It’s been a cold wet spring. As Tracy posted last week we’ve had a miserable few months of cold wet weather that hasn’t exactly been inspiring outdoor activity. I was envisioning months of outdoor riding leading up to our Newfoundland trip. (I think there’s still room, by the way.) Instead I’ve been riding inside even in May!
Well this weekend is the May holiday weekend in Canada and while the weather wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t terrible for riding either. Susan invited Sarah, David, Kim and me to her family cottage for the weekend and we all brought our bikes so could ride and get ready for our big Newfoundland adventure. Susan got to introduce us to her favorite nearby hilly road. You could tell it was warm and the holiday weekend because on Sunday there were three other groups of cyclists on that same stretch of road.
I think we all felt a bit rusty. Well, I did. Susan got to ride her fancy new bike. We all got to practise our group riding skills. The hills were demanding on the way up and “whee!”on the way down. I loved the hills. I wasn’t a big fan of all the gravel that had washed into the road. But there was a big smile on my face doing one of the things I liked most in the world, riding bikes with friends.
This week it’s back to work and back to my resolution of riding 20 km and writing 30 minutes each day.
I did it! I’m now the proud owner of a Brompton folding bicycle. Instant love.
I decided (finally) to buy one while in New York. Sarah and I got home Monday and checked to see if it was in stock at Curbside. Sarah picked it up Tuesday and I flew with it Wednesday and I’ve been riding around Halifax, giddy and grinning, while here for the Canadian Council of Deans of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
(Catherine’s traveling with a Brompton story wasn’t quite so happy. So it’s not all kittens and rainbows in the Brompton world.)
Have you ever done a thing and instantly known it was the right thing? Thought maybe you should have done it years ago? That’s me and this bike. I started browsing in earnest last year but I’ve been thinking about it for ages
❤️ So far I’ve had great experiences riding it, folding it, and taking it in places. Zero objections so far and so many smiles. I will say that it’s not a go fast road bike and I was a bit nervous that I couldn’t accelerate and change lanes across traffic if I needed to. On the other hand, I’m upright and more comfortable around pedestrians. I can take it on the sidewalk if I need to.
It feels great in bike lanes and riding around the city in traffic.
I’ll write more later about riding it, folding it, and taking it places.
The back story: I travel a lot for work and I struggle to combine work travel and fitness activities. I blog about it a lot. It’s a challenge. See here and here and here and here.
But it’s also a challenge that’s changed a lot over the years. Certainly it’s changed since we started the blog. The big difference is that I used to be able to count on walking a lot while traveling, carrying my own bags, and a little hotel room yoga to meet my fitness needs. These days though I can’t walk as much as I’d like. My knee is unreliable. Some days I can’t walk much at all.
So I’ve realized that to achieve my fitness goals and stay emotionally healthy I need actively pursue fitness while I travel. I need to take time out of my days to do specific fitnessy things. Everyday movement just won’t cut it. My knee even feels better with exercise so riding my bike has a kind of urgency about it these days. Heading out to Halifax for the Canadian Council of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science Deans annual meeting, I decided to take some spin classes while there.
So I searched online and found Spinco. They had classes at a time I was free and it was right downtown. I signed up for two classes.
Here’s my quick review:
👍 I loved the staff,. They were so warm and welcoming and enthusiastic. They helped store my new Brompton behind the counter, talked with me about Guelph and about spin classes, and they helped get me set up. They were probably the friendliest and most helpful fitness studio staff I’ve ever met and I’ve been to a lot of fitness studios in my life. Give these women raises!
👍 I loved the energy and the music. I even went looking for playlists on Spotify. Here’s one. The vibe was upbeat and happy. We worked hard but we also had a lot of fun.
👍 The physical space was bright and light and comfortable. They had nice lockers and showers. There was zero weight loss messaging and no scale in the locker room.
👍 I loved that I could use my road bike shoes. These were the first spin bikes I’ve seen that have Look Keo pedals. Most people won’t own them and the studio had cycling shoes which most people there were wearing.
👎I wasn’t a big fan of the music volume. I had a hard time hearing the instructor over the music. I kept thinking of your post Cate on what makes a good spin class. You would have also hated the volume. At one point I thought the instructor kept yelling “Wall Two, Wall Two” and I wondered what that meant. Some special SpinCo thing? No, it was of course “One Two.”
👎I also wasn’t a big fan of the dark. I couldn’t really see what the instructor was doing. There was a disco ball and groovy lighting but still, too dark for me. When I went to get weights I couldn’t read the numbers of the end to see how heavy they were (not very) and to make sure I got a matched set. I nearly tripped returning my weights when it was all done! I would’ve put on my phone flashlight except I’d followed instructions to leave my phone in the locker.
👎 I missed having access to the data. I want to know my speed, my cadence, my power. These bikes didn’t have computers with the data. Now, this is more a “spin/dance” class than an “indoor cycling” class but still. I missed my numbers!
👎 I felt a little bit out of place. There might have been two people in the class over the age of 30! There were a lot of pony tails and yoga pants and sports bras. It’s okay not to fit in and I’m comfortable with that most of the time but this was a bit much. (I went twice though and the weekend class was better. There were two guys and a couple of women closer to my age.)
❓ There was a lot of bike dancing. Check out the video below if you don’t know what I mean by that. So much moving around on the bike to music. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I might have preferred less of it truth be told, much as I love dancing off the bike. In order to keep my knee happy with all the dancing I had to keep a lot of tension on so I was in control but it’s nice to be able to do that now.
❓I was intrigued by the SpinCo motivational jam. It was like being at church with Oprah on speed. “You are enough. You are not broken. You are not the habits you acquired while coping with trauma. Those habits do not define you. It’s a new day. You are powerful. You can leave all your bad news behind in this class.”
You get the idea. It was pretty unrelenting. I didn’t mind it but it’s a definite thing.
It’s obviously connected to the company’s mission.
“It is our mission to empower and inspire our community. We are in the business of revolutionizing lives and know that our work is never done. We believe that strength comes from within, but that we are stronger as one. Our aim is to infuse our community with a positive, never-quit attitude, which reaches far beyond the doors of our studios. This is our culture. We believe in it. We live it. We breathe it. It’s who we are.”
See lots more on their instagram page. Would I attend regularly if I lived in Halifax and worked downtown? Maybe. It was a pretty good workout. It was fun. I left in a good mood. If i’m in Halifax for work again I’ll definitely go back.
Last week I published about my back troubles that ensued a few days after Anita and I ran the Around the Bay 30K. Lots of people jumped in with sympathy, empathy, encouragement and suggestions. Thank you!
The best suggestion came from Susan and others who recommended I try an osteopath. I know some people have had good results with chiropractors, but I’m deathly afraid of the idea of a snap adjustment. And I was in so much pain there was just no way. So a week after the race I contacted an osteopath who a friend had recommended for my neck issues but I’d never gotten around to calling.
I knew Grace from yoga way back when I did Iyengar yoga and she was in my class. She used to be a nurse and she also taught Iyengar yoga, which is very precise. So o felt confident she had the right knowledge base that I could trust her with my back. By the time I went to see her a week ago, I was in excruciating pain by the end of every day. It usually felt a bit better in the mornings after I’d been lying down for the night. And then ramped up throughout the day until by the evenings it had me weeping and almost unable to move.
Grace got me at the end of the day and could see that I was moving in a hesitant manner by then. Hesitant in that way you move when a possible wrong move will result in searing pain that makes the legs go weak.
She had me stand and then slowly walk so she could size me up. Then she got me on her table…very carefully. And started doing very general manipulations of my body (the best being traction, when she pulled ever so lightly on my feet, which immediately released my back). I told Grace I’d been doing back exercises and stretching and yoga and had gone for a deep tissue massage. And in her view, those were all the wrong things, explaining why it was getting worse not better.
What was the right thing? Rest. Total rest. She showed me two lying down resting postures for releasing my back. They both gave me wonderful relief. She showed me how to get into and out of a lying down position without putting strain on my lower back. She recommended I not sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. If possible, she said, take a day or two off of work.
Things were kind of urgent because I was flying less than a week later (Sunday) for a short trip and then a week after that to China for work. When I saw Grace, the idea of sitting on a plane for any length of time seemed impossible.
So though I couldn’t take a day off until Friday, I did go into hyper rest mode as much as possible, lying on the floor with my legs up on a chair or in “constructive rest” with a heating pad and bolster on my lower abdomen to release the entire area and hopefully reduce the inflammation in my back. Grace suspected the inflammation was pushing up against a nerve and that’s why it hurt so much and get worse as the compression of the day’s sitting took hold.
Friday I went to see the nurse practitioner at my family doctor’s clinic. By then, after following Grace’s instructions for a couple of days I felt way better than I had. Thursday, hardly sitting (I even chaired a meeting at work standing up), I didn’t experience a single spasm. I told the nurse everything I was doing and she said “perfect!” So that was reassuring. Then I saw Grace one more time and she tweaked a few things and off I went. By Saturday I was feeling confident I could fly. Sunday came… no problem on my three and a half hour flight to the Bahamas.
I write this on Monday, a day (with Anita) mixed with work, walking on the beach, swimming, constructive rest, and measured amounts of sitting. I’ve had quite a bit of work reading to do, and I have done most of it in a reclining position on my bed, legs bent at the knees. China doesn’t seem impossible anymore.
And I’m a total convert to osteopathy after one round of appointments. Thanks, Grace!
I’m in New York as I start this blog post. I love this city. I even almost lived here and I often wonder what that life would have been like.
How did I almost live here? I had an on campus interview at Barnard College in 1993. That was actually my first visit to New York though the geography was super familiar to me from from television and movies. So “almost” is a bit of a stretch but it’s always felt like it might have been my home. In my “inner life” it’s been an alternate home. Montreal too, but that’s another story.
Over the years I’ve visited often, running in Central Park when I was a runner, but mostly lots and lots of walking. One of the things I love about the city is walking. It’s a walking person’s city. And I’ve often thought that when visiting I don’t need to make a special effort to get exercise because I love being outside and I love walking. That’s one of the ways I’ve identified with New York.
This visit was different. I arrived here this time with sore knees–plural! both of them! And it could tell it was going to be a tough time. Even with my knee brace on I was struggling. I was so slow and this isn’t a good place for slow walkers. Sarah carried bags lots of the time which also hurt my self image because I think of myself as the strong person who lifts and carries things for others. But not while walking. Not this trip. Thanks Sarah!
We defaulted to the subway for quite a bit of our about town travel but unlike Barcelona there weren’t always escalators and elevators available and often they were out of service. Here is my Highline selfie. It was tough going up and even tougher going down as the elevator was broken, awaiting repair.
You get the idea. Painful knees and I city I love to walk around. No amount of ibuprofen helped and I kept coming close to tears. It made me remember the knee surgeon’s advice when I mentioned loving walking. He said something about loving it in smaller doses and finding other things to enjoy. When it come to steps, for me, more isn’t always better. When I see friends post about walking a zillion steps, I confess I’m jealous and that’s not an emotion I like in myself.
Next time I’m either renting a city bike or bringing my own Brompton. Well, in fact next time I’m here it’ll be for the 5 boro bike tour and I’ll definitely be riding, not walking.
I’m also feeling better about knee surgery! So there’s that.
I still had a great visit and this trip reminded that I don’t just love New York because of walking. While here we saw a great play, Hurricane Diane , reviewed here. We went to the opera! Tosca! And I stopped by the SVA Flatiron Gallery.
Here’s to a well-rounded life with lots of opera, and theatre, and art, and books. And great food. And a little less walking. While that’s sad, it’s not sad overall. Really it’s hard to complain about a life that contains weekend visits to New York for fun and beautiful music.
I’m in India for a couple of weeks, this time for six days in Delhi first (including a day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal) and then four days at a feminist and gender studies conference in Puducherry in South India before heading back home. I left Toronto in an icestorm turned snowstorm that closed many things in the region on Tuesday, including my campus (and thankfully not Toronto Pearson Airport).
There are loads of exciting things about going to India, but one of the things I was looking forward to enroute was testing out my new Baubax bomber style travel jacket. My friend Dawn and I responded to a Kickstarter and ordered a jacket each. I ordered the bomber (in black) and she ordered the windbreaker (in red). I’m not promoting the company and have no stake in either it or the jacket. In fact, Dawn has had a heck of a time exchanging her jacket for the same one in a size that fits her better. And the earlier version of the jacket (ours is take 2) did have some negative reviews, like this one here.
Having said that, one of my objectives on this trip was to get enough sleep on the trip over, or at least something approximating enough. I also wanted to have my stuff close by but not have to fuss with bags and such. That made the many pockets and the hood/eye cover/neck pillows features super attractive. Also, did I mention that I left in the middle of Canadian winter? And I was going to India? That meant I wanted a jacket that could do the job for the parts of the trip in Canada, but that wouldn’t be a big pain in the butt taking up too much precious luggage space (because: shopping!) while in India.
The jacket came through big time on all those fronts. The many pockets allowed me to keep my phone, passport and boarding pass, charger cable, and even my kindle on my person. The hood with a built in eye cover that comes down and a stored inflatable neck pillow enabled me to get two good hours of sleep while we were still on the tarmac for de-icing and waiting for the runway to be cleared of snow. It also made an additional hour or so possible on the leg from Abu Dhabi to Delhi. You just pull the hood up and the eye cover down, inflate the pillow, close your eyes, and zzzzzzz.
It kept me warm enough for the Canadian outside parts, and was light enough to remove and carry when I got to India. I forgot a bottle of water at home, but the collapsible water bottle that comes with the jacket meant I could get my own from any water fountain at the airport. Which I did. And it felt great to do that instead of adding to landfill.
It’s also quite stylish, in my opinion, and super practical. I really appreciated not having to rummage around excessively in my carry-on because I could keep things in my pockets. On the last leg of the flight, even the pen came in handy (which sort of surprised me because originally I thought, “I always have a pen.” But in fact my pen was in the overhead bin, which was not all that accessible because of the guy beside me, so it was convenient beyond description to be able to pull one out of the zipper handle).
So far, I’m to plan on hydration, warmth, sleeping, neck support, having stuff easily at hand, and a pen. I managed a good 7 hours of sleep on the 12.5 hour flight, plus the two hours I got before we took off from Toronto. Once we took off, I removed the jacket and got cozy after a cup of green tea. For various reasons that are not always at play in my travels, I was able to purchase a business class ticket for this trip, so I made my seat flat, pulled the comforter up around me, and had a full night of light, though reasonably satisfying sleep.
That was just the first leg of the trip, though, and there was another ten or eleven hours to go — a five hour layover in Abu Dhabi, a further four hours in the air to get to Delhi, the frustrating wait time in the line at immigration once we were in the airport, and then the long slow drive from the airport to my hotel. By the time all that was over, I was ready for another nap.
Like I said, I’m prioritizing sleep. I touched base with Nandi, who was already at the hotel and is one of the friends I’m meeting in India for our combination work-play adventure, who kindly made me a cup of tea. We made plans to go for a walk after I’d had a chance to unwind. Air travel is an odd thing. Even with plenty of sleep and with the comforts of business class, all that sitting and lying around turns out to be exhausting. So I went for another three hours of sleep and then we ventured out into the streets of Delhi for a lovely walk through Lodhi Garden and then the Khan Market.
We passed over offers from auto-rickshaw drivers to take us to the Garden as we walked, and I’m glad we did because it turned out to be no more than about one km away. A very pleasant afternoon walk with a cool breeze and completely tolerable temperatures in the mid to high teens on the Celsius scale.
My plan for the morning is to take advantage of the hotel gym’s treadmill (fingers crossed because I’ve not actually seen the facilities yet) and put in some Around the Bay training. That’s another part of my India strategy this year. Last year, I didn’t even try. This year, I packed the gear — which usually means I will use it.
So: so far so good on the India plan. A good jacket, pretty good sleep, a nice walk, and a probable run, and I’ve only left home about 48 hours ago.
When you travel long distances for short-ish periods of time, what is your strategy (or strategies) for managing the challenges?
In 2017, I started dabbling in running one or the other race, and discovered a wonderful one: the Bilbao – Rekalde San Silvestre 8k, which takes place on New Year’s Eve. My husband is from the Basque Country, so we spend New Year’s there every year. I had so much fun in 2017 that I decided to run it again on the last day of 2018. This time, I roped in two friends to run it with me. Overall, just under 2,500 other runners had the same idea. And it was even better than the year before!
I’ll get into this in a moment, but first, there are a couple of other things I’d like to talk about. The first is the reason I love this race: while there are of course some people who are there for the competition, the vast majority are there for the fun. People run alone, in groups, with their families, or dressed up in all kinds of costumes. My favourite this year were the two guys who came dressed as a trainera(a Basque type of rowing boat). In the head picture of this official blog post you can see them! There’s also a summary video of the race that gives you a good idea of the vibe (you really only need to watch the first half, the second half is more boring, unless you want to see how the winners did):
The second thing I wanted to talk about is slightly less fun: it’s the gender split of the race. There are only two categories, male and female, which is a problem unto itself, but the race this year was no less than three-quarters male. That doesn’t seem like a particularly healthy split to me. In fact, even in comparison to marathons in the US (a statistic I could find quite quickly), it’s quite poor. I’m not totally sure what is going on here. It’s a fairly short race (below 10k), not a very serious one, and cheap (10 euros) so it sends all the right accessibility signals, or so one would think… and yet. I was intrigued, so I looked into the data for Spain (from a few years ago) a bit. Generally, women are quite a bit more sedentary than men. For example, in the 25-44 age bracket, 55% of women never (!) exercise, compared to 41% of men. On the European scale*, Spain sits in a middling position overall regarding physical activity, but the difference by sex (again, the data is binary) is comparatively large. Possible explanations would be entirely speculative at this point – but our work, fit feminist friends, is not done.
For now, let’s focus on why I loved the San Silvestre even more this time than the year before. In 2017, it poured with rain throughout the entire race. This time around, we got spectacular blue skies (see picture below) and a perfect running temperature of just over 10°C. It felt amazing!
Also in 2017, I was still getting into running and quite slow, and I suffered due to the hills along the route. But over the past year, I’ve been working on my hills quite a lot, and my overall running speed has increased. We’d decided to run the race in our pack of three, so the (supposedly) slowest in the group was our pacer – and he wasn’t slow at all! We ran pretty much at the speed I currently train at, so we did very well. It gets even better: the reason we did the time we did was that our first kilometre was really slow due to the masses of people at the start. Meaning that overall, I was actually faster than ever, aside from that first bit! And the really amazing thing is that I could have run even faster – but the way we did it was perfect because we stuck together as a team and had a fabulous time. Mission accomplished!
*There is so much interesting data in that Eurostat graph, I’m going to make it its own separate post, promise!