fitness · link round up · swimming · winter

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Friday Link Round Up #98: Wild Swimming Videos

As I noted on Monday we’re on a bit of cold weather/outdoors swimming kick around the blog. Here’s some of the videos I’ve found. If you have any that you recommend, that I’ve missed please let us know in the comments!

Alpkit are delighted to present ‘Chasing the Sublime’, a mesmeric glimpse at the physicality of long distance cold water swimming by award winning director Amanda Bluglass (2019)
A mini-documentary showing the link between mental health and sea swimming. Katie swims off the rocks of Penzance, UK nearly everyday of the year. Open water swimming has helped her overcome some of the struggles that life all too often throws our way. The hope is that her story may help others who are faced with similar challenges. (2017)
“[Wild swimming] connects you to a part of yourself that you don’t normally have access to…” When chaotic city life had taken its toll, we turned to nature. Join us as we escape the traps of urban life and immerse ourselves in the timeless escape of wild swimming… Watch Swim Wild (in partnership with General Tire) and find out more about this transformative journey here: http://bit.ly/SwimWild (2018)
Seven tips and advice to help you start wild open water swimming. Check the Cold Water Wild Swimming video here: https://youtu.be/wptKtR3LGZU​ (2020)
fitness · swimming · winter

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Friday Link Round Up #99: Wild Swimming Resources

As I noted on Monday we’re on a bit of cold weather/outdoors swimming kick around the blog. Here’s some of the resources I’ve found. If you have any that you recommend, that I’ve missed please let us know in the comments!

Porkkalanniemi, Kirkkonummi, Finland
Woman stretching on a frozen sea in a swimsuit. Photo by Mika on Unsplash

Wild Big Swim: “One of my greatest passions is swimming in cold and ice water, there’s really nothing quite like it! I’ve put together a series of articles based on my personal experiences, to share what I’ve learned over the years with others – use this information responsibly, and at your own risk. Don’t forget to seek the advice of your doctor if you’re thinking of taking up chilly swimming, to be sure it’s right for you!”

Swimming in Cold Water Has Done Wonders for My Stress: “There’s a scientific rationale for why some people find swimming in the freezing cold to be so invigorating.”

The health benefits and risks of cold water swimming: “Cold water swimming may seem like an odd pastime to the uninitiated. But while you might question the sanity of those who decide to take an open-water dip in the depths of winter, research has shown there are actually a host of health benefits – both mental and physical – to taking the plunge. The joys of such a pursuit are well noted – both anecdotally and scientifically – but there are of course risks. Here, we reveal the reasons why you should dip your toes (and more!) into cold water this winter, and explain how to do so safely.”

Swimming in Very Cold Water Keeps Me Sane: “I’m standing with two friends in the 39-degree air on the edge of a lake in northeastern California in just our bathing suits. A lone fisherman in several layers of outerwear stares, drinks from a bottle of Racer Ale and says, “Tell me you ladies aren’t going in that water.” We go in that water. It’s probably 56 degrees. It’s not the coldest water in the world currently being swum, not “My Octopus Teacher” cold — that guy swims in 48-degree water all the time, but hey, he’s in love with an octopus. What do you expect?”

The subversive joy of cold water swimming: “Britons are skipping the heated pool and rediscovering the pleasures of lakes, rivers, and seas—even in winter.”

Women cold water swimming in Gower to help menopause: “A group of cold water swimmers have said that plunging into sea temperatures as cold as 6C is helping with the effects of the menopause. Some also reported improvements in their mental health.”

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.

fitness · season transitions · winter

Sam hates November but loves bright, sunny, snowy days (a photo essay as a reminder)

Like Tracy, I’ve been struggling to get outside this winter. Yes, there’s been some fat biking. There have been a few long snowy dog walks. But generally, on a weekly basis, it feels like days whoosh by when I don’t leave the house. Like this week, it was suddenly Friday and I realized I went out just once.

I blog lots about how much I hate grey November days but I do love winter sunshine. January and February are usually good months for snow and sun. It’s the in-between stage of winter I hate when it’s too cold and icy to ride my bike but not yet snowy enough to fat bike, cross country ski etc.

But this February feels different and I’m thinking it’s really about the pandemic not just about the weather. Right now we’re at the stage in Canadian winter when the temperatures feel daunting. The combination of stay at home orders in the province where I live and some -15 windy, grey, icy days means an awful lot of indoor time.

What I love, and I need to remind myself of this, is the bright winter sun. I’m not sure why I need to remind myself about this. I’m not sure why it feels so much like work during the pandemic to remember the good things. But it does. Are there things that you know make you feel better but you still need reminding? Still need a push out the door? Walking in the sunshine, in winter, is like this for me.

It’s also Family Day here in Ontario. As pandemic winter continues, I really miss my family members who don’t live with me. I think I’m going to make an effort to visit outside more often even though it’s cold.

Dog hikes, family, sun and snow. All good.

I also love reading in my llama pjamas, late Sunday breakfasts, and coffee! These are things I know make the weekend better but I don’t need reminding about them.

What are some of your favourite weekend things? I feel the need these days to mark the weekend and make it special. Otherwise, all the days blur into one.

Hope you had a good weekend and if you’re in one of Canadian provinces that celebrate it, hope you’ve got a happy family day ahead of you.

Enjoy!

Breakfast, French toast and strawberries

fitness · habits · motivation · running · winter

Of streaks and inertia: Tracy’s COVID winter

Image description: Selfie of two women, Anita and Tracy (in 2019!), inside a diner, wearing hats and smiles, after a 20K Sunday run, others in the background.

The other day Anita posted one of those memories we get these days on our social media. It was from two years ago, the two of us smiling, in the diner we used to go to for breakfast after our Sunday runs. Its 2019 caption said: “The epic runs begin for the Round the Bay race. 20k, easy peasy!” And its 2021 caption said: “I can’t even imagine easy peasy 20km now. Tracy?” My reply: “No, I cannot. I am impressed with those two!”

And I am. They seem like different people, all excited to be winter running for 20K, in preparation for a late March 30K. Smiling even after the 20K. Able to go out for breakfast after. Two people from different households leaning in for an unmasked selfie. With other people in the background. Was that really just two scant years ago?

My experience, my very quiet experience, this winter has been of streaks and inertia. Both have their own quality of momentum in my life. The more I do (or do not do), the easier it is to do the same (or continue to not do) the next day.

I look outside this afternoon. The sun shines. It’s cold, but not as cold as it has been of late. I started January with a commitment to get outside for a run or a walk every day. That was one of my streaks that I hoped to keep going through the winter. But the runs soon turned to shorter runs. Then shorter runs turned to longer walks. Then longer walks became walks around the block. The streak ended before January did. And on the weekend I cancelled both a walk and a run with others (and heaven knows I could benefit from the company of others) because it was just too cold and I couldn’t face the windchill. My toes froze just thinking about it.

The Tracy who did the easy peasy 20K two years ago would be incredulous. But the less one runs 20K, the less likely it is that one will run 20K. That’s the inertia of ramping down. As I said to Cate, inertia and streaks are equally strong in their respective energies.

I am considering going out before the sun goes down today. It is in fact a little bit warmer, only -11C with the windchill, and I am after all a Canadian who has trained through many a winter. But I am also considering a nap. All of this rages on as an internal debate. I know how even just a little bit in the other direction can take me out of inertia (I have blogged about this SO MUCH, how scaling back can get me back on track, how small starts are all we [I] need). But I don’t feel like doing a short run or walk. I feel like staying inside. And in the end no one else does (or even should) care.

Counterbalancing the inertia are some divinely satisfying streaks! I have been on a meditation streak since September, meditating at least a little bit almost every day. I started the Insight Timer January Mindful Mornings challenge on January 1st, and I didn’t miss a day until yesterday, which got me thinking about streaks and how much they motivate me to do the same again. The Insight Timer app tells you after your meditation how many consecutive days you meditated. And there is something about that total that pulls me to my cushion the next day (it’s probably counter to the very idea of meditation to call it a “challenge” or a “streak,” so fixated the meditation teachers always are on just “being” in the “present moment” etc.). Still, I once had a daily meditation streak that lasted unbroken for years (I forget how many; it was a while back). I might have missed yesterday, resetting my “consecutive days” to a sad “one consecutive day” this morning. But I think I can jump right back into that because a streak’s momentum is not undermined (for me, anyway) with one little miss.

Added to my meditation streak is my yoga streak. I started 2021 with Yoga with Adriene’s Breath practice, the 30-day sequence. I didn’t miss a day, and some of those days the ONLY reason I didn’t miss a day was that I had not missed a day. Having not missed a day, it became harder to let that happen. This, to me, is the simple and elegant beauty of a streak.

And when January ended, I wanted to keep going. Why? Because I hadn’t missed a day of yoga in 2021, of course.

My other streak-ish sort of thing are my virtual Superhero workouts. I started out with the once-a-week membership. Then I increased to the three-times-a-week membership. And then I went to the unlimited membership, which gives me the option of six workouts a week. You can pretty much count on me for five a week. The idea originally was to do four a week and run on the off days, walk on the “on” days, and do yoga everyday (whatever Adriene was offering, without asking too many questions [not that there is anyone to ask]).

My COVID winter is basically me bouncing between streaks and inertia, with maybe a bit more mindful awareness of what is going on (my WOY is “mindfulness”). I’m working my way out of being totally stalled in my running. And when I am ready to bust out of it, I’ll take tiny steps in the other direction. Who knows? Maybe by the end of this winter I will have a running streak to report, letting the momentum carry me back to 10K.

How about you? Any streaks? Any inertia?

Guest Post · winter

You can fit fitness into almost anything (Guest post)

by Diane Harper

I belong to an experimental archaeology group that focuses on the early Middle Ages in Northern Europe. What does this have to do with fitness? Surprisingly, it is a great way to move our bodies and test our strength. When you work the blacksmith’s bellows for hours, or gather wood for cooking and chop it by hand, you work muscles in ways you never do at your office job. A friend and I have been working on some additional fitness-related experiments. She made a replica of a “backpack”, and I have been testing out theories on how bone skates were used. 

Bone skates have been found in various places including the Viking site in York, England. They don’t have blades, so they don’t work like modern skates; rather, they were strapped onto the feet, probably with leather thongs, and the skaters may have used with poles to propel themselves along. We know this because there is a woodcut from 1555 showing skaters using a single pole. Last weekend, my friend and I headed to the nearby lake to test our our equipment. We had a lovely walk through the woods (leather-soled shoes can be quite chilly), and at the lake I strapped on my skates and “skated” up and down a section of cleared ice. The motion that I find most efficient is very similar to classic cross-country skiing. I have two wooden poles tipped with pointy pieces of pig bone. They give me a little bit of grip on the ice to improve my forward momentum, but they definitely aren’t as good as proper ski poles with a metal point.

Here is a closeup of my feet, wearing homemade leather shoes, strapped to a pair of  flattened cow bones. 

The advantage of the bone skates is that some snow or slush doesn’t hinder progress as much as it does for modern skates. The disadvantage is that I am rarely able to get a good glide; mostly I just shuffle along. This is largely an equipment problem. My skates are still rough on the bottom, even through they are becoming smoother with repeated use. I need to smooth them more, and may even try waxing them to reduce the friction. Still, I stay nice and warm, and I get to look fabulous in a dress and fur-trimmed hat. Wool may take longer to dry than modern microfibres, but it stays warm even when wet. Even my feet were warm on the skates, because the bone kept them up off the ice. We were out for almost two hours on a cold, blustery day.

Image – two masked women in medieval clothing, walking in the woods.

Diane Harper loves to experiment with historical cooking and crafts.

fitness · winter

Blue Monday feels less blue in 2021 somehow

A friend the other day remarked that every day feels like Monday since the pandemic began and while it’s true for me that the workdays all blend together, I’m not sure they all feel like Monday.

Today is supposed to be Blue Monday, whatever that means. It’s a made up thing.

See Happy Blue Monday and Happy worst day of the year!

It’s grey out there and dark and that’s the kind of winter weather I really don’t like. Give me cold and snow and sunshine any day. But I’m not feeling so blue about Blue Monday this year. Partly I suppose it’s the blurring of time thing. Also, frankly, November always feeling worse than January to me.

I’m also feeling just a little bit hopeful. I’m hoping that this is the worst of the pandemic and that by summer we’ll be able to do things outdoors together again. I’m hopeful that sometime in the fall we’ll be vaccinated and back at work and maybe soon after that in concert and theatre venues.

And more immediately, right now, there’s more daylight each day. The sun is returning to some Northern communities for the first time in weeks.

And in just a few days there will be an inauguration of a new presidency in the United States and we all might sleep a bit more soundly at night. We’re not there yet, but close.

I’m starting to feel like we’re on the home stretch–winter wise, politics wise, and pandemic wise.

I like this tweet from Matt Haig:

How was your Blue Monday? Let us know in the comments below.

cycling · fitness · winter

The hour of the wolf (and the owl!)

I like the hour of the wolf. It sounds sexier and more poetic than “very early in the morning.” The expression comes from Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf which is quoted in The Case for Riding Ultra Early in the Morning.

The hour of the wolf is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is the deepest, when nightmares feel most real. It is the hour when the demons are most powerful. The hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born.

But romantic imagery aside, there are very practical reasons for riding your bike early.

“The roads are empty and you’re free from impatient drivers. The sun is not anywhere near its maximum melanoma-inducing strength. On weekdays you get that ride in before work; on weekends you get the workout compulsion out of your system which means you can spend the rest of the day doing normal things with friends, family and loved ones who may have priorities other than cycling. Or, if you’ve managed to effectively ride all those people out of your life due to your obsession with bikes, you can always take a nap and then go out for another bike ride.”

I’ve written before about the allure of very early mornings and Sam craves early mornings but just how early?

I grew up as the child of bakers and so for me the associations aren’t with the outdoors and wolves but rather with early rising to bake bread for the day. My parents often were up at 4 and at work by 5 am. Sometimes I would want the family car and so I’d drive them to work and go nap in the school/university library. That was my preferred thing then in my pre-gym/fitness days.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But to confess, in the winter, I tend not to want to leave the house until the sun is up and has taken the edge of the cold day. I’m even grumpy about about being up and around awake working in the very early dark mornings of winter.

I started to rethink it though after seeing these images on CBC. A Guelph cyclist on one of the trails shared his story about wildlife you can see early in the morning, Guelph cyclist advocates early morning rides after ‘awesome’ owl encounter. It’s video footage of an owl on the trail. One of the things I love about the fat bikes s how they quiet they are going over the snow. Birds and animals don’t seem to scatter away as I thought they might.

Video of the encounter was captured by the camera on Plunkett’s bike. (Tim Plunkett)

Lately I’ve been riding up some of the very steep hills on Zwift (10-14% grade) and there’s nothing like those hills to make 4% feel like nothing. I jumped into the snow, en route to the hot tub, and made a snow angel with my bare skin. After that the merely cool air felt okay. I’m wondering if I might be able to do the same acclimatizing myself to the dark. I still want to visit Norway in the winter, north of the Artic Circle.

How about you? How do you feel about the dark very early morning? Different in winter than summer? Like winter swimming, it’s a thing I’d have to work to get my head around.

220 in 2020 · 221 in 2021 · cycling · fitness · motivation · winter · Zwift

Start as you mean to continue: Sam’s happy new year rides

New year’s eve
New year’s day

A friend asked for advice the other day. Not in a serious way, in that Facebook joking way, asking for random advice about anything.

I need some advice. Not about anything in particular. Give me random advice.

My advice giving theme for her was grandmother’s advice. In my family that’s things like ‘take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ and ‘an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after.’

The other grandmother favorite of mine is ‘start as you mean to continue.’ I think I’ve even blogged on that theme before. Let me go look… Why yes I did. It’s here.

What I like about it is the thought that you should just begin.


“Don’t make big plans for your future self. She’s busy and easily distracted. Instead, do it now, whatever it is. Make it routine, part of your everyday. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.”

So on New Year’s Eve I was part of a small but mighty team riding up the Road to Sky, the climb portion of which is Alpe du Zwift. I’d never done it before and now I have a baseline time to beat. It was a team time trial but we didn’t make much effort to stay together once the climb part of the ride began.

Tough going but lots of encouragement and conversation kept me pedaling.

We raced down together at the end and laughed a lot. Thanks friends!

I entered the workout in the 220 in 2020 group this way, “Epic last workout of 2020. Climbed Road to Sky in a team time trial including 1000 m of climbing on Alpe du Zwift.”

The next morning, January 1, I joined in on a meet up organized by some teammates to ride the full PRL (Prudential Ride London) course, about 173 km. I joined in for the first 30 to meet my weekly 160 km goal. They abandoned the meet up version once the rubber banding in Zwift which keeps riders of different speeds together went wonky. For me it meant starting the new year with another 400 m of climbing. Box Hill twice on the first day of the year!

Now we’re off to Prince Edward County and the farm for a couple of days. There’ll be walks in the woods and some Yoga With Adriene. We had hoped for fat biking but there’s no snow here. That will have to wait until we come home to Guelph.

Welcome 2021.

I’ll write about plans for the year later but for now I’m starting as I mean to continue, with Zwift, supportive teammates, yoga, and time outdoors in the winter sun.

There’ll also be more home weightlifting now that the weightlifting son has moved home for the semester.

As always, here’s Cheddar watching me ride!

Cheddar watching Sam ride
cycling · snow · winter

Things that make you smile

Regular readers, family, and friends know that all bikes make me smile.

I love my road bike. I love bike commuting. I love bike holidays. I used to love riding on the track at the velodrome. Whee!

Basically riding a bike puts a smile on my face and makes me feel like a kid again. For Tracy, it’s swimming. For me it’s riding a bike.

But not all of my bikes get me smiles from other people. People yell at me on my road bike. See here and here. I’m never sure what it’s about really, the hatred of cyclists–is it the clothing?–but I only hear about it on my road bike.

What bicycling feels like every single time!

So I’m smiling on my road bike but aside from other cyclists, I don’t get that many smiles back.

Other bikes of mine though do merit smiles from pretty much everyone and gather lots of attention from people out and about. I’ve written before that my Brompton is not an introvert’s ideal bike. It’s cute. It’s pink. I even bought a pink sparkly helmet to go with it.

And I think I look approachable riding it, wearing regular everyday clothes, not going too fast.

The fat bike is the same.

So many smiles.

I think it’s partly that fat bikes are so unusual looking. It’s partly that I’m smiling in the snow.

People love to stop and ask questions about the bikes. If you have questions, by the way, feel free to ask in the comments below.

The bikes themselves are playful. They’re very easy to ride. They aren’t technical like mountain bikes can be. The fat tires will roll over almost anything. Yes, you can end up in deep snow off the packed trail but at the end of day, it’s snow you’re falling in.

In the woods I love how quiet they are. I had imagined they might be loud, crashing through the forest. But they’re not. You can ride and hear the sounds of the woods, the birds, and forest animals.

So bicycles make me smile.

So too do my mother’s cookies.

Yum!

They also make me feel like I’m a kid again.

Cookies!