weight lifting · Sat with Nat

The Power of Positive Peer Pressure

I’m very lucky to have a workplace gym. I haven’t always made good use of it. Last fall when my regular workout buddy was no longer able to join me I made a new weight lifting routine. It sat on my workstation until a week into January.

That first week of January a laughing group of my colleagues passed by me on the way to the gym late in the afternoon. I smiled and chatted then was delighted when they invited me to join them.

It took a couple tries until I had all my gear at work and my calendar cleared. Six weeks later it’s a habit. Not everyone can make it every day but we block the time in our calendars and check in. It’s very positive.

Our goals are as diverse as our ages. I think we span 4 decades with the youngest in her thirties and at least one of us is 60. We are all women in leadership roles. Our workout styles & preferences are varied. Some of us prefer virtual classes. Others, like me, a weight lifting routine.

I really appreciate being part of the group, the camaraderie, sharing tips & tricks and seeing the skills and competences we have in the gym.

I find going to the gym very challenging. I don’t like the mirrors everywhere. I struggle to be a beginner…AGAIN. What I love is how this opt-in-supportive and positive peer pressure has helped me get to the gym 4-5 times a week. It’s feeling really good.

A picture of a red and white puppy with half dropping ears and her tongue sticking out

This photo is in no way related to the post but my new dogpanion Lucy is just too dang cute not to share.

Black Futures · Black Hustory · Black Present · Sat with Nat

Black History, Black Present and Black Futures

We’ve written about the triumphs and challenges of two prominent Black women athletes, Serena Williams and Caster Semenya, and how they challenge stereotypes, sexism and racism by their achievements.

As a white women who strives to be an ally it feels weird to write a post about Black History Month but I decided it would be worse to trudge on with my monthly post not doing anything at all.

It’s Black History Month, a time for celebration of the contributions Black folks have made, the present Black people create and the Black futures we’ve yet to see. I’ve gathered a few links I hope you will find interesting.

Black History

I’m thankful of K. Tempest Bradford’s fantastic Black History Month Challenge

“For February, I challenge you to read something by a Black person that isn’t *only* about pre-Civil War American slavery, the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Era. Bonus points if you can go the whole month without touching those subjects and still reading a bunch of stuff by Black folk.”

There is A LOT of Black History to cover outside of those periods. Black Women in sport have accomplished and contributed so many things.

30 New Books About Inspiring Women for Black HistoryMonth

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/black-female-athletes-women-in-sports

Black Women in Sport JSTOR

https://olympic.ca/2019/02/14/black-athletes-who-made-olympic-sport-history-in-canada/

Black Present:

Building on the strong foundation of Black Women Athletes before them you can find out about the present during February as well.

36 Black Women Athletes You Need to Know

https://balletblack.co.uk/

https://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bs-sp-morgan-state-black-female-athlete-study-20180625-story.html

Black Futures:

Be sure to also include amazing Afrofuturist readings this February, imaging the future and reimagining our history. There are a great number of Black Authors and Artists sharing a vision of what could be.

If you are a Black Woman, thank you for reading my post. If you are a women looking to be a better ally take direct action by:

  • Buying from Black business owners
  • Seeking out & buying Black authored cookbooks to support your nutrition
  • Follow and financially support Black yogis
  • Seek out information on Black women athletes

How are you participating in Black History Month?

planning · Sat with Nat

On the cusp of a decade Nat thinks about longterm goals.

In October I turned 45, which makes this the year I’m exactly half my grandmother’s age.

I was asking her about what life was like for her at 45. She had been a grandmother for 3 years and I was her second grandkid. She has 9 now and at least 9 great-grandchildren and a step great-great granddaughter!

She told me it was in her 40s that she had a lot of aches and pains so her doctor prescribed some morning stretches and to walk every day. She still does her stretches and walks. It is clearly working for her.

I’m probably a couple years away from being a grandmother but who knows? My kids are 18 & 20. These things are not in my control.

In my chats with Gran we often talk about how life is filled with unexpected things. Looking over the past 10 years we’ve both had struggles and great joys. When I think about the next 10 years I am humbled.

I think it is important to make long term plans even if mine rarely survive a year. My plans for 10 years from now include things like saving for retirement, learning how to even better manage my mental health and enjoy moving my body.

My kids will likely be moved out. I want to still be walking lots, doing yoga and cycling. Who knows what else?

I’m mindful to cultivate inexpensive hobbies. I’ve decided that triathlon needs too much expensive equipment and a much more robust commitment to training than I’m willing to make.

I’ve tried rock climbing. My partner and oldest son love it. Me? Not so much.

I’m lucky that I have many friends 10 to 20 years older than me who share their joys and challenges around self-care, fitness and family.

From what I can tell the next 10 years will see a shift in my caregiving responsibilities so I’d best stay in shape to support my resilience.

It may seem a bit odd to take motivation from a possible future 10 years from now but it totally works for me.

A small stain glass peice of art shows a cyclist speeding down a steep hillside.

“Descent” by Paul Brown

This art reminds my partner and I each day about the thrills of cycling and the joy it brings.

Where do you draw your motivation and inspiration for fitness from?

clothing · Dancing · Sat with Nat

Nat calls for high performance formal wear

I’m seriously hoping my post motivates athletic wear companies to start making formal wear.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, why can’t we dance the night away at weddings & other formal gatherings without drowning in our sweat? Whether you prefer a snappy suit or a darling dress no one feels great in their getup after even a short stint of enthusiastic dancing.

This year, for the first time in a long time, I had 3 formal occasions in the span of a month and I needed something to wear.

I shopped in dress stores in Canada and the USA to no avail. I wear plus size clothes. I’ve worn pants or skirts or dresses before. My default look is quirky femme who dresses for comfort. Nothing that fit inspired me despite my willingness to put down serious cash on a gown.

I shared my trials and tribulations on social media for comedic effect but also for advice.

There are these formal, uh, onesies? Jumpers? They look cute but to use the toilet you either need to drop the whole thing on the floor or buy one with access snaps.

I couldn’t imagine being in a toilet fumbling with my neither regions so that was not an option for me.

As the first event drew nearer I started to panic. I was certain I wouldn’t be able to find anything that fit, was comfortable, and that I liked.

I happened into Ricki’s, a shop I’d never tried on my sister’s advice to consider a combination of separates instead of a dress.

First winning moment, everything in the store went up to plus sizes. I could actually try on every style in the store. Amazing!

Second there was a sale. Yippee!

Third, there was stuff I liked that was comfortable! Wahoooooooooo!

I ended up buying a super fun glitter stretch knit dress with a cowl back.

Nat stands back to the camera showing of a well fitted dress with a plunging back

I wore that dress to my work formal. No shape wear, just a regular bra and undies. The stretchy fabric meant I was super comfy sitting, eating and dancing. The only downside was it didn’t breathe very well so after a few songs I’d be soaked from dancing. Granted I’m an enthusiastic dancer. I also sweat quite a bit. Honestly though if Under Armor or some other athletic wear company would make high performance formal wear I know a large group of suit and dress wearing humans who would by them!!!

We have money!!

I also scored a really shimmery sequined top and then a mirror calf length cardigan.

I wore pleather leggings with a lace top and the mirrored cardigan to my friends’ wedding. Again, comfy, classy and appropriately attention seeking. Let’s be honest, after the trials and tribulations of finding fun, functional formal wear it’s good to get noticed!

Coming up next is my partner’s work formal. I have at least 3 options that look great, feel good and I can dance in. I’ll get super sweaty but that’s ok.

Have you found formal wear that breathes when you dance? Please tell me about it!

I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE!

Sat with Nat · sleep

Nat’s still waiting to fall in love with her CPAP

About a year ago I went for a sleep study and got my results. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.

You can read my original post here.

Seven months later I’ve gotten used to using the machine every night. I’m still waiting to fall in love with my CPAP.

Things that really helped me get through the first couple months was tapping into my social support network. I learned there were different types of masks and tried them. In the end the rabbit nose worked for me.

I learned I could use it without water or heat settings. Totally revolutionized my experience. I turned off the auto-on/off and ramp up features. Finally I told my device provider that it felt like trying to sleep with my face out of a car window. They contacted the prescribing doctor and they dropped my pressure 2 points. It made a big difference.

I’m not seeing big gains in feeling rested or a boost in my mood or metabolism. So much for that! I definitely no longer snore so my partner and my throat are much happier. My blood pressure dropped 5 points. So some gains.

I had a follow up sleep test that was less invasive due to some changes in equipment. Less wires and not being tethered to the wall made a big difference. Natalie’s unimpressed face stares at the camera with wires and tape attached.

Ya. My expression is accurate. I’m tolerating and complying but I wouldn’t even say I’m feeling neutral about it.

I’m accepting but, when I really take a moment, I resent the CPAP and strongly dislike it. I miss slipping into bed and cuddling to my sweetie, my forehead pressed into the nap of his neck.

I miss spontaneous sex and even just going to sleep without the whole mask donning production.

My many friends who use these types of breathing devices assure me with time I will love it. I hope so.

Sat with Nat

Nat is definitely experiencing peri menopause

A year ago I stood in the family planning isle of the pharmacy staring at pregnancy tests. It had been 40 days since my last period. For 4 years I had fastidiously tracked my periods in a phone app. They clustered tightly between 21 & 31 days. Oh to know then that those variations were a tightly clustered data set.

On the one hand I was 44 with a tubal ligation 17 years earlier and my partner had a vasectomy around the same time. On the other hand, statistically, it was highly unlikely I was pregnant but it wasn’t a zero chance so I needed to check.

I wasn’t pregnant but it was my first skipped period that signaled the start of a year where the time between periods oscillated wildly from 18 to 52 days. There’s no planning around that data set.

My mood started to mirror these fluctuations and my sex drive skyrocketed while I also was fed up with everyone and could cry at any moment. It has been tumultuous times.

The unpredictable periods, sometimes so heavy it interfered with exercise, activities or even leaving the house were coupled with many other symptoms.

I started laughing recently when a Canadian sketch comedy show Baroness Von Sketch posted a short about peri menopause. It’s hilarious. Also at many junctions the protagonist asks “I don’t know, is it? No, it couldn’t. I still <insert young life affirming thing>”

It basically narrates the past year. But nothing is more compelling or persuasive than the graph of my period frequency.

A line graph showing a big mountain of period variations after many years of tightly clustered data.

Oh yes, I’m definitely in the peri menopause now friends. Some great advice from my friend & colleague Patti was to embrace the tumultuous times, just like I did when I was pregnant.

I’m trying. 😀

And I’m letting go of any expectations that exercise will transform my body or make it youthful. It’s simply a way to support my health & mobility while sometimes allowing me to appreciate what my body can do.

Sat with Nat · strength training

Nat goes back to her exercise basics

I tried to think of the first exercise I ever learned. I can’t put my finger on it but I bet it was skipping, running, push ups, summersaults or sit ups.

For me body weight exercises are the basics, the foundation of where I build my fitness. From walking to cycling to yoga, moving my body starts first with getting the moves right.

The past month I’ve had a lot of hip and lower back pain. It was so bad I had to stop my activities, including walking to work, and rest my body.

Now that the acute pain has passed I’m going back to basics with a beginner body weight workout. I like this one by Nerd fitness. It’s customizable and I can draw on my previous knowledge to pick the variations on each exercise that work.

For example toe push-ups are not accessible to me right now and knee push-ups are painful from varicose veins across my knees so I started with wall push-ups. You get parallel to a wall with your arms extended, step back on your tippy-toes and do your push-ups. It allows me to dial in my form and check in with my body. After 3 circuits I can feel the burn in my chest & triceps.

My partner and I joked our little 20 minute routine was just a warm up until the aches set in two days later. It might be the squats, the lunges or the giant bag of rice we used as a weight but whatever it was we were both humbled by how much the routine asked of our bodies.

I want to slowly ramp back up to weights. I also know if I do a body weight routine for a few months my core, flexibility and form will support my future fitness goals and reduce my chances of injury.

An 8 kilogram bag of jasmine rice sits on a slightly dirty floor

This rice seemed, at just under 8kg, a good rowing weight.

What exercises do you go back to time & again? What is the first exercises you remember learning?