walking

Sam is all sore feet and smiles in Spain

Image description: A photo of Sam taking a photo of a Mimosa tree. She’s wearing her “FEM-IN-IST” hoodie.

 

Image description: Sam next to a stony, scaly arch in Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Image description; Google FIT tells Sam that she has 269 move minutes and 21,608 steps in a screen capture.

I confess I was nervous visiting Europe with my less than fully functional left knee

I’m here partly for work and partly for a couple of days of vacation. Sarah’s along for the vacation part. We flew into Barcelona, taking the train to Perpignan for a meeting of the Crossways in Cultural Narratives program, stopping in Girona along the way. (Guelph is one of eight partner institutions that offer the program along with the University of Perpignan Via Domitia, France ; University of Bergamo, Italy;  New University of Lisbon, Portugal; Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland; University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain; University of Saint Andrews, United Kingdom; and University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.)

I love Barcelona. It’s one of my favorite cities. But what I love to do in Barcelona involves lots and lots of walking. I’ve blogged lots about European cities and walking. But this time with my sore left knee I wasn’t sure how it would go. I couldn’t imagine getting around without lots of walking.

But friends, I have terrific news. I did it! We walked all day, up hills, down hills, through streets and through shops. The main event was walking up Carmel Hill to Gaudi’s Parc Guell. There were aches and pains, sure. My knee is almost never sensation free but I enjoyed myself and it didn’t hurt too much. At the end of the day it wasn’t swollen or particularly sore. In fact, I broke into a grin late in the day when I realized my feet hurt. It’s been ages since my feet have hurt from walking too much. For the past year or so, my knee has been the limiting factor in walking. 

Thank you Barcelona for the elevators down to your subways. I know I’ve worried about cities in Europe and disability access before. See here. But Barcelona was a very pleasant surprise. 

Anyway, I don’t have a lot to say except that I’ve never smiled so much because my feet were sore. 

Image description: View of Barcelona, including Sagrada Família cathedral, from the top of Carmel Hill.

 

Image description: Sam pauses halfway up Carmel Hill in Barcelona. She’s flushed but smiling, wearing a grey t-shirt and hoodie, black yoga pants and bright orange running shoes. There are lots of Barcelona homes and apartments in the background.

cycling · fitness · snow · walking · winter

Best laid plans… but Sam gets some movement in anyway

So Saturday of our winter weekend getaway I thought I’d try a beginner’s ski lesson. But that wasn’t to be. It was cold, really cold, -25 and windy cold. It was also icy. Instead of light puffy snow there was hard, cold ice.

See this sign? Marginal conditions, skiing not recommended. Great. Even the ski instructors weren’t that enthusiastic. Try another time, they suggested.

Image description: A red sign on a white ski hill. In both languages it says marginal conditions, skiing not recommended.

Instead, I went for a long walk up the hill and wandered around the shops at the base of the mountain. I stopped for lunch solo while braver, much more experienced, souls were off skiing. I’m better about eating alone at restaurants these days. I positively enjoyed it. And don’t panic. There was rice underneath. I haven’t abandoned carbs.

When I got back to the hotel I changed and wandered down to the fitness centre. It was small but with a lovely view. They had treadmills and nice spin bikes (guess which I chose?) a bench and dumbbells. That’s enough to keep me busy. So I watched an episode of Sex Education and pedaled away. It wasn’t my first choice of activities but it felt good. Sunday we all abandoned skiing and went to the spa.

Sat with Nat · walking

Nat navigates walking to work in a Polar Vortex

It’s been a week of proper cold winter weather in London, Ontario. I live on the little southern bit of Canada wedged between the Great Lakes. It rarely drops below-20C here but when it does it tends to be because the Arctic airmass slips south into the jet stream and it stays that way for a week or two.

Some Canadians lean into the weather quipping “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just not dressing for the weather,” That supposes everyone has both the means to acquire the right clothing & equipment as well as the knowledge to know what to buy, how to wear it and when to stay indoors.

My partner and I are fairly committed to walking to work as part of our fitness and reducing our carbon footprint. I’m also terribly cheap and hate paying $8-12 a day to park my clunker.

Some days we just bundled up with hats, mitts, good boots and faces covered.

A close up of Nat’s face framed by a fake fur hood. You can just make out her eyes between her grey toque and bright orange face cover

My hood is always up when it’s -24C plus wind chill.

We did walk 2/5 days this week but we also chose to drive when the “feels like” temperature hit -39C. It was a week of driving in a cold car, working in a cold office and wearing layers of clothes in the house & in bed.

Brrrrrr

This type of cold weather wrecks havoc on batteries so for folks using electric mobility devices like scooters it was a week of being home. Waiting for buses became so hazardous school transportation was cancelled Thursday.

I think one way we can debunk toxic masculinity is calling out ideas of being able to “tough out” the weather. Sure, there are times to dig deep into your resolve to overcome obstacles. And yes, making our lives consciously more physically challenging can be a way to enhance our fitness. But those ideas must also be balanced against safety and wellbeing.

So I’m ok getting the lift offered by a friend on a snowy afternoon as I walk home. I’m ok driving when I might otherwise risk frostbite. I have been looking for rain pants and insulated snow pants that fit for about 5 years to no avail.

I would like some though so if you know where a woman can find women’s size 20 or XXXL I’d love to hear about it!

fitness · Guest Post · walking

Posting one step at a time (guest post)

(Here’s a guest post by blog reader– and friend of Catherine W: Fernanda F— on taking her relationship with Fitbit public. CW: very brief weight loss talk.)

Last year I decided that I wanted to be more fit and lighter. Okay, I am lying. I decided that a long time ago, but only in March 2018 did I start walking and posting my daily steps. The big difference was that I was posting my daily progress on social media. I didn’t think anything of it, except it was a way to make me feel better and boost my morale by getting the inevitable “likes”. Along the way I started feeling that I _had_ to walk, because gosh darn it, I have to post my goal for the day. So I walked.

Here’s an example of one of my “goal” days:

Fernanda's step count for a sample day, posted on Facebook.
Fernanda’s step count for a sample day, posted on Facebook. This one is 10,136 steps.

Now of course, if you are a bundle of insecurity and self-doubt like me, you don’t want to look bad. So sometimes I would skip the days I didn’t hit goal (note: my goal progressed and is now 10 thousand steps a day.) It’s not like there is an imaginary Facebook God keeping track of when you skip your posts. Or, your friends are not going to say, hey, what happened to Monday’s step goal? Did you have Wi-Fi problems or something? Of course not, people have lives. But I needed to practice honesty in all of my affairs, and I asked myself what would happen if I posted a non-goal day. I would give it a try.

Here’s an example of a “non-goal” day:

Sample step count for a "non-goal" day; this one is 5,630 steps.
Sample step count for a “non-goal” day; this one is 5,630 steps.

Then a funny thing happened. I got the same “likes” as with the goal days. On top of it, I also got encouraging comments. People would write “it all counts!” or “don’t give up!!”

So I kept on walking. And posting. The thing about Fitbit (and this is not an endorsement of any particular brand, that’s just the one I use) is that you can post either to their own platform or you can click on “elsewhere” and post to your social media. I tried posting to their platform but did not get anywhere. The few responses I got would invariably be from people whom I did not know. So by selecting the place where I usually go to (admittedly way too often) I was able to get the incentive and the feedback I needed. The very neat thing is that there is a way to post your daily progress with a picture instead of just a green background.

A screenshot of Happy Fernanda, reporting 10,334 steps, a nice lunch of lemon poundcake, and a nap. She is proud of enjoying the pound cake! Yum.
A screenshot of Happy Fernanda, reporting 10,334 steps, a nice lunch of lemon poundcake, and a nap. She is proud of enjoying the pound cake! Yum.

Because I did not want to bore people with my daily posts, I tried to write something different every day. I would write something simple like the exclamation “Boo Yah!” of something longer, explaining how I got to goal that day, writing about how I just walked in place in front of the television to get to ten thousand steps.

Most of my friends on social media are also colleagues at work. I was walking down the hall one day and someone I only see occasionally said to me “getting those steps in?!” I replied, “Yeah, I am walking down to the copy center…” and it took me a second to understand what she was saying. She was taking about my posts. Seeing my frown (those who know me understand that I do not have a poker face) she explained that she was inspired by what I was doing, and that she herself had decided to walk more, seeing my daily progress. I was stunned and a little embarrassed. I didn’t realize that this simple act of being accountable was having some sort of impact on others.

Then the “non-goal” days became more frequent. I was sick for about three weeks with a viral cold that would not go away. I didn’t walk some days or had very few steps each day. It did not stop people from being supportive, either on social media or in person. I found that to be even more amazing and supportive.

One stunning example was when I was mowing the lawn last summer, and a person stopped her car in the middle of the road in front of my house and yelled “get those steps in!” It was my neighbor, who is also a Facebook friend. It’s entirely possible that I have way too many “friends” for my own good. But in this case, it was indeed for my own good.

(Fernanda F is a professor of Foreign Languages, a determined and exploration-minded soul, frequent traveler, and fit feminist.)

aging · fit at mid-life · fitness · Martha's Musings · menopause · walking · weight lifting

Menopause, memory and fitness

By MarthaFitAt55

 

katie-moum-446408-unsplash.jpg
Picture shows a paved highway shrouded in fog. Photo credit: Katie Moum on Unsplash

Last week SamB shared an interesting article from the New York Times discussing the brain fog of menopause. I was mightily relieved to read the article. Like the subject of the article, I once enjoyed a wonderful memory, and in recent times, I was dismayed to discover it had left me.

 

To learn there is a link between brain fog and menopause offers me hope. Over the past five years I have been actively working on improving my fitness. I have found yoga to be quite useful in helping me loosen up my ligaments. I have found swimming to be excellent at working my hip joints. My trainer creates programs that are diverse, work different parts, and are usually fun to do.

The challenge has been remembering how the strength exercises work. Despite the fact I have been doing a hip abductor stretch for five years, I never remember which arm goes up with which knee. Or she’ll say let’s do (insert name of exercise I’ve done multiple times) and all I remember is “blah, blah arms” or “blah, blah glutes.” What I do with the arms or my glutes is a mystery and I wait expectantly for my trainer to fill in my all too frequent blanks.

For awhile there, I was feeling quite stupid about not being able to remember an exercise from one week to another. Or I could remember someting I learned more than two decades earlier, but couldn’t recall a simple piece of information several hours after learning it.

Brain fog, or more properly termed “menopause-related cognitive impairment,” in women is disconcerting. We are responsible for many things: appointments, processes at home and at work, information, data. When you are used to being able to manage all the little bits in life without much effort, it can become worrisome when you lose that facility.

Luckily severe cases of brain fog can be managed with a short course of hormone therapy. However, if that’s not suitable, here something that can help: more exercise!

According to a report published last spring by Harvard Health, regular exercise can rewire your brain and help improve your cognitive skills and your recall. Plus regular exercise can help you sleep better, which also helps maintain your cognitive abilities and keep your mood elevated.

The good news is that cardio exerise really helps; the bad news is that strength training does not. However that doesn’t mean you need to ditch the weights. Variety in exercise offers you benefits in different areas and you don’t get bored doing the same thing over and over.

Right now I’m going to keep focused on my workout plan, I am not going to stress myself out over the need for repetition in instruction, and I will add in a couple of extra walks to keep the blood flowing to my brain as well as my feet. I will also celebrate the small wins like remembring when it is my turn to post!

— Martha is a powerlifter who lives and writes in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

 

 

 

dogs · walking

Sam and Cheddar go walking in the dark

Image description: A square of blue with text that reads in white and red, ‘This whole dark at 5 pm is really messing with me.’

I’ve lived through one week now of the dreaded evening dark that comes with the end of daylight savings time. You know how much I hate November and the dark. I don’t know if it’s full blown SAD but I’m pretty miserable for a usually very happy person.

My complaint against the end of daylight savings is simple. I’m an early riser so it’s always dark when I get up. But dark by end of the workday just about kills. It means I ride home in the dark.

I can’t drive in the dark and so I can feel stuck in the house in the winter. I’ve written about my eyes and their issues here.

But lately I’ve been walking Cheddar in the evening, taking him on longer strolls. Walking him in the dark takes some adjustment on both of our parts. He’s not happy about it. Neither is this dog walker in the piece For the love of dogs make day light savings permanent.

The end of daylight savings doesn’t suit his dogs.

“There is nothing worse than a pack of energetic dogs and not even a moment of daylight to get them some illuminated exercise after work during dark winter months.”

I’m not sure if I’ll try to change my schedule to walk him longer in the mornings. That seems unlikely to succeed. Certainly there’ll be more weekend daytime walking. And for now we’ll try to get used to the dark.

What do you and your dog do once the evening dark arrives?

Sam sad selfie going for a night walk with dog. She’s wearing a red and orange knitted hat, a black scarf, and a big back fluffy coat

Cheddar, the dog, under a streetlight staring at leaves

fitness · walking

Walking vs. biking in a new place

This weekend and half of next week find me in sunny and warm southern California– San Diego, to be precise. This is my first visit here. I’m in town for the American Public Health Association meetings, which is a humongous conference (more than 12,000 attendees). I’m giving a talk on health promotion metrics and values (I wrote a preview blog post about this topic a couple of weeks ago here).

One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to stay in an Airbnb or some such in an interesting neighborhood and check out the local sights on foot.  I’ve done just that, and set out today to see what I could see, which included some lovely flora:

As I was walking along, though, I saw a bunch of dockless rental bikes and scooters (those were electric, I was informed) parked every which way on the sidewalks. I was tempted to throw my leg over a Lime Bike (person-powered) and pedal off towards the sunset (that is, toward the beach). However, I’m planning to rent a bike the old-fashioned way from a bike shop, where I can get a lock, a helmet, and a slightly fancier bike.

Here’s the thing, though: today I just didn’t feel like cycling.  I wanted to see the world on foot.  So I did.  I meandered in my neighborhood, went downtown, met some friends, and we wandered around a bit to do touristy shopping and then have dinner.

The thing about traveling on foot for sightseeing and exploring a new place is that it is 1) slow; 2) results in covering less ground; and 3) is not as comfortable for someone recovering (as I am) from a sprained ankle. On a bike you get to 1) see sights at as brisk a pace as you like, but still in leisurely fashion; 2) don’t have to worry about parking; 3) get around efficiently and cheaply if walking is a problem.

Today, though, my pace of life felt like a walking one. So walk I did. San Diego seems to agree with my ankle, as I felt much less pain and more ease than the few days before.

Yay!

Tomorrow, I am headed to a local bike shop to get kitted out for tooling around town on two wheels. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the area, but at the moment I’m enjoying the slower pace of walking.

This made me wonder: is it okay to go really slow sometimes?

(voice in my head): What a silly non-question, Catherine.  Of course it’s okay!

(me): You don’t have to be hostile about it. I’m just wondering how to balance my desires for both slow and faster modes of self-propulsion around town.

Please excuse the interruption of some inner dialogue here.  Back to the blog post now.

Don’t get me wrong:  I love love love seeing the world from the handlebars of a bike.  Especially fun is exploring a new city by riding.  I’ve done this dozens of times while traveling.  However, some cities seem to beckon me to slow down and check them out while strolling.  I felt this way when I was in Sydney, Australia.  I took hundreds of photos of plants and flowers and birds and trees, which were much easier to do on foot. San Diego is grabbing me this way, too.

I’ll probably end up cycling some, but I’m finding I want a more up close and personal physical experience of moving around here. We shall see what happens, and I’ll report back.

Readers, what are your preferences about sightseeing or exploring a new place?  Walking or biking?  Or some other mode?  How much speed do you need as a tourist? I’d love to hear from you.