cycling · fall · season transitions

Fall noodling in the countryside

Big Island Bike Ride

I’ve written lots about how much I love fall riding. See here and here.

Fall is my very favorite bike riding season. All those beautiful colours, all that summer fitness, and sunshine-y cool weather. So much fun. See Reasons to start riding in the fall and Looking ahead: The quiet season and the joys of fall riding.

This weekend Sarah and I were at her family farm in Prince Edward County. We frolicked in the swimming pool. I did swim some laps but mostly I enjoyed splashing about.

We had friends visit for physical distanced BBQ dinners. We ate outside with lap blankets and toques!

This year I want to make sure we squeeze every last drop of pleasure and togetherness out of summer since we know we’re heading into a tough fall and winter.

We also made sure we got out for a Sunday bike ride. Our plan was to noodle around Big Island. What’s “noodling” on a bike? The dictionary says it’s the action of improvising or playing casually on a musical instrument. How does that translate to riding bikes?

Well, we had no speed goals. We went just as fast as we felt like. We were open to route changes.We stopped to adjust things on our bikes. We also stopped several times to take photos (see some of them above.) We smiled and waved at children and dogs. We chatted lots about houses and plans. We also created a new Strava segment, one that reflects the playfulness of the day. It’s called “Osprey2Osprey” and it’s from one osprey nest to another, It’s about 3.5 km. Later we’ll have fun sprinting that stretch and racing one another home but today was all about noodling.

We’ve got two more weekends with bikes planned, one more with road bikes at the farm and another, with our gravel bikes, on the Guelph to Goderich trail.

Here’s what our noodling looks like by the numbers!

fitness · season transitions

Sunset on summer: the beach in early fall

This weekend I’m in Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s my first trip here, and the island is lovely and verdant and oh-so Nantuckety: here’s what I mean.

The look of this place is very tightly regulated and very cohesive; all cedar shingles all the time. But the beaches are under no such ordinances, nor would they pay attention if the local town meeting passed some conventions on how beaches should comport themselves.

To me, beaches are synonymous with summer. My whole life I’ve gone with family to the South Carolina coast for swimming, walking, playing, and hanging out (including foolhardy sunbathing in my teens; glad those days are over) on the wide, hard sand coastline, with its warm water.

This year I didn’t make it to the SC coast, as I usually do, because COVID. However, this short getaway to a New England island, with its own shore beauty, is feeling like a good way to bid goodbye to summer. The weather is coolish and windy, so I’m wearing a light sweater for daytime walking and contemplation. For sunset, it’s necessary to add a hat and jacket. I’m still barefoot– I mean, it is the beach– but the toes are a little chilly in the oddly cool sand.

Each day around 6:30pm we head over to the beach at Madaket, bundled up with beach chairs in tow, to witness the colors of the early fall sunset over the water.

Setting sun, hovering over the sea.

The air and sand start to cool down. Others join us for the show.

Sun, sinking below the watery horizon.
Sun, sinking below the watery horizon.

Everything is orange in tone, just for a moment.

Last reflections of sunset in the distance.
Last reflections of sunset in the distance.

The orange glow deepens, now in contrast with dark and metallic gray sand and waves.

Evening has arrived.
Evening has arrived.

Are we ever ready for the end of summer? In warmer climates, you can try to hang on for a bit longer; but here in New England, fall makes its presence known. There are hikes and fall riding (I love fall cycling!) to look forward to, but many of our outdoor activities will have to taper off or shift substantially.

One thing I’m learning from the past 6–500 months that comprises the pandemic is, nature is out there. Sunsets are out there. Beaches are out there. Summer is passing into fall. Another season is coming. I’m going to work on making friends with it, and continuing to go to the beach seems like as good a way as any.

So farewell, summer beach, and hello, fall beach. And I’ll be here when winter beach arrives.

Readers, do you have any rituals for bidding an official farewell to summer? Do you turn around and say, where did it go? Do you take each day as it comes? I’d love to hear from you about how you’re experiencing this natural change. Thanks for reading.

fitness · season transitions

In a late winter slump? Try these active indoor solutions…

This time of year is hard on our moods. I mean, it’s late winter and it’s blah outside (unless you live somewhere warm and lovely, in which case, congratulations and feel free to go wash your car outside in the sunshine). There are stalwarts among us who keep outside activity going through rain, sleet, snow and dark of night; however, most of us end up spending more time indoors, moving less, feeling cooped up and a little crabby.

Bettina summed it up beautifully– this is late winter slump time. She also put out the call to the rest of us– what are some strategies for making it through to springtime?

Well, Bettina and friends, thanks to 1) the internet, and 2) a lack of better ideas for today’s blog post, I have found some indoor workouts that should provide at the very least a change of pace, and maybe even inspire new fashion directions. Here we go…

Of course no indoor workout list would be complete without the OG aerobics videos of Jazzercise. It’s worth watching just for the hairdos and leotards (had to check spelling, as I was writing it as lyotard, a philosopher who I believe never recorded any workout videos). Here’s a perky example below:

Yoga videos are all over the place, and many of us have written about some of our favorite youtube yogis, like Adriene and Bad Yogi. But if you’re really looking to shake things up, I suggest checking out this 10-minute yoga video below, hosted by none other than the late great Dixie Carter, actor and star of Designing Women, one of my mother’s favorite TV shows. Here’s her video, which features a Linda-Blair-Exorcist-style vocalization at 5:19.

Now, you may be thinking, “enough already with the retro funny exercise videos; show me something new!” Gotcha. How about a parkour warmup you can do at home? This one is courtesy of Ronnie Street Stunts. Mr. Stunts has his own youtube channel, so you can do a deep dive into his parkour instruction, including (of course) a 30-day parkour challenge, which is here.

Is parkour too ho-hum for you? How about this: Scarf juggling. Yes, I can feel your skepticism from here, but hear me out: according to Jugglefit.com, juggling has many health benefits:

  • Juggling is a portable workout.
  • It makes you smarter.
  • It sharpens focus and concentration.
  • Juggling is the ultimate in stress relief.
  • It’s an exercise that doesn’t “feel” like exercise.
  • You can juggle where you are– no travel required.
  • Juggling helps maintain and increase range of motion in the arms and shoulders.
  • Juggling is beneficial for all ages and body types.
  • Juggling wards off cravings (really? maybe because you’ve got your hands full? dunno about this one).
  • Juggling is easy to do with friends and family.

Still don’t believe me? Well, try it out yourself, with help from this guy:

Now, the videos I’ve shown you so far may be a distraction, but they aren’t likely to help you get the jump on some of your favorite summer sports. I hear you– it’s time to offer a video that will be useful for activities you love, but which you can’t do easily in winter.

Take kayaking, for example. You can don a drysuit and brave the cold water (some do), or you can practice rolling and other techniques in a pool (I’ve even tried this). But that requires a lot of effort and hauling of equipment. Isn’t there something that can be done from the comfort of your living room? Funny you should ask. Yes, there is. In the video below, some guy shows us rolling techniques we can practice at home, on the floor, with children even (he’s got two little ones helping with demos and explanations).

I want to try this right now. But I have to wait until I finish this blog post…

Which I will do after one more at-home DIY full activity video that cannot fail to please everyone all the time. Yes, I’m talking about Soul Train line dancing. The video collection online is a universe unto itself. But here’s one to give you a taste or provide a sweet reminder:

When I was little, we never missed Soul Train, and often ended up dancing in the living room. It was fun then, it’s fun now.

So Bettina and all the Fit is a Feminist issue readers and bloggers, here are some suggestions for addressing late winter blahs. Let me know if 1) you try any of these; or 2) you have other suggestions. We want to hear from you!

aging · fitness · habits · holidays · motivation · new year's resolutions · season transitions

Words and Challenges for the New Year

Four days in, I’m still adjusting to this fresh start of a decade. We’re living in the 20’s now. A decade that makes me think my word for the year should be … ROAR.

My cousin introduced me to this word of the year practice about 10 years ago. Our guest blogger, Anne Simpson, wrote about her Word of the Year a few days ago. The idea is to distill your hopes, dreams, ambitions and challenges for the coming year into a word. What’s the one word you choose today to describe the year you are aiming for? A word that aspires to something greater, but doesn’t set you up for disappointment. A personal word that captures both who you are already (and you are just dandy the way you are!) and how you can refine that existing excellence. A word that will inspire you for the 364 days to come.

Vortex of black letters on white background
Nathaniel Shuman on Unsplash

Last year, I had some pretty definitive plans for 2019 related to one of my plays and my book that was publishing in July. I wanted to remind myself not to get too caught up in expectations. I also challenged myself to meditate every day. My word was PRESENCE. In 2018, I was immersed in book writing and my personal challenge was to not shop for clothes or shoes for the whole year. My word was ATTENTION. 

A quick note about these challenges I mention. I’m not one for resolutions. Or maybe I just don’t like the word, in the context of the New Year. There’s something about resolutions that always feels like someone/something is chastising me to do better. And I was never very good at sticking to resolutions. But I have developed a habit of setting myself a challenge for the year. And, weirdly, I generally manage to stick to my challenges. Could just be that the word is more motivating. My challenges are usually ways of being that I want to try on for size, with no commitment to extend after the year is over. You can bet I’ve shopped for some new clothes since 2018 finished.

This year feels largely unknown and fluid. Scary. I have some specific events I’m looking forward to–talks I’m giving in Princeton at The Present Day Club and San Francisco at The Battery; another reading of my play at Missouri State University; plus a new workshop series I’m planning with a friend of mine. I don’t know what any of these will lead to. I don’t know what my big project for the year will be. A new book? Another play? Rolling out the workshops? Plus, there’s my challenge for the year—no buying anything (except books/tv/film) on amazon. I may also go back to an alternate month no-shopping practice, because the prospect is peaceful to contemplate.

All in all, I feel open. Excited. Super daunted. And sometimes a little frustrated, because shouldn’t a woman in her 50’s be looking forward to a steadier, more settled year? That’s my voice of insecurity having her say. But she does not get to decide my word! So, given all that, what is my word?

I like ROAR , but that’s not it.

Here’s my always evolving list of possible words: illuminate … grow … strong … steady … being …  belonging … becoming … run … light … recharge … strong … vitality … engaged … present … discerning … happy … incandescent … yes … flow … curiosity … change … renewal … reliability … radiance … spontaneity … pleasure … simplicity

I like the potential these words embrace. This is a year about expanding and making space. I want to get to the end of 2020 and feel like I’ve tapped into new personal resources.

In that spirit, this year, I choose BECOMING.

What’s your word or challenge?

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).

90baa224-aa62-4dfa-b44e-8a0fe9643a71.JPG
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!