cardio · fitness · injury · strength training

You can’t do everything and that’s okay


Saturday I posted in the 223 workouts in 2023 group, “One lap of the Beach Island Loop with the Thundering Turtles, 30 minutes. My goal is to up my time consistently through fall and winter to get my cardio fitness and endurance back. Obviously, that fell through the wayside while I was recuperating from knee surgery, and the focus was all mobility, strength, and balance.”

It’s important to acknowledge this. While I’m a physio and knee replacement surgery success story, not all of my areas of fitness survived equally. I got back to strength training pretty early in. Physio focuses a lot on mobility and balance. But cardio fitness? I lost that pretty quickly. Here’s what Triathlete magazine has to say about losing cycling fitness. They estimate the time to get back to where you were is about 2/3 of the time you were off. So, for me, it’s been a year. That makes getting back to where I was last summer a reasonable winter goal.

Getting my cardio fitness back is going to be a focus of my fall and winter training. I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m not feeling bad about it. But it does feel urgent to get it back. Here’s my fall and winter plan.

It also feels good to know I’m not alone. A fit feminist friend on Facebook commented on my Beach Island Loop post, saying, “I will follow your model. My cardio fell off the wagon (but was slipping anyway) with the pacemaker. I’ve been all strength, mobility and balance too. Having trouble getting going as my sleep apnea has been horrid (just had a study) and I’ve lacked motivation. Will walk, starting at 15 minutes (that’s where I am), try to be consistent and gradually work up. Thanks. You are always an inspiration to me.”

It also helps me to remember that it’s true for serious athletes, too. You can’t do everything. You can train for explosive power but not also for peak endurance. You can train for strength and muscle development, but that will make it hard to train for running marathons. That’s just because different sports have different demands.

In my case, without strength, I couldn’t tax my cardiovascular system. I needed to rebuild strength first. But strength is back, and this winter’s focus will be cardio endurance. Wish me luck, folks!

fitness · habits

Three Good Things About #ThreeGoodThings

Three Good Dogs in the backseat of the car–My mum’s hand is on Chase. In the middle, there’s Charlie, and then there’s Cheddar.

I’ve been tracking good things in my life for awhile now. For years, it was just a November gratitude practice to help with November, because you know, it’s November. (I’ve blogged a lot about November!)

And then I started in with #ThreeGoodThings, during the whole knee replacement year, because I needed to be reminded of Good Things. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it going but the thing is, I enjoy it.

Some of my friends find it corny, possibly annoying, but I honestly find it helps my mood. I’ve been wondering why and today, while out walking Cheddar (he makes a frequent appearance in these lists) I came up with three ways it helps and I thought I’d share them.

🐶 I often draft the lists at night and then share them in the morning. I enjoy the process of reflecting on my day and thinking about the good it contained. Sometimes, it’s as simple as the basics. I have family and friends who love me. I have a roof over my head and good food to eat. It gives me a moment to note and appreciate the baseline goods in my life, the goods that make other goods possible.

🐶 Other days, I can look at events that weren’t good overall but have good elements and appreciate the good bits. Today was Homecoming at my university, and there are lots of student parties. I have a bit of a thing about drunk people. I don’t like them. I can be a grump about loud drunken parties. But early in the day, before the serious drinking commences, they’re out there having fun and happy to see Cheddar. He gets lots of love and attention. That was a good thing. Ditto making a mistake at work that was serious, and I felt bad about it. But I realized that I worked at a sensible place with reasonable people who allowed me to fix my mistake. Keeping track makes me think about the good elements in things I otherwise don’t like, drunks and making mistakes are high on my list.

🐶 The third way keeping track helps is sometimes, midway through a tough day, I’ll think about drafting my list at night and realize ‘Hey, if I keep this up it will be another night of being thankful for food and shelter. Maybe it’s not too late to save the day. Maybe I can add something good to it now. I can go for a walk. I can get a fancy coffee and a pumpkin muffin.’ I also browse Facebook for friends’ good news. I really do enjoy my friends’ adventures. I see three of us took lengthy, pretty walks today, for example. I love your travels and your bike rides and your children’s first days of school. I always love your pet photos. Sometimes, your good thing becomes my good thing. I hope that works vice-versa, too.

Three apples
body image · Dancing · fitness

Learning more about bodies from dancing animals and physical therapy

Every chance I get, I share the dance song “I like to move it” video from the animated movie Madagascar. There are several reasons for this:

  • it’s got a killer dance beat
  • it’s funny
  • the animals all dance in interesting and animated-body-appropriate ways, but also in very different ways, depending on their bodies.

Watching it recently (yes, I shared it in this post) I was struck by how watching the hippo dance (apologies, I forget her name) puts me at a crossroads. I can laugh… or I can enjoy and appreciate the exaggerated ways her animated self expresses joy in movement.

Gloria– that’s her name– the hippo in the movie Madagascar, doing her booty dance to the end credits.

And then there’s Melman the giraffe, who also dances, sometimes with Gloria:

Hippo Gloria and giraffe Melman dancing cheek to cheek.

Giraffes probably have the textbook exaggerated and ungainly body– both in life and in cartoons. But they run and bend and stretch and (at least in movies) dance. Their repertoire of movements are also fascinating.

Which brings me to physical therapy. On Wednesday I was doing my hip exercises for sciatica, looking around the room to see what everyone else was up to. What did I see?

  • an older person with lots of flexibility stretching her hamstring;
  • a teenager recovering from an ankle sprain, bouncing a ball while standing on one foot on a foam cushion;
  • a 40-something, new to PT, doing gentle shoulder range-of-motion in work clothes;
  • an older person, one month after knee replacement, getting flexibility checked;
  • and me, working hard, sweating, enjoying the effort of strengthening my 60-something body.

All of us were there with different bodies with their own structure, vulnerabilities and history. We were all there to improve our movement while healing. We didn’t all like to move-it-move-it, but we did (move it, that is). We were all using the bodies we came in with and getting help with strength and flexibility and stamina.

I’m almost through my round of PT, and I’m happy with the results. I’m just as happy to get this infusion of body acceptance. And of course, to be reminded of those fabulous dancing animals… 🙂

Readers, have you danced this week? If so, let me know. If not, how about putting on a track and moving your body, however it does that?


Professional Sports, Fans and Gender -Some Thoughts

What’s the relationship between people who love to do sports and people who love to watch or follow sports? It’s definitely not a one-to-one relationship. I think especially in the North American context, professional sports fandoms are identities unto their own, and they don’t necessarily connect to someone being an athlete themselves.

For me, I have loved watching hockey ever since I was in Grade 5, when the Vancouver Canucks surprised everyone and went to the finals of the NHL (to be wiped out in four straight, alas!). I loved the energy cheering together and I remember waving a white towel whenever I could, joining in with fans everywhere on the BC coast.

I have continued my hockey-loving life, despite never having a chance to play hockey. At my age, and in my coastal community, there was no ice to skate on in our town, the nearest rink being a 40-minute drive to the next town. I would have loved to play hockey, I think, but I really had never heard of girls doing it, and I certainly didn’t have access to it.

photo of woman and teenage boy in front of  a glass divider separating them from the ice at a hockey rink.
My son and I about 5 years ago, ready for playoff season!

I have relished my life as a casual fan. It’s not like I track the stats of players, but I do enjoy learning from my 18 year old son who does keep track of some stats. And I have enjoyed many mother-son hockey games over the years, we’ve enjoyed watching the Canucks play in North Carolina, Ottawa, Buffalo, Toronto and Vancouver. It’s awesome. I have particularly enjoyed junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League, as we live in a town where we’ve had the joy to watch young NHL stars come develop.

I also love watching the women’s hockey teams play when it’s actually on TV and covered (so basically during the Olympics). But honestly, it never really crossed my mind that the pathway for girls in hockey is so much narrower and shorter than for boys. For boys, there is a well developed junior hockey system in North America and parts of Europe. There are university scholarships. There are professional leagues in many parts of the world.

For girls, the options seem to be far fewer. There are scholarships, I understand, and there are national teams. Surely, though, the training supports are minimal compared to those available to the multiple tiers of development for boys’ and young men’s leagues.

Honestly, as a casual fan, somehow the gender imbalance in pro-sports had barely registered in my mind until recently, when I heard stories of women’s soccer teams arguing for parity in funding. The totally limited options for girl-hockey-players really never crossed my mind until I started hearing news stories about the new women’s Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) being developed.

A woman and a man smiling at the camera, wearing almost matching green shirts.
Sometimes I even get my husband to join me in cheering on the hockey team!

The other day, a friend posted news about knowing a woman who got drafted to the PWHL. He has a daughter who plays hockey. It hit me – this is BIG. There is no logical reason that male athletes should earn professional wages whereas women shouldn’t. It feels like a bit of an awakening. And I guess I’ll be looking to get myself some PWHL tickets!


When the soccer pitch is your workplace

Two weeks ago I wrote a post summarizing the debacle that followed Spain’s World Cup football championship win. A week later Luis Rubiales, the Spanish football federation president, finally resigned and six days ago he was in court being served with a restraining order keeping him away from Jenni Hermoso, the footballer he forcibly kissed on the gold medal podium.

ID: A group of young soccer players representing different teams, genders, ethnicities, and body types chase a blue, white, and green soccer ball. Photo by Lars Bo Nielsen on Unsplash

Members of the Spanish team are continuing their strike and are refusing to play until further changes are made to address systemic sexism in the Spanish federation even with the departures of Rubiales and Jorge Vilda, the coach of the World Cup winning team.

You have to admire the team’s resolve. Fresh off their global win, which caps a stellar season across all age groups in women’s soccer, the team is leveraging the power they have to make sure real change is coming. The resignation of Rubiales following the firing of Vilda amidst mounting global pressure is not just window dressing. The team has the backing of the Spanish government’s labour minister, which is also significant.

Treating the harassment of Hermoso, from the kiss to the intimidation tactics, as a workplace issue shows the seriousness of the situation. The locker room, the soccer pitch, the training ground, and even the winner’s podium are their offices and meeting rooms. The women work hard on the field representing their sport and their country.

In the first global survey of workplace harassment, the results showed only half of victims reported their experiences, and often this only took place after repeated experiences of harassment. The study also reported “Young women were twice as likely as young men to have faced sexual violence and harassment.”

The International Labour Organization has developed a set of international standards that offer “a common framework to prevent, remedy and eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment. The Convention includes the specific recognition, for the first time in international law, of the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, and sets out the obligation to respect, promote and realize this.”

As more workplaces in Canada and around the world recognize the impact of psychological violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination, we should also ensure it is not just conventional workplaces that make the changes necessary. The work Hermoso and the Spanish women’s soccer team are engaged in will have an impact in Spain and around the world. We should all take notice listen up and start asking questions at our local and regional levels to ensure everyone, especially those at risk including girls, young women, and nonbinary persons can all engage safely in their chosen sports without harassment and violence.


Do the thing!

Do the thing is an expression my friends and I often use when egging each other (and ourselves) to push boundaries. Like them (and many of the contributors to this blog) I overthink things to the point I chicken out.

This year, I had four cycling goals. One was to bike out to visit my parents, 25 km away. That would be a significant distance increase for me, and there are some scary 80 km/hour roads where everyone speeds – I was not convinced that Google was telling the truth about their rideability. It was mid-September. Time was running out.

On Saturday I had plans to join the Critical Mass Ride in downtown Ottawa, followed by a potluck for Bike Ottawa members in a park. The park is almost half-way to my parents’ house, and going home so I could drive there would take as long as biking directly. Getting home was an entirely different matter and I chose not to think too much about it.

I packed some extra snacks, water and my cycling shorts just in case I decided to do the thing. And my bus pass in case I decided that I couldn’t bike all the way home. When the potluck broke up, folks started planning to go on a 15 km ride that would largely follow my route home. I knew I could easily do that ride. Google told me that it was exactly the same distance as to my parents’ house. Time to stop thinking about it and just do the thing.

I did the thing!

Diane in a blue shirt and wearing her blue and white bike helmet stands beneath a sign for the street where her parents live.

I even did the thing going back home. It took an hour and 25 minutes on the return ride. That’s triple the fastest car ride, but way more fun. How often do you have complete strangers chat with you at a crosswalk when you’re in a car? How often do you notice an entire flock of turkeys on someone’s lawn (and can safely stop for a photo)?

A large brick house with five wild turkeys on the front lawn

I have written before about how riding a bike has made the world both bigger and smaller. I have new experiences, but also learn that things aren’t nearly as far away as they had seemed.

I rode 65 km, something I haven’t done in over 40 years. The roads I was afraid of turned out to have nice wide shoulders most of the way. I feel pretty darned good and I am confident about doing that ride again whenever the weather is nice.

Whatever your big fitness, health or life goal may be, do the thing! You might be pleasantly surprised at how great it feels.

challenge · fitness

Catherine’s 223 workout challenge update

I’ve written a lot on this blog about movement challenges. I used to hate them– I forget why, but luckily I could look it up, as I wrote a post about it here in 2017. And I wrote another on here in 2018. In it, I wrote this:

I’ve taken on fitness challenges without thinking seriously about how I’ll make the time for them. Then, once scheduling conflicts hit, I’m unprepared for what to do.  And what do I do? Feel angry at the restrictions imposed on me, feel shame when I don’t complete the task, and feel isolated from my friends who are (from my perspective) humming along with their challenge. This is a recipe for emotional meltdown or shutdown (take your pick). It’s no wonder I’ve always hated them.

And yet I continued to be drawn to them. I joined the 218 workouts in 2018 Facebook Group, and finished my 218th workout on December 30 of that year. Not wanting my accomplishment to waste its sweetness in the desert air, I wrote about it here.

Turns out, that year started a trend on my part of finishing up my yearly FB group challenge of 2XX workouts in 20XX (done in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022) on the last or next-to-last day of the year. And of course I documented these for fitness posterity on the blog here, here,and here. In each post, I talked about being a just-in-time delivery gal, joking about soggy dog walks in late December, and finally making it over the finish line. Honestly, not such happy reports, given that I in fact finished the challenges.

Which takes me to 2023. As of today (Sept 20), I’m at 176 out of 223 workouts for 2023. This leaves me… chick-a-chick-a-chick-a-chick-a… (sound of mental calculation, FYI) 47 workouts left to make my goal. And I have… (insert whatever sound you like reflective of subtraction) 103 days left to do them.

How did this happen? How did I get more workouts done this year than the previous years? I think there are a few reasons. I did a lot of activity with friends (and family, and friends’ dogs and family’s dogs) this year. My big priority for the summer was to spend time with the people I care about, and for the most part it worked out. Injury got in the way of my trip to Canada, but as Arnold Schwarzenegger says in Terminator, “I’ll be back.”

I also traveled more this year, by car and plane, and did active fun things at my destinations. I’m going to a conference in Atlanta in November, and will be doing some active activities while I’m not sitting in sessions.

Finally, I’ve been in physical therapy for about a month for sciatica. I’m feeling a lot better and stronger. Yay! I’m also doing PT exercises at home regularly to keep that trend going.

Of course, anything can happen, and I don’t for a minute doubt my capacity for procrastination. However, I’ll take this moment and say I’m happy with how things are going. You, dear readers, will be among the first to hear when I cross that 223 workout finish line. Until then, I’ll keep it moving, moving.


Does a Fancy Women Bike Ride Make Sense?

September 17 was the day of the Fancy Women Bike Ride around the world. This year, there were rides in over 200 cities.

Riding with a group of women can be a joyous occasion, as you can see from the video of this year’s ride in Izmir, Turkey, where it all began in 2013.

After the ride though, our local organizer commented that she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the name. Did it exclude people who didn’t want to dress up, or didn’t feel they had anything fancy enough to wear?

That led to a lively discussion among participants about the merits of dressing in different ways as a safety measure. Many of us had found that being super femme was protective. Drivers tended to give us more space. One woman noted that going from a gender-neutral coat to something more fitted and colourful had a noticeable impact on drivers around her.

However, this doesn’t always work. Female cyclists face harassment and bad driving at twice the rate of male cyclists, according to one study. They are particularly vulnerable to close passes and dooring because they tend to keep to the side of the road. But if they take the lane, they are sometimes threatened by aggressive drivers. Anecdotally, this was the experience in our group too.

Even within our group, some felt more vulnerable than others. The local organizer of Black Girls Do Bike rides said there just aren’t many women like her on the road so it always feels a bit uncomfortable. The woman who organizes rides focused on safety for kids (and brought her two along). The trans women who arrived at the last possible moment, hung back on the ride, and didn’t join the discussion until they heard us talking about “female presenting” cyclists.

My very unscientific answer to whether we need a Fancy Women Bike Ride is yes. It’s not just for women in places where riding is relatively safe for them. It’s for women who are marginalized in our community, and for women in communities where women are marginalized. It’s for women who don’t want to be fancy but want to be safe moving around on a bicycle. And it’s for women like me who see being fancy as part of their subversive feminism and celebrate the pink.

A group of women on the Ottawa ride stopped for a picture with their bikes in an urban area. They are wearing regular clothes and shoes instead of riding gear and sneakers.

Bicycles lined up beside an ice cream truck where we ended our ride. feminism, fitness and ice cream – it doesn’t get any better than this.

Dian Harper lives and swims (and cycles) in Ottawa.


Christine’s wrist-spy is not a double agent

I was sick last week and started hunting around for some sort of ‘sick day’ mode on my wrist-spy (a.k.a. my Apple watch.) I was hoping to find an easy way to stop all of my fitness reminders from going off and to put my various habit and goal trackers on hold for the day.

When I couldn’t find a sick mode, I did an online search and quickly discovered that there *is* no sick mode. And that, apparently, a lot of experts feel that the Apple watch’s reminders and streak-based tracking can be harmful for people, creating an expectation that the wearers will push themselves harder and harder and that they won’t have rest days.

I totally understand their concerns. In other contexts, I have often fallen victim to the sort of pass/fail mindset that they are referring to and I can see why the streak-based tracking and the regular suggestions to increase your goals can lead to that sort of trap

Luckily, however, my wrist-spy doesn’t tip me into that sort of thinking.

(Your mileage may vary, of course, but this is between me and my wrist-spy. Please do what works for you.)

You see, my wrist-spy is spying on me FOR ME.

Its job is to keep track of things that I want to keep track of but that I struggle to write down or plan because my ADHD brain finds too boring to record.

I don’t think of it as a double-agent, pretending to work for me but really working for the fitness industry, reporting my less-than-perfect scores to some authority that will judge me against a professional athlete.

So, I use the information it gives me for encouragement and for motivation but if I can’t follow my plan on a given day then I enact the Rita Rudner rule:

credit: AZ Quotes Image description: a photo of comedienne Rita Rudner’s face on the left hand side and on the right is a black rectangle with white text in the centre that reads ‘I never panic when I get lost. I just change where it is I want to go. – Rita Rudner -” and below that is white and yellow text that reads ‘AZ Quotes’

What does this have to do with my fitness tracking?

Well, I don’t panic if I can’t reach my planned fitness destination – I change my destination!

If I have had a hell of a day and I can’t meet my stand goal? I change my stand goal.

If my suggested fitness minutes are overwhelming today? I change my fitness goal to something that feels reasonable.

If my move goal is impossible? I dial that number back until it feels doable.

Yeah, I know that some of you might see that as ‘cheating’ but here’s how I see it:

My wrist-spy’s job is to help me see trends in my activities so I can make changes that help me feel good overall.

I feel encouraged by the trends in my fitness (and by streaks of activity) but I recognize that ‘doing what I can’ is going to look different on different days.

However, my wrist-spy has no way of knowing how I am feeling or how busy I am on a given day.

Changing my goals for that day lets me adjust for the fact that the numbers for ‘what I can’ may look different from day to day without having to lose the momentum I feel when I see notifications like these:

a photo of an Apple Watch on a person's wrist. The text on the screen says 'Achievement Longest Move Streak' and 'Goal Achieved.'
image description: a photo of the screen of my wrist-spy showing two notifications, one that reads ‘Achievement Longest Move Streak’ and one that reads ‘Goal Achieved.’ My left wrist and the green strap of my watch are the background of the photo.

Making needed, temporary changes in the goals that my wrist-spy tracks helps me keep my eye on the big picture, on my true goals – lots of movement, increased mobility, an overall feeling of well-being – instead of getting tangled in the idea that I have to have the same capacity every single day.

I don’t change my goals often. I think I have maybe done it three times in the 10 months that I have had my wrist-spy. However, knowing that I *can* change them lets today-me be in charge of my goals instead of letting yesterday-me make all the decisions. And for me, that strikes the perfect balance between choice and momentum without ever making me feeling like I am being dragged into something I don’t want to do.

So, last week, even though I couldn’t engage ‘sick mode’ on my watch, I didn’t let my wrist-spy’s reports get into the wrong hands. As my spy’s handler, I made the file ‘eyes only’ and managed the data in the way I saw fit.

And by all of that, I mean that I adjusted my goals to match my situation that day and it all turned out just fine.

fitness · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Sam is setting some September intentions

Okay, it’s 18 days in. But September is blazing by so fast!

I’m responding to my friend Todd’s challenge and setting some September intentions. We both struggle with winter though our reasons aren’t exactly the same. I’ve made my peace with the cold and the snow and for me, it’s mostly about the dark. Todd has it worse, I think, not liking either!

Here’s his post.

Here’s my September intentions:

🍁 Add in one Zwift training session and one long ride a week.

🍁 Now that I can hike, find places to walk with Cheddar that are new. It’s part of my “get to know Guelph” better plan.

🍁 Try one new class at the fancy gym.

I’ve got a longer more detailed plan for the winter and fitness but I like the idea of starting with 3 concrete September things!