Category Archives: Exercise

Why men should not compliment female runners

An interesting thing happened to me this morning. I was hit on. If they even say that any more.

It’s been a while. Oh, that’s nice, you might think. It’s always a confidence boost when something like that happens. It’s nice to feel attractive and admired.


Let me back up and tell it properly.

Yesterday I went for my semi-regular morning run/walk round the lake. The lake is close to our house, a small, man-made watery object with a nice trail around it. There are always people there, running or walking, especially at that time of the morning, in decent weather. Not throngs of people, but several. As I left, a man in the parking lot smiled and said hi, and I realised I’d seen him before, so I smiled and said hi back. “Looking good,” he followed up with. “It’s working!” I grinned, because that was sort of nice to hear, and went on my way.

I probably should be insulted, I thought. Men are cautioned not to say things like that to female runners. Not to say anything beyond a curt greeting, perhaps. But hey, I’m sure he was just being friendly. What’s the harm?

And that was that until this morning, when I headed for the lake again, and remembered that the same guy might very well be there again, since he was a regular. And that then he might say something again and it might be awkward. For a moment, my imagination ran away with me and I wondered if he would hide in the bushes and jump out and rape me along the trail somewhere. Pretty unlikely, I thought.

But that’s why he shouldn’t have said anything, I realised. Because now I’m – not worried… concerned, maybe; just a little thoughtful. When I shouldn’t have any reason to be. A woman wouldn’t compliment a stranger like that; a woman wouldn’t even say it to a friend without quite a lot of forethought about how that comment would be taken. So if a man says it, it’s sexual, not friendly. It’s predatory. He doesn’t understand he’s crossing a line, but he is.

This morning, he was there again. I passed him on the way down the path and he said hi. I nodded in return and went on my way. As I came back, he was just leaving the picnic table where he had been contemplating the pastoral idyll, and was a little ahead of me. I didn’t run past him, but he heard me and turned around. He decided to compliment me some more.

Once again, he told me I was looking good. “Thanks,” I said.
“Do you run every day?” he asked. Friendly chat.
“When I can,” I said. Polite but short. Walking on more speedily. Not stopping to pass the time of day. Not making eye-contact.
“I should bring my shoes and run with you,” he said.
[Polite laugh noise]. “No, I don’t think so.” Continuing to walk on. Not dilly-dallying at his side. Not giggling coquettishly. Not fluttering any eyelashes.
“Do you mind me asking, are you married?”
“Yes. Happily.”
“Oh, well. No harm in asking.”
[Polite laugh.] Walk on. Reach car. Leave scene.

No harm in asking. Sure, what harm could there be? How’s a single man to approach an attractive woman these days? It was broad daylight, a public place. He wasn’t sleazy or creepy. A little tone-deaf to my body language, perhaps, but since when is that a crime?

This is the problem: he was in the position of power. There were people around, sure, but nobody else happened to be right there at the time. Physically, he could take me any time. That is not the right time to have this conversation. He should have (a) not said anything yesterday; (b) not said anything today; and (c) taken the hint when I didn’t stop to chat.

What do I do tomorrow? Next week? I continue to go, I continue to not talk to him, I continue to smile and nod and keep going. What does he do? Does he press the issue? Does he follow me home? Does he bring a gun next time?

Unlikely. But these are the thoughts he has inspired in me through that well-intentioned little interchange.

Here is the message: being hit on (catcalled, complimented, anything) by a stranger in a situation not designed for it (i.e. not a dating site, not a bar or a club) makes a woman feel:

1% Good, maybe
99% Vulnerable

It is also very unlikely to get you a date unless she’s been making eyes at you already.

Nothing bad happened to me. Nothing bad is likely to happen to me. I did not have a terrible morning. I will still nod and smile at people who pass me on the lake trail, and they will still nod and smile at me and I will not hold it against them.

It’s just a reminder, that’s all. Of how life is complicated and simple things are not always simple, and how hard it is for the person with the power in any given situation to remember what it’s like for the person without.

I think it’s called privilege.


A running joke

Part deux of my latest plot to take over the world involves me exercising. Just a teeny bit. Nothing too ambitious. Just steadily, you know. On days when I take Mabel to school I go on my bike and then cycle the loop around town and back home. It comes to four miles, and there are two uphills and some downy bits too. On days when I take Dash to school I park at the lake on the way home and run around it, just once, and then get into my car and drive back up the hill home. Very lazy, but more likely to be done that way. The lake loop is, what, 2k or so; maybe a mile.

It’s not much, but even in three weeks I’ve seen my ability to run before I have to start walking again increase, and I can get further up the last hill on my bike before I have to get off and push. The sense of improvement is nice, and I’m sleeping better too.

However. Last time I went for a run was Thursday (because Mabel was off school on Friday), and I wore a new pair of running bottoms (pants, whatever you want to call them) that I’d picked up in Marshall’s. They’re actually the sort that are fitted all the way down the leg instead of being nice flappy yoga pantsy ones. Good for rainy days, but requiring a bit more chutzpah to wear in public, for me at least.

When I got home I found that I was absentmindedly, and then more vigorously, scratching my legs. In fact, my thighs were all itchy. I went to take a shower and discovered that my upper legs were red and hot and covered with itchy bumps. Welts, you might even say, if you were being dramatic. Either giant mosquitoes had got into my pants or I was allergic to something, because I never bother to wash a new item before I wear it. I’ve never needed to before.

I threw them violently into the laundry basket, in two minds whether I’d ever give them a second chance even after an encounter with the washing machine or just shred them with a shears on the spot. I decided to see how long it took for the itchies to go away before deciding.

They were still there after a shower, but they faded pretty quickly after I’d got dressed. I supposed I could give the new bottoms another chance, in time, if they repented properly.

Today was a bike-ride day, wearing my old comfy flappy-ankled yoga pants… and yet, when I got home, there I was once again with the scratching and the itching and the welts. A little light Googling told me the terrible truth…

… exercise literally brings me out in hives.

Yes, it’s exercise-induced urticaria, otherwise known as getting itchy legs when you exercise. It can happen more in cold weather, which explains why I didn’t experience it before last week, when the weather turned. Though I have in the past exercised in much colder weather with no such effects – this must be another lovely thing about getting older. (Or more unfit, maybe.)

The good news is that people hardly ever die of being allergic to exercise. And today’s hives didn’t even last until I stepped into the shower, so I think maybe the reaction is getting weaker. I like to think of it as all the nasty toxins forcing themselves out through my pores, getting ready to leave my thighs sleek and smooth and toned and golden. (A girl can dream.) I will continue to exercise, no matter what urticaria throws at me, by golly I will.

So. Just as well I didn’t take a shears to the new pants. They get a reprieve.

Entertainment value

I lost the run of myself entirely yesterday and started the 30-day shred again. I was so achy this morning after it that I misguidedly decided the best thing to do to loosen up my poor muscles was to keep at it. Now I can barely sit down, stand up, or go up or down the stairs, so it didn’t exactly work the way I’d hoped. I think that’s how they reel you in, and then you’ve a few days under your belt by the time it stops hurting and you think you can’t stop now. So maybe I’ll keep it up for a few more days.

Makes a change from the sore back anyway, and I’ve officially graduated from the chiropractor, so my mornings have freed up again. (Fine, it was only half an hour twice a week and it’s right beside the supermarket anyway, but it felt like it was the impediment to any exercise.)

That’s not what I was going to say.

It’s been raining steadily all day, except for when it turned to sleet. In the afternoon we half-heartedly offered to take the kids to the new Muppets movie, but as predicted they decided it would be more fun to stay in their pyjamas and play with a large cardboard box. (Otherwise known as “Stunt Box”. It has its own theme tune.)

So I went to Target instead, which was very relaxing except for when it was oddly difficult to get into the car (see above re muscles) and I had to sort of lean over it and then fall in the right direction with a little squeak. I hope nobody was watching.

And, even though it’s nobody’s birthday and certainly not Christmas, B suggested that I pick up Frozen on DVD, now that it’s out. Tis far from such profligacy I was raised, I’ll tell you, but I felt it would be churlish not to, seeing as how it would solve the perennial DVD selection problem for another week. And because secretly (or not so much) we’re all dying to watch it again.

When I got home (with, in addition to the DVD, a maxi dress for summer, some shoes for Mabel, some plastic tubs for yet more storage solutions because I am married to a man who believes all storage can be solutioned, and sundry groceries) nothing had changed on Walton Mountain. By which I mean the kids were still watching TV, jumping on a box, surrounded by soft-toy chaos, and in their pyjamas. I thought I should at least leverage the situation.

“I have a treat for you, but you have to get dressed and go out and get some fresh air before you can get it,” I announced. I really didn’t think it would work, but their respective imaginations went into overdrive wondering what amazing chocolate/iPad/toy I might have picked up in Target, and they sped upstairs. Mabel came down first, put on boots and raincoat, and dutifully went out into the “wintry mix” (which is what they call horrible rain that can’t decide whether it’s snow or sleet or what). She zigzagged down the driveway, walked in ever-decreasing circles for about three minutes, and came back in. Dash went outside after her, counted to 28, and was done.

Since B and I hadn’t even set foot outside while they got their “fresh air,” we couldn’t really demand any more than that. We produced the DVD (Mabel was delighted and Dash was a little resentful that it wasn’t a more him-appropriate treat, but he got over it) and we all very much enjoyed the movie for the third/fourth time.


Strengthening exercises

Step 1: Tell the chiropractor that yes, you do (probably, still,) have an exercise ball because you used it when you were pregnant (and in labor, for that matter). He is impressed, and gives you a sheet of exercises that you can do using it.

Step 2: Come home and find the exercise ball, deflated, in its original box, pretty much exactly where you thought it would be in the basement. Since you moved house 1.5 years after the last time you used it, this is quite an achievement.

Step 3: Find a pump and the plug right there in the box along with the deflated ball.

Step 4: Let the five-year-old help you inflate the ball.

Step 5: Watch the five-year-old bounce the ball around until you can finally use it for its intended purpose, briefly.

Step 6: Pick up the second-grader from school. Have the five-year-old refuse to go to dance class even though it’s dance class day and in spite of your best efforts, bringing her all the way there and making her tell the teacher herself that she’s not coming to class today.

Step 7: Suggest that the seven-year-old do his homework straight away when you get home, just as he would have done in the library while his sister was at dance class. He will agree, but he won’t mean it, and as soon as he comes in the door it will be mayhem times two with the exercise ball until you banish it to the basement, amid wails and gnashing of teeth.

Step 8: Wonder when next you’ll bother your arse to get it back upstairs and do your exercises.

Maybe it’s my resolve that needs strengthening, just as much as my back muscles.

Exercise ball in basement


I go for a walk or a run, and I think, “This is great, recharges me, gets me into nature; I must do this every day.” After about a week and a half I go again and think the same thing. Will I never learn?

Today I saw a flock of geese land on Greenbelt Lake. I don’t know if they were coming in from Canada for the season or if they were just back from their morning consititutional, but I’m inclined to think it was a more momentous landing. First just a few, five or seven maybe, came in without too much ado, splashing down nicely and then just sitting still and looking calmly around as if they’d been there for hours. No panting or drama or exploring the new surroundings. Very un-human.

They were the front-runners. Then more small groups, one after another, swooping more dramatically low over the water as if they might change their minds up to the last second, when it was do-or-die moment and they had to either commit to the water or swoop up high over the trees for another loop.

Finally a big group, fifteen or twenty or maybe thirty at once all came down together, and the honking afterwards was much more pronounced. These were the also-rans, the hangers-on, the rabble. I imagined their arguments and complaints went something like this:

“Mom, mom, are we there yet? Is this where we’re going to stop for winter? I’m tiiiiired.”
“Do we have to stop here? There’s a really nice lake further on. Can’t we go all the way to the harbour? I want to keep going.”
“No, this is where we’re staying. Your aunties are all here already.”
“He bumped me. You bumped me. I was coming in for a perfect landing and you messed it up.”
“I did not.”
“I was here first. Nyah nyah.”
“Where are the snacks? Has anyone got the snacks? I want a worm.”

And so on. It was worth going out for.

Points of things

Sky, sea, land

Tomorrow is the first day of the last week of the summer holidays. Mabel doesn’t go back to school till after Labor Day, but Dash starts second grade on August 19th. The second-grade thing isn’t phasing me, but the fact that the summer is almost gone is a bit stunning. This year seems to be going faster than any one before. If this keeps up, by the time I’m in my eighties, I imagine days will fly by like seconds. No wonder my mother is confused.

I partly feel like I’m just getting back into the groove of our nice laid-back summer (after the disruptions of going away, two weeks of camp, and then BlogHer) but on the other hand I’m looking forward to a bit more peace and the opportunity to throw away some of all the crap that’s been piling up around here. Because apparently I can’t do that when the kids are in the house.

I went to Target on my own for an hour yesterday and realised why I like shopping: it gives me a chance to center myself and plan things, whether it’s figuring out what might help for organizing the house a little more (I bought an in-tray!) or deciding what I want to, um, invest in this autumn. (Found a dress I want as a shirt, decided to e-Bay a bag I never use and buy one I fell in love with in Marshall’s; also tried on boots, but that’s not relevant ahem as I was saying…)

I thought I’d missed my Dad’s birthday and blamed it on the fact that apparently now I only know it’s someone’s birthday when Facebook tells me about it, and my Dad (needless to say) is not on Facebook. But then I realised I just had no idea what the heck date it was in August, and I hadn’t missed it at all. So that’s good.

I might have a freelance editing job lined up for when the kids go back to school. You might not get so much blathering from over here if I find I’m actually working instead.

In the last week both kids have started swimming underwater, Mabel for the first time ever and Dash for the first time since a little last summer. My kids have never been those ones who don’t seem to notice whether they’re on top of the water or the water’s on top of them – they would always crane their necks to keep their faces out of the water, even with goggles on for extra protection. So to see them whooshing around underneath all of a sudden is pretty cool. I told Mabel I didn’t do that till I was twelve, and she was well chuffed.

Technically, I finished the 30-day shred yesterday. That is, it was the tenth day I’ve done the level-3 workout. However, I did take off about ten days in July when I was sick and then away, and almost another two weeks from BlogHer until yesterday, and I spent a few intervening days working back up to it by doing levels one and two a couple of times. I don’t feel any different, though it’s not as hard as it was at the start, so I must be at least a tiny bit fitter and stronger. Dash says I look taller, which has to be a good sign. The scales still say I’m a few pounds lighter even though at no point did I stop eating all the muffins I usually eat. I will try to keep going until I get totally bored or something else happens or they go back to school and I try running again.

Since we didn’t do anything today, here are some photos from last weekend, when we took in some history by going to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. A decisive battle of the War of 1812 took place in Baltimore Harbor, and as the poet Francis Scott Key watched to see which flag would be flying over the fort as dawn broke the following morning, he wrote what would become the lyrics of The Star Spangled Banner.

Stars and stripes over Fort McHenry
Teeny little flag up high; huge enormous flag down low
Three people walking the battlements
Walking the battlements

A singular sensation

A strange thing happened when I came back from BlogHer. I felt very small.

Not that I go around feeling like a great lumbering giant every day, but I usually feel comfortably right-sized in my space. But at the start of last week I found myself looking in the mirror and thinking I was a mere wisp of a thing; that a breath of air would knock me over; that I was lacking weight, significance, heft.

Small in a not-good way, then. Maybe it was the exhaustion that hit me when I got home, a combination of post-excitement, post-travel tiredness and a bit of an extended hangover. Maybe it was because I’d hung out with some women who were taller and bigger than me – but that was by no means the majority. At 5’4 and a US size 8, I’m pretty much average, and certainly not tiny. I am not a wisp.

I think perhaps it was a physical manifestation of the fact that I’d been such a small fish in such a huge pond at the blogging conference. I don’t mind not being in the limelight; I don’t want to be top of the heap. I have very little ambition, and I’m fine with that. I have no illusions that my blog is secretly a Big Deal. I don’t think anyone’s going to jump out of the alcove and present me with a trophy for being the biggest little blogger that could, I really don’t.

So I don’t know why, honestly. It was an odd and unsettling sensation. But I’m happy to say it’s wearing off, and I’m feeling pretty much normal again.

Which probably means I should get back to that 30-day shred thing if I want to keep fitting into my size 6 Gap jeans. (Which we all know are just like size 8s anywhere else.)

I think I’m going with the pale lilac toenails

So far so good with summer camp, though Mabel objects to having to stay quiet for rest time after lunch, and I didn’t send any money with Dash on his field trip so he was subjected to the huge injustice of not being able to buy anything in the gift shop at the Baltimore aquarium yesterday. As for me, I’m having a lovely time.

Yesterday I went to the mall and spent more than an hour shopping, unhurriedly and in a focused manner, alone. I don’t think I’ve done that since I had children, and it was excellent. First I bought a bra from the proper place to buy bras, so that everything else I tried on would look better. Then I found exactly the trousers I was looking for in the first place I looked for them, and on sale too. (Making up for the bra. When you breastfeed for seven years, your double-Ds turn into something more like double-Fs, and there are no cheap bras.)

I bought some posh moisturizer and had some good lunch and tried on some dresses that were almost but not quite what I wanted. I resisted the Nordstrom lady’s hard sell on the blue dress (which was really cute but would clash with my shoes and need alterations and was a little dressier than I wanted) and at the last minute found the perfect thing in Macy’s, on clearance, no alterations needed, just dressy enough, and works with the shoes I already have. Score.

Yes, a lot of this shopping is inspired by the upcoming blogging conference. No, you don’t have to go and buy new things or take up an exercise regime to go to a conference. But I like motivators, and inspiration, and finding excuses to do things I might not otherwise do.

Let me put it like this:

How would I like people to look at a blogging conference?

a) Fat
b) Thin
c) Friendly

How do I think people should dress at a blogging conference?

a) Preppy
b) Sloppy
c) In something comfortable that makes you feel like your (best) self

Option c) all the way. That’s all.

Personally, however, I do have a few other requirements: not being too hot or too cold, not feeling like I have to stand up straight and suck my gut in all the time, not worrying about sweat stains if I’ve been shuttling between conference venues in Chicago summer heat, and not clashing with my orange bag. And, vitally, wearing shoes I can walk in. All of the above will help me feel like myself and meet new people with a genuine smile.

I’m not going to pretend that BlogHer isn’t a big deal for me. It is. I’ve never left my children overnight before, I’ve been out of the professional workplace for seven years, and I’m only just starting to call myself a blogger out loud. Sometimes. So while dressing for a fairly casual conference and hopping on a plane without emergency diapers and goldfish crackers might be a regular occurence for many attendees there, for me it’s a giant leap out of my everyday life and back (or forwards) into another.

As far as I know, there’s only going to be one other person there who I’ve actually met (though she knows several others). Quite a few of the bloggers I love to read regularly, and who I know have gone in the past, don’t seem to be going this year. I’m fairly interested in some of the sessions and of course I want to see the keynote speakers and the Voices of the Year presentations, but mostly I’m going for the Experience. I want to meet people who are dorks like me.

Are you going to be there? Leave me a comment, and maybe we could try to meet up.

New-obsessions week: Day 1 – Exercise

When Jillian Michaels says “Just a couple more,” she means ten. When she says “Nearly done” she means “Halfway through, maybe.” When she says “You’re well on your way to being shredded,” it’s true, but maybe not exactly the way she wanted. As I lay panting on the floor this morning with drips of sweat running into my eyes, those are the things that came to mind.

You know, this might be hard to believe but before last week I didn’t really know who Jillian Michaels was. This is what comes of not having had cable TV for three years. Apparently I never really watched The Biggest Loser because I was too busy watching Top Chef and Project Runway when we did have cable, and I think I had her a little mixed up with some red-headed chick in the UK who tells people what they should eat. Is she a different Gillian, maybe?*

Anyway, I heard once again recently about this 30-Day Shred thing that’s only Very Old News, and, always being last to run after the bandwagon and try to jump on board just as it’s leaving town, I decided to give it a go, with my self-imposed motivator of BlogHer attendance coming up apace. It checked a lot of boxes straight away:

  • Not all lying down like Pilates, so the kids have less opportunity to jump on me
  • Level 1 available free on YouTube; I bought Level 2 for just 1.99 from Amazon downloads this morning
  • Indoors in the heat and humidity of the summer
  • Quick – half an hour and I’m done, and I can actually do it with the kids in the house and no extra adult for distracting/restraining

Not that that last is easy, mind you. The first day I had the seven-year old pacing me jumping jack for jumping jack during the entire aerobic part of the workout, and he barely broke a sweat. Which was great for my ego, of course. In between times he was bugging me to have a turn of the weights (I have measly 2lb ones that the kids love to swing around terrifyingly) and getting between me and the screen.

Sometimes the four-year-old would come and try to snuggle up beside me as I lay on the floor trying to do my reverse crunches or my arm flies (see how well I can say all the words now?), and generally my panting would be interspersed with the following monologue:

“Put down the weights. No. At least, don’t hold them there. Move them AWAY from the computer. Don’t hold them over your head. Fine, just do it that way. Yes. NO. No, don’t drop them on the hardwood floor. No… okay, now I need them again.”

At least it distracted me from the pain of the lunges, I suppose. Also, my feet are too small to do lunges without falling over. Some might say it’s bad balance, but I’m going with the small feet thing.

Anyway, the point is that this morning I started level two, which means I have been working out for 30 minutes a day for ten of the past eleven days, and I’m quite pleased about that. I also stepped on the scales this morning and may possibly have lost some pounds too. If things are really spectacular, I might have some before and after pictures in another 20 days, but don’t get your hopes up because I might totally chicken out on that front.

Tomorrow in my new summer obsessions: coffee. Wait and see.

*Aha. That’s Gillian McKeith. Verrry different Gillian, apparently.


So what happens nowadays (by which I mean this week, probably; my memory is short and constantly renewing itself) is that every few mornings I put on my sexxay workout gear and I flit around the house doing the normal before-school morning things like eating cereal and making Dash’s lunch and nagging people to get dressed and checking my Facebook in case something important happened on the Internet overnight. The children are slightly confused: “What are those jeans?” Dash asked me this morning.

And then I bring Mabel to school and then sometimes I actually do something like exercise and other times I have what my cousins taught me is called a French workout, when you dress for the gym but don’t go. And they should know, because they live in California where you have to at least pretend to go to the gym.

The something like exercise I’m tending towards at the moment is a 20-minute “extreme burn” pilates workout DVD. It doesn’t sound like much, especially when you realise that extreme burn is an extreme exaggeration (except for my abs, which, ouch), but it’s more than nothing and I think that’s the point.

I’ve also been known to take a bike ride or even just a brisk evening walk lately, since my Stupid Toe won’t let me run any more. (It’s much better. I don’t even notice it, unless I try to run half a mile or so, and then I start limping, which is unpleasant and makes me grumpy and despondent.) I loved the yoga class I went to a few times in the new year, but it takes too much of a chunk out of my brief, brief window of morning. By the time I’d got home and showered it was time to go straight back down and pick up Mabel, because she’s all done with formal education at 11.30 every morning. And formal education has about had it with her by then too.

The prospect of going to BlogHer bang smack in the middle of the summer is actually more of a motivator than the idea of the local swimming pool opening up at the end of this month. My swimsuit, after all, is stretchy, and I’ve basically got into the habit of switching off all my mortification circuits on entry, as a self-defence mechanism. Anyway, all the other people I run into there are similarly uncovered, and we’re mostly all imperfect one way or another.

But BlogHer is another story: I’ll be meeting a whole passel of new people, mostly women, all of us trying to make the best first impression possible but look like we didn’t have to try very hard because we always look this way. I won’t lie – it’s a scary notion. But in reality it will probably end up much like the swimming pool – we’re all imperfect, and we’ll all focus on the pretty, whether it’s someone else’s shoes or their necklace or their smile that lights up the room.

I’m really quite excited about BlogHer, you know. Apart from giving me a little more impetus to get fit(ter) and a rock solid excuse to buy some new clothes, I have a cool and lovely roomie whom I’m looking forward to getting to know a bit better, and for the first time since I’ve had children, I’m going to be doing something that’s just for me. For three whole days.

It’s a milestone of sorts. I don’t know exactly what I expect to get out of it – I’m not fired up about any particular conference session, though I may learn great things or hear great people at whatever ones I end up attending. I’m not dying to get spectacularly drunk at any of the parties (though it may happen). I’m just looking to expand my blogging network a bit, meet some new people who like the same sort of things I do, get some new readers, and – most of all – take a step towards establishing who I am when I’m not being someone’s mom.

It’s been a long time coming. It’s going to be good.