Sat with Nat · walking

Fitness & Politics

I’m finishing up my very last course in my BA. FINALLY!

It’s a 3rd year course on women & politics that looks at many aspects of women’s participation. I’ve dabbled in politics over the past 15 years, as a campaign volunteer and even once tried to be a federal candidate.

It’s municipal election time in Ontario, Canada and I was helping a friend on his campaign with door to door canvassing. Yes, folks still walk around knocking on doors and dropping off information about candidates.

Four smiling humans wearing bright green t shirts standing on a sidewalk
Nat takes a moment with John, Nancy and her son Olivier to document the fun we are having.

I have to admit getting a chance to hang out regularly with my oldest son Olivier as well as John & Nancy has been pretty fantastic.

It’s been 4 years since the last campaign and this time around I was struck by how physically demanding campaigning can be.

If you stick to a schedule of canvassing 6 days a week the walking, stairs, holding clipboards and even knocking doors start to wear on your body.

Of course you are squeezing that all in around the other things you do in your day.

I sat reading my course and popping ibuprofen and realized that we don’t talk much about the ableist approach to politics. Most traditional ways of contacting potential voters rely on being physically present, at the door, debates and community events. But those doors are spread out and have many stairs.

Locally there is a Women in Politics group that seeks to support women to enter into politics at all levels of government but I’m not aware of much in the realm of analyzing where ableist assumptions and approaches are barriers to more folks running for office.

I’m glad I can occasionally participate in political organizing & activities and am thinking more about accessibility.

If I come up with any great ideas I’ll let you know 🙂

cycling · Sat with Nat

Nat thinks back on re-learning to bicycle as a grownup

A couple weeks ago my Facebook memories showed me a post from 5 years ago. It was a sad moment, I had planned on biking down to a festival but at the 5 km mark I had to stop. I ended up going home defeated with a sore backside.

It was a rough start to re-learning to cycle. To be fair to my 5 year ago self I had made some classic mistakes. I wasn’t wearing chamois shorts and got blisters in my groin. My 20 year old mountain bike wasn’t fit to me. I also had no idea how to effectively use my gears as I mistakenly thought I should mash my pedals in the highest gear I could use.

After that experience Sam reached out to offer riding with her and that was the first step to me re-learning to cycle as an adult.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about things I would tell that past me. If you are looking at cycling more or trying it for the first time you may find these thoughts helpful too.

So, my dear past self, I wish you knew:

  1. Wear cycling bottoms commando (no underwear). Be nice to your body parts that come in contact with your saddle and don’t worry about how it looks so much!
  2. Accept the offer to ride with experienced cyclists sooner. They will coach & cajole you into a sport that you can continue a very long time.
  3. Buy the big bicycle tire pump right away. Don’t run to the gas station every time you need to ride your bike! Air in road tires is VERY IMPORTANT.
  4. Wear a cycling jersey. It keeps you from getting a sunburn on your lower back/upper butt and is more comfortable than anything else. Honest.
  5. Buy the gloves. Your hands will go numb and that is no fun. You are working hard on your bike so being comfortable is super important.
  6. Listen to advice, try it. Not all of it will work for you so keep the ideas that do and dump the rest.

I would never have thought it possible to go from being destroyed by a 10 km ride to doing 100 km in the same year. It really is about time on the saddle and I was pleasantly surprised how much I’ve taken to riding my bike.

Sam has written before about how the fall is a great time to get into cycling and I’d have to agree. It’s beautiful in Canada this time of year. I hope to see you on your bike!

Nat takes a selfie in her bike helmet smiling.

cycling · Sat with Nat

Nat enjoyed a pretty awesome MS Bike Tour

For the second year in a row I got to ride in the Grand Bend MS Bike Tour. This year my cycling was sparse and I was nervous about completing the ride.

My team, London Lifecycles, is packed with colleagues and friends. I get a lot of joy from hanging out with them.

Natalie faces the camera smiling. Behind her is a group of people chatting animatedly wearing orange cycling jerseys

This year I started Day 1 with my friend Tracy & her 7 year old son Tyler. We rode the first 40km together. The Sweeps were lovely but I hoped I wouldn’t see them again. I hopped on my bike and gave my best effort.

Day 2 I decided to ride on my own. I had a great time seeing friends pass me or chat at the checkpoints. The weather was ideal, 25C with light wind. I finished the route nearly an hour faster than last year. I’m 99% sure that was due to the weather.

It was still hot though.

 Natalie looks at the camera with a rye face. Her hair is wet and standing on end

It was a great weekend and the perfect way to kick off my vacation.

body image · Sat with Nat · sex

Nat gets a night guard and contemplates ableist ideas about sex appeal

Last month I shared some of my experience encountering sexism while accessing medical care.

Nat gets her hearing checked…

I’ve since seen my dentist, who I just love as we’ve had the most amazing discussions over the years, and gotten a night guard (aka bite plate aka mouth guard). I’m very privileged that my extended dental benefits covered the multiple visits and the appliance.

A selfie of Nat making the “ah” face revealing a clear mouth guard on her bottom teeth. She is inside her car and wearing a super cute pink blouse.

I immediately thought about how unsexy I felt. This was echoed by many folks who decided that this alone was enough to not wear a dental appliance.

That sat really poorly with me. This night guard is a minor thing, easily removed when needed. My muscles are relaxing as the appliance does its job. But yet it felt like such a big thing to myself and other people because of concerns around losing sex appeal.

Not rational and, for myself, not terribly examined.

The night guard is to alleviate numbness in my face caused my clenching of my jaw. Scarring on the inside of my cheeks and scalloping along the edges of my tongue were signs I was indeed a clencher. So is my sister Anj and my father. It’s likely gotten worse because of a change in my paid work that has increased my stress.

The benefits of wearing this little clear appliance are less headaches and a return of feeling to my face.

I think, at the heart of all this sex appeal talk, is a nugget of ableism. The idea that only bodies that don’t need assistive devices, dental appliances or any other supports are less sexy than able/unassisted bodies is deeply problematic and I need to fight that impulse.

The other part is our old frenemy, sexism and the idea that women must constantly strive to be sexy to all people, especially men, at all times.

You know what is sexy? Someone who has had a good night’s sleep instead of clenching their jaw into spasms. Self care is sexy AF.

Basically if someone dares tell you or me that our self care, dental appliances, accessibility supports or anything else we need to be well are somehow making us less sexy we need to flip those people the bird.

Sat with Nat

Nat gets her hearing checked and encounters unfettered sexism.

Recently I have been having trouble understanding what people are saying when there is background noise as well as some numbness on the left side of my face. I had been putting it off when a Deaf colleague asked me why I didn’t do something about my hearing.

Unwilling to stay stuck in my ableist bullshit I was sure to discuss it with my doctor.

My family doctor then referred me to an audiologist and an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist.

I got the appointments within a few weeks. Fast. Very fast in a public health care system known for long waits.

The trip for the hearing test was typical and I walked out being told I did not have hearing loss. I felt stupid for wasting people’s time and money and even worse for then having an appointment with a ENT doctor.

The doctor’s office was another thing altogether. I mentioned my military service and flying off and on for 12 years. He then asked if I was a “housewife”. I awkwardly laughed and clarified that I was leading a team in a quiet office environment.

When we talked about noise exposure he noted that my vacuum and hairdryer could damage my hearing. So. One thing. I do own both of those appliances and my sons use them way more than I do.

Short hair and no make up, Natalie inadvertently looks like a high maintenance person

I wasn’t loving his gendered assumptions. I found myself questioning how I was presenting myself.

There were several moments of great information exchange, including a very detailed discussion about my hearing tests. I do have “notches” in my hearing that are typical of noise induced hearing loss. It’s sufficient enough that I will eventually need hearing aids. That type of hearing loss is usually accompanied by tinnitus (ringing in the ears). My hearing loss is asymptomatic and I can still distinguish between all the word sounds. All good news.

It turns out the most troubling symptom was the numbness. The ENT palpated my face and neck looking for lumps and bumps. That’s when I realized my speedy appointment was to see if I had signs of cancer. Yikes. He assured me no lumps & bumps were found and to ask my dentist about my jaw clenching. Nerve fatigue may be the culprit. Here’s hoping I get that figured out soon. It’s weird.

I’m glad for the good information and very bummed out about the sexism I encountered. It won’t keep me from accessing services but it certainly adds a layer of stress to a moment.

health · Sat with Nat

Nat learns a little more about the nuances of blood pressure

It’s that time of year for my annual “my high blood pressure journey” post. (Please remember I’m not a health care professional and what follows isn’t advice on what you should do. )

Last month the guidelines around what constitutes high blood pressure were changed in Canada and the US. You can read about it here. It created a mild ripple of panic as folks were surprised to find they suddenly had “high blood pressure”. It certainly gave me pause to think about my own numbers just days before my regular check up.

I showed up to my appointment to discover my family doctor no longer working Wednesdays. The thought of seeing a different doctor filled me with panic. I’ve been having follow ups for many years and am really comfortable with my doctor. Other doctors, well, it’s a mixed bag. I tried deep breathing and relaxing while anxiety washed over me.

I met with the new doctor, a lovely human who stared at my stomach while we talked. I had shared that my numbers were creeping up over the years and I was worried. She offered that once hypertension sets in it slowly worsens over time as we age. She talked about how lifestyle changes were very important and that pills only did so much. I smiled and waited for her to go on. I couldn’t muster the courage to confront her assumption that I hadn’t already made those lifestyle changes, initially 20 years ago and really honed in on things about 5 years ago.

She asked how my at home monitoring was going. I had never seriously tracked my blood pressure at home despite having been gifted a monitor.

She offered that I didn’t need to come in unless my at home blood pressure was regularly over 130/90 as my prescription could be renewed via fax.

I walked out confused but committed to tracking my blood pressure at different times at home.

I was shocked to see a few trends. After my morning coffee my blood pressure spikes by 20 points. By mid afternoon I’m regularly sitting at 105/60. Way lower than the reading at the doctor’s office. It was such a shock I had my partner measure his to make sure the monitor was working. I tried different sizes of cuffs. All good.

I keep thinking about those “lifestyle factors” that are within my control. The big ones most folks are familiar with: be a non-smoker, move your body, avoid high amounts of alcohol, eat a healthy diet. Just this week a CNN article boasted we can all extend our longevity by 10 years doing those things and maintaining a healthy BMI.

I’ve got 4/5 and, as the Meatloaf song goes, that ain’t bad. I have decided that the long view of my health and wellness are the biggest assets for me. I look for ways to make it easy to make healthy choices and get movement in my day and that seems to be working out damn fine.

Four smiling humans gather in for a sidewalk selfie on a warm sunny day

Me and my favourite humans walking from home to see a movie downtown.

media · Sat with Nat

Nat won’t sit in an ice bath anytime soon but thinks survival training is a great idea.

This all started with Sam sharing this article with Nat:

The book’s premise is that a component of fitness could be the ability to handle harsh environments.

It’s been a long time since I did my survival courses in the military but the lessons I learned were very helpful. Take my winter survival course, I learned that when you live 24/7 outside with the right gear and skills your body will adapt to daytime high of -40C. A few days into the 1 week course I shed my heavy mitts, balaclava and parka and walked about in my sweater and snow pants. My body adapted and could provide the extra BTUs to keep me warm.

The thing is, that adaptation is temporary. One night in a heated room and I was back to bundling up. The long term impact for me was understanding what I needed to be safe in that weather. I learned that while I would be cold at first I could survive and adapt to the environment. I learned that lined winter tents are fantastic but also that a thick bed or fir boughs with a tarp as a lean-to and a small fire can keep you going a long time.

There are lots of reasons to get used to being outdoors for extended periods of time and working through difficult situations. Along with the skills comes, well, a mental toughness that prevents me from giving up in bad times. Will I cry when tired, frustrated or in pain? Oh heck ya, almost always.

Do I think people should take ice baths? Uh, no. Definitely learn about boating safety if you are in the water, what to do if you fall through the ice if you skate or cross ice in winter.

Learning what to do in emergencies is helpful, you learn how to overcome the first impulses to panic by self soothing as well as the techniques to ensure the best outcome.

I’m skeptical of the claims that we all need to swim in icy water. Those conditions are dangerous and I’m not persuaded that the benefits outweigh the risks.

However, if you want to build skills and confidence definitely learn survival or emergency response skills. First Aid and CPR are a great way to start building up skills.

I hope you have awesome adventures and not have any emergencies.