fitness · snow · winter

No more ‘slut strands’?

I was glad to hear women athletes speaking out against calling the strands of hair women athletes wear outside their helmets “slut strands.” It’s never landed on my ears in a way that sounds self-affirming. Instead it sounds like it’s mean teasing or shaming. Sports culture can be pretty bro-like. But I’m not a snowboarder and snowboarding culture is pretty removed from my world.

American snowboard star Chloe Kim has called for a highly-derogatory term used to describe the hairstyle of female winter sports athletes to be changed. Female skiers and snowboarders will commonly wear two strands of hair outside of their helmets, framing their face in a sign of femininity.” See ‘Hate it’: Winter Olympics hero hits out over ‘sl*t strands’ term.

What are they?

See ‘Those 2 strands of hair bound us all together’: Here’s what the popular women’s snowboarding hairstyle is all about.

“The women’s snowboarding events have come to an end at the Beijing Olympics, and anyone who watched is likely forever changed by all that big-air bravery and beautiful group-hug sportsmanship. Not to mention the winning hair-strand game. As even the most casual viewer may have noticed, pretty much every woman competing in a snowboarding or freestyle skiing event rocked the same look: strands of hair pulled out of their helmet to frame her face — strands that stay where they’re put, beautifully, no matter how many 360s or double corks she executes. Cheekily known as “slut strands,” they’ve been the look on the slopes for many years now, embraced, no doubt, since the sport had always been dominated by men.”

Image from TikTok

Now not everyone dislikes the term. Here’s the slut strand society‘s definition and defense:

“Slut Strand (N.) :Two strands of hair commonly used by the ladies of skiing & snowboarding to express femininity under all dat gear. No, they do not make someone a slut. And no, we do not support slut shaming. They are of comparable importance to your bindings themselves, a true staple to the lifestyle. We’re here to embrace em.”

Or maybe you prefer a different hairstyle altogether!

Found on reddit, image from TikTok

What do you think? Pro or anti the term “slut strands”? Commentators on the blog suggested some alternatives: Power Strands or Sister Strands. Which do you prefer?

winter · yoga

Snow-ga with Alpacas!


What we did: Snow Yoga at Brae Ridge Alpaca and Horse Farm

Now you can embrace the powerful benefits of traditional yoga, nature and animal therapy during the winter months.

Who went: Bloggers Sam and Kim, also Sarah, and friend of the blog, Rob

What it was: An hour of very windy yoga in the snow and brilliant sunshine, with our wonderful instructor Angie, and time spent after drinking hot chocolate and feeding the alpacas and learning lots about the animals.

Rob, Sam, and Kim and the aplacas


I said “yes” immediately when asked to “snow yoga”; when the morning rolled around and my alarm went off I was a little less chirped about it. However, I powered through the routine, and packed for alpacas) chiefly my particle mask against allergens, not virus particles) and rolled out to the farm.

First yoga I’ve been to in at least five years–I do Aikido, though not lately–and it was a blast!

The wind was very chill–the instructor, Angie, was calm about it. Sarah loaned me some woolen mitts (I needed them) and we were off into Warrior Pose with warm wooly mammals wandering amongst us.

The alpacas doubtless thought we were all mad, but they just mingled complacently among us, eating hay and giving is the occasional bleat (do alpacas bleat? It’s a weird noise.) Was great. The sunshine was fabulous and I’m glad I went. I missed being in a class.

Sam and Sarah and alpaca


I love alpacas, yoga, and sunny winter days but I confess I wasn’t sure about the combo. I’ve been to goat yoga before and enjoyed it but it wasn’t winter. It wasn’t snow-ga.

As it turned out the snow-ga part was just fine. We didn’t use our yoga mats. We did yoga in the actual snow. I thought the instructor, Angie, did a great job of bringing our attention to this very Canadian winter day and making it part of the class. Let the wind take the things that aren’t currently serving you and blow them all away! We moved more and more quickly than you might in a typical yoga class, but I enjoyed the flow of the movements. I easily stayed warm and felt like we got a good workout in.

I also loved spending time with the alpacas after the class. They had such distinctive personalities and their owners enjoyed telling us how each of the alpacas came to the farm. Some were recent rescues and they weren’t that comfortable yet with people. Others acted like we were best buddies forever. Feeding them does that.

There’s something about the alpacas wandering around during the class that makes it better for me. Partly, I’m less self-conscious. No one is looking at my form or the modifications I’m making when there are alpacas to look at. But also the alpacas make me feel like a child again. I’m moving my body in the snow with alpacas. What a great way to spend a winter day.


I did the alpaca snow-ga booking and it was super easy to do through the Brae Farm website. They were really organized and professional and offered us an opportunity to rebook from a previous date that was forecast to be very cold.

Despite my positive experience with the organizing part I must admit I was expecting something along the lines of a highly instagrammable petting zoo, with maybe an instructor running us through a few poses in the adjacent paddock.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised by both the alpacas and the yoga. Brae Ridge is a nice little hobby farm with a herd of adorable alpacas, who just kind of hung out and nibbled on feed and hay that the staff scattered amongst the participants. Alpacas aren’t much into being petted but were totally happy to hang out with us as if we were new to the herd and a little slow on the food uptake.

The yoga part was also surprisingly good. Nothing too formal or advanced; the instructor did a good job of mixing up standing movements from different modalities to keep us warm and active and connected with our surroundings. I’ve done a fair bit of yoga outside in warmer seasons and love the feeling of communion with nature, but I wasn’t sure how that would translate to a snowdrift on a windy day, but it was wonderful. It definitely helped to be well dressed for an hour plus we spent outside, but I found it as easy to feel connected to a cold blue sky and the earth under a thick blanket of snow as it is in the warm summer months. I might have been a tad less flexible in the cold but everything was fun and gentle and definitely enhanced by having curly little alpaca butts running around.

Kim and Sam feeding alpacas after snow-ga


When I arrived at Brae Ridge it was brilliantly sunny and wickedly windy. I thought for sure, this is going to suck. It took a while to get started but once we were into it I couldn’t help feel like I was being overtaken by joy. Angie the instructor made the most of really tough conditions, choosing lots of fluid simple movements to keep us warm, focused on the sun, and she encouraged us to interact with the animals as they moved all around us. At one point I was in forward fold, only to realize that my route to standing was blocked by an alpaca bum. This is what I mean by joy, and delight! Somehow my mood lifted what with all the sun and the fur, and when we had the chance to hand feed the animals and snuggle with the horses, I felt exactly like a kid. Robert reminded me to hold onto that joyful child like feeling

Collage of Alpacas

Sorry, Tracy. It was one more Yoga and…!

How about you? Do you love or hate outdoor yoga with animals?

blogging · fitness · winter

Six things Sam wants to blog about

It’s January and I’m super busy. The dean’s office is busy as we get ready to return to campus January 31. I’m also in the middle of three different grant applications.

At home we navigated the challenges of coming down with COVID, being sick (briefly and not that sick, thankfully) and then re-entering the world at large. It all felt very complicated.

In the world of Zwift, I’m captain of one bike team (hi TFC Dynamite!) and helping out with another (hey TFC Phantom!)

There is a lot on my plate right now. It’s not the case that there aren’t blog worthy things on my mind. Instead, it’s more like there a lot of different things I’m thinking about and they are still in the percolating stage, mid-mull, as it were.

Nothing seems to be settling down into a blog post.

Here’s my list:

Book review time!

I’m reading a book and writing a review for the blog. It’s Let Get Physical by Danielle Friedman. Here’s the blurb, “For American women today, working out is as accepted as it is expected, fueling a multibillion-dollar fitness industrial complex. But it wasn’t always this way. For much of the twentieth century, sweating was considered unladylike and girls grew up believing physical exertion would cause their uterus to literally fall out. It was only in the sixties that, thanks to a few forward-thinking fitness pioneers, women began to move en masse. In Let’s Get Physical, journalist Danielle Friedman reveals the fascinating hidden history of contemporary women’s fitness culture, chronicling in vivid, cinematic prose how exercise evolved from a beauty tool pitched almost exclusively as a way to “reduce” into one millions have harnessed as a path to mental, emotional, and physical well-being.”

Let’s Get Physical by Danielle Friedman

Silly Little Walks

me going on a stood little daily walk for my stupid physical and mental health

I’ve been fretting for a little while about walking and mental health connection and while we’ve all been taking silly little walks for the sake of our mental health, I worry we’re putting too much pressure on the humble walk break. Not all problems can be solved with a lunch hour walk. I’ve been worrying too about what it means for those of us, like me, who can’t walk very far or very fast.

Snow Days

Sarah, Mallory, and I are just back from a lovely weekend away which involved lots of time outside in serious Canadian winter. It’s January and we’re in the days where the high is still in the negative double digits but everything feels better because there’s sunshine and longer days. It’s why I hate November typically and do okay in January even though it’s colder. We all joked about having moved into our serious winter clothes– long underwear, snow boots, snow pants, parkas and real mitts.

I’ve helped a few newcomers to Canada get ready for winter and I know it’s a costly business. Most of us who spend time outside in the winter have multiple winter coats and boots for different activities and conditions.

In addition to the clothes, we also all have snow shoes and poles and yak tracks for walking on the ice. Again, it’s okay being outside when you have the gear but when streets and sidewalks aren’t plowed, it’s super cold, and you don’t have the right clothes and gear, it can be a long indoor winter. We often message people, for physical and mental health reasons, to just get outside but the reality is that it’s not simple.

Sunday hiking on the Georgian Bay Trail to the grotto in the Bruce National Park
Saturday was warmer but windier

Knee surgery

I’m trying not to think too much about knee surgery. It makes me angry and sad. I know, it’s just knee surgery. It’s not cancer treatment, but the pandemic delays feel endless. I first saw the surgeon about total knee replacement, in the hospital, in August 2019. This August that will be three years ago. I have tentative sabbatical plans to go to Australia and New Zealand. I have hiking plans that without the surgery won’t happen. I mean travel might not be possible anyway but if it is, and I can’t do any walking (or tramping as they call it in NZ) I’m not sure what I will do.

I’ve considered traveling to the US for surgery and paying. I’ve considered just ignoring the whole thing and focusing on what I can do, which is walk 2-4 km without much trouble. But it hurts. My knees always hurt. Pain wakes me up at night. I try to think about people who are worse off, the people with more serious surgeries delayed because of the pandemic and even people waiting for knee surgery who can’t walk at all.

The poles helped on our walk today and I might invest in a pair, or just borrow Sarah’s more often.

Here’s me with poles!

Mallory and me at the end of our hike


We also watched a movie that readers with younger children will know all about. I loved seeing the depiction of Luisa, the strong and muscular sister in Encanto. I also loved reading that children related to her. This is possibly the first time I’ve seen a muscular woman in a children’s movie or book who wasn’t the butt of jokes. Now I want some Luisa merch too.

Less than 60 days until spring

I try not to start the countdown too early but this year when I want to see friends outdoors and we’ve got another brighter pandemic spring ahead of us, I’m ready for spring anytime. In many ways 2022 feels an awful like 2021, as this video points out.

We’re all looking forward to spring and summer in my house.

fitness · link round up · snow · winter

Snow!: A Fit is a Feminist Issue Link Round Up, #112

Guelph’s snow plows have names! Blue are street and red are sidewalk

A link round up in honour of those of in southwestern Ontario experiencing life after Monday’s giant snow storm.

Making Snow Shoveling Your Workout

“For anyone that has shoveled snow, you know it can be a workout!  Pushing and throwing that wet, heavy snow can be comparable to a weight-lifting session or even an aerobic workout on the treadmill. According to LiveStrong, an average person can burn 223 calories per 30 minutes while shoveling snow.
So the next time Mother Nature decides to give you an outdoor workout, treat it like you would a gym and prepare! Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your fun in the snow:”

Good idea not to ride outside today

“Oh boy, that snow is not going anywhere. For those who live in Ontario and Quebec, you’ve seen a yuge snowfall. The drifts are everywhere, main roads are slippery, and the side ones are precarious at best.

Crews are working as fast as they can, but there’s a LOT of snow.

Canadian Cycling Magazine loves to encourage riders to cycle outside as much as possible, and is a firm believer in all-year biking. But maybe, just maybe, you deserve a rest day today? Unless it’s absolutely necessary. Or just turn on Zwift and don’t look out the window.

The bike paths seem to be the last things on the city’s mind today.”

7 Reasons to Ride Outside This Winter

Here’s Reason 4: “Many cyclists are working from home this year which means far fewer chances to get some much needed vitamin D. When you dress properly for the cold, the mental health benefits of going for even a short ride though the neighbourhood can be significant.”

Why Sweden Clears Walkways Before Roads

“An analysis of Sweden’s snow clearance practices showed that it disadvantaged women, who were more likely to walk, while employment districts where men predominantly worked were more likely to have streets plowed first.

Not only was the impact of snow clearance priorities discriminatory, there were negative consequences for society as a whole. Three times as many people are injured while walking in icy conditions in Sweden than while driving. And the cost of those injuries far exceeds the cost of snow clearance.

So the order was reversed. Municipalities faced no additional cost for clearing pedestrian paths first. And it reduced injuries, in addition to being objectively fairer.”

Cheddar the Snow Dog on our street with very pretty dark blue sky and early evening light reflecting on the snow
Book Club · fitness · monthly check in · winter

Checking in for December and 2021 in general, looking ahead to 2022

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post and that is not a very good sign. I usually write for the blog quickly and cheerfully.

I don’t think I’ve felt as apprehensive about a new year in a very long time. I want to be hopeful and positive about better post pandemic times ahead. But I’m also frightened that they won’t be better. Even wishing people a happy new year felt sketchy. I mean, I did it. But I felt like I should knock on wood after or something.

I also know I should feel lucky for how wonderful the lives we have are in the global and historical scheme of things.

Add climate change and increasingly polarized politics, fueled by racism and misogny, to the mix of things I’m worried about and I just want to throw the blankets over my head and emerge in spring.

It’s been a very hard year. Sometimes I confess I’m tempted by this kind of message about how I feel about it but that’s not quite right either.

Bitmoji Sam putting out the trash that was 2021

I also don’t want to ignore the month and year that was. Time might be a bit blurry but it has its own significance. Someone joked on Twitter today, “Today is March 674, 2020.” And truly there are ways in which it feels like time has stood still. But I’m resisting that way of thinking partly because I watch my adult children growing and changing through these difficult times. They have a lot to teach me.

I have enjoyed an awful lot of things relevant to the blog–like very long trail rides and weekends away bike camping, canoe trips, and most recently yurt camping with my eldest child. I’ve missed people and parties and travel, but this year, unlike 2020 I at least got to spend time with my adult kids.

We looked at last year’s holiday pics and laughed. I couldn’t even remember what we did. It turns out we exchanged food and gifts in the backyard on the 24th and opened them on Zoom together the next day.

On the left, is Christmas 2020. Here we are wearing our holiday oodies (joke gift meant to keep us warm while meeting outside–they’ve actually been getting a lot of wear) in two separate bubbles, Guelph child and me on the left and the London sibling bubble on the right. On the right, Christmas 2021, is Christmas dinner, missing Susan who is taking the photo, but includes all three kids and me and my mother actually eating a meal together.

We gathered over the holidays as a fully vaccinated family and rapid tested on Christmas Eve. We know that’s not perfect but we’re a small group. We were going for multiple layers of imperfect protection, the swiss cheese model as they’ve been calling it.

Although my December posts have also often served as year end reflections, I’m not sure I have it in me this year.

I did have one good thought about winter’s very short days though. While we were yurt camping, I realized the urgency we felt about getting out and about in the daylight hours. If you’re biking in the morning and hiking in the afternoon and it’s starting to get dark just after 4 pm, that doesn’t leave a lot of time. It’s the one upside of short days, time in the light feels precious and special.

Bruce National Park Yurt Camping

I wondered about using the same approach to thinking about life during the pandemic. It’s reduced in various ways but maybe that means we focus in and enjoy what we do have. I did love bike camping this summer. I might plan for some more bike camping trips. I’ve always wanted take a cycling holiday in PEI and on the Gaspé Peninsula. Even if we don’t get to travel as much in the future, there’s an awful lot to love right here. Right? Right.

A few people in the blog community have talked about 2022 as the year of smaller pleasures.

Let’s officially make 2022 the year of tiny pleasures, says one woman to another while walking through the woods in the snow

Planning for the year ahead, will definitely include bike trips and canoe trips.

What else to report in planning for 2022?

My word of the year is integrity. I’ve been feeling the need to be grounded in my values and be less swayed by crises and the currents of popular opinion.

I’ve signed up for 30 days of Yoga with Adriene. I’ve approached it different ways in different years. Sometimes doing the class for that day whenever I’d normally do some yoga. Sometimes I’ve done the whole 30 days but spread out over many more.

I completed my 2021 distance challenge–see I did it!–and I might aim for higher next year. We’ll see.

Sam’s Strava Year in Review

I’ve signed up again for 222 workouts in 2022–but I’m going to need to work on variety. It can’t all be Zwifting and dog walks and YWA. With the gyms closed again, I’m going to need to get back to lifting and other forms of strength training. We’ve got lots of resistance bands, and a TRX, and even a kettle bell. I just need to pick them up occasionally. Come spring there might be some backyard personal training but there are months to go before then.

Not so much fitness related as mental health and overall well being related, I’ve signed up again for the Goodreads Challenge, pledging to read 25 books in 2022. You pick the number. I met my goal of 24 in 2021. My first book of 2022 is The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, which I’m loving. I’m happier when I make space in my life to read fiction.

My knee still hurts, both knees now, a lot. But all non-emergency surgeries are on hold again in Ontario due to the pandemic and I am going to not think too much about knee surgery. I’m going to try to do what I can to make peace with the knees I have, more knee physio and definitely more riding.

Happy New Year all! (And knock on wood.) I’m sorry these aren’t rosier or more upbeat messages but that’s where I am. I did get to have a lovely Christmas with the kids and a fun and relaxing New Year with Sarah and friends at her family farm. Life is good even if I am not riding my bike in Florida as planned.

Jeff is enjoying the Florida Keys and you can read about his adventures here.

Escapade in Marathon, Florida.
fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · winter · yoga

Making Space: Day 21

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice so I thought I’d seek out some solstice-related yoga and meditation.

Well, that was an adventure. If you have lots of space in your day today, search YouTube for ‘Winter Solstice Yoga’ – you could spend all day being mindful, listening to music, doing asanas and yoga nidra, and still not run out of videos so I’m sure you can find something to match your time, space, and mood today.

Since I am working on the assumption that you probably have to work to squeeze in your movement and breathing space during December, I selected two short videos.

Please remember, though, that your space-making is for you and for your own purposes so please, please, please, choose what you have time for and what makes you happy.

Here’s your star for your hard work, no matter what that entails for you today: ⭐️

Side note: I just found these printable solstice colouring sheets for adults. If colouring is your kind of things, those could be a good meditative way to make space, too. The good thing about a winter scene is that you don’t even need colouring pencils or crayons, you could use a pencil and a black or blue pen and just fill everything in with patterns.

Here‘s a lovely short yin yoga practice that I found. I enjoyed how straightforward it was and I love doing ‘thread the needle.’

A short yoga practice from the Jiva Yoga Live YouTube channel. The still image shows a person sitting on a yoga mat with their legs far apart. They are wearing winter clothes on top and pink capri pants on bottom and their feet are bare. A winter scene with snow, trees and a snow covered cabin has been photoshopped behind them. Text over the image reads ‘Yin yoga sequence for winter’

And here’s a short meditation/ritual/practice for Winter Solstice that I found very restful.

If you are in the Southern Hemisphere and today is your summer solstice, maybe you would like these practices instead:

A Summer Solstice Yoga Flow from the Vitalized Body YouTube channel. Still image is of a person kneeling on a purple yoga mat in an indoor yoga studio.
A summer solstice meditation from Karen Dibs’ YouTube channel. Still image features an outdoor scene with the instructor sitting cross legged in a hammock. There is a green lawn dotted with trees and several dogs are shown in the foreground.


commute · cycling · fitness · snow · winter

Ready to bike commute year round?

So you bought a bike during the pandemic–Welcome, welcome to the club!

And you’ve been riding for fun and maybe commuting, but it’s starting to get dark and cold and you’re wondering, what next? Do you keep riding? Do you ride year round?

I’m on Team Yes! I have been for a few years now.

And each year I share some advice.

Here’s some from the cycling media:

How to Commute All Year Round

“Just because it’s sub-zero, doesn’t mean you should give up your commute. Commuting can be a great form of motivation during the cold months as you have a goal: get to work on time. It’s a lot easier to convince yourself to ride 40 minutes to your office on a cold day, as opposed to going out for a 40 minute ride.”

Eight Tips to Keep Riding in Cold Weather

“Put on your final layers or gloves when you are walking out of the door. Especially when you are waiting on other people or tinkering with your bike, it’s all too easy to put on all of your warm layers and still spend several minutes inside heating up. Even though you might feel ok, moisture is accumulating on your skin. You likely won’t notice that you are sweating, but you will feel colder during your ride.”

And here’s some from us:

Getting ready for winter cycling!

Getting Ready for Winter Bike to Work Day!

Riding in the cold and the snow: A how-to, complete with bonus fashion tips!

Happy Winter Bike to Work Day! #WinterBikeToWorkDay

Have any questions about winter riding and cold weather bike commuting? Send them our way!

Here’s me winter biking for fun:

Sam on a fat bike

Here’s me dressed for commuting with my usual winter commuting bike:

Sam with her everyday gravel/commuting bike
ADHD · dogs · fitness · season transitions · winter

Christine Past and Christine Present Conspire to Get Outdoors This Winter

With the colder weather coming, I know that I need to make some plans about how to stay active and to help me get over my resistance to going out in the cold. 

(I’m fine once I am out there, I just have trouble motivating myself to go out – a common problem that my ADHD amplifies for me.)

I love the idea of preplanning but, despite the repeated evidence that it works, I can’t always get my brain on board with the project of organizing things in advance.

This is where some of my past posts come in handy. Thanks to a solid history of blogging here at Fit is a Feminist Issue, I can easily look back at how my past self benefited from planning and persisting and it makes it seem easier to plan and persist now.

So, yesterday, I gave myself a refresher on things my past self figured out and now my current self is on board.

I know that Khalee’s need to go for a walk will help me get myself out the door so that’s helpful.

A light haired dog in a dark green sweatshirt stands facing the camera.
Khalee has a new hoodie so she’s all ready for chilly weather. (Do I think it is ridiculous to put clothes on a dog? Yes. Do I think that she looks adorable and hilarious? Also yes.) image description; Khalee, a medium-sized, light-haired dog is facing the camera with her mouth slightly open so she kind of looks like she is smiling. She is wearing a dark green hooded sweatshirt and she is standing indoors in a doorway.

And I know that I need to dig out my hatphones because they make it easier to stay warm while listening to podcasts.

And I have my hiking boots to get me through the icky bits of the season before I break out my winter boots.

And, I have clear evidence that planning for winter activities makes a big difference.

So, I know that Khalee will help provide the impetus to get outside, and that I’ll have warm, dry feet and my head will keep warm while I listen to scary stories on my walk. I know that now is a good time to dig my snowshoes out of the shed and store them in the house. 

And I’ve realized that I have to switch up my time for walking with Khalee because going out at 5pm in the fall means walking in the dark and that adds an extra layer of resistance. 

What are you doing to prep for fitness activities during the winter months?

Do you have any extra recommendations for me?

Aside from this:

GIF of two people in red outfits hopping through the snow in a giant sack.
This was the first thing to come up when I typed ‘winter activities’ into the GIF search bar. I confess that I had not thought of ‘two person sack race’ as a winter activity before. Image description: GOF of two people in red outfits hopping along the snow in a giant sack in the winter woods.

fit at mid-life · fitness · fun · kayak · winter

Dani Donders Has All The Fun: An Interview

Dani Donders is a kayak enthusiast and kicksledder who works for the federal government and lives in Manotick, Ontario with her family.

She is also an excellent role model for how to maximize your fun.

Dani and I have never actually met but we’ve known each other online since our kids were young and we both enjoy trying new things…but only on our own terms.

I have long enjoyed her writing and her photography and I love experiencing her various hobbies from afar. In the past few years, Dani has gotten into two activities that have especially intrigued me – kayaking and kicksledding- and I wanted to know more about them. I thought that the Fit is a Feminist Issue readers would enjoy hearing about them, too.

Thanks for the great interview, Dani!

Small confession: I didn’t know that a kicksled was called a kicksled and my interview questions originally called it a ‘winter slide thingy’ but now I know that it is either called a kicksled or a spark. Yes, I could have left that out of this post but then you wouldn’t get to grin a little at my expense…what’s the fun in that?

A person in a purple winter jacket and black pants stands on a kicksled on a snow-covered winter trail.
There’s Dani, having all the winter fun! Image description: Dani is facing the camera and smiling while standing on her kicksled on a snow-covered path with trees in the background. She has long dark hair and she s wearing a purple jacket, a multi-coloured scarf, and black pants. Her sled is made of a light wood but the treads are black.

What drew you to kicksledding and kayaking? Now that they are part of your regular routine, what do you enjoy about them?

I live on an island in the Rideau River and have pined for a canoe for the 10+ years we lived here, but for some reason I thought I had to get one that I could cram all three kids and both adults into – which would have been very expensive. Now that the kids are older, I felt comfortable buying a kayak and taking the time to go out on my own, away from the family. I’ve always been drawn to water, though. I’ve rented kayaks and canoes and even peddle boats and always loved them. I only wish I’d bought one years ago.

The kicksledding was more random. My friend Annie got one for Christmas, and I loved the idea of it. I’m afraid of falling, so I don’t really like skiing or skating, but I loved the fact that I wasn’t strapped to the kicksled – if I felt it was out of control or going too fast, I could just hop off. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but from the moment I tried it, I loved it. I absolutely love zooming down an icy trail, hugging the edge of being in control. It’s very exhilarating, while being quite safe!

I might have a bit of an obsessive personality, so for both kayaking and the spark, I didn’t just do it once or twice a month. I go out on long adventures on the sled (a 10 km run is my favourite length) and I have paddled more than 300 km so far this year in my kayak. Winter or summer, I’m out doing my favourite activity at least once a week but usually several times each week.

What sorts of physical activities did you do before getting into kayaking, etc?

I had a gym membership, and did hot yoga, but I did not do a lot of outdoor activities. I would say I struggled against being sedentary and am not a very “athletic” person. When I started kayaking last summer and then kicksledding last winter and started spending hours each weekend outdoors, I’d jokingly say, “why didn’t anyone tell me outside was so awesome?” This new-found outdoorsiness is very uncharacteristic for me.

How do your current sport activities contribute to your life?

Especially during the pandemic, both kayaking and kicksledding were enormous stress relievers, and while I go solo most of the time, both lent themselves well to social distancing so were a key form of socializing during the pandemic. What I didn’t expect was how empowering they would be. There’s something that makes me feel like a badass when I can lift my own kayak on top of my car and tie it down and then undo it all and get my kayak in the water by myself. I am actually afraid a lot of the time when I’m kayaking – I don’t like deep water, or seaweed, or bugs, or wide open spaces, and spend a lot of the time when I’m paddling talking myself out of being scared. So that’s empowering, too.

I’ve also gotten enormous peace of mind and stress relief from being physically active. This level of activity is unprecedented in my life. I was a regular but unenthusiastic attendee in the weight room of the local gym, and I did enjoy weekly yoga, but the idea of spending hours outside sweating in -30C temperatures is definitely new for a girl who always considered herself clumsy and unathletic. And it’s made me love my body, for all its softness and pudge, because it’s proven amazingly strong and capable. I used to get aching knees and hips from walking anything more than 5 km, but I can easily paddle 15 km or kicksled 10 km across ice on a winter morning. I would have never imagined I’d be capable of doing that, and I’m really proud of my middle aged body for showing up, if not a little late to the game.

If someone you knew wanted to take up kayaking or kicksledding, how would you advise them to get started?

Both sports have relatively low barriers to entry in that they’re pretty easy to just hop in or on and go. In both cases, there was a cost of about $400 for equipment. I’d recommend anyone who is thinking about it go ahead and get started – one of my only regrets is that I waited as long as I did to get a kayak. Both kayaks and kicksleds are often available locally for rent if someone wanted to try it out before plunking down an impulsive $400 each time like I did. I’m just happy it worked out – both the kayak and the kicksled would have made awkward, expensive paperweights if I happened to not love them as much as I did.

The front of a blue kayak sits on calm water. There is a blue thermos and a half-eaten cookie sitting on the top of a small zippered compartment.
And here’s evidence of some of Dani’s spring fun. She and I share a ‘bring a snack’ philosophy. Image description: The front of Dani’s blue kayak from her perspective. In the foreground is a blue thermos and a chocolate covered cookie with a bite out of it resting on the zippered flap of the kayak’s storage compartment. Beyond the kayak, there is calm water and leafless trees. The trees are reflected in the water.

This blog is called ‘Fit is a Feminist Issue,’ how does the idea of fitness as a feminist issue resonate with you? What meaning does it have for you?

This gets back to the empowerment issue, I think. In both cases, kayaking and kicksledding are activities I do entirely for me, and largely by myself. As a mom to three kids, it’s empowering to carve that space for myself back into my life. I tend to go for excursions very early in the morning so it doesn’t interrupt our other family rhythms too much, but I’ve made taking the time to enjoy these activities a priority in our family routines. I think this teaches the family that it’s okay to do things for yourself, and that taking care of yourself is an act of love.

Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself, your activities, fitness, or feminism and fitness?

Kayaking is a pretty common sport, but the spark is very unusual and my friends all thought it was (might still think it is) pretty weird. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out that someone hasn’t stopped me to comment on it – usually with a smile in response to how much FUN I’m obviously having. So I’d also say don’t be afraid to follow your heart, even if other people think it’s a little unconventional.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a conventional gym again. Fitness used to be a chore that I did – going to the gym was important because I know exercise is a big part of a healthy life. What I didn’t realize was that when you find an activity that makes your heart soar, it’s not even remotely a chore. When I’m zooming down an icy trail or paddling up to a turtle sunning itself on a branch, I’m transported with joy and my muscles are just along for the ride. I haven’t been to a gym or done a yoga class in a year, but I’m in the best shape of my life. So whether it’s gardening or ultramarathons, don’t be afraid to try new things (even if you are on the far side of 50 like me) and don’t be afraid to follow an unconventional path.


See what I mean about Dani as a role model for fun?

Do you have a kayak or a kicksled or do you find your fitness fun in other activities?

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: (2018)
Seven tips and advice to help you start wild open water swimming. Check the Cold Water Wild Swimming video here:​ (2020)