rest · sleep · traveling · yoga

Sam has a bad flight and is fighting jet lag

I often claim that sleep is my superpower! 

I am one of those people who can sleep almost anywhere, anytime. I sleep on planes and I rarely experience jet lag. My trick is simple: arrive well-rested, spend time outside, make it through the day, and then bang, I’m good to go after a night’s sleep in my new location. It’s a good trick and I benefit lots from it. I’ve flown to New Zealand for four days and returned to work not much the worse for wear.

But right now I’m in Munich, speaking at a conference on Neglected Relationships.

” Personal Relationships have been a topic of philosophical research for quite some time. And rightfully so: they can contribute more to our well-being, give meaning to our lives, and generate salient moral duties and responsibilities. However, the debate has been focused on just a few types of relationships: friendships, the nuclear family, romantic partnership and co-citizenship. In this conference, we aim to explore the focus and explore what we call neglected relationships. These are kinds of relationships that play important part in our personal and moral lives, but that have gone largely underexplored by moral philosophers so far. ” My talk was on chosen family.

My flight turned out to be the Lufthansa equivalent of Air Canada Rouge. (It’s Rouge on the way home, I think.) I’m flying Basic Economy. I flew here on the “overnight” flight–scare quotes because it was just a 5 hour flight. The seats were super small, hard, and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep but I also couldn’t work because the person in front of me reclined into my lap. So I arrived sore and scrunched up and very, very tired. Thanks to my compression socks I didn’t have swollen ankles. But my knee hurt a lot from sitting squished into a small space with my knee brace on.

I walked to my hotel and that helped a bit. I napped too before settling down to work on my talk. But I was still really sore. Luckily Yoga with Adrienne came to my rescue! I discovered YWA through the 219 in 2019 fitness challenge group. I knew if I was going to make it to 300 workouts in 2019, I’d need an at home/travel plan. This series of moves really helped with the unscrunching. Indeed, after a day of sitting in talks I might just do it again!

My talk went well. I got some really good comments and I’m looking forward to working on it some more.

Here’s another good thing. Yummy vegetarian/vegan conference food. Also, no single use plastics. These are salads and dressing in glass bowls.

Glass bowls of salad and dressing. Yum!
hiking · holidays · nature · traveling

Trekking in the Pyrenees, and not trekking in the Pyrenees

Last week I finally got my summer holiday. I really had to wait for it this year, but September did finally come! My partner and I went to northern Spain, where he’s from. We spent some days with family and friends, but we also spent three days hiking in the Pyrenees. In total, it was a five-day adventure because we needed to factor in two extra days to get there and back by public transport. As the owner of a hostel we stayed at put it, “people think there’s a motorway out here connecting everything, but that’s not quite the case”. I would say it’s definitely not the case. There’s one bus a day from the nearest larger city in each direction, if you’re lucky, and it meanders along curvy mountain roads, stopping at every village along the way. It was exactly what we wanted: to have some “us time”, just the two of us, in nature.

a horizontal white bar above a red one, painted on a tree.
GR11 signage: a horizontal white bar above a red one, painted on a tree.
a pole with arrow-shaped wooden signs pointing in different directions saying "GR11" and the names of different villages.
More GR 11 signage: a pole with arrow-shaped wooden signs pointing in different directions saying “GR11” and the names of different villages. There are three arrows, the middle one pointing towards the right and our destination on day one: Hiriberri.

For a bit of background, we decided to do a trek of three stages on the GR11 Transpyrenees trail. “GR” stands for Grande Randonée in French, or Gran Recorrido in Spanish (“long hike”), and is used to designate a network of long-distance hiking trails across Europe. The GR11, or “Transpirenáica“, runs from Cabo Higuer on the Basque coast all the way across to Catalunya and finishes at Cap de Creus. We chose three stages in Navarre (stages 5, 6, and 7), because the area is beautiful and was accessible by public transport from Bilbao (via Pamplona). The stages in this area are around 20 kilometres each and somewhat demanding mostly because there’s a lot of up and down, but no alpine mountaineering skills are needed.

Purple wild crocuses surrounding a silver thistle. This flower is a symbol of good fortune in the Basque region.
Pretty local flora: purple wild crocuses surrounding a larger yellow flower (a silver thistle, Wikipedia tells me). This flower is a symbol of good fortune in the Basque region.

The trail did not disappoint. On the first day, it rained in the morning, but cleared up by the afternoon. The next two days were beautiful weather: bright blue skies and sunshine! On day two, we had a lot of wind while hiking along an exposed ridge, but it was all safe and, have I mentioned, beautiful?

A wide path meandering along a soft slope, high mountains in the far distance.
A wide path meandering along a soft slope, high mountains in the far distance. The path wasn’t always this wide and flat though!

Also, cute villages! And nice country hostels and hotels!

a small hamlet nestled into a valley beneath a mountain
Cute village, exhibit (a): a small hamlet nestled into a valley beneath a mountain (that we hiked down and then back up on the other side!)

Unfortunately, we did what we usually do when we go on holiday and both got a cold. I don’t know how, but every time we’re on leave, at least one of us gets sick. I don’t know if it’s the germs on the plane, the change in weather, or the sudden lack of stress, or a combination of all three. This time, it hit my partner first, so by the time we were on the trail he was already recovering. But he kindly shared it with me, so on day three we actually had to call it quits. I was so congested I could hardly breathe, let alone hike 20 kilometres with a backpack.

I was so disappointed. But we did the sensible thing and took a taxi from the village we’d spent the night in to the next place, our final destination (Isaba). It was actually a fun taxi ride. The driver is also the local school bus driver and chauffeurs anyone who needs to go somewhere in the area, from school kids to drunk local youth during the village festival and hikers with head colds. We then spent the rest of the day wandering about and resting in the sun in Isaba, which also happened to be the nicest of the villages we stayed in. It’s surrounded by pine forests on steep slopes and consists of lovingly restored traditional houses. I would happily have spent another few days there.

A narrow cobbled street lined with traditional houses with wooden balconies on the left. A square stone church tower in the background and forest-lined mountains in the background.
Cute village, exhibit (b): Isaba. A narrow cobbled street lined with traditional houses with wooden balconies on the left. A square stone church tower in the background and forest-lined mountains in the background.

I’ll be honest, I’m still angry with that stupid cold that made us miss the last day of our trek. But what can you do? I suppose I should be happy I didn’t get really sick, so by the afternoon of that day I was well enough to take a short stroll around the area. But despite the dreaded lurgy throwing a spanner in the works of our trekking plans, it felt so good to be out there, largely on our own. In two days of hiking, we met exactly five people on the trail. It was a much needed respite from the current busyness of both our jobs and lives.

But still, I need to know: do any of you have any tips to avoid the dreaded holiday cold?

aging · cycling · fitness · traveling

Cycling into one’s retirement years

As you likely know three of the regular bloggers here–Cate, Susan, and me– plus occasional visitor Sarah and friend David, spent the last ten days on a Newfoundland cycling adventure. I’d done it before. See here.

But I loved it so much I wanted to do it again and share it with friends. This time I loved that it rained different days of the trip and so I got to endure and enjoy different sections of the journey. Labrador looks different when it’s not foggy and rainy!

There’s lots to write about: the lovely people we rode with and met along the way, the rugged beauty of Newfoundland, the hills, the wind, the rain. It was hard and challenging and rewarding.

Me, David, and Sarah holding our bikes above our heads in front of the Newfoundland and Labrador sign

One of the things that always hits home on these bike trips where the majority of the participants are in their retirement years is the scope of what’s possible in the second half of life.

There’s Pixy who at 63 isn’t just biking the Nfld trip. She’s riding all the way home to Connecticut, solo, carrying all of her own stuff. Keith and John were both 72 and looked like they belonged on their bikes. Now they might be older than me but they have one big advantage, time to train. They expressed admiration for those of us working full-time, getting out on our bikes in the evenings, early mornings, and weekends. But still, thinking of the trip’s retirees, there’s something lovely about having that fitness, that drive to train, later in life when there’s time to enjoy it.

One way to tell this story would be to focus on the bus that accompanied us every step of the way. Not our sag wagon and gear truck. The seniors’ bus tour that was visiting all the same places. Writing this post a few years ago I might have contrasted the seniors on the bus tour with the seniors on our bike trip.

I’m less sure what to make of that contrast these days.

What 70 looks like isn’t just a matter of choice. Things happen. My knee has made me painfully aware of that. I also started thinking about the 30 somethings on our bike trip. Most people their age couldn’t do this trip either. It’s a matter of choice, of luck, of training, and of interest. I’m not sure that that’s different for seniors than it is for 50 somethings and 30 somethings.

You’ve got to want to travel this way. You have to think the rewards outnumber the hardships. And you’ve got to train and get ready and make cycling fitness part of your life. That’s true for all of us.

The whole bike trip crew boarding the ferry to Labrador

fitness · traveling

Airport yoga– why isn’t this everywhere?

This week I traveled to the University of Texas at Dallas for their annual conference on Values in Medicine, Science and Technology. Thanks, Matt and Magda, for continuing to host such a great event!

Since I live in Boston, attending the conference requires air travel.

Yuck
In short, yuck.

Sometimes planes are not so appalling uncomfortable, but mostly they are. They are stuffed to the ceiling with people and baggage, with ergonomically disastrous seating for (almost) everyone. I wrote about it awhile back– Fat Flying: the Holiday Air Edition

Then there are the inevitable flight delays. According to some information I found online (what I got without clicking on a site, just asking “how many planes are delayed”), 11.74% of flights were delayed in November of last year. My 8:50pm flight to Boston was delayed about an hour (the departure time kept changing, which did not inspire confidence about ever leaving the airport).

Given that I had a lot of time at the airport, facing 4 hours of sitting on the plane and having sat at the conference that day, I decided to keep exploring (or at least cruising around) the airport. I made it to the end of terminal D, and spied this intriguing sign:

A sign indicating a Chapel and Yoga studio to the left. Left I go, then.
A sign indicating a Chapel and Yoga studio to the left. Left I go, then.

So left I went. The area was not your usual terminal scene, with shops and gates and people milling around. There wasn’t anything– just several people-moving motorized carts parked and waiting quietly along the wall. One was still on duty.

A quiet corridor of carts at DFW airport. Most are resting, and one is still on duty.
A quiet corridor of carts at DFW airport. Most are resting, and one is still on duty.

I kept going, and soon spied this sign:

A sign above the trash and recycling bins, saying "yoga studio".
A sign above the trash and recycling bins, saying “yoga studio”.

Oh boy! Could this actually be a place to do yoga? Turns out it is!

The yoga studio at DFW in all its modest glory.
The yoga studio at DFW in all its modest glory.

This was perfect– it was set up in a practical and relatively low-cost way, while at the same time perfectly well-equipped for people who want to stretch or move a bit. Here’s what it looks like from the inside:

DFW's yoga space from inside, with some matting, yoga mats in addition, large potted plants, inspirational wall art, and a video of a white woman in white yoga clothes offering instruction, which I ignored.
DFW’s yoga space from inside, with some matting, yoga mats in addition, large potted plants, inspirational wall art, and a video of a white woman in white yoga clothes offering instruction, which I ignored.

A woman was there when I arrived. I set up my mat and got on my hands and knees for some cat and cow stretching, then on to other gentle movement. They have wet wipes there for cleaning the mats before and after, and also a guest book to keep track of visitors and solicit feedback.

The other woman left after a few minutes. We spoke briefly– her flight had been canceled and she was stuck at the airport for 5 hours. Ugh. She was thrilled to find this place. So was I. Before I left, another woman showed up and started moving into warrior poses. I smiled to her, and she said don’t forget to sign the guest book. So I did, praising the place lavishly.

WHY DOESN’T EVERY AIRPORT HAVE A SPACE LIKE THIS?

I found an article about 5 airports that have yoga rooms. There’s one, for instance, in San Francisco, that I visited once.

A friend told me about a lovely yoga room at Chicago’s Midway airport that she visited. However, the sweet little Dallas yoga alcove, in a quiet hallway near the cart parking, shows that authorities can make a little effort and create quiet and happy spaces for people to move, to stretch, to rest and relax and endure the difficulties of modern travel.

I’m going to write/contact the folks at my local airport (Logan in Boston) to ask them to get moving on this. I encourage all of you to do the same.

Have any of you encountered yoga or movement spaces in airports? I bet there are more than 5 of these places around. Any outside the US? What about Canadian airports? Let us know, and I’ll compile a list and post it.

cycling · fitness · planning · training · traveling

Sam goes spring riding with friends (finally!)

Sarah front and center takes a selfie. On the photo’s left are the blog’s Kim and Susan and on the right are David and Sam. We standing in front of the sign for Billie Bear Road.

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.

The weekend ended wth the other great Canadian spring tradition, bbqing in the rain. Quite the thunderstorm. Thanks Sarah. Image description: Sarah in a red raincoat tending the BBQ on the deck with the lake in the background.

After riding there was food, of course. Here’s a bagel with black bean spread, avocado, and melted cheddar cheese. Yum!
cycling · fitness · traveling

How Sam gets pretty in pink! #Brompton

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.

Everything pink!

Bright pink manicure at the gate. Colour to match the new bike of course.

My bright pink Airbnb in Halifax.

Bright pink Brompton.

cycling · fitness classes · traveling

Sam worships at the church of spin and empowerment in Halifax, #SpinCo

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.”

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@brenden.butchart ⚡️🏁#SPINCOhalifax

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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.

YMMV.