Cardio-vélo à deux voix/ Spinning in two voices

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I am a bit spinning-crazed.  My friend Joh and I did the Bike Rally together last year, and now we go on workout dates. Last week, I dragged her to a fancy spinning studio for the first time.  I wanted to know how she felt about it, so we had an email conversation.  Joh is from Quebec and makes me step up and use my French, so here is our conversation, in two voices, hers in French and mine in English — Cate

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Hi Joh — so I took you spinning in a real “spinning studio” for the first time last night.  I looked at you red-faced and damp at the end of class and thought, “I need to hear how this was for her.”  What did you think?

Pour moi, les dix premiers kilomètres sont toujours très ardus, que ce soit sur la route ou en cardiovélo. Ce fut le cas hier soir, lorsque j’ai cru devoir abandonner au début… jusqu’à ce que je réalise que j’approchais le fameux 10 km où je prends mon second souffle.

That’s interesting that you had the same experience with spinning as you do on the road.  What happened when you got your “second wind”?

C’est alors que j’ai réellement commencé à avoir du plaisir, à entrer dans le jeu, à apprécier la pénombre et la musique, à pousser et tirer sur les pédales au rythme de celle-ci sans réfléchir à autre chose que d’écouter les instructions et de porter mon attention sur les deux chiffres au cadran (de tour/minute et de watts). Ceci a duré pour les prochaines 20 prochaines minutes, jusqu’à ce que l’instructeur, Brian, nous demande (ou plutôt, nous intime l’ordre) de nous lever.

I’m glad you found the fun of it — you know I love the fact that it feels like a game or a party.  There IS pleasure in pushing yourself this hard with the music flowing through you.  How did you feel about the way Brian structures the class?  He can be a bit … bossy, lol. 

C’est alors que l’instructeur, Brian, nous a demandé (ou plutôt, nous a ordonné) de nous lever. J’ai obéi pour la première ronde, mais au moment de répéter l’exercice, la rebelle en moi s’est exprimée : il est malade, pas question! Je déteste me lever sur les pédales et en plus, j’ai terriblement peur à mes genoux. Et je me dis que ce n’est pas quelque chose que je fais sur la route, donc à quoi bon m’y exercer en cardiovélo!

I actually think that’s really important — you have to listen to your own body and do what feels right.  I think that’s something I wish everyone understood about spinning or any kind of class — there is this combination between the group pressure of everyone pushing you, which I really find motivating — and you also that you just do what feels right.  If you feel like standing doesn’t work for you or hurts your knees, don’t stand!  How did that work for you?

À la place, chaque fois que la classe se levait, j’augmentais mes rotations et je gardais la cadence à plus de 100 tours/minute, comme un sprint. Tout en espérant qu’il ne m’interpellerait pas devant les autres… et puis, si ç’avait été le cas, j’aurais prétendu ne pas avoir bien compris les instructions… en souhaitant que mon accent français serait assez convaincuant! Mais non, il m’a laissé tranquille et les intervalles se sont poursuivis, ainsi que le fil de mes pensées : assis-debout-sprint-augmente la tension-diminue la tension et on recommence… combien de temps reste-t-il? Est-ce une classe de 45 minutes ou de 50 minutes? Est-ce que je vais me rendre jusqu’au bout? Ah, quelqu’un vient de partir… mais non, pas moi. Je vais terminer ceci, à tout prix! J’aurais besoin d’une autre serviette, la mienne est toute trempée déjà.

LOL — you have captured exactly the same inner dialogue I have during every class.  In many classes, I’m arguing with myself about whether I could actually just get up and leave or not. But you stayed!  

Eh oui, je suis restée, tout en me disant qu’il faut être masochiste sur les bords, et que l’instructeur doit être un peu sadique. Mais, en même temps, que c’est relaxant de ne pas penser à autre chose que ces deux chiffres, répéter les coups de pédale, suivre le rythme de la musique, regarder le tableau de bord et me comparer aux autres participants.

I think you just hit that exact moment of presence that really makes spinning work for me — the numbers seem abstract, but they give you something to fix on and stay focused.  Like an object of meditation. And everything just gets very…. now.  

I know you’re strong, but I was impressed at how you stayed in it.  I tried not to look at you too much but I did look at your numbers on the screen up above the class.  You were very … persistent, lol.  How did you feel at the end?

Vers la fin, j’ai été surprise de l’annonce du dernier sprint. Déjà? Yé! J’ai réussi! Je vais monter ça à 125 tours/minute pour terminer en puissance! Et voilà, c’est fini!! Je suis trempée de bord en bord, essoufflée, rouge, mais souriante et heureuse.

Thanks for playing with me ;-).  Will you come again?

Absolument! J’ai assez aimé l’expérience pour la répéter! Quand est-ce qu’on y retourne? 🙂

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives in Toronto where she works as an educator and strategic change consultant in academic healthcare and other socially accountable spaces. She blogs here on the second Friday of every month.

Joh est traductrice (de l’anglais au français) et correctrice, originaire de Montréal et installée à Toronto depuis 2014, où elle a découvert un nouveau réseau d’amateurs de plein air et de sport. Elle pratique le vélo, la randonnée pédestre et le pilates aussi souvent que possible.

Running is contagious? It depends on who and where and when you are

A group of women of different sizes and colors, all running wearing "too fat to run?" tank shirts

There’s a new study out in Nature this week reporting the results of tracking 1.1 million runners who ran a total of 350km over five years and used an app that tracked their runs and social network ties to other networked runners.  They made the following conclusions:

1) exercise is socially contagious and … its contagiousness varies with the relative activity of and gender relationships between friends.

2) Less active runners [their activities]influence more active runners[to do physical activity], but not the reverse.

3) Both men and women influence men, while only women influence other women.

This is interesting.

For today, I’m just going to talk about 2).  3) is very interesting as well, and I will blog about it in the next week or so.

The article points out a real asymmetry in influence patterns between consistent vs. inconsistent  and also more active vs. less active runners.  Scientists (and philosophers who pay attention to science) love asymmetry.  Why?  Because it points to something complex or unexpected that’s happening.  Or it shines light on some phenomenon that spurs us to do more work or try to better understand it.

You might think, if I’m using a fitness app (the researchers won’t say which one they partnered with), and trying to develop as a consistent runner, that being networked with a bunch of other people who run regularly would motivate me to lace up my shoes and start pounding the pavement.  According to the article, that’s not the case.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  If my fitness app social network friend X (seasoned runner) sees that I (newbie runner) got out there and ran when it was raining and chilly, that influenced X to get out there, too.  But not the other way around.  Here’s the way the researchers put it:

Comparisons to those ahead of us may motivate our own self-improvement, while comparisons to those behind us may create ‘competitive behaviour to protect one’s superiority’… Our findings are consistent with both arguments, but the effects are much larger for downward comparisons than for upward comparisons.

That is, the competitive urge with those less active than I am is stronger than the motivational urge to keep up with/approach those more active than I am.

For those of you who want the numbers, here they are:

Suppose, for example, that a runner (A) usually runs 6 km at a pace of 7 min km−1 (0.143 km min−1) and their friend (B) usually runs 6 km at a pace of 8 min km−1 (0.125 km min−1). An extra kilometre run by B (an increase from 6 to 7 km) causes A to increase their running distance by 0.3 km (from 6 to 6.3 km). Also, a 0.01 km min−1 increase in runner B’s pace (from 0.125 to 0.135 km min−1) causes runner A to increase their pace by 0.003 km min−1 (from 0.143 to 0.146 km min−1).

As a long-time active person, this seems both right and wrong.  Having riding and paddling and yoga partners is, for me, key to maintaining and improving on regular exercise habits.  However, when I see myself as not like my more active friends (Steph, I’m talking about you!),  their (exhausting-sounding to me) activity regimens don’t influence me to join in.

In 2005, I bought my first real road bike, encouraged by my bike racer friend Rachel (thanks, again, Rachel!). who rode with me, introduced me to groups of cyclists, and offered all kinds of help and support.  I developed a real-life cohort of cyclist friends, with whom I would ride and also do other social activities.  Many of these folks have become dear friends and the core of my social life/family of choice.

The past couple of years I’ve been much less active.  My relationship ended and that was a major loss.  For whatever reasons, I just couldn’t see my way clear to getting back out on the bike.  My active friends stayed with me, luring/bribing/tricking/dragging me out there (yes, I mean you, Janet).  And it’s always fun (well, mostly) to move around and be active with my friends.

However, attempts by my friends and by me to motivate myself to rejoin them in their habits haven’t been so successful.  I wanted to do the PWA ride with Samantha and the other Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers and friends last summer, but didn’t end up getting myself trained (and had some knee problems that I didn’t address).  I’ve canceled on a bunch of other planned activities as well.

So from my perspective, having a social network of more active folks around is not the solution for kick-starting or restarting physical activity habits.

For philosophers, we might say this is a necessary but not sufficient condition.  That means that without my social network of active friends I might never get out there, but having them there doesn’t guarantee that I’ll be active, too.

I’m happy to report that it seems to me as if my activity levels and satisfaction are steadily increasing these days.  I think I’m finally recovering/bouncing back/getting back in the saddle (literally) again.  What’s the cause?  Probably a bunch of things.  Can I tell you exactly what things and how much they’ve influenced me?  Nope.

Note:  In 2016, the McArthur Foundation (the people who fund those “genius” grants) announced that they were going to fund a $100 million grant for one group to solve a BIG social problem. One of the submissions was from a group that’s trying to crack the problem of behavior change, including how to change our health-related habits.  Read more about it here. I wish them lots of luck.

I’ll end here with a question:  how do you think your social connections with more and less active people affect you?  Are you looking for motivation?  Does competition get you moving?  What about those Strava QOMs or other app personal bests?  I’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

 

Fit and Far From Home… (Guest Post)

Last week I was in La Belle Province running a workshop and was hoping to try to hop back onto the fitness wagon. I’ve been travelling a lot lately for work and haven’t always had the opportunity/timing/inclination/energy to work out. I’ve added a few pounds to my mid-section and really need to shake it off. I’m not ready to go pants shopping again!  On top of that I’ll be competing in the World’s Masters Heavy Events Championships in June in Iceland and need to keep prepping for the 2 day competition.

Normally when I travel, I’ll scope out my hotel options ahead and ensure I get a place that meets my standards. My needs really aren’t outrageous, but I need 2 things: a great breakfast and a decent gym. By great breakfast, I mean eggs cooked when I order them, not sometime before I crawled out of bed and by decent gym, I’d like a working treadmill and some weights. Dumbbells or some kind of weight machine is acceptable. Since I’ve been travelling the last 3 out of 4 weeks, I ran out of time to scope out the hotel, and left the details to a colleague I’ve never travelled with and recommendations from a client who recommended the hotel solely for price. In my colleague’s defense, I didn’t tell him about my “high” standards.

This week I’m travelling with a vegetarian who doesn’t drink much, so I figured I’d get the opportunity to eat healthy and not be tempted by all the things that impact my waistline. He also likes to work out. Perfect, I thought! A good influence! All the stars were aligned.  Oh, but wait!

I brought my bathing suit, in case they had a pool. I peeked in the pool area on day 1 and saw it was full of local children having a swimming lesson. Seems like laps were an unlikely scenario.  I entered the nearby gym and turned on the light. Hmm…no lights at 6:00…perhaps it wasn’t used much?  Well, I thought, they have 2 treadmills, that’s good…if my colleague and I are both in the gym, we can both run. On closer inspection, I realized the room was really half-sized, and just had a wall of mirrors, and one treadmill.

The weight machine was missing parts, but had a weird bar attached to pulleys.

The weight bench sat alone, and the dumbbells were nowhere to be seen.

The treadmill was super noisy, and once it got up to half-speed the tread started slipping. Fearing injury, I stopped the treadmill and got off.

The elliptical was also loudly squeaky and needed some serious maintenance.

Within a few minutes of my arrival, my colleague joined me. We did some back squats with the weird bar, but it was challenging as the pulleys were very mobile and would flip 180 degrees at random. Eventually we gave up and went for a run, where there were no sidewalks and lots of cars. Turns out, I haven’t had a real run in a while, so had to give up pretty quickly when I realized my lungs were going to explode. My colleague kindly ran back with me, possibly fearing he’d have to call 911, delivered me back to the hotel then left to finish his run.

I showered, checked email, and went out for poutine.

Day 2, I was inspired by a friend’s burpee challenge and did some in my room. The room has an excess of furniture, but I managed to squeeze some burpees between the beds. Then I realized I could yoga. I signed up for a year of yoga online and started working through it. (Because online yoga is somewhat affordable). Considering how tight my hamstrings have been from flying, it was actually hugely beneficial…until I had to spread out in multiple directions. Done. Just like that. I swear, this hotel doesn’t want me to get healthy!

Luckily I’ve got friends who are looking out for me and in no time at all, after posting my woes on Facebook, had several recommendations for hotel / bodyweight workouts. Looks like I’ve still got options! Now, I just have to stay off the poutine!

 

Sandi is a feminist in the throes of what some would call her mid-life crisis, having gone from exercising only her mind to lifting weights and throwing heavy objects.  Her natural curiosity and need to know everything serves her well in a career in research as well as all things health, science and well…life really.

 

​No alcohol for 40 days: Facebook challenge turns into major lifestyle change (Guest post)

Image description: A pint of Guinness

Image description: A pint of Guinness

Hi, my name is Muriel, and I no longer drink.

It started simply enough. A friend said on Facebook in late February that he was looking to give up something for Lent. I suggested, somewhat casually, that we give up drinking. No alcohol for 40 days and 40 nights. It meant saying goodbye to a big part of my life, at least temporarily. My friend agreed. And so, two days later on March 1st, my new life as a church lady began.

Now, Lent is over, Easter Sunday has come and gone, Christ has risen from dead, and I am still not drinking.

I have decided not to drink for many reasons. Although it started simply, the origins of my drinking problem are not really simple at all, and the results, so far anyway, are startling. There is nothing like being clear-eyed and bushy-tailed every single day.

When I finally stopped, I had been drinking four nights out of seven. And I did not consider myself to be an alcoholic or to have a serious drinking problem or even to have much of a problem at all. But I did many stupid things while under the influence, including angry texting and emailing in response to conflict, and I lost a few friends along the way. It had became too much of a price to pay.

Image description: A table in a bar. On the table there are beer bottles and cans and glasses of beer.

Image description: A table in a bar. On the table there are beer bottles and cans and glasses of beer.

Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health makes a distinction between physical dependence on alcohol and problem drinking. It says of the latter: “This term describes alcohol use that causes problems in a person’s life, but does not include physical dependence.” Such dependence involves tolerance to the effects of alcohol and withdrawal symptoms when a person stops. I am not physically dependent, thank god.

A big part of the decision had to do with health. When I announced to my doctor that I had quit, she was all smiles. She said about drinking: “Medical research definitely shows that more than one glass of a day for women is associated with a higher incidence of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, stroke and breast cancer.”

I had chosen health.

I also, I must admit, wanted to lose weight. And it has been a miracle of sorts. Though I don’t weigh any less, I feel lighter.

It just seemed to me not to make sense to sweat doing Zumba for an hour, tire myself out while line dancing for another hour, stretch my endurance while swimming for more than 20 minutes, in one week, only to throw all that effort away by sitting in a bar for a few hours and getting bloated from drinking Guinness.

I think, in retrospect, I drank because I was angry, stressed and sad. I needed to blur the edges of the day.

I would always have a glass of wine on Tuesdays, which is actually my Fridays, since I work weekends. On Wednesdays, I would go to the nearby Irish pub for takeout, and while I waited for my wings, I would have a Guinness. Thursday was and is my big night to go out, so I would drink then too. Then on Friday and Saturday nights, I would drink, because, you know, it was Friday and Saturday night. Any excuse, any day of the week, would do.

I drank everything from Guinness to Pinot Grigio, rum and coke on the rocks to gin and tonic on the rocks, Coors Light when there was nothing else around, bottles of homemade peach wine with my Newfie friends, and maybe even the odd shot of Tequila Rose.

Being angry comes from being a woman in my 50s and divorced. Being stressed comes from working in the media and struggling financially as a single parent of young adult children. Being sad comes from having lost my father in October 2011, who had faith in me, and having a mother, 90, who is suffering from dementia. It also comes from not being where I want to be at this point in my life. And it comes from having lost friends.

I have been told that I have “a complex history of grief and loss.”

Late last year, I was kicked out of a single moms group I called the cabal. We had been getting together every few months for the past 10 years. One member decided she didn’t like me anymore. A dog walker, she convinced the others to exclude me from the pack. It hurt and it felt like grade nine all over again. I meant to ignore this unwelcome development, but after a night in the bar, I told her and the two others in the group by email exactly how I felt. The dog walker responded by sending me an open letter to my therapist to explain her side of the story. In the end, I lost three friends in one go, and this was my rock bottom.

I do think, when people are unkind, it’s best to walk away, but there’s no walking away when you’ve been drinking.

Yes, life is not easy, and we all have problems.

Drinking, however, is not the answer. And not drinking means: I no longer wake up with hangover. I am calmer. My thinking is not disordered by alcohol. I am much more aware of what is going in my life and around me. I am an introvert and drinking helped me be more of an extrovert. Now, without the booze, I need more down time because there is nothing blocking the stimulating world outside. There is also no filter between me and my feelings, and now when I am sad, I am really sad. The feelings are intense. It can feel like the end of the world, if only for a few moments.

But overall, I feel better. I am alive. And I am less angry. Imagine that.
And although our society is awash in alcohol, and people my age drink when they socialize, and I am aware of who is knocking it back around me, I have chosen not to be a part of all that. They say older women are the new hard drinkers. In my case, I was headed down that road. But sobriety is my path now.

There are lots of things to drink and they don’t need to contain alcohol.

God has granted me some “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.” Now, I am trying to be brave, and I am happy with the new me.

Image description:A headshot of Muriel, a white woman in her early 50s, photographed against a set of silver gym lockers. Muriel is smiling and wearing white swim goggles on her forehead.

Image description:A headshot of Muriel, photographed against a set of silver gym lockers. Muriel is smiling and wearing white swim goggles on her forehead.

Muriel Draaisma is a mother, dog owner and an online news reporter with CBC Toronto.

Spring on the Leslie Street Spit!

It’s spring! There’s light in the evenings and it’s warm enough to ride. After a rainy day Wednesday the skies cleared and so after work Sarah and I scarfed down some post work crackers and cheese and got out our bikes. We did a short loop out to the end of the Leslie Street Spit. I’ve blogged about the area before.

There’s a lot of wildlife. So many birds. And there are signs that say, “Please brake for snakes.”

Look, here’s a bunny! (There were lots of bunnies.)

Mandatory selfie with CN Tower in the background.

Me pouting about the 20 km/hr speed limits for bikes!

Oh, and you can watch our ride here: https://www.relive.cc/view/949656485

Shaking things up outside the gym

By MarthaFitat55

A couple of months ago I decided I wanted to shake things up on the exercise front. It’s been a bad winter and my trail walks have not been on the schedule due to the impeccable timing of storms and the subsequent blockage of said trails with snow and ice.

Also, to my distress and annoyance, the new fitness centre the city just finished building near my home has not yet opened (soon, they say, soon, but so far the Image shows the word Flourish in capital letters against a dark background of flowers.doors are still shut!).

There are only so many times going up and down the stairs in my house can offer an effective number of steps before I am bored to tears. My trainer, bless her, offered to create a program that I can mix and match from to ensure variety and coverage in between sessions.

Now while there are times I feel like I am in my own real-life version of a Choose Your own Adventure storybook, creating my own routine by choosing one to two options from each of column A, column B and column C really works for me.

The exercises are simple as my dyslexia often causes me to reverse positions, choose the wrong direction consistently, or just make a complete hash of something I have learned to do multiple times. Even now as I think about doing a series of bird dog repetitions, I have to think very, very consciously which arm to lift and which leg to push out.

The exercises also do not require any special equipment. I have lots of tubing thanks to physio, and I did buy a couple of bands to avoid falling over knots in bands I made myself. My laundry room provides useful bottles to serve as goblets for squats or wonky looking kettle bells, and my stairs offer leverage for split squats and stretches.

So I have a program, I have a way to implement it, now I need to fit in the routine into my daily schedule. Experts say forming a habit requires at least 30 days of practice to develop and maintain. I was interrupted in my new habit by overseas travel but I made up for it by getting a whack of steps in and getting a new Fitbit badge.

I am back now and have set up a spreadsheet. I even found a cute star jpg to mark off the days. I have set an alarm on my Fitbit to act as a reminder. I work from home as a writer and researcher, which means I do a lot of sitting. I know I should move more, but I often get lost in my work when I am on a roll. The Fitbit alarm is a vibrating one and it is annoying as heck, but I’ll take whatever works to jolt me back to the here and now.

However, despite my plans, I know I need an incentive to aim for. I have decided once I reach 30 stars, just like Starbucks, I’m going to get a little treat. So yes, I am a little detailed in my plan, but as I say to my clients, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I’ll let you know how I make out next month.

I am curious though what you FIFI readers do to ensure you keep fitness on schedule in your lives. Is this something only women worry about because of competing demands from work, life and family? Or is this a gender neutral consideration? And what incentives do you use to keep yourself going? Or is a fly by the seat of your pants approach one that works for you? Share in the comments!

— Martha enjoys getting her fit on by lifting all the heavy things in the gym.

Early season practicing (Guest post)

Back in January, I started my throwing season early. Five months early! I had heard about the Key West Games, that they were “all that, and more!” and felt the need to give it a try. I was a bit nervous about flying to Florida with the new immigration and travel rules, especially since I was travelling with Juan, my trusty pitchfork. I was fortunate that I didn’t run into problems, and that my pitchfork is legitimately considered sporting equipment so I was able to check it with little fanfare.

I don’t have a lot of girlfriends, and definitely don’t do the stereotypical girlfriend things, so when I had the opportunity to join my friend Kathy on this trip, I jumped at the chance. We flew together, rented a car and drove out to Marathon and spent the day before competition sight-seeing. We flew in Thursday and flew home Sunday, so it was quick, but we made the best of our time. As part of our play day, we stopped at a beach, where Kathy taught me some new footwork for throwing the stone. I was able to find an extremely non-aero-dynamic brick to practice with and worked it over for a half-hour. The new technique felt more comfortable than my previous and my throw immediately looked better, even if the distance wasn’t greatly increased.

Our competition was a women’s only field. This is a bit unusual, because the games are often focused on professional men, with masters, amateurs and women taking the back seat. We have our share of fans, but the sponsors and festivals are generally paying the pros to come in, and the rest of us pay our own way. We actually had a large enough group of women, we were able to break into 2 groups: open and masters. Throwing with women closer to my own age was also nice as I was a little more competitive than when throwing against university athletes younger than my child. The crowd loved having us there and I may even have made it into one of the Florida newspapers.

As per usual, this group of women were fantastic. Most of them were strangers to me when I arrived, and they were very welcoming and made me feel like we were old friends in no time. I connected with several on Facebook, so have been able to follow their adventures every weekend over the last 3 months. If I had unlimited time, energy and money, I would have happily joined them a few more times.

As the Florida season seems to be wrapping up, mine in Ontario is just getting started. We’re getting ready to schedule practices and I’ve managed to get myself into some early games, including flying out to Victoria, BC for a master’s competition in May. As my season is ramping up so is my work travel, so I’m looking at ways to squeeze in as many practices as possible over the next couple of months. It seems weird that at 49 I’m still improving my game – but am excited and grateful I can do it. The early start has me itching to get the equipment out and start practicing. I’m thinking Florida was the kick start I needed this year!

 

Sandi is a feminist in the throes of what some would call her mid-life crisis, having gone from exercising only her mind to lifting weights and throwing heavy objects.  Her natural curiosity and need to know everything serves her well in a career in research as well as all things health, science and well…life really.