So I am a resiliently cheerful person. I’ve often thought I could live almost anywhere for a period of time because I am good at finding things to love about even the most unlovable of places. I’ve also in the past thought the same thing about seasons and weather. Yes, the summer months are best–because swimming and beaches and bike riding and sailing and canoe camping etc–but most months have good things associated with them. But November? November and I struggle.
The article even responds to my usual excuse–it’s too dark.
“There’s one more excuse I hear at this time of year: it’s too dark. Again, science has discovered plenty of reasons for an evening stroll. Not only does an after-supper walk control blood sugar levels (vital for diabetics) and help shunt food smoothly through the gut (meaning more efficient digestion and less constipation), but the dim evening light prompts our body to start making sleep-inducing melatonin.
A wet night is better still. According to Dr Kate McLean, an expert in urban scents and smells, damp nights enable us to uncover the world anew through our nose: “In darkness we alter our primary way of encountering the world, and when the air is damp it traps odour-causing molecules, transforming a dark, damp walk into a source of inspiration and imagination.”
So instead of binge-watching a box set, pull on your boots (making sure they’re watertight with good grip) and walk. One day, your body and brain will thank you.”
Maybe I’ll give it a try, the cold, wet after dinner walk with Cheddar the dog. I’ll report back!
You’ll see that there aren’t actually 24 here. That’s because most of the 24 were about the fall but they seemed more September and October to me. By November most of our coloured leaves have fallen. It’s all stick trees against the grey sky with cold rain here. I’ve never been to Norway but I like the idea of visiting Norway. I’m intrigued by the idea that November reminds someone of Norway.
My friend Todd and I have been chatting and blogging back and forth about preparing for winter. Here’s his latest, a Week 1 post. Todd’s focus is on fitness, a shared passion, and spending time outside. I’m usually in agreement with that too. I feel better when I’m outside even in the winter months. Outdoor physical activity that combines those two things is the best.
One thing I noted is that this year will be different for me. With my newly replaced knee I won’t be doing very much outside riding once winter gets here. It may be that winter gets here before I even get to ride a real bike. Normally I ride bikes outside year round but not this year.
So what’s my fall/winter fitness plan look like?
🍁Zwift is an obvious thing. I miss riding in Watopia.
🍁 I’ve also joined a fancy gym for aquafit, hot yoga, and some time in the weight room, possibly also the hot tub. As I noted in my September check in gyms with wood paneling and juice bars aren’t usually places I call home, I’m going to try to enjoy the luxury while I rehab my knee.
🍁 I’m going to try to gradually up my walking game. It’s been a few years. The success of that plan will depend on how well and quickly my left knee recovers from surgery and how well my right knee holds up while waiting for round two of knee replacement. If I succeed Cheddar will be a happy dog!
🍁Warm weather riding remains a possibility. It will depend on how quickly I can get back on the bike and ride.
🍁I’m going to try and keep our living space warm and cozy and inviting for floor physio and for home yoga.
I’m going to miss riding outside between now and spring but rehabbing my left knee and getting my right knee ready for surgery (prehab!) has got to be a priority.
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.
“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.”
“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!
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?
“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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
Silly Little Walks
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.
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.
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!
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.
“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:”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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:
“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.”
“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.”