#deanslife · cycling · fitness · monthly check in · weight lifting

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the June/July version (CW: discussion of weight loss)

What’s up?

I’m riding lots. Newfoundland was challenging and beautiful. I’ve got a summer of biking and boating activity planned. I feel like a cyclist again and I’m going to write about what that feeling is and why it matters to me in another post, later. I’ve been strength training lots and I’m feeling strong. It’s also summer. The sun is out. I started a new blog, #deaning.

Sarah and I have been learning to race the Snipe.

What’s not to like?

See below!

What’s down?

I saw the knee surgery guys at Fowler Kennedy last month and was told that I shouldn’t have any more synvisc shots since I’m on the countdown to surgery.

They didn’t have positive things to say about physio or physical activity either. Long term neither will fix my knee. Now that I’m on track for surgery they want me to focus on weight loss which is the single most important thing I can do to aid surgery and recovery.

And the thing is this is a team I trust. They refer me to studies. They treat my larger body respectfully. They’re giving the same advice to the aging male athletes there. There’s no judgement and no body shaming. It’s all very neutral and evidence based.

But still it feels shitty. I’ve worked super hard to love my body at this size. I do. I cheer on Fuck fat loss! but now, having thrown those looks-related reasons for dieting away, I’m dieting anyway?

These are lots of reasons for wanting a smaller body that aren’t my reasons.

I’m trying to be clear in my own mind about my motivation but in this fatphobic world that’s hard.

I’ve lost some weight but I need to lose more

I’m rereading Ann Cahill’s work on weight loss. I really like the compassion she retains for her larger body.

“I don’t look back at photos of myself from a year ago and shudder. That was a different body that I lived, with its own set of possibilities, practices, and abilities. And there are certainly cultural contexts where that body would be more useful and conducive to my survival than the one I’m living now. Come the apocalypse, those extra pounds would come in handy.”

It’s important for me to keep the positive attitude about larger bodied me because weight loss might not work. It’s not any easier when it’s for health reasons. Your body doesn’t care about your motives. So in my bag of weight loss tools I can’t have dislike of the way I look now. It’s more that a larger body isn’t such a good match for my injured joints. The best motivaton is that even now, just a few pounds smaller, it hurts less.

What am I doing? Nothing dramatic. I’m trying to maintain a calorie deficit through exercise and tracking food. I’m eating lots of vegetables and protein, the usual thing.

Luckily there’s good food on campus. Lunch today is kale and beet salad, lentils, assorted veggies and hummus, and sunflower seeds.

Speaking of joints, my knee hurts a lot and I’m getting grumpy about the things I can’t do. Yes, I said goodbye to soccer and to running, but staying back at the tent when everyone else was off hiking on our activity day at Gros Morne was really hard. Sitting around and reading a book while others are hiking isn’t me, I think. But also, I think being grumpy isn’t me either. I’m a pretty resilient, ‘happy even in the face of sad, hard things’ person but the pain and lack of mobility is getting to me.

I’m jealous of friends posting step counts and runs and CrossFit classes on social media. For the first time I get why people who can’t do those things might find it tiresome. Grump. It’s so not me. Usually I’m the friend who loves it when you post your travel photos. I have friends who do iron distance triathlons and long long ultra runs. Usually I think it’s great that my friends get to do such fun things. This has clearly taken me off my usual path, my usual way of being in the world.

Oh, also on the “what’s down” front, I broke my bike frame. It’s not repairable. Compared to my knee that seems like small potatoes. I’ve got a second string road bike and maybe a third so I’m shopping, without pressure, for another bike.

Sad face. Broken frame. It’s not just the derailleur hanger sadly.

On the bad side, it happened on our bike trip. On the good side, it happened on day 6. That day was 130 km so Sarah and I split the day and we each rode half the distance on her bike.  We spent the rest of the day in the van. The next day was out and back to L’ Anse aux Meadows. I took the morning ride out there (Yay! Tailwinds!) Sarah got to sleep in but didn’t have as much fun riding back.

It’s such a beautiful place. I’m already scheming to go back. Next time maybe with my mother and a rental car. 

Puffins guarding my latte at the Dark Tickle cafe and gift shop.
accessibility · fitness · monthly check in · motivation

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the April version

What’s up this month? The weather has been miserable this spring! I usually hate March and love April but not so much in 2019. It’s certainly affected my plans to be regularly riding outside now. And my knee pain has affected my ability to dog hike with Cheddar very much.

I’ve been commuting by bike to work but otherwise not really riding outside. It’s been cold, and wet, and windy. The last I can take but the other two have kept me inside Zwift-ing away into April.

As a result I’ve also been spending a fair bit of time inside at the gym: personal training, weight training on my own, rowing, knee physio, and fancy stretching. I love having the university gym so close to my office. It’s probably not the best gym for me but since the best gym is the one you actually go to, it’s best for me right now.

The rowing machine is my fave piece of cardio equipment at the gym and I start most days there with a 2 km warm up at a moderate pace. For me that’s 10 minutes for 2 km, or 2:30 for 500 m, My speedy pace is 2:00 for 500 m, or 2 km in 8 minutes. I’m not doing 2 km tests these days or racing in ergattas but I still love the rowing machines as my go-to piece of cardio equipment at the gym. My heart rate goes up. And most importantly, my knee doesn’t hurt.

I’ve also been doing lots of fancy stretching. I love being able to reply to emails while the machine holds me in a stretch position.

The other machine that I’ve discovered that’s hard but not knee punishing is the Jacob’s Ladder. See photo above. The thing is I like tough, challenging workouts. We can debate whether it’s right to say that I like suffering or whether endurance athletes are really all masochists or whether it’s okay to dub your indoor cycling space your pain cave. It’s been tough for me to find things that don’t aggravate my knee but are still challenging in the way that I like athletic activities to be. I miss CrossFit!

What makes it such a tough workout?

See Jacobs Ladder climbers reach tough fitness rewards.

“Jacobs Ladder, a moving, angled, climbing machine, may be named after the Biblical stairway to heaven, but it packs such a challenging workout people have dubbed it the stairway to hell.

Fitness experts say users of the fitness machine, which is a favorite among Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and “The Biggest Loser” television series, reap total body, calorie-busting rewards.

“It’s a great and tough cardio piece,” said Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine. “Picture a step mill that combines the lower and upper body, and you have Jacobs Ladder. Except instead of steps, you have rungs.””

Here’s an argument for preferring the JL to your treadmill.

In April I’ve also come to appreciate some of my personal features that have helped me slog through this winter with my badly arthritic knees. It’s not just toughness though people say that about me and I’ll nod. Toughness isn’t enough given the nature of the problem. It’s also creativity and being positive when things are difficult. It’s funny because I know those characteristics are true of me in other areas of life but I haven’t thought about it in the fitness context.

Looking forward to spring and the warm weather coming up!

cycling · fitness · monthly check in

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the March version

Thing 1. I am really tired. I don’t usually play the “I’m busier than you” game. I love my work.  But March in the academic world is not a fun month. My former Dean used to say, when I was a department chair, that we should never introduce anything new in March.  Faculty will hate it, guaranteed. Also, nothing anyone says in March really counts. Professors have been teaching all year and they’re tired. However, all the faculty also retreat to their research cocoons in April and so there’s some pressure to get projects that require faculty input and involvement finished. Add to that the tension around our provincial government’s budget and cutbacks to universities, we’re all busy, tired, and stressed. I work 12 hour days quite often and then I come home and do this. (Note though, unlike other Deans I don’t work on weekends other than showing up to events and though there’s lots of those they mostly feel fun and celebratory.)

Thing 2. My left knee saga continues: This is neither up nor down. But it’s official. I’m in the queue for partial knee replacement. The wait time is 6-12 months which is good because that’s after the 5 Boro Bike weekend, my Newfoundland bike adventure and likely also after the one day bike rally and the tri-adventure. Priorities. It’s not certain yet that I’ll go through with it. It’s scary stuff but I’m one step closer and I’ll get (yet more) expert advice.

Here’s an image of knees from Unsplash but they aren’t mine.

Image description: Someone’s knees, not mine. The knees are wearing brown cargo pants. A blurry mountain and some trees are in the distance. Photo from Unsplash.

Thing 3. My riding: I kind of hoped to get outside riding more in March but thanks to the weather that didn’t happen. Instead, I bought a monthly membership for unlimited indoor trainer riding at the Bike Shed. I’ve left my bike there with the goal of making it in three times a week. I love it there. I’ve left my bike there and I’ve been Zwift riding around New York City and London, UK.

Screen capture of my recent Zwift ride.

Oh, and Facebook and Google keep reminding me that in Novembers past I was riding outside in March. Thanks, I guess.

aging · fit at mid-life · fitness · monthly check in

54

Today’s my birthday. I was going to do a big reflective post like I did last year.  Turns out, last year I  was full of gratitude for my life.

I still am.

But I don’t feel quite as reflective.  I’m good.  It’s February, and I am tired, and I’m still recovering from the flu.  But… I’m good.

I got home at 7 pm last night, and was super tired, but I went out for a short run and pondered what it means to be 54.  And I realized that 54 is really mid-life.  The things I’ve been working toward for decades — intentionally and just by wandering through my life — have come together. I am known for what I do, and I’m doing harder, better, more challenging and far-reaching work than ever before.  I’m on the edge of seeing the end of a volunteer development project with kids in Uganda I’ve been working on for 12 years.  I have the resources to have a home I love and to do all the travel I want.  I got serious about saving for my future a few years ago and don’t feel quite as panicked as I once did. I have the perfect cats. I have community and family I know and trust and care for.  My body moves the way I want it to, most of the time. I like my shoulder and calf muscles. I can do 108 sun salutations and ride 100 km. I have history and experience, and I’m living the fruits of that.

And the middle means… being stretched by aging and waning on one end, aging that just is, isn’t mindset or a construct, but just is.  My fingers are knobbled with arthritis that wasn’t there two years ago — I catch sight of my finger poking at my phone sometimes and am taken aback.  How is that my finger? That is an old person finger!  I’m fatigued, often — by unrelenting menopause, and disrupted sleep, and just less physical resilience than I used to have.  I had the flu in January and briefly caught sight of what it means to be frail and to live alone and to have your sink back up when you’re fighting a fever of more than 39.  I can feel hints of fragility and physical limits — and these are new.

And at the same time — 54 means still being tugged at by novelty, and adventure, and possibilities.  I still haven’t written all of the things that are in me, or learned swahili, and I know there are stories of who I am that haven’t unfolded yet.  There are chapters to be lived I haven’t even imagined yet, people to be loved and known I haven’t met yet, oceans to bob in and coasts to walk and roads to ride on.

54 is knowing myself. Knowing that even though I was tired when I got home last night, what my body and soul needed was a run from home to Coxwell and back. It’s knowing that I’ll sleep better and feel more satisfied in my soul if I scrub the kitchen before bed. It’s having a trusted spidey sense about what’s the right thing to do for myself — whether that’s yep, I need to do this work right now, there’s no other time to do it, or yep, yoga is what my body needs right now, not a spinning class, or yep, this is the right person to go on this date with, or yep, this is a good time to have a glass of wine. Or knowing that I am going to have a complete sugar crash that will mess with my life if I eat this brownie at this moment in time — and I don’t eat the brownie. It’s a knowing that comes with deep listening to myself, to what has unfolded because of the choices I’ve made in my life.

At 54, some pathways are off the table.  I’m not going to go to med school, or have a baby, or a 25th wedding anniversary, or, with this body and its various aches and vulnerabilities, run another marathon. Some things, you just time out of. And part of being 54 is being okay with that, in a way I wouldn’t have been five years ago.

For me, 54 is more about stretching myself more fully into the spaces I already know I love — rather than taking big leaps in new directions.  It’s getting better at the work I already do, and stretching into new niches. It’s embracing my role as Auntie Cate, for my own nieces and with various other people who wander into my life. It’s knowing that traveling alone truly feeds me in ways nothing else does — and finding every possible option to do that.  It’s going deep into yoga and shaping myself into forms I’ve never even seen before.

Like this one, from my Iyengar class on Wednesday.

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I don’t even know what that’s called — some kind of advanced fish pose. It was… exhilarating, opening in new ways. We spent about 45 minutes of that class in various forms of trikonasana.  It was intense, and hard, and focused.  And my body found new alignment, new edges.

That’s what 54 is.  Joy in going deep and full into the self I already am.

I’ll take it.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives, works and practices yoga in Toronto.  She likes to count things, and notes that this is her 90th post for Fit is a Feminist Issue.

 

cycling · monthly check in · motivation

Sam is Checking In for January (brrr….)

January is a long month. Long, and this year, especially cold and icy. Brrrr.

I’ve had three different things going on bike wise: winter riding (see here and here), trying Zwift, and riding bikes in Florida with Sarah and Jeff. (I’ll blog about that later when I’m back. Here now basking in +12. Not warm by Florida standards but warm enough to ride a bike.)

There’s also the new year enthusiasm of the 219 workouts in 2019 group. This year there’s even two versions, the old standby that’s been going for years that Cate and I have been part of and the feminist version started by women from the Tracy/Cate/Christine fit feminist challenge group.

My knee trundles along with some aches and pains but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was a year ago. I’m still getting synvisc shots under my knee cap. I’m still trying to lose weight. I’m still considering my options in the surgery department. The unstable knee has made walking on the ice an extra big challenge. Mostly I try to avoid it. Sorry Cheddar!

 

Image of Cheddar sitting my our bike boxes, packed for flying.
#deanslife · death · monthly check in · motivation

Sam is Checking in for December, #monthlycheckin

A red and pink heart shaped rock, resting on fall leaves on the ground, sprinkled with snow. It’s hand painted and the black letters read “every day is a fresh start.”


You can read all my past monthly check-in posts here.  They all have a content warning for discussions of weight loss, including this one.

What’s up? (and down?):  I’m working out a fair bit. I’m going to easily make my goal of 218 workouts in 2018. I’m doing lots of different things and enjoying them. But something feels different now. It’s catch as catch can. I don’t mean that in a bad way but I’m not training. It’s not purposeful. It’s fun and it feels good but I’m learning that, for me, that’s not enough motivation. It’s got me thinking about life and plans and what makes me tick.

On the one hand I’m impressed that I’m managing to work out while dean-ing, but on the other, I want to achieve something. I need goals, people. Big goals. Like being the fittest by fifty! But not that. I’ve been there and done that and co-written the book. You can buy it here

I’m a type A goal achieving sort of person and I need that in my fitness if it’s going to be fun.

But there’s only so much Type A my life can take. And Dean-ing is a big job. I don’t mean that just in terms of hours. It’s also about scope of responsibility and making big plans. It’s no surprise that my big fitness burst took place during my break from academic admin roles. I was Chair of Philosophy at Western from 2002-2011 (with a year off for good behavior somewhere in the middle, hello Australia!). I started Dean-ing in 2018. The fittest by fifty challenge and this blog began in 2012. Tracy and I turned 50 in 2014.

So big ambitious jobs and big ambitious fitness goals aren’t fitting together very well for me. That might be just fine.  The one, modest but very important goal I do have concerns my knee. It’s a lot of work!  All of this damaged knee maintenance is wearing me down. Yes, I’m doing the thing. I’m losing weight. I’m doing physio. I’m so far successful at wearing the knee brace when I am doing long walks. 

And fitness is still fun but I’m also still sad about all the things I miss: No more running. (See sad bye bye running post.) Definitely no more soccer. I’ve  also said goodbye to Aikido, but not here on the blog. I’ve been too sad to even write about that loss. I’ve got a post in the drafts folder about how I miss throwing people around but I can’t finish it. 

I keep  thinking I should just stop blogging about fitness-y things, make it a less central part of who I am.  Blog about dean-ing? Or, sometimes I keep looking for big fitness goals I can do, like riding and lifting. Or continue to make progress with swimming. Or new things I want to try like horseback riding.

Basically, I’m a bit at sea with things, still struggling, and not sure how it will all turn out.  December is also a sad time. It’s the third anniversary of my father’s death. My uncle in England just died.  I still think this doesn’t get easier, losing people. See One of the hardest parts of getting older: Friends, family, illness, and death.

Oh and it’s dark, really dark. We’ve got the earliest sunsets right about now. And some days it doesn’t ever seem to get light at all.

On the bright side, I’m really loving my new job. I love the College and all the exciting work that’s being done here. I also love Guelph. You can come check it out in January at the Night at the Museum Event. Register here.


Obviously, I’m still thinking this all through. The one thing I do know is that I’ve got some big bike goals for 2019. I am reading about kicking my cycling goals into high gear.

And I might schedule knee surgery–partial knee replacement–for the future. If I could choose the date it’d be fall 2019.

Have you ever had “at sea” times? Big life changes? Tough stuff but I’m thinking it through!

I share lots of #sportsselfies but here’s a #deanselfie to balance it out!

View this post on Instagram

#officeselfie #deanatwork #feministselfie @uog_arts

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fitness · monthly check in

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the November version (with usual CW for very brief discussion of diet and weight loss)

November isn’t my favourite month. But all things considered it’s gone okay. I’ve been lifting, biking, and swimming and my knee pain hasn’t been holding me back. I’ve been finding minutes of brightness in the dark. We even put lights on the house early.

My new job doesn’t let me hide away in the dark in the winter evenings as much as a regular faculty position and all things considered that’s a good thing. There are art gallery openings, music shows, theatre performances, and book launches. There may be a few too many evening dinners with campus visitors but mostly I’m enjoying it.

I’m also organizing events with friends. Sarah and I hosted a cookie party. Bring your own cookies and share! It wasn’t one of those “bake dozens of cookies and swap” parties. They’re too stressful. This was just “bring cookies and eat cookies.” We had a great time.

On the fitness front, I’ve been spending time in the gym with Meg, a U of G personal trainer and taking some classes like Aquafit and Bike Yoga. I’m also walking the dog lots and I’ve started a bike streak. It’s not perfect but it’s not that bad either.

Weight wise, I’m still losing weight slowly, tracking calories on my fitness pal. My knee feels better so I’m going to keep at it.

Best of all, November is almost over and I kick off the holiday season Saturday with this wonderful concert that my daughter Mallory sings in. She’s also moving December 1 so it’s a big weekend ahead!