country during Ramadhan and had some familiarity with the life style changes. She seemed convinced that I could work out during Ramadhan, though internally, I was rolling my eyes every time she would say that. I decided to schedule our last appointment during Ramadhan (I had bought two packages of five sessions and it was the last of the ten).
I was feeling quite lethargic when I went in to the gym. I didn’t want to be there. We began by her going over how I was feeling. Here what I learned in the rest of the session:
Since I haven’t eaten in a while before my workout, my metabolic rate slows down. Working out would speed it back up a bit and so I actually experienced a surge of energy by the end of the workout
Try and schedule my workout as close to iftari (breaking of the fast) as possible. This way, I can eat and drink within a couple of hours of workout. (This is a bit hard for my family because we open out fast at our local mosque. There is a lecture before our prayers and then we open our fasts together. If I work out around 5:45 pm, it gives me plenty time to get ready, and head to my center by 7:30 and open my fast by 8:55 pm).
Lay off hardcore cardio altogether – or anything that makes me thirstier.
Workout in a cool environment.
During Ramadhan, I should exercise to maintain the habit of exercising and maintain my strength and stamina. This may not be the best time for me to make any new gains.
Build in 30 seconds to 1 minute break between reps, be in control of my breath before starting the next rep.
Breathe through my nose, not through my mouth so that my throat doesn’t dry up.
Other things I have incorporated for myself:
I am trying to not consume too much oily food at iftari– it gives me heartburn, especially since I am eating so late
After breaking the fast with a date and/or salt (which is traditional), I have fruits and water first, before having other stuff.
I try not to fill up my plate with food. Once I have my first serving, I don’t feel hungry at all.
Don’t eat excessively at iftari
I cannot say that I have been super regular with my workouts, but I do physically feel a lot better now that I have been doing them somewhat regularly.
Ramadhan is a month of introspection. We are meant to develop our relationship with God, which requires us to inculcate kindness toward fellow creations, but also toward ourselves. It is one month of the year when we focus on our character weaknesses and improve ourselves, so that we can carry on our good habits through the year. It is a month that is meant to impact all aspects of life – mind, body, and spirit.
I do remember, after last summer I would experience frequent pangs of disappointment from time to time, thinking about how I had failed myself in Ramadhan. And I had, but not in the ways I had thought. I failed to reflect on how my body was part of the spiritual journey. This Ramadhan, I am trying to incorporate exercising and eating better as an integral part of my spiritual experience, part of living life in moderation, something that will hopefully improve the sort of person I am.
Bio: I am an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Religious Studies program coordinator at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I am always in the process of getting/remaining physically active. I am also the mother of a 10 and 8 year old. I am concerned about social and political issues that Muslim Americans and other marginalized communities face and believe that our struggles have many commonalities. I am currently working on a book on an introduction to Shia Islam. You can find more about me at http://www.siue.edu/~sfatima/