fitness · holidays

On Easter and renewal

It’s happening again: Easter. Whether that means a new pair of special occasion shoes, seasonal consumption of marshmallow peeps, upping your gardening game, or attending religious or family events, Easter makes an impression on many of us.

7 years ago, I wrote my first Easter post for the blog. It was about rebirth, renewal and change (with obligatory photos of animals in their Easter finery). I was then (as I am now) about to begin my sabbatical– 8 months of research leave. Oh, the plans I had back then! Here’s some of my list of to-do changes I was planning on making back in 2015:

  • Getting back in shape for summer road biking with my (faster and younger) friends;
  • Returning to mountain biking;
  • Daily meditation;
  • Regular stretching and strength training;
  • Training to become a better hiker;
  • Canoeing and kayaking more;
  • Picking up tennis again after a 30-year hiatus;
  • Eating more veggies

Well, it’s 2022 now. And I don’t know about you, but 2015 feels like a hundred years ago. Life is different. Work is different. My body is different. Even Easter is different: we are approaching each other more distantly, more carefully, with more virtual events replacing in-person ones. The world is in turmoil. Many of us are dealing with losses of loved ones or struggles of our own.

Looking at that 2015 list, I can say that in 2022, I’m:

  • planning to purchase an e-bike for road and gravel riding with friends;
  • meditating daily;
  • doing yoga and stretching regularly;
  • writing more;
  • still not doing much strength training, but we’ll see;
  • kayak shopping this week;
  • not even thinking about serious hiking or tennis;
  • still a work in progress in terms of eating in ways I find self-caring

In this list I see change, movement, intention, hope, and some letting go of my past self and my past goals and plans. This is a new year, a new Easter, a new spring. That’s my Easter message to you, dear readers. There’s renewal to be found in change, letting go of old goals and plans, and finding direction by looking at where you are now.

I wish you all a Happy Easter, with whatever sense of renewal and rebirth that speaks to you here and now.

boats · cycling · fitness · holidays

Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 3, The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Old chain of rocks bridge

What we did: Bikeway to Old Chain of Rocks Bike and Pedestrian bridge to Missouri from the Alton Marina in Alton, Illinois. About 50 km. It’s our third day of boats and biking. It’s also day 1 of #30DaysOfBiking.

What we loved: The view of the Mississippi River from the Bikeway perched above the levee. Also, the pedestrian/bike only bridge to Missouri.

What’s the scoop on the bridge?

“Chain of Rocks Bridge is one of the more interesting bridges in America. It’s hard to forget a 30-degree turn midway across a mile-long bridge more than 60 feet above the mighty Mississippi. For more than three decades, the bridge was a significant landmark for travelers driving Route 66.

The bridge’s colorful name came from a 17-mile shoal, or series of rocky rapids, called the Chain of Rocks beginning just north of St. Louis. Multiple rock ledges just under the surface made this stretch of the Mississippi River extremely dangerous to navigate. In the 1960s, the Corps of Engineers built a low-water dam covering the Chain of Rocks. That’s why you can’t see them today. Back in 1929, at the time of the construction of the bridge, the Chain was a serious concern for boatmen.”

Read more here.

Also, Chouteau Island was pretty terrific.

“A series of three islands – Chouteau, Gabaret, and Mosenthein – is uniquely situated in the Mississippi River just minutes north of downtown St. Louis. These islands are collectively known as Chouteau Island. The 10-mile length of Mississippi River that borders Chouteau Island to the west is the only natural stretch of river without barge traffic between St. Paul and New Orleans. This section of river is a very high-quality habitat, but also at high risk. Chouteau Island is one of the few locations in the St. Louis Region with direct public access to the Mississippi River for recreation.

Combined, all these islands provide wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and flood storage on over 5,500 acres. This site has a fulcrum of historic river infrastructure – a one-of-kind 1-mile pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River managed by Great Rivers Greenway. The pedestrian bridge connects Illinoiss and Missouri’s system of trails. All these opportunities are positioned in the middle of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.”

Chouteau Island

There were also lots of geeky engineering conversations about floods, managing river levels, waterways, etc.

What we loved less: Okay, I’ll fess up it’s mostly me who was bothered by this–gravel! A pretty significant gravel section. With some mud and puddles! My bike got dirty but mostly I’m nervous of falling if my skinny road bike tires get caught in gravel.

Also, it was cold (if sunny). We saw only one cyclist out there today and my sense is that it’s too cold for locals to be out riding.

Overall, this is a pretty great area for cycling if you’re a fan of bike paths and rivers.

Various photos of our ride
boats · cycling · holidays

Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 2, The Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail

It was the third day of our trip but the second day of biking.

(Our second day in Illinois was cold, wet, and windy. We spent the afternoon in the National Great Rivers Museum and I finished a wonderful collection of short stories, Home of the Floating Lily by Silmy Abdullah.)

The weather wasn’t warm–see forecast above–but we were keen to ride anyway.

For our route we chose the Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail. “The paved path travels 12.2 miles between the villages of Glen Carbon and Marine and hooks into a 130-mile network of interconnected trails that MCT has been creating since 1993. The trail is named for a former mayor of Glen Carbon, Illinois; the city originally built the trail on the disused corridor of the Illinois Central Railroad in 1991. Illinois Central was one of three railroads that passed through the coal-rich community from nearby St. Louis, Missouri. In 2012 the village transferred trail ownership to Madison County Transit, which upgraded and extended it.”

All told we rode about 40 km and Sarah says only about 10 km of that was into the wind, across an open field! Once again that was on the way home. The sections through the woods were pretty nice and sheltered and I imagine, in the summer, riders would appreciate the shade too. Jeff and I had cold toes–I should have brought shoe covers–but Sarah made the sensible choice of wool cycling socks and she was fine.

Just after we were done and had all the bikes back on the rack the heavens opened and it started to pour rain. Perfect timing.

boats · cycling · fitness · holidays

Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 1, The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail

Sam and Sarah at the start of the trail in Alton

The first plan was to meet Jeff and Escapade in the Florida Keys with bikes in December. Thanks to Canada’s pandemic travel advisory–essential travel only–that didn’t happen.

Our back up plan was Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes recreation area. But given the river levels Jeff decided to sprint north.

And so we ended up meeting here–on the Mississippi River, in Alton, Illinois, just outside of St. Louis.

Bikes on boat

It’s not much warmer than home but the roads are definitely clear of snow and all the trees are in flower. With highs predicted to be in the mid-teens, it looked like fine weather for riding.

Escapade, the boat

Now that the US border is as open as it ever is, we popped the bikes on the bike rack on the back of the Subaru and headed southwest. Guelph, Ontario to Alton, Illinois is about 11 hours of driving.

On our first day of riding we opted for the The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail. From the trail website, “The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail is completely paved and takes cyclists through the towns of Elsah and Grafton for a relaxing and beautiful National Scenic Byway ride.” It’s about half a separated bike path that runs parallel to the main road and half bike line with a rumble strip divider between cars and bikes. We saw no other bikes, just the occasional dog walker.

It was the perfect distance for a bike ride for lunch, 50 km out and back, with catfish fritters for lunch in the middle. The route followed the Mississippi out of Alton, past the historic town of Elsah, and ended in Grafton for lunch. Our favorite bit of the ride was the close up view of the of the riverside bluffs. See photos below!

Sarah and I have been riding indoors all winter on Zwift and while there are many differences between riding virtually and IRL the one that was most striking was wind. (Jeff? He just maintains a base level of fitness that allows him to not ride regularly and then hop back on the bike whenever he wants. Jealous!)

We had a tailwind heading out which can be a dangerous thing. You know when you’re pedaling easily and chatting and notice your speed is over 30 km/hr, that makes for a slog into the wind on the way home. Thanks Sarah for doing the bulk of the work!

It felt good to be riding outside again.

boats · holiday fitness · holidays

Summer camp for grown ups?

Summer camp for adults where we stay in our cabins and read all day and then in the evenings we sit around the fire and talk about our books and eat smores.

Yes!

But then I realized that my ideal summer camp for adults would also have long bike rides, swimming, and yoga. Maybe some canoes and kayaks on the dock for playing in the lake.

Since this is my ideal summer camp there aren’t a lot of hikes. I can’t walk very far with my knees that need replacing.

There’s also a hot tub at this camp.

Sarah chimes in that we need a hammock for reading and naps.

Hammock hanging at our campsite

And a BBQ.

Lots of non alcoholic beverages and amazing vegan and vegetarian food.

But definitely yes to fires, talk about books, and smores.

Marshmallows roasting over the fire

What goes on at your favourite summer camp?

commute · cycling · fitness · holidays

Welcome to Fool’s Spring!

It’s March! Here in this part of Canada, southern Ontario, that means it’s Fool’s Spring. A friend pointed out that this is missing a category. Just before Real Spring, it should say The Pollening. That’s the season in which, each year, I wonder why I am on the verge of tears all the time and then only after I’ve found things to actually be sad about, realize it’s spring allergies.

Yesterday it was 14 degrees and sunny. Today it’s below freezing, just and there’s freezing rain outside. But there are birds chirping in the morning, even today. And the roads are gradually clearing of snow and ice.

This year I didn’t ride through the winter–mostly because we were under a ‘work from home’ order for pandemic reasons during the most challenging time–and I’m looking at getting my adventure road bike geared up for commuting again. (I’ll take the Brompton out once the roads are completely clear of grit.)

In years past I started riding again in March. See here and here.

So this week I’ll get the commuting bike out, swap the tires, and drop the good road bike off to the bike shop for a tune up. In a few weeks we’re headed south to Kentucky to meet Jeff on the boat at Land Between the Lakes recreation area and maybe do some gravel riding. Route suggestions welcome!

And after that I hope to be back regularly riding outside here in Guelph.

Calvin and Hobbes
fitness · holidays

Happy Galentine’s Day?

It keeps coming up in my social media newsfeed and I had to Google it.

I’m not sure why women can’t celebrate each other on regular old V Day, Feb 14th. I guess the distinction is between the love of friendship and the love of romance. If that’s it though why can’t we celebrate all gender friendship on the 13th?

Monday is Valentine’s Day and it’s my regular day to post so I’ve organized a group post, a Valentine’s, though not a Galentine’s, to the whole Fit is a Feminist Issue blog community. You can read it tomorrow. Enjoy.

I’m curious though, is Galentine’s a thing in your world?

Share the love
Be my Valentine
Dancing · fitness · fun · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 31

Welcome to Day 31!

I hope today finds you with the space you need to take good care of yourself.

And I hope that you can recognize your own efforts to make that space, even if you didn’t always succeed.

You matter, your needs matter and your efforts matter.

And here’s a gold star for those efforts:

A large gold 3D paper star hanging on a white door.
Image description: This is the largest gold star I own. It’s a foldable 3D paper ornament and it is covered with sparkly gold spirals. In this photo, I have hung it on a white door.

Now, onto our movement and meditation for making space. (As always, feel free to do these or to do your own thing.)

One of my favourite ways to get moving is to join my friend Elaine Dunphy in either an ageless grace or a Nia dance class. Since I can’t bring all of you to one of her classes (what with Covid restrictions and the laws of physics and all), I asked her to create a short video for today’s post.

Here’s Elaine, in full positivity and joy, with a New Year’s Eve message and a short and fun movement practice for you to try as you create a little space for yourself today.

My friend Elaine Dunphy with a New Year’s message and a short movement practice for us today. I posted this on my own YouTube channel – the only other video on there is my husband doing the ice bucket challenge, so obviously I am not a prolific YouTuber. The still image shows Elaine in her dance studio. She has very short salt-and-pepper hair and she is smiling and holding her right hand up, palm towers the camera with her fingers held widely apart.

And as for a meditation, I am offering two today.

The first one is for people with a lot of space in their day, the second is for people with just a sliver of time for themselves.

A ten minute meditation from the Great Meditations YouTube channel. The still image is a cartoon drawing of a person in yellow sitting in a classic meditation pose – legs crossed, backs of hands resting on knees, palms upward. The words ‘Clear Your Mind guided meditation’ are on the left side of the image.

And if you just have a minute, here’s a meditation for you.

A mini-meditation from the Headspace YouTube channel. Still image shows blue squiggles against a yellow background with the words ‘Health Mind’ written in purple on the upper left side.

I hope that these posts have helped you find space for yourself during the month of December when time seems to telescope, dragging on or collapsing without any relationship to the clock or to the calendar.

As we move into 2022, may you have the space you need in your mind, in your heart, in your days, in your schedules, and in the places where you spend your time.

See you tomorrow for my first Go Team! post.

challenge · cycling · holidays · Zwift

I did it!

I successfully met my challenge of riding 5500 km in a year. I did the final 20 km this evening to make it to 5500 km for the year. I wish I could say I finished up doing a race or some significant challenge but instead season 2 of Witcher was involved.

I originally thought that 5000 km was a reasonable goal and I’ve been trying to get there for years. Usually, most years, I top out at 4000 or so even in years when I’m doing the Friends for Life Bike Rally and riding in the southern US for a week or two in the winter.

It’s also arbitrary in a bunch of ways. For example, I’ve not been counting casual errand running or bike commutes. There’s no good reason why not except that I don’t use my Garmin for casual rides and so those rides aren’t tracked automatically.

Then along came Zwift and the pandemic. That made a huge difference to how far I ride in a given year. Last year I made it to 5000 km for the first time ever since I’ve been tracking these things. This year same thing. At some point in the middle of November I hit 4600 km and knew I’d easily make the 5000 goal. Instead, I decided to increase my goal to 5500 to make it a goal I’d actually have to work for rather than one I would just casually and easily float past.

What was the upside of the stretch goal? Well, it kept me riding regularly through the holidays. I rode my bike on the trainer Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yes, I might have preferred walking outside with Cheddar but we had rain over the holidays and my knee wasn’t quite up for for very much walking.

Thanks for everyone who rode with me at the end. Hi Jenny! Hi Sarah! Thanks TFC teammates!

Sam’s Strava year in review stats page
fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 30

This is our second last day of Making Space before I switch over into Go Team posts but, just so you know, the encouragement level will stay the same. 💚

I hope that you can find space and ease today and that you have some peace in your heart and mind.

We don’t have to earn our rest.

We don’t have to finish everything first.

Rest is part of our daily cycle, no matter what the ‘push through it’ advocates would have you believe.

Sure, there are occasional times when pushing through is the answer but those times are the exception, not the rule.

It’s ok, in fact, it is advisable, to listen to the signals from your body and mind and take a break as soon as you can.

Maybe your current obligations mean that you can’t take a long break but even a few moments here and there will help.

Please don’t think that I am pressuring you to put more things on your to do list, that is definitely not my goal here. Ideally, we’ll learn to build breaks into all of our projects rather than making them a project in themselves.

And I am definitely not telling you that this is easy or that you *should* already be doing this. Our lives are full and we are often under a lot of pressure to be everything to everyone.

My hope with these posts was that they could help you recognize that your breathing room matters, that making space for yourself is valid, that small breaks are good for you, too.

It was never about chastising you (or me) for the challenges involved.

So, once again, I celebrate your efforts to make space for yourself in your life, even if dropping your shoulders away from your ears for a moment is all the extra space you can make today.

⭐️ <- for your efforts to make space today

And now, on to the totally optional videos:

Today’s movement video was really energizing and completely warmed me up on this chilly morning. There are some jumping movements in this one but you can easily modify them as needed (I did!)

A short energizing workout from the 117 Wellness YouTube Channel. Still image shows the instructor in outdoor clothes and hat standing with their knees slightly bent and their hands in ‘prayer’ position in front of their chest. They are at the edge of a body of water and a dock is visible on one side and there are mountains in the background. Text reading ‘Energize Your Body In 6 Minutes’ is superimposed on the right side of the image.

I first clicked this meditation because I liked the title , then I noticed that it was from Calgary Public Library (yay for libraries!) which was a bonus, but the icing on the cake was when the meditation leader introduce themselves as Christine. A video from a library that recommends a pause and a speaker that shares my name? I am in!

A short meditation video from the Calgary Public Library YouTube Channel. The still image shows a person with long hair and glasses in a black turtleneck sweater and jeans sitting cross-legged with their hands resting on a stack of books on their right knee. The right side of the image is a blue semi-circle with the title of the video ‘The Power of a Pause 6 Minute Meditation with Christine Francoeur’ in white text.