Sat with Nat

Nat appreciates Hampton of Hybrid Calisthenics

In a world of fitness influencers there’s a lot that distinguishes Hampton of Hybrid Calisthenics. He’s funny and kind which I really enjoy.

Hampton demonstrates some moves.

I especially appreciate his approach to learning new movements and exploring discomfort with curiosity. Rather than encouraging people to push through pain Hampton offers ways to build strength and flexibility while preventing or recovering from injury.

The exercises demonstrated rarely require equipment and he always offers practical ways to get support from chairs, walls and railings.

Hampton also encourages folks to start with small amounts of exercise and build over time. His focus on functional fitness and reducing injury and pain are a welcome counterpoint to videos of shocking makeovers. He offers good advice!

Have you stumbled upon a fitness personality that you find warm, welcoming and inclusive? Please tell us about them!

cycling · fat · Sat with Nat

Working out with Lizzo

Recommended Soundtrack: it’s about damn time by Lizzo

Recommended viewing: Watch Out for the Big Grrrls

It all started with Sam sharing this video with our bloggers Lizzo Announces Her Peloton Artist Series and asking who would like to write about it?

I haven’t been on my Peloton since the spring. I agreed to give it a go after my vacation. So, yes, I am late to the game, not only for the Artist Series workout but Lizzo in general.

One of my roller derby friends recommended I watch Lizzo’s reality TV show on Prime, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. She loved it. I was leery as I don’t enjoy the mean things that are the backbone of unscripted shows.

I watched it and totally fell in love with Lizzo. How did I not know her music before? I listen to mostly metal, rock and Canadian indie music. Well, I’m a fan now.

The show is an extended audition for dancers to join Lizzo’s touring troupe. It was great to see all of the athleticism, fashion and choreography. There was the sprinkling of unnecessary drama but it was 5% of the airtime.

The show also functions as a promotion of Lizzo’s newest album and her tour. It does a great job showcasing her songs and artistic persona.

Most importantly, and fitness related (I’m getting there!), is Lizzo’s message about body positivity. She explicitly states in each episode that working out is not to loose weight but to be strong to perform and live life. She encourages us all to enjoy our embodiment, revel in our grace, sexiness and “having the juice!”

Now on to the Peloton class. Peloton is working hard at shifting its brand to be more inclusive, reach new audiences and stay financially viable. The business model is built on a foundation of selling stationary bikes, treadmills, athletic wear, and monthly subscriptions.

One way to select workouts is by music genre and there are several class releases in their Artist Series where all songs are from a single artist. There’s been Queen, Def Leppard and David Bowie to name a few. Yes, the ones I noticed totally tell you all the demographic info you need to know about me. The Artist Series is a business partnership where Peloton and the Artist/their label get to draw on each other’s clout for mutual benefit. You can “like” the songs in class and tie that to your music streaming service.

So with many, many, many Artist Series classes already recorded, Lizzo’s stands out because she joined the cycling class and brought a subset of The Big Grrrls with her. The energy and enthusiasm she brought to the workout was awesome.

In the background four women of size are dancing in bright pink workout wear. Lizzo is in the foreground dancing and singing on her bike.

I took the class in September to realize the livestream had technical issues back in July. Lizzo broke the internet and I totally recognized the dancers!

Lizzo’s body is not the build Peloton usually features in ads and classes. All of their instructors are either lean or very muscular with very low body fat. While they do recruit a diverse cast for ethnicity, the age range is tightly dialed in, no seniors as instructors.

It was great to see Lizzo moving on the bike the way I do, breasts bouncing around, belly swaying and thighs undulating. Watching her reality tv show, listening to her music and watching her perform, whether in a workout or on stage, has seriously improved my self confidence. I’m wearing crop tops in public and feeling awesome!

Nat is taking a selfie in her bathroom wearing a super cut space cats print crop top from Point Seven Five.
Sat with Nat · walking

Finding new ways to be fit on vacation. Nat throws out her 30 year habits.

Recommended Soundtrack: These Boots Are Made For Walking

Friends, I’ve had a 30 plus year habit of steaming down the 401 highway from Ontario to my home province of New Brunswick to kick off vacation. From college days in Kingston in the 90s to the last ohhh 17 years from London. The goal, get the frick home as fast as possible.

This year, I’m trying something different. The Friday night of the last day of work I took a nap. A glorious 90 minute nap to start my vacation.

Nat smiles at the camera, clearly just awake from a very deep sleep. She looks pretty proud of herself.

Instead of frenetic activity and getting on the highway as early as possible Friday night or Saturday morning I just took it easy.

We had a change in plans Saturday that opened up the day. No timing to meet. No one waiting on us. Just a hotel in a town between Montréal and Québec and all day to get there.

In the Victoriaville Quality Inn lobby there are e-bikes and scooters to rent. Plus plenty of bike lanes to use them in!

We leisurely packed in the morning and got underway sometime after 9:30 am. This was unheard of in previous years.

The traffic was. Well. Unrelenting. Fully understanding I am also traffic, I’d never been on the 401 near Toronto midday on a long weekend. It was so busy. We joked it was an exercise in patience.

Our toodling eventually got us to Victoriaville PQ around 8 pm. It was getting dark so we grabbed a bit to eat at a microbrewery. There was live music downtown and streets were full of people. It was awesome.

The next morning, instead of rushing to get back on the highway, we went for breakfast at a diner and took a hike on the Four Seasons trail on Mount Arthabasca.

Nat and Michel take a smiling selfie in the dappled shade of a maple grove full of sap tap lines. They are near a trail pay box for “le Sentier fee Troitteurs”. Roughly translates to the trail of the walkers or trotters or hikers?

It was a beautiful 3 km trail. I had accidentally driven us to the top of the mountain instead of starting at the base. It turned out to be perfect as we took the more challenging part of the trail down l. We sauntered the way around the mountain on maple syrup access roads and east trails. Well maple sap tap collection lines, it’s boiled down to make syrup.

Woven through a stand of maple trees are bright sap lines that come together into larger lines. There are dozens of lines in various colours including blue, purple and black.

We finished our hike on top of the mountain. It was perfect weather with amazing vistas.

We saw runners and mountain bikers on adjacent trails. I loved how everyone had their own paths.

We see the back of Michel’s head as he reads a sign warning of pedestrian and cycling collisions where our paths meet.

We then headed off to our last leg of driving. We arrived refreshed and ready to visit. Our back feeling good for the 1,300 km trip we had just driven.

I loved making the drive part of the vacation and getting some activity in as well. I’m not going to lie, it was painful to shift gears and be less goal oriented.

Have you tried a new approach to vacations before? How did it go?

Sat with Nat

Can automation give me more time for fitness?

Recommended Soundtrack: Robots by Flight of the Conchords, Mr. Roboto by Styxx, Robot Rock by Daft Punk

I purchased a rumba vacuum. Yes, I am very late to vacuum automation. It was only recently that a purchase like that was even conceivable for me, the cost wasn’t something that seemed achievable until now.

I have to admit it was the gentle cajoling of my sister that her robot did a great job and with the pets and humans in my life this would really help. She loved her robot vacuum and another good friend had offerd up her research and analysis. I was sold on the idea.

I named mine Romeo so that when it got stuck I could quip “Wherefore art thou Romeo?”. It’s the same reason our dog is named Lucy…”Lucy, I’m HOME!” I am a simple creature when it comes to comedy.

One night, as I was chopping vegetables for dinner, I couldn’t stop smiling as the robot whirred away down the hall. My beloved put the laundry on and the dishwasher was sloshing away at the lunch and breakfast dishes. I thought a lot about Hans Rosling’s great TED talk on The Magic Washing Machine.

He argued that liberating women’s time from manual house hold tasks led to better child development and education outcomes. If you haven’t heard his talks before I highly recommend them all. He passed away a number of years ago and his talks still hold up.

I know what it takes to wash clothes by hand without running water. Whether during long camping trips to military exercises where we were in the bush longer than I could stand the smell of my combats, grating soap, scrubbing with a washboard or on rocks then wringing by hand takes time. I still remember my maternal grandmother’s wringer washer in her yard next to the clothesline with the hose draped into it. We would tag team the wringing and hanging. It was an all day affair. Automation in clothes washing means a scant few minutes sorting and loading the machine then flipping the load into dryer. Folding takes mere minutes. The best part is not needing to mind the laundry, unlike in the wringer washer, so other activities can happen.

The same with dishes, loading takes a moment and other things can happen while the water sloshes around in the magic box. I find the same with my robot vacuum. It does a bang up job, far better than what I did. My floors are squeaky clean, I’ve raised my standards. Those standards had to be lowered before because I simply wasn’t able to get the cleaning done to a point where we were pet hair free. It seemed impossible.

So now I do spend some time managing the robot, figuring out how to optimize clean and keep out zones, designing routines and some maintenance. Overall though those tasks take way less time than the manual sweeping and vacuuming I had been doing.

A black round robot vacuum sits on it’s docking station with a tower for collecting debris on a hardwood floor. It is plugged into a green wall with white trim.

Automation and task sharing with my partner and our youngest kid (who is 20!) have helped me find more time for reading, writing, drawing, making music and, hopefully, working out regularly.

I am spending a lot of time in the garden weeding, watering, pruning, planting, harvesting and, well, enjoying the beauty and bounty of my naturalized space.

Thin brown branches of a currant bush arch downward, laden with large clusters of plump, bright red fruit that tuck under green velvety leaves.

Will automation allow me more time for working out? I don’t know but my house is the much cleaner for it!

Has automation of household tasks helped you do more things?

Sat with Nat

Nat on being consistently inconsistent

Recommended Soundtrack: Bet on Me by Walk off the Earth

The weather has turned warmer and I’m loving spending whole days on the weekend in the garden digging, weeding and planting.

The time has to come from something so I’ve stopped doing indoor workouts. The idea of spending any time inside when I don’t have to hurts my brain.

I love taking my coffee in the morning outside. Walking the dog is so much more pleasant when the neighbourhood is in bloom.

I’m so thankful my body is able to shift gears to doing something I love. Digging in the dirt, the smell of the plants, it’s so revitalizing.

I know by the time it gets truly hot and we are well into summer I’ll shift away from the gardening to other things. I’m inconsistent in the short term. Every spring I put energy in to my garden though so taking a longer view there is consistency.

Indoor training feels good in the winter and early spring. I’ll be back to it sometime later. It works for me.

I looked back at all the different activities I engaged with over the years. I’m consistently active, but what that is varies a lot.

I used to feel bad that I can’t stick with one thing longer than three or four months. Now I appreciate that there is always something different to come.

My health and well-being are supported by all this activity and that is pretty dang cool.

Are you someone who is consistent with working out? I’d love to hear about your rhythm of activities.

Image is of a red and white dog curled up on a grey outdoor couch. In the background is a lush garden filled with trees, shrubs and perennials. It feels a bit magical under the roof of the gazebo as the sunlight pokes through the canopy of trees.
cycling · Metrics · Sat with Nat

The glorious early gains of training

I’ve been writing the past few months about my newfound love of stationary cycling. The first month was all about adapting to the bike and classes, the second month was about gaining some confidence and experience. The third month I decided to try a structured program.

I chose “Discover Your Power Zones”. It uses a 20 minute maximum effort spin to determine your average power. You then work through a 5 week training program that culminates in a second test to see how your body has responded to training.

I had turned on the power zone option on my dashboard. It estimated my output to be 190 watts based on my age and weight. I did my test and hit 119 watts. Way lower. Dang!

The five week program has progressive workouts each week. The zones started feeling easier to maintain the end of week three. I was pumped to see the difference after a relatively short time.

The classes were challenging yet achieve able. I was nervous the day of my week five Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. I had to jump off the bike to pee after my warm up. My throat was tight. I didn’t expect that to happen.

Having been in the military I have a complicated history with fitness tests. But it surprised me that this test had me anxious. No one was watching or evaluating. I could delete the workout or reject the results. There was only me to impress.

I worked through the anxiety and put forth my best effort. My latest FTP is 147 watts. A significant increase from five weeks ago. It’s kind of magical in the first few months of training the impressive gains we can make.

My body does respond to conditioning. I’m feeling good on the bike. Did I lose a bunch of weight or drastically alter my appearance? No.

Do I feel stronger, more confident and utterly badass? You bet I do!

A close up of the brilliant yellow blossoms of a forsythia shrub. They wake up this time of year in London. They are all about short, impactful change. When they bloom you know spring is well underway.
cycling · Sat with Nat

Nat never bothered much about workout tokens or achievements but she kind of likes them?

Recommended soundtrack: Gold by The Beaches

Maybe it’s fear of failure. Maybe it’s about being the fat chick at the back of the pack. Maybe my brain is full of metrics for my paid work. I never cared much for tracking fitness metrics. Steps. Sure. My phone does that.

But the Apple Watch ring thing? My partner LOVES IT. It’s his hit of happy to chase and win fitness challenges. Me, not so much.

Nat smiles at the camera. She has a blue v-neck t-shirt on and feels challenged enough just to show up to life these days.

But it turns out I do like little achievements. Peloton measures so many aspects and has so many little milestones it’s hard to go a week without getting a few.

Since I’m not chasing them it feels a bit random when a whole class high gives me. Huh. Wonder why? Oh that was my 75th ride. Hilarious!

Nat’s achievement dashboard with some tokens including gold and bronze monthly activity challenges. You can follow her as MadNatters if you’d like to. She high fives the heck out of everyone.

The workout minutes is fun to see how little choices add up. In March, on the 31st I finished a Power Zone ride and checked if I hit Gold for cycling distance. Nope! Just under 4km short. Sooooo I DEFINITELY did a 10 minute cooldown ride instead of 5 minutes to hit the distance. Why? It felt achievable and it was the first month that felt that way. Cool!

More than the little badges, I’ve been able to cycle hard enough to get sweaty. Finally!

I’m riding longer, easily hitting an hour in the saddle. I’m able to do rides on back to back days. No more glute or tail bone pain. Amazing!

I also have a personal rule, are we doing the class at the same time? You get a high-five. You hit a milestone? High-five! You pass me on the leaderboard? You hecking bet you are getting a high-five. And when I get a high-five it feels just a bit like being out on a group ride. And that feels AMAZING.

cycling · Sat with Nat · strength training · stretching

Nat Shares Her Meaningful Measures of Progress

Well here we are, somehow 6 weeks after I hopped on my partner’s Peloton. Where did the time go?

Somewhere along the journey I hit 1,000 minutes of working out. Cool!

I’m rediscovering my comfort and confidence on the bike. While I still often cry at the end of a ride it’s not a bad thing. It’s often tears of relief that I completed a ride. So thankful!

I have been alternating cycling and weight training with 1 rest day a week. My butt needs the time out of the saddle and my legs need time to recuperate.

What has changed in 6 weeks?

**remember your mileage may vary. If you start a new training regime you may have different gains or meaningful measures of success**

First, I’m able to ride longer. I started out with 5 minute warm up, 20 minute beginner rides, 5 minute cool down. After a month I felt good trying an advanced beginner ride of 30 minutes. I now regularly do a 5 or 10 minute warmup, a 30 minute ride, 10 minute cool down and a 5 minute stretch. Yay!

Second, I’m not as sore after my workouts. Thank goodness because the first two weeks I was limping through my neighborhood on my daily walks.

Third, I have better form on the bike and can sit up without holding the handle bars, find a relaxed upper body during max effort and even standing up out of the saddle during rides. It’s very different from on my road bike but I’m learning. Yay!

Fourth, I’m feeling good in the strength classes. Lots of moves I’m still learning. My upper body workouts have felt particularly awesome. Best part, I’m lifting more weight with better form and control. Wahoo!

Fifth, my heart rate and blood pressure have dropped by a whopping 20 points. Talk about a satisfying and meaningful measure. My motivation for adding higher intensity cardio and weight training to my life was to address a disturbing upward trend in these metrics. My moving about my day heart rate is 64 bpm and my blood pressure is back to 124/75. That’s right where I want them to be.

Sixth, my stress management and resilience are feeling good. I’m having less anxiety and sleeping well. So good!

Seventh, I now have different things in common with my partner and our other friends who use Peloton. We share favourite classes and instructors as well as equipment tips and tricks. That means less shop talk about our paid work. AMAZING!

Selfie of Nat smiling in her super cute pink sports top with her hair pulled back. She is super happy and grateful.

What are meaningful measures in your fitness journey? I want to hear all about it!

cycling · online exercise · Sat with Nat · strength training · stretching

Nat tries Peloton for 7 days and is surprised!

My partner is walking away from the camera in a toque, aviator style wool shearling jacket and boots. Our dog Lucy trails behind on her leash giving the camera her patent pending side eye. Her look of derision sums up how I’ve been feeling lately.

It’s February! I usually joke February is Latin for “shit” as I don’t usually love winter and, wowsers, is it ever winter now eh? This year though winter isn’t bumming me out. It’s everything else. I had a mild case of COVID 19 over Christmas but the symptoms lasted roughly 4 weeks. It really drained me at a time when the holidays super charge me.

I love food, friends and having a good time. This year though even my most modest plans were canceled. Nothing tasted good. I was tired. BORING. Totally thankful everyone in my household recovered and life is back to normal. But I’ve noticed lately my usual self care and mental health strategies were not enough.

I get to lead people in my paid work. One piece about leadership that has stayed with me since my military days is “don’t tell people what to do, show them”. So I talk about what I do to be well both for staying effective at work AND to enjoy all that other life stuff that work funds.

I do a lot of things to fill my emotional and creative tanks. But lately even my self-care decathlon isn’t enough. I decided I needed to kick things up a notch. A big notch.

So I’ve jumped on my partner’s Peloton. He was awarded it last November for his performance at work. He loves it. We have very different rhythms when it comes to working out but after seeing his joy for 3 months I was starting to think about joining him.

It wasn’t until our friends, who are our neighbours too, shared what they were enjoying about their Peloton that I moved from thinking about it to trying it. Thank you Nina & Al!

The first ride, Ouaf, so humbling. It’s been more than 2 years since I’ve done any cycling of note. I’ve been focusing on walking as the logistics of anything else was really doing my head in. So I picked a 20 minute beginner ride with Ally Love. It was a great class to understand the features of the bike and how the classes are structured.

I cried a lot though while spinning. I didn’t have the fit dialed in quite right and I was so uncomfortable. It was hard to truly be a beginner again. I did find Ally’s instruction helpful and distracting. The class flew by.

The next day I tried a warm up spin with Ben and a beginner whole body strength class with Chase. The whole body strength class reminded me of CXworks so felt familiar and accessible. Chase provided clear instructions and just the right amount of direction.

Day 3 I joined a 20 minute beginner spin class with Tunde. It was challenging without being overwhelming. I really enjoyed her instruction, which balanced technique and encouragement perfectly. I had the bike fit dialed in and I started to feel more at home in the saddle.

Day 4 was a Sunday so I took the time to stack 4 workouts. Stacking allows you to build a workout in advance combining different classes to get to the length you want.

I chose a beginner whole body strength training with Adrian. He has a 10 minute warm up, a 20 minute class, and a 10 minute stretching class. All were challenging and the moves were achieve-able for me. I ended with a 10 minute guided meditation with Aditi focusing on breath.

I was pleasantly surprised that planks were not only available to me but pretty easy. That’s a big change for me and I credit my daily dog walks for my newfound core strength.

Day 5 I stacked Christine’s 5 minute spinning warm up with a 20 minute beginner class followed by a 5 minute cool down. I really like her straightforward delivery.

Day 6 was a repeat of strength training with Adrian. Day 7 a revisit of Tunde’s beginner spin. I’m balancing trying different instructors with keeping some familiarity.

I was SO SKEPTICAL of the entertainment aspect of online classes. I tend to grim, grunt and bare it exercises. The music and the strengths based approach really works for me. No one is more surprised than me!

I’m so thankful my folks gifted us dumbbell sets for Christmas. That I had clipless shoes, cycling shorts, water bottles, yoga mats and belts. It really removed all the barriers for me to get over my embarrassment of not restarting my workouts sooner.

A Peloton bike is a very expensive bit of kit. It’s not something I would have sprung for of my own accord. I’m so surprised how much I enjoy it. I hope you are finding joy in your workouts too!

Nat and Michel are looking happy in snow covered grey toques. They are bundled up for the chilly weather and it’s snowing quite a bit. Behind them is a red brick 2 story house covered in snow.
Sat with Nat · walking

Celebrating Small Victories from Tiny Changes.

Recommended Soundtrack: Celebrate by Kool & The Gang

I don’t know why but walking makes me think of penguins. They walk a lot! So here’s a picture of 6 penguins walking towards you on a sandy beach. there’s a nice rolling sea in the background. These penguins aren’t remarkably fancy or big or anything. They are your everyday kind of penguin. But I think they’d be fun to party with.

It’s one week into the new year and I’m reflecting on the small victories I experienced in 2021 and these first few days of 2022. I’m always amazed at how tiny changes can add up to small and sometimes huge victories.

Walking….walking…walking

My average daily step count in 2021 was 12,511 steps. That’s up significantly from 2020’s 9,200 and 2019’s 8,100. Wahoo!

That translates to just over 7 km a day or a whopping 2,500 km last year. Folks, I could have walked from London, Ontario to McAdam, New Brunswick and half way back. HOLY HECK.

Looking at what has contributed to maintaining a higher daily step count, there are a few tiny changes that tipped the balance.

Add just a bit more

When we got our puppy we had to go for many, very short walks of half a block to train her. As Lucy grew we added a bit more to each walk. We made 10, 20, 30 and 45 minute loops in our neighborhood.

My body adapts

Over 18 months those little loop changes added up. Plus I got faster at walking so I now cover in 30 minutes the distance that used to take 50 minutes.

How about right now?

Those loops became our coffee break, lunchtime, morning and evening walks. Over the day we walk a combined 90 minutes to two hours. If a regular scheduled walk can’t happen I grab the dog between calls for 10 minutes. My beloved and I check in if we have busy days. Sometimes we simply ask “how about right now?”

Take a tiny bit of time

Since the walks were woven into our day it was easy. Do I have less time at lunch? A 10 minute loop is enough to refresh myself and get Lucy the movement she needs. Dinner is baking and I know if I sit down I’m not going anywhere. I can take a tiny bit of time. Feeling TOTALLY BAGGED? I can at least do 10 minutes, for Lucy.

A bit of momentum

Often once I’m out the door my feet keep me going. So if my schedule allows that 10 minute walk could stretch into 30. Especially on weekends we tend to just head out and meander since we’ve few timings to meet.

Variety

I got to walk to all kinds of places last year. Downtown to my favourite bookstore or restaurants. In and around McAdam over the summer. Through new trails in London. With my partner, my sister, friends, my kids and alone. Switching up walking partners also keeps it fresh.

Low effort

I bought all slip on footwear. My coats are filled with dog bags, treats. No prep required. I use my phone’s built in step counter. No additional tracking required. I work from home so I can dress comfortably and with the weather in mind so the time to transition from my desk to outside can be seconds, at most 5 minutes.

It’s ok to take a break

If it’s truly a downpour I’m ok walking just enough to get Lucy to do all the things she can do. That might be just 20 minutes that day. It’s ok. I’m dispassionate about not hitting a daily target. When I’m sick I walk if it feels ok but I don’t over do it.

Ask for help

My children happily take their turns in my stead walking Lucy when I am not available. The family has agreed they do the dishes after dinner so I can head out. We negotiate who can do what and when. Without this I don’t have the time to walk.

Celebrate!

Looking back at those tiny changes over a long period of time they morph into small victories. Yay! And that added up to quite a big uptick in my step count. YAY!

Reality Check

So you may think that upping my steps has lead to an amazing physical transformation. Uh. Nope. I look the same. Weigh the same. Wear the same sized clothes.

SURELY my blood pressure improved. Gah. Nope. It’s actually increasing and I’m working with my doctor to address it.

But how about strength? Flexibility? Resting heart rate? Nope. Not changed.

What HAS changed?

As a result of all that walking …I’m much better at walking. I can walk longer at a faster pace.

My mood has been good. I’m feeling more resilient in the face of stress do when the tough times come I’m recovering well. And. Wow. That is a mighty impactful thing worth celebrating.

How about you?

Looking back is there a tiny change you’ve made that had impacts over time?