fall · fashion · fitness · gear · Seasonal sadness · self care · walking

Thoughts about walking and about rain boots minus gender

Nat’s post about walking in the rain prompted me to take action. Now, I’m no Nat. I meet my very modest step goal most days but I try not to care. My Garmin watch gives me fireworks when I’ve met my step goal and I smile at this little mini celebration but when it asks me to increase my goal, I decline.

About eight months ago I wrote a post about the wonders of walking that asked what if you can’t walk. I can walk but not very far with my damaged, waiting to be totally replaced, knee. There are still reasons to walk, even it hurts, and lots of studies show that walking won’t make the situation worse.

So I do walk a fair bit still thanks to Cheddar the dog but increasing my step count isn’t among my fitness goals.

Cheddar and the fall colours

But Nat’s post inspired me in another direction, the direction of dry feet and dressing for the weather. Like Nat, I’m well kitted out for winter. I have all the gear I need to stay warm on my fat bike, on snow shoes, or while walking Cheddar in January. But rainy weather? Not so much.

I don’t mind winter when it’s here. In January the days are getting longer, there’s snow to play in, and often there’s sun. But November? Ugh. Dark, cold and often rainy, November is my toughest month. I’m on record as hating November.

Given the pandemic, I don’t need any extra anger or resentment in my life. I need to make friends with November. First step, getting better rain gear. I’ve got an excellent rain coat that I bought while on sabbatical in New Zealand. But I don’t have good rain boots. My calves are too wide for traditional knee high rain boots.

The boots needed to be bright and cheerful, because November. And short, because calves.

Here was my short list of choices:

Boots

In the end I chose the Pride boots. I thought seriously about the pink fishing boots but they aren’t available in my size.

But I need to tell you a thing I love about the Pride boots. They’re available in two different kinds of sizes, wide and narrower. Not men’s and women’s.

I’ve written before about gendered sizing, about lady backpacks and women’s bikes, and why they drive me up the wall. Why not just wide shoulders, or long torso? Why tie things to gender even they’re not about gender at all? If some men fit women’s boots and some women need men’s boots, then it isn’t really about gender, is it?

Thks. Hunter boots for getting it right.

Black boots with rainbow heels

Now, assuming they fit, these boots likely aren’t enough to make me love November when it gets here. But I just have tolerate November and likely I will tolerate it better with dry feet.

Thanks for the prompt Nat.

Enjoy your walks with Michel and Lucy. Cheddar and I will be thinking of you!

And Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

A small orange pumpkin being held in two hands outstretched.
Sat with Nat · walking

Walking Whatever the Weather

Recommended soundtracks:

Walk like an Egyptian by the Bangles

Walk like Thunder by Kimya Dawson

Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves

Walking on the Moon by The Police

It’s birthday-aversary-giving weekend at The Hobbit House. I’m off for a great haircut this morning to kick off my 46th year right. Last night my beloved and I got photos taken in celebration of 25 years of togetherness. The rest of the weekend will be a mix of food, fun, rest and enjoying the beautiful weather.

But friends, the weather is not always beautiful. In our part of Canada we are well into autumn with cooler temperatures and rain. Like. Way more rain than the summer.

It was an arid summer so in some ways I got lax about my outdoor clothing as it didn’t really matter but now it does.

I’ve got amazing cold weather gear that is functional, fits and I like the look of. I know I’ll put it to good use when the snow hits. But, thankfully, it’s not snowing yet.

It is cooler so I picked up a pair of Keen clogs as I stopped wearing my sandals. I love the arch support and fuzzy interior. They are like cute little sleeping bags for my toes.

Army green clogs with the Keen brand signature over the toe sole. My son’s fiancé said they look like her Oma’s gardening clogs. I took it as a compliment!

I’ve got a number of light jackets & sweaters that keep me comfy on my walks. But. Like. Rain gear. I need it if I’m going to keep my step count up in the coming months.

My average monthly step count for the past 12 months.

The bar graph shows me a few things. Winter has always reduced my step count. Mostly because I slow down in icy conditions and the time I have for walking is usually fixed. It’s also the weather, hours of daylight and motivation.

The thing I find the most interesting is that my average this year is 7,200. Last year it was around 9,000 steps. Partly this happened because I lost my walking commute but also our puppy, Lucy, could not go for longer walks and we couldn’t leave her alone for long.

That all changed in August as my partner and I re-evaluated our fitness/movement goals. He wanted to increase our daily step count and I was happy to oblige. It started small, adding 1 block to both our 15 minute and 30 minute routes. We then aimed for longer morning walks of 45 minutes to a hour. Our short walks became 20-30 minute walks and before we knew it we regularly got 14,000 steps in a day. It was easy when it’s daylight before and after work, dry and warm.

I’ve been good and soaked a couple times this month and I’m SO OVER IT. So for my birthday I’m picking up some rubber boots with neoprene uppers. No more wet feet!! The trick will be finding ones with good foot support.

I’ve noticed that thanks to the dog needing the walk it’s become non-negotiable. At a minimum we are out twice a day and it has been so helpful. Walking has grounded me in the here & now when my whole self wants to be anywhere but here. I’m grateful for that.

I’ve walked sad, tired, happy, lonely, angry and silly with Lucy & my beloved. It’s helped our bonds, our partnerships and my mental health. So I really need this to keep going, whatever the weather, so I can navigate those life things that I don’t have control over.

Do the changing seasons impact your movement/fitness goals? Does environmental stuff (weather, temperature, air quality) influence the activities you do? I’d love to hear your perspective. Maybe you want to blog about it!

dogs · Sat with Nat · walking

Nat on outsourcing motivation

Recommended Soundtrack: I wanna be your dog by The Stooges

I’m not great on making a training plan and sticking with it. When it comes to activity I’m more a go-along with whatever folks are up for. Yoga? Sure! Cycling? Yup! Walk? Uh-huh!

So when my beloved decided he wanted to up our step count when walking our dog, Lucy, I agreed. I offered that we could add 1 block to all our walks, short coffee break and our typical 30 minute morning, lunch & evening walks.

It totally worked. In August my average step count jumped from under 7,200 to 11,500. Partly this is because as Lucy gets older she can go on longer walks. The other part is my beloved’s joy in counting and metrics. He really loves hitting goals.

One night, after dinner and a glass of wine, he asked if we could go for another walk. He hadn’t hit 10,000 steps. I pointed out that 10,000 was an arbitrary goal. He laughed and shouted “Join me in meetng this arbitrary goal! Achievement is as meaningless as the goal BUT IT IS ALL WE HAVE!”

Of course he was being overly dramatic. Many times our common goals are based on best guesses and gut feels. I’m not much for tracking metrics or goals so I’ve happily handed over all of that to my partner. He’s a greyhound who needs a rabbit to chase.

The other being I’ve outsourced my motivation to is our resident gremlin, Lucy. She, like Gollum, both loves and hates our walks. She needs the movement but would rather do high intensity frisbee intervals than walk. But she’d rather walk than lay about.

Lucy, the wonder dog, sits attentively watching the photographer who may gift her with walksies or treats.

I find I don’t have the cognitive or emotional depth for self discipline but I can say “yes” to the asks for walks. Like the dog, I’m just along for the ride these days and I am 100% ok with surrendering to the process.

What do you do to stay motivated to keep moving?

Sat with Nat · walking

Nat’s wrangling working, dog walking and not very many workouts.

Recommended Soundtrack: Handshakes by Metric

I’m in the very privileged position of being able to work from home. I do knowledge work in the financial sector and we were deemed essential during the confinement in response to COVID 19. My beloved is also able to work from home.

Our other family members studied from home in the spring but now have jobs outside the house. But. Like. Folks. 5 people at home working, studying and eating 24/7 has really ramped up the housework.

We’ve felt it in the frequency of dishes needing to be done, bathrooms that need a scrub down (those at work toilet breaks really decrease the usage of the home crapper) and general need to tidy & clean taking more and more time. Plus there’s something about just sitting around that lowers my tolerance for home chaos. So the need for housework to increase is, in part, due to a higher standard and also to everyone being home. It’s exhausting.

As a feminist household we strive for an equal distribution of chores. It falls short a lot with the emerging adults, so my partner and I are really feeling the stress. It’s a very busy time of year for his sales job and my leadership role. There just seems to be no time for much else.

Enter Lucy, our seven month old puppy. She’s a Texas Heeler. For those unfamiliar with this compact, energetic mix she’s a cross between 2 herding dogs: Australian Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog. She’s 100% ball of energy.

Before confinement we had our kids helping a lot with her care but now they are working outside the home and we are home all the dang time.

Lucy wakes up most days at 5:30 am. Regular readers of this blog know I’m not a morning person. Lucy doesn’t seem to care. She gets a 30 minute walk before we sit down to work, a quick coffee break walk around 10 am. A lunchtime 20-30 minute walk. A pre-dinner and post dinner walk. Yup. That’s. Uh. 5. Five dog walks, mostly done with my partner. The kids help with some mornings. We appreciate it but can’t count on it.

All thirty pounds of Lucy posed in her best “we are going walking” face as she sits on the sidewalk.

Between longer working hours, more housework and dog walking there’s not a lot else happening for workouts. Sometimes I get a 20-40 minute yoga routine in. But that’s it.

I’m tired friends so I’ve decided to be gentle with myself. There’s a lot going on so when there are moments that I can get a nap or a visit in with a friend I’m taking it.

Lucy is very good at pacing herself. She rests, plays and stretches all the time. She doesn’t worry about having goals or living up to expectations. She’s enthusiastic about eating and being comfortable.

Lucy lies on her back flirting with a tiny treat before she devours it. Her pink belly with dark freckles is begging to be scratched.

Has your work/life balance shifted recently? How has that impacted your workouts?

220 in 2020 · fitness · habits · health · motivation · rest · running · schedule · strength training · training · walking · yoga

220 in 2020: goal achieved, now what? Hint: keep going

image description: Tracy selfie. She’s smiling, wearing a Buff on her head and a workout tank, upper left arm tattoo of flower visible, home workout equipment (e.g. running shoes, cans of beans, chairs, blanket, bin with resistance bands, yoga mat on floor) in background.

A few of us have blogged about participating in “220 in 2020,” which is basically a group where you keep track of your workouts, with a goal of working out at least 220 times in 2020. Cate and Sam started talking about it back in 2017, when they did “217 in 2017.” It got Sam to think more explicitly and more expansively about what counts. And Cate has talked about the motivating power of this type of group and how it’s altered her relationship to working out. I jumped on board last year, with the 219 in 2019 group that spun off of the Fit Is a Feminist Issue Challenge group that Cate, Christine and I hosted for a few months in the fall of 2018.

Reflecting on “what counts” is not a new thing for me. Way back when Sam and I started the blog in 2012, I was already wondering what a workout actually is for me. I revisited that question when I joined the 219 in 2019 group. Then I concluded that “if these challenges are meant to get us moving, then whatever gets us moving counts.”

I just hit the goal of 220 workouts in 2020 on the weekend. It sort of snuck up on me. In fact, I didn’t even notice when I first posted it. It’s not something I “had my eye on” the way I did last year. I’ve even wondered whether it seems like a bit of an impossibility or something people view with skepticism.

Last year, using as my basic criterion “if it gets me moving then it counts,” I managed to get in the 219, with a few extra but not many. The vast majority of sessions I counted were either yoga classes, runs, or resistance training sessions. I had a sort of minimum time limit of about 20 minutes before I would count something as a workout. Yoga and personal training were always an hour. And most of my runs are at least 20 minutes and sometimes considerably longer.

By the time 2020, going on the momentum of 2019, I had successfully incorporated conscious movement into my routine every day. Sometimes, especially but not only while I was in Mexico in January and February, I would do something twice a day, like yoga and running, or yoga and a 10K walk. Starting with Adriene’s “Home” yoga challenge in January, I have actually done yoga almost every day since the beginning of the year. When I started to notice the numbers really racking up on my “count” in the 220 in 2020 group, I began to count two things in a day as one workout (like run+yoga OR walk+yoga) unless one of those things was super exerting or considerably longer than an hour). It’s almost as if I felt bad!

But the fact is, the goal of being able to record a new workout often did motivate me to get moving. And once I had yoga as part of my daily routine, I didn’t want to break that streak of daily yoga. But for me yoga alone is not enough — it counts, but I need to either run, walk, or do some resistance training as well.

Another woman in the 220 in 2020 group also hit her 220 on the weekend. And she asked me, “what now?” My first answer was “keep going.” Which is sort of obvious. I went on to wonder whether there is any reason to keep recording and reporting my workouts, though. The group has achieved its purpose for me — over the past 18 months of being part of a group like this I have integrated physical activity into my daily life in a way I hadn’t quite before. This is made easier this year by my sabbatical, so I am much freer than I usually am. For at least a few more months I get to set my own hours. That allowed me to kick into high gear in the fall, with hot yoga every day (oh, how I miss hot yoga! The pandemic has effectively taken that out of my life for the indefinite future). I made a smooth transition to Yoga with Adriene when I went to Mexico for the winter. That gave me a headstart on the transition to online everything that the pandemic has foisted upon us.

The running/walking + yoga combo was just starting to feel old when I discovered, through Cate, the online Superhero workouts with Alex in late April. That was just the thing I needed to add a new dimension of challenge to my fitness life. I had set resistance training and even running aside for awhile, having injured myself last spring and endured a very slow recovery. For me the perfect balance is a routine that includes yoga, resistance training, and running/walking. I don’t tend to take a day off, opting instead for active rest, combining a more restorative yoga practice with a walk.

This commitment to a routine that includes daily physical activity has also been amazing for my mental health. I have had a tough couple of years that culminated in the finalization of my divorce in early January. Sometimes it felt as if regular physical activity was the only thing I could commit to as part of a daily schedule.

When I stepped away from being a regular on the blog at the end of last summer, it was partly because I had very little left to say publicly about fitness. That still holds true, with the occasional blog post (I think I’ve blogged about 5 times since I “left”) and my daily progress tracking in the 220 in 2020 group being the extent of it. Once in awhile I feel compelled to make some social commentary (like my commentary on “the covid-19” weight-gain jokes, which aren’t funny).

As I hit my 220 target early, with almost half a year stretching out before me, I feel that it’s cemented what started when Sam and I embarked on our Fittest by 50 Challenge and started the blog in 2012. The big shift for me during our challenge was to a more internal and personal relationship with fitness. I realize full well, for example, that no one else really cares, nor should they, what I do. This isn’t to say I haven’t felt supported, encouraged, and motivated by the group. It isn’t to say either that I haven’t enjoyed watching the fitness lives of other members — their accomplishments, their routines, the adventurous and exciting things they do. It is to say that, in the end, I do this for myself. And I’ve experienced the benefits in my life.

So the answer to the question, “what now?” actually is, “keep going.” Not to accumulate a higher number (though I will, if I keep reporting in the group), but because it’s now a thing I do that is a positive part of my life. And recognizing that, it makes no sense to stop. I also think it’s pretty awesome, and I’m not going to worry if that makes me sound boasty or whatever, because sometimes I think we are not boasty enough. We minimize things we do that are actually awesome. And since (as noted above) no one else really cares, and since I definitely do care, well…it makes sense for me to regard reaching this fitness milestone about 5 1/2 months early as an actual achievement. [high-fiving myself now despite slight discomfort at what I just said, which discomfort highlights that I’ve internalized the message about how women shouldn’t be self-congratulatory about what they do even though I actually think we should]

So that’s my “challenge group” story for 2020. Do you have one? If so, let us know in the comments how that helps you (or, if you fly solo, why that works best for you).

covid19 · cycling · fitness · health · running · walking

Multi-use pathway: tough to navigate at the best of times

In my little city of London, Ontario we have a fantastic system of pathways–The Thames Valley Parkway– that run mostly along the river, through parks and wooded areas. It’s long and lovely, covering over 40 km of ground.

Image description: Map of London, Ontario’s pathways and bike routes. A yellow line snaking alongside the river indicates the Thames Valley Parkway.

Not surprisingly people use it a lot, not just for leisure but also for commuting from one end/side of the city to the other, for walking their dogs, for exercise. But that’s not the sense in which it’s “multi-use.” That refers to the modes of moving along the path — people walk, run, ride their bikes, travel on their inline skates and skateboards and non-motorized scooters, and in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The posted speed limit is 20 kilometres per hour. At the moment, there are signs asking people to respect the covid-19 physical distancing guidelines to remain at least 2m apart.

Our local CBC asked the following question recently: “Between cyclists and pedestrians on the Thames Valley District Parkway, who gets the right of way?” They posted the same question on their FB page. As someone who has been using the pathway for a long time, not just during the pandemic, I wasn’t surprised that most replies didn’t even mention the pandemic.

Yes, the physical distancing guidelines raise a whole new set of issues about giving others their space. And (apparently), COVID-19 restrictions have increased the use of the pathway system because our other options, like gyms and yoga studios, are all closed. Plus, kids are home and many adults are either working from home (giving them in some cases more flex in their schedules) or not working. With outdoor exercise being touted (rightly) as an effective way to nurture your mental and physical health at the same time, health experts have emphasized its importance for us during the isolation of the pandemic.

Most people who commented in the thread said that the usual rules of the road should apply, not just during the pandemic, but all the time (how it should be “all the time” was a recurring theme). That would mean pedestrians have the right of way. But not all agreed. Some thought, for example, that since pedestrians can more easily duck out of the way, cyclists should have the right of way. The fact is, the TVP is not a road and the city has not spelled out any guidelines for its use other than “share the path.” The convention is that on the two-lane pathway, pedestrians and cyclists alike use the right-hand lane.

The CBC London comment thread had the usual complaints about cyclists from pedestrians — they don’t ring their bell or say anything to let you know they’re approaching, they pass too closely, they go too fast, they ride in packs (or side-by-side). And there were the usual complaints about pedestrians from cyclists — they take up too much space instead of keeping to the right, they are wearing earbuds so they don’t hear you when you call out, they are sometimes erratic.

The path itself is anywhere from 2.4 to 4 metres wide. That makes it logistically impossible to maintain a two metre distance from everyone you might encounter, whether you’re on foot or on a bicycle, regardless of how much you’d like to keep a safe distance at all times.

Remember too that not everyone on foot is walking. I use the path as both a walker and a runner, and have also used it a lot as a cyclist. My view of what’s irritating, because in general that is how I would describe my reaction when other people’s use of the path creates friction for my use of it, depends a lot on what “mode” I’m in. As one person said to the CBC, “When you’re a pedestrian, you want to think the faster people should get out of your way, but now that I’ve been biking a bit more, I realize I have the opposite mindset when I’m on a bike.” Similarly, when I’m riding my bicycle (or even when I’m running), I get grumpy when people are walking together and taking up the whole lane. But of course, walking in the park together is a thing. An enjoyable thing. And now that we are physical distancing, walking with a friend required that you be further apart than usual.

The other morning when I was out running, I kept as far to the right as possible (I always do that for my own sense of safety from the fast cyclists). Most cyclists who needed to go around me gave a wide berth, but not 2m. I had the easiest time with the people who were running or walking in the other direction because I could (and did) just step a few feet onto the grass as I passed them. Indeed, when possible, I enjoy running on the softer edges beside the paved part, but it’s not always flat enough to do that without risk of turning onto an ankle. The most challenging obstacle I faced was the group of four people walking their large dogs. Between the people and the dogs on leashes, they were literally spread out over both sides of the path, creating a real blockade for cyclists. I did my usual thing and ran off the pathway to navigate around them, but I was annoyed.

I think the worst thing cyclists do besides passing too closely happens when there are pedestrians or runners coming towards me in the other lane and a cyclist approaching them from behind who wants to pass them. It has never been clear to me why it makes more sense from the cyclist’s point of view to ride straight into the path of a pedestrian or runner (me!) in the other lane instead of waiting for a clear passing opportunity. It would be as if you were driving on a two-lane highway and you just kept going at speed, passing cars in front of you without any regard for whether there was on-coming traffic. It wouldn’t even occur to you but quite honestly, 9/10 cyclists do this as if it’s the most reasonable choice in the world.

I’m sensitive too to the issue raised about being in the “slipstream” of a runner or cyclist who passes me (or vice versa if I pass someone). I don’t really know what to do about that, so I just hope for the best. Did that slipstream thing get debunked or at least, did someone say it was overly simplistic? Regardless, it’s hard not to think about mini-droplets hanging in the air and how long they may linger there. Sometimes I try to hold my breath but I have considered that possibly that makes me then gasp for air with an extra deep inhale at exactly the wrong moment. On a related note: I have noticed that some people sort of turn their head away and fewer people say “hello” (we live in a city where the norm is to say hello to others on the path). Thankfully some data show that being outside reduces transmission risk a lot.

I am sort of onside with the view that there is no clear right-of-way rule that can easily apply in every case when it comes to the pathway. This is unfortunate because clear rules would be helpful. But I am aware that just because something annoys me doesn’t make it wrong. For example, I have been the cyclist too, and if there are lots of people walking it is exhausting to continually ring your bell or say “on your left.” Indeed, “on your left” can sometimes confuse people or startle them (though typically they will thank you for letting them know).

On the water, when boating, there are clear rules about sail boats having the right of way over power boats. But there is also a sort of convention that the boat who can easily maneuver out of the way should do so if it would be more difficult for the other boat (that’s the reasoning behind why a boat under sail typically has the right of way), even if the other boat technically has the right of way. And really, from the safety point of view, you need to be sensible — if you’ve technically got the right of way but holding your ground might mean you’re going to get run over (like if you’re sailing and a freighter is coming up behind you at twice your speed), then you get out of the way.

I operate kind of like that on the pathway. And most others do too. And as several people on the CBC London Facebook thread said, usually it goes pretty smoothly. And that is amazing considering how busy the TVP can be at times. But I have also taken to going as early in the morning as possible if I’m going to be on the path. And sometimes I don’t have the energy to put up with the added stress, so I just avoid the pathway altogether. I’ve adopted a general policy, that I expect I will maintain for as long as the physical distancing guidelines are required (read: until there is a vaccine and most people have been inoculated): I run alone.

I am still experimenting with physical-distanced walking with friends and I have to say I don’t love it. I need and like to connect in-person with a friend from time to time. But it’s hard to keep proper distance (some people disagree and say it’s easy — that’s not been my experience) and I feel like a jerk if I keep dwelling on it. It also proliferates the navigational challenges of encountering other pairs or larger groups of people walking, running, or cycling together. So, personally I have found it stressful, especially on the pathway. To be quite honest, my preferred way of doing physical-distanced visits with friends is to each bring our own chair and set them up at least six feet apart whether at the park or in someone’s yard. No navigating required. Public health recommendations uncompromisingly followed.

What’s obvious is that in the absence of totally separate pathways, like on the Vancouver seawall where the walking path is distinct from the cycling path, we will need to find a safe way to enjoy these spaces together. The safety and health issues of physical distancing are just one more thing to add to the mix this year. If we’re mostly out there to improve our sense of well-being, and we are truly all in this together, then the both the individual and public health benefits are best achieved by being chill instead of annoyed.

#deanslife · covid19 · dogs · fitness · walking

Sam’s pandemic day off and rainy day dog walk

May is usually the month when academics get to catch our collective breath. Grades are submitted. Conference season is about to begin. And even for administrators it’s quieter with fewer faculty and students on campus. But this year isn’t like most years. We’re not on campus. We’re all working at home. For all of us this has been a long semester with unrelenting long days of video conference classes and meetings.

I’ve been reminding staff and faculty of the need to take holidays. We’re all getting worn down. Me too.

Thursday I posted to social media: “I’m taking tomorrow off as a holiday. I’m not going anywhere but I’m also staying off Zoom, WebEx, Teams etc. We need vacation days even during the pandemic. Maybe especially. I just realized recently that I was supposed to have a week’s holiday in California this April, after the conference in San Francisco that was cancelled. I’m going to take Cheddar for an extra long walk. And maybe bake banana bread. Read a novel. Just chill at home. It won’t feel like holiday holidays. But it will feel like a day off and that’s enough.”

How’d it go? Well it wasn’t holiday like exactly but it did feel like a good day off work and that’s pretty good. I slept in. That was an excellent start.

I sat on the sofa and finished Matt Haig’s The Humans which I enjoyed.

It was very rainy and so I was leery of the long dog walk idea initially. Cheddar, however, was not. Luckily it was warm and rainy and so it was actually nice being out there. Cheddar dragged me into the woods to see a dead raccoon. That wasn’t so nice but he didn’t touch it. He just needed me to see it apparently. I have a photo but I’ll spare you.

The nice thing about the rain is that I didn’t have to pay much attention to physical distancing. I think we were the only ones out walking along the river.

While walking I listened to Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. It’s a terrific audiobook. I haven’t been listening to books lately while walking because of the need to chat and coordinate the six feet rule with fellow path walkers. Today was different and I’ve decided I’m going to embrace rainy days.

On our return from the long wet dog walk, Facebook memories reminded me that two years ago I was in Bremen and four years ago I was Innsbruck, Austria.

I was in Innsbruck for the Austro-Canadian Medical Ethics Workshop, “Man at the Heart of a Modern Medical Ethics: Challenges and Perspectives” and my talk was,
“Making Decisions for Children as if Childhood Mattered: Reflections on Medical Decision Making and the Goods of Childhood.”

These days I’m spending some time racing in Virtual Innsbruck as it’s one of Zwift’s cycling worlds. It’s remarkably realistic. Sadly, especially, the hills!

Oh and 12 years ago I was in Canberra, Australia where I was a Visiting Professor in the Philosophy Department at the Australian National University where I also spent some time riding and racing my bike.

Here’s me on the Stromlo Crit Course.

Thanks Greg Long for this photo of women’s C racing.

So Germany, Austria, and Australia. So much travel, all impossible now. As academics begin what’s our usual summer conference season, it feels extra odd not to be travelling. Usually I head out to the west coast once or twice and go to a conference or two in Europe as well. This year I’m pretty settled in Guelph. It’s all been cancelled.

But I am also feeling happy to be home, with family and Cheddar, the dog. I’m enjoying our rainy day walks. I’m impressed that my knee is holding out. These are longer walks and more regular walks than I’ve been able to do for a few years now. I notice that in my post about Bremen, two years old, I was talking about being unable to walk to campus from the hotel.

I’ve been nervous about my knee surgery being put off in these Covid-19 times. But it looks like that will be okay. I’m doing fine. It’s not all bad news. And it’s good for all sorts of reasons, the climate chief among them, to get used to less summer conference travel.

Cheddar, for one, is happy to have me home.

covid19 · fitness · walking

Taking My Daily Constitutional, Miss Manners at My Side

Dear Miss Manners, I live in a crowded city during a time of pandemic. My only regular outing is my daily walk, to get some sunshine and enjoy some quiet contemplation. What is the best way to navigate shared roads and sidewalks while respecting social distancing? Sincerely, Walks Against Traffic.

If we are walking towards each other on the sidewalk, whomever is going against traffic should walk in the street. That way, any potential traffic dangers will be seen, and appropriate social distancing can be observed. Reasonable exceptions to this rule are people pushing strollers, those whose mobility are assisted by a wheelchair, and others with visible movement challenges. It is less clear to me how to navigate this situation when one of the people has a dog; however I’m inclined to believe that the rule still applies. But, I recognize that dogs can have rules of their own and they are not always as flexible in changing times as we would like them to be.

It has always been rude to walk aimlessly, staring down at your phone when there is any opportunity that another might need to walk around you. Nowadays, it seems nearly inexcusable. If you need to check your phone, respond to a text or change your music, find a driveway or other area you can step aside out of the way and take care of it. That way those who are sharing space with you needn’t feel alarmed that you are oblivious to their passing as you swerve into their space.

If you are walking with a friend, and you choose to maintain a safe distance from them as you walk together, prepare to have one person back off and walk single-file should someone be coming from the other direction. Expecting the approaching person to walk between you, and therefore be within contact of both of you as they pass, is unreasonable.

Bicycles belong on the street. This is true if you are an adult or a child. It is not reasonable for a pedestrian to be expected to keep necessary distance from you when you are moving significantly faster than they are. Stick to the street and ride with traffic. Behave in a manner that is predictable.

Those who choose to smoke or vape should find a private location to do this, not to impose their fumes on others using public spaces.

If you are traveling as a pack–a large group of friends or family walking or biking together–consider how your group may be forcing the community to accommodate your desires to move together as a roaming hoard. Walk in small groups, spread apart, so you can observe the other guidelines listed here.

If you are driving through a neighborhood, observe all traffic laws. Yes, I know that there are far fewer cars on the road. However, stop signs and speed limits are there for people’s safety, and pedestrians, runners, and cyclists are in larger numbers these days. We would like to avoid being hit by your car.

Did I miss anything? 🙂

Photo description: Crowded streets and sidewalks in Albany, Oregon, circa 1905. Courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found taking a daily walk and doing bodyweight inverted rows from her kitchen table, as a form of picking up heavy things and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · walking · winter · yoga

One weekend, seven women, some activity, much downtime, no bad news

This weekend I write to y’all from Ogunquit Maine, where my book club getaway is in progress. We’re a group of friends who enjoy books, each others’ company, cooking and eating yummy food, and movement.

I feel deeply connected to these women. We play multiple roles in each others’ lives: work colleagues, co-authors, confidants, cycling buddies, yoga friends, and of course fellow literary critics…

Yes, we are discussing a book this weekend (Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton; IMHO definitely worth a read), but the main business of this retreat is to take time off from the world (no, we’re not talking about the world AT ALL in this post) and eat, sleep, talk, move, laugh, and talk some more.

What have we been up to? Friday it was a brief ride for some and clamber on rocks for most of us near the Nubble lighthouse. It was windy and cold– I mean, it’s March in Maine. Duh. But it was fun, even with a few very cold sprinkles of rain (worse than snow in my view). Then food prep, fireplace attention, puzzle-solving, lazy chat, and eventually, tottering off to bed.

Rachel and me, on rocks at the Nubble lighthouse which was (unfortunately out of the shot).
Rachel and me, on rocks at the Nubble lighthouse which was (unfortunately out of the shot).

Saturday was much more active. A couple of friends had their bikes and trainers in their cars, so did intervals outside in the cold on the deck (perfect), accompanied by rock music (my favorite tune was Rock You Like a Hurricane).

Michele and Rachel, smiling and pedaling on their trainers on the cold but sunny deck.
Michele and Rachel, smiling and pedaling on their trainers on the cold but sunny deck.

I didn’t bring my bike setup, instead opting for the ease of a yoga mat. I had a good view of the cyclists from inside (except when in down dog). Norah joined me for a nice morning stretchy workout.

Me in downward facing dog on my mat inside the house.
Me in downward facing dog on my mat inside the house.

Others decided to do walking meditation in the woods, appropriately bundled up for the weather.

Kathy, coming back from her walking in the woods meditation.
Kathy, coming back from her walking in the woods meditation.

Mid-afternoon we headed to the beach. The wind had died down, and the almost-full-moon was rising.

Almost-full-moon, rising over the ocean in Maine.
Almost-full-moon, rising over the ocean in Maine.

There was some cavorting.

Me, holding a pose by the ocean.
Me, posing by the ocean.

As I finish up this post, I’m wondering if there’s any message here other than “hey, my very nice friends and I are having a very nice weekend in a very nice place.” Hmmm. I think I have one:

Life is tough. Bad things happen all the time, and a big bad thing is happening now. We are hearing a lot about how to deal with this and other big bad things. Let me add one more way: if you have the time and the space and it feels safe to do so, spend some easygoing time with people you care about.

Kathy, me, Michele, Lisa and Rachel in front of the Nubble lighthouse (before Kim and Norah arrived).
Kathy, me, Michele, Lisa and Rachel in front of the Nubble lighthouse (before Kim and Norah arrived).

Readers, what are you doing to deal with big bad news these days other than reading and listening and talking constantly about it and washing your hands? I’d love to hear from you.

walking · weight loss

Walking 10,000 steps a day won’t help you lose weight, but who would have thought that it would?

From the Independent: “Over the last few years, the theory that walking 10,000 steps a day has become popularised as the key to health and weight loss. However, according to a new study, walking 10,000 steps a day won’t actually prevent weight gain, or lead to weight loss.”

I don’t have a lot to say about this start to the story, except….

WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THERE WAS A CONNECTION BETWEEN WALKING LOTS AND LOSING WEIGHT?

More on the study: The study took 120 first year university students, all women, and had them walk either 10, 12 or 15,000 steps a day, 6 days a week, for 24 weeks. They also tracked their weights and their calories consumed. On average, no matter what group they were in, the students had all gained 3.5 lbs which is the average amount of weight students typically gain during their first semester of school.

Again, my reaction….

Let me act shocked.

But here is the bit they don’t mention until the end of the story.

“However, the researchers did note that the increased steps meant an overall positive impact on students’ “physical activity patterns,” which they stated “may have other emotional and health benefits””

Why isn’t that the headline? It’s good news. Students struggle with stress and anxiety and all sorts of emotional and mental health issues when beginning university. Why isn’t that the focus rather than the 3.5 lbs they typically gain when confronted with stress and cafeteria style eating?

Probably my biggest complaint about health and exercise reporting is the emphasis on weight loss. If people do it for reasons of weight loss and then don’t lose weight, they quit. And then they miss out on all the real health benefits of physical activity.

I’m with Yoni Freedhoff (again): Exercise is the world’s best drug. It’s just not a weight-loss drug.

Let’s talk about the other benefits of walking lots. I’ve got a post in our drafts folder about the wonders of walking.

It starts like this: “Walking is obviously wonderful. You can’t blink an eye these days without some news about the wonders of walking flash by. It’s a radical act in fast paced world. Walking makes us wiser. It makes us healthier, happier, and brainier. Even philosophers are in on the act. Here’s five philosophers on walking and wisdom. Yet more, why walking helps us think. A few years ago Adam Gopnick penned, Heaven’s Gait: What We Do When We Walk which covers both contemplative walking and walking as a sport.”

So walking is wonderful. It’s not about weight loss. And that’s just fine.

More later about walking and my reflections on walking for those of us who can’t.