dogs · fitness · walking

Khalee Solves Christine’s Problem (a poem?)

I had a long list, couldn’t choose what to do

I sat on the step to let my thoughts stew

I was tired, annoyed, upset, and scattered

Inside my skull, my poor old brain clattered.

But as I sat there, no solution in sight

Along came a good pup to set everything right.

She started out subtly 😉 glancing back from the door

Khalee, a light-haired dog, stands in a porch crowded with shoes. Her body is pointed toward the door but her head is turned back looking at someone. ​
Here’s our heroine, Khalee, at the beginning of her brain-rescue efforts. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog, stands in a porch crowded with shoes. Her body is pointed toward the door but her head is turned back looking at someone.

But when I stood up, she began to implore…

 Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog, is standing on her back paws with her front paws on me as I take the photo. Her nose is close on the camera and we can see along the left side of her head
She’s kind of blurred and frantic looking because she was moving when I snapped this. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog, is standing on her back paws with her front paws on me as I take the photo. Her nose is close on the camera and we can see along the left side of her head.

“Come on, Christine, it’s time for a walk.”

Well, I imagined her saying it, if she could talk.

A back on view of a dog in a green hoodie, she is attached to a neon yellow leash that extends toward the camera. She is walking on some light snow that covers a driveway and a piece of curb.
Our valiant pup leads the befuddled Christine down the side of her street. Image description: A back-on view of Khalee in a green hoodie. She is attached to a neon yellow leash that extends toward the camera. She is walking on some light snow that covers a driveway and a piece of curb.

In a few minutes of walking, with deep breaths of fresh air.

I began to feel better, my brain started to clear,

Now, Khalee’s to-do list was short, and she sure took her time,

A light haired dog sniffs the ground on a snow covered path.
Khalee investigates every path very closely. A cat might have passed here once and you can’t risk sniffing out that kind of info. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog in a green hoodie, attached to a neon yellow leash, is sniffing a snow-covered path.

Sniffing and scouting to see what she could find.

Khalee, a light- haired dog in a green hoodie stands on the snow-dusted sidewalk and looks off to the right.​
Khalee also does above-ground surveillance. Image description: Khalee, a light- haired dog in a green hoodie stands on the snow-dusted sidewalk and looks off to the right.

As she ambled along following all her dog plans,

I came to realize I was in good doggy hands.*

By getting me outside, making me breathe the fresh air,

Khalee had banished brain clutter and helped make my thoughts clear.

As we headed to the bridge on the way back to our home,

Image description: Khalee, a light haired dog in a green hoodie, is facing away from the camera, walking across a snow-covered ​path toward a small bridge.
Khalee leads the way towards home. Home is where we keep our snacks and a snack is the next thing on Khalee’s to-do list. Image description: Khalee is facing away from the camera, walking across a snow-covered path toward a small bridge.

I shaped my blog thoughts into this Pete-ish poem**

And then I filled it with photos of good Khalee pup,

to divert your attention from where I messed up.

So, my dear friends, if you are scattered, if your brain’s filled with bees,

Please take Khalee’s advice and walk to find ease.

You don’t need to move quickly, an amble will do,

It really helped me, may the same go for you.

A light-haired dog lies in a red leather chair facing the camera, she is resting her head in someone’s hand.
Life Coach Khalee accepts payment in ear scratches and snacks. It works out well for both of us. image description: Khalee is lying on her side in a red leather chair, her head is resting in my hand as I scratch behind her ear. My white-sleeved arm is visible at the bottom right.

*Er, paws are kind of hands, right?

**Pete is my Dad. Back in the day, he wrote this kind of light-hearted foolishness for birthday cards and office Christmas parties. I learned poetry-writing from an engineer, that should explain a few things.

fitness · nature · walking

Walking To Catch Up

I think I am developing a new Sunday habit – a walking chat.

Or maybe a chatting walk?

Either way, I’m having a great time catching up with friends while we walk along various trails in my community (and near by.)

A selfie - I’m sitting in the driver’s seat in my car wearing sunglasses, a black  baseball cap, and a blue fleece jacked with a Fastsigns logo. The sign is shining on the lower part of my face and I’m smirking.
I always bring my smirk on a walk. You know, just in case. Image description: A selfie – I’m sitting in the driver’s seat in my car wearing sunglasses, a black  baseball cap, and a blue fleece jacked with a Fastsigns logo. The sign is shining on the lower part of my face and I’m smirking.

In the Before Times, I probably would have just waited until we could swing a time to sit down together in someone’s house or a cafe and we’d catch up on each other’s lives while we snacked and drank tea.

I’m still strongly pro-snack (and pro-tea) but here in the During Times I don’t find it as relaxing to be in cafes or even in other people’s homes. I’ve met a few people for tea – sometimes on patios and sometimes inside – but I’ve also missed seeing a lot of people who I would normally catch up with in person every few months.

Recently, my friend Elaine wanted to bounce a few ideas off of me and I was about to suggest that we meet on Zoom on Sunday morning when I impulsively suggested that we meet for a walk instead.

As I was starting out on my ideas walk with Elaine that Sunday, my cousin Sheri, who I haven’t seen in ages, texted me about walking with her later that day. I jumped at the chance for two walks and two chats and I really had a relaxing, connected-feeling Sunday as a result.

This past week, my friend Sandy and I realized that we had gone too long without a chat and decided that this Sunday, we would take our conversation on the road. (Ok, so it was actually a path but it had the same effect.)

We did an hour’s walk and crammed in about 3 hours of conversation. I suspect that anyone overhearing us thought we were on fast- forward 😉

And, once again, my Sunday found me feeling relaxed and connected.

Two people's shadows among the shadows of leaves on a gravel pathway. There are fallen leaves among the gravel and there is a patch of greenery on the upper left side.
Sandy and I are VERY shadowy figures indeed. Please note that Sandy is not that much taller than me nor does she have a triangular head. Shadows can be deceiving. Image description: Our shadows among the shadows of leaves on a gravel pathway. There are fallen leaves among the gravel and there is a patch of greenery on the upper left side.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d still love to cozy into a chair with my hands wrapped around a cup of tea and have in-depth conversation but right now those conversations aren’t as relaxing as they once were. I get distracted by the ambient anxiety of living in our Covid-world.

And Zoom chats are good but they can’t fully replace being in someone’s comforting and invigorating presence.

Walking to catch up is the perfect solution for me. I get to have a bit more movement in my day, I get to actually SEE my friends and, we get to have the sort of wandering and satisfying conversations you can really only have in-person. 

I’m definitely making plans to do this regularly and catch up with everyone I have been missing. 

Who’s up for a walk next Sunday?

A wide gravel path with trees and grass on both sides is in partial sunlight. A park bench painted in rainbow/Pride colours can be seen ahead on the right side.
This not the road less travelled, it’s the path we took! Image description: a wide gravel path with trees and grass on both sides is in partial sunlight. A park bench painted in rainbow/Pride colours can be seen ahead on the right side.
ADHD · dogs · fitness · meditation · mindfulness · walking

Christine and Khalee Try Walking Meditation

Ok, full disclosure: *I* was doing a walking meditation.

Khalee was just walking and sniffing everything and deciding where to pee…which is being really in the moment, I guess so she’s got this mindfulness thing sorted already.

I usually set out for my walk with one earphone in, using my walking time to hear some cool podcast stories that I would forget to make time to listen to otherwise.

Today, though, my mind was busy and I didn’t think I could focus on a story. So, I decided to try a new walking meditation that I bought last week.

Image description: Khalee, a medium-sized, light-haired dog on a neon yellow leash is standing on an asphalt path and looking back toward the camera. Christine’s feet in black and​ white sneakers can be seen at the bottom of the photo.
At this point, Khalee was doing a ‘waiting for Christine’ meditation practice. She has to do that one a lot. Image description: Khalee, a medium-sized, light-haired dog on a neon yellow leash is standing on an asphalt path and looking back toward the camera. Christine’s feet in black and white sneakers can be seen at the bottom of the photo.

I’ve tried to do walking meditation before, figuring that the movement would help me focus, but I found it was the opposite. Trying to make myself think about how my feet were landing, over and over, was enough to make my brain want to crawl out of my skull.

(Note: I have only tried two walking meditations before and they were both really foot-focused. Perhaps that was an unfortunate coincidence and most aren’t like that.)

Last week, thanks to a tweet from someone with ADHD requesting ideas for meditation, I came across a walking meditation from Anna Granta, an ADHD Coach from the UK.

I figured that a meditation from an ADHD coach would be a bit more tailored to someone with ADHD, and I was right!

For starters, she has a great voice. Lots of meditation leaders have voices that grate on my nerves but Granta’s is sensible, even, and friendly.

The meditation is short – less than 5 minutes from start to finish, including instructions.

And it’s very practical – leading the listener to tune into what they could see, hear, smell, and feel while they walked.

And once it was done, I kept my podcast off for the rest of my walk, noticing the sounds, smells, and the details of the sights around me.

It was a short practice but it was really refreshing. And it would be easy to do in the future.*

I returned from my walking feeling like I had untangled a knot in my brain.

Neurotypical people or those with an established meditation practice might find this practice too short or too quick but my ADHD brain loved it. It was short enough to feel doable, long enough to calm down a bit, and clear and inviting enough that I could keep practicing even after the audio finished.

I’ll definitely be using this meditation in the future. Not for every walk, because sometimes hearing a story is exactly what I need in a given moment, but I love having it close at hand for when my brain needs to smooth out a bit.

Khalee’s walking meditation was also successful. She left the house untroubled, returned the same way, and just walked when she was walking and sniffed while she was sniffing. She’s a mindfulness expert, really.

Image description: Khalee, a medium-sized, light-haired dog on a neon yellow leash is walking away from the camera while she sniffs the ground. She is standing on some grass and there are large decorative rocks a bit further ahead. Part of an asphalt path can be seen on the right side of the photo.​
Here’s Khalee during the sniffing part of her meditation practice. Image description: Khalee, a medium-sized, light-haired dog on a neon yellow leash is walking away from the camera while she sniffs the ground. She is standing on some grass and there are large decorative rocks a bit further ahead. Part of an asphalt path can be seen on the right side of the photo.

*Her instructions are clear and now that I have followed it once, easily done on my own even without the recording. I will still go back to it, though, to help me ease into the process.

fit at mid-life · health · interview

Walking Her Talk…And Her Writing: An Interview With Author Ann Douglas


I first ‘met’ Ann Douglas around 20 years ago when my information-seeking pregnant self picked up her Mother of all Pregnancy Books at Chapters. I loved her writing – she wasn’t the expert talking down to the novice, she was the experienced friend giving you some perspective on whatever you were dealing with right now.

We started chatting back and forth on blogs back in the day and I volunteered to be interviewed for some of her other parenting books, and, in the process, we’ve become good friends. I’ve only seen Ann once in person but we have stayed in touch with phone calls, Zoom chats, and email.

A few years ago, Ann took up the habit of long daily walks and it has been life-changing for her so I thought that Fit as a Feminist Issue readers might enjoy hearing about her routine and about her other projects and interests.

  Image description: Two middle-aged adults in life jackets smile for the camera. Ann, on the right, has curly grey hair. Neil, on the left, has short grey hair and a moustache and he is wearing sunglasses. The deck of a boat and some lake water can be seen behind them.​
Ann Douglas and her husband, Neil, on a boat ride this summer. Image description: Two middle-aged adults in life jackets smile for the camera. Ann, on the right, has curly grey hair. Neil, on the left, has short grey hair and a moustache and he is wearing sunglasses. The deck of a boat and some lake water can be seen behind them.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous bestselling parenting books and she is currently
writing a book for and about women at midlife. She lives on a lake in a rural area outside of Bancroft, Ontario.

What are some of your current projects (fitness-related or otherwise)? 


I’m hard at work on a book for and about women at midlife, I’m doing a lot of volunteer work related to electoral reform, and I’m taking full advantage of the precious and time-limited gift that is a Canadian summer. For me, that means going for twice-daily walks on a rural road and paddling in my kayak a couple of times each week.



I know that walks are an important part of your daily life. Can you tell me when that started, some details about your routine, and what benefits you have found from incorporating walking into your routine? Does it help your peace of mind? Your feeling of well-being? Your writing?


Walking is a key ingredient in the recipe for a happy, healthy me. I started walking back in 2013, after being completely sedentary for most of my life. And when I say “sedentary,” I mean sedentary. Even a 15-minute walk around the block triggered debilitating foot pain. (I was morbidly obese at the time and my feet were having difficulty dealing with the additional weight I was carrying.) The clock was ticking (I was about to turn 50) and I knew that I needed to find a way to be physically active on a regular basis if I wanted to reduce my risk of developing some of the serious health problems that tend to run in my family, including heart disease and diabetes.


When I started walking, I had physical health goals in mind. What I hadn’t counted on was the impact that regular physical activity would have on my mental health. My twice-daily walks not only help to put the brakes on my anxiety: they also help me to sleep better at night which, in turn, helps to control my anxiety and boost my mood. This has proven to be a complete gamechanger for me, in terms of my mood and my overall quality of life. (I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 18 years ago.) Getting enough sleep and physical activity are the glue that holds everything together.


Walking has also helped me to manage another major health challenge. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease: a balance and dizziness disorder that, in my case, is characterized by really acute attacks of vertigo (the kind where you end up throwing up for a couple of hours straight). I quickly figured out that walking as soon as possible after a vertigo attack helps to reset my vestibular system; and that walking regularly helps to maintain the health of my vestibular system. Walking is a key strategy for minimizing the impact of my Meniere’s disease (along with getting enough sleep; minimizing my intake of salt and caffeine; and avoiding alcohol). I also try to minimize stress, but that can be a little hit and miss.


However, the walking helps with that, so even if I’m more stressed than I’d like to be, at least I have a strategy for dialing back the level of stress.


I’m really lucky that I live in a naturally spectacular part of Ontario, so walking automatically means spending time in nature, because I’m surrounded by nature the moment I step outside my front door. That’s a huge benefit: being able to nurture my life-long love affair with nature while I’m nurturing my body at the same time.


You were asking about the impact of walking on my writing. I deliberately take the first of my twice-daily walks at lunchtime, midway through my working day. It’s a way to recharge my mental batteries, just as they’re starting to lose their charge. And often when I’m out for my walk, a solution to a writing-related problem will pop into my head. (“Wait a minute: Chapter 4 should actually be Chapter 1!”) It’s pretty magical, how that works.

Image description: a rural road extends around a curve. The ground is covered with snow and there are snow-covered trees on​ either side of the lightly-plowed road.
A scene from one of Ann’s walks this past winter. Image description: a rural road extends around a curve. The ground is covered with snow and there are snow-covered trees on either side of the lightly-plowed road.


How do you feel about fitness as a key element in self-care?


It’s a huge deal for me. My younger self would be amazed to know that I grew up to be an adult who is an active living evangelist. I hated gym class when I was a kid. Like really hated it….


Being physically active on a regular basis has also given me some newfound body confidence. I’m willing to try new things that I simply wouldn’t have been willing to try before I became physically active. Two years ago, I bought myself a kayak and now I love kayaking. Younger me would have been convinced I wasn’t athletic or coordinated enough to go kayaking. Midlife me knows better!


You are writing a book about women at mid-life and the founders of this blog, Sam & Tracy, have written a book called ‘Fit at Mid-Life.’  I’m interested to know if fitness came up in your research as an important element for women at mid-life. If so, could you tell
me a bit about that?


It definitely came up a lot—and a lot of these conversations were about guilt: the guilt women felt for not being able to be as physically active as they wanted to be. Midlife is crunch time for a lot of women—a time of life when they’re asked to juggle an impossible number of responsibilities and to live up to sky-high expectations of what it means to be living well at midlife. Sometimes important things fall off their to do lists, simply because there isn’t enough of them to go around. That isn’t something that they should be feeling guilty about. It’s something our culture should be feeling guilty about—for asking so much of women that they don’t always have the capacity to take good care of themselves.

As a parenting author, did you find that fitness was a concern for the parents you interviewed or who sought your advice? If so, could you share a bit about that, too?


This definitely came up in the research for my most recent parenting book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids. Once again, there was a lot of guilt as well as frustration with the very real barriers that can prevent parents from exercising as often as they’d like, and for some parents more than others. For example, if you don’t live in a safe and walkable neighbourhood, being active can be a huge challenge. Ditto if you’re a single parent who doesn’t have anyone else available to give you a break so that you can go for a walk by yourself. (Sure, you can walk with a child, but research shows that exercising with kids doesn’t necessarily reap the same fitness benefits as exercising on your own, as anyone who has ever tried to go for a walk with a toddler can attest. You’ll get to see a lot of dandelions, but you might not get a very robust workout.)


But back to the guilt—both guilt for not being able to take time for yourself so you can exercise and guilt for actually taking that time.


I think the best way to deal with that guilt is to simply ask yourself, “What’s reasonable and sustainable for me right now?” and to look for a way to start with something. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment. It doesn’t have to happen every day. And maybe you can mentally frame it a way that actually feels good: as a nice thing you’re doing for yourself as opposed to yet another obligation to add to an already too long to do list. (“I get to go for a 10-minute walk around the block” as opposed to “I have to….”)

Image description: a bright blue fibreglass kayak is tied up at a small floating dock on a lake. The kayak cover rests on the dock and we can see the water all around the dock and the kayak.
Ann’s kayak awaits her next paddling adventure. Image description: a bright blue fibreglass kayak is tied up at a small floating dock on a lake. The kayak cover rests on the dock and we can see the water all around the dock and the kayak.


The name of this blog is Fit is a Feminist Issue. Does the connection between feminism and fitness resonate with you? If so, how?


Yes, and on so many levels! First of all, in terms of body love and self-acceptance. Being
physically active on a regular basis has allowed me to feel good about my body in ways that I didn’t even think were possible, given the toxic cultural messages women are given about their bodies. A lot of the women I’ve interviewed for my book have been quite explicit about the need to break up with the patriarchy—how that is a path to liberation for them, both personally and politically—and I couldn’t agree more. Gender roles as prescribed by our patriarchal culture make it more challenging for women to find the time or to have the other resources necessary to take good care of themselves. And, of course, those challenges are intersectional, with some women being impacted so much more than others. My rage about these issues intensifies as I grow older. I just want things to be better, and not just for women like me (a cis, heterosexual, white middle class woman). I want things to be better for all women. Because we deserve nothing less.

Is there anything you would like to talk about that arose from other questions but that I didn’t directly ask about?

I guess I’d just add a quick note about self-compassion. There’s a lot of research to show that women who treat themselves with self-compassion are more likely to recover from an exercise setback (for example, an injury, a family emergency, or something else that disrupts their plans to be physically active). Instead of beating themselves up for having to put their workouts on hold, they simply treat themselves with the same kindness as they would show to a friend who was facing a similar challenge. Instead of feeling like giving up, they feel like they can re-engage with their exercise goal. Learning about self-compassion was life-changing for me, which is why I’m always talking about it.

dogs · fitness · motivation · walking

On this glum day, Christine is grateful Khalee needs a walk.

You’re reading this on Tuesday but I’m writing it on Monday.

I’ve been stuck between metaphorical gears all day.

There’s nothing wrong and I’m not feeling down or anything, I’m just not…something.

It might be because I had a lot of administrative dreams last night. (You know, the kind where you spend the whole night putting things in order?*) So I woke up tired.

Or maybe it’s because the weather looks like this here today.

A paved path with trees on the side on an overcast,  foggy day.
It’s just so inspiring and uplifting, isn’t it? (Does sarcasm work when you can’t hear me say it?) Image Description: a paved path with sparse trees on either side. It’s overcast and foggy.

Whatever the reason, I’ve spent the day feeling glum and kind of vaguely dissatisfied with the work I was doing.

I know how to shake this feeling, of course.

*All* I have to do is to get moving.

But when you are feeling meh, it’s hard to motivate yourself.

And when you are feeling meh and you have ADHD, motivation is even harder to come by.

That’s where our heroine, Khalee, comes to the rescue.

Because she needs a walk, it’s an automatic part of my day.

A light haired  dog in    a red and white shirt sniffs the air on a paved path.
I love how Khalee sniffs the air like this when we are on a walk. I think it helps her decide which path to take each time. (We follow her nose.) Image description: a light-haired dog in a red shirt covered in white hearts is standing on a paved path. She is facing away from the camera and her nose is lifted as she sniffs the air.

So, despite the fog, despite the chill, despite my lack of motivation, late this afternoon, I bundled up and took Khalee for a stroll.

As we walked along, looking around and taking deep breaths, I started to feel a lot better.

I started smiling at Khalee, sniffing her way along, wearing the dog shirt that I refer to as her ‘pyjamas.’

And I was filled with gratitude for this good pup whose simple need for exercise helped drag me out of today’s doldrums.

A light haired   dog looking directly into the camera.
Here’s Khalee Pup (a.k.a. KP) after I called out ‘Hey, Good Girl!‘ so she would turn around. She knows how good she is. Image description: a light haired dog, wearing a red shirt with white hearts on it, looks directly at the camera.

I was still tired but I didn’t feel meh at all anymore.

Thanks for taking your Christine out for a walk, KP, she really needed it.

*Last night, in separate dreams, I was searching for a piece of paper that doesn’t exist in real life, I was trying to remind my husband of things that aren’t happening in real life, and I was trying to teach a sewing class over Zoom (also not happening in real life- which is best for all concerned.)

fitness

Neighborhood walking

I went for an early morning walk yesterday. Morning walks are not my normal thing, but I had time to kill between dropping my daughter at her job and a doctor’s appointment before work. It was my second walk doing something a little different in the last week, and both highlighted three revelations that aren’t totally new, but bear repeating and highlighting.

Walking, for me, shrinks distances. I get into habits of believing that things are further away than they really are, so I take my car. I hate using my car for short distances, so I organize “great circle routes” to do all the errands at once. When I break down some of those errands into single chores, I can easily get in some physical activity at the same time.

When I walk, I notice things. Yesterday morning’s walk included three kids gleefully stomping in a big puddle to smash the melting ice (one of my favourite late winter activities). I also spotted a window with a row of flowering potted plants, and chatted for a moment with a friendly crossing guard. These were all small moments of joy that I would never get in a moving vehicle.

Walking is a way for me to take action. I care a lot about the environment, so by using my own steam I am not contributing to climate change. I acknowledge that being able to walk places is something not available to everyone, especially in winter. I had to navigate icy stretches and some small snowbanks blocking the sidewalks. In summer, I would be able to note where sidewalks are broken or too high for someone with impaired mobility. I won’t notice them as much as someone in a wheelchair or using a walker, but I can at least report what I do see to the folks who maintain our streets and sidewalks so that fixes can be made.

Feet wearing black rubber boots, standing in an icy puddle. Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash

Sat with Nat · walking

Nat navigates walking to work in a Polar Vortex

It’s been a week of proper cold winter weather in London, Ontario. I live on the little southern bit of Canada wedged between the Great Lakes. It rarely drops below-20C here but when it does it tends to be because the Arctic airmass slips south into the jet stream and it stays that way for a week or two.

Some Canadians lean into the weather quipping “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just not dressing for the weather,” That supposes everyone has both the means to acquire the right clothing & equipment as well as the knowledge to know what to buy, how to wear it and when to stay indoors.

My partner and I are fairly committed to walking to work as part of our fitness and reducing our carbon footprint. I’m also terribly cheap and hate paying $8-12 a day to park my clunker.

Some days we just bundled up with hats, mitts, good boots and faces covered.

A close up of Nat’s face framed by a fake fur hood. You can just make out her eyes between her grey toque and bright orange face cover

My hood is always up when it’s -24C plus wind chill.

We did walk 2/5 days this week but we also chose to drive when the “feels like” temperature hit -39C. It was a week of driving in a cold car, working in a cold office and wearing layers of clothes in the house & in bed.

Brrrrrr

This type of cold weather wrecks havoc on batteries so for folks using electric mobility devices like scooters it was a week of being home. Waiting for buses became so hazardous school transportation was cancelled Thursday.

I think one way we can debunk toxic masculinity is calling out ideas of being able to “tough out” the weather. Sure, there are times to dig deep into your resolve to overcome obstacles. And yes, making our lives consciously more physically challenging can be a way to enhance our fitness. But those ideas must also be balanced against safety and wellbeing.

So I’m ok getting the lift offered by a friend on a snowy afternoon as I walk home. I’m ok driving when I might otherwise risk frostbite. I have been looking for rain pants and insulated snow pants that fit for about 5 years to no avail.

I would like some though so if you know where a woman can find women’s size 20 or XXXL I’d love to hear about it!

fitness

Walking shouldn’t be weird

The scene is a hotel in a large American city. I’m at a conference and heading out the front door to run an errand and meet colleagues at a restaurant down the road. I’ve Googled the directions, looked at the map, timed it all out, and put on my comfortable walking shoes. The only thing I need to know leaving the hotel is whether to turn left or right.

I shouldn’t have asked.

“Where are you walking to?”

I give the address.

“That’s too far to walk.”

No, it’s not. I’ve got the map. And Google says it’s 31 minutes away.

“That’s a long way.”

I want the exercise.

“But it’s cold and it’s raining.”

<Fact: It’s 6 degrees Celsius.>

I’m from Canada. This is warm. And it’s just mist. And I’ve got my umbrella.

“Okay then.”

The concierge shakes his head disapprovingly.

Now to be clear I don’t think this is an American versus Canadian thing. I’ve had similar reactions from hotel staff in Winnipeg and Calgary.

In New York walking would be normal. In Chicago walking downtown would be fine. In Toronto and Montreal, ditto. You walk.

But some cities culturally aren’t walking cities. Walking shouldn’t be weird.

See The US Surgeon General’s Call to Make Walking a National Health Priority.

The U.S. Surgeon General is calling on Americans to “step it up” — that is, to do more walking. He says this easy and free activity could prevent serious health problems.

On Wednesday, Dr. Vivek Murthy launched the “Step It Up” campaign in Washington, D.C., a national effort to promote walking and wheelchair rolling. He calls it a powerful tool to prevent chronic health problems.

“The science tells us that 22 minutes of brisk walking or moderate physical activitycan get you these health benefits of reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Murthy explained.

And I love, love, love that he’s including wheelchair rolling in this campaign. Yay for inclusive fitness!

 

 

fitness · Weekends with Womack

In praise of feet as travel accessory

imageTraveling, for me, is energizing, refreshing and a real pleasure. It’s a chance to leave my regular life for a bit and try on different modes of existence. Eating new foods, embracing a new cadence for the day, looking at other landscapes and diving into another environment are all ways to clear out old habits and experiment with new ones.

When I lived in Italy 16 years ago I tried dressing up more in response to the well put together Italians I encountered every day going about their business. Sadly, that habit didn’t really stick. But I did develop a love for Italian coffee that has persisted.

Another thing that travel does for me is remind me of the virtues of public transportation. In Boston I drive and ride my commuter bike around town but don’t usually take subway or buses much. In other places– especially cities with good public transportation infrastructure– it’s easy to get around on trams, trains, buses and even ferries. It may seem like it’s more time consuming (and does require some planning), but it’s a great way to see what a place is like. You can get a look at the locals in their daily lives and also see the working areas– not just the tourist sites.

Engaging down the path to discovery is sometimes taxing, though. Managing the logistics, luggage and lag (of the jet variety) sometimes leaves me a bit low energy. But I’ve noticed something else on my travels for the past two months: no matter how tired, lost, confused or homesick I’ve been, walking around always makes it better. Here are some examples where walking is a handy option;

I’m in an airport with a long wait, too tired to read. I walk around.’m newly arrived somewhere and majorly jet lagged– headachy and queasy and out of sorts. I walk around (preferably with nice friends like Samantha and Diego, who I saw Tuesday in Toronto).

I’m not feeling up for navigating yet on my bike in a new place. I walk around.

I want to get a feel for a neighborhood, but have no particular destination in mind. I walk around.

I spy a forest path or beach that looks enticing. I walk around.

My normal sports outlets are not available because I’m far away or can’t find or afford to do them. I walk around.

I’m traveling back to Sydney for 3 more weeks of work and exploration and social fun. I’m planning on swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and of course riding my bike. But no matter what, my feet are available as a handy travel tool to combat lots of travel woes.

So thank you feet!

fitness

My week of walking on the wild side

For the past two weeks I’ve been home from work recovering from surgery (everything is fine and I’m now back on my bike) and for exercise that means I’ve been walking, a lot.

One of the cool things about recovering from surgery as an active person is that you can scale back considerably and still have lots that you can do. No biking or running, fine, but I walked lots. Some of it was with the new puppy so it wasn’t all speedy. To the surprise of the staff at the clinic I attended one week out I walked there and back, about 8 km. But parking would have cost $10, I’m frugal, and it’s not like I was getting any other exercise.

But all that walking made me think about pedestrian safety and risk. When Tracy blogged about giving up road cycling and her fear of being hit by a car one of my first thoughts was about walking and cars. Why? Because I’ve had two people in my life in the past few years killed by cars while out walking. One was a friend from church out walking her dog at night and the other was an older woman I knew from the velodrome. She was out walking in the evening. I kept imagining how many people would judge that activity safe and her velodrome riding risky. I blogged about cycling and risk here.

During my week of walking lots I heard of more pedestrian deaths in the news. Another pedestrian was killed in our city this week. A 70 year old, crossing the road, at an intersection. We don’t yet whether charges will be laid but I couldn’t help but note that there’s been no outcry about pedestrian safety.

Should he have been wearing reflective clothing, flashing lights? A helmet? Maybe it’s not safe to walk and we should all just stop. Maybe we should drive everywhere and then walk in our houses on treadmills.

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See also Toronto driver crashed into four pedestrians leaving one dead.

Pedestrian deaths are common. They don’t make news except on slow days. In big cities hundreds of people are killed each year while out walking from place A to place B.

Freakonomics even speculates that running someone over is the best way to get away with murder.

From Mike’s traffic blog, talking about New York, “There were 1,300 fatal pedestrian crashes there from 2008 to 2013 and only 66 drivers were arrested. That’s the entry point for Freakonomics to analyze pedestrian crashes. In New York City, 52% of all traffic fatalities are pedestrians. That percent drops to 14% for the rest of the United States. Obviously there’s an exposure risk in New York. There are more people walking around there than anywhere else.”

You don’t hear much of that and as a cyclist I find the comparison with cycling deaths a bit hard to understand. There are ghost bikes but no ghost sneakers. That’s part of why I worry about ghost bikes. They single out cycling as particularly dangerous rather than cars as our shared enemy.

Cycling advocacy groups do occasionally promote helmets for pedestrians, on the grounds that what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander. See here
and here.

I don’t think of myself as much of a walker. I say it’s too slow. I say that I’m saving walking as a fitness activity for my old age, along with cruises for vacations, long driving trips, and television for entertainment.

Now the not walking thing isn’t quite true. For years, I pushed strollers. I will always walk dogs. I love hiking. But I tend not to walk as transportation. I usually drive the car or ride my bike for distances over 2 km.

Maybe it’s an identity thing. I am a cyclist, but I’d never describe myself as an avid walker.

And in terms of safety, I’m not suggesting we stop walking. But we should think differently about risk, maybe that means worrying a bit more about walking and a bit less about cycling. Certainly we should pay lots attention when walking (stop looking at our phones! ) and maybe even wear reflective clothing and lights when walking at night. I’m also looking forward to the era of driverless cars. I think smart cars are likely to be much safer for their passengers and for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

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