charity · cycling · motivation

Please support Sam in her big one day ride, #f4lbr #icestorm

Bike Rally 20th Anniversary 1-Day Ride

Today was supposed to be the first bike rally training ride. Instead, there’s an ice storm out there.

Facebook even showed me that last year at this time I was riding my bike with Sarah at the farm. There’s great riding out here. But not in an ice storm. Did I mention there’s an ice storm out there?

Police are recommending that cyclists stay off the road. But I don’t need their advice. No worries.

Here’s me riding in rain storm, which I’ll do, but not an ice storm.

Sam arrives in Montreal

A post shared by Fit is a Feminist Issue (@fitisafeministissue) on

I hope spring comes soon! I’m getting desperate.

This year I’m doing the one day ride, not the 6 day ride, because of my new big job. See here.

But while I’ve lowered the fun riding, I’ve increased my fundraising commitment. That’s where YOU come in. I need your help. See details below.

I’m participating in PWA’s 1-Day Friends For Life Bike Rally

I’ve just made a big commitment and I could use your support.

On July 29, 2018 I will be cycling 108km in the very first PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally from Toronto to Port Hope to raise money and awareness for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA).

PWA provides practical support programs and services to people in Toronto living with HIV/AIDS. The Bike Rally is their annual sustaining fundraiser and critical to the agency. Find out more about PWA by visiting their website at www.pwatoronto.org.

I’m going to need all the support I can get to reach my fundraising goal and I hope I can count on you. Make a secure online donation using your credit card by clicking on the link to my personal fundraising page below:

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=3883724&langPref=en-CA

For more information on how YOU can participate in the Bike Rally, please visit us at www.bikerally.org.

Thank you so much for your support!

fitness · illness · injury · martial arts · motivation · running · training

Getting back to it after illness or injury (Group post)

Image description: Single flower on the end of a circular branch with two more green buds, more flowers, branches, and greenery blurred in the background. Photo credit: Tracy (China trip)
Image description: Single flower on the end of a circular branch with two more green buds, more flowers, branches, and greenery blurred in the background. Photo credit: Tracy (China trip)

I went running yesterday morning for the first time in what seemed like ages. True, I went for about three runs in March, but each was forced and uncomfortable. I spent most of the month with a relentless cough that sometimes felt as if it was edging into something worse. I could hardly make it to work many days, never mind go for a run.

That all followed on the heels of my trip to India, where running was pretty much out of the question for logistical reasons. And then at the very end of March I went to China, where I think running would have been possible (great sidewalks) but our schedule was super tight (six day whirlwind).

So it’s basically been two months since I did any sort of endurance training. I stuck with my personal training throughout the cough, so I haven’t completely let all of my workouts go. That’s a relief because it was not easy to get myself out the door this morning.

This is a group post that includes paragraphs from me, Christine, Martha, and Sam about getting back into routine after injury or illness.

Tracy — Travel and Illness and More Travel…

As I said, I went for a run yesterday. It was hard — not that I ran hard, but that it was hard to get out the door, hard to run while I was out there, and hard to feel good about having gone because I realized how I’d lost my endurance. But I do have some tips for getting back out there after a hiatus for whatever reason, and here they are (for myself as much as for anyone else).

  1. Call in support. One reason I got out there was that I messaged Anita when I woke up and said I want to go running but I don’t feel like it (if that makes sense). She said, why don’t you go for 20 minutes? Then I posted to our blog author Facebook page group that I was going to go running and a few people said basically “go you!” That was all I needed to get out the door.
  2. Ease into it. Anita suggested 20 minutes, not 45 minutes. 20 minutes is so totally do-able. I know that lots of people think that if you’ve missed a lot you need to make up for lost time. That has never been my approach. I’m always for easing into it in a way that makes it more attractive and less of a chore. I know that eventually I will look forward to long runs again because when I’ve got the conditioning I actually enjoy getting out there for an hour or more. But that’s not now. And this morning showed me that. I had to take some walk breaks. But I did the 20 minutes.
  3. Make yourself accountable to kind people. I told Anita I would check back in after the run. And I did. I also checked back in with the blog group–more pats on the back. And finally I checked in with Linda, my running coach whose training plans I’ve not stuck with over the winter. She has asked me to send her a message whenever I go for a run, just to let her know what I did and how it went. She always comes back with encouragement, even if I send her a message like today’s: “I had to force myself out the door but I did manage the slowest 20 minutes of my life this morning. It was hard. I’ll need to build my endurance back up over the next couple of weeks.”
  4. Have a goal. I can go both ways on goals — sometimes they’re motivating and sometimes they’re oppressive. You need to know yourself on this one. I do have a goal this summer, which is to do what’s left of the local MEC race series, sticking to the 10K distance. That means races on April 21, May 26, September 8, and October 29. April 21 seems a bit close but my goal can be modest (like a continuous run) and then I can ramp it up to improve my times in subsequent events.

Those are the four suggestions I’m offering — to you and to me — to anyone who may have had to take a break and now wants to get back into it. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. So if it feels like a dreaded chore, something’s not right.

Christine – Recovery from a broken wrist
I broke my wrist on February 27 but since I wasn’t in a lot of pain, I wanted to keep up some form of training in Taekwondo. I’ve been going to my classes and doing my own modified workouts at the back of the room. That includes learning my newest patterns with my right arm in a sling to keep it immobile. I figure that practicing which way to turn, and noting any movement that I can’t do right now will help me get up to speed quickly once my brace comes off on April 16 (fingers crossed).
I’m at the point where I am doing a few rehab exercises and it’s a bit scary how stiff my wrist is but I’m hoping to have a steady improvement with that. I am a bit worried about when the brace comes off – I don’t want to be timid or overly concerned about falling but I’m not sure how to avoid that. Perhaps I am just going to have to accept that worry as part of the healing process.
Martha–Cautious optimism after a popped joint
Back in 2014, my left hip decided to misbehave. The joint popped out several times after that, but in 2016 and again in 2017, I almost went a full year without an issue. I’m heading into my 15th month post-relapse, and I am feeling cautiously optimistic. I’ve blogged about coping with setbacks before. I’ve thought about what’s different this year. I’m stronger for one. I have done a lot of work on my core and whenever I think I might slip, I haul out my sheet of exercises and giv’er.
I’m also very fortunate to work with a trainer who understands my fear of popping the joint when I start lifting heavier weights. Her eagle eye and focus on my form means we have been pushing upwards more slowly than might be considered usual. No matter; it works for me. I also found another form of movement — swimming — to complement the lifting, and it has helped enormously in keeping me loose and relaxed. The one consistent thing is keeping myself open to new movement and practice while ratcheting back the fear. It’s not easy, but it’s working.

Sam’s left knee and what will it stop her doing?

So as readers of the blog know very well I’ve had very serious knee issues for years which came to a head last November. I’ve basically got severe cartilage degradation and a lot of knee pain. The joint isn’t that mobile. Often it’s stiff and sore. I meet the criteria for knee replacement but, in the surgeon’s words, I’m too young and way too active for that to be the best choice. I’m also fierce and determined and I’m doing a ton of physio.

I’ll never run again. I’m done. But there’s an expectation that I’ll be okay riding my bike. But thinking about it makes me tearfully nervous. Baby steps. I’m riding to work and running errands on my bike. I’m taking spin classes. I’ve gone from not being able to stand on the spin bikes to finding that easy and natural. I can put big gears on again. No pain.

So I’m going to be thoughtful and deliberate this year about spring bike training. I’m going to gradually increase my mileage. I’m not going to panic about being out of cardio shape. My first long ride is more likely to be 40 km than 80. No hammering and sprinting right away. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the spring days and week by week put more miles in on the bike. I’m going to keep doing physio.

My physiotherapist reminded me last night that my knee might never be pain free again. Some pain is going to be my new normal. What we’re hoping for is that I can take on an expanded range of activity. For me, the things I care about are long bike rides and dog hikes. It’s a long road ahead but I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to warm summer days outside on my bike.

fitness · motivation

Making Big Challenges into Small Ones

Along with Cate and Catherine and lots of others, I’m in the Facebook group in which people have committed to working out 218 times in 2018.

We’ve blogged about it lots.

Here is the official description of the group:

WHAT: The idea is simple. In 2018 there are 365 days. We are going to challenge ourselves to workout 218 times in those 365 days.

WHY: (1) Consistently doing deliberate exercise is one of the most important factors in developing good health and fitness. (2) Choosing to complete a workout or not is something we can control.

HOW: (1)Workouts are defined as any form of deliberate exercise/movement. Some examples are, lifting weights, doing gymnastics, a CrossFit WOD, a hike in the great outdoors, practising a martial art or yoga. Taking a dance class or playing rec softball with the folks from work also count. Do what inspires you to move your body. (2) Use a spreadsheet, a habit tracking app, or a notebook and give yourself a check mark for every workout you complete. (3) Share your progress with the group.

Let’s get cracking!

Image result for 218
Black text on yellow plate. Numbers “218.” Also ,a black border.

But 218 is a big number. It can all feel a bit overwhelming. Here’s the way I’ve broken it down. Instead of thinking about 218 workouts in a year, I did some math. If I worked out 20 times each month I will have definitely overshot the mark for 218. So my goal is to aim for 20 times a month, knowing that some months that might be a bit much.

So 20 times a month is roughly 5 times a week. So instead of focusing on the 218 times a year I focus instead on the 5 times a week. That gives me two rest days. I’m not sure why but it seems easier to think about than 218 times in a year.

Do you ever break down big challenges into smaller pieces? What’s an example from your life? The biggest one I can think of other than working out is dissertation writing. I advise my graduate students as well to focus on chapters rather than the entire thesis. It seems to help a bit.

fitness · motivation

Why did you hit the gym? Our readers have some excellent reasons

We shared this on our Facebook page and asked followers why they go the gym. We got some excellent responses! Enjoy!

Can lift bigger dogs
Fight the power
Being able to manage my autistic son during meltdowns (he’s very strong for only 4!)
So I can just keep going.
To break up a day where I have to sit still a lot. And to enjoy the feeling of stretching warm muscles!
Train to defeat zombies in case of apocalypse
Catch up on my fave shows.
Impress children with totally unnecessary but obviously cool ninja-type moves
Another reason to wear comfortable yoga pants.
To keep up with my kids. We all get older. They get stronger. So I work harder.
Use the shower there if you are “between homes”.
Carry more boxes of wine, farther
Carry big bags of food for my ratties upstairs
Improves your mood!
Can pretend you’re in a movie montage
Water pressure is vastly superior at the gym
Manage my anxiety and depression.
Load my own bags of dirt/dog food.
Swimming feels fucking GREAT.
It helps fight depression.
Conditioning for snowboarding.
So you can squat more! And more! And more!
Watch Netflix.
Still walk upstairs in my own house when I’m 90.
Get your brain to turn off for a minute
Keep up with my nieces and nephews (and one day the grand versions) on the playground. Have energy to do stuff as I get older. Be able to haul around all the heavy-ass weights I need to cold water scuba dive. Impress the young things when I can keep up in the pool/on the trail
Manage my own luggage when I overpack
Carry silly large loads of groceries into the house in a trip
Continue to hike, bike and tri as I get older
Continue to be the person who can climb into the back of a packed minivan or wagon
Change the bottle on the water cooler
Push my behemoth of a boyfriend back to his side of the bed when he rolls over to my side in the middle of the night. Also, escape this horrific family history of heart disease and diabetes that’s coming for me.
Rage Management, being strong enough support a person making life, my own mental health, role modelling active living for my family. Not in that order.#remindmetogotothegym
Being able to move injured people in an emergency if need be, climbing mountains, being in shape enough to do my outdoors-y job, defending myself when necessary

Any other reasons?

fitness · motivation

Stop Pushing

Okay okay I get it. I’ll stop.

It’s been a really bad half a year for me in a lot of ways but a really good half a year in other ways. On the professional side, it’s all roses. My practice is full to the brim and I’m teaching in a program I love with so much room for growth and spreading my painfully acquired wisdom to new therapists. My kids are stable and overall, so are my key relationships.

Yet, I’m struggling. I stopped exercising in September and just didn’t bother to start again. A wave of lethargy consumed me, but only in the narrow field of my physical self. Inside my brain I was brimming. In the outside world, I was atrophying. It’s so strange to be depressed in this particular way. I’ve joked that I’m so good at coping that I mostly don’t notice my depression when it slams me but these past few years, winter is just shit. Sorry for swearing. No. Not sorry. It’s shit. Shit for me, shit for people I love and who depend on me and kids. . .the world gives not a shit for how shitty you feel. It goes on demanding things of you, paying lip service to your mental health and then blaming (or worse punishing) you for not doing enough about it. Ya, that’s me, a mental health provider, and that is what I know to be true. Add peri-menopause and it’s just, you know, shit.

When I realized I really didn’t even feel like riding a horse anymore, I knew I was really in trouble, but the idea of making myself do more made me want to cry. So I tried stopping.

This I where I’m at right now. I’ve stopped. But stopped what? It’s hard to describe exactly. I’ve stopped trying to be or do a thing that is not what I am right now. I am not some kind of super charged athlete. I never have been. I’ve done some cool things and pushed myself in ways I’m proud of. The Bike Rally (Toronto to Montreal in 6 days) twice and the half marathon last year are two things I’m really proud of. But you know what? That’s as good as it’s going to get for me. I don’t need to do more. I don’t need to even repeat any of it. My body is aging and it needs to stay active but if my idea of active is to keep pushing myself to do more, I just end up in a shame spiral fighting myself and I’m not interested in that today.

I have returned to the gym. I did the 30 minute circuit, the most vanilla workout ever. It’s all I can handle right now. I went to yoga. Plain yoga. Not hot yoga. Not power yoga. Yoga. It was good. I may ride next month but I think I’m not fit enough to have that be fun for me right now so I may wait to get back to that. I am not doing anything longer then 10k ever again so there will be time this summer to ride my bike with Sam and Cate and Kim. Yay. As always, my dog makes sure that I get out of the house at least once a day. She’d better be immortal.

I’m turning 50 in June. I don’t think it will be my fittest birthday ever. That’s okay. I’m grateful to be alive at 50. I’m grateful to have meaningful work and beautiful friendships. I’m grateful I can to a 30 minute circuit or a dog hike. I’m grateful my life is in my hands and I will spend the remainder of it giving back to this sad, barely comprehensible world. I’m grateful for my superstar coping and oh dear sweet universe I will be grateful for spring.

IMG_5832
The cute slightly sad looking head of a yellow lab on my leg, wearing orange leggings with big white polka dots

 

 

Dancing · fitness classes · motivation

Gloriously Awful – Christine Heads to Dance Class

You know how I can be when learning something new – I get all tangled up in helping my body move in the way my brain wants to and then I get annoyed with myself. My annoyance makes me tense and the tension makes me worse at whatever I was struggling with in the first place.

Yes, I do get on my own nerves just thinking about it.

One of the few times I have sidestepped this scenario is when I tried Zumba on the Xbox a few years ago. Instead of being frustrated when I didn’t ‘get’ it, I found myself laughing at my mistakes and then just carrying on. It was eye-opening.

Unfortunately, soon after I got into the habit of laughing at my ineptness, changes in the Xbox menu made it tricky for me to access Zumba easily. It was a tiny obstacle, but enough to deter me.

I remembered that feeling though. I am rarely casual about learning new things, and I hardly ever laugh in the process of making mistakes. I wanted to have that feeling again, in other contexts, but it didn’t happen.

Then, last spring, I was lucky enough to take a Nia dance class from my friend Elaine.

I made a mess of the movements* but I was laughing at myself. I was only getting about half of the choreography but I was having a grand time.

Two white middle-aged women (one with blonde hair, one with brown hair -dressed in all black exercise wear. They are reaching up to the left with their right arms, their right legs are extended to the right.
A rare moment when I was in sync with the rest of the class with Nia on the Rock. That’s me in the star pants in the front. My friend Krista is in the back. She’s an expert at laughing when things go awry – I’m learning to follow her example. Photo credit: Stephanie Moyst of Fannie’s Photography. 

I have been trying to fit more Nia in ever since but I have only managed to make that happen in the past few  weeks. Every Thursday morning, I go to class, flail around ridiculously and enjoy the hell out of it.

I can’t hear the changes in the music that tell me I should change steps. I routinely head in the wrong direction. I start too early and end too soon. As I told a friend of mine recently, I feel like I am gloriously awful at it.

I’m not putting myself down here. I’m probably not particularly bad at Nia – and the nature of Nia is that it doesn’t seem to matter how good you are anyway – I’m just celebrating the fact that I am not getting into that cycle of frustration while I learn. I am not the least bit concerned about how slowly I am learning – I am just reveling in the fun of the movements. I’m sure it helps that there are martial arts-type moves in the dances so I have a feeling of familiarity but, mostly, I’m just going with the feeling of glorious awfulness.

I LOVE being gloriously awful. I feel no pressure to get better at it – even though I am, no doubt, improving as we go along.  Getting better just doesn’t seem like something I should focus on – having fun does.

Being in this space is really fun for me and it has my brain whirring – how can I bring this same feeling to other movement I am trying to learn? Can I enjoy being awful at a new pattern? Can I be gloriously awful at parts of Taekwon-Do while I learn?

I certainly intend to find out.

Are you gloriously awful at any forms of exercise? Is being awful part of the reason you enjoy it?

*Learning new moves WHILE matching them to music is a challenge, at the very least.

cycling · eating disorders · feminism · fitness · motivation

A return to fitness in 2018 (Guest post)

Biking with a friend

I love to make New Year’s resolutions, although I sometimes have uneven results. My main and most exciting New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to do 218 workouts – they don’t have to be particularly strenuous or any set length but they have to be fun and pleasurable.

I hope that 2018 – the year I turn 40 – will be at my fittest year ever. This isn’t an extreme goal because my fittest year was probably 2011, when I was running regularly, had not yet gotten my driver’s license so cycled everywhere out of necessity, and impulsively bought an expensive personal training program. I was 33, so it is not as if I am trying to re-live athletic teen years, which would be considerably harder. I was actually the type of kid for whom gym class was a nightmare. I walked the field when I was supposed to run, regularly ‘forgot’ my gym clothes, and dreaded group sports when my lack of any skill would be humiliatingly apparent to all my classmates.

I was not fit in any sense of the word until my late twenties when I started to cycle everywhere often, in those years, pulling two children and/or groceries (!!) in a bike trailer. When I was 30 and newly single I decided to try some new activities: running, roller derby, hot yoga, and weight-training. I felt fantastic, met some great people, and began to think of myself as a fit, even athletic, person. I felt strong and powerful and had a lot of fun. I still remember the exhilarating day I ran 13 km for the first time. As someone who a couple years earlier could not run one block, I was extremely proud of myself.

Unfortunately, the fitness activities got confused with and integrated into disordered eating habits, which dulled my enjoyment. Healing from disordered eating, which for me meant restricted eating, and unattainable weight loss goals, meant also giving up some of my fitness goals. But now I am about turn 40, a busy PhD student, community activist, and mom. Giving up a strong focus on fitness may have been necessary for me to heal from disordered eating but it also meant that I lost the physical and emotional benefits of fitness especially the almost magical effect it has on my ability to deal constructively with stress.

I miss the camaraderie that accompanied roller derby practices and group runs. I miss experiencing my body as strong and powerful. When I think about my life in ten and twenty years, I want fitness to be an everyday part of it. So, I have made a plan to get to my fittest this year and to re-discover the joy of fitness.

The plan is simple: do 218 workouts in 2018 which will include some weight-training, a gentle triathlon, and a few no-pressure and fun 5 or 10 km runs.

Maybe I’ll even, finally, attempt a fall half marathon – but only if it brings me joy. I also hope to cycle year-round instead of taking a long winter break after which I always feel hesitant and creaky. The focus, other than doing the 218 workouts, will be on feeling pleasure in moving my body and having fun participating in physical activities with other people.

There will be absolutely no weight loss goals or restricted eating plans and I will steer clear of others who have integrated those elements into their fitness plans and motivations. I’m excited, motivated, and ready to have fun and feel strong!

Kayaking in Venice in 2017

Becky Ellis is a PhD student at Western University who studies the bee-human relationship in cities. She is a mom to four kids and a community activist. Becky loves gardening, cycling at a leisurely pace, and taking millions of pictures of bees. She also maintains the blog Permaculture for the People about social justice and urban permaculture.