fall · fitness · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Getting some light in my life

Usually at this point in the year I start complaining about seasonal dark, associated mood disorders, and the practical challenge of bike commuting and needing headlights, reflective gear etc.

See Struggling with September Sadness and The night is (soon to be) dark and full of terrors.

Occasionally over the years I’ve managed some good feelings about the dark and about September which brings more of it into my life. See I like it in the dark: Winter and the joys of night time riding and running and Sam is Telling New Stories. But mostly they’re bad news blog posts.

This year I’m working from home. The challenges are different. I can see that it might be dangerous to work all day and only think about leaving the house in the dark.

I’m going to try to make sure I leave the house during the day to get outside in the daylight even if I don’t have anywhere particular to go. Cheddar doesn’t care about goals. He’s just happy to walk. Or run!

Cheddar running across the grass

As a back up plan, I’m also bringing my anti-SAD lamp home from work. It’s not needed there now I am only in my office on Wednesdays. I’m also reading about how people who cope with much more dark than we do get by and even seem to enjoy it.

Northern Light Technologies Luxor Desk Lamp | UPC: 870681000084

As we enter the double whammy of fall dark and the second wave of COVID-19 and associated shut-downs, what are you doing to keep some light in your life?

yoga

Zoom. Stretch. Zoom

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

clothing · fashion · rest · sleep

Aren’t all dresses nap dresses?

The ads in my digital media news feeds know what I’m up to. Which is to say staying at home, working from home, exercising at home, spending time with family, and napping. I’m also dressing differently now my life is one big blur of working, exercising, doomscrolling, eating, sleeping etc.

Enter the nap dress. I swear ads for different versions of this dress make up half of the advertising I see these days.

And that makes sense given that I’ve declared myself the Pandemic Nap Queen.

Haven’t heard of this pandemic fashion trend yet? See Meet the Nap Dress — Summer’s Biggest Must Have, Meet The ‘Nap Dress,’ The Latest Pandemic Clothing Trend, and Why a nap dress is about to become your new summer staple.

This New Yorker piece explains the allure of the nap dress.

Rachel Syme writes, “Since sleeping through the night was not happening, I figured an outfit specifically designated for daytime dozing might be just the thing. One could theoretically wear a Nap Dress to bed, but it is decidedly not a nightgown. (For one, it is opaque enough to wear to the grocery store.) It is not the same thing as a caftan, which, though often luxurious, is more shapeless and more grown-up. It is not a housedress, which we tend to associate with older women shuffling onto the stoop to grab the morning paper, the curlers still in their hair. A housedress is about forgetting the self, or at least hiding it under layers of quilted fabric. The Nap Dress, on the other hand, suggests a cheeky indulgence for one’s body, and a childlike return to waking up bleary-eyed hours before dinner.”

Here’s what some of them look like:

The nap dress is part of the daytime nightwear trend.

In “The Uneasy Privilege Of The Daytime Nightgown,” Veronique Hyland talks about the politics of who gets to wear a daytime nap dress during the pandemic. It’s not frontline workers, grocery store clerks, transit workers, and people driving UberEats to pay rent.

“I can appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a nightgown. I get that they’re comfortable, and who doesn’t crave comfort right now? It’s possible that I’m projecting way too much onto a few yards of fabric. But the nightgown, especially as daywear, strikes me as reactionary. Its evocations of passive Victorian and pre-Raphaelite femininity feel like an uncritical throwback to those eras’ mold of white female fragility. The styling of these images evokes sleeping beauties or Ophelias, or worse, invalids. Fashioning yourself as a tubercular Victorian might once have felt ironic; with millions in the grip of a real pandemic—one that is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities—it feels Marie Antoinette-at-the-Hameau-level out of touch. And in 2020, the idea of “checking out” and into the seductive world of blameless slumber that the nightgown invites us to, does too. It serves as a reminder that while some people are taking to the streets, others are taking to their beds.”

You don’t need a fancy new specially designed nap dress to get into the spirit of the being well-rested. And maybe we can be well-rested, including naps, so that we can work and protest. Tracy’s posts on naps as a form of resistance talks about that connection.

This is speedy, short post, quickly written before I zoom away for holidays where there will definitely be lots and lots of napping but also definitely not any special nap dresses!

See you when I’m back after a week of canoe camping in Algonquin Park.

The Nap Ministry

covid19 · fitness · self care · sleep

Queen of the pandemic naps

This is me, happy napping, at the end of a long work day.

I don’t know about you but COVID-19 and #wfhlife hasn’t been great for my sleep. I can always fall asleep…see the comic below, it’s me….but I’ve been having nightmares and sometimes waking up way too early. I fall asleep quickly but if I wake I struggle to get back to sleep.

Early morning doom scrolling doesn’t help.

Another sleep complication is that my Zwift races tend to be late, 830 and 900 pm often and they’re all an hour or an hour and a half long. After it’s hard to relax and go to sleep right away. I’m still all zoom zoom, go go, for at least another hour.

Enter the post work nap!

Work. Nap. Supper. Zwift. Sometimes I go back to work after. Shhh! But more often I watch an episode of something and go to sleep. I’m getting more than 8 hours sleep, averaging 8.5 according to my Garmin watch, even if it’s not all in one go.

This would be more challenging if we had children at home but these days we’re empty nesters. Napping in the nest, that’s me.

Has the pandemic changed your sleep patterns at all? Are you struggling a bit with disrupted sleep?

covid19 · fitness

Emptying out my locker at the campus gym

Gym Locker Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash
Lockers in a gym. Photo from Unsplash.

Gyms across Ontario (most of the province anyway) are reopening tomorrow.

But I won’t be going.

Why?

Well, read this: COVID-19 and the Gym: Building Engineers Weigh In (Guest Post) And I’d rather expend the small amount of risk I’m prepared to take elsewhere. (Hi adult kids!)

I said goodbye to the campus fitness centre way back in early March so it’s been awhile since I’ve been in a gym.

In a case of weird timing, today was also the day I had to go the campus fitness centre to empty my locker. There was a pretty strict COVID-19 process involved: I completed an online self assessment tool and then was asked the same questions at the door. I wore a mask and used the hand sanitizer. I stayed 6 feet away from the one other person allowed in at the same time as me. I carefully followed the markings into the locker room and exited through a different door.

There were other rules too: No personal bags. Instead, they provided a plastic bag. No friends. NO symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, or shortness of breath. No travel outside of Canada in the previous 14 days. NO close contact with a confirmed or probably case of COVID-19.

All good. Mission successful. I actually wasn’t sure what I’d left there. Turns out it was all my swimming stuff. Three fitness bathing suits, paddles of various sorts, bathing caps, goggles etc.

It all felt strange and sad. When I left the gym for the last time in March I think I was imagining being gone for a couple of months. Lately the long haul nature of the pandemic is starting to hit home.

In the meantime, Gryphons Fitness staff are offering lots of Instagram Live classes. You can see them by following their Instagram channel. In the fall, some of these classes will move outdoors for students who are here in Guelph.

The numbers are really good for the online classes. Have a look!

Tabata fitness

Work from home stretches

swimming

Back in the water again! A guest post in four joyful voices

Monday morning. Back to work after a holiday in Prince Edward County. One of the things I loved about my time on Sarah’s family farm was the swimming pool and playing in the pool with her 6 year old nephew who just loved the water so much. I think he could spend all day in the pool and when I wasn’t riding my bike or reading books and patting Cheddar, I could too.

I got home to so much doom and gloom in the news. But also there in my Facebook newsfeed were the happy faces of four London guest bloggers, including my daughter Mallory, all swimmers, all so thrilled to be back in the pool or the lake. I just couldn’t resist sharing their happy stories with you. I know one of the regular bloggers Bettina has written about this too. See her post Fish Back in Water to add to the chorus of happy voices.

Enjoy!

Mary

There is something about moving in the water and something even more about swimming outdoors, that cannot be replaced. It was with great delight that I was able to book a lane at Thames pool in London Ontario. Social distance, two per lane, advanced booking, for one hour.

The sun was shining, creating magical reflections in the water. It was quiet and I was in my happy place. For one hour, all was well in this crazy world, in my world.

You can read Mary’s past guest posts here and here.

Savita

There’s a saying: you’re one swim away from a good mood. In these pandemic times, it’s more like you’re one swim away from…overwhelming happydancing joy! At first I was both excited and nervous. Excited because Swimming! Nervous because COVID19! But once I got to Thames Pool, the nervousness dissipated. Screening, distancing, 2 people per 50 m lane. Everyone was on good behaviour. So I could focus on finding my movement through the water. I struggled through 900m and it WILL hurt tomorrow. And that will feel awesome!

Thames Pool! Oh, darling, I’ve missed you so!!

You can read Savita’s past guest posts here.

Mallory

Pride flags on a sandy beach

Morning Dip Traditions

This summer, for the first time in a very long time, I am staying in Southwestern Ontario. Normally I would be spending my summer in Northern Ontario working at Rainbow Camp, a summer camp for 2SLGBTQ+ teens.

One of my favourite camp traditions is morning dip. It’s a wake-up call, a way to start your day feeling fresh, renewed and sometimes cold! Even when no campers join me or in between sessions when we have no campers, I still love starting my day in the lake.

This year, we are running a virtual camp called Rainbow Online Connection. Monday morning was our first full day and it also happened to be the first day of lane swimming at a nearby outdoor pool so guess how I started my day? Morning dip! A little more athletic than I’m using to starting my mornings but still a great start to my day. (And for those of you interested, our first day of online camp went amazing!) See Rainbow Camp for more information.

You can read Mallory’s past guest posts here.

Amanda Lynn

Smiling in the sun, with water and beach in the background

Summer just isn’t summer for me without getting into the water. Outdoors. At the height Ontario’s COVID isolation, my biggest fear was that summer would come and go, and I wouldn’t get to float in Lake Huron. When they opened the beaches at Pinery Provincial Park, we went up the first day. The water was a brisk 59F, but I still dove in with relief.

We’ve been back to the lake three times since then. On calm days, the sun shines through the blue water and I look up to the sky from below the surface. I bob back up and drift gently, and I feel whole.

You can read Amanda’s past guest posts here and here.

strength training

Resistance bands and home workouts

Like many people I bought resistance bands as part of my at home workout plan. I even bought some that were too strong–they had a woman on the box, I was charmed and surprised–and blogged about it: Pleasant surprise!

Since then we’ve bought more and between them and the sandbags and the water jugs, we’ve been working out lots on the back deck. Will I keep this up when my son, who is usually a frequent gym goer moves out next month? I hope so. Stay tuned.

Here’s some useful links to find out more:

The benefits of resistance bands

All You Need to Create Literally *Any* Piece of Gym Equipment at Home Is This $15 Resistance Band

Five Great Things about Working Out with Resistance Bands

Best resistance band exercises for legs

Sam in a blue tshirt on her back deck working out with a green resistance band
aging · blogging

Silver Sam

Tracy and I often joke about all the things we have in common. We’re both immigrants to Canada who came here with our parents when we were young. We’re very close to the same age. We both have American PhDs. We wrote disserations in ethics. We started our careers in the Philosophy Department at Western in the early 90s. And we’ve had a multi-decade friendship and conversation about body image and physical fitness in our lives and the lives of women more generally. Then there’s the “fittest by fifty challenge,” this blog, and our book.

“[Fit at Mid-Life] reinforces the message that fitness can and should be for everyone, no matter their age, size, gender, or ability.” ––SELF

What if you could be fitter now than you were in your twenties? And what if you could achieve it while feeling more comfortable and confident in your body? 

Here’s what we looked like when our book was published. Promotional photos are from the Amazon site. Thanks Ruth! (Ruthless Images)

Now we’re aging and going grey together. Tracy first! See Tracy enters the grey zone. Tracy’s move to grey/silver was deliberate and planned and involved hair salons. Mine was accidental and a result of COVID-19.

I love Tracy’s silver hair and think it looks beautiful. I confess that silver envy is part of my motivation but I am not sure mine will look as good.

Luckily Sarah owns clippers and has been tidying up my undercut as it grows. Here’s my latest bikes and boats haircut. Gradually there’s less and less blonde and more and more of my hair’s natural colour.

But the thing is I never was someone who coloured her hair to cover grey. Here’s 80s me with a similar haircut and colour scheme. In wilder times it was also pink and purple. I’ve also never coloured the undercut bits and hiding my age was never part of my intention. I’ve always thought of hair colour as fun. I like tattoos rather than jewelry because they can’t get lost. And hair colour rather than make up because you don’t have to put it on and take it off each day.

And yet.

Here am in, in my 50s, in an administrative role as an academic, frequently sitting around tables with men in suits and women in dresses, almost of the women my age with blonde streaked hair. It’s ubiquitous.

I know why we do it. It’s easy. Highlights aren’t that expensive. The blonde is easier on your complexion. It’s closer to the lighter colour your hair is naturally turning. It’s forgiving in terms of growing in. It’s flattering.

But what if it no longer feels fun? It looks (except for my secret graying undercut) mainstream. What if it starts to feel mandatory?

Blondness is also complicated.

Apparently just 2 percent of adult white women in North America are blonde naturally. You wouldn’t guess that looking around campus or at the mall.

I hadn’t thought of blondness as connected to normative identities and whiteness until I read this article, The Pursuit of Blondness.

“Blondness, then, exists as a complicated form of self-expression. It can signal youth, beauty, privilege, and conformity. But it can also represent rebellion, independence, and the demand to be looked at and respected. It’s a choice that’s both distinctly personal and deeply intertwined with what society has taught people to value. Rankine and Lucas have a term for that: complicit freedom.

Anyway, I’m growing it out because of #PandemicHair. Maybe I’ll keep it its natural colour. Maybe I’ll revert to blonde. It’s easy to do. It’s shockingly more dark than I remembered!

Cheddar, by the way, is a completely natural blonde.

Sam and her yoga dog

What are you doing with your hair colour during the pandemic? Any post pandemic hair colour plans?

family · fitness · strength training

Backyard fitness and being in this for the long haul

It’s gradually been dawning on us, here at home in Guelph, that fitness-wise, we’re in this for the long haul. I stopped going to the gym awhile ago now. On March 9th I wrote, Sam decides to take a break from the gym. And by “this” I mean working out at home.

If there were a work Covid-19 bingo, for sure one of the squares would be about this being a marathon and not a sprint. I even wrote a Dean’s blog post with that as a title. I hope I wrote that before we all got sick of hearing it. Maybe not. And while I am sick of hearing that phrase too I am only now realizing that it’s not just about work. My personal life has changed too. I won’t be flying anywhere soon.

And the more that I think about it, the more I realize, that even if gyms re-open, I’m not going back anytime soon. I’ve written about my 7 part physical distancing fitness plan and about the missing puzzle pieces of my at home plan. Now the missing pieces are mostly filled in. I’m getting lots of physical activity and it’s helping me with stress and sleep. It’s also a source of pleasure and achievement in these strange times.

I expect I’ll return to the gym if we have a vaccine or if/when we have reached herd immunity without a vaccine or I suppose if we develop effective treatments for Covid-19. Either of those options is more than a year away. Before that I am more likely to go back to our 24 hour discount gym, in the off hours, than I am to the campus fitness facilities.

Maybe I’ll change my mind. But right now I’m thinking if I can do a thing with less risk, I’m going to stick to that path. Hence, the backyard gym.

Inside, we have the TRX and yoga mats and resistance cables. We’ve also got a kettlebell and a lone 8 lb dumbbell. We’re pretty well set up for riding inside too though as things loosen up in Ontario, I’m looking forward to physically distanced rides with friends. Obviously, there’s still some shopping to do. Outside, we now have skipping ropes, the punching bag, and a giant tire. Between those things and the phone tabata app, and a few family members to work out with, it’s a good time.

Usually I envy my big city friends with their boutique gym options and a vast array of theatre, music, and food options. But right now. I’m feeling pretty good about life in my small city where we have a backyard and space to flip big tires. The streets aren’t crowded for walking and running even if the city parks haven’t re-opened yet. Yes, I’m privileged to have these options. I’ll totally understand if others choose differently.

Come winter we may end up with even more indoor fitness equipment in the room that was our livingroom but is now mostly a two person home office which turns into a home gym when we break for lunch, or do yoga after work or before bed. I’m not sure it will return to its pure living room status. On and off, I think we’ll be working at home (those of us whose jobs allow it) for awhile yet.

What fun piece of backyard fitness equipment would you buy if you had the summer ahead of you?

fitness

What really is okay for exercising outside?

“I just wish someone would give us clear guidelines,” someone said to me the other day. “There’s so much contradictory information!”

It’s true. At this point in the pandemic, every jurisdiction seems to have slightly different guidelines for outdoor activity. In Canada alone, every province is different. Consider this weekend. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer of British Columbia, said “Please, go outside…The risk that somebody who is sick spreads this virus from coughing or sneezing outside and you walk by them very quickly, even when it is within six feet, that risk is negligible…. We always say ‘never say never’ in medicine, but the risk would be infinitesimally small.” Nova Scotia opened up its provincial trails and other outdoor activities like driving ranges, with “caution”. Most other provinces had similar advice, with appropriate cautions. But the Chief Medical Officer of Toronto “lamented” stories of people going outside, and our biggest park was closed for the weekend to keep people from congregating to see the cherry blossoms, giving us a “bloomcam” instead.

So how do we make sense of this? For the past six weeks, we’ve heard “sledgehammer” messages that the only responsible choice is to stay inside; this has led to the kind of conflict between runners and other people we normally only see between cyclists and cars. We’ve seen social media shaming and outright animosity, like this sign in NYC’s lower east side:

To try to detangle some of this, I interviewed Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist and Chief of Staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, and a frequent voice on CBC and Global TV. (He’s also a colleague of mine). I asked him a few specific questions from our blogger team about his perspective on outdoor movement.

What is the actual risk of spreading covid19 by exercising outside?

“It is extremely unlikely that viral transmission would happen outside without close contact — you would basically have to be right in someone’s face and that would be a really weird thing to do with a stranger.” He added, “this virus is actually pretty wimpy, and it is either killed pretty quickly by UV or dispersed by the wind.” In other words, it’s a lot safer to exercise outside than inside, but to be safe, you need to maintain that two metre distance.

What about people who are so frightened of transmission that they see all runners as a threat?

“People are frightened, and we all need to be kind and do our part to give each other space. If you’re running, it’s better for you to be the one moving out of the way if you can, because you’re going faster. Now isn’t the time to claim your turf on the sidewalk. Be kind.”

“Is the virus actually spread “in the air”?

“If this virus were airborne, we’d all have it. We are talking about droplet transmission, which lingers on surfaces, and can be directly transmitted if we are panting right in someone’s face. Think about what it’s like in a crossfit class, with all that sweating and panting — you don’t want to be doing that. But outside, transmission is extremely unlikely.”

What about swimming? Should pools be opening up?

“In a swimming pool, the chlorine would kill the virus — the issue would be with people breathing hard too closely on you. Pools should be low risk if the number of people in them is limited and you aren’t touching other people or their stuff in the change room.”

What about vigorous vs. lighter exercise? Does that make a difference?

Again, the risk of transmitting this virus outside without direct contract is almost infinitesimal — it doesn’t matter how vigorously you’re moving as long as you maintain some distance. It could make a difference inside, though– think about that sweat and moisture I mentioned before.

So you think we should still be exercising?

Absolutely — from a mental health and overall health perspective, we need to keep moving. We should be creating more space for people to move around outside, safely. We need to be thoughtful about other people’s fear, but that means leaving them space and moving responsibly.

Why are there so many different messages?

“The lockdown of the past few weeks was aimed at making sure that we didn’t have such a surge in cases that our health system was overwhelmed. In Ontario, we’ve escaped that — both because people have observed social distancing and because the hospital system did excellent preparation to reduce everything but the most essential care. With a new infectious disease like this, we want to slow down transmission so we don’t all get it at once, so we can learn more about the virus and who is most susceptible, how to treat people who are ill, give us some time to get the science ramped up, and so we can keep our health system functioning. We have never had to do this before — so the basic message of “stay home” is the simplest. But as we open things up gradually, we will need to each take some accountability for resuming activity in a thoughtful way. We need to maintain physical distance for a while, but that doesn’t mean not moving. It just means being responsible in how we do it.”

**

You can follow Michael on twitter at @DrMichaelGardam. And I appreciate his time and insight, so much.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who went for a happy socially distanced run after their conversation, turning around at the entrance to the closed trail.