fitness · yoga

Laughing while doing yoga: gimmick or tool?

CW: mention of BMI and body weight in a medical study on laughter yoga.

Since yoga took off in North America, teachers and studio owners and social media hopefuls have trotted out every possible variation to make it more attractive to more people. I’m not talking about Kundalini yoga, Iyengar yoga, etc.

No, in this case, I’m talking about yoga with music, yoga with wine or beer or cocktails, goat yoga, bro yoga, naked yoga, yoga dance, etc.

Glow in the dark yoga!
Glow in the dark yoga!

One type of yoga I hadn’t heard of until last week was laughter yoga. Yes, this is a thing. Dr. Madan Kitaria is credited with inventing it, and this site goes into loads of detail about him and about what laughter is alleged to do to us and for us. In short, laughter yoga is supposed to lower stress and anxiety, provide ease from depression, release endorphins, and generally relax us.

If you’re interested in a demonstration of laughter yoga, here is a TED talk (of course there’s a TED talk!) that you can watch.

5-minute TED talk on Laughter Yoga

Okay, I get it: yoga is good for you. Laughing is good for you. So, laughing while doing yoga must be extra-good for you. And yet I maintain a smidge of skepticism. Why?

Lots of scientists and sciency-folks have been speculating about the role of laughter in health and well-being for decades. In this Shape article (an authoritative source if ever there was one), we get this capsule history of laughter as medicine (forgive me, I got lazy while googling):

William Fry, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, helped to pioneer the research on the health benefits of laughter back in the 1960s. Fry found that laughter enhanced the activity of immune system cells through an experiment in which he drew blood at regular intervals while watching comedies. In author Norman Cousins’ 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness, he described how he battled a fatal disease for years through his practice of mindful laughter. And psychotherapist Annette Goodheart published a book titled Laughter Therapy in 2006 that included 25 ways to help yourself laugh about everyday things. 

It makes sense that people hope to leverage laughter to bring down blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, cortisol levels, you name it. So far, the research suggests diffuse and bidirectional effects– laughter may affect well-being, and feeling better influences frequency of laughter. For instance, in a 2021 study of the relationship between oral health and laughter, the researchers found

The participants with 10 or more teeth were significantly more likely to laugh compared with the edentulous participants, after adjusting for all covariates… There was a significant bidirectional association between frequency of laughter and oral health that was independent of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors among older adults.

Which is to say: people with more teeth laugh more, and people who laugh more have more teeth.

I bring up actual laughter research because last week, while perusing the weekly newsletter on body weight and metabolism research, I found this study:

Effects of a laughter program on body weight and mental health among Japanese people with metabolic syndrome risk factors: a randomized controlled trial. In BMC Geriatrics.

Curious, I read the article. Twice. Here’s what I found:

The researchers tried out a 12-week program of 60-minute laughter yoga classes and 30-minute rakugo performances (a traditional form of Japanese comic storytelling). The participants were mostly women over 60, and they had some standard risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, or slightly higher body weights (overweight according to researchers and adjusted BMI scale). The control group just went about their business, with no intervention.

So what did the researchers find?

The intervention group laughed a lot more. Their responses to all sorts of quality-of-life health surveys after the 12 weeks were a bit higher than the control group’s. The laughter yoga and comic performances seemed to do them good.

But laughing a lot didn’t really affect their body weight. The researchers document some teeny-tiny shifts in BMI– shifts which they acknowledge aren’t clinically significant. The men in the intervention group– which were 2% of the group (yes, I wrote that correctly) experienced stronger effects overall, but even their effects were very small. So much for laughter yoga as weight-loss method. This is entirely unsurprising.

However, that doesn’t mean that laughter yoga should be dismissed; far from it. It seems to be a way to introduce some people to both gentle movement and breathing techniques that reduce stress and improve mood and feelings of well-being.

Here are a couple of laughter yoga exercises you can try in the privacy of your own bathroom. I took them from the knowledgeable folks at Shape (obvs):

Smile-Ups: Stand in front of a mirror, or even better, face to face with a friend or family member. Practice breaking into a big smile 10 times. You can also do this when confronted with a stressful situation, such as being stuck in traffic.

Hand Puppet: Struggling with negative self-talk? Get rid of it by acting it out. This exercise, which you can also call the “I love myself” laugh, helps you to recognize the silliness of those thoughts. Lift up one hand and imagine it’s a hand puppet, and start putting those negative thoughts into words using a funny voice and moving your hand puppet accordingly. Then, take your other hand and “squash” the hand puppet with laughter.

Person using hand puppet technique. Googly eye additions optional.
Person using hand puppet technique. Googly eye additions optional.

Readers, have any of you tried laughing yoga? Did you try the smile-ups or the hand puppet negative self-talk? Let me know.

ADHD · fitness · health · meditation

The effect of music on Christine’s brain: A (very) small sample experiment

As someone with ADHD, I am always looking for ways to improve my ability to focus. My medication, my planning, and environmental cues all help but it can still take a lot of energy to keep myself on task, so when I came across some music that made it easier to stick to my work plan, I was delighted.

I’m not sure how I happened upon Greenred Productions ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music (embedded below) but I can only assume that it was something the algorithm churned up after I watched a How to ADHD video at some point.

Embedded YouTube video from Greenred Productions called ‘ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music with Pulsation, ADD Music for Concentration, ADHD Music’ The video includes 12 hours of music but there is a single still image on the screen for the whole video. The image is of a mystical looking stag with antlers that look like gnarled tree branches. The stag is standing in light that seems to be shining through the trees that surround it. There are broken tree stumps, plants, and a large rock near the stag.

Maybe there is a scientific reason why this music works for me or maybe it is a coincidence but, either way, playing this video helps me to focus. And the fact that it is almost 12 hours of music means that I won’t lose track of time while selecting music or creating a playlist.

I don’t always have music on when I am working but it has been great to have this on hand when I need a little extra help to focus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was returning to the video over and over throughout the week but, for some reason, I wasn’t resetting it, I was just letting it play from wherever I had paused it the session before.

So, even though it is a 12 hour video, I eventually reached the end and THAT’S when I found the best meditation/relaxation/body-calming music (embedded below) that I have ever encountered.

Embedded YouTube Video of Greenred Productions video “Deep Cello Meditation Music: Dark Meditation Music, Relaxing Music, Dark Cello Music for Relaxation” There is two hours of music but there is no actual video just a still, black and white image of a person with shoulder length hair playing the cello outside a stone house with a set of double doors and a window set in the front of it.

It turns out that I find cello music incredibly calming. In fact, when I listen to this music, I feel the same kind of sensory-soothing calm that I feel when I put on a weighted shoulder wrap or lie in my hammock. Something in the music just really grounds me and puts me at ease.

I have been playing it while I meditate, draw, colour, or read and I swear I can feel myself sinking deeper into those relaxing activities as a result.

Do you find specific types of music help you to focus or to relax?

Does music contribute to your peace of mind?

Did YOU know that cello was so relaxing? Am I the last person on earth to discover this?

Tell me all about it in the comments. Pretty please!

PS – I really wanted to call this post ‘Cello, it is you I’m looking for’ but then the first embedded video wouldn’t make any sense and besides, I wasn’t sure if the Lionel Richie reference was too much of a reach for the joke to work. 😉

Guest Post

Joh turns 50 and goes skydiving (guest post in both official languages)

Saut en parachute – 8 mai 2022

Ma bonne amie Lucie et moi avons eu la géniale idée d’acheter une carte-cadeau en décembre 2019 pour un saut en parachute pour célébrer nos 50 ans. La pandémie et la mauvaise météo nous ont obligée à reporter le saut 4 fois : la première date prévue était en mai 2020 (confinement COVID), la deuxième en août 2021 (mauvaise météo), puis en septembre 2021 (montée des cas de COVID), et finalement, le samedi 7 mai (trop de vent). Inutile de vous dire à quel point nous étions fébriles lorsque le saut du dimanche 8 mai a été confirmé! Je me suis donc dirigée vers Joliette, où se trouve l’école de parachutisme Voltige. Le saut est prévu pour 13 h. Le temps de s’inscrire, se peser, suivre une petite formation et procéder à l’habillage avec notre instructeur, et nous voici dans l’avion, en route vers l’altitude de 13 500 pi où nous sauterons dans le vide! Le forfait prévoit une chute libre de 45 secondes, puis une douce descente sous le parachute de près de 3 minutes, bien attachée à mon instructeur, Richard. J’ai évidemment acheté le forfait vidéo-photos pour immortaliser cet événement, que Cédric capturera tout à côté de nous. (Quel métier quand même que celui de photographe-parachutiste!)

Lorsque l’avion atteint l’altitude souhaitée, on ouvre la porte arrière et les tandems commencent à sauter… c’est maintenant vrai, je vais sauter en parachute! Richard me pousse vers la porte, je m’agenouille face au vide et… c’est parti! Nous commençons par faire un 180 degrés et regardons l’avion s’éloigner, puis nous prenons la pause « banane » de la descente en chute libre. C’est vertigineux. Nous descendons à toute allure et ça coupe le souffle. Je tente un sourire pour la caméra et je garde la position, bien docile. Puis, le parachute ouvre et tout change. Nous descendons maintenant tout doucement et je peux regarder le paysage et vraiment profiter de ces moments de pur bonheur. La température est parfaite : beau soleil et ciel complètement dégagé. Nous voyons jusqu’à Montréal, à quelque 75 km. Et, bien sûr, les champs à perte de vue et la rivière L’Assomption qui se déroule en méandres sous nous.

Toute bonne chose ayant une fin, nous nous rapprochons du champ d’atterrissage, qui se produit sans problème, sur les fesses. Cédric est là pour recueillir mes premières impressions, qui se résument à « Wow! Incroyable! ».

Quelle journée et expérience mémorable! Merci à Richard et à Voltige de m’avoir permis de cocher un autre élément de ma liste du cœur (bucket list).

Joh. est traductrice, originaire de Montréal et vit maintenant à Toronto. Elle aime être en plein air autant que possible et fait du vélo, du ski, du canot, du kayak, de la randonnée pédestre et, plus généralement, aime trouver du temps pour être active, malgré une vie divisée entre un travail à temps plein, des contrats et un enfant.

********************************

Skydiving – May 8, 2022

My good friend Lucie and I had the great idea to buy a gift card in December 2019 for a skydiving jump to celebrate our 50th birthday. The pandemic and bad weather forced us to reschedule 4 times: the first scheduled date was in May 2020 (COVID lockdown), the second in August 2021 (bad weather), then in September 2021 (rising COVID cases), and finally, on Saturday, May 7 (too windy). I don’t need to tell you how excited we were when the jump on Sunday, May 8 was confirmed! I headed to Joliette, where the Voltige skydiving school is located. The jump is scheduled for 1pm. Time to register, get weighed, follow a little training and get dressed by our instructor, and here we are on the plane, on our way to the 13,500 ft altitude where we will jump into the void! The package includes a 45 second freefall, then a gentle descent under the parachute for almost 3 minutes, securely attached to my instructor, Richard. Of course, I bought the video package to capture this event, which Cedric will capture right next to us (what a job being a skydiving photographer, isn’t it!).

When the plane reaches the desired altitude, we open the back door and the tandems start jumping… it’s now true, I’m going to skydive! Richard pushes me towards the door, I kneel facing the void and… here we go! We start by doing a 180 degree turn and watch the plane fly away, then we take the “banana” position and start the freefall descent. It’s dizzying. We go down at full speed and it takes my breath away. I try to smile for the camera, and I keep the position, very docile. Then, the parachute opens and everything changes. We are now slowly moving down, and I can look at the landscape and really enjoy these moments of pure happiness. The weather is perfect: beautiful sunshine and clear sky. We can see as far as Montreal, some 75 km away. And, of course, the fields as far as the eye can see and the L’Assomption River meandering beneath us.

All good things must come to an end, as we get closer to the landing field. We land on our butts without any problem. Cedric was there to collect my first impressions, which can be summarized by: “Wow! Unbelievable”.

What a memorable day and experience! Thanks to Richard and Voltige for allowing me to check off another item on my bucket list.

Joh is a translator originally from Montreal and now living in Toronto. She loves to be outdoors as much as possible and enjoys biking, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and generally finding time to be active, despite a life divided between a full-time job, contracts, and a child.

Video of Joh’s jump, dive, and landing. How about you? Tempted?

fitness

Thigh chafing and the joys of summer

It’s gone from winter to summer this month in Ontario, with not much spring in between. We had days below freezing last week, highs near 30 this week. And as usual dress wearing friends are posting their thigh chafing woes. Here’s an older post with some suggestions.

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

iz needs talc powder   mai thighs are chafing

Warmer weather is here. Spring! And soon, summer! I can put away my black tights and wear cotton dresses and mini-skirts. I can stop wearing running tights. But of course, much as I love all those things, there’s the problem of thigh chafing.

“At first thigh chafing is annoying, then it’s embarrassing, then it’s painful, then it’s ugly (all that friction causes little red bumps to pop up on my inner thighs–so not cute). My solution up to now has been to wear spandex shorts underneath all my dresses. This combats chafing and serves the secondary purpose of preventing me from flashing the whole neighborhood whenever I get out my car. Every time I pull on those shorts, though, I feel a little sad and a little resentful: for once I’d just like to throw on a sundress and some comfy undies and be done. This hot, binding extra layer…

View original post 456 more words

fitness

Swim buoys: good for safety and fun

Hi readers– this weekend I was reminded that there’s actually such a thing as warm/hot weather. Temps in Boston reached a record high of 86F/30C. Today will be warm as well.

I didn’t take take refuge from the heat in the water yesterday, but it reminded me that outdoor swimming season is upon us. I really enjoyed going to Walden Pond with my new swim buoy. It’s required there now, and honestly is a great idea for open-water swimmers in fresh and salt water.

Check out my post from last summer and see if you want to beat the crowds and get some water safety gear sooner rather than later.

-catherine

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

Friday was a beautiful summer day in Boston– sunny, mid-70s F/24C– so my friend Norah and did what one must on a day like today– we went swimming.

Walden Pond (yes, that Walden Pond) is 11 miles from my house, and is a swimmer’s paradise. The pond is big, deep, clean, and has all sorts of half-hidden shoreline coves where you can set down your towel and snacks and head into the water.

We did just that, but with one added item: our brand-new swim buoys. They are now required for anyone who swims outside of the roped-off guarded swim areas at the pond. There was a big kerfuffle over open-water swimming at Walden this summer, and the current rule is the third iteration after the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation abruptly banned all open-water swimming there.

I don’t mind at all using a swim buoy. They’re not…

View original post 221 more words

fitness

Ask Fieldpoppy: Bonus cycle tour question

(Ask Fieldpoppy is a monthly advice column written by Cate; recently, they answered questions from someone who’s about to embark on their first two day cycling trip (here and here). The letter writer sent up an urgent flare a week before her ride so you get a bonus edition. Feel free to send your own questions for Fieldpoppy to ruminate on).

Dear Fieldpoppy—My first two-day cycle trip is now only one week away!

I’ve started a great list, thanks to your previous response, and invested in a camelbak. I’d never even thought about diaper cream…

A white woman in white shorts on a bike in the mountains. I do not recommend white shorts if you have your period. Photo by Mizzi Westphal on Unsplash

I’ve got two more questions. First, an outside question: what is your advice for cycling on an all-day tour if the weather starts to suck?

Second, an inside question: what do you get your mind to do to help you get through pain, stiffness, or wanting to give up? My partner assures me he’ll be ready to pick me up—but I don’t want to disappoint him!

Oh, and any advice for cycling during one’s period might be helpful.

– Inside and Outside

Dear Inside and Outside,

I’m so excited for you! SQUEEEE!

Okay, first I’ll tackle the practical: your period. Whatever you normally do to manage cramps etc, make sure you do that — ibuprofen and aleve cover a multitude of needs, and will help with any soreness from the ride as well. But try to stick with something you are already used to — this isn’t the time to experiment.

If possible, stick with internal blood-catching — diva cup, tampons, whatever you’re used to — rather than pads, because there will be a fair bit of contact between your bits and the seat and pads of any kind are more likely to chafe. If you have period underwear, you might want to include those as backup, but I’m really wary of any additional layers between my flesh and the bike shorts — that way lies wedgies and trapped sweat and chafing. (You might be getting the message that I’m prone to chafing).

If you’re worried about changing tampons out on the road, make yourself a little period kit — hand wipes, TP or kleenex and a wee ziploc. Don’t litter the tampon (dangerous for animals as well as just plain gross) but wrap it up and put it in the ziploc for disposal later. And be glad you aren’t camping on the kind of island where you have to carry out your poo.

(Oh! This reminds me of a story! In 2009 I was climbing kilimanjaro with an intrepid aussie woman who had done some bonkers 6 week trek in the arctic dragging a sled behind her. She was the only woman on the trip, so was packing out her tampons by tucking them into a ziploc in a hidden pocket in her sleeping bag. When she got back to a town, someone stole her very expensive high tech sleeping bag — before she’d had a chance to retrieve the festering tampon stash. She took a lot of joy in imagining the dude (she just assumed it was a dude) reaching his hand in, expecting hidden treasure, and…)

But I digress. So that’s period stuff. It’s kind of annoying but highly manageable. And you got this!

The other questions are more existential. First, I’m glad you have such a supportive partner — and try to gently let go of the idea of not disappointing someone else. It gets complicated out on the road to know what’s going on with yourself if you are trying to navigate other people’s emotions. Take a minute this week and dig deep in yourself — what are you doing this for? What part of you do you want to nourish by doing something big and new and maybe hard? What badass part of you do you want to bring on this ride? Find that part, and that’s the thing you engage with in your head. It’s easier to find your own grit and purpose when it’s not bound up with worrying about other people, even if they are lovely.

Rain and wind and Weather are part of bike touring — they are part of the elemental experience of just Being Out There with you and your bike. When Susan, Sam, Sarah and I were cycling in Newfoundland in July in 2019, we had nothing BUT Weather. Hills, wind for days, and on the Day of Hypothermia, 3 degrees and icy rain for hours. I’m not gonna lie — it’s not easy. The trick is to give over to it — not to fight it, or wish it were different, but just be with what it is. Like, dear god, this is some serious wind, wow, look at me riding into this wind like some kind of fucking superhero. Give a little read to the post I wrote about that trip called Grit, and another reflection on grit when I was planning a trip to Bulgaria last year. You’ve got grit — and this trip is a chance to locate it in a new way. You can’t change the weather — so how can you be with it in a way that is raw and honest and strong? About YOU? That’s what you connect with in those moments.

That doesn’t mean pushing yourself through in a punishing way! I like to set myself permission to stop at regular intervals in hard weather — usually every 4 or 5 km — and just take a moment and reassess my humanity. Have some water. Eat a cheese sandwich. Cry in the ditch. Stop in somewhere for a cup of hot tea. (In Newfoundland, it was a teeeny tiny airport that had a hot drink vending machine). Remind myself of my strength. And — if it really is too much — there is always someone to help.

When I was riding in Bulgaria last summer, my camelbak wasn’t working, most shops weren’t open and it was 42 C. I hit a point on a hill about 65 km into a much too long, overheated, hard and loaded day where I honestly worried I would die right there. So I put “is there any way you can give me a ride please?” into my translation app and flagged down a farmer. (Like an avatar of a farmer, wearing actual overalls). He shook his head and pointed to the back of his vehicle — very full — and pointed down the road — “1 kilometre — drink.” He mimed drinking. I rode on, heartened, and arrived in a completely deserted square. Just as was looking around wondering what the hell, a woman pulled up in a car and opened the door of a shop and gestured me in. I got some potato chips (salt), a cold coca cola, a frozen treat and a huge bottle of water. She asked “toilet?”. When I said no, she gestured to the table under the shade and said “sit.” Then drove away. The farmer had called her to come and open the shop. People want to help. Just ask them.

In Newfoundland, after the day of hypothermia, Susan and I needed a break. So we asked around and found Steve, who had a truck, whose dad Bill was willing to drive us to the next night’s stop. Bill told us all about the people who’d died mysteriously and sadly and showed us historical sites and had a great time. We got a break. People want to help. Just ask them ;-).

You are ready for this trip. You got this. Find your own version of grit and revel in it. You are a badass! And be sure to let us know how it goes!

Fieldpoppy, somewhere in the Baltics

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede (she/they), who wrote this post from the shared unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). Cate is a coach, consultant and general thinker about relationships, meaning making and bodies. They are itching to get on their bike in a foreign land.

fitness

Why Nicole is not planning a big 50 challenge

As I approach 50 in June, there are things I know I will never do. I will never be a Mother. I have mixed feelings about this in a motherhood-glorifying age. But, for the most part, I am comfortable knowing I was never in the right place to have a child and while I may never “truly KNOW” how hard it is, how gratifying it is, how exhausting it is, even though I have a fair amount of innate empathy and understanding of situations I am not in, I am comfortable knowing that my life is content without being a Mom.

Caricature of a blond woman in a fuchsia and black striped top, holding her hand up to her face in dismay with the works, “OMG!!! I FORGOET TO HAVE CHILDREN!”

I may never know exactly what I want to do with my career, but I will keep searching and trying new things. I will continue to work on the areas where I have strengths and build on the work I can do. I have leadership, writing, analytical, practical and other skills that will surely be put to good use as long as I am able to work.

I may have made questionable choices in my youth about my education. I may never understand why I do well in school but wasn’t able to focus on things where it may have counted or helped my career. But all of those choices have culminated into a decent place, where I still have options and “possibilities” to use a corporate-sounding phrase.

One thing I don’t plan on doing as I turn 50, is plan a big fitness challenge for the big day/year. Christine wrote the other day about formulating her fitness challenges for 50 (at 49 and a half). She noted how Tracy and Sam started this blog almost 10 years ago, as they were gearing up to Fittest at 50.

I did fuzzily entertain different fitness challenges in the last year. Will 50 be the year I conquer my fear of hanging from a rig, so that I can do a few pull-ups? NO. Will it be the year I do my third marathon (maybe, but haven’t decided yet and not really because I’m 50)?

A woman with grey hair doing pull up variations. The types of pull-ups I am likely to do, because I don’t like to hang from the rig. If I decide to conquer the “real” pull-up, it will not be for my 50th birthday.

Nothing has really landed as something I want to entertain as a big fitness challenge to mark 5-0.

When I think about this, I think there are a couple reasons. One, is David, Nobody Cares! Including, myself. Who the fuck cares if I do a pull-up for that day? I don’t.

The other reason is that I love fitness. It gets me through everything. Day-in, day-out. Part of the reason I love it is because of the way I have entertained it for 20 years.

I’m consistent. I don’t worry about if my workouts are showing physical results (OK, I admit to being a bit happy when I can see a little line in my shoulder). I don’t worry too much about my pace when I go for my long runs and half and full marathons. I don’t measure myself against others. I enjoy fitness, in a consistent, measured way, by doing all the things I enjoy doing (running, HIIT-workouts, spinning, walking EVERYWHERE, some yoga) in an intentional way, every day. It keeps my mind functioning (somewhat) normally.

Purple tank top with the words “Forward is a Pace” from this company that purports to make run wear to fight anxiety and depression. I am not affiliated but my friend Jackie sent her the link as she thought I might be interested and I might just order a few things!

One of the ideas I’d like to take with me as I turn 50 is that I don’t need to do a “big thing” to prove anything as I enter a new decade. I just need to do the things I’m already doing. With gratitude for each day and my health. Corny, but oh so true as we get older.

So, that’s my big plan for 50. Keep doing what I’m doing. As my late Bubbie would have said “From your mouth to G-d’s ear.”

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and two dogs. She incorporates exercise into her daily life for her overall wellbeing not for a number on a calendar.
fitness · Guest Post

Workout Selfies: Yay or Nay?

Woman wearing olive green leggings and matching sports bra doing a yoga pose. A shelf with yoga props is in the background.

A few weeks ago Virginia Sole-Smith at Burnt Toast wrote about posting workout selfies. The internet did what it does, which is have a variety of opinions. I posted a link to the article on my personal Facebook page… some folks messaged me privately to say it was an interesting article and they were thinking more about it after reading. Other friends commented publicly to say they agreed or understood the point of the article. One friend said “I’m sure I don’t agree – not sure on the why,” and there were additional “disagree” or “agree, but that isn’t why I do it” comments.

The article also got posted in the FIFI Facebook feed, and received multiple responses. After going back and reading through the responses I noticed that a lot of them are in favor of workout selfies and felt the article was out of bounds in saying that they were unnecessary. A few folks said they were interested in sitting with the why behind the selfies, as Sole-Smith suggests: “we should sit quietly for a while with why we do it. And name its potential for harm.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article since my first read of it, and have revisited it a few times. I like the nuance Sole-Smith brings to the piece, and the fact that it isn’t presented as an all or nothing argument. I follow many “influencers” on social media who document their athletic movement, most of them doing so in larger bodies. I follow them specifically because I want to see larger bodies doing joyful movement, and my feed is carefully curated to avoid weight loss and diet influencers. If someone I follow is interested in changing their body I support that goal, but I’m likely to unfollow them if they talk about intentional weight loss as a virtuous endeavor, because that isn’t something I’m interested in reading about. There are a few folks that I think manage a good balance between discussing weight loss and activity because they understand the potential harm of weight loss discussions that aren’t contextualized. For me, Sam is a great example of this where she has chronicled her path to knee replacement surgery over the years (sorry that it still hasn’t happened, Sam!)

Image of a sports watch surrounded by a partial pair of running shoes, earbuds, and a jump rope.

Influencers aside, I have several friends who post workout selfies on their social media accounts. Some do it to keep themselves motivated and share their movement journey with friends. They get “likes” or favorable comments which helps them feel supported. One friend runs a monthly marathon for local charities and her daily run selfie includes images of local scenery, social justice-orientated signs/murals, and related social commentary. Another friend is a sociologist studying race in running spaces. She posts her daily running selfie to show a Black woman in our local, white-dominated running environment. I’m so used to seeing these posts that I rarely stop to think about them and what they mean or convey about workout/diet/selfie culture, if they mean anything at all. But I often notice when friends who don’t normally post workout selfies start posting them, especially when they also post about intentional weight loss. Sometimes their commentary comes with statements like “been inactive for too long, gotta get myself back in shape” or other similar sentiments. Those posts always make me a little sad because I don’t feel like they are moving for movement’s sake or for joyous purpose, but rather to try and punish their body for being “bad” or “too big.” And once I start thinking about those types of comments I start to wonder what they think about the “bigness” of other bodies, and how that shapes their perspectives and interactions with folks who have those bigger bodies.

Overall I’m in agreement with Sole-Smith’s perspective on workout selfies. I don’t think they are needed very often. I love being in supportive movement-specific groups and that is where I expect to see, and sometimes share my own, movement updates or sweaty selfies. And I’m not here to tell anyone else what they can or should post on their social media accounts. We’re all different and we all enjoying posting and viewing different types of things. But I think it is worth some self-reflection to understand why we are or are not posting that workout selfie, what the goal is for sharing, and how it might be received.

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

fitness · fun

Geocaching

“Time for some bush-bashing! Don’t worry, it’s less than a two.”

This is what my friend said as we peered into a steep incline of densely grown trees and shrubs off the side of a highway near Halifax, Nova Scotia. She meant that the difficulty of finding the oldest geocache in Canada was considered to be “relatively easy” (within 30 minutes) and “along well-defined paths with no significant elevation change or overgrowth,” as per the standardized geocache rating system.

“Where is the well-defined path?” I asked.

My friend smiled. “It’s a joke among geocachers that you find the path to the cache on the way out.” Then, she disappeared into the bushes.

About Geocaching

An open cache cannister with a Travel Bug and a trinket on a rock.
An open cache cannister with a Travel Bug and a trinket on a rock.

My friend “Alispice” (her geocacher name) uses a GPS and/or mobile device to find hidden containers called geocaches at various outdoor locations. Since global positioning technology first became available to the public after May 2, 2000, (a.k.a. Big Blue Switch Day), there are over 3 million geocaches around the world. A free and family-friendly activity, geocaching offers a combination of treasure hunt, recreational activity, and exercise.

Caches are hidden everywhere. It’s likely there is one of over 20 different types of caches within 161 metres of you right now. A geocacher places a cache, shares location information and maybe a hint, then other geocachers search for and log the cache when they find it.

Alispice holds a micro cache found in Halifax, NA. She's good at finding very small things. Used with permission.
Alispice holds a micro cache. She’s good at finding very small things.

The more caches you find (especially the ones that are hard to get to), the higher you rise in the geocacher rankings. Geocaching apps are used to track global rankings, personal stats, and other information, such as progress on “challenges” that involve finding multiple caches according to specific criteria.

A Crash Course in Caching

I learned about geocaching during a short holiday with Alispice in Nova Scotia. It’s not all “bush-bashing.” We found caches on the downtown Halifax harbour front, in the nearby town of Dartmouth, and on the rocky shale and sandstone of Peggy’s Cove on the Chebucto Penninsula.

A picture of a large cache logbook, with entries from 2006.
A large cache logbook, with entries on the page from 2006.

It was a delight for me to pause on the discovery of a cache, read the names of those who signed the log before us, and ponder over the trinkets that are sometimes left in the containers. While I was musing, Alispice got promptly back on her device for the next cache. As of this post date, her highest number of caches in one day is 172.

For some, geocaching can be a hobby and a lifestyle. Because caches are everywhere, I suspect that seasoned geocachers like Alispice have to make a concerted mental effort to stop thinking about finding caches when they are going about their daily lives.

I also learned that caches can draw attention to special places. For instance, there were a few simple caches at the Africville museum and park. As we walked around and read the information plaques in the park, Alispice explained that the caches there may have been set up to attract geocachers visiting Halifax who would not otherwise know about the history of this mostly Black Canadian community.

What Geocachers Do (and Do Not Do)

When geocachers are not caching, they may be stocking up on supplies (purchasing log books, travel bugs, O rings, etc.). Or, they may be meeting together at local and international geocacher gatherings called “events,” and participating in Cache In Trash Out environmental initiatives; these activities help to preserve existing cache areas, beautify outdoor spaces, and minimize the stereotype that geocaching is “littering.”

Alispice opening a small cache at Peggy's Cove.
Alispice opening a cache at Peggy’s Cove.

Such events also build community for people participating in a recreational and largely self-organized activity. HQ and volunteers together encourage geocachers to follow etiquette and courtesy rules when placing and locating caches. In what is described as the geocacher’s creed, respect for place, property, and other people is of the highest importance.

More About Geocaching

The best way is to learn more about geocaching is to get out there and try it, but here are some general info sites for Muggles (what geocachers call non-geocachers like me):

I had a great time, and got plenty of exercise, trailing a geocacher for 3 days. I’m not quite ready for the cognitive load of a ever-present, never-ending, world-wide treasure hunt. But I will be sure to cheer on the next people I see searching the bushes in unexpected places, hoping they are close to their geocache discovery!

Alispice and Elan at the oldest geocache in Canada. Trees and a sign that says Geocache Lane behind them.
Alispice and Elan at Geocache Lane in Nova Scotia, the oldest geocache in Canada.
fitness

Happy Hump Day

I don’t particularly like that expression – I like to think that Wednesdays are no better or worse than any other day. However, I have decided that this week needs every bit of celebration I can find.

Last week I had bad allergies and spent a lot of time fussing about whether it was COVID. My walking challenge is starting to wear on me. The weather suddenly went from freezing to being hot enough to kill half my poor seedlings when I put them outside to start hardening off. My lanemate and I were both in the world of “I’m too old for this sh*t” after Sunday’s swim practice. We will not even discuss the state of the world, which has me filled with crone rage on many fronts.

So Happy Hump Day: a made-up internet hope that things can only get better.

My allergies are feeling better, so I have more energy. I updated my tetanus booster, donated blood, and will get my second COVID booster on Saturday, so I feel that I am doing all I can to be healthy.

At swim practice, I learned a fun new drill, something that rarely happens after nearly 20 years of swimming with a club. And at Saturday’s practice I got the comment that I have a very respectable butterfly and natural freestyle stroke for long-distance swimming (coach was commenting on technique, as I am not fast). Every little bit of positive reinforcement feels good, even at my age.

The geese along my walk to work are hatching, the trees are coming into leaf, and I may just combine one of my walks this week with a trip to the pond for an early morning or lunchtime swim.

Adult Canada geese swimming with many babies on blue water, a dead branch in the foreground.
The pond, a popular conservation area and swimming spot near my home. Clear water surrounded by trees just staring to turn green and blue sky with whispy clouds above. The trees and sky are reflected in the still water.

I haven’t yet figured out how to channel my crone rage effectively; that is a feminist rather than a fitness issue, but I’ll keep working on it.

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa.