holidays · motivation · Sat with Nat

Reflecting on vulnerability, resilience, and limits

Recommended Soundtrack: Free Your Mind by En Vogue

I don’t remember exactly when I realized I was at higher risk of COVID 19 complications than others my age. Sleep apnea, asthma, high blood pressure, and weight are all factors in folks outcomes. As a result I got quite risk averse in the summer and as it turned to fall the second wave started. I didn’t ride my bike outside. When restrictions loosened in my community I kept my own restrictions in place.

This awareness of my own vulnerability and that of people I know & love really impacted me. It shook free the last bits of invulnerability I had left.

That vulnerability feels at odd with how incredibly resilient you and I have been. If you told me last March I would work from home for a year and do it well I would have laughed. Not possible! Nope! Me? Arguably the most social person on the planet, working AT HOME ALONE? Unfathomable, yet that’s exactly what I’m doing.

We’ve experienced loss of loved ones, friends, and anticipate more loss. Economic impacts, the loss of social rituals, group activities…

And yet, there are so many things we’ve learned this year and changed. From hand washing and social distancing to the benefits/limits of technology to connect us.

I learned I can stick to an exercise routine and dial in my nutrition. Working at home and not going out with friends brought those two components into sharp focus.

I’ve learned I can walk more, stretch more, sleep better, and be more present in my life. That’s mighty powerful stuff.

The upheaval of the year and my responses to it have made me realize something profound about self imposed limits, especially around fitness.

By reflecting on all I learned and what I’ve changed, I realized it’s time to let those limits go. It’s humbling and scary to realize there are a great many things I can do when I need to.

Michel in the foreground and Natalie in the background, arms up in a celebratory pose at the end of a 5 km Christmas Day walk. It’s a snowstorm and Natalie is knee deep in snow.

So while I’m cleaning up from the holidays I’m packing up old ideas of constraints and limits. Yes. There’s risks and vulnerability and things I need to do to be safer during a global pandemic. There’s also a whole lot of potential to do radically different things. New scripts. New connections. New ways of moving through the world. Most importantly, new priorities.

I don’t know how this ruminating will impact how &. when I move my body but I’ll be sure to share where I’m at in January.

Head to toe shot of Natalie in a snow covered field. Her parka is open so she can show off her super cute orange knit sweater, the hem of a new merino wool camisole and new grey mukluks.

For now I’m feeling hopeful and confident in facing the coming weeks. After all, looking back over the year, I dealt with a lot and am the better for it.

covid19 · holidays · mindfulness

We Wish You a Meh Christmas

The holidays are a bummer this year, and I’m ok with that.  I’m ok with it being a bummer; I’m ok with being bummed out.  I appreciate that my husband and I have enough privilege that our discomfort this year is about disappointments, not serious suffering.  We are not food or housing insecure like far too many people; we aren’t yet mourning the loss of anyone close to us due to the pandemic. In that context, being bummed out is actually a pretty good place to be.

Buddhism teaches that expectation is the root of all suffering, and while I’m not a Buddhist, I see wisdom in this perspective, and I’m working on letting go of my expectations.  Expectation management looks like telling Mom a few weeks before I was on winter break that I won’t be seeing her during my vacation.  It looks like shipping gifts to friends with notes saying, “I miss you” rather than “I can’t wait to get together.”  It looks like planning a tasty but modest meal for celebrating the holidays with my husband, alone in our house.  We’re keeping low expectations to avoid regretting that it isn’t more.

That’s not to say that there aren’t real consequences to not getting together this year.  I have family in poor health, family I never see except at the holidays and may not see for another year, and family with problematic lives I’d love to see face to face to KNOW they are actually ok.  I am sad and concerned to miss this yearly check-in and opportunity for connection.  But we agree that the risks outweigh the benefits, and I will not be seeing any of them in person until it is safe to do so.

I’m doing what I can to celebrate the little joys–the smells of fresh-baked, spiced lebkuchen cookies and boiling candied orange rinds, the glimmer of Christmas lights in puddles as I walk through the neighborhood, a quiet evening at home with my fireplace, my cats, and a puzzle.  It’s a kind of mindfulness that I can get behind, being present and not wishing, hoping, yearning for more.

My goal isn’t to convince myself it’s all exactly as I would wish it to be; the lack of validation that can coincide with the forced seeking of silver-linings doesn’t make me feel better.  I’m not a gratitude practice kind of person.  That sort of list-making seems to make me focus on what’s missing rather than on what’s there.  Instead, I’m acknowledging it, that it’s not quite right, that it’s not what I want, and that it’s still ok, good enough even.

My family is Danish-American, and Christmas Eve was traditionally the day we celebrated growing up, a day for a big family dinner and opening the presents under the tree.  (Only stockings stuffed with treats from Santa to be enjoyed on Christmas morning.)  Christmas won’t be that this year, it’s going to be a bit disappointing, and I’m fine with that.  I hope you are able to be ok with your holidays, too, in whatever form they come.  “Meh Christmas to all, and to all a good enough night.

Photo description: Five people on bicycles wearing Santa Claus costumes. Photo credit: Rocco Dipoppa photographer, Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found making tins of homemade candies and cookies to send to her family, picking up heavy things, and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · holidays

Gift guide for pandemic fitness: the silly edition

I love holiday gift guides. Not that they’re helpful at all: either the items are out of my price range (like this vegan leather lunchbox for $149) or too silly (like this service that will mail someone a potato with an image of your face on it). But gift guides are splashy and fun and a bit inspirational; maybe I won’t buy these gold jug drop earrings for my sister for $395, but I can look for something pretty and classic (and cheaper) on Etsy (maybe these will do).

So, in the spirit of trying to squeeze some lemonade from the severely out-of-season lemon which is 2020, here are some distracting and silly gifts that you probably shouldn’t buy this season.

If you’re looking to go big in unnecessary fitness gadgets gift-giving, you can’t do much better than buying a $1500 app-enabled mirror (called “The Mirror”) that lets you see some canned (but maybe a bit interactive with your fitness data?) workouts from boxing to barre to kettlebells and beyond. The membership for the app is sold separately for $39/month. it displays you plus the canned instructor plus a bunch of metrics. And, it goes beautifully with a variety of decors.

In the “kill two birds with one stone purchase” category: Athleta is selling a COVID/assassin ensemble for outdoor winter running or walking for the low low price of $98. It even comes in two colors, presumably to accommodate differing light levels.

Some of you might be thinking, “in a year like 2020, there’s no space for foolishness and frippery; I want evidence-based fitness and health products!” Well, never fear, the Barefoot Scientist products are here, complete with full documentation by way of the Barefoot Scientist blog. In this entry on how to start a foot care routine, we are soberly instructed to identify our foot care goals (uh, clean feet? trim nails?) and shift our mindset (start small with a 3-step kit, being mindful of other possible foot needs that may arise). They even have a drop down menu for shopping By Concern:

Dry skin? calluses? aches? Odor? Dirt? Blisters? Nail issues? We got you.
Dry skin? calluses? aches? Odor? Dirt? Blisters? Nail issues? We got you.

For holiday shopping, Barefoot Scientist makes it easy, offering gift sets for every foot.

Products for the busy exerciser, from Pre-Heels spray to help reduce blisters (?), to twinkle toes to keep the odors at bay.
Products for the busy exerciser, from Pre-Heels spray to help reduce blisters, to Twinkle Toes to keep the odors at bay.

One problem a bunch of us are experiencing is boredom from doing the same old workouts all the time from home. If you’re looking to shake things up, here’s a product for you: Fitness Dice!

6 wooden Fitness Dice, each with one type of exercise that you already do.
6 wooden Fitness Dice, each with types of exercise that you already do.

Okay, this may not seem revolutionary, as the pictures on the dice look like the plain ol’ vanilla moves everyone has done. But, the Fitness Dice folks beg to differ:

First, roll six dice to decide which target areas you’ll tackle. Then, toss the seventh to determine your repetitions and time. Worried about getting bored? Don’t sweat it: with an instruction booklet to walk you through each challenge, every roll leads to one of 45,000 possible routines, designed for all experience levels.

I’m a little doubtful that changing the order and number of repetitions of these exercises will make for 45,000 different-seeming workouts, but for $19 (and it’s even backordered!), how much can you expect?

Maybe you’re just flat-out missing the experience of the gym or sports club or local pool: the sights, sounds, smells (okay, I just went too far) that are all part of your workout ritual. Well, I’ve got a (partial) solution for you: why not make your living room more like the locker room by putting up this Exercise Room sign, available here for $57.95.

Exercise rules sign.
Lest we forget– safety first!

What’s on your fitness holiday gift list this year (either to give or receive)? Don’t tell my family, but I’ve given up on originality, so it’s dish towels for everyone. Hey, you can always use more dish towels

eating · habits · holidays

Make-Ahead Breakfast Food Prep–The Pumpkin Spice Edition!

Last year I offered up some breakfast and lunch food prep ideas based on what I’d been eating at the time.  Appetites change, work from home has replaced “the office” for many of us, and I wondered if it might be time for another set of recipes.  Today, a few more ideas for make-ahead breakfasts.  I know we’re reaching the end of the “pumpkin spice” season, but I find these flavors wonderful and soothing as long as the weather is cold. 

Marjorie’s Homemade Granola–Master Recipe

I’ve been working on a good homemade granola recipe for probably a decade now.  I like to have some sprinkled over fruit and Greek yogurt.  I eat it for an afternoon snack fairly often as well.  I will first provide the master recipe, in which you can switch things up as much as you prefer.  Then, I will give my go-to version, for those of you who don’t want to make so many decisions.

one.  Preheat the oven to 300 oF.

two.  Stir together in a baking dish or large glass casserole:

2 cups old-fashioned oats, quick oats, buckwheat groats, other flaked grains, or a mixture of any of these

1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (you can use sweetened, if you can’t find it unsweetened, but obviously, the final result will be sweeter)

1.5 cups coarsely chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or a mixture of these

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp powdered ginger

three.  Heat briefly in a microwave and stir together:

2 tbs nut butter or coconut oil

2 tbs honey or maple syrup

four.  Add 1 mashed very ripe banana to the honey mixture

And maybe ½ tsp almond extract or 1 tsp vanilla extract 

five.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until everything is evenly moistened.

six.  Bake until completely dried, stirring every half hour or so.  If it starts to toast too quickly, lower the temperature to 250oF.  Takes about 1 ½ hours.  

seven.  Allow to cool completely before packing into containers with tight-sealing lids.  Stays good, at room temperature, for several weeks.

My Go-to: Coconut Buckwheat Granola

Ingredients:

1 cup buckwheat groats (also called kasha)

1 cup quick oats (these seem to make the best, crunchy oat clusters in my experience)

1 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut

2 tbs all-natural crunchy peanut butter

2 tbs honey (really delicious with a strong-tasting honey like blackberry honey)

1 cup slivered almonds

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp powdered ginger

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 very ripe banana, mashed

Harvest Egg Bake

This custard is like a less-sweet pumpkin pie for breakfast.   In parts of the world where you are sadly without copious quantities of canned, winter squash puree, you could substitute mashed, roasted sweet potatoes.  One final note, if you want to substitute another milk, keep in mind that fats serve an important purpose in custards, keeping the proteins happy as they reach temperature.  A less fatty “milk” like almond milk or skim may split and create a less favorable texture.

one. Preheat the oven to 350oF.

two. Butter a large, 9×13 baking dish.

three. Whisk together:

12 whole eggs, or 6 whole eggs plus 2 cups egg whites

1.5 cups whole or 2% milk or soy milk 

15 oz can (about 1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree

½-1 tsp cinnamon (honestly, I don’t actually measure this, I use a lot)

A few shakes of ground nutmeg

¼ cup brown sugar (or more, to taste)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Zest of 1 orange (optional but delicious)

four. Pour the custard into the prepared baking dish.  Then sprinkle evenly with:

2-3 finely chopped, good baking apples

⅓ cup raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, or a combination thereof

Maybe a few tangerines or a naval orange, finely chopped

five. Bake until just set in the middle, about 1 hour.

six. Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.  Makes 6 servings.

Variation:  Harvest Oatmeal Bake

Follow the recipe, adding 1/2 cup additional milk or water to the custard and evenly spreading 2 cups of old-fashioned oats with the apples and fruit, gently pushing the oats down into the custard with a spoon.

Serve warm with a scoop of plain Greek yogurt, maybe a little maple syrup, and a tablespoon or two of chopped walnuts, for a satisfying, balanced breakfast.

Bonus “recipe:” Spiced Coffee

I make my coffee in a pour-over, but I would think this would work in a French press, too, you will just get a little more spice powder circulating in the cup.  But hey, the sludge is part of the charm of French press coffee, right?

Add to the filter with your coffee grounds:

A generous shake or two each of cinnamon and ground turmeric

A little nutmeg

Maybe a dash of cardamom

Sweeten and cream your coffee, if you like, as you like

Photo description: Pumpkins in a pumpkin patch. Photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer Christopher Rusev.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found buying cinnamon in bulk, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · holidays

Happy Halloween!

I like most of the moods of exercise, from the sometimes somewhat serious business of team training and racing to the very silly world of holiday themed workouts.

Here’s two I did this Halloween season:

  1. Zwift Halloween costume rides with pace partners: See photos above. We all gradually acquired costumes as we rode along with the special guest pace partners. It was a nice easy recovery ride with lots of laughs along the way. See HALLOWEEN HIJINKS HAVE BEGUN! UNLOCK COSTUMES WITH NEW PACE PARTNERS: “ZwiftHQ likes to have a little fun on certain holidays – especially Halloween, Christmas, and April Fools’. (With Halloween just around the corner, Zwifters may remember that we earned dino costumes in 2019rode bone bikes and swapped heads in 2018, and looked like witches and monsters in 2017.) Last night some new Pace Partners went live as part of a little Halloween game. Carlin Cosmic, Darwin Dino, Delta Daring have arrived, and they’re handing out Halloween costumes!”

2. I also did Yoga with Adriene’s spooky Yoga for When You Feel Dead Inside which I enjoyed from the moments of silliness at the start to the actual practice itself.

How about you? Are you doing any Halloween themed workouts? Let us know in the comments below.

covid19 · family · fitness · holidays

Filling the nest with workout equipment

I never thought I’d be one of those parents lamenting their children leaving home. Mostly I’m really excited for them finding their own way in the world. I’ve always had my own life in addition to family life, and I assumed that children moving out would just change the mix. Without kids at home there’d be more friends and less time with family.

I imagined I’d still see lots of the adult children. We’ve always enjoyed meals together, playing games, watching movies, etc. I expected that to continue. In normal times it would.

But along came COVID-19. So much for all of our plans. I know I’m lucky. I live in Canada. No one in my family is sick. We’re financially okay. We’re also at a stage in the pandemic where we are able to enjoy lots of time outside together. Recently Mallory, Sarah, and I got to go camping in Algonquin.

Still, I’m not seeing friends as much as I’d like. I’m also not seeing the kids as much as I’d like.

I’m very nervous about winter, about Thanksgiving, and about Christmas. Those are times when we’d come together inside.

Frankly, I’m sad and I miss my children a lot and I didn’t expect it to be so bad.

You need to know that I am the kind of parent who happily sent kids off to Australia and New Zealand on their own. Bye! But this, this is worse. First, they’re all gone. Second. COVID-19, makes seeing them more complicated. Third, I worry about them a lot.

Okay, end of the sad part of the story. I want to share the only possible upside. There is more room in my house.

The backroom is now my home office and the official Zwift home headquarters and Yoga With Adriene studio. Check it out! Our home weights finally arrived too.

Also, while I miss my fitness oriented son for our noon hour workouts, I’ve now talked my mother into working out with me at lunch with a visiting backyard personal trainer. Living with my mother also helps to remind me too that although kids move out–as I did at 19 or so–families can stay together through a lifetime.

fitness · holidays · rest

Labour Day: Celebrating What We Gain From Working Together and Prioritizing Rest

Happy Labour Day! If you’re reading this morning from Canada or the US, you know exactly what today marks: the unofficial end of summer and the start of the “new” year (for all students, parents, teachers, and anyone like me who worships autumn).

You might not know, though, that Labour Day has been an official holiday since 1892 in the US, and 1894 in Canada, and that it traces its roots to 1872 Toronto, where a mass printer’s strike achieved legal protections for unions and marked a huge step toward entrenching labour rights for working class citizens.

(This image shows a brown forearm and fist clutching a brown wrench; the text reads Happy Labour Day 2020. “Labour Day” is 1 May; it’s also 7 September. Huh!)

Labour Day, in other words, is a day of rest that celebrates the recognition that rest is essential for the human body – so that it can be more productive, so that it can be healthier, so that it can be happier, and also so that the humans connected to it can be healthy and happy too.

Lines of music showing the note and rest notations for whole, half, and quarter notes. Musicians know exactly what rest looks like!!

I was thinking about all of this yesterday, when I decided to pass up the chance to go on a solo bike ride under near-perfect weather conditions in order to play tennis with my partner D instead. He adores tennis (and is really good at it – I am not) but doesn’t yet do long-distance cycling, so a solo ride would have taken me away from him for a good three hours on a rare Sunday together. Moreover, D doesn’t get a lot of chances to play tennis with a partner (however unskilled). I knew it meant a lot to him to play on this glorious day, and I wanted to share that with him. I also wondered if perhaps NOT riding would do my body some good; a change, when it comes to fitness, can be as good as a rest, after all, since different muscles get stretched and worked and your body and brain can enjoy learning something new.

Tennis is the kind of sport that, however intensely competitive players may be, really requires working together. If you offer up a bad serve, the rally won’t ever get going; if you don’t think about landing the ball somewhere that your partner can play it, ditto. For me, right now as I learn, a lot of tennis is about just figuring out how to return the ball, period; that means that D also has to be supportive and kind in his returns, hitting me balls I can play rather than the fast, hard balls he would send the way of a more skilled and agile player.

Serena Williams, in black, in full flight. The media loves to give Serena grief about not being a “team player”, but that’s mostly racist, misogynist BS. To be a competitive athlete at the highest levels means working with your partner even while you play hard against them.

Here, too, my tennis adventure connects with a core principle we celebrate on Labour Day: the power of collective action. Anyone who plays team sports knows how essential it is to play with and for one’s mates, as opposed to for one’s own gain; the latter might win some games but it will never win the long haul. In any sport that includes others, however – racket sports; group cycling; canoe adventuring; even marathons or triathlons – it’s equally important to be aware of and attentive to the needs of those around us, because our achievements are measured in the small ways we help each other to excel, to be our best selves on the court or on the road or in the pool.

Taking care of one another’s needs, knowing that we might need the same courtesy at any moment, is fundamental to the ethos of all sport, and this ethos is one of the reasons sport is such an immense character-building opportunity for people young and old.

The same is true of life out in the regular world, though. Working together, for one another, knowing that we all benefit that way, makes all our lives better. Together we have the power to stand up to injustice, to stand up for fairness, and to raise our voices together in order to ask for the concessions we need in order to live our best lives. This is why socialized medical care is a massive success around the world, and why nations like New Zealand, with a strong commitment to equity and fairness, have weathered the pandemic incredibly well. It is also one of the reasons that protest movements – like the kind we have seen these past few months in support of Black Lives Matter, in the wake of the deaths of ordinary human beings like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – quickly gather speed and catch our attention. Humans thrive by working together for common causes, and despite our differences. Differences are as natural as shared human need; we benefit from recognizing the former even as we join forces to meet the latter, every single time.

White and black and brown hands, seen from above, joined together in a circle. Working together means recognizing and acknowledging the importance of differences even while we share common goals.

We talk a lot on the blog about the importance of resting our bodies to build and consolidate strength; we also talk a lot (and feel strongly!) about what it means to be in this together, a team working toward our feminist fitness goals, even when those goals are individual ones. Resting, and celebrating our community, is a big part of our blog ethos; it’s also a Labour Day ethos.

This autumn marks a choice point for the nation that brought us Labour Day under President Grover Cleveland in 1892. It’s worth reflecting on this Labour Day 2020 about what it will take in the years ahead to return America to a place where shared human needs are addressed by shared (not divisive) social vision, where rest is valued by and for all – not just for the richest and most powerful among us.

Readers, how are you spending your Labour Day? Let us know.

cycling · holiday fitness · holidays · motivation · traveling · winter

Finishing my #31DaysOfWinterBiking (in Florida)

It feels like it’s cheating. But I did count Zwifting inside as winter biking. Anyway, for me, the main point of these social media challenges is to just increase the number of days I ride. I’m a pretty decent tough weather cyclist–I’ve got the gear and it still makes me smile–but even I can find January with its ice and cold and very dark days just a bit much. Enter the #31DaysOfWinterBiking. But also, for me, enter a week long vacation at the end of January riding my bike in Florida.

The plan: We loaded up the Prius and Jeff, Sarah, and I drove Saturday and Sunday from Guelph to Central Florida. It was about 20 hours, door to door. We stopped for the night on Saturday in a roadside motel in West Virginia. Sunday night we checked into our very cute cottage. Five days of Florida bike riding and then Saturday, tomorrow, we check out and do the same drive in reverse.

It’s a repeat of last year in some ways. Last year we went riding in Clermont though then Jeff was already on his boat in Florida and Sarah and I flew down. I liked where we stayed in Clermont but it wasn’t free for these dates this year. Instead, we’re in nearby Mount Dora, home of the Mount Dora Bike Festival.

The bike festival is in its 45th year and it brings hundreds of riders to this old cute Florida town. Their route maps are here. Our plan was to hang out and ride bikes in a leisurely, vacation style way, making use of the Mount Dora route maps and also driving back to Clermont to ride some of our favorites again.

Our tropical Mount Dora cabin

Day 1: Tangerine Ride

When we arrived in Florida Sarah was sick–cough, cold, sneezing, sore throat. On holidays! So not fair. So for our first day we noodled down to downtown Mount Dora, an old central Florida town full of coffee shops and gift stores, sat outside and drank lattes. Properly fortified we did the Mount Dora Bike Festival’s family friendly Tangerine Ride. I recommend it!

“With 10.8 miles and + 394 feet of climbing this is a nice, mostly flat, casual and un-guided ride out to one of our beautiful lakefront parks, Trimble Park.  Enjoy the park and then ride back through the historic town of Tangerine.”

Trimble Park

We’ve been amused, as Canadians, with all the bear warning signs. Do they come south for winter? Turns out, upon googling, that Florida black bears are a sub species of the North American black bear. You can read up here.

“The park is in a known bear habitat and you may also see alligators, squirrels, raccoons, gopher tortoises, slider turtles, snakes, lizards and many bird species including eagles, osprey, pelicans and hawks.” From a guide to Trimble Park.

Total distance ridden: 28 km

Day 2: Shortened version of the Three Bob’s Ride, including thrill hill

“With 41.6 miles and +1112 feet of Climbing this route was named after three cycling friends all named Bob.  This route was created from their friendly challenge to see which Bob could create the ride where you could spot the most lakes in Lake County in 40 miles.  This was the winning ride and the route brags about having a water feature for every mile it is long! Rolling hills and great forested land are also highlights of this ride.”

Highlights: So many lakes! Also “thrill hill.” It wasn’t really that big of a hill but this is flat Florida. Still, it was a fun descent. Lowlight: lunch stop ended up being MacDonald’s since the local diners closed at 2 pm, after lunch.

Total distance ridden: 55 km

Day 3: Shortened version of the Metric Swamp Century

“Very scenic ride through northern Lake County, it is named for the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area that this ride will wind through.”

Highlights: Praline pecans with sweet Georgia heat spice for snacks, also an alpaca farm with alpaca boarding, you know in case you own an alpaca and need to take a vacation. Lowlight: Keep America Great signs. Sigh.

Total distance ridden: 70 km

Day 4: West Orange Trail

The West Orange Trail is 21 miles long and so out and back makes a pretty good ride. It’s a multiuse pathway, yes, but nicely paved and plenty wide. You can actually ride at speed through sections of it. We loved it last time and so we were determined to do it again.

From Wikipedia: “The West Orange Trail is a 22-mile (35 km) long multi-use rail trail owned by Orange County Parks and Recreation in Orange County, Florida, in the United States. The paved trail passes through downtown OaklandWinter Garden, and Apopka with most of its length built on old railroad alignments. To the west of the West Orange Trail is the South Lake-Lake Minneola Scenic Trail in Lake County which was connected to the trail in 2007.”

Highlights: Love the wide paved pathway and the town of Wintergarden. We stopped there for coffee and lunch and I bought an Orange Trail bike jersey. Lowlight: Trying to navigate four way stops when the path crosses roads with riders with different tolerances for looking and riding through. I’m the nervous nellie in this crowd. Also we encountered our first rain on the way back.

Total distance ridden: 45 km

Wintergarden

Day 5: Sugarloaf

It was supposed to be the “Assault on Sugarloaf” but by Friday I’d caught Sarah’s cold. With a sore throat and cough I agreed to ride up the local big hill but I wasn’t about to be mounting an assault on anything.

Here’s a description of Sugarloaf by Climbbybike.com:

“The sugarloaf mountain is situated in Florida (US). This climb belongs to the Florida hills. The sugarloaf mountain via clermont, fl is ranked number 1 of the Florida hills. The climb is ranked number 427 in United States and number 11779 in the world. Starting from clermont, fl, the sugarloaf mountain ascent is 1 km long. Over this distance, you climb 67 heightmeters. The average percentage thus is 6.7 %. The maximum slope is 16%.”

In the end it started to rain and got dark and once we got off the lovely bike paths the cars were passing too close for my comfort. Sarah made it up Sugarloaf but I called for Jeff’s rescue wagon. Here’s the lovely bike trail.

Somehow when I imagined bike riding in Florida I never imagined such lovely paved bike trails.

Total distance ridden, for me: 15 km
For Sarah: 38 km
For Jeff: 0 km (he was also getting sick and was driving the support vehicle)

I made it through January! Yay! It’s been a long month. And a very gloomy one.

From here on in it’s a quick countdown to spring. Right?

eating · eating disorders · fitness · food · habits · Happy New Year! · holidays · new year's resolutions · overeating

Still Recovering From Holiday Overeating? Here’s what I’m doing next.

CW: Discusses disordered eating habits and negative self-talk.

Continuing with my normal life.

No, seriously. The moment the celebrations are over and I feel like, “hmm, maybe it’s time to eat fewer cookies, get a little more sleep and find that gym membership card again,” then I’ll just take one thing and do what is normal for me. I’m not going to ramp up, push hard, or go strong. It is not time to atone, make up for, or negate.

I’m just going to let myself fall back naturally into my old routines. It might take a few days, or a week, or whatever, but I’ll find them again. The key is to not spend my time wallowing in guilt or blaming myself in anger. The more emotion I put behind the transition, the harder it is.

I know because I’ve been there before, and not just at the holidays. You see, for nearly as far back as I can remember, I’ve dealt with compulsive overeating. I stole food and hid it in my room as a little girl. As a teen, I would spend my allowance on donuts and pastries that I would eat while walking home from school. I managed my emotions, my sense of loneliness and isolation, depression, traumatic experiences and their aftermaths with food.

I have spent the better part of the last decade extricating myself from these patterns, and while I can’t say I will never overeat unintentionally again, I can say it occurs less and less frequently.

One of the most powerful tools that helped me was to learn to remove emotions from my observations of these patterns and to switch my internal talk to neutral observations. “Why was I so stupid and ate all that cake again?!” has become “I have eaten more cake than I planned on eating.”

I don’t immediately go into damage control mode. I don’t promise to eat only a salad for dinner that night or swear off cake for the rest of the week. I don’t immediately go out for a run or plan a brutal lifting session. I try to just notice it and move on.

I think the noticing is important, although I haven’t read this anywhere else. My friends who are chronic dieters often seem to do a “I’m eating whatever I want, I don’t care” move and then use that as a way to “ignore” what they are overeating. From what I’ve observed on the outside, this seems to backfire as shame and guilt in the long run. It looks like the act of pretending one doesn’t care builds up increased levels of emotional connection to choices rather than diminishing them.

So, the first step isn’t to pretend I am neutral, but to acknowledge the feelings and the choices and consciously rewrite the observation into a neutral statement. “I care about how much I’m eating and I’m going to eat this cookie anyway” is a much more powerful sentiment than trying to convince myself that I don’t care when I actually do.

Then, when I’m ready to make a different choice–the party is over, I’m not out to brunch with friends, I’m back from vacation, and it’s just another meal–I do whatever I would normally do. The only exception is if I really, truly, just don’t feel like it. If my “usual” is dessert after lunch and dinner, but today I’d rather start with a piece of fruit at lunch, then I eat it. But I have to be honest with myself–it doesn’t work to try to convince myself that I should only want a piece of fruit. And this goes for the other direction as well–if my “usual” is a piece of fruit and I really want dessert, I have to be honest with myself about that, too. Again, the act of trying to convince myself creates too high of stakes and too much emotion. So, I have a serving of what I really want while practicing being neutral, and then I get back to my normal routine.

This works with other habits and routines I’m trying to get back to, too. Stopped going to the gym? Letting myself stay up too late? Need to call my parents more often? I observe it. And then allow myself to do one thing that I used to do that helped me maintain that behavior in the past. I only commit to trying ONE thing. It may be as small as putting it on my calendar or packing my gym bag. I break the inertia, do that one thing and observe it without judgement. And then try again.

And before too long, it will be just another day.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found practicing neutral observations, picking up heavy things, and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

aging · fitness · habits · holidays · motivation · new year's resolutions · season transitions

Words and Challenges for the New Year

Four days in, I’m still adjusting to this fresh start of a decade. We’re living in the 20’s now. A decade that makes me think my word for the year should be … ROAR.

My cousin introduced me to this word of the year practice about 10 years ago. Our guest blogger, Anne Simpson, wrote about her Word of the Year a few days ago. The idea is to distill your hopes, dreams, ambitions and challenges for the coming year into a word. What’s the one word you choose today to describe the year you are aiming for? A word that aspires to something greater, but doesn’t set you up for disappointment. A personal word that captures both who you are already (and you are just dandy the way you are!) and how you can refine that existing excellence. A word that will inspire you for the 364 days to come.

Vortex of black letters on white background
Nathaniel Shuman on Unsplash

Last year, I had some pretty definitive plans for 2019 related to one of my plays and my book that was publishing in July. I wanted to remind myself not to get too caught up in expectations. I also challenged myself to meditate every day. My word was PRESENCE. In 2018, I was immersed in book writing and my personal challenge was to not shop for clothes or shoes for the whole year. My word was ATTENTION. 

A quick note about these challenges I mention. I’m not one for resolutions. Or maybe I just don’t like the word, in the context of the New Year. There’s something about resolutions that always feels like someone/something is chastising me to do better. And I was never very good at sticking to resolutions. But I have developed a habit of setting myself a challenge for the year. And, weirdly, I generally manage to stick to my challenges. Could just be that the word is more motivating. My challenges are usually ways of being that I want to try on for size, with no commitment to extend after the year is over. You can bet I’ve shopped for some new clothes since 2018 finished.

This year feels largely unknown and fluid. Scary. I have some specific events I’m looking forward to–talks I’m giving in Princeton at The Present Day Club and San Francisco at The Battery; another reading of my play at Missouri State University; plus a new workshop series I’m planning with a friend of mine. I don’t know what any of these will lead to. I don’t know what my big project for the year will be. A new book? Another play? Rolling out the workshops? Plus, there’s my challenge for the year—no buying anything (except books/tv/film) on amazon. I may also go back to an alternate month no-shopping practice, because the prospect is peaceful to contemplate.

All in all, I feel open. Excited. Super daunted. And sometimes a little frustrated, because shouldn’t a woman in her 50’s be looking forward to a steadier, more settled year? That’s my voice of insecurity having her say. But she does not get to decide my word! So, given all that, what is my word?

I like ROAR , but that’s not it.

Here’s my always evolving list of possible words: illuminate … grow … strong … steady … being …  belonging … becoming … run … light … recharge … strong … vitality … engaged … present … discerning … happy … incandescent … yes … flow … curiosity … change … renewal … reliability … radiance … spontaneity … pleasure … simplicity

I like the potential these words embrace. This is a year about expanding and making space. I want to get to the end of 2020 and feel like I’ve tapped into new personal resources.

In that spirit, this year, I choose BECOMING.

What’s your word or challenge?