traveling

Tracy heads to India

This post has nothing to do with fitness, working out, running, or health. But it does have to do with the realization of a personal and persistent dream I’ve had since I was a teenager. I don’t know where it came from, but if there is one destination in the world that I have fixated on, yearned to see, and not yet traveled to, it’s India.

And guess where I’m going this afternoon? Yep. You guessed it. India. I’m traveling with four colleagues to the Namaste Educational Academy in Pondicherry, a coastal town in the south. We’re part of an international conference organized by The Sahitya, “a hub of faculty, scholars and lovers of literature, language, and culture.” It’s an international and interdisciplinary conference on Feminist and Gender Studies in a Global Perspective. The venue, Bonsejour, looks absolutely enchanting.

Image description: Bonsejour, a stately pure white building fronted by palm trees and a lush green lawn. The sky is bright and white.
Image description: Bonsejour, a stately pure white building fronted by palm trees and a lush green lawn. The sky is bright and white.

India is a long way and it would be a shame to go for just a few days. So we’re going to do a bit of touring of the region as well. I expect to walk a lot and take tons of pictures.

If my posts read more like travel logs than feminist fitness entries over the next couple of weeks, please forgive me. I will try to inject a fitness or health spin into each post, but I have made a decision not to pack my running gear this time because it’s just going to be too hot and I want to slow down and soak in my surroundings, not blast past them (well, okay, I’m not exactly a blast past type of runner, but still).

On the recommendation of seasoned travelers to India, I have put together a little kit that contains Immodium, gravol, and activated charcoal. I’ll be purchasing some Tums at the airport, just I’m not entirely sure of the use of the charcoal, but it’s supposed to be good for the gut.

Stay tuned for more over the next couple of weeks about India.

fitness · Guest Post

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.

 

accessibility

Academic conferences as sitting marathons

rows of blue chairs
Image description: Rows of blue plastic chairs

Readers of the blog have heard lots about my standing desk. I’m in love! See Celebrating my standing desks. Like Emma and her treadmill desk, I was an instant convert. Now not everyone is convinced. See here. YMMV, as they say. But the standing desk works well for me. I’m a fidgeter by nature. I like pacing.

In the past my favorite working state has always been physically exhausted and mentally alert. I used to ride my bike and then rest, writing at my desk. But back pain and lousy sitting posture got me to investigate standing desks.

At the same time a whole bunch of research has come out about the health risks of sitting. We’re plagued by sedentary disease, as they call it. Sitting is the new smoking, blah blah blah. I’ve written lots about it. See But can you sit in the evening if you have an active job?, Sedentary athletes, not a contradiction in terms, and Stand up, get out of that chair, and get moving.

Here’s the most recent from the Globe and Mail,

“The list of ills associated with hours of uninterrupted sitting includes elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions, which occur as your muscles switch into a “dormant” mode that compromises their ability to break down fats and sugars. Crucially, exercising before or after work isn’t enough to counteract these effects – sitting all day is harmful no matter how fit and active you are. “

Tracy has wondered about ableism of all this “sitting kills” talk. Not everyone can stand or get up and walk around. “Just Stand” as a slogan seems to assume that standing is an option. And not all bodies can stand.

Many health campaigns make this mistake. It’s just like not everyone can take the stairs, ELEVATOR SHAMING and Ableism: Why Pro-Stairs Health Campaigns Kind Of Suck.

I’ve had two thoughts about this. First, I’ve thought we need to consider of the health risks of extended sitting for wheelchair users in our discussions of the health risks of sitting. There are discussions of active sitting and about standing wheelchairs. Second, we can’t assume that standing is an option for everyone. It’s not. My back problems mean I can’t sit all day. Other people have bodies that can’t stand. Human bodies and abilities vary.

A search for disability and sitting also turn up the concern that the two are causally linked. The obvious connection is the one I’ve mentioned, that wheelchair users sit more than non wheelchair users. A less obvious connection is that those who sit a lot are at greater risk for needing a wheelchair.

See Coach Potato Today, Wheelchair Tomorrow?

“Here’s another reason desk jockeys need to get up and move. Researchers are finding that sedentary behaviors like sitting even just an hour extra per day can up your risk for disabilities in later life — even if you are a moderately active gym rat.

The study published Wednesday in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health is the first to show that sedentary behavior alone may be an independent risk factor for disability, separate from lack of moderate physical activity, its authors say.”

For me the benefits of standing aren’t just physical. I’ve found it changes my writing. I’m more engaged, on task, alert. Less day dreaming and random web browsing. Now I tend to save that for when I flop on the sofa with my smart phone. As I posted to Facebook one day, if sitting is the new smoking, is flopping your bed with your smart phone the new heroin?

The world seems to be changing fast on this front. I know lots of people with standing desks. My partner’s workplace has standing meetings. They’re livelier, more engaged, and shorter he reports. I’ve gone for walks with my PhD students talk about thesis chapters. They humour me. I’m the supervisor, after all.

But some work related challenges remain.

First, there’s air travel. Just flew to California twice this post month. Five hours sitting. On the way home my anti sitting instincts were confirmed by my seat mate, a cancer researcher, also at a conference.  He says he’s read the research and is convinced. He sets an alarm and gets up every 20 minutes. With the permission of the flight attendants he stands at the back of the plane. But we can’t all do that. Should we organize turns?

Second, when you get there there’s the conference itself. If my regular working day is a 5 or 10 km run, conferences are sitting marathons. Papers started at 9 am and sessions ended at 9 pm with very few breaks. Most sessions came in three hour chunks sometimes without breaks. Now that I’m not used to sitting, it’s worse. I fidget, practise martial arts wrist locks, and then finally stand at the back. That’s okay but since everyone else is sitting even the speaker, it feels odd.

That’s a long day of sitting. Four days in a row.

Looking around at this conference I started to wonder about how we might change things. Airports now, in recognition that people will be sitting for a long time on their flights, have gotten better with stand up options. The London airport, in my home town has two long standing counters with electrical outlets close to the departure gates.

I thought that some of those counters at the back of conference rooms would work well.

Speakers, for sure, ought to stand. From my days in radio I know they’d sound better, more alive.

But the audience too might be more awake and engaged.

Third, there’s teaching. Not me, I stand and walk but I do worry about my students. I do try to get people up at least once in a one hour lecture.

I wonder what other changes we could make? Ideas?

Uncategorized

Hiking and biking on the academic talk circuit

Academics travel a lot to give talks, share our work, attend conferences, discuss our ideas. It’s part of what we do.

(Conference travel is written about in the campus humour novel, Small World, by British author David Lodge, though it’s set several decades ago. The Guardian book club discusses it here. Norms of behavior while traveling an academic have changed since then.)

I’ve written before about exercising on the road. (See, for example, Finding my inner Arnold in Peterborough.) Mostly though these have been individual solutions. But lately a new thing has been happening. In part, thanks to the blog, I think, and our growing community.

I love that my reputation for physical activity now precedes me. The first inkling something was changing was last fall when I was invited to keynote a conference, with short notice. Perhaps the result of the gendered conference campaign, I don’t know. I couldn’t do it but the organizer tried to make it more attractive with the offer of a bike ride. I wouldn’t even have to miss my long weekend ride. And I needn’t bring my own bike on the plane. I could borrow his wife’s road bike. Tempting. (Though I did wonder what his wife might think of the offer. What bike would she ride?) A beautiful part of the world where I’d never ridden before. But still, I couldn’t do it. Bike ride possibilities didn’t make the conflicts in my schedule go away.

Last week I was in San Diego for the Pacific Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association and the conference bike ride idea finally worked out thanks to guest contributor Sharon Crasnow. See Guest Post-Cycling after 60.  Sharon generously arranged me for to borrow her daughter’s road bike. I packed cycling clothes and my helmet. Off we went! We had a lovely bike ride around Fiesta Island.

Great spot for riding and racing. You can do loops, which I love. Ocean view and no snow! Just perfect. Also, flat!

Last month I was in the Los Angeles area giving a talk and I was happy to be taken on a hike on the beach the day of my talk. Later that weekend I got to go hiking in the hills and canyons of LA. I hadn’t thought of LA as a great hiking city. But I was wrong.

Sharing physical activity, hiking and biking, with fellow philosophers is terrific. We can talk while moving. I get to see a new part of the world. And I don’t feel like I need to sneak off on my own to exercise.

I’m organizing bike rides for friends attending the Canadian Philosophical Association conference in May also for philosophers coming to the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy conference in Waterloo in August.

I love my job!