Sat with Nat · walking

Nat plays tourist in her parents’ hometown of McAdam NB

I’m writing from McAdam, New Brunswick which is situated on the traditional lands of the Peskotomuhkati. Canada is renegotiating with the Peskotomuhkati as we work towards honoring the 300 year old relationship between our governments. Across the river in Maine the Peskotomuhkati have a seat in the state legislature.

On a weekend bracketed by Canada Day (July 1) and American Independence Day (July 4) it’s especially important to take steps towards Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people. The truth is settlers not only ignored our commitments in treaties/peace & friendship agreements, we allowed our governments and churches to perpetuate violence on people we agreed to treat peacefully, as equals.

In Canada we are openly starting to come to terms with the truth of residential schools. It will be a long time in seeking truth before we can get to reconciliation.

I am glad that land acknowledgments are becoming more common but I worry folks don’t think it applies to them and the land they live on. Let’s keep trying to do better.

It’s been a week of being in McAdam, working and visiting. As soon as restrictions around COVID were lifted I made the mad dash home. Partly to see family, partly to be in nature and definitely to give my adult kids a break from our 18 months of 24/7 togetherness.

I didn’t grow up in McAdam, most of my memories are visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins on weekends. Thanks to social media I’ve been able to keep a tenuous connection but I’m so grateful to be here in person.

Every walk my partner, our dog Lucy and I go down a different street or path. 3-5 walks a day mean we get to find new loops for 15, 30, 45 and 90 minute walks.

There is a fantastic walking trail around the pond next to the historic railway station. We are loving going there!

Michel & Natalie smile at the camera with the pond behind them
The McAdam Railway Station in the background behind a small island in the middle of the pond.

Plus there is the McAdam Campground on Wauklehegan Lake. So beautiful.

Lucy, the dog, looks at Michel, her human. Michel is looking across the water of the lake. It’s a gravel beach with a single wooden dock. Rounded mountains covered in evergreens in the distance.

I hope you are having moments to appreciate where you are today and also look to how we can all play a part in honoring the treaties.

fitness · inclusiveness · walking

Fast walkers, virtue, and fitness

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'People That Walk Fast Are Reported Το Be Less Happy The faster you walk the more unhappy you are. TYO OTODAY FEOE shalina @jambufloyd Damn right. I'm unhappy cause I'm trapped behind a slow walker now move'

I’ve written before about becoming a slow walker, becoming sensitive to all the boasts from friends about their walking speeds whenever ‘fast-walking=longevity’ makes the news, and feeling sorry that I was ever among their ranks, boasting of my fast walking ways and complaining about getting trapped behind slow walkers.

I’ve even stopped judging the ‘texting while walking crowd’. I always assumed that phone attention was making people slow, that if only they put away their g-damn phones they’d speed up, and now I know it isn’t so. Sometimes I check my messages while walking b/c I can at the speed I have to walk at.

Talk of step counts and walking speeds now sounds boastful to me. I know that people who talk this way aren’t boasting really. I know people don’t think they’re better than me because they walk more or walk faster.

I talk about cycling distances and speeds. I don’t think I’m morally superior for my cycling accomplishments. I don’t think people who don’t ride bikes are lazy. And yet, I’m getting a sense about why others might hear it in that way.

I think walking feels difference because almost everyone walks and it’s touted as the exercise for everyone. (And no, it’s not, not really.)

I do know I get more sympathy and understanding when I’m either wearing my knee brace or using a cane. I suspect without them people just think I’m lazy.

Yes, walking is wonderful. I miss it. But not everyone can walk for fitness. Not everyone can walk far or fast. We’re not worse people for walking slowly.

#ThingsIWishMyPastSelfDidNotSay

Blurry walkers on an autumn day
dogs · fitness · motivation · walking

On this glum day, Christine is grateful Khalee needs a walk.

You’re reading this on Tuesday but I’m writing it on Monday.

I’ve been stuck between metaphorical gears all day.

There’s nothing wrong and I’m not feeling down or anything, I’m just not…something.

It might be because I had a lot of administrative dreams last night. (You know, the kind where you spend the whole night putting things in order?*) So I woke up tired.

Or maybe it’s because the weather looks like this here today.

A paved path with trees on the side on an overcast,  foggy day.
It’s just so inspiring and uplifting, isn’t it? (Does sarcasm work when you can’t hear me say it?) Image Description: a paved path with sparse trees on either side. It’s overcast and foggy.

Whatever the reason, I’ve spent the day feeling glum and kind of vaguely dissatisfied with the work I was doing.

I know how to shake this feeling, of course.

*All* I have to do is to get moving.

But when you are feeling meh, it’s hard to motivate yourself.

And when you are feeling meh and you have ADHD, motivation is even harder to come by.

That’s where our heroine, Khalee, comes to the rescue.

Because she needs a walk, it’s an automatic part of my day.

A light haired  dog in    a red and white shirt sniffs the air on a paved path.
I love how Khalee sniffs the air like this when we are on a walk. I think it helps her decide which path to take each time. (We follow her nose.) Image description: a light-haired dog in a red shirt covered in white hearts is standing on a paved path. She is facing away from the camera and her nose is lifted as she sniffs the air.

So, despite the fog, despite the chill, despite my lack of motivation, late this afternoon, I bundled up and took Khalee for a stroll.

As we walked along, looking around and taking deep breaths, I started to feel a lot better.

I started smiling at Khalee, sniffing her way along, wearing the dog shirt that I refer to as her ‘pyjamas.’

And I was filled with gratitude for this good pup whose simple need for exercise helped drag me out of today’s doldrums.

A light haired   dog looking directly into the camera.
Here’s Khalee Pup (a.k.a. KP) after I called out ‘Hey, Good Girl!‘ so she would turn around. She knows how good she is. Image description: a light haired dog, wearing a red shirt with white hearts on it, looks directly at the camera.

I was still tired but I didn’t feel meh at all anymore.

Thanks for taking your Christine out for a walk, KP, she really needed it.

*Last night, in separate dreams, I was searching for a piece of paper that doesn’t exist in real life, I was trying to remind my husband of things that aren’t happening in real life, and I was trying to teach a sewing class over Zoom (also not happening in real life- which is best for all concerned.)

fitness · gear · hiking · walking

Christine’s boots are made for walking…well, hiking really.

I bought my first pair of hiking boots recently and I LOVE them.

I’ve *meant* to buy a pair for YEARS but somehow never got around to it.

I do a fair but of walking but I haven’t done a lot of hiking in the last. It seemed weird to buy special footwear when I could just wear my sneakers and do just fine.

But I plan to do more hiking and there’s a difference between doing ‘fine’ and doing well.

Any time that I *have* gone on a hike, my sneakers have let me down. Either my feet have gotten wet or I have slid around a bit or I have almost turned my ankle. My sneakers were fine but I looked in envy at my friends in their hiking boots who seemed to be having a smoother hike than I was.

Often, I’d get home and scope out hiking boots online and then put the search aside for later…and never get back to it until I was once again annoyed on a hike.

Recently though, I came across the perfect hiking boots in my price range.

They remind me of a pair my most outdoorsy sister had years ago, so that’s inspirational. And the fact that she used to wear them out clubbing almost as often as she wore them out hiking bodes well for their potential comfort. (She used to call them her ‘dancing boots, in fact.)

Anyway, I have been wearing them on my walks with Khalee lately and I am really understanding the difference between doing ‘fine’ and doing ‘well.’

Now that spring is here-ish, I would normally have ditched my winter boots for my sneakers. But, since I have hiking boots I have been wearing them instead and they are the perfect in-between for right now.

My feet are dry, I feel sure-footed, and I like how my boots look. I can’t wait to try them on an actual hike.

Bring on hiking season!

A top-down photo of the author’s feet in a pair of brown hiking boots , she is standing on some snow.
There’s still snow on the ground in lots of places but let’s take the upside and note how nicely my boots contrast with it. 😉 Image description: Top down photo of the author’s denim-clad legs and feet. She’s wearing pair of chocolate brown hiking boots and standing on some snow that is lit by sunshine.
dogs · gear · nature · walking · winter

For Christine H, A Little Planning = Big Fun

Last winter, I made an unfortunate error in judgement.

I left our snowshoes in the shed, planning to take them out once it snowed enough to use them regularly.

I didn’t realize that when it finally snowed enough, it would actually snow TOO MUCH and my shed door would be blocked by ice and snow for months.

In fact, I never did get around to snowshoeing last winter. Not even once. And that was annoying.

Annoying enough that I actually made a solid plan this past fall so it wouldn’t happen again. This year, when I put the patio furniture in the shed for the winter, I took my snowshoes out and stored them in my basement.*

Last week, as I was walking Khalee down the snow-covered sidewalk and distracting her from attempting to detour onto the walking trails near our house, I realized that I was missing an opportunity.

A n outdoor photo of anwan and a dog. The woman is looking toward the camera. The dog is looking at the woman and partially blocking our view.
I tried to get us both in the photo. I guess I was sort of successful. PS: I am wearing my hatphones! Image description: An outdoor photo of Christine and her dog, Khalee. Christine, a woman in her late forties, wearing a black toque, scarf and jacket, has a reddened nose and cheeks because of the cold, she is looking toward the camera. Only the right side Khalee’s face is visible, she is looking toward Christine and partially blocking our view.

If I took out my snowshoes, I could let Khalee bound around in the snow on the path while I sauntered over the top of it without sinking up to my shins.

Now our afternoon walks are mini-adventures for the two of us. (Something Sam and Cheddar and friends clearly know all about!) Snowshoeing on a snowy path with trees on one side and a river on the other is much more relaxing than walking on a snow-smudged sidewalk with a dirty bank of snow on one side and the road on the other.

A snowy footpath extends through some sparse woods.
Even though there is a school just on the other side of the trees and there are houses on the other side of the river, this walk feels a lot more nature-y. Image description: a snow-covered path, covered in footprints, extends forward. There are lots of trees on the left and a few on the right. There is a lower spot to the right where a river lies beneath the snow.

And yes, there are a few challenges involved in the process. For example, Khalee is not a fan of the fact that I have to go out first and put on my snowshoes before letting her outside and she gets a bit worked up about that. And it is tricky to manage a bounding dog on a leash while trying to walk on snowshoes. And then there is the maneuvering involved in trying to ‘stoop and scoop’ while wearing snowshoes and being connected to a dog whose business at this location is complete and who is ready to move quickly away to the next adventure.

A medium-sized blond dog in a red sweater with white hearts on it stands on a snowy path.
Does Khalee need this sweater? I don’t know, I can’t tell if it’s too cold to be out in ‘just’ her fur but I use the same principle I used to use with the kids – if I am going to have to worry about you being chilly, we have to bring a sweater for you. Khalee has to put hers on in advance because I would never be able to wrestle her into it while we were on the path. I’ll bet it would be funny to watch me try though. Image Description: A medium-sized BLOND (This was autocorrected to blind initially but that is incorrect, she isn’t blind.) dog in a red sweater with white hearts on it, stands on a snowy path. She is on a leash attached to a harness and she is looking away from the camera. The path is covered in footprints.

But, even with those challenges, it’s still a lot of fun and it feels a bit more cardio-y than our usual walks.

I’m really glad that I had the foresight to do that little bit of planning back in the fall.

*This kind of planning may not seem like a big deal to the neurotypical but the capacity to think ahead like this has never come naturally to me, especially about stuff that is just for fun. Just another way that my medication has made a positive difference for me.

Sat with Nat · walking

Taking steps to bridge the distance

Recommended Soundtrack: The Distance by Cake, Stuck Here Again by L7, Walk by The Foo Fighters

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media & connection during the past month. The link between me, the writer, and you, the reader, and how these delicate tendrils of connection join us in this moment. It’s wondrous and powerful stuff in these times of social distance.

The song by Cake, about going the distance, sums up the past 11 months for me. There has been a serious lack of speed and connection.

I have written a lot about walking since August. It’s been a gift even as my partner, our dog, and I shuffle through the finite sets of loops from our house, feeling stuck here again.

Somewhere along the way it became a bit of a running joke that I’d try to take a selfie with my sweetheart and the dog. It started as a photojournal of the days so I could have a sense of time passing. It’s become so much more:

“After reading about your step goals I started a 30 minute a day goal…”

“I love seeing your walk pictures, it reminds me to go out…”

“Thank you for the laugh and the nudge that it’s not too cold out…”

The messages have been coming pretty regularly that a silly photo of us on a walk is a gentle reminder to my friends that:

-we all need movement

– there can be joy on the hardest days

– every step can connect us to our goals

It’s that bit of connection as we learn to walk in the winter again, finding our footing and each other over social media.

It’s not a hug or a shared meal but it is a subsistence trickle of connection based on a snapshot of a moment. I think part of it is the everyday, not-epic-at-all nature of the photo. When taken in context of a couple hundred days it is impactful.

I’m still here, you’re still there. Our time in this moment is fleeting. What will you do next to sustain your sense of connection?

I’ll probably call my mom or my sister. I’ll then go for a walk and post a picture about it.

Natalie smiles at the camera, wearing a knit grey toque, knit green mittens and yellow crocheted cowl. yes, she made those herself and is totally bragging about it. In the background her partner Michel is a blur in his grey toque and brown leather jacket. Their 40 pound dog is excitedly grabbing Michel’s arm wondering why everyone is indulging in a selfie when it’s cold and dark out and we really should be on our way.
220 in 2020 · fitness · fitness classes · motivation · online exercise · training · walking · yoga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dogs · Sat with Nat · walking · winter

Making a December to Remember

I have been using walking as my 1 non-negotiable daily movement since August. I’m privileged to live in a neighbourhood that I can walk safely in day or night. I’ve also outsourced my motivation to our dog Lucy and my partner Michel.

It’s been super helpful but the consistent daily routine has made all of our days kind of the same. They are starting to blur into each other as we stroll through our daily loops. Like the robot obits in West World we keep acting out the routine… ad nauseam. The same streets around our house around the same time. We see the same neighbours with the same dogs and children. So we’ve been trying to mix it up.

The lights and decorations on houses has definitely enlivened our evening walks in the dark. We are gearing up for all kinds of weather. In one day we saw sun on our morning walk, rain at lunch, and a snowstorm in the evening.

I read somewhere that getting out whatever the weather helps us enjoy the seasons more. I decided to not bother with new rain boots, opting instead to mink oil some mid calf Blundstones I have still kicking about. They keep my feet dry and are high enough for puddle jumping.

We are thinking snowshoeing might help break up the monotony and our awesome neighbours have offered to loan us racquets to try once the snow gets good and deep.

I’m taking selfies when it feels fun to capture moments of levity and maybe spread a bit of joy.

Michel, Lucy and I are out on a walk, covered in snow and looking adorable.

I’m hoping all of this will help me curate positive memories and buoy my spirits.

Are you finding the days running together? If so, what are your strategies for staying tethered in time?

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!