cycling · fall · habits · weight lifting · yoga

Fall weather and Sam’s five part fitness plan!

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What are your fall fitness plans?

I’ve got a few–five in fact–and the first two are new. I’ve never done them before.

First, fall is time to get the gravel bike out and explore. The lovely folks at Speed River Bicycle, my LBS, shared this list of multi-surface rides with me when I took to Twitter with my autumn cycling plans. Sarah and I have a weekend away planned on the newly finished Guelph to Goderich rail trail.

Second, I’ve signed up for Zwift Academy: “Unlock your untapped power with the program that started it all. World-class coaches bring killer workouts to boost your performance on the bike. New friends bring fun.” That’s October 1-November 25.

Third, my mum, Sarah, and I are going to keep working out outside in the backyard with a personal trainer for as long as weather permits. We’re all cold weather hardy. But rain might put us off. But we have flexible schedules. Let’s see! Maybe I’ll even lure my mum into blogging for us.

Fourth, there’s Yoga With Adriene. She’s a bit of a fitness fixture around here.

And finally, fifth, there’s strength training of various sorts. We’ve got lots of resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, and the trusty TRX. Sometimes I think I need to get organized about it. Other times, I think it’s okay to do random, snack sized fitness-y things when the mood strikes.

What’s your plan for the fall? Anything new?

Photos from Unsplash. This one is a white hand holding up a bright red maple leaf against a dark background.
yoga

Zoom. Stretch. Zoom

University classes here don’t begin until mid-September but south of the border friends are already teaching their first classes, most of them online, or in “remote alternative delivery mode” as we like to say during the pandemic. That’s to distinguish them from courses that have been designed as online courses.

We’re all just getting used to it. Everything is new. For professors and students alike. It’s not what we want. We mostly want to be teaching face to face in a world without a pandemic. But this is what we have and we’re all doing our best.

A friend taught her first class and spotted a student doing sit ups during the class. Oops! A clear breach of Zoom etiquette not to turn off the camera first.

Really, the student was just following the advice of the New York Times, Sneak in Some Exercise: “When you can’t slip outside for a walking meeting, turn off the video and sneak in a short desk workout or stretch session.” Well, except she forgot the ‘turn off your camera” bit.

If I were to turn off my camera (shhh!) I’d do Adriene’s Yoga at Your Desk. Mostly I can’t because mostly I’m chairing meetings. But it’s my favourite workplace at-your-desk set of yoga moves.

Enjoy!

covid19 · yoga

Prenatal yoga: Bettina relaxes, breathes, and is unexpectedly challenged

Thanks to Covid-19, my prenatal yoga experience was off to a rocky start. Early during the lockdown, I could still do “normal” yoga. Mostly, in good tradition of the writers on this blog, I did Yoga with Adriene (YWA), because who doesn’t love a good dose of Benji the dog with their yoga?

I had signed up for a prenatal yoga class that would have started about mid-way through my second trimester, but of course that got cancelled. Once I stopped doing YWA because I was too lazy to think of my own modifications for all the things I would have had to modify, I downloaded the prenatal version of the Downdog yoga app. I continued participating in Zoom classes with a work colleague who is also a yoga-teacher-in-training and who was kind enough to think of modifications for me. Unfortunately her maternity cover contract ended and so did our yoga classes. I enjoyed both the app and my colleague’s classes, but neither felt really “prenatal” to me. They simply felt like modified versions of my usual practice.

Balance: it becomes a new concept towards the later stages of pregnancy. (Picture of carefully stacked stones on the shores of the Lake of Constance – Bettina would definitely fall over if she tried balancing like this these days.)

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was able to register for an in-person prenatal yoga class! As I’ve mentioned before, the case count for Covid-19 infections in our area is currently very low and I am comfortable with going to an in-person class. There are also precautions: there are only six participants in the class, so we have a lot of space. We have to enter and leave separately, wearing masks, although we can take them off during actual practice. It feels safe. It’s also nice to finally meet other pregnant people. So far, pregnancy during Covid has been a bit lonely in the “bonding with other future parents” department, and this is a nice change, even though we’re not interacting all that much because of the distancing restrictions. There’s no huddling together outside the classroom before or after the sessions, no lingering for chats.

Normally, I like to challenge my body during yoga. I try to sink deep into the poses, test the limits of the comfortable. Prenatal yoga is different, of course. There’s a lot more focus on relaxation. But there’s also challenges, some unexpected. After all, the goal is to help us prepare for birth, which is a huge physical challenge! In last week’s class, as we moved further down into a wide-legged squat with each breath, our instructor explained how this was an excellent pose to take while in labour. We all laughed. Our legs were shaking, it was definitely not a comfortable position to be in! How would we do that on top of working through contractions? I suppose we’ll eventually find out…

This class is very different from any yoga I’ve ever done before, but I’m enjoying it. I’m learning to focus on “new” parts of my body, and on “old” parts in different ways. I’m learning new skills, like using sound and tones to relax and deepen my breath (these will definitely come in handy with the contractions). And of course, as my balance changes, my joints relax, and my lung volume decreases, I find challenges in poses that I was able to do with much more ease when I wasn’t pregnant.

There are also parts that I find a bit amusing. We usually have the same instructor every week, but last week she couldn’t make it and was replaced by someone else. Both of them are great teachers, and both are… mildly esoteric. I suppose it comes with the territory. It’s not my jam, but I can deal with it. It doesn’t annoy me like it has with other yoga instructors in the past. I’m there for a different purpose, and I’m able to take on board those parts that work for me.

The long and short of it is: if you’re pregnant and you can get yourself to a prenatal yoga class, I’d recommend it. Have any of you done prenatal yoga? What was your experience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dogs · yoga

#YogaWithCheddar

Yoga with Cheddar

I’m doing Yoga With Adriene’s June series, COURAGE.

Tonight we did her Power Yoga Break.

Apparently Cheddar is too.

I love how he follows along even doing Savasana with me at the end. Here’s Adriene by the way on Savasana or corpse pose.

With me working at home all the time Cheddar now accompanies me around the house. He’s in the background of all my Zoom calls. We go for walks when I get a break. But I think his favourite thing is yoga.

Sat with Nat · yoga

It’s happening in increments: 12 weeks of at home yoga practice.

Recommended listening: The Nature of the Experiment by Tokyo Police Club

I’ve been keeping to an at home daily practice since mid-March. It’s likely that I’ve done more yoga in three months than I’ve done in my lifetime. I’ve put it squarely in my day where my morning commute was.

Just for Today

I hadn’t planned on a daily practice. I just started one morning to see if it would help ease some back and shoulder pain.

It’s ok to not be present

It’s not glamorous, just 20 – 30 minutes in the morning and sometimes again at night. I’ve learned that on days I’m just going through the motions it’s ok to be bored, distracted or mechanical because my body gets the benefits of movement regardless.

My block is my dear friend

I’ve learned how to make more use of my yoga block to support my body in different postures as well as an assist standing up or getting onto the ground. I also move it from one side to the other to keep track of repetitions of my warm up and Sun Salutations.

A yoga mat, a book and a block.

Everyday has its own speed

I’ve learned I like to set my own pace. Some days I’m slow and achy while other days the flow is fast and aerobic. By respecting how I’m feeling and what time I have available my practice can be squeezed into 10 minutes or expand over hours.

My practice space needs are modest & flexible

I’ve learned I need just 2” at the top and bottom of my mat and about 18” on either side.

I no longer need a quiet or isolated space. Noise from my family, neighbours doesn’t bother me. Rather it’s nice to hear everyone going about their day. I can practice anywhere I can throw my mat down. No fuss. No muss. No coconuts.

Incremental changes in my strength and flexibility

The shape of my postures is changing. I first noticed in Child’s pose my head began to touch the ground. Similarly sitting in a kneeling posture has become more comfortable as my shins and tops of my feet stretch out. I can keep my feet together in mountain pose.

My feet, pressed together on a yoga mat. My toes all nested in against each other as I try to balance.

I’m able to hold balance postures longer and with less prop assistance. The most surprising posture was toes and arms extended plank becoming available to me again after many years on needing my knees and elbows in plank.

Using tools

I like practicing at home as I can modify or use props to assist me that aren’t available at a studio. I find it freeing to be on my own, doing my own thing to the point of listening to guided practice feels intrusive and annoying.

Finding Control

I found that my daily practice has given me an inner locus of control. I used to rely on others to get me to the gym. I relied on massage and chiropractor to manage my aches & pains. Now it’s on me, my choice to do the exercises and benefit or not. My choice what I do and how I do it.

At a time when I feel so powerless this seems doable. I didn’t set out to craft a daily yoga practice or a 90 day run. I thought I’d just try to feel better.

“It’s the nature of my experiment that it’s happening in increments.”

yoga

Join Sam for June? June is for COURAGE with Adriene

I enjoy yoga when I do it. I rarely regret it. But these days, like Cate, I’m finding it harder than usual to unroll my mat. I started out this strange time of staying at home with Yoga for Adriene. I think for June I’ll try it again.

Cheddar likes it too.

Join me.

June 2020 Yoga Calendar – COURAGE. Yoga With Adriene Free monthly Yoga calendar! If this is your first time joining us for a community theme, welcome! Each month, we come together as a community around a theme that inspires questions and guides intention for a regular and sustainable at home yoga practice.”

June 2020 Yoga Calendar – COURAGE | Yoga With Adriene

covid19 · fitness · yoga

My empty yoga mat

On January 1, I greeted this shiny new year with 108 sun salutations on the rooftop of a hotel in Singapore (remember hotels??). Then throughout January, along with half the people I know, I did the Yoga with Adriene (YWA) “Home” sequence, doing yoga almost every day for four weeks. And in the bigger picture, I’ve been doing yoga pretty regularly for 25 years. But since the start of the lockdown, I’ve only found my way to the mat about four times.

What gives? Why have I neglected something I know grounds me in every possible way, makes me feel more human, gives some ease to the physical and emotional knots I’ve found myself in?

It’s not that I haven’t been working out — I’ve done Alex’ virtual superhero workouts at four or five mornings a week, run 3 or 4 times a week, gone for long walks, jumped rope between meetings, perfected handstand shoulder taps and holding crow pose. But that moment where I get on the mat with just me and my body and my full, vulnerable self? I avoid, I distract myself, I wander away.

Last week, someone else posted in our 220 in 2020 community that yoga was making her sad, and every time she started doing a YWA, it made her cry. Others joined in, with their own stories of struggling with introspection and restlessness, especially during yoga. The overall portrait was that even among this community of people — even a yoga teacher! – – among people who value movement, self-knowledge, being in their bodies — right now, even as we are functioning reasonably well, more or less, in the bigger world or in our goals, those moments of truthful quiet, face to face with what’s really present? This can feel like too much.

What is it that’s too much? What am I avoiding?

(Pressing pause on writing this post to go do some yoga and see what I can find)

Okay, I’m back. I did a 20 minute YWA full body flow, the one that came into my inbox with Adriene’s weekly Sunday newsletter today. It was the perfect little flow — a few vinyasas, some lunge stretches, a little tree. I added a few twists, turned the side planks into full side plank with one leg lifted. Did my current party trick, crow. Added some pigeon at the end. What did I experience?

First, I found crinkly noises — in my neck and shoulders, in my knees — like the elastic giving out on a cheap, old pair of pyjamas. Tight shoulders, immobile hips, tight calves. And bruises — mostly on my elbow from where my new hammock hurled me out yesterday, but a few random ones on my legs. Stiff arthritic big toe, and raw skin on the bottom of that same toe, a silly little wound I acquired during that sun salutation fiesta in January and which has never really healed, since I’ve been in my house, barefoot, for the better part of two months. (There were actually spots of blood on my mat after my morning workout two weeks ago from my toe).

But more than bruises… I’m sore. I’m tight. I’m untended. I have all this big muscle strength — I’ve been doing pushups, handstands, wall walks, arm balances, loaded squats, I’ve been running up hills — but I haven’t been caring for my small muscles, the connections, the fascia. I can do crow — hard and focused — but I can’t get my foot all the way up my thigh in tree, because my hips are so tight.

What I have been doing

It’s barely a metaphor.

I think I’ve been avoiding yoga because it slows me down, and slowing down, I feel the wash of the all encompassing experience right now, and it’s … hard. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard. I’m grateful I have work, but doing group work online is a lot of slog without the reward of shared energy and excitement. I’m worried that cases of covid19 continue to spike in my province and our parks were too full of people yesterday (understandable, but worrying). I’m worried that the political system south of the border is so unstable. I’m sad about the suffering in so many parts of the world, including in Uganda where there are so many people I love. I’m fretful about uncertainty. I’m also moved and grateful and inspired and loved and caring, and all of those emotions take up just as much energy as the worrying.

What I should be doing

I have a lot of strength, and I’ve been leaning into it. Challenging myself with handstands and crow, to make sure I can keep the hard balance. But without looking too closely at the impact on my fascia, on my cells, on what’s underneath. I need to surrender, just a little.

Time to peek underneath and give those cells some breathing room. Time to slow down. Thanks again, yoga.

What about you? How are you doing with quiet, introspective practice?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is trying to notice what she needs.

fitness · yoga

Doing things during zoom yoga class that aren’t yoga

One of my favorite things about face-to-face yoga at my local studio is the feeling that I have arrived at my destination. Putting away my bag and phone in the locker, hanging up my jacket, and taking my mat into the room mark a transition from regular multitasking life to a single activity. Everything– from the calm spareness of the yoga studio to the quiet shufflings of my fellow practitioners, setting up their mats and props– all of this gives me permission to turn my full attention to being present on my mat, in my body, with my current thoughts and feelings and sensations.

But with Zoom yoga, there are no such cues. My destination is the living room, a place where I spend a lot of time doing a lot of different things. My mat is almost always set up (to make it easier for me to just do some yoga at any time), so I enter the zoom-yoga-space without any preamble, with no preparation. In general, I don’t even have to change my clothes, as just about everything I wear these days is yoga-compatible.

So can anyone blame me if I get distracted during Zoom yoga class and wander into something else? Let she who is without distraction cast the first stone…

Here’s a brief list of some things I’ve done during Zoom yoga classes that weren’t yoga:

6) Checked email– this is inexcusable, but also the problem with trying to squeeze in a noontime yoga class when I don’t really have the time or commitment;

5) Gave in and answered my mother’s 5th text with “Mom, I’m in Zoom yoga!”

4) Went into my bedroom and changed my shirt to one that wouldn’t fall over my head in downward facing dog (I hurried back, okay?);

3) Refreshed my beverage with more ice from the fridge;

2) Rebelled against Zoom-class mandated yoga poses in favor of ones more to my liking at the time;

and, number one:

1) Ordered pizza! (Honestly, it didn’t take me long, and it got delivered 5 minutes after yoga class– brilliant idea)

So readers, what are some of the things you’ve done during Zoom activity classes that aren’t that activity? Care to share? I’d love to hear about it.

covid19 · fitness · habits · yoga

Towards a new “routine”?

I don’t know about you, but two months into lockdown I feel like I’m starting to settle into the “new normal”. Getting up in the morning and “going to work” across the hallway doesn’t seem outlandishly strange anymore. People at my workplace are settling into automatically logging their intermittent visits to the office on our online building log without me chasing them, which pleases me no end (I’m responsible for coordinating our Corona measures at work). Even as we ease lockdown measures where I live, at least partially remote work will stay with us for another while, so it’s just as well.

Bettina’s current universe: a red yoga mat and her home office workstation

I’ve also started noticing a few things that are missing and rather than it feeling too much, I’m doing something about it. (I realise that I’m incredibly privileged to be in that headspace right now.) One of these things is a way to work out my arm muscles. In the before time – which to me right now means both before Corona and before pregnancy – I bouldered (stopped first because pregnant) and swam (stopped later because Corona) regularly. Now that I’m not doing either of those things, my poor arms are definitely noticing the lack of a challenge. That’s why I’ve started doing a bit of arms exercise with dumbbells almost daily. It’s not much, just some sets of biceps curls and some shoulder and triceps exercises, but it’s something. I won’t lie, I don’t enjoy it. I find it a bit boring. But I keep telling myself that I’ll have to carry a baby around soon and I’m reliably informed they are heavy, so I’d better prepare!

Last week, I’ve also started doing prenatal yoga every morning, except on the days I have my online Iyenga yoga class. This is more enjoyable than the dumbbells! I like getting into the movements as my body wakes up, and it’s very peaceful and quiet around me. I’m still trying to understand why it’s taken me this long to get into that routine, and my conclusion is it’s a mix of things both pandemic and pregnancy-related that has messed up my day-to-day.

Let’s see how long it lasts. The one thing both the Corona crisis and pregnancy have in common is that they evolve daily. Soon I’ll be too big to cycle, at some point I’ll have to stop running. But for now, I’m pleased I’ve found a groove.

How about you? Have you found a way of settling into things?