family · fitness

Family vacationing: working together to maximize collective fun (reblog)

HI readers– during the past five days I’ve been on vacation with some dear friends, taking some time out (and away) to enjoy water, sun, nature, food, a little culture, and laughs with each other. I’ll be blogging about it soon, but have to get to the airport very soon. So, I offer you another family vacation blog post– from 2016 with my sister and her kids– about adjustment, fitness and fun. Enjoy, and then head outside if it’s nice where you are.


clothing · fitness · self care · shoes

Five Lessons Catherine learned from a Buy-Nothing year

Starting July 1, 2022, I began a half-year commitment to buy-nothing*. What that meant for me was no buying clothing or shoes or accessories, with the following exceptions: 1) I could replace worn out sports clothing items or underwear; 2) I could buy from my favorite consignment shop Wearovers, provided that I brought items to consign at the same time. I then re-upped January 1, 2023, for another half year, until July 1, 2023.

First of all, before the lessons learned, here’s how it went:

July–December 2022 went very well. I accidentally ordered a pair of cute but contraband pajama bottoms to go with the needed replacement underwear, but that was about it. I enjoyed feeling liberated from asking myself time and time again, “do I need that? Do I want that?” It was a relief to have buying clothing off the table as an option.

But as I rang in the New Year, my resolve weakened. I ordered a pair of teal-blue Chaco’s sandals. Why? Because my sister and niece had pairs (purple and tan, respectively) and I really liked them. Sigh. And then I ordered a pair of work shoes– blue suede Dansko patti shoes. In my (feeble) defense, I wanted a more comfortable supportive shoe for teaching, and these fit the bill. But there are still those sandals, purchased in January.

Then as my birthday approached in April, I decided I just wanted some new things. I bought two long-sleeved colorful shirts and a chocolate brown jacket. Then in June I bought a(nother) black jacket for work.

Forgive me, readers, for I have purchased. Not a lot– certainly less than I would have if not for that pesky buy-nothing plan I made ages ago. But I didn’t follow the plan completely.

Still, doing this for a year wasn’t for nothing. I’ve learned some things.

First: I now know I have a more-than-ample supply of clothing for a bunch of occasions; I’ll do Rent the Runway if I have a gala to attend, but otherwise I’m all set. Even after a bit of Marie Kondo’ing, I’ve still got lots of sources of sartorial joy.

Second: I like wearing a smaller number of favorite mix-and-match tops, bottoms, jackets, scarves, etc. Wearing my current favorites slightly more often has not drawn gasps from colleagues or students. Focusing on what I have and how I feel like accessorizing has been kind of fun. I’ve even brought some older favorites back into rotation, which always makes me feel virtuous.

Third: I thought that browsing online would be harmless– an idle pleasure or brief downtime activity that wouldn’t tempt me overmuch. WRONG. This may seem absolutely obvious to all of you, but I thought that the fact of my resolution would shield me from too much exposure to fashion commerce. Browsing is NOT a good idea when one is on a buy-nothing plan.

Fourth: the Internet never forgets you and what clothing or shoes or accessories you once liked or even looked at. You will keep seeing these same items, over and over, while engaging on other online work. For instance, after briefly browsing summer sandals a week ago, I have been besieged with cute summer sandal ads, that keep getting bigger and bigger, even as I was reading a Smithsonian magazine article.

Here are some ads that kept popping up.

Shoe ads: top left includes a pair I bought in person, top right are others I might like, and bottom is a bigger view of the original ad. All obscured my view of the article I was trying to read.

I silently acknowledged the cute sandals, and returned to my reading. But the sandal ad people were having none of it. Their second salvo came across my laptop window:

Three more ads, with as-yet-unseen-by-me cute sandals, throwing in a cream-colored boot and brown suede shoe just for fun.

When I steadfastly refused to click, the advertising bots switched tactics and showed me some sneakers. They are relentless. Moral of the story: when you browse, be prepared to be followed around by those selfsame items, entreating you to buy them.

Five: a buy-nothing plan about anything (clothes, books, home goods, etc.) will likely have some fine print attached, because life is complicated. I’m going to resume my buy-nothing plan for the rest of 2023. What I like best about it is that it provides an occasion– namely the end of the six-month period, which is what I’m doing– to consider if I need or want to replace anything, or if there’s something special I really want to buy. Slowing down the process of purchasing has been great for me and my bank account. For me, it’s not really buy-nothing, but rather buy-slowly. That’s fine with me.

Readers, are any of you doing buy-nothing plans? How are they going? What have you taken away from them? I’d love to hear from you.

cycling · fitness · gear

Not-very-wordy Wednesday: a weekend with two bike bottles

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! It’s mid-July and I’m in a slow-news-day mood. So herewith my very short photo essay about a trip my bike bottle took with my friend Norah’s bike bottle to western Massachusetts last weekend.

After arriving Friday in a swell of weekend-escape-motorists, Norah and I went out for dinner in Northampton. No need to take the bike bottles; they rested at our rental place, ready to go to work Saturday morning.

And go to work they did. We biked around Florence, MA and lunched at a local diner.

Norah's bottle (left) and mine (right), discussing which tunes to play during our diner luncheon. They had one of those old-fashioned booth jukeboxes!
Norah’s bottle (left) and mine (right), discussing which tunes to play during our diner luncheon.

The bottles ended up deferring to the diner soundtrack, which was mainly 80’s hits. I think the bottles’ tastes are more eclectic.

As we pedaled down the local bike path, we saw a family of deer coming out of the brush and trees nearby. It didn’t occur to me to offer them some of my gatorade. Was that rude? My bottle was silent on the question, but it’s usually pretty circumspect.

Fawn and doe (a deer), on the side of the bike path outside Northampton, MA. I hope they weren’t looking for their car keys.

After rolling into Northampton proper, we locked up the bikes and helmets, (FYI I use this ridiculous and super heavy but secure lock for my fancy carbon e-bike) and went in search of iced coffee. We were soon successful, and everyone (Norah, me, and our bike bottles) sat in cool comfort while Norah and I sipped and enjoyed the cafe scene.

Norah’s ginger lemonade and my vanilla iced latte, mostly finished and certainly towered over by those majestic water/gatorade-carrying companions, our bike bottles.

We headed back up the path to our rental place, swigging from our bottles as needed. And it was needed– the whole week was hot and humid. We all did our jobs– bikes, bottles, and owners of the aforementioned– until we made it back for showers and evening plans (a dance concert at Jacob’s Pillow in Beckett, MA). In case you’re interested in dance, here’s a youtube video of one of the pieces we saw. It was mesmerizing.

They wouldn’t let us bring the bike bottles to the performance. There was cold water available outside the theater, which was nice. But it wasn’t a substitute. Still…

The next morning, it was raining. I mean RAINING. A real deluge. So we packed up, took our bags and bikes and bike bottles to yet another cafe for food and beverages, and wended our way home. And there our story ends. For now. Until the next bike bottle adventure…

birthday · fitness · gadgets

On the beauty (and difficulty) of gifts for the fit feminist

Is there anything better than a gift that’s 1) unexpected; and 2) absolutely perfect? What a dynamite combo!

This week I met up with my book club to celebrate a friend’s birthday (not me; it would be weird to refer to myself in this way). We had a great time, and the birthday friend was gifted and carded and caked in fine fashion.

Imagine my surprise when my birthday friend handed *me* a present.

It was a late birthday gift (I turned 61 in April). Honestly, it’s my firm belief that gifts never come at a bad time, so I gladly received my present. And here it is: the perfect coffee mug for a cyclist!

This is indeed a perfect gift for me. It checks many boxes:

  • handmade pottery
  • big enough but not too big
  • nod to cycling, but not in a screaming way
  • useful for my everyday life
  • in pretty colors that my friend knows I love

As important, though, my sweet mug gift avoids the pitfalls of weird, useless, flimsy or downright awful gifts marketed to folks who enjoy some specific physical activity. You know what I’m talking about. In case you don’t, here is what I mean.

scented candle labeled "squat because no one raps about little butts". This is awful and I cannot lie.
scented candle labeled “squat because no one raps about little butts”. This is awful and I cannot lie.
women-specific tank shirt saying "obviously not the instructor". Tie this shirt to the anchor and send it to the bottom...
women-specific tank saying “obviously not the instructor”. I recommend tying the shirt to the anchor in the photo and sending it to the bottom of the sea.
Pair of wine glasses saying "gym now" and "wine later". So tired of this.
Pair of wine glasses saying “gym now” and “wine later”. We are all so over this, aren’t we?
I saved the best/worst for last: a painted, decorated rock with two cyclist figures glued on, with a personalizable plaque.

It’s fun to receive gifts that acknowledge something in my life that I love. I’ve received a bike pizza cutter, some gorgeous hand-made coasters that look like chain rings or cassettes, and of course bike chain earrings, to name a few. They all fall into the categories of pretty, useful, hand-made or otherwise very pleasing.

Not to be a grump about gifts– I appreciate that when someone makes an effort to give me something. It’s the sentiment that should carry the day. And it does. Unless I’m on the receiving end of that rock with the cyclists glued to it.

Readers, what sorts of strange, gaudy or downright ugly fitness-themed gifts have you received? Or, what are your favorite fitness-themed gifts? Please tell me– I’m so curious… 🙂

cycling · fitness

Meditation for a Bicyclist: poem by Sara Letourneau

Dear readers– for your quiet reading pleasure, I’m delighted to share with you this poem by poet Sara Letourneau. I came across her work in the newsletter for Grubstreet Boston, a center for creative writing that offers courses and support for writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and other forms. I’ve taken several online writing courses at Grubstreet, and am starting an in-person storytelling course this coming Tuesday.

I love this poem because it expresses the joy in the solidity and security of the bike, and the excitement and thrill of exploring the unknown. Our own Fieldpoppy writes brilliantly about this duality in her bike travel logs. Some of them are in effect prose poems. Check out her reflections on her solo cycling trip across Lithuania here.

Back to Sara: her poem, “Meditation for a Bicyclist” was originally published in Amethyst Review, and you can access it here in their publication.

Meditation for a Bicyclist

May your trail be long, open, and clear,

no matter if it’s made of earth or asphalt.


May your weather be cool and dry,

with the wind at your back, beckoning you forward.


May the air you breathe smell ripe with life—

early fall sky and sunlight, sparkling joy and resolve.


And should the pavement be cracked or breached by tree roots,

may you coast over them as if they are no hindrance.


And should your tires slip

and cause you to fall,


may you remember that you can always stand up,

get back on your bike, and continue onward.


May you always carry a knowing of the road forward

and your route back, and yet


may you always dare to veer off-path

into the forest undergrowth and make your own way.


May your legs muscles burn and hum, gifting you

the momentum to push onward, mile after mile.


May there be a rushing of your heart, a melding

of hands and handlebars, feet and pedals,


until you and your machine are one,

racing ahead with spirit as teammate and freedom as destination.


May you always delight

in the journey


Readers, do you have favorite poems about your favorite movement? We’d love to read them. Send us a link in the comments.

Sara Letourneau is a poet as well as the book coach, editor, and writing workshop instructor at Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services. Her poetry has received first place in the Blue Institute’s Words on Water contest and has appeared in Full Mood MagLiving CrueArlington Literary Journal, Mass Poetry’s Poem of the Moment and Hard Work of HopeMuddy River Poetry ReviewSoul-LitAmethyst Review, and Constellations, among others. Her manuscript for her first full-length poetry collection is on submission. You can learn more about working with Sara and read more of her work at

athletes · fitness

On being a life-long clumsy/klutzy athlete (emphasis on the athlete part)

The New York Times seems to be bent on bringing back the terms “clumsy” “klutzy” and “uncoordinated”. In this article, called “Uncoordinated? You can still be an athlete”, experts and the author offer tips on how to combat clumsiness or “coordination problems” for those folks they label as klutzes. Spoiler: they hold out a glimmer of hope for meaningful movement life for the sports have-nots of the world:

Transforming clumsiness into smoothness isn’t easy, and there are limits. But while the klutzes of the world might not become Olympic athletes, they can get all the fun and benefits of a good workout.

Thank you so much, New York Times!

purple petaled flower and thank you card
Photo by George Dolgikh on

As you can see by now, I have issues with the notions “clumsy” or “klutzy” or “uncoordinated” applied to a whole person. Why? Glad you asked. Here’s a short list:

  • There’s no one notion of coordination– it applies in different ways in different sports and activities under different conditions, even within the same person.
  • The myriad forms and levels of coordination that each of us manifests change over time: with maturation, aging, instruction, new technology and gear, after injuries and life events, etc. It’s not static for anyone.

By the way, here’s their list for the sportswise less-talented of us:

  • think positive– say to yourself, I can be athletic (yeah, that will totally fix it)
  • get enough sleep (duh)
  • explore mindfulness (which seems to be the prescription du jour for everything)
  • get some instruction at a micro-step level (e.g. for swimming: stroke-stroke-breathe. Oh, I got it now..,)
  • choose a sport with less going on (e.g. more running and less basketball)

Why am I so irritated by this article? for two reasons: a) it’s playing into people’s insecurities about movement by labeling them in a way that doesn’t seem to invite them into movement or activity with others; b) I’ve been a clumsy athlete my whole life and there’s basically nothing wrong with that.

How am I a clumsy athlete? oh, let me count the ways:

  • I’ve broken both wrists roller and ice skating on separate occasions (4th grade and grad school)
  • I’ve fallen down stairs at least three times, resulting in ankle sprains or ligament tears;
  • I’ve endo’ed while mountain biking countless times, once during a race, resulting in a rotator cuff tear;
  • The biggest compliment I ever got in ballet class was “You’re looking less awkward!”
  • I’ve hit my head on a diving board trying to do a back dive;
  • I almost never manage to get out of a kayak without getting myself very wet;
  • I’ve fallen while skiing, tap dancing, doing yoga, playing squash, braking on my bike at a red light, walking anywhere near ice or snow, etc.
  • I can’t reliably hit a volleyball and make it go roughly in the direction of another person;
  • I could go on.

And still I rise, getting myself up, dusting (or mopping) myself off, and getting back in/out/over there. Why? Because, before I was so rudely interrupted by falling over or doing something clumsy, I was having a marvelously good time. And I still do.

Seriously, it’s helpful to know what our strengths and weakness are when trying out or continuing to do some physical activity. I choose not to play pick-up volleyball because it’s not fun. I enjoy kayaking and try to have a sense of humor about my shallow wet exit from the boat when we land. I don’t do steep climb-y hiking. But I do swim just about anywhere. That’s me. What about you, dear readers? Do you avoid sports where you feel clumsy? Do you ever find the fun in being a less graceful athlete? I’d love to hear from you.

cycling · fitness

Catherine and Pata test ride an adult e-trike and aren’t pleased

While I was visiting my family in South Carolina last month, my cousin M asked me if I knew anything about adult trikes. She was thinking about getting one for noodling around her neighborhood; she liked the idea of the extra stability of the third wheel, and the setup seemed well-suited for fun and safety.

I’d never tried one myself, but I’ve certainly seem them around, mainly in beach resort area paths. In fact, I once saw a celebrity riding a three-wheeler in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard; if you must know, it was Henry Louis “Skip: Gates, Harvard scholar and host of PBS’ Finding Your Roots, definitely counts as a celebrity in my book.

I told M I’d do a little research and get back to her. Looking online, I found that, as in two-wheelers, you can get them with manual power or electric-assist, and they come in a wide range of prices. Really what I needed to do was try one out on the road and experience it myself.

My friend Pata, herself an experienced cyclist and certified cycling instructor, came with me to a local bike shop to try out the one model of e-trike available there. We both rode it in a bank parking lot, checking out the feel of the bike, handling, cornering, shifting, etc. First, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Here’s me.

Now, to Pata:

Why were we so unhappy? Because the handling of the bike was extraordinarily poor. The cornering made us both feel like one of the back wheels would leave the pavement at any moment. The geometry and setup were grossly uncomfortable. Yes, the shifting worked and the pedal-assist seemed fine, but none of this would matter if you were lying on the pavement with a heavy trike on top of you.

And for this experience, one would have to pay about $2700 USD. No, thank you.

Here are a couple of shots of the trike in the shop.

What are the takeaways from this outing? One, that there is no substitute for trying a bike or trike yourself in order to get a feel for fit, handling, etc. Two, that if I want to recommend a trike (pedal-assist or not) to my dear cousin M, I’ve got a lot more research to do.

I’ll start here: readers, do any of you own or know much about adult trikes? Any recommendations to make? Let me know!

competition · femalestrength · fitness · racing · team sports

Meet our newest sports hero: Jolien Boumkwo, Belgian shot-putter and substitute hurdler

Hey y’all– in case you’re in need of some happy, joyful, positive news today: look no further. Meet Jolien Boumkwo, Belgian shot-putter and all-around good egg. She literally embodied the spirit of teamwork on Saturday at the European Championships in Track and Field. How did she do this? By winning her shot-putting competition? Nope. She finished seventh, which is excellent. But no, it wasn’t that.

Boumkwo ran the hurdles race even though she is not a hurdler, but in fact a shot putter (completely different skillsets, I’m told). Why did she do it? Because: a) no one else on her team was available (due to injuries); and b) they needed someone in the race in order: b1) not to get disqualified from continued competition; and b2) get one point for their team in the hopes of not getting relegated from Division 1.

So Boumkwo did it. Here is the race. Watch it; you’ll be glad you did.

Shot putter Jolien Boumkwo, running carefully and powerfully over hurdles on her way to a team point for Belgium.

I love it that she’s tall enough basically to step over the hurdles and that she’s being careful not to get injured. It’s also nice (and appropriate) that she got high fives and handshakes from some of the other hurders after the race.

For contrast, here’s what Boumkwo doing what she’s trained to do.

Jolien Boumkwo, poetry and strength and precision in motion.

In her spare time, Boumkwo throws hammers, too. Note how far this one goes.

I came across the story in the New York Times, and of course the commenters had plenty to say. The comments were about equally divided between congratulations and thanks to her for demonstrating the spirit of teamwork, and shared anecdotes of cases where folks substituted in a not-their-sport competition and took one for the team. There were high jumpers who tried pole vaulting, hurdlers who tried relay races, swimmers who tried diving, and so on. They all said it gave them an appreciation for others’ talent and a feeling of team unity.

Or course there was one crabby person who said Boumkwo’s performance was embarrassing. Naturally, the rest of us piled on, replying that they were quite mistaken. Here’s what I added:

Her team needed someone in the race to get a point, and she volunteered (obviously with the approval of her coaches). It was heartening to see her, a champion athlete in her own right, put her ego aside to move safely and strongly through the race on behalf of her team. It wasn’t embarrassing– not to her, not to her competitors, not to her team, not to me, and not to other sports fans. It was joyful, smile-inducing, and inspiring in the best ways.

I assume you agree, FIFI readers?

Have I missed any other heroes this week? Let us know. Or tell us about your favorite moments of team participation.


On exercising– or not– while (even a little bit) drunk

CW: discussion of drinking alcohol while exercising.

Maybe it’s a slow exercise-related news week, but for whatever reason, Slate published an article examining working out while being (mildly) inebriated from alcohol. I suppose this isn’t totally shocking, as there are occasional running races, bike races, and even yoga classes incorporating beer or wine or liquor as festive add-ons. Tracy wrote about the “yoga and..” trend in 2017 with a bit of weariness. You can read it here.

There’s more than festive novelty going on in this article, however. The author is talking about the difficulty of doing workouts involving weights, cardio (read burpees, etc.) at home, in an environment not tailored to exercise. Feeling awkward or unmotivated, or lonely– missing the companionship and belonging from being in a collective workout space– makes it harder to exercise. The proposed solution: a shot and a half of liquor (your choice, but gin was mentioned approvingly).

The author goes through a few potential reasons why so-called small amounts of alcohol might facilitate exercise programs:

  • Lowered inhibition, reducing feelings of awkwardness of home workouts
  • possible increased motivation from the dopamine release that alcohol consumption releases

But once these potential advantages are examined, some expert says “no, that’s not a good reason at all”. Lowered inhibition can lead to injury (obvs), and dopamine release doesn’t obviously lead to increased motivation to exercise more, but rather a desire to drink more (and exercise less).

In my view, what’s really going on in the article (and in cases in the real world where people are using whatever substances in concert with physical activity) is that our lives don’t always allow us to enjoy physical activity in the ways we want. Here’s an example from the article:

[for] Shannon Sassone, a 33-year-old podcast producer, moderation is key. She has exactly one glass of rosé in the free hour between work and her spin class, and arrives on time feeling pretty much sober. A touch of alcohol brings Sassone back to her glacial life in Denver—before she moved to New York—when every 12-mile hike was accompanied by copious craft brews. “Maybe a rosé before working out gives me that little sunshine feeling I used to get when sitting outside with a beer in hand, satisfied with my efforts,” she told me.

All I can say here is: Shannon honey, put down the glass and go out to Central Park for a nice nature walk, if you’re missing being outside. Maybe consider moving back to Colorado– it sounds like you had nice friends to hike and socialize with.

Seriously, though: we’ve all been though a lot, both because of the pandemic and because of life’s twists and turns. We’re feeling lonely, out of place and out of sync, in need of movement and the good feelings that come with it. But it’s hard to find the right times and places and feelings to propel us into the zones of activity. Rewards, workout pals, preparation– we’ve talked on this blog about all sorts of ways to help make activity an easier part of our lives. If it comes down to it, I’m going to rent a goat before cracking open a bottle of rose in order to get myself in motion.

Yoga class with goats
This yoga class has a lot of goats.

What about you, dear readers? I’ve love to hear what you think.


AMA says: BMI isn’t a good measure of health (which is what we’ve been saying here since 2012)

News flash: the American Medical Association finally managed to accept and acknowledge publicly what many experts have been saying for decades (backed by truckloads of data and studies): BMI (body-mass-index) is itself not a good measure of overall individual patient health. In this NY Times article, a medical researcher specializing in health and body weight was quoted as saying:

“The B.M.I. is just a very poor measure of general health… Someone with an elevated B.M.I. may be perfectly healthy.”

Seriously. Duh.

This same article quoted one of my favorite body weight researchers, UCLA’s Janet Tomiyama whose work focuses on the harmful health and health equity consequences of stress, dieting, and fat shaming.

 “[it’s] not this magic or powerful number that dictates how healthy or sick you’re going to be,” said A. Janet Tomiyama, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied B.M.I. and said she was “in shock” about the new policy. “For the longest time, I’ve been in this emperor-has-no-clothes situation, where I just couldn’t understand why really smart physicians continue to rely on something that was so clearly flawed.”

Hells yeah!
Hells yeah! (from Crazy Rich Asians movie, in case you haven’t seen it, which I personally think you should)

You may be wondering, though, why this organization, after resisting studies for so long, has finally changed its tune on BMI. Here’s a bit of what the American Medical Association had to say:

Under the newly adopted policy, the AMA recognizes issues with using BMI as a measurement due to its historical harm, its use for racist exclusion, and because BMI is based primarily on data collected from previous generations of non-Hispanic white populations.


 [BMI] does not account for differences across race/ethnic groups, sexes, genders, and age-span. 

Oh, really?

Tell me something I DON'T know... Hmphf.
Tell me something I DON’T know… Hmphf.

Honestly, I’m glad and relieved that the AMA is finally finally finally openly (if grudgingly) acknowledging what researchers have known for decades was false and harmful about using BMI as a metric for individual health. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a week, you’ve seen that we spend a lot of time identifying anti-fat bias and debunking specious claims about BMI. Here are a few posts we’ve written:

Fit, Fat, and What’s Wrong with BMI (Sam in 2012)

A brief note from the BMI war front (Catherine in 2016)

“Obese” is a bad word– it’s got to go (Catherine in 2015)

There are literally dozens of posts on this topic, written by all of us at one time or another. One place to browse through them is here. Of course, it’s one thing for us– the readers and writers of this blog to know the limitations and flaws of using BMI in medical contexts. It’s another thing to a) get the message out to the general populace; and b) change clinical practice to phase out BMI-assisted fat shaming in health care. I’m hoping this one step will be followed by more.

Make sure to bookmark this post, and take it with you next time you see your healthcare provider. Let us know how the conversation goes.