blog · camping · canoe · cycling · family · fashion · fitness · illness · nature · season transitions · Seasonal sadness · traveling

Blogging in September: My birthday, the blog’s birthday, back to school, and other themes

There are lots of things I could write about today. I’ve spent a fair bit of time pondering my choice of topics.

I was going to write about my annual thyroid cancer check up. It’s today. And if all goes well it’s my last annual check up. (Fingers crossed.) After today they’re every five years. My birthday last week was also mammogram day. It’s as if September weren’t a busy enough month for an academic. It’s also cancer screening season for me.

I thought about writing whether Tracy and I want to write a turning 60 book, to follow up our turning 50 project, Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey. We’re having dinner together tonight and no doubt the subject will come up

Let’s see. It’s also blog birthday season. As Tracy posted, happy 9th birthday blog! We’re nearly at 5000 posts too. That’s hard to believe. This post is 4990!

And the blog’s birthday and my birthday, not surprisingly given how the blog got started, are pretty close together. Another possible topic, what does 57 mean anyway?

Here’s a photo from my birthday bike ride!

Jeff, Dhurin, me, Kim, Ellen and Sarah on the birthday bike ride

At this time of year I often write about back to school and trying to stay physically active as work gets busier and busier. This year, unlike last, I’m back in my office. I’m not yet back at the gym.

I’m having big busy days filled with work and people. So many people! I gave a lecture to O-Week students (photo on the right) and hung out with incoming College of Arts students at our Food Truck lunch meet and greet (photo on the left.)

I also biked around meeting parents and students on move-in day. (Round photo at the bottom.)

Sam’s pink Bromption outside Zavitz Hall at the University of Guelph

I’m back in the office now, wearing (mostly) real clothes. I looked at my clothes the other day and wondered why there were so many pairs of yoga pants. Who needs five pairs of yoga pants? Oh right, work from home and the pandemic. I could write about wearing clothes again. I’m working my way back to real shoes but I am not there yet.

In recent years I’ve been suffering a bit from seasonal sadness and trying to tell myself new stories about fall and winter, leaning into the time of cold and dark. I’ve been trying to extend outdoor activities into the fall. We’re going canoe camping again one more time this fall. And we are also looking at more fall gravel riding plans. So there’s that.

I’m a bit nervous that the no travel thing is continuing and it looks like this will be another year in which I don’t get to go somewhere warm with my bike for the winter. I miss the southern US! I miss Florida and Arizona for winter cycling.

In the end, I just want to let you know how much we’ve been enjoying our time in Prince Edward County and likely will continue that into the autumn too.

How’s your September starting out as we move into the fall?

Here’s a farm frog and a some pumpkins.

Frog and pumpkins
season transitions · Seasonal sadness · swimming · winter

Winter swimming!

Snow swimming!

I’m fascinated by people who swim in the winter months. I’ve got friends who do it and who post their photos to Facebook. Each time, I’m intrigued.

I wrote about the trend of winter swimming last year on the blog.

People say it has  remarkable health benefits including helping with seasonal depression and with relieving the symptoms of menopause. It’s said to be all the rage: Why wild swimming in depths of winter is the new natural high.  People write about the subversive joy of cold water swimming.

There are even battles between the old school hardcore winter bathers and the new trendy winter swimmers who favour fleecy robes for warming up after.

And then this video came across my newsfeed.

Maybe I should just give it a try?

What do you think? What’s the coldest weather/water you’ve swum in before? Tempted to do it again? Love it? Hate it? Tell us your story!

family · health · Seasonal sadness

Sam is making a conscious effort to acknowledge gratitude, #NationalGratitudeMonth

November is not my favourite month.

That’s an understatement at the best of times and now there’s a pandemic on.

Serious mood improvement measures are called for. In Cate’s blog post about self-care, I even mentioned candy. I’m bringing out the big guns. I’m also trying to get more light in my life.

A few of my friends do a November gratitude thing. They consciously acknowledge and share each day some things for which they are grateful. I figure it can’t hurt and it might help. I’ve been enjoying reading their gratitude posts. So far I’ve noticed that turning my mind each day to the good bits makes me smile, and even on bad days, there’s always something I’m grateful about.

Here’s a few of my first posts:

“Today I’m grateful for teamwork and getting things done. This weekend we managed to cover the boat in shrink wrap for the winter and move the shed so my mother could have more light in her window. Thanks Jeff and Sarah for working to keep boats and houses in order.”

“November is gratitude month and today I am grateful for working with very smart and hard working colleagues, for Sarah who made dinner while I zoomed the day away, and also for a mother who came home from the doctors with oat cakes.”

“Continuing with theme of gratitude, tonight I am thankful for my smart, generous, creative and caring graduate students, for warm sunny fall days for outdoor in-person office hours, and for the technology that allows us to meet as a group safely online. “

I read up on National Gratitude month too.

See National Gratitude Month is an annual designation observed in November.

“Gratitude is more than simply saying “thank you.”  Gratitude’s amazing powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives. Everything in our lives has the ability to improve when we are grateful. Research has shown that gratitude can enhance our moods, decrease stress and drastically improve our overall level of health and wellbeing. On average, grateful people tend to have fewer stress-related illnesses and experience less depression and lowered blood pressure, they are more physically fit, they are happier, have a higher income, more satisfying personal and professional relationships and will be better liked. “

It seems everybody has good things to say about gratitude.

See 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round.

  • Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • Gratitude improves physical health.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  • Grateful people sleep better.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.

And if 7 weren’t enough benefits, this list has 28!

See 28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings. Is there anything gratitude can’t do?

I also read a thing from the Harvard Medical School about the health and mental health effects of gratitude. Again, there’s a lot of perks for the grateful person.

It’s good for everyone, it seems. Well, almost everyone.

“There are some notable exceptions to the generally positive results in research on gratitude. One study found that middle-aged divorced women who kept gratitude journals were no more satisfied with their lives than those who did not. Another study found that children and adolescents who wrote and delivered a thank-you letter to someone who made a difference in their lives may have made the other person happier — but did not improve their own well-being. This finding suggests that gratitude is an attainment associated with emotional maturity.”

Have you tried a gratitude habit/practice before? What do you think? Did it improve your mood/well-being?

fall · fashion · fitness · gear · Seasonal sadness · self care · walking

Thoughts about walking and about rain boots minus gender

Nat’s post about walking in the rain prompted me to take action. Now, I’m no Nat. I meet my very modest step goal most days but I try not to care. My Garmin watch gives me fireworks when I’ve met my step goal and I smile at this little mini celebration but when it asks me to increase my goal, I decline.

About eight months ago I wrote a post about the wonders of walking that asked what if you can’t walk. I can walk but not very far with my damaged, waiting to be totally replaced, knee. There are still reasons to walk, even it hurts, and lots of studies show that walking won’t make the situation worse.

So I do walk a fair bit still thanks to Cheddar the dog but increasing my step count isn’t among my fitness goals.

Cheddar and the fall colours

But Nat’s post inspired me in another direction, the direction of dry feet and dressing for the weather. Like Nat, I’m well kitted out for winter. I have all the gear I need to stay warm on my fat bike, on snow shoes, or while walking Cheddar in January. But rainy weather? Not so much.

I don’t mind winter when it’s here. In January the days are getting longer, there’s snow to play in, and often there’s sun. But November? Ugh. Dark, cold and often rainy, November is my toughest month. I’m on record as hating November.

Given the pandemic, I don’t need any extra anger or resentment in my life. I need to make friends with November. First step, getting better rain gear. I’ve got an excellent rain coat that I bought while on sabbatical in New Zealand. But I don’t have good rain boots. My calves are too wide for traditional knee high rain boots.

The boots needed to be bright and cheerful, because November. And short, because calves.

Here was my short list of choices:

Boots

In the end I chose the Pride boots. I thought seriously about the pink fishing boots but they aren’t available in my size.

But I need to tell you a thing I love about the Pride boots. They’re available in two different kinds of sizes, wide and narrower. Not men’s and women’s.

I’ve written before about gendered sizing, about lady backpacks and women’s bikes, and why they drive me up the wall. Why not just wide shoulders, or long torso? Why tie things to gender even they’re not about gender at all? If some men fit women’s boots and some women need men’s boots, then it isn’t really about gender, is it?

Thks. Hunter boots for getting it right.

Black boots with rainbow heels

Now, assuming they fit, these boots likely aren’t enough to make me love November when it gets here. But I just have tolerate November and likely I will tolerate it better with dry feet.

Thanks for the prompt Nat.

Enjoy your walks with Michel and Lucy. Cheddar and I will be thinking of you!

And Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

A small orange pumpkin being held in two hands outstretched.
fall · fitness · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Getting some light in my life

Usually at this point in the year I start complaining about seasonal dark, associated mood disorders, and the practical challenge of bike commuting and needing headlights, reflective gear etc.

See Struggling with September Sadness and The night is (soon to be) dark and full of terrors.

Occasionally over the years I’ve managed some good feelings about the dark and about September which brings more of it into my life. See I like it in the dark: Winter and the joys of night time riding and running and Sam is Telling New Stories. But mostly they’re bad news blog posts.

This year I’m working from home. The challenges are different. I can see that it might be dangerous to work all day and only think about leaving the house in the dark.

I’m going to try to make sure I leave the house during the day to get outside in the daylight even if I don’t have anywhere particular to go. Cheddar doesn’t care about goals. He’s just happy to walk. Or run!

Cheddar running across the grass

As a back up plan, I’m also bringing my anti-SAD lamp home from work. It’s not needed there now I am only in my office on Wednesdays. I’m also reading about how people who cope with much more dark than we do get by and even seem to enjoy it.

Northern Light Technologies Luxor Desk Lamp | UPC: 870681000084

As we enter the double whammy of fall dark and the second wave of COVID-19 and associated shut-downs, what are you doing to keep some light in your life?

fitness · monthly check in · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Sam’s monthly check in: September was busy!

As usual, September is a blur. That’s true in both non pandemic and pandemic times. I’ve been a student, then graduate student, then Professor, now also Dean. September is always a blur for me.

This one was especially busy with lots of time with students, in my role as Dean and Professor, both physically distanced on campus and virtually on Teams/Zoom. The university is a hectic place as we carry on mostly remotely. So many meetings!

We’re also busy navigating our slow and cautious return to campus as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic begins which will likely mean drawing back, restricting our activities further, and staying at home much more than usual this winter. There’ll be no warm weather biking for me in January. In a recent post Cate asked what we’ve been doing to nourish our soul, given that we are heading into a tough winter.

Well, I spent September working hard, but also riding my bike, visiting with family outdoors, taking care of some basic needs (haircut and dentist) and reading fiction. I’ve been trying to appreciate fall for what it is, rather than worrying about what’s to come. Less anticipatory sadness more now is all we have. Thanks Nicole!

Sarah and I have been spending more time at the farm in Prince Edward County. That means loops around Big Island and racing the Osprey Nest to Osprey Nest Strava segment we created.

I’ve also started working on campus, one day a week. That means I’m bike commuting again, which I’ve missed.

Left; Sam wearing her pink sparkly helmet and her Art Gallery of Guelph Begging Bear mask.
Right: Pink Brompton leaning on rock outside campus building

Here’s my office on campus, my outdoor office hours, and an empty (usually bustling) student plaza.

Despite being busy I’m still riding lots (for me). I might make 5000 km this year.

I’m loving Yoga With Adriene’s PE series for young people. That’s where my yoga attention span is these days. And we’re going to push backyard personal training as far as we can into the winter months.

I’m trying to think like a Norwegian about winter: “ People in Svalbard (at 78 deg north) had a more positive mindset than the people in Tromsø (69 deg north), who took a more optimistic view than people in Oslo (60 deg north). In other words, the positive wintertime mindset is most common where it’s most needed. These positive attitudes were apparent in Leibowitz’s casual conversations; indeed, she says that many of her friends struggled to understand why you would not enjoy winter. They embraced the possibility of skiing or hiking in the mountains, and savoured the chance to practice koselig – a Norwegian version of Denmark’s hygge – which might involve snuggling under blankets with a warm drink in the candlelight. Far from dwindling in the dark, Tromsø’s community flourished in the long polar night. “There is this interaction between the culture that you’re part of, and the mentality or mindset that grows out of it,” says Prof Joar Vittersø, Leibowitz’s collaborator at the Arctic University of Tromsø.”

fall · Seasonal sadness · winter

November is Sam’s toughest fitness month: Here’s why, what’s yours?

View from inside a rainy window. Photo from Unsplash.

“The noons are more laconic and the sundowns sterner. November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.” Emily Dickinson

Christine’s post this morning reminded me that I need a plan for November. November looms.

Regular readers of the blog know how much I hate late fall. I won’t even link to all my dark and fall hating posts. There’s too many. But here’s one that rolls them all together.

In 2016 here’s how I described November, “November kind of just pounced on me, tackled me to the ground, and pinned me before I even had a chance to tap the mat.” Each year, I struggle with November. In 2014, I set specific November goals. In 2016, I gave in and set my sights on December.

What’s wrong with November exactly?

Brief recap: It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s wet. And there’s no snow yet to play in.

That’s my annual seasonally affected whine. It’s saved by Christmas (bright lights) and then by the new year (increasing light, bigger plans and ambitions) but November often feels to me like one long, slow, dark miserable month.

It’s best when I ride anyway and get tough but I don’t always have the stamina for that.

It’s also, just in terms of training, a weird time. Back before the fittest by fifty challenge with Tracy, I just tended to go into the fall as long as I could and then give up completely until after the new year. November was my annual fitness dark valley.

During the challenge I moved my serious bike training indoors come end of October and stuck with a plan.

Now I’m not quite sure where I am here in 2018. My evenings are often busy with work commitments so I can’t sign up for regular indoor bike training. Training on my bike at home on the trainer happens later, when I’m keen, but I’m not there yet.

This year I made a plan for the early fall and pledged to tell new stories. I took swimming lessons and that helped. But they’ve ended. It’s darker and colder and my resolve is wearing thin.

So I need a plan for November and biking. Might be indoor spin classes at lunch a couple of times a week. Might be adding a 10-20 km loop to my morning commute or riding at lunch hour. Might be doing more consistent lower body strength training that’s not just rehab of my miserable left knee.

I don’t know yet what my plan will be. There’s a few days left in October yet. But I know I need a plan. And I’m working on it.

Is there a month you hate the most from a fitness point of view? What’s the challenge? How do you cope?