fitness · swimming · tbt · training

On Doing What Makes Us Feel Like Kids Again #tbt

Yesterday Sam wrote a serious post about how most of her exercise these days is not fun. And she’s doing it anyway. I felt profound relief when she got to the part where she said she can still ride a bicycle (the thing that most makes her go “wheeee!”) and lift weights.

It made me reflect a bit on my own activities and how my definition of “fun” has changed from “fun” to “challenging with a bit of fun thrown in.” In honor of spring, I thought I’d repost something from my swimming days about doing these that make us feel like kids again. Lately for me that hasn’t been swimming (not fitting into my plans these days), but rather colouring books (the ones for adults) and photography (SO much fun). But even those don’t quite reach the fun level of the little swim sprint races I describe in this post.

Have you had any kid-like fun lately?

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

three children under water swimming, smiling.

The other morning at the end of a 6 a.m. training session in the pool, the coach told us to swim down to the flags about 3/4 of the way to the other side of the 25m pool.  The point: to do group sprints from there back to the end of the pool, about 20m.

When the four of us in my lane got to the flags, we treaded water waiting for her countdown.  Three, two, one…GO.  When you’re used to pushing off from the pool wall, starting up from treading water feels odd. The first few strokes almost don’t take at all.

But you know what I learned as I powered out of the deep end and made my way to the end of the pool as fast as I could, lane-mates doing the same alongside me? I’m not bad at it.  I gained momentum after a couple of…

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fitness · menopause · swimming · winter

Swimming in the cold, brrr!


I love swimming outside. But I hate being cold. Probably that means I should live somewhere else! Bora Bora was lovely. See above.

The other day this came through my social media newsfeed: The remarkable health benefits of cold water swimming. That article focuses mainly on the mental health benefits of swimming in cold water, especially helping with depression. But it’s also said to be great for 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. I love being outside. I love being in the water. But I prefer it if the water is hot! See Sam’s day at the spa. On my spa day I did dump a couple of buckets of cold water over my head after the too hot sauna but I couldn’t get myself to swim in the river. Next time I’ll try it. Promise.

How about you? Tempted to swim in the cold water outside?

fitness · Martha's Musings · planning · swimming · training · weight loss · yoga

Strategic planning for the fit feminist

By MarthaFitat55

I work as a strategic planner as well as a communications strategist and trainer/facilitator. In the last few years, I have jotted down a series of goals as an informal strategic plan for myself. This year I decided to take a couple of days to be more structured about how I plan as I want to achieve some specific things by 2020. (As a side note, there isn’t anything really special about that date for me lifewise, but I like round numbers and that one appeals to me.)

I have five categories in my plan: work, home, family, relationships, and fitness. This isn’t a priority listing. My plan is a series of circles, and these overlap and separate over time.

When I first began working on fitness as a goal to get me to 55, it was pretty simple: I wanted to show up. Five years later, I still show up, but I have refined my approach somewhat. In past years, I have added learning how to do pull ups, how to get up from and get down to the floor, and increasing the weight on the bar for deadlifts, squats and bench. I also wanted to mix things up so I added swimming and yoga to the mix. The past six months have been busier than I expected with work and family commitments, and more times than I liked, fitness fell by the wayside.

Thus the need for a more focused approach, because I know when my life gets busy, the time I set for fitness can get chewed up by other Imporant Things.

I decided to apply the questions I use when I help organizations develop their own strategic plans. I ask three questions to get started: why do you want to do this? what will you achieve? and how will you make it happen? I then ask two supplementary questions: when will this happen and where?

aaron-burden-123584-unsplash
Image shows a spiral-bound, lined notebook with a fountain pen resting on a blank page. Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash

My why is pretty clear: I want to be healthy and active for a long time. My what is also pretty straightforward: I want to be fit and active. The how is also known: I like weightlifting, I enjoy the flexibility of yoga, and swimming gives me a way to connect with my body differently than the weights or mat can offer. I’ll be identifying some key benchmarks in these objectives, because measurement is a way to keep me focused and accountable.

My biggest challenge is the “when” as there are many demands on my time. The drafting of a strategic life planning document gives me the opportunity to make certain promises to myself and those promises are getting plugged into my calendar so I have away to be accountable.

Over the coming months I’m going to track how my plan is working. What are you thinking about doing in 2019 to keep you on track with your fitness goals?

fashion · feminism · fitness · gear · running · swimming

Bettina’s quest for a multi-sport watch – small wrists and designing with women in mind

Following the untimely demise of my wristwatch, I’m currently in the market for a multi-sport watch. Tracking can be problematic in a variety of ways (see posts e.g. here and here), but I like data, and I like tracking my exercise performance over time. So I’ve wanted a multi-sport watch for quite a while, but could never quite justify the expense because I had a functioning watch. There was also a second problem that persists and is currently thwarting my watch acquisition project. I have small wrists.  Very small wrists.

So I can’t find a watch that fits me. With some models, the body is literally wider than my wrist (I’m looking at you, Samsung Gear Fit Pro 2). It’s uncomfortable and looks ridiculous, but also has the potential to become dangerous since it increases the risk of getting caught on something, say a pool line. In the past I’ve owned a Garmin Swim that I wore exclusively in the pool. Tracking swimming was literally all it did, and even though it was chunky, it was just about ok. It did a good job at recognising strokes and provided other analyses I was keen on having, like stroke efficiency and such like. Later, I started looking into multi-sports watches more seriously, since I’d also gotten into running and wanted something that could track that too. This was the start of my sizing troubles. In the end, I settled for an activity tracker that counts lanes very reliably and does a reasonable job at estimating distance when running, although this is inaccurate enough to be annoying.

Bettina’s current fitness tracking setup: a Misfit Ray. Not bad, but there is room for improvement. Also exhibit (a): small wrist.

One would think that over time, manufacturers would catch on to the fact that there are people with small wrists around, but no. I still can’t find anything that suits me, and I’m starting to get quite angry. I’d really like a Garmin Forerunner 645 or Vívoactive 3, but even these smaller models are really too big. I might just about be able make the Forerunner 645 work – but it would be a big compromise practically and aesthetically.

I wonder why there are no suitable watches around. Yes, my wrists are small, but I wouldn’t say they’re extraordinarily tiny. One possible explanation for the lack of options is that manufacturers can’t currently fit all the functionalities one would want into a smaller watch. If someone can convincingly demonstrate to me this is true, I’ll rest my case. Another reason could be that you need a certain display size for the watch to be functional. I get that point. Still, I have trouble buying those arguments. The Apple Watch has loads of functionalities and is still relatively small. The difference: it is very clearly aimed at men and women. My hunch is that this isn’t exactly the case with multi-sport watches.

Yes, there are multi-sport watches out there with a more “female look”, usually rose gold and white. But they’re still massive! Even for instance the Garmin Fenix 5S, supposedly designed with women in mind. Not to mention that not all women are keen on the rose gold/white colour combo. My theory is that it still has something to do with “designing with women in mind”. I’m not talking about “shrink it and pink it”. That would probably actually imply a loss of functionalities. In fact, many activity trackers seem to fit exactly that purpose, and there are plenty available that are explicitly aimed at women. Fitbit even launched a “female health tracking” functionality earlier this year that attracted some excellent snark among our blog contributors (Would the messages come in shades of pink? Would it do emotional labour for you on the variance in your numbers? – It ended up reducing “female health” to “menstrual cycles”, which has a whole other load of problems, but that’s not under discussion here).

So is it carelessness? Or laziness? Are the people who design these watches a bunch of men whose effort to think about potential female customers stops at “oh, let’s slap some women-y colours on it and be done already”, combined with a dose of “women aren’t interested in a serious multi-sport watch anyway”? Is the number of women with small wrists and a desire for detailed sports tracking too small to make it worth the effort? Maybe. But I’d still like one. With swimming analytics beyond lane counting. With GPS. With music streaming integration. Yes, the full deal. Really.

If any of you have tips for a device that might fit the bill for me, please shout. I’d really appreciate it! Or are you running into the same problems?

fitness · swimming

Sam is loving her swimming classes

This is the gold pool, at the University of Guelph. It’s the lane swimming pool to which I aspire!

They’re just two nights a week, for a half hour. But I’m loving it. Monday night I was sitting in my office reading the horrible news about the Quebec election. I could have kept reading but instead, I walked to the athletic centre and put on my new swimsuit and my new goggles and worked on my breathing while doing lengths of the pool. Swim classes start at 8 pm but there’s no one in the small pool before us so I usually get there 15 minutes early and practice. I needed that.

What do I like?

Time flies when I’m learning to swim. Right now swimming takes all my concentration so all the worries of my day disappear. There isn’t room for them. Swimming clears my mind and I don’t work again after. I’m more relaxed after and that’s a valuable thing these days.

I love the learning curve when you start something new. I’m better each week. That’ll slow down and drop off soon but it makes the first few weeks fun.

Learning to swim isn’t about fitness.. It’s technique focused. I’m learning new skills. We’re giving so much attention to skills that I sometimes forget it’s exercise at all.

For me, swimming, in particular breathing takes a lot of concentration. I have to be very deliberate in my breathing.

Also, so far while swimming, my knee doesn’t hurt. It’s nice to have exercise other than cycling that doesn’t involve pain.

I love that there’s so much body diversity in the pool. My instructor is larger than me and also obviously much faster than me. She’s a former competitive swimmer.

I love being a student. My instructor is a fourth year student. The other person in my semi private lesson is a second year student. Here I am the Dean but in the pool I’m the student. It’s fun being a beginner again!

This is the red pool. It’s smaller and warmer than the gold pool and it doesn’t have lane markers. It’s where I take swimming classes.
fitness · motivation · swimming · training

You can love a thing and always suck at it. That’s okay. Also in not unrelated news, Sam starts swimming lessons.

Susan gave me some framed pictures from our cruise for my birthday, photos of me in the water. Such happy memories from our cruise. Thanks Susan! I look really happy. And that’s the thing. I love being in the water. I’m not scared of fish. I’m not worried about drowning. I can tread water and float really well. It feels great moving in the water.

But you’ll never see that smile indoors. And swimming, here in Canada at least, is mostly an indoor activity. Also, my swimming isn’t at a level where it’s a fitness activity. I’m not sure why, bad technique probably, but unlike running and cycling, I don’t seem to get faster with training in the pool. When I trained with the university students’ triathlon club I was the anchor person of the slow lane. New people came and then after a time moved up to a faster lane.

Then last week this article made its way into my newsfeed, Revel in the joy of doing things you’ll never master.

And I wondered, could I enjoy swimming without getting any faster? Does everything have to be about speed and improvement? Couldn’t swimming just be pleasurable even if I remained a slow swimmer?

I begin swimming lessons later in September. I’ll let you know how it goes!

In the meantime here’s me 11 years ago, with Susan, after the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon. I was happy but I was also last out the water of those who weren’t rescued. The thing is I was in zero danger. No need to rescue me. But I was just slow, as usual. Maybe that’s okay.

Maybe part of my learning to love swimming means getting comfortable with staying in the same place?

How about you? Do you have a thing you’re not good at but that you love anyway?

Susan and Sam, 2007

fitness · swimming

Working to like a thing, or Sam signs up for fall swimming lessons

I’ve always wanted to like swimming.

I love the water. I’m not scared. But fitness swimming has never felt natural and I’ve never been speedy.

I read about other people’s love of swimming, Tracy’s and our friend Savita’s, our regular blogger Bettina’s, and I think, “I want that.” That’s how I want to feel about swimming.

So I’m working on changing my attitude. You can do that, you know.

Part of my problem is that I love swimming outside, not in indoor pools

Here’s me in Bora Bora!

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Swimming in Bora Bora!

A post shared by Samantha Brennan (@samjanebrennan) on

A few years ago, I tried it again. See Starting to swim again and the first trauma is bathing suit shopping.

Maybe I should so swimming with Sally. See her post Learning to Swim and Loving My Body in the Process

Instead, I’ve signed up for semi private swimming lessons at the university pool. It’s a six week session, two evenings a week, half hour lessons. It’s not a huge commitment and I’ll report back on how it goes.

Anyway, wish me luck!

Have you ever worked hard to like a thing? What strategies have you used? Did it work?

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash