fitness · hiking · nature · swimming

Summer Fun! Finally!

A few days after I wrote my post about pretending that it was summer, the weather changed and it started getting warmer.

Now, I’m not saying that my post was a magic spell or anything but I think you can draw your own conclusions there.

Ahem…let’s carry on with today’s post.

The weather hasn’t been evenly delightful, we’ve still had a few cold days and a few rainy ones but, overall, we’ve been trending toward summer.

And today (Monday), I was able to do TWO of my most important summer activities – hiking and swimming.

My husband, my brother-in-law, and my 20 year old nephew and I went for an hour-long hike on the East Coast Trail this morning.

It was tough in some places but even in the challenging spots it was wonderful to be outside in the warm weather, moving happily along the trail.

A selfie of the author with the ocean and cliff in the background
I couldn’t see the phone screen when I took this so I didn’t realize that I looked a bit disgruntled, I am far happier than I look here. Image description; A selfie with the ocean in the background with a cliff in the distance. I’m wearing a white shirt, brown sunglasses and my hair is pulled back with a bandana. I’m smirking a little and I am kind of red in the face – it was hot out today!

This afternoon, we drove to a swimming hole about half an hour away and I had a marvellous time swimming and then floating on my back looking at the sky.

It was peaceful and cool – even with a bunch of kids goofing around nearby scaring each other with the idea that they had seen an eel in the water. (There probably wasn’t an eel, there was a bunch of vegetation at the bottom and some of it was pretty eel-like.)

A photo of the author in chest-deep water.
In order to be close enough for a clear picture, I had to stand in ankle-deep mud and vegetation, hence the smile that’s almost a grimace. Again, I’m having way more fun that it looks like. Image description: I’m standing in chest-deep water, wearing a black swim shirt, a black bandana, and brown sunglasses. I’m smiling but it’s a bit of a strange smile like I’m a little uncomfortable because, in the moment, the slimy vegetation was creeping me out a bit.

I felt so relaxed and delighted just to be there in the water, especially after my more challenging activity in the morning.

So, with two key fun activities rolled into one day, that’s my summer fun off to a solid start.

I hope the same holds true for you. 💚⭐️

PS – This won’t be the only times that I go swimming and or hiking, but I’m so happy to have done both of them once already!

fitness · nature · season transitions · temperature and exercise · yoga

Christine Pretends It’s Summer

I’m a creative and imaginative person and I enjoy using those skills in all kinds of different contexts.

I do not, however, enjoy having to use my creativity and imagination to pretend that it is summer.

Sure, technically, that’s the season we’re in but in my part of NL we have been having a very unsummery June.

We’ve had lots of rain, drizzle, and fog (a.k.a. RDF) and, as of last week, we hadn’t reached 20 degrees Celsius yet. I’m not sure if that one sunny day we had recently broke that unfortunate streak of chilly temperatures but even if it did, one warm day can’t really shake off the gloom of so many dreary ones.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be safe from drought and fires and smoke. I recognize that there are far greater troubles in the world than a month of disheartening weather.

But disheartening weather is still disheartening.

And I could really use some heartening during this emotionally difficult time in my life.

It’s much easier to feel hopeful, try new things, and get yourself moving when you have some sunshine and when you can wear bright colours.

(Yes, yes, I can wear bright-coloured clothing at any time but my summer clothes have a different feel to them – you know what I mean!)

Anyway, despite the disappointing weather, I have still been doing some summery things – a little gardening, tidying the yard, taking longer walks, using my swing, and sitting outside to read (bundled in a blanket, but still!)

Yesterday morning (Monday), though, I took it a step further and really pretended that the weather was warm.

A photo of a yoga mat on a deck on a dull day, deck chairs, railings, trees, a lawn and a swing are in the background.
Image description: a close-to-the-ground cloudy day photo of my patio with my yoga mat stretching out length-wise between the camera and the space where my patio steps are. At the far end of the mat, on either side of the opening for the steps are patio railings (wooden tops with black uprights), a patio chair with a red cushion, and a white table hanging off the railing. Beyond the deck is a green lawn and on the far side of the lawn there are trees and a fence and an orange patio chair. My green disk swing is hanging from one of the trees.

Yep, I dragged my mat outside and practiced out there.

It was only about 6 degrees Celsius, it was threatening to rain, and the sky was dull, but I did my yoga outside because that’s the kind of thing I like doing this time of year.

The weather is making it hard to feel summery but I am determined to have a summer fun all the same.

Even if it starts to rain immediately after I take photo evidence.

a photo of Khalee - my light-haired, medium-sized dog standing on my deck looking back over her shoulder towards me. Most of the ​deck boards are wet with rain but the ones closest to me are sheltered by the roof overhang so they aren’t wet yet.
Image description: a photo of Khalee – my light-haired, medium-sized dog standing on my deck looking back over her shoulder towards me. Most of the deck boards are wet with rain but the ones closest to me are sheltered by the roof overhang so they aren’t wet yet.
fitness · nature

Wanna explore nature? gotta have a car

Just yesterday I had a fun walk in the woods at the Middlesex Fells Reservation with friends Rachel, Ethan, baby Teagan, and Wiley the dog. Here’s a picture of them with Wiley in opening of a dead tree and Teagan snug in the baby carrier:

Happy friends taking a photo break during a woodsy walk.
Happy friends taking a photo break during a woodsy walk.

The Middlesex Fells is a very popular nature area where people walk, hike, bike, ski, picnic, etc. It’s a 14-minute drive from my place, and a 7-minute drive from Rachel and Ethan’s house. It’s also bikable distance for us from both of our places. But what about public transport? Not so easy– one hour by bus/train from me, and 40 minutes from their house. Of course, because we have cars and bikes, it’s not an issue.

But it is an issue– for many communities and for many nature areas. In a report on equity and access to the Blue Hills reservation state park that came out recently in Boston,

…many in the community say they have never been there, and have never heard of the ski slope, the horse-riding facilities, the hundreds of miles of wooded trails, the large swimming and fishing pond, and even the National Weather Service observatory on its peak…That discrepancy in expectations is more pronounced among the 35% of residents dependent on public transit, which doesn’t move across the Blue Hills.

I’ve been to the Blue Hills reservation many times. There’s swimming, hiking (including ranger-led and meetup group hikes), picnicking, skiing in winter (including downhill), and all kinds of organized activities. It’s about 16 miles from me, and I can get there in 30 minutes in my car. But for residents of the Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods who are around 4–6 miles away and depend on public transit, it’s out of reach.

State Rep. Chris Worrell, who represents Grove Hall, said that few in his district would go to the Blue Hills Reservation despite it being so close. “Transportation deserts are real, and my constituents feel the repercussions of them daily,” said Worrell. “The study examined what we already knew, but it’s a step in the right direction toward awareness and change for our community.”

The solution in this case? Reroute one of the existing bus lines to stop at one of the main entrances to the park. A more expansive option would be to create a new bus route that takes in popular nature and recreational facilities in the area. Cost? $80K for the bigger plan, and much much less for the more modest one. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money in the context of a state budget, especially to open up state-owned resources like these to local residents.

This problem is all-too-common and not addressed nearly enough in North America. When I looked up “national parks public transport” I found this Outside online article touting “8 national parks you see without a car. Really? Well, no. You have to drive to get to the national parks, and then you can take a bus that makes its way around some routes in the park. That’s cool, but it’s not what I was looking for. And totally not the same thing.

Transportation inequity is real and it’s everywhere. And it’s a feminist issue– equal access supports us all and builds community solidarity, support for environmental concerns, and spreads of joy and beauty of nature to everyone.

So, readers: how do people access nature in your area? Are there public transportation routes? Is there talk in your communities about creating or expanding on them? I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · nature · walking

Happy Christmas Bird Count

Happy Christmas Bird Count to all my friends who observe.

What’s it all about?

“Each year, Ontario Nature member groups organize bird counts in their communities across Ontario as part of holiday traditions. A festive holiday tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) welcome birders of all skill levels to these free events.

CBCs bring community scientists around the western hemisphere to count as many different species, and individuals of those species as possible over the course of a single day within a 24-kilometre diameter circle.

Join a bird count in your area this holiday season to contribute to bird research in North America.”

What’s the fitness connection?

Read The Surprising Health Benefits of Bird-Watching in the New York Times

“It’s no secret that spending time in nature is good for your mind. Studies show that even a stroll through a city park decreases stress, sharpens concentration and improves long-term mental health outcomes.

A few studies suggest there might be something especially healthy about birds in particular. One, published in October, found that just being near bird song improved mental well-being.

Birds are “accessible and equitable, because they’re everywhere in every habitat,” said Holly Merker, a guide for the National Audubon Society and co-author of the book, “Ornitherapy.” Even dense cityscapes offer rock doves (often incorrectly called pigeons), sparrows, hawks and falcons.

There is less research on the physical benefits of birding specifically, but evidence does suggest that walking regularly can help you live longer. And as any bird-watcher will tell you, the lure of the next bird inspires you to walk farther than you normally would.”

Photo by Jeremy Hynes on Unsplash
fall · fitness · nature · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Is there a way to redeem November?

I love September. It’s the first month of the university year. There’s lots of things to do on campus. I love the bustling atmosphere of all the students returning.


October is Halloween and pumpkins and while some of the days are dark and grey I find the brightness of the yellow and orange leaves helps.

Here’s Michael Enright in praise of October.


December is all seasonal celebrations, concerts, family, holidays, gifts and joy. It feels very cozy and I love the music.


While January is cold and snowy here there’s often a lot of bright sun beaming off the bright white snow. Also the days are getting noticeably longer. Usually I head south in January and get some winter bicycling in.


February and March can seem long I know but again there’s sun and I’ve got spring in my sights.


But November? The leaves are gone. It’s not yet snowy, mostly grey and cold and rainy. It’s dark when I go to work and dark when I come home. There aren’t even any good holidays in November. I’m Canadian, remember. We did Thanksgiving in October.


November is objectively the darkest and worst month of the year. I need a way to redeem November. I should be able to find something good about November. But what?


Your suggestions and ideas about redeeming November are welcome. And while I appreciate that some people can lean into the misery and kind of revel in the worst month of the year gloom, that’s not me. I need ways of making it through November, and for this year, I need ways that don’t involve more outside exercise. As I rehab my knee that isn’t going to happen. I need to know what you like about November. What’s November’s good side? Somebody has to like November, right?

Goodbye October. Hello, November.
fitness · habits · meditation · nature · October

Christine’s Meditative Afternoon

The Thanksgiving holiday gave me the opportunity to have a nice, slow start to my week on Monday.

I took Khalee for a walk and, even though it was windy, I took time to tune into my surroundings, noticing how the leaves have changed (or fallen), how the river noises are quieter, and how everything smells a little different right now.

A light haired dog on a green leash. Shadows from the dog and her owner are being cast on nearby grass.
It was kind of windy today but Khalee and I still enjoyed our walk. Image description: a photo of a light-haired medium-sized dog on a green leash is facing away from the camera while standing on a gravel path next to some grass. My shadow and Khalee’s are visible on the grass. Because it is late afternoon in autumn, the sun is low so our shadows are VERY long and we look disproportionately tall.

When I came home, I took down the load of clothes I had hung earlier. (It was a fine day on clothes, as the saying goes.) This task can be pretty mundane (or even boring) but today it was routine in a good way – repetitive actions with positive results.

A line of laundry in the late afternoon autumn sunlight
The repeated actions of hanging (and taking down) laundry) are meditative in their own way. Image description: a line of laundry hanging in my yard on a late autumn afternoon. The sun is shining through leaves so there are patches of sun and shadow The clothesline stretches from my patio to my shed so aside from the laundry, the photo shows some potted plants, a lawn chair with a red pillow, my patio rail, and some trees and my red-painted shed in the background.

As I turned with my basket of clean clothes, I noticed how inviting my swing looked and I remembered how much I enjoyed meditating while sitting there cross-legged the other day.

An outdoor shot of a hammock and a large round swing hanging from trees in the corner of a backyard. The grass in front of the trees is covered in brown leaves.
Two of my favourite parts of my backyard. Image description: a photo of one corner of my yard where my brown and orange hammock hangs from two trees and a round swing with green trim hangs from one of the branches. My wooden fence is one background and my (still green!) grass is littered with crunchy brown leaves.

So I decided to meditate there again today.

An outdoor shot of a woman (from the shoulders up) in her backyard.
No, I’m not actually meditating here, obviously. I was trying to use the back camera on my phone and took umpteen photos, each more bizarre looking than the last, and I fluked into this one. I decided to roll with it. Image description: an outdoor photo of me in my backyard. I am sitting on a round swing but it’s not visible in the photo. I am wearing a blue fleece jacket, my light brown hair is pulled back from my face in a cloth band, and my eyes are closed. I am smirking and I’m wearing one headphone. Grass, trees, my fence, (and part of my orange and brown hammock) are visible in the background.

And that brings me to 51 days of meditation in a row.

When I opened the Insight Timer app today, it offered this very appropriate quote for how I felt at the end of my meditative afternoon:

Mental health is not a destination,
but a process. It’s about how you
drive, not where you’re going.


I liked how, today, I have ‘driven’ myself calm instead of driving myself around the proverbial bend.

Wishing you all ease for the week ahead. Please try not to cram 5 days of work into a 4 day week. 💚⭐️

advice · camping · fitness · habits · nature · self care

To Get More Active, Inconvenience Yourself

I went summer camping with 5 friends recently. We went biking, swimming, kayaking, and hiking—regular outdoor physical activities one might do while in The Nature.

During this time, I noticed how often we were up and moving around to do simple tasks and chores throughout the day, even when we weren’t out out doing the recreational exercise activities.

When we wanted to go to sleep, we had to put up a tent. When we wanted to make a fire but ran out of wood, we had to scavenge or head to the conservation office to buy more. When we wanted to brush our teeth, it was a walk or a bike down the path to the loo. Whenever I misplaced bug spray or sunscreen, I was up rummaging around to find what I needed.

A campfire at night with wood on the ground
There’s exercise to be had in scavenging for firewood!

Not everything was within easy reach when you are camping: there’s often a little added effort to find, get, or make whatever you need. Without all the conveniences of home, we were moving, walking, bending, and stretching in short bouts all day long.

Like most people, I often establish habits and use tools that maximize convenience and comfort when I am at home. How much more physical activity might add up in my days if I intentionally made things slightly less easy for myself? What if I chose to knead bread without the mixer, walk to my mailbox rather than stop after my commute home, use one tissue box at a time rather than plant them in many rooms of the house?

Wall-E holds a plant next to a spaceship
Wall-E Theatrical release poster (fair use)

The animated Disney movie Wall-E tells a story of how, in the future, people have every luxury thanks in part to the machines they invent; consequently, they become totally inert and lazy. The moral of this cautionary tale is that excessive convenience and comfort will diminish our ability to think and act and move for ourselves.

Of course, my tent-trailer and Coleman stove camping experience was still relatively easy and convenient, but I realized that adding some purposeful inconveniences in my daily life could lead to a little more physical activity that I might not even notice.

What are some small inconveniences you maintain for a little more physical activity each day?

nature · self care

In her next life, Bettina wants to be a surfing hippo

That’s it. In the title right there.

I don’t know if any of you have been watching what a friend of mine described as “peak millennial”, the new Netflix documentary “Our Great National Parks”, narrated by Barack Obama. If so, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, here’s the official trailer, and right away at 0:05, you can catch a glimpse of my new favourite animal: the surfing hippo.

The official trailer of the Netflix documentary “Our Great National Parks”.

These wonderful beasts live in Loango National Park in Gabon. They hang out in freshwater lagoons during the day, but at dusk, they stroll down to the beach to catch some waves. They then drift along the shore with the current to where they know the best juicy grass to grow, and graze on that overnight.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty desirable lifestyle right now. When I was in high school in the UK, I was a lifeguard and part of our training included surfing to really get to know our local beach and its currents. I loved it, and one of the very few gripes I have with where we live right now is that it’s awfully far away from the sea. Catching those waves was always so much fun and really gets your mind off of everything going on around you, and as we know, things are hard right now.

Just watching these majestic creatures drifting through the water and playing in the waves last night made me feel infinitely more relaxed (a Yoga with Adriene session just before may have helped too). If I believed in multiple lives, I would definitely want to be a surfing hippo in Loango National Park in my next one.

I’ve only seen one episode so far, but if you need soothing, I would highly recommend “Our Great National Parks”. Stunning pictures of epic nature, animals, and Barack Obama’s calming voice, it’s a winning combo in my book.

advice · fitness · health · hiking · meditation · nature

Hiking with a Book

I almost always go on 2 to 3-hour hikes with friends. I enjoy the great conversation topics, the companionship, and the treats we often enjoy together afterwards.

But one recent morning, and for the first time, I found myself wanting to go on a solo hike outside. Because I also enjoy the company of books, I decided to bring one with me.

The place

three trees and water (The Thames River, London, Ontario)
Spring! Photo by Elan Paulson

Hiking with a book is not exactly like reading in your backyard or on a deck. One of the best parts about hiking with a book is that you have find a spot to read. While I was outside primarily for exercise, I was also side-questing for the best place to stop. On the hill or by the water? On a rock or a log? Behind or facing the sun?

Once I hiked as far as I had wanted to go, I doubled back and settled on the best of my mentally shortlisted spots: a great, flat tree stump that was surrounded by trees but also eye-line to the river. It was perfect!

The book

On sites like Bustle and Goodreads, and on blogs like thehikinglife there are lists and lists of books to take along hiking and backpacking. But I am mostly a short-distance hiker who is not really drawn to stories about radical feats of extreme hiking.

Cover of One Story, One Song, by Richard Wagamese

Instead, I brought a book I had just bought: One Story, One Song (2015) by Ojibway author Richard Wagamese. He is one of my favourite writers, and it was a happy coincidence to read Wagamese’s reflections on what he has learned from the land while being on the land myself.

The experience

Out in the crisp spring air, on my solo hike I savoured both the hike itself and anticipation of stopping to read.

When I sat and read, I paused between chapters under the section titled “Humility,” which put into relief some of the petty challenges that had wound me up over the past week. As I looked at the water and listened to the little birds chirping and flitting around me, I thought quietly about my own humility.

When I resumed the rest of my hike, book in pocket, I set some positive intentions for the upcoming week based on what I had read and thought about. In the middle of my busy week, I plan to find some quiet time by recalling what I had read and where I was when I read it.

So, this week I discovered how outdoor reading that is “bookended” by some alone hiking time can be replenishing for both body and mind. I definitely recommend it!

Do you hike with books? What do you read, and where?

inclusiveness · nature · self care · yoga

Yoga Outside

When it’s cold outside, and I’m lying on my couch in a Wordsworthian mood, I think about my summer fitness activities. Doing yoga outside for the first time was one!

Over the years I’ve done yoga almost exclusively inside (including stretching in my bathroom). What I remember about inside yoga:

  • Get there early to get a spot where you want to be–the mirrors or the walls, the back or the front, near or away from the door.
  • Can be a tight fit. Tape on the floors so you know where to park your mat.
  • People half ignoring you, half checking you out.
  • Water bottles, quick dry towels, and stretchy outfits outside of my price range.
  • Bells and bowls and Buddha statues and instrumental flute playlists.

This is a broad brush. I am certain yoga studios have a range of vibes. But the juiced-up versions of inside yoga seem to encourage focusing on all the wrong things about yoga. When Sam sent around this link, US-based yoga studio popular with celebrities opening first Toronto location, I could only imagine this chain’s next level of bougie. (As the lead image suggests, it’s teal-only yoga wear there).

Trying Yoga Outside

This past summer, when the studios were closed due to COVID, a few friends and I signed up for a morning outside yoga class. And when I say outside I mean we were on the grass next to the parking lot of a local craft brewpub.

A woman is meditating in a half-nose pose with her arms above her head - Sanjali padmasana. Back view
“A woman is meditating in a half-nose pose with her arms above her head – Sanjali padmasana. Back view” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0. So, not me.

Yoga outside immediately felt different from yoga inside. Sunshine, grass, trees, sky, breeze. A smallish group, there was friendly eye contact and slightly sheepish smiles. No floor tape–my choice of mat placement was shade or sun. Folks brought water, but registration also came with a beer, which you could drink after the session–or during, as our yoga instructor did.

When I stretched to the sky, I reached for tree branches. When I rolled a bit off my mat, soft grass cushioned my body. When I relaxed in savasana pose, the sun warmed my face. The traffic, bugs, and uneven ground were all noticeable, but they somehow made me feel more connected to my place and space. I didn’t need or want bells or a flute playlist.

Yoga in North America

I am far from the first to note that North Americans culturally appropriate yoga. As Yoga International’s Arundhati Baitmangalkar says, “Yoga is a spiritual practice. It is a way of living. It’s a practice of self-study and mind management. It is a way of thinking, speaking, being—and more. Yoga is a part of Indian culture and heritage.”

Doing what I will call “middle-class white person yoga at 11 in the morning, beer in hand” was definitely NOT reflecting the culture and heritage of India.

But being outside meant no appropriated or commercialized artefacts or symbols. The instructor was inclusive and supportive in her instructions. She was not South Asian, but her shape and size was that of a regular person, not someone who stepped out of a Lululemon yoga ad. No teal.

Baitmangalkar goes on to note that in many studios the goal is a workout, not yoga. I fully accept that the outside yoga was more of a workout. But my friends and I were also looking for some mind management and self-care after having struggled with supporting others during the COVID pandemic. We wanted to reconnect with our spirits and the world that day.

I am not recusing myself of participating in cultural appropriation by doing craft beer yoga, but being outside the inside studio made me consider how I might further educate myself and engage with yoga living. I’m going to start with some of the recommendations in Baitmangalkar’s article.

For those who practice outside yoga regularly, please share your experiences in the comments!