fitness · holidays

Radical incrementalism and micro-adventures

As we’re heading into spring (slowly) here in my part of Canada, many of my friends, neighbours, and colleagues are talking about summer vacation plans.

I may be an academic (we’re notorious for not really vacationing and reading and writing while doing so) but I’ve always taken holidays seriously. That is, I take time off work and deliberately get away from my job. I don’t make rules about not reading philosophy or working on papers, and I do do some of that, I do it at my pace and sometimes don’t do it all.

Canadians aren’t Europeans. We don’t tend to take big chunks of time off work. But we aren’t Americans either. We do tend to take some time off during the summer.

That said, this year will be different for me. Spring will begin with 6-12 weeks of medical leave while I recover from knee replacement surgery. I don’t think I’ll feel like vacation right after that. And I’ll have physio twice a week all summer. I don’t think I’ll want to stray too far away from town that often. So this has my mind turning once again to small adventures.

I also enjoyed reading this: Taking Small Adventures Might Make You Just as Happy as Climbing Everest.

“In his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman briefly references the concept of radical incrementalism. Burkeman writes about psychology professor Robert Boice, who studied writing habits of other academic professionals. Boice found that PhD students who wrote a little bit per day—even as little as 10 minutes—were more productive and less anxious than those who tried to write in big chunks (which they often procrastinated on until they had a deadline coming up).

Radical incrementalism has been mostly embraced in academia, policymaking, and even self-improvement. But I think it’s also an interesting way to look at having more fun: Instead of wishing I had the money and time to take a month or several to do some sort of very notable human-powered adventure to the top of a mountain or across a country, how about doing some less-notable stuff near where I live every week, or every month?” 

I’ve written about this a bit before…

I love the idea of treating weekends like a vacation. So while I don’t plan to take a lot of time off this summer, I’m thinking I will plan lots of long weekends–biking, sailing, swimming, boating, camping…

But I am also thinking some weeknight evening drives to the beach might be in order too. Each summer, at the end, I regret that I didn’t go swimming more often and spend more time at the beach.

Even at work it feels especially summery when I take my lunch outside and chat with friends, or read fiction.

What kind of micro-adventures do you think you might get up this summer?

Water, photo by Nikhil Mitra on Unsplash

GIFs that get me going

Summer is ending here in the Northern hemisphere. As the days start to get colder, I find it’s usually harder for me to get outside for regular exercise. Fall is also a busy time for folks like me who work in education, so compared to the summer months my free time for recreational activities seems to shrink to near nothing.

On a hitherto unrelated note, I recently learned that Gen Z thinks that GIFs are out of fashion, or “cringe” as the kids say. However, I’m late Gen X, which means I like to hold onto things.

So, today I am here to give both outdoor fun and GIFs another short moment in the sun.

FIFI readers, I share with you 14 GIFs that get me motivated to get outside! I hope they get you going too…or at least give you a smile.

Once I leave the earth I know I’ve done something that will continue to help others – Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Young girl flipping a tire
Woman swinging on rings with a hula hoop
Girl flipping then throwing a baseball
Young in a fairy dress skateboarding
Woman doing a chin-up outside
Woman hitting a pickle with a racket
Woman flexing and posing
Woman doing soccer ball kick tricks in high heels
Young girl dancing with other kids watching
Woman jumping on top of a mountain
Girl dribbling two basketballs at the same time
Love it!
School sports are for everyone
fitness · Guest Post · season transitions

Late summer magic (Guest post)

by Judy Steers

It’s THAT time of day. You know the one. Where the sun is slicing through the trees at a sharp angle. It’s warm while it’s on you and losing that hot edge like it had back in July. Wrapped in a damp towel, your hair wild and wind-blown, you’re gingerly walking barefoot on the soft moss and hard stones back to shelter – whether that’s the tent, the camper, or the cottage.

You’re a bit wet still from an afternoon of playing in the waves and paddling down the wind and lying in the sun. You’ve body surfed and got rolled over and come up laughing. You’ve had a cold beer or soda or juicy apple or a bag of salty chips on the dock and now, it’s time to shift to the Later Things.

But right now? Now is that beautiful in-between time where you look for the mossy patch stepping stones to take your feet back to warm clothes and lunch dishes still on the table (because you were just so keen to get out on the afternoon adventure).

You wrap up in flannel and someone lights the barbeque or the fire. The water and the wind still roar and the towels dance in the line. You’re warm and happy and surrounded by people you love. Good food awaits. The promise of campfire, s’mores and the wind in the trees to lull you to sleep.

You’re 10 years old at Girl Guide camp, you’re 20-something on a short weekend with friends, you’re 40-something wrapping shivering children in big fluffy towels, you’re staring down 60 and feel like all of them.

5:00 pm on a late summer afternoon is pure magic. It’s the transition between splashing, shivering fun and warm well-fed contentment. The tentative barefoot steps on the moss tell you you’ve been here before, and your heart is grateful you get to do it again.

Judy is a school chaplain in her work life and a kayaker and board game geek in her play life. She lives in Guelph and regularly waves as Sam bikes past her house on her cool Brompton. She is now past 60 and still loves playing in the waves and campfire.

fitness · goals · play · season transitions

Go Team: View Your Highlight Reel

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.

A GIF of cartoon stars dropping from the top of the image, each with a trail of sparkles
Okay, so these stars aren’t gold per se but they are super fun so they totally count. Image description: a GIF of a series of stars dropping from the top of the image trailing sparkles behind them.

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.

cycling · fitness

Bike rally reflections: Heat exhaustion and global warming

The first two days of the Friends for Life Bike Rally this year (see here and here) were ridden during heat alerts. Increasingly I’m worried about spending time on the bike in July and August in Ontario. It’s hot. It’s often the kind of hot that prompts the weather alert to remind you to “avoid outdoor exercise.”

I trained on one of those days in the month leading up to the rally and discovered heat cramps.

There are also scary thunderstorms. See Dodging thunderstorms: It’s getting harder and Sam’s stormy scary bike ride

I know it’s a small thing in the scheme of changing climate and ecological disaster. I know lives and entire ecosystems are at stake and it’s trivial to complain that global warming might be making my favorite athletic activity a lot less fun.

Still, it’s a loss. And it’s a reminder of the changes ahead of us.

Did you watch the Tour de France in the heat waves this summer?

See As Europe’s heat wave melts roads, Tour de France races into an uncertain future and Tour de France: future heatwaves may make it untenable to hold the race in July.

The bike rally needs to be at the end of summer so people have time to train and get ready but I do wonder about the sustainability of July/August cycling events whether it’s the Tour or the Bike Rally.

How is the changing climate affecting your summer activities?

How to survive the global heatwave

Summer routines: On bringing a book to work

As part of my monthly updates–originally serving to track my progress to knee replacement surgery and recovery!–I’ve been reporting on how much I’ve been reading.

Why, you ask, on a fitness blog have I been reporting on reading goals? That gets to the why of tracking. I’ve been tracking reading as a way of motivating myself to read more. Tracking does that for me, YMMV. (I also use Goodreads.) And I’ve been wanting to read more because as with physical activity, it’s a big mood booster for me. Reading fiction helps me slow down, but slow down in a deliberative way.

Now that I have been meditating a bit, I think reading works in some similar ways. I’m not saying it has all the benefits of meditation, but I do feel more relaxed, happier, more at peace when I read more.

Also, to be clear I also read fiction because it’s important and pleasurable and intellectually engaging in and of itself. It’s not all about the instrumental motives.

So, a new plan! Reading at lunch. It will help with work stress, make me take a break, stop me reading email on my phone through lunch.

Here are the books I’m currently reading but I’ve brought Becky Chambers for my lunch time relaxation reading:

I’m going to pack a lunch, find a picnic table, take out my book, and chill. You’re welcome to join. BYOBook!

fitness · health · season transitions · self care

Sweaticating. Yes, I made that word up.

Just to be clear, I’m not complaining about the heat. We don’t get enough good weather here as it is. I don’t want to complain and risk a weather deity’s vengeance.

So, this is not a complaint.

It’s an observation.

I’m just observing that it has been especially warm and humid (for this part of Newfoundland) this past week or so and I am not acclimatized to it at all.

In fact, it often leaves me feeling a migraine is hunting me and it could catch me at any minute.

And that’s just about as fun as it sounds.

So instead of trying out new exercises or adding a bit more time to my usual routine, I’ve just been sweaticating.

According to the lexicon of my 9 year old self (and that self’s friend Rochelle) sweaticating is when you are so warm that everything you wear sticks to you and you mostly feel like lying around eating popsicles.

A woman reclines in bed saying ‘I’m sweating’ while fanning herself with her hand.
She’s just sweating, not sweaticating but she does look like she could use a popsicle. Image description: GIF of Alexis from the TV show Schitt’s Creek is reclining in bed fanning her armpits with her hands and saying ‘I feel like I’m sweating.’

Popsicle lounging what I *feel* like doing but since I’m an adult (or a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile, at least) I know that lying around eating popsicles will eventually leave me feeling much worse.

So, while I have eaten my fair share of popsicles and I have done a nice bit of lying around recently, I have also been following my bare minimum self-care plan.

What does that look like?

Taking Khalee for walks after supper instead of in the late afternoon.

A light haired dog on a leash stands on grass near a wooden fence
I picked this photo because Khalee’s expression cracks me up but that particular evening it had rained a bit so it wasn’t quite so warm. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog in a harness and leash, stands next to a fence. Her body is pointing away from the viewer but head is turned back toward the camera and she looks like she is asking ‘Are you going to catch up or what?’

Doing some writing on my patio under the shade of a tree.

I set up one of my outdoor tables so I can stand and write/draw. Foolishly, my first attempt had me facing my neighbour’s fence. This view is way better. Image description: My notebook is open on a white table that is attached to my patio rail. My pencil case and pen are covering most of the lined page of my notebook and I have a travel container of iced tea on the wooden railing above it. There’s an orange lawn chair and an empty fire pit amid the grass beyond the patio rail. (The firepit is on concrete slabs but the grass is too long to see them in this shot) Tree trunks, lower tree branches and a wooden fence are in the background.

Yoga, stretches, slow-motion TKD patterns, and other low-key exercises outside once it gets dark.

A nighttime photo of a patio lit with string lights.
Night yoga for the win. Image description: An inviting nighttime photo of my patio. My railing is lit with string lights and a small patio burner, my yoga mat stretches out from the right hand side of the photo and in the far corner is a chair with a red cushion and a table with a flowering plant on it.

I’m not following my ideal plan but I am doing what I can and taking good care of myself while (mostly) avoiding that predatory migraine.

How about you?

How are you taking good care of yourself these days?

PS – If things haven’t been going so well on that front, why not give it a whirl today.?

Start small, rest a little…maybe have a popsicle.

A GIF of a dog eating a popsicle
A GIF of a small brown dog in a striped sweater eats a yellow popsicle that is clutched between its front paws. The words YUM YUM are at the bottom of the image.

ADHD · fitness · time

What Are YOU Up To This Summer?

Now that the stresses and fun of the past month or so have passed, I’m looking forward to the mixed blessing of a flexible summer schedule.

I mean, I love having my evenings free and since I work for myself, at home, I can shift things around to take advantage of good weather or some pop-up fun.

A GIF of a meerkat popping up from its den and looking around.
This is fun, right? Pop-up fun? Image description: a light-coloured meerkat popping up from its den in a sandy surface.


Since my brain has a very casual relationship with time under any circumstances, the flexibility of summer can also be a challenge for me. If I don’t make my decisions in advance or if I don’t pay close attention to how I spend my time, I can suddenly find myself at the end of summer, frustrated about all of the things I missed out on for no good reason.

So, one of my projects for this weekend is to figure out how I want to spend my summer.

An outdoor shot of a patio railing, a shed, and trees with blue sky in the background.
One thing is for certain, I want to make sure this view plays a big role in my summer. Image description: the view from my patio chair on a bright sunny day. In the foreground is a chair with a red cushion and a table with flowers in a pot next to the rail of my patio . In the background is my red shed, wooden fence, and green trees against a warm blue sky.

I’m considering when to work and when to rest (and thinking about what ‘rest’ includes). I’m figuring out what to include in my day-to-day and which larger summer activities I want to organize and do. I’m thinking about the projects I want to complete in the house and in the yard and deciding when I’d like to work on them.

Basically, I want to make sure that I actively choose a shape for my summer instead of just reacting moment by moment.

(By the way, if a summer of reacting moment by moment is your ideal, please have at it! Do what works for you.)

I’m planning to include things like revising my novel, practicing my TKD patterns outside where there’s more room, hula-hooping, going swimming, reading in my hammock, taking a few hikes, taking Khalee on longer walks, going for longer bike rides, creating some zines, and spending a lot of time hanging out outdoors with my friends.

A GIF of a child using a hula hoop in a department store. Even after their hoop drops to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips.
This little one and I have a lot in common with our hoop skills but I think we both have fun all the same. Image description: a GIF of a small child with long brown hair and glasses in a department store aisle. They are trying to use an orange hula hoop and even after it clatters to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips back and forth.

What do YOU have planned for your summer? Let me know in the comments!

Or if it isn’t summer where you are, what do you have planned for the next few months?

fitness · fun

Christine is Taking Fitness Outdoors for the Summer

Today is the first of June and we have already had a few days of delightful weather.

Perhaps people who live in places where there is an actual Spring might not find that worthy of note but here in NL, it’s kind of a big deal.

And those few fine days mean I have my yard mostly tidy, and my deck furniture arranged and I am all set up to maximize my outdoor fun this summer.

A photo of the corner of a wooden back deck, a lawn chair and two upright tables can be seen. A third table lies on its side on the left of the photo.
Well, it’s all set up except for the white table that needs to be hung on the deck rail but my rail is too wide so I need to invent a solution. Image description: a corner of an outdoor deck made with a brown lawn chair in the corner. The chair has a red cushion on it and it sits between a small blue table with a mug and a pot for plant on it, and another plant holder that also contains a pot for plant. The pots contain dirt but no flowers (yet!) there is a white metal table lying on its side on the left of the photo. A string of silver, star-shaped patio lights is hanging off the railing.

Every summer, I do some outdoor yoga, I practice my TKD patterns outdoors, and I keep my hula hoop handy, but this year I am expanding my ideas a bit.

I’m thinking of setting up some sort of outdoor circuit so I add some extra variety to my exercise AND I can spice up my outdoor workdays with some quick fitness breaks.

When my kids were small, I used to set up obstacle courses/circuits for them in the yard and I am using that for inspiration but I’d also love to hear your ideas.

A GIF of a black dog on a deck trying to catch multiple balls at once
Maybe not this. Too overwhelming. Image description: GIF of a black dog on a deck chasing a single ball at first but then many, many balls are released at once and the poor dog can’t catch them all.

Have you ever set up a circuit in your yard? What did you include?

Have you got any ideas for stuff that I can leave out most of the time? (I know me and I probably will quickly talk myself out of anything that needs setting up over and over.)

Bonus points if your ideas are goofy and/or add significant fun.

If you haven’t got any ideas for the circuit, feel free to just cheer me on. 😉

cycling · triathalon

Dreaming of summer, scheduling rides and races

It’s what cyclists (runners and triathletes too) do as we’re about to turn the corner, past midwinter, into days of more light (if not necessarily, for awhile at least, more warmth)…

We start planning and scheduling summer rides and races.

Sadly I’ll miss Paris-Ancaster (next year I’ll definitely hold the date) and the Ontario Randonneurs’ Devils Week as I’ll be speaking at philosophy conferences. Pesky day job!

In addition to regularly doing some of the London Centennial Wheelers and London Cycling Club weekly rides, here’s what I’m thinking of so far:

July 13 Kincardine Women’s Triathlon

The photo above is me on the bike course of that race a few summers ago…I can date the picture by looking at the bike. I have a better, faster bike now.

July 20 Warrior Dash

July 27-28 MS Bike Tour, Grand Bend to London

August 16-18 Centurion Niagara

Sept 14 Grandfono, Niagara Falls

Details on all of these just rolling in…

I’d also like to throw in a duathlon or two. And depending on how the transition from indoor to outdoor rowing goes, I might be doing some of those events as well.

And of course there’ll be a cycling holiday thrown in for fun, not speed.

What are your favourite spring/summer events?