I wrote about my idea of cycling through the winter here and here. Sam wrote about it here, and that one includes lots of links to other posts about winter cycling.
Unlike Sam, my goal was to be a bike commuter and I am proud to say I DID IT! I go to the office four days a week, and since November I have avoided going in only about three times. Once was definitely due to a heavy snowfall. Once was due to a predicted snowfall where we were advised to stay home, and once was due to bitter cold (-43C with the wind chill). Admittedly, I did get lucky because a few more were regularly scheduled work-from-home or planned vacation days, but there weren’t many of those.
It turns out I love cycling in winter. I am warmer on my bike than when I try to walk. The roads are usually less slippery than the sidewalks. Admittedly, cycling in traffic isn’t for everyone, but there are enough winter cyclists around that I found most cars and trucks are paying attention and are pretty respectful about giving me enough space for safety.
Most of my rides are relatively short, and I have invested in a little bit of gear to ensure I stay visible, warm and dry. I have studded winter tires which I needed more for confidence than for road conditions. The only time they were really handy was the night I went for a group bike ride immediately after a snow storm when the roads hadn’t yet been cleared.
Now it is officially spring, and I am starting to shed the layers and think about getting my summer bike out. So here is one last celebratory selfie of me and my bike as winter draws to a close. Note the patches of bare ground in my yard.
We are midway through the season of a new +40 rec soccer league that over 100 women joined because they wanted less aggressive play. As I’ve reported in previous posts, there was an expectation that play would be less rough, but a series of decisions and limitations made it unclear (to me) what mechanisms would actually make that happen.
Has the league met expectations and achieved its goals? I asked the team captains their thoughts in a Facebook group chat they share.
Yes, Less Aggressive Play
Of the eight team captains who were polled, all agreed that the league was either a little or a lot less aggressive than other rec leagues they have played in (Poll 1):
According to most team leaders, what has been different from other leagues is the higher frequency of penalty calls (Poll 2).
Some team captains also said they perceived more efforts of teams to be friendly. One or two captains said their teams talk with each other and the opposing teams about aggressive play.
I think that team members talking before or during the game about their expectations (rather than just complaining after the game) shows goodwill and is more likely to improve league morale. Because aggressiveness is subjective, it can only help to have a more shared understanding of what aggressive play looks and feels like for each team.
A few captains added in the chat that their teams felt the league was fun. One captain said,
I think it’s going well, not as crazy aggressive as the other groups and no pressure we are just having fun and being active :)
Interestingly, no one said their own teams admit when they have been too aggressive. I didn’t ask whether it is because they genuinely don’t feel or notice when their play is too rough, or if it’s just not a good strategy for games.
Concerns and Reflections
Apparently rough play has not been fully eliminated: over the last few months, folks have brought forward concerns about a few aggressive players.
As league organizer, Cindy usually addresses concerns with team captains, who in turn speak with their own players. So, the process for dealing with the perception of over-aggressive play seems non-confrontational and a shared responsibility. As Cindy said, “Everyone is contributing to its success. It shows great community!”
While I expected Cindy to deal with these league issues kindly, I did not expect that over half of the captains would say “the refs also call out play that our team does not consider aggressive.” In other words, some feel that refs are making too many calls on aggressive play in this “chill” league.
Why might this be a concern for some teams? It can be difficult to avoid accidental contact on an indoor field. As well, some would say that defending space and moving into the opponent’s space is a normal part of soccer. And, every time a play gets stopped for a penalty, it’s less time to play soccer.
This idea that refs are calling aggression that players don’t agree to made me reflect on my own assumptions. A “rec league” suggests it will be social and fun, but for some women fun means competitive play. Have I been assuming that the only way to have a chill and fun league is to reduce aggression to the point of low or no contact?
I have noted in past posts that aggression is in part in the eye of the beholder. Those with less experience may see those with more soccer experience as aggressive, but the reverse can be true as well. At least the refs seem to be calling roughness due to unchecked skill and roughness due to lack of control.
ReDefining a League
This new rec league was organized by the criteria of age and intolerance for aggressive play, but there may be other ways to ensure safety but also give players what they want to have fun. One captain suggested to me that, instead of aggression level, league divisions could be based on experience or skill level. A beginner league for adult women of all ages could teach about safe play and what is appropriate contact. In such a league, frequent stops for penalties and game explanations might be more welcome.
At the same time, an adult beginner league begs the question of when someone is and no longer is a “beginner.” Sometimes experienced soccer players recruit their friends, and of course they want to play together despite skill level differences. (I’ve gotten better mostly by playing with friends more skilled than me.) It’s tough to make everyone happy.
If the “chill” league continues in another season, the norm for play might stay at low- or no-contact. In this case, how the game is played might need to change—and teams who plan to register in this league will have to be ready for that.
The beauty of sports is that they are what we make of them. According to most team captains, right now most members of this “chill” league seem relatively happy with the game that they have made together.
I live in an area where cycling makes a lot of sense for everyday tasks. I can get to work, the grocery store, and most essential shops easily and safely by bicycle or on foot.
As gas prices rose this fall, I started a little personal challenge of not using my car more than once a week. I was already riding my bike to work on my days in the office, so this shouldn’t be a big additional burden, right?
I don’t know. My sample size is very small, and I didn’t set up a good research question in advance. My evidence is purely anecdotal.
I can tell you that I’m tired. Far more tired than I expected. But I’m still doing it, mostly. Even if it meant I needed a long nap after cycling to swim practice and to buy groceries on Saturday. I did get up on Sunday to bike to church.
A little bit of my tiredness is undoubtedly because being nervous about sharing the road with cats is exhausting. Even though I am getting more confident, I miss the separated lanes and bike paths that are available to me in summer. T
And sidewalks often aren’t clear for pedestrians, so walking isn’t fun withers. In fact, the closest I have come to an accident was when a pedestrian using the road jumped into my path to avoid being hit by a car.
If we really want people to adopt active living, which has huge benefits for overall health, accessibility and the environment, we need to push our civic leaders to invest in infrastructure that supports people to use non-car transportation year-round. And leaves them less tired and stressed from the effort.
Diane Harper is a public servant in Ottawa, and a recent convert to year-round cycling.
I know you are probably saying, “Didn’t Christine say that she was done with the Making Space series and getting started on the Go Team series? Why is today’s post called ‘Make Space’?”
You’re right, I did say that. And it is true.
We’re done with the Making Space series for now and this is, indeed, the first ‘Go Team!’ post.
However, it’s ALSO true that before you can add new things into your life, you need to make space for them or everything else is going to get jumbled.
Note: For the record, it’s TOTALLY ok not to be taking on anything new or changing anything up this month. Some people *like* the whole new year ritual but if it makes you feel pressured or upset? Ignore it completely. Please be kind to yourself, no matter what.
You don’t need a huge idea.
You don’t need a crystal clear plan.
You don’t need to make sweeping, drastic changes.
You can just have a vague idea, a mere suggestion of a direction that you *might* want to move towards and you can begin to explore it by considering how the early, smallest steps might fit into your life.
For example, if you want to begin a meditation practice, you could ‘make room’ today by deciding what time of day would make sense for the smallest version of your practice.
Let’s imagine that you will start with 1 minute of meditation.
Where can you reliably find 1 minute most days?
When boiling the kettle? When sitting in your car before going to work? Right before your lunch? Right before bed?
Maybe you’ll want to give that one minute practice a whirl today but maybe you can consider your efforts to make space as your practice for today.
For most of us, changing or creating habits often depends on small, steady movements forward (and a few steps back and then moving forward again) rather than trying to magically transform ourselves in an instant.
It’s ok to count every part of developing your habit as part of the habit itself.
There are many steps involved in making change and the more steps that you can celebrate, the better.
This post is a group of loosely connected thoughts in a blogpost-shaped trench coat but let’s just roll with it.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a lawn chair on my front lawn awaiting trick or treaters – Khalee is too much of a chaos agent for me to easily answer the door over and over so I take the treats outside and drink tea while waiting for the kids.
Tomorrow, or today by the time you read this, is November 1, just a little over a week away from my 50th birthday.
A few months ago, I thought I would have a good fitness routine by now. I thought I had a solid, low key plan.
Turns out, I was still trying to do too much at once and I have basically been kind of ambling along trying to figure out my how and when, exercising more some times and less other times.
At the beginning of October, I thought I would have a straightforward month with two challenges to work on, but I was plagued with migraines and frustration and never really found my groove.
One tiny part of my brain is telling me ‘You should be more disappointed in yourself, don’t you think?’
But another part is reminding me that the word should is at least 90% evil and that, at almost 50 years old, I don’t have to put up with people being mean to me – especially if that person is me.
So, instead, I’m thinking that I must not have found the easy thing. I must have had too many steps or too many decisions, I must not have smoothed the path, I must not have included enough fun. Oh well! Too late to worry about those past plans now.
I’m not trying to revamp them, though, I’m just focused on what’s ahead of me.
I’m looking forward to my birthday month with the goal(s) of finding more ease, seeking more fun, and looking for ways to move more often on any given day.
There’s no overarching plan, there’s no big idea, there’s just me experimenting with trusting myself in the moment. Let’s just hope my brain will cooperate.
It took me a couple of Halloweens of trying different things before I figured out that I could circumvent the stress of the dog-related chaos by taking the treats out to the kids but I was making little changes in my approach the whole time.
I’m hoping the same is true for this whole figuring-out-routines thing, that I *am* making adjustments and learning as I go, even if it’s hard to see while I’m still in the middle of it.
PS – In case you have a tendency to worry: I am completely ok, by the way. I’m mostly just interested in how and why I feel so at ease with not having done what I had set out to do. And why I don’t feel the need to poke into what went “wrong.” I like the fact that instead of my brain leaning into the meanness, I veered off into the ‘try this’ of taking things moment by moment. I’m observational and reflective, perhaps a little melancholy, but I’m not sad, not upset, and there’s nothing wrong.
I wanted to add a little extra to my daily routine in October so I’ve taken up two challenges for the month – the Action for Happiness Optimism challenge and the Darebee Daily Kicks challenge.
I like following short term challenges because 1) they set out a plan in advance so my brain doesn’t get stuck buffering about decisions 2) they aren’t making me commit to something in a future that is too far ahead for my ADHD brain to grasp.
These specific challenges should be straightforward additions to my day because any day’s actions are big enough to matter to me but small enough to fit into nooks and crannies in my still-developing schedule.
And it helps that I am naturally inclined to optimism (this may be a good feature of my ADHD – I’m usually convinced that things are about to get better) and that kicks are not only good exercise but practicing them will have added benefits for Taekwon-do.
Will I get to both of these every day? I’m planning on it and I hope those plans work out.
But even my optimistic self knows that sometimes things go awry so I have a backup plan as well:
If I miss a day, I can do two the next day…if that feels doable. If doing two items feels like too much, or if I have missed several days, I’ll skip to the item for the current day.
The key here is to follow the practices for as many days as possible this month – aiming for more days on than off.
The only thing I *don’t* want is to follow the challenge for a few days, miss a couple, and then scrap the whole thing because I didn’t do it perfectly.
As long as the end of October still finds me working away at these, in any form or fashion, I’ll be successful.
So, Team, here we are at the end of August, being our marvellous selves.
We had BIG plans for the summer and we got some of them done.
We managed to do some cool stuff that wasn’t on our lists.
We also dealt with unexpected (and likely very challenging) stuff.
While we *could* sit here and list all of the things that didn’t go as planned, the stuff we hoped to get to but never did, the obstacles we faced, I’m going to vote no on that sort of deliberate review for us right now.
I am especially voting no on anything that might lead us to be harsh to ourselves about the whole thing.
(Yes, there’s a time and a place to review what went awry and to adjust future plans accordingly but it doesn’t have to be right now. And there might be a time and a place to decide to make different choices and take different actions but there is never a time when we have to be hard on ourselves about that sort of stuff.)
Instead, I’m inviting us to view our summer highlight reels – the fun stuff, the shiny bits, the hard work that paid off, the times we relaxed, the summer-specific moments and memories that feel great when we roll them around in our minds.
Take a minute when you can and sink into those highlights.
Relive how you felt, the sensory details, the work and the fun.
Give yourself the chance to celebrate the effort you put in, the good choices you made, the fun that happened even if things didn’t go according to plan.
I know that the end of summer can bring a sort of melancholy and, obviously, it’s totally ok to feel however you feel about the change in season, but you don’t have to get mired in that feeling.
You can be present for your melancholy moments AND you can enjoy the memories of the highlights of your summer. You don’t have to choose.
You can have some regrets about things undone AND be happy about the fun you had. this isn’t an either/or situation.
However, given the human brain’s negativity bias, we might have to consciously choose to fully remember the highlights of summer as the season comes to an end.
So, Team, here are some stars for your efforts to celebrate the good and create your summer highlight reel.
And, truth be told, summer doesn’t officially end until sometime in September. So, once you have that mental highlight reel in place, you can spend a little time planning another adventure or two even as your schedule moves into Autumn mode.
Go on, I dare you to add more fun to your next few weeks.
PS – If a mental highlight reel isn’t enough for you, create an album of photos on your phone, make a list, create a visual journal, doodle some memories, or make a video for future you to watch.
PPS – My summer highlight reel includes swimming with Trudy and Michelle, sitting on my patio in the evening, a backyard fire with a small group of friends, getting my tiny spiral garden planted, a couple of day trips with Steve, and watching Khalee sniff the same patch of flowers each day on our walk.
Last week I went for a swim at a nearby lake with some people from my masters swim club. In the pool, I’m one of the slower swimmers, but in the open water I kept up easily, and sometimes led our little pod.
My strokes felt amazing. Slicing through the water, I reflected on Christine’s power photos. I was wearing my two piece suit, which rarely gets worn despite best intentions. I am now calling it my power suit.
That led to me thinking about ways I could use my powers for good. I think I want to be a lifeguard again.
The COVID pandemic has interrupted lifeguard training, and the work has been more precarious because of lockdowns. Now as things reopen, there is a critical shortage of guards and swim instructors. This will have long-term impacts on water safety for many people.
There is precedent. Robin Borlandoe was a lifeguard when she was 16. Now, at 70, she has come out of retirement to help with the lifeguard shortage in her home town of Philadelphia.
I have already looked up the required training and course schedules to be a lifeguard and instructor in Ottawa. I have found a schedule that should allow me to complete all three courses in time for hiring season next year.
Even if I don’t end up getting hired, it will be good to refresh my skills. And if I do get hired, it will be an awesome retirement project, and a way to give back to a community that has supported me through my greatest sporting love since my first swimming lesson more than fifty years ago.
Full confession: I hate housework. And I totally agree with Catherine’s thoughts about the very unfeminist aspects of counting housework as fitness.
But I do like gardening, at least at the beginning of the season when I am still full of hope that things will grow. And I love my mom, who likes to have a garden, but can no longer maintain one herself.
So I spent many hours on Sunday working in both my garden and my mom’s. It wasn’t particularly intense exercise, but there was definitely some walking as I took my poor overburdened push mower over my little patch of grass repeatedly (it turns out that no-mow May leads to knee-high grass). And lots of bending and lifting as I hauled out lawn furniture, pulled weeds, dug holes for flowers, and carried yard waste bags (the heavy lifting with bags of dirt and planters happened a couple of weeks ago).
I was pleased that there were no twinges at all the next day.
But I have been thinking ever since about how slowly Mom walked through the gardening centre. She didn’t even feel up to pushing the cart (usually something she insists on). And Dad, who usually joins me to putter while I garden, spent most of the afternoon working on his puzzle books inside.
They are both in their mid eighties, so the slowing down is understandable. But it is also a sharp reminder of why I got active in the first place. I didn’t want to end up suffering from arthritis like my mom, and I wanted to be a good role model for my kids.
As I near the age they were when I made that decision, I’m adding a new goal. I want to age at home. I want to be comfortable walking to the grocery store in my eighties, doing at least basic gardening, and maybe even still riding my bicycle (or electric bicycle or tricycle).
I still won’t be smiling about the housework, or counting the calories I burn washing dishes, but I will be living independently on my own terms. That’s about as feminist as you can get.
Some people start fitness challenges in September, the start of the school year that somehow feels like the real start of the year to many of us. Others go with the more traditional January start. It appears I like April. I wrote about it last year.
This year my workplace is doing an activity challenge for the month. It doesn’t have to be walking, but that happens to fit with another challenge I’m also doing. I like the fact that getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water are also goals.
The other challenge is with one of my medieval groups, where we are aiming to walk 183 miles by the end of May. Why 183 miles? I have no idea! There is probably a very logical reason that I have forgotten, or missed completely in my enthusiasm to join up. Whatever.
The challenge works out to about 5 km a day for me. I used to do 10 km walks regularly, but haven’t done one in at least 15 years.
Sometimes I go out late in the evening, and catch the light near dusk. I am lucky enough to live near two large rivers, so there is always plenty to see.
I feel blessed to live in a walkable part of the city, with a real variety of landscapes.
I don’t do 5 km absolutely every day, but I am getting the distance done each week. My walks are getting longer, I am going into the office as an excuse to knock off an easy 6 km, and on Easter weekend I walked for 10.6 km.
Best of all, the chronic hip flexor pain is gone. Apparently I needed to get out of my chair a lot more than I realized. And I am learning to enjoy my own company, just wandering and admiring the views.