habits · rest · running · self care · training

Navigating the Tricky Balance Between Effort and Ease

I’m feeling wobbly. I’m not quite managing the balance between effort and ease. Could be that I’m finally allowing myself to feel the full weariness of the pandemic, now that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (a tunnel that emerges into an as-yet unknown future). Could be that I’ve been gorging myself on a lot of inputs, between the multiple Non-Violent Communication and Internal Family Systems trainings I’m attending, the practice groups I belong to, plus writing coaching clients, and my own workshop development and writing, plus some deep dive personal development work.  That psychic tiredness may be spilling over into physical tiredness, too. But I keep trying to push my way through the depletion into a higher energy state. This tendency is most obvious in my physical activities.

Here’s an example from a few days ago. I woke up in a hole. The voice in my head who likes to tell me I’m not enough was on a tear. Vivienne (that’s the voice’s name and yes, I give the voices in my head names) hadn’t actually taken up much air time recently. I’d almost forgotten how ferocious she can get. I headed out on a run, with the idea of appeasing her. When she’s on a bender, she wants me to sweat first, then get to some tasks. From the first step of my run, I was dragging. About 45 minutes in, I arrived at a short, steep dirt hill, where I sometimes do repeats. I thought, “No, no, no.” Vivienne said, “Oh yes.” I tried to negotiate, “Okay, but just three.” Vivienne said, “Do the full five.” Five is my usual. I did them. Vivienne’s concession in our semi-détente was to allow me to skip the plyometric jumps I do at the end of runs. Mainly, because I’d almost whiffed a jump on my last run (from tiredness). The hill repeats inside of an 8.5-mile run were enough to satisfy Vivienne’s performance standards for me that day. Almost … there was still the Peloton ride.  

The post-run ride is a new routine I’ve developed since acquiring the Peloton in December; big help reducing how stiff and sore my legs are after a run. You know that feeling when you get up from your desk chair and your legs feel cramped up and six inches shorter? I don’t get that feeling nearly as much since I started the new routine.

Vivienne and I both agreed that I should not skip the ride, my protection against the creaky feeling. But … I couldn’t muster the minimum 10-minutes I usually ride post-run. I opted for a 5-minute cool-down ride. More, I did not even start at the minimum (yet elevated) resistance level recommended. Vivienne was unimpressed by my output (output is an actualnumber on the Peloton bike). Our truce was cracking. I was trying to convince her that hey-you-got-on-the-bike-and-that’s-what-counts.   

After all, a couple months ago I wrote here about the importance of counting the 5-minute Peloton rides, because they are essential to our recovery. This day, my breezy confidence about their worthiness was put to the test. When my ride ended, all the statistics shot up on the right side of the screen, as they always do. This was not a day I wanted to see them. But, before I could swipe them away without looking, I saw it. The badge. Congratulations on 100 rides, Mina. As if to say, “Put your money where your mouth is (or more precisely where your pen was two months ago on this blog)! Not only do the 5-minute rides count. You hit your first big milestone on one.”

Other riders on Peloton organize themselves in advance to make sure they do a milestone ride live, on the hopes of a shout-out from the instructor. Still others plan around hitting a milestone live and on their birthday. But me, I don’t even know the milestone is coming, because I’m not keeping track. And when it does, it lands on the least significant ride I’ve done to date (in terms of effort). It sure felt like the universe was having a laugh, as if to say, “Hi Mina, this is The Karmic Coincidence Squad, remember when you said the 5-minute rides count? Indeed, let the ride be counted!”

Back in April, I wrote that our 5-minute rides are as important as the longer, grittier rides. Perhaps more so. Because they are a gift to ourselves. So, my gift to myself with this 5-minutes was ease. Offering grace to my legs and spirit, on a day I needed some. That is milestone worthy.

But maybe the universe was also telling me to take a closer look at how I’d gotten so far out of balance that a 5-minute ride was maximally taxing. Why am I so physically tired? I haven’t been doing significantly more than usual. In theory, I’ve been running shorter distances and making up the miles with between 10-20 minutes on the Peloton, after my runs. But am I actually running less than I would? And is the effort on the bike equivalent to the effort of running an extra mile or two? Plus, I should note the pre-Pilates spins that I’ve added in, too (which are meant to replace the casual bike ride to and from the studio in pre-pandemic times). Also, often those spinning minutes are intervals, even high intensity intervals. Maybe all those 10-20-minute tag-alongs are wearing me down?

I wrote that last sentence the next day after the milestone. As I watched the words unfurl on the page, the reality settled into my body. I’ve had 5 days now to process the message. A short spin may reduce soreness, but it does not, unfortunately, reduce tiredness. My tag-along spins may be contributing to my depletion. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. But sometimes we just need rest. It’s time to re-evaluate my routine, it might have lost its balance.

A small bird balanced between two flower stalks, holding on with its toes. I love that one of the flowers is blown out and missing its petals and the other still has its petals–that felt right for illustrating the balance between effort and ease. KT on Unsplash

The fulcrum between effort and ease is constantly changing. Navigating a course through those uncertain waters is a dynamic, evolving practice. Hitting that milestone as I slid off the bike in a state of wet-noodledom after 5-minutes woke me up to that fact. Again.

In the past 5 days, in addition to taking it extra easy on my rest day, I scaled back on the intervals and opted for a couple of slower, steadier rides over the rainy long weekend. After my run two days ago, I spent the time I would have been spinning, stretching instead. And this morning, I hit a personal best on my ride. That felt like the universe offering me a quick reward to reinforce the message.

Recalibrate often. More ease can enable more effort.

Now the trick is to apply that to my whole life.

aging · fitness · injury · training

Sam is checking in for May 2021

Sam as seen from the back deck, wearing a headband, black tights and a burgundy tank top and boxing gloves, looking up and smiling. There’s a heavy punching bag hanging from a frame in front of her.

May has been my month of aspirational outdoor exercise. I joined the university’s outdoor exercise challenge and got to work. Luckily that coincided with nice weather here in Ontario and my son’s purchase of some backyard exercise equipment including a frame for his heavy punching bag and a collapsible rowing machine suitable for outdoor storage. Between that stuff, a yoga mat, a kettlebell, and a medicine ball we’re good to go for 3 minutes off, one minute rests rounds of all the things times 10.

I’m also dog walking and bike riding outside too. Currently I’m 11th in the #GryphFitness challenge. Go Team Middle Aged Dean!

I blogged about the challenge Get outside and play! It’s May!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is challenge-logos.png

The outdoor exercise kick is also accompanied by a snack size exercise kick. I’m not sure what it is but my ability to focus is somewhat challenged right now. I have the attention span of a gerbil. I’m still working lots of movement into my day but it’s a lot of mini bursts of different things. A ten minute stretching video here, some rowing and lifting there, throw in some kettlebell swings and some TRX moves…

My bike rides are still long and focused but nothing else is really. There have been 20 minute yoga videos I’ve found it too hard to finish at one go!

Luckily this month the many exercise snacks approach was also vindicated by science.

Cheddar is my back deck exercise buddy!


Cheddar, the blond dog, laying crosswise on a blue yoga mat surrounded by random weights on Sam’s back deck.

Not much knee news. I started these monthly check-ins to mark the countdown to my knee replacement surgery. And at the end of May this was in my Facebook memories,

May 29, 2020:

“I keep waiting for the letter telling me that my knee replacement surgery is delayed. On the bright side, it’s not any worse and I’m still walking Cheddar. On the downside when all the travel restrictions are lifted I want to go hiking in England and New Zealand again.

And yes, actual physical letters. Hospitals are one of the few sources of snail mail that’s serious.”

Still waiting. Sigh. And now it’s both knees. But I’m also still walking and things aren’t worse. Hanging in there.

fitness · Metrics · training

Tracking feminist fitness…

This article came across my newsfeed recently, Health and fitness trackers: Do they help… or hurt?, and I was intrigued.

First, points to Precision Nutrition for the image accompanying the article–not a super thin stereotypical fitness model. I appreciate the more inclusive imagery.

Second, thanks for the nuanced messaging. They report that fitness trackers work for some people who find the numbers and the data motivational. They don’t work for others who find the whole tracking thing oppressive and who are made anxious by the numbers. The article–aimed at fitness instructors and personal trainers–is all about how to work with the client in front of you.

Having read the article, I turned to the bloggers’ group to check with this group about fitness trackers and smart watches.

Who has one? Who loves it? Who hates them? What do we use them for?

Nicole: “I have the Fitbit Charge 3. I “bought” it with corporate incentive points last year. Up until then, I never used a tracker, other than the count on my phone’s Health App. I am generally low tech while running. I have never listened to music, while running, for example. Historically, I’d map out my runs for specific distances, using “Gmap Pedometer” and then just go follow that route.

I bought my husband a Fitbit a couple years ago. He enjoyed the step count and it alerted him to the need to the hospital when he was having a heart event a couple years ago as well. So I could see some benefits, but I wasn’t sure I wanted one. Since I purchased it, I haven’t taken it off. I like checking my exercise stats for the day/week/etc. I find the heart rate information interesting.

One of the things I enjoy most is the sleep stats. I find it interesting to see how much REM/deep sleep I’ve had, and also the fluctuations in my oxygen levels. I don’t feel it’s made me DO more, because I’ve always maintained a regular exercise schedule, but I have enjoyed seeing some of the stats.

My only criticism with this model is the light is so dim that I can’t see the numbers outside sometimes. My husband bought a newer model recently and I like the bigger face, and would get that type when it’s time to get a new one.”

Bettina: “My fitness tracker journey started with a Misfit Ray. Then I upgraded to an Apple Watch because I wanted more detailed tracking and stats, which I absolutely loved. Until one fine morning I dropped it on the bathroom floor and its screen shattered into a million pieces… Fixing it – I stupidly hadn’t bought Apple Care for it – would have cost more than replacing it with a new Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, which I have been using and loving ever since. Sometimes I still miss the sleek look and the various bands I had for the Apple Watch, but overall I’m super happy with the Garmin. My main challenge in all this was that I have really small wrists and was worried the Garmin would look way too chunky on me, but I’ve completely gotten used to it.”

Martha: “I wear a fitbit Charge 4. It’s my third. I like using trackers for steps (more accurate than my phone) and I like also how the current one monitors sleep and heart rate. It has a weight tracker which I don’t care about one way or the other. Some people find this a trigger and there doesn’t appear to be a way to delete it. I tend to ignore it. You can also track water and food intake. I used it once to check if I was eating all my fruits and vegetables. My favorite part is how I can program alarms. As a writer, I tend to spend a lot of time with my laptop sitting down. I set an alarm to remind me to get up from desk on the quarter hour. It gives me enough time to get a snack, have an exercise or stretch break, and just change my POV. I find it keeps me focused and I can track progress on my mini goals quite easily.

Sam: I’ve blogged about fitness watches a few times. I am destroyer of fitbits. I’m rough with things and I used to joke that our house should be known as a product testing stations. Car door handles have come off in my hand! I feel like most contemporary consumer goods are flimsy. Having broken more than my share of fitbits, I said goodbye to watch style fitness trackers. Also with my damaged knee, I can no longer be driven by step counts. I need to moderate how much I walk.

See Why Sam isn’t getting a fitness watch.

And then Covid hit and I started to want to track my daily temperature. I discovered that the new Garmin fitness trackers also have pulse oximeter  and can measure blood oxygen levels.

See fitness trackers as health trackers.

Here’s my Garmin vivoactive 4 acquired during the pandemic. In addition to pulse oxygen it measures the usual stuff–heart rate, stress, sleep, steps etc. The one measure that interests me is the “body bank” score which compares rest with activity and tells you how rested you are.

Vivo active 4 Garmin

Tracy: When Sam called for our thoughts on the tracker issue, she assumed I would be posting about going from hating trackers to loving them. That’s understandable since I have compared tracking to the panopticon and after a workplace step counting challenge, I came to despise counting steps. But I have always loved my Garmin Forerunner for tracking runs. It’s not an everyday/all day thing though. Then when the pandemic hit I became painfully aware that I might need to start tracking steps or something again because some days it feels as I don’t even move.

So when my Garmin needed replacing (it’s almost ten years old) and I asked around, people suggested that I consider an Apple Watch. So I did. And I LOVE my apple watch. It does count steps, but it does so much more than that. My main complaint about the step challenge a few years back was that it ONLY tracked steps. And that is not (in my view) a comprehensive approach to fitness.

I won’t hijack this post by going into all the things I love about my Apple Watch, but here are the top four:

1. It tracks and encourages without feeling oppressive (something about the tone of the reminders).

2. It is way better than the Garmin was for setting up custom intervals for my runs (that was after I bought the intervals pro app, worth every penny; and I get that the new Garmins are probably at least as easy as the Apple Watch for this so it’s more about new technology than about Apple v Garmin)

3. I have two close friends who share their accomplishments with me and vice versa – I wouldn’t want a large circle for this, but I love the sense of support and connection I get from Diane and Vicki.

4. It integrates with my phone and has a world of apps and features that have nothing to do with fitness, so in that sense it’s a fun gadget of the “how did I live without this?” kind. (bonus feature: it looks nice and there’s a marketplace overflowing with third party funky straps online for cheap).

p.s. I still hate food tracking.

Christine

My Fitbit Inspire HR is one of the most helpful pieces of tech I own.

I love the fact that I can keep track of my activity levels and my heart rate without actually having to remember to stop and write anything down.

Why is it important to me to track these things?

Well, I’m not naturally a very active person and my ADHD gives me a strange perception of time. If I wasn’t paying close attention, I could end up very inactive for a very long time but I’d have the feeling that my last exercise session was ‘just the other day.’

But the ritual of putting on my Fitbit in the morning and taking it off at night gives me some fixed points to note how much I have been moving.

I have also set it to notify me if I get less than 250 steps in an hour so I can make sure I move regularly throughout the day – instead of accidentally sitting in one position too long if I am hyper-focused.

Since my perception of my own efforts is also affected by my ADHD, having a heart rate monitor on my wrist also helps me see how hard I am working when I exercise.

And the Fitbit helps me be curious about my efforts, too. I’m not one of those people who thinks that exercise that doesn’t register on my tracker doesn’t ‘count’ but movement that doesn’t count as steps or as activity minutes does make me wonder. I like that it draws my attention to how I am moving and whether I want to push a little harder or move differently.

I also love the fact that I can have multiple timers right on my wrist (a blessing for my busy brain.) I can set alarms, I can set a regular countdown timer, and I can use an interval timer, all with something I am already wearing.

While I am not breaking any records or getting epic amounts of movement because of my Fitbit, it does help me keep moving without adding the frustration of keeping track of things.

And even though my current daily goals are pretty modest, I love when I achieve them. And I especially like those days (like Saturday past) when I am an overachiever.

How about you? Do you own a fitness tracker/smart watch? What do you use it for? Love it or hate it? Tell us your story in the comments below.

cycling · fitness · racing · running · training

Warming up!

Everyone knows that before you make a big effort, you ought to warm up. But do we?

See Warming up for better results: “We all know that we are ‘supposed to’ warm-up. In fact, we probably all learned the importance of a warm-up during PE Class in 3rd grade. Yet, when push comes to shove, warm-up is one of the first things we cut out or cut down when workout time is limited and we’re in a rush. On the contrary, warming up is one aspect of a workout that should never be removed. No matter what your workout is, from intervals to base training, from powerlifting to table tennis, you should always have a warm-up. Warm-ups help to increase body temperature, increase heart rate, increase circulation, and increase blood flow to muscles. All of these physiological adjustments help to prevent injury and help to optimize performance.”

I confess that when I ran, I didn’t really ever warm up. That’s because when I was running 10 km, I felt like 10 km was as far as I could run. I had no extra in the tank for warm-ups. When I ran 5 km, there should have been time to warm up, but I rarely did.

Here’s a little general warm up

Luckily, as far as performance goes, it actually doesn’t make much difference for endurance events. And running, for me, was only ever about endurance.

When cycling, my best warm ups were at the velodrome where you couldn’t warm up on the track. There was too much demand for track time. Instead we warmed up on rollers in the infield. And when I was doing fast group rides outside, I counted my time riding to the start as warm up. Indeed, generally, as both a bike commuter and casual racing cyclist, I was often better warmed up than competitors because I’d ridden to the location of the race.

But when I first started riding and racing on Zwift, I wasn’t much into warming up. I’d just hope on the bike, join the event and start riding. But I discovered through trial and error that I did much better if I’d warmed up. What kind of trial and error? Well, I quit some races after getting dropped and joined others. One night I quit a team time trial (I’d done a bit and it was clearly too fast, too far to stay with the group) and joined an ITT. I won the ITT (in my category) in part because it was short and I was thoroughly warmed up.

I’ve gotten better this year at warming up before big rides and races. I’ve mostly been doing the GPLAMA Ultimate Warm Up.

Ride Report

How about you? Are you a fan of warming up?

cycling · fitness · training

Slow can be good, Sam reminds us

This post is a reminder to me (and others reading this post) that slow isn’t a bad thing, even if, or especially if, you also care about going fast. I’ve written before about recovery rides which are a specific sort of slow ride.

I’m mostly interested in performance related reasons to go slow but this week has also been a big week in the news about the health dangers of too much high intensity cardio. See Too Much High-Intensity Exercise May Be Bad for Your Health.

See also my past post Time to Go Slow.

The truth is that we need to mix it up, go slow sometimes, go fast at others. As I head outside on my road bike for the first time this week, here’s me reminding us both about that.

If Sales Are Slow… Print & Copy Factory Blog
Image description: A diamond shaped orange sign that reads “slow” with a picture of a snail on it.

Why Riding Slow Will Make You Faster

“As we have mentioned in an earlier article, you should focus your training around the polarised training concept. This involves making sure 80 per cent of your training is done at low intensity (slow) with 20 per cent of your training comprising high-intensity interval sessions. The key to the polarised training model is ensuring that your easy rides remain easy (slow). One of the most common mistakes the majority of amateur cyclists make is feeling that they need to ride hard on each session in order to make an improvement. They spend large amounts of time training in this heavy intensity domain (the sweet spot) as they are often too afraid to go slow.”

The Danger of Regular Big Efforts on Zwift

“The takeaway here is to manage and distribute your intensity correctly. Yes, these races are great to motivate and get you to push yourself. But be careful not to make these races too frequent. Over-training can take weeks to get over and in severe cases can take months or even years to recover fully from. Enjoy the these races occasionally but don’t throw away your chances of racing well in the real world by pushing too hard, too often in the current situation. Key tip: Keep it easy most of the time. A good rule of thumb is to keep 80 per cent of your sessions at lower intensity; and watch your performance improve.”

See also Why You Might Need to Do More Low-Intensity, Steady-State (LISS) Cardio.

Snail
How “normal people” can train like the worlds best endurance athletes | Stephen Seiler | TEDxArendal
athletes · equality · equipment · fitness · team sports · training

A small victory in a large battle: NCAA women’s basketball tiny weight room gets bigger

These days, news travels fast and turns on a dime. Here’s an important and fast-developing story of discriminatory treatment of women athletes, from yesterday to today:

The NCAA March Madness 2021 college basketball tournament is happening this year, inside bubbles in Indianapolis (for the men) and San Antonio (for the women). They are being housed and fed, and are training in facilities set up for them. The men’s and women’s training facilities are separate. But boy are they not equal. Check out this twitter comparison pic of their weight training facilities:

Split screen of NCAA men’s weight room, large and well-stocked, vs. women’s space, consisting of one small tower of little hand weights and a few yoga mats on a table.

Some twitter users were skeptical that this was true, while others chalked it up to their beliefs that men’s teams made money, performed better and were more popular, so it didn’t matter that the women had less to work with than most of us have in our homes.

In service of settling any peripheral disputes, here are some stills from the Tiktok video feed of Sedona Prince, Oregon Ducks team member on the scene.

Of course this really made the NCAA’s face red. However, they rallied and offered this explanation:

An NCAA spokesperson told The Washington Post that officials initially thought there was not enough square footage for a weight training facilities at the convention center playing host to the women’s tournament. They later found the space, the spokesperson said.

Yeah, that’s not true. How do I know this? Because of Sedona Prince, who on Friday (the same day this story was reported) posted this picture on TikTok:

A large, empty space for the women's basketball teams at the NCAA, with nothing in it but a few chairs.
A large, empty space for the women’s basketball teams at the NCAA, with nothing in it but a few chairs.

So either the NCAA people were lying or they hadn’t bothered to check whether what they were saying was true.

After a large outcry, mainly from women professional and college athletes and coaches, the NCAA apparently found some gym and weights set ups for the women’s teams. Sedona shows it to you live:

Turns out, lack of standard weight training facilities wasn’t the only way the NCAA treated women’s basketball teams less well than the men’s teams.

Geno Auriemma, coach of the Connecticut women’s team, told reporters at a news conference Friday that his team was receiving different daily coronavirus tests than men’s teams. The rapid antigen tests given to women are faster than PCR tests given to men but “have a higher chance of missing an active infection,” according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The NCAA is using a cheaper and less accurate COVID test for the women than it is for the men. Again, the NCAA responded:

In a statement, the NCAA said that its medical advisory group had determined that both tests were “were equally effective models for basketball championships”…

Hmmm. Here’s a question: if they’re equally effective, then why use one test for the men and another for the women? And if it’s an issue of supply, why didn’t you plan for that at the women’s location as well as you did for the men’s location?

Again, please refer to my earlier comment about the NCAA either lying or not caring whether what they say is true.

Other documented differences between how the men’s and women’s teams are treated includes the food served (Sedona documented an especially unfortunately Salisbury Steak event here), and skimpier swag bags for the women. Seriously, NCAA? You’re leaving no stone unturned in your quest to make 100% clear your lack of respect for women’s collegiate sports.

And then there are those who are listening and following the lead of the NCAA, turning its disdain for women’s teams into threats to shut down women’s sports altogether.

A tweet (unaltered) threatening that women's sports will be shut down if women don't stop complaining about their unequal treatment. This was one of many such tweets.
A tweet (unaltered) threatening that women’s sports will be shut down if women don’t stop complaining about their unequal treatment. This was one of many such tweets.

This tweet is revealing in that it’s a common and threatening reaction to women’s sports players, coaches and advocates’ calls for more equitable treatment, in accordance with Title IX legal requirements in the US. I’m happy to say that these threats haven’t gone answered.

Dawn Staley, a championship award-winning basketball player and coach, former Olympian and current Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, said this (I’m including the whole statement here):

Statement by Dawn Staley. See links below for text.

You can read a Sports Illustrated article about her statements and a letter from the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics here and here. They’re not playing about the barriers to playing that women and girl athletes face all day, every day. Hey, NCAA president Mark Emmert– you can throw some jump ropes, treadmills and weight bench sets at the problem, and say things like “we fell short” (ya think?), but you’re not getting out of it that easily.

I’m happy that Sedona Prince, her teammates, and all the women’s NCAA basketball teams now have an actual weight room for training. And yes, it would be nice for them to get buffet meals rather than prepackaged ones (the NCAA says they’re working on it). But it’s clear that the battle for respect and equity in women’s athletics is still in its early stages.

Thank you, Sedona Prince. Thank you, Dawn Staley. Thank you, players and coaches of women’s and girls’ athletics everywhere for standing up and speaking out.

But, wouldn’t it have been nice if men’s basketball coaches, players, team owners, and athletic directors spoke up and spoke loudly in support of women’s athletics now? Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry both posted criticism of the NCAA, and both got the same scornful, dismissive pushback. But there’s strength in numbers.

Hey male players, coaches, trainers, administrators, athletic directors– where are your voices? I can’t hear you…

Readers, if you’ve seen any recent tweets or other social media posts by male sports figures (players, coaches, business, academic, children’s leagues, anything) in support of women’s sports on the occasion of this latest discriminatory debacle, post them in the comments. It’s good to know who’s on the ball and who’s dropped it. Any other thoughts or ideas you want to share? I’m listening.

cycling · fitness · training · Zwift

Sam is recovery ridin’

Lately I’ve been trying to do some recovery rides on Zwift on the days after I race. The goal is to strike a balance between training, racing, and recovering.

What’s a recovery ride? “The purpose of a recovery ride is to flush out any toxins lingering in the muscles after a hard workout, and to keep the muscles supple prior to that all-important next training session.” From The Art of the Recovery Ride

The idea is to keep it short, no sprinting, no big climbs, and a nice relaxed pace (slower than feels comfortable even) and no big gears. Maximum 60 minutes, less than half of your FTP, 1-2 perceived exertion out of 10.

See 7 ways to nail your recovery rides: “If you’re training and/or racing, true recovery rides are an essential component of your plan. When you train hard you do damage—that’s part of the plan. Your workout breaks down your muscle, empties out your fuel stores, and generally taxes your metabolism above and beyond its status quo. When you recover, your body repairs the damage so you can come back stronger and ready for more. If you skip the recovery part, you’re cheating yourself out of the maximum return on your hard work.”

What about your ego geting in the way? If you’re worried about friends seeing the ride on Strava and thinking “wow, I had no idea she was that slow” then mark the ride as a recovery ride.

Don’t ride with friends with whom you’re competitive at all. Instead either ride or solo or ride with a much slower friend, possibly a small child.

A friend was talking the other day about how Zwift makes recovery rides hard. She wished there was a recovery ride option on Zwift that disabled all the sprint segments, QOMs, and leaderboards. Another friend says she rides on Zwift but watches something else while riding. It’s a good time for catching up on favourite shows and listening to audio books.

Coach Chris Carmichael writes, “If you think you’re going to have a hard time “keeping it in check” or your ego isn’t going to let that guy just ride by without giving chase, you can do the recovery spin on the trainer (where there will be no temptations). Or don’t suit up in your full cycling kit, or you could even ride a different bike. For some of our athletes who really struggle to keep their Recovery Rides as easy as they should be, we have them ride 20-30 minutes in street clothes on a beach cruiser. Anything to keep you in a more relaxed mindset. I know it may sound like a wasted ride, but your body needs these easy spin days to recover and get stronger, trust me, after incorporating a few recovery days a week into your schedule you’ll notice a big difference in your other rides!”

Maybe I’ll change out of my Zwift team kit and put away the Tron! I like my Women’s History month kit.

Women’s History Month rides and runs on Zwift. Here’s the kit.

cycling · fitness · training · Zwift

It’s Tron Time for Sam and Sarah

Screenshots of Sam completing the Everest Challenge

I told you about it when I was halfway there. I made the home stretch my winter cycling challenge. And last night, I did it. I completed Zwift’s Everest Challenge. I climbed more than 50,000 m. I got my Tron.

I finished the Friday night Smash Fest race which had 400 m+ climbing and discovered I was really close. With Sarah’s encouragement I went down the hill and turned around at the bottom and started climbing again. It was late. I was tired. And it wasn’t easy. But I did it!

Even Strava called it a “massive effort.” Thanks Strava.

Let us celebrate that!

What’s in it for me, aside from looking cool and bragging rights? The Tron is the fastest all round bike on Zwift. I’m excited. I’m not sure what colour I’ll eventually land on (you can change it easily with a slider bar) but here’s me on the bright pink version.

Sarah got hers the week previous, with less fuss and fan fare. (She’s like that.) She was determined to have it for a race that was on this week and so spent last weekend climbing. We both want to thank Neil at the Bike Shed, where we Zwifted pre-pandemic, who suggested we make the Everest Challenge our first Zwift challenge. It was also Neil who first rented us and then sold us our trainer when the pandemic shut things down. Thanks Neil!

Here’s Sarah’s Tron story:

“The long process of getting the Tron was an interesting one for me. I am really not much of a climber and would never normally have chosen workouts or recovery rides on steep hills, but the advantage that the Tron provides, and the peer pressure from teammates to get one, was impossible to resist.

After spending a year warming up and doing group rides on 10%+ grades (flattened and lengthened by Zwift algorithms as needed), I can say that I’ve gotten better at climbing. Practice makes perfect? Familiarity breeds contempt? In any case, I can say that in my few outdoor rides last year I was less intimidated by the usual hills. And this year I might actually seek them out and practice.

So thanks to Zwift’s “Everest Challenge”. I’ll never be a mountain goat but I’m a better all-rounder thanks to Tron temptation. Like the glowing neon wheels the lessons learned will be with me for years to come.”

fitness · martial arts · training

Christine H says: TKD Training in my basement? I’ll take it!

This time last week, I was practicing Taekwondo with over 1000 other people in my rec room.

Okay, so they weren’t all actually in my rec room, that would be terribly irresponsible. And crowded!

I was actually taking part in the very first International Taekwon-do Federation’s Online Technical Seminar and we were all grinning at each other through our screens.

Normally, TKD seminars and courses (which are a required part of our training) take place in person and we get to learn new things from Grand Masters and Masters who have a specialized expertise in one aspect of TKD or another. 

A promotional poster for the first online technical seminar for the ITF. It features 5 male Grand Masters standing in ascending height order on the right side of the image, they are all wearing white doboks and black belts.  There is text on the upper left indicating the name of the seminar and the date and time.  The ITF logo (five coloured bars arranged in the shape of a fist and text reading itf International Taekwon-Do Federation) is in the lower right.
Promotional image for the seminar this past weekend. Photo source: itftkd.sport

Before we started, I was very apprehensive about how well it could work online. 

How were the instructors going to demonstrate and explain movements over a screen? 

How could a group of 1000 people be anything but overwhelming, even online? 

How well would I be able to focus in long Zoom sessions? Would I be able to take in the information in that format? 

It turns out that seminars work pretty well online. 

Sure, there were a few technical issues and there were struggles with internet speed (my extremely slow internet actually jammed up completely during the patterns I most wanted to hear about) but overall, it was a very smooth event and I got a lot out of it. 

A large grey/green tortoise walks between large rocks.
This tortoise’s stroll is a remarkably accurate of my internet speed. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was great to see so many other TKD students from all over the world checking in for the seminar. I really enjoyed experiencing so many different teaching styles from the various Grand Masters. And it was really valuable to see how the people demonstrating the patterns were working so hard to get things right, and even if they made mistakes they either corrected themselves or accepted correction with grace. 

It was really exciting to be part of such a huge group participating in the same sport and I was inspired by the skill of the Grand Masters, as well as the Masters and other black belts who were demonstrating the patterns.

It wasn’t the same as being there in person, of course, you just can’t generate the same energy through a screen. I missed being able to chat with my TKD friends between sessions and or being able to get some hands-on assistance from someone nearby if I didn’t process an instruction properly. 

However, this online version was a good substitute overall.

I liked being able to see and hear specific details so clearly and I liked how much easier it was to take notes during an online seminar. (In person, you are going back and forth between listening to instructions and trying new things and you can’t keep running back to your bag with your notebook. You have to wait to take your notes between sessions and I always forget!)

It was great to have relative privacy to make mistakes without feeling self-conscious. No one could tell if I messed something up completely so I wasn’t distracted by feeling foolish. (Yes, I know it is okay to make mistakes, I know that’s how you learn. However, I’m still self-conscious about it. I’m working on it!)

The author, a white woman in her late forties with light brown hair, stands next to an outdoor wall. She is wearing a white dobok and red-framed glasses and she is smirking slightly and she looks a bit tired.
I had to send in a photo with my registration and it took me so many shots to get one where I wasn’t outright smirking that it isn’t even funny. This process ALSO made me self-conscious!

I enjoyed knowing that the instructors and the people demonstrating the patterns were all over the world – it really added to the experience. I don’t know if we would have had such a variety of instructors/demonstrators for an in-person seminar, that would take a lot of logistical work.

I love how much more accessible online seminars can be for the average person – minimal expense, no travel costs/challenges, no need to take a lot of time off of work. 

I really hope that online instruction is regularly offered even after the immediate threat of Covid-19 has passed. I would still like to attend in-person seminars but I would definitely round them out with online courses. 

Meanwhile, I will be taking as many of these types of courses/classes/seminars as I can in the next few months. Next up is a class offered by the ITF Women’s Committee in January. 

I can’t wait!

KIYA!

220 in 2020 · fitness · fitness classes · motivation · online exercise · training · walking · yoga

It’s not “just” yoga or “just” a walk: it’s a workout

image description: Selfie of two women, Violetta in front, long dark hair with highlights, smiling, white t-shirt; Tracy in back, smiling, with sunglasses, medium length salt and pepper hair, red and black top, black coat, camera strap visible; field and trees in background. (we had just finished a two-hour physically distanced hike with others). Photo credit: Violetta.

The other day I didn’t have the energy for a run, so I checked in with my out-of-town running buddy, Violetta, and said I might “just” do some yoga or “just” go for a walk. She said she’d been feeling the same that day, but that she wanted to stop putting “just” in front of these choices, as if they are somehow lesser, inferior, or slack options that we need to apologize for. I agree. Indeed, I even thought it as I was texting the “just yoga” message.

I know I’m not the only person who imposes conditions on the types of activity that it’s “okay” to count. I’ve blogged about this before (see “What counts?” and “More than six years later and Tracy has the same questions about what counts”). And it has come up again and again during the “220 in 2020” group. That’s a group where we keep track of our workouts with the goal of doing 220 by December 31, 2020. Next year the goal will be 2021. Today I logged my 408th workout of the year. I have fewer questions about what counts.

2020 is the year where movement has become a part of my daily routine. Almost every day I do something intentional, whether yoga, a zoom weight training session, a run, a walk, a hike. And sometimes the very goal of daily movement is what gets me moving. It used to be the 220 in 2020 but I’ve long since surpassed 220, so the goal had to shift away from a total number and more to “something every day,” away from outcome and towards process or maybe a habit checklist type of approach. Workout? Check!

Just because some of what we do is different in level of exertion or the amount of time we spend on it from some of the other things we doesn’t mean it’s less than. During the pandemic more than ever it’s become important to me (and I know I’m not alone in this) to be intentional about movement because some days, if I wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t even reach 1000 steps. I go from my bedroom to the kitchen to my home office to the kitchen again all day. At night I sit down to read or watch something. And then I go to bed. I go out much less than I used to. Because it requires choice, I’m at the point where intentional physical activity that I wouldn’t otherwise choose to do “counts.”

Even as I say that I am aware that there is a level of self-shaming that so many of us engage in when we compare. And it’s not always when I compare myself to others who I regard as more fit, stronger, faster, more active, or more committed to what they do. It’s also when I compare what I did yesterday in my one hour sweaty, kick-butt Superhero workout to what I did today (a 3K run and some gentle yoga). They’re all workouts. They all count. I’m not cheating when I track them.

It’s interesting to me to look back on my angst over the years about what counts because I don’t feel that anymore. I have a solid sense of confidence that I get to decide on my own criteria, and that it doesn’t make sense for me to think that every workout has to be equal to every other workout in its demandingness for it to legitimately count.

And it’s also okay, even necessary, at least sometimes to choose rest. That’s a healthy choice, too (even if it doesn’t count as a workout).

Do you consciously or unconsciously rank certain activities as superior or inferior to others? Do you discount some of your workouts because they’re not “demanding enough?”

[Shout-out to Violetta: Happy birthday, my friend!]