cycling · fall · fitness · season transitions · snow · winter

The seasons of cycling

When I first started riding a bike as an adult, I commuted in the winter but recreational riding came to an end with the snow and the cold. Fun riding was summer riding on my road bike with skinny tires in the sunshine. I trained indoors all winter but I did it for the sake of summer riding.

Over the years I’ve changed, as a cyclist, and I’ve come to appreciate the change of seasons for the different kinds of riding it brings.

For me fall means the return of my adventure road bike and fun riding on gravel. It’s my go-to commuting bike but it’s also good for weekend country rides. We dial back the distance and go out for an hour or two on bike trails. It’s relaxing to ride with no cars in sight. This past weekend Sarah and I did some riding in Turkey Point. See the gallery below.

I’ve got my eyes on the Guelph to Goderich rail trail too.

But it’s not just the fall and cyclocross/gravel riding. I’m also looking forward now to the winter and to riding in the snow on my fat bike. It’s a fun and joyful way to play in the snow on bikes. Check out my smile!

I think I’ve honestly come to love all the seasons of cycling. They’re different things, each with their own kind of pleasure.

Some road riding friends don’t get it. They question the fitness benefits of fat bike riding. They ask about my heart rate and training zones. I say that’s not the point. I don’t fess up that I am not even wearing a heart rate monitor. I’m doing it for fun and for mental health benefits. I need to be outside in the winter. I love riding through the woods. Fat bike riding makes me feel like a kid again as I ride over all sorts of obstacles in my path.

I still ride inside all winter. I put a road bike on a trainer and ride virtually in Zwift. That’s fun too and that I do do for fitness reasons.

Fat biking? That’s for fun and the love of riding a bike.

I’m now the kind of cyclist who loves all the seasons of cycling. See you out there in autumn, winter, spring, and summer!

How about you? Do you ride year round? How many seasons of cycling do you like?

cycling · monthly check in · season transitions

Sam’s monthly check in: What went on in August (cw: brief mention of aspirational weight loss)

This is a very quick update. In early August I met with a knee surgeon at University Hospital. I’ve decided to go ahead with their recommendation which is total knee replacement. Even going through the intake questions it became clear how much I’ve lost. I won’t get running or martial arts back but I’m looking forward to some really long walks.

I don’t sleep through the night without pain. I get my knee in a good position with pillows but then I I wake up each time I need to move. It’s a good 3-4 times a night. I can’t stand, sit, or walk for very long.

Now it’s a 16 months countdown to knee surgery with a focus on leg strength, exercise, and weight loss. It’s not all fun but having a deadline gives me a new sense of focus and determination. Wish me luck.

Eventually I’ll need both knees done but I’m hoping to get a bit of a break between surgeries.

Happiness is a new knee.

Towards the middle of August I started to notice the earlier dark. I’m pining for lost morning and evening light. I love riding before and after work and I’ll lose the light for that long before I lose the heat. Boo hoo. I saw this the other day on Facebook. “Sunset is now before 8pm. We will not see it set after 8pm again until late April.” Sigh. For more, see here.

At the very end of August, the last day, today it’s my birthday. 55! We set out ride 55 km but in the end messed up with routes and got back after 53.6 km. Other people might have ridden around the block (Cate!) but I decided I’m 53.6 years of age at heart.

Hume Road. For the philosophers.
Susan, David, me, Sarah, and Stephanie
fitness · season transitions

Chronicles of December: same month, different attitude?

December provokes a lot of emotions for us.  It’s the beginning of real, bona fide, no-getting-around-it winter (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). It’s a time of frantic activity:

  • frantic finishing of semester for those of us students and teachers
  • frantic preparing for those of us celebrating Christmas
  • sometimes-frantic taking stock of the year and starting to make resolutions for the next one

I’ve been especially prone to the last type of frantic activity. I wrote a post  on Seasonal adaptation: slowing down and turning inward two years ago. In it I said that, despite the craziness of the season, 

In the midst of it, I feel– calm. A bit quieter than usual.  Slow and deliberate. The indirect light suits me.  The early dusk I find entrancing.  This is a new experience and completely unexpected.

Reading these words now, I wince a little. I think they were more aspirational than actual.  That is, I was shooting for this feeling:

Woman in white gauzy, flowing gown in the woods, viewed from the back.
Woman in white gauzy, flowing gown in the woods, viewed from the back.

When in fact, in December, I pretty much always have this feeling:

Woman's face covered with post-its with tasks and responsibilities like pets, work, house, cooking, etc. You get it.
Woman’s face covered with post-its with tasks and responsibilities like pets, work, house, cooking, etc. You get it.

This December, I admit that I’m way overburdened with work, physical therapy, lots of family strife around me, unmet writing obligations, and my usual body shame/dissatisfaction that accelerates during the holiday season. 

So I’m going with it. This is me, moving forward in super-messy fashion.  I’m:

  • doing a bunch of yoga, mostly in very small bits (7-15 mins, even)
  • walking more, with the accompanying soreness of the ankle with no brace now
  • sleeping 8 hours at least, because I have to in order to function
  • being present for my family, trying to maintain boundaries of some sort
  • accepting that my house will be super-messy and my writing obligations will have to wait and that my body is actually helping me do all these things so thank you body

Forget ethereal.  I’m going for pragmatic this season.  

What’s your word or attitude this December?  I’d love to hear from you.

diets · eating · fitness · food · holiday fitness · holidays · Martha's Musings · nutrition · season transitions

T’is the season to detox yourself from cleanses, diets and weird wellness claims

By MarthaFitat55

It’s not even December 1 and I have been seeing a non-stop stream of ads, posts and recommended links on all manner of cleanses. Some are short, some are long, some are liquid, and some are minimal. All are useless.

Timothey Caulfield at the University of Alberta debunks the latest holiday cleanses in this article. Caulfield writes:

The idea that we need to cleanse and detoxify our bodies seems to have become a culturally accepted fact. This feels especially true around the holidays which are associated with heavy foods and even heavier shame about what that turkey and gravy and wine might be doing to our insides. After a weekend of indulgence, wellness gurus cry, your body is begging for a detox. But is it?

 While there is something to be said for countering a week (or two) of indulgence with lighter fare, unless you were born liver-less or you lost your liver along the way, the human body has its own detox system right inside you: the aforementioned liver and kidneys.

 There’s a huge market out there and if you build it, make it, sell it, they will come. The promises are endless but the long and short of it is simple: today’s cleanses and detox programs are primarily designed to relieve you of your money.

The sellers of these cleanses rely on fear and vanity, and also on society’s preoccupation on thinness. The messages are often wrapped upin social beliefs about health and wellness.

 We empower people to take charge of their health, especially women who are often responsible for managing their well being along with those of their families. Who wants to be known as someone who does not care about their health? Not me.

While the social imperative to diet, to cleanse, to eat clean is present year-round, there seems to be special pressure in December to do any number of things to ensure we have the perfect body.

 All the ads I have seen lead me to believe that we must cleanse the body the same way we cleanse our homes for special occasions this time of year. In January, when the new year has begun and we barely have had time to vacuum the pine needles and expunge the last piece of glitter from our homes, we get a different chorus but still with the same tune.

I suggest, if we are to cleanse anything, it is these sorts of unhelpful and unhealthy approaches to wellness.

So if you are confused and challenged by all that you see, remember this: everything in moderation. Your body will do what it needs to do. Fuel it appropriately.  Move lots (preferably outside if it isn’t blowing a gale). Get lots of sleep. Drink lots of water. Have fun.

MarthaFitat55 lives and writes in St. John’s.

cycling · fitness · season transitions

I want to go fall riding!

Photo of bright, red fall leaves with rain drops. I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with work travel. And I do a lot of it in the fall. This weekend is Connecticut and then London. I’m here in Storrs to talk about micro-inequities. On Sunday Tracy and I take the stage at Wordsfest to talk about Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey. Next weekend it’s Boston. But after that I’m done. The travel is a fun part of academic life. It really is. I’ve been to lots of beautiful and amazing places. But it eats up weekends as can take away from family time, hobbies, fitness pursuits, laundry! When I wasn’t Dean I’d often take Monday off after a weekend away. I’d do the laundry, cook a nice family dinner, go to the gym. But deans don’t get to do that. I’ve got a full slate of meetings when I return. I’m still bike commuting on weekdays but when I’m away on weekends I miss my long rides. My plan is to ride on the weekend when I get back. I won’t ride in the rain when it’s cold but I’ll ride in the cold. I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of the last of the hall leaves and ride just as fast as I feel like riding.
fitness · motivation · season transitions

It’s getting dark out there… transitioning into autumn without losing momentum

As Sam mentioned earlier this week, autumn is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere. And with it comes the challenge of shorter, darker days and worse weather for those of us who like to exercise outdoors. To be honest, at this point I’m actually grateful it’s getting cooler. The Central European heatwave that lasted from… basically June through August and made it nearly impossible to exercise without melting is finally showing signs of abating, even though it’s still unseasonably warm. We’re getting a wonderful late summer here this year (picture proof below).

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Late summer in Bettina’s neck of the woods: blue evening sky with some clouds reflected in the river, hills, trees and the buildings of a small town in the background. This was taken during a recent bike ride with some colleagues after work.

But we’re also getting less and less light and eventually the temperatures will drop to less pleasant weathers. I’ve definitely struggled in the past to keep my outdoor momentum up during the autumn and winter months. I don’t mind it so much if it’s cold, or even snowing. I also don’t mind running in the rain in the summer, but the combination of cold and wet is my kryptonite. And the lack of daylight is definitely an issue: no more run commutes (the latest addition to my routine anyway) because it’ll be too dark in the forest, and even in the city I don’t enjoy running at night that much. Lots of people have a gym subscription, but I don’t. So what is an aspiring fit feminist to do? Here some ideas, based mostly on my own personal experience:

  • Take it inside. It may not be as enjoyable as the outdoors, but some sports don’t suffer too much. Of course I prefer the 50m outdoor pool, but the indoor pool isn’t too bad in comparison. And, if that’s up your alley, you could consider adding a sauna visit afterwards, or sit in the hot tub after training, if there’s such a thing at your pool. I’ll admit that swimming is a sport where this is singularly easy, unless you’re an open water swimmer. Switching out your favourite running trail for a treadmill is much less appealing…
  • Switch it up. I’ll definitely be doing more indoor yoga when it’s too wet for me to want to set foot outside. Also, strength training. There’s some good apps that guide you through a workout, or Youtube videos if that’s your jam. In our household, we recently invested in one of those sling things (whatever they’re called, the ones used in TRX training) that you can hang on your door to do core and strength exercises. You could even try something totally new to you that’s geared more towards indoor practice.
  • Team up. I’m much more likely to go running in the rain if I’ve made a commitment to others. That works well for me in general – if I tell someone I’m going to do something, I usually will. External accountability does a lot for me.
  • Time change. For weeks, it was too hot for lunchtime runs here. But now they’re staging a strong comeback! If you have the option of showering at work, going for a run at lunchtime is a great option if, like me, you don’t like running in the dark. Plus, lunchtime runs are in a group (see above). If you can’t shower at work, even a walk is good to get some movement in.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just as it’s ok not to exercise when it’s too hot, it’s ok not to exercise when it’s too cold, or too wet, or you’re just not feeling it that day. Yes, a routine is important, and some days it’s important to push through and get a move on. But not always. Everyone’s allowed a rain (literally! ha!) check every once in a while. Cosying up on the couch can be just as worth it.

So, what are your tips for keeping up a strong sports routine in the colder weather? Curious to hear about your strategies, so please share them in the comments!

fitness · season transitions

Sam is Telling New Stories

It’s back to school and fall is approaching. I know it’s weeks off yet but university classes are back on and the leaves are turning. I looked back on past posts recently and blogged about the themes: dark, sadness, and fall riding.

I worry that stories take on a life of their own. We create ourselves through narratives and while we can’t just make stuff up, we do have some choice about the stories we tell. I’m looking for happier autumn stories.

The good news in my life is how much I’m enjoying my big new job. Deans at Guelph get to meet lots of students and so the first week of term has meant attending a lunch for all of our big scholarship winners and giving a demo first year lecture to 200 students on philosophy and death.

On Labour Day Monday Sarah and I helped to host a college wide lunch for first year students, and then most recently I was seen and photographed (thanks Sandy!) serving free ice cream to all students, new and returning, with other members of the senior admin team.

What’s not to like about free ice cream?

Chocolate, vanilla, and vegan rainbow sorbet.

I know this isn’t about fitness per se. But it is about new stories. The fall seems more celebratory with my Dean’s hat on. I also get to wear my academic regalia in September at a ceremony to formally welcome the first year class. The President admits them to the university and then there are welcoming remarks by the mayor of the city and the Provost. It’s really nice.

This weekend my mother and I are also celebrating 50 years in Canada. We’re having a party on Sunday called From Grand Falls to Guelph. It’s almost exactly fifty years since we emigrated from England. I was four.

Here’s my mother, my grandmother, me, and my little sister encountering lobster.

So I’m focusing on the new, trying to stay positive, and looking forward. How about you?

If you’re also subject to seasonal sadness, the Guardian has this great list of 18 things to try to combat fall blues. Some are obvious such as trying a new activity (swimming!) and spending more time outside. I also like the idea of day trips and the suggestion of allowing for more unscheduled time. Summer was busy!

This CBC piece on September sadness recommends thinking of fall as a new start but as a lifelong academic I do that anyway!