Photo courtesy of Paul Bradbury/237/Ocean/Corbis Image by: Photo courtesy of Paul Bradbury/237/Ocean/Corbis
|This story was originally titled "Higher Learning" in the September 2014 issue.|
Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!
When university professors Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs started a blog about their resolution to get in shape by the age of 50, it sparked a conversation about what it means to be fit, and who gets to claim the title.
For many of us, milestone birthdays can be a source of anxiety. But for Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs, the approach of the big "five-oh" presented both a target and an opportunity. In fall 2012, the longtime friends and fellow professors at Western University in London, Ont., then 48, set themselves a challenge: They would get into the best physical shape of their lives by their 50th birthdays—and they would blog about it along the way.
Fast-forward five years, and Samantha and Tracy's Fit Is a Feminist Issue blog is still going strong, reaching thousands of monthly readers with its refreshing mix of personal stories and thoughtful posts on what it means to be fit (and how to get there). Our takeaway? If you've ever worried that it's too late for you to get in shape, take heart: Samantha and Tracy are living proof that it's not.
What motivated you to begin this journey toward fitness in your late 40s?
Samantha: I wanted to take charge of how I aged physically, to think about what kind of life I wanted to live as an older person and what would make that possible. When I was younger, my fitness concerns were often based on looking a certain way and my goals were often tied to weight loss. Now, I think about my friend's mom who came on a recent canoeing trip. I want to be portaging in my 70s, too!
Tracy: When I first started the challenge, I had a covert hope that [weight loss] would be the byproduct, that I would have this lean, mean body by the time I turned 50. But over the course of the first few months, I made a conscious effort to get away from using weight loss as a measure of fitness. My goal became an Olympic-distance triathlon before my 50th birthday. I also had the goal of shifting my attitude, focusing on performance and getting the endurance needed to be able to complete that race.
Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Tracy: My first triathlon [the Kincardine Women's Triathlon in Kincardine, Ont.] was a big deal, but the Olympic-distance triathlon was a whole other thing. It was a 1500m swim, a 40K bike and a 10K run—more than three times longer than Kincardine! I'd never ran or biked those distances, even individually. The time management involved in training was also hard; I have a full-time job! But my biggest challenges were probably mental: trying to think of myself as an athlete who had a right to be there. When I finally completed the Olympic-distance triathlon, I finished in the bottom 10, but I did it, and that felt pretty great.
Samantha: For me, it's about the balance of fitting it all in. During our Fittest by 50 Challenge, I was doing CrossFit in the mornings and aikido at night, and I'd arrive at my aikido class sore and tired. Interestingly, [doing] CrossFit helped my aikido, because I couldn't rely on strength or energy to do it—I had no choice but to go slow and focus on the technique. I was also dealing with my partner's parents both passing away. His mother had developed ALS [a disease that attacks the nervous system] and moved to London so we could care for her. I was rowing at the time, and I couldn't keep up with it and be the caregiver I needed to be. Some sports, like rowing, require you to be there at a specific time with a group of people; it's a real commitment. Running was easier for me; I could go out and do it—morning, evening, whenever.
What have you learned about yourselves throughout this process?
Samantha: I need to be in a social activity that will get me out the door to people who expect to see me or that I'm committed to. The social part really matters.
Tracy: I've learned that it feels better to achieve something meaningful than to focus on weight loss as a metric. If you're already strong and fit, what does it matter if you're carrying around a few extra pounds?
The fitness industry can be intimidating. What's your advice for pushing through that feeling?
Tracy: Have people to do activities with. For me, going to running clinics was so important because I realized that there are people of all shapes, sizes, speeds and experience levels doing these activities. It's also important to seek out a place that promotes inclusivity and diversity; the YMCA I joined is great because it's a diverse community with a diverse esthetic, and it doesn't emphasize weight loss as a goal.
Samantha: Find something you think is really fun. Try lots of things—maybe something completely weird. Just do your thing! And remember, you don't have to be good at the thing you love doing. Having fun is more important than being good. Samantha and Tracy's book, Fit Is a Feminist Issue: Our Journey to Fitness at Midlife (Greystone Books) will be released next year.
Fitness bloggers Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs share three tips to help you kick off your health journey.
1. Don't make it about weight. "If you make weight loss your goal and then quit if you don't lose weight, you miss out on all the other health benefits of exercise," says Samantha.
2. Set a scary (but not impossible) goal. "Set your sights high," advises Samantha. "[Goal-setting] commits you and focuses your attention and energy. Pick something a year away and train for it!"
3. Begin with baby steps. "We always want to start big, but starting small and building is more likely to lead to established habits because it's realistic and doable," says Tracy.
Do you speak the language of flowers? Find out the different meanings of various flowers, plus get five tips on making your bouquet last.
In the Victorian era, particular flowers in certain colours were chosen to express specific feelings. Using this language of flowers – called "floriography" – a bud, bouquet or even a boutonniere delivered more than colour and scent. Here's what some familiar flowers may convey:
Apple blossom - Good things to come
Aster - Contentment
Buttercup - Childishness
Pink carnation - Gratitude
Yellow carnation - Rejection
Crocus - Gladness
Daffodil - Chivalry and respect
Daisy - Innocence and purity
Daylily - Enthusiasm
Dill - Lust
Edelweiss - Daring and courage
Forsythia - Anticipation
Gardenia - Secret love and joy
Blue hyacinth - Constancy
Ivy - Wedded love and fidelity
Lavender - Loyalty
White lily - Heavenly purity
Lily of the valley - Humility
Mint - Virtue
Orange blossom - Marriage and fertility
Palm leaves - Victory
Dark crimson rose - Mourning
Pink rose - Friendship
Red Rose - Passionate love
Snowdrop - Hope
Sunflower - Adoration
Red tulip - Declaration of love
Violet - Faithfulness
So that beautiful bouquet of dark crimson roses and white lilies surrounded by palm leaves that you just sent to your friend or love one could be telling her, "Many are mourning my victory and success within our relationship, as it's heavenly to be with you!" But – since floriography word lists vary – it could simply be saying, "Hi!"
5 best ways to make your bouquet last
1. Buy fresh flowers. Avoid flowers with any signs of mildew or mould, and look for buds that are just beginning to open. A&P, Dominion and Loblaws help out by guaranteeing their blooms will last for a specified number of days.
2. Keep it clean and lukewarm. Start with a squeaky-clean container and lukewarm water (tepid water is more readily absorbed than cold), then change the water every other day.
3. Add a floral preservative. Most bouquets come with their own packet of goodies that provide nutrients and prevent bacterial growth – all to keep the flowers fresher longer.
4. Strip and recut the stems. Remove any leaves that will be immersed, then recut the stems to encourage water uptake. Trim soft stems straight across. Cut woody stems on an angle, then smash or slit the bottom 2.5 cm (1 in). Pinch small wads of cotton from a cotton ball and stuff them into the bottom of hollow stems to help them hold moisture.
5. Show them off in a good spot. Set your floral arrangement away from drafts, direct sunlight, radiators and ripening fruits (the latter emit ethylene, which prevents buds from opening, discolours blooms and leaves, and shortens vase life).
Arrange flowers with a flourish
A Valentine's Day gift for you Image by: La Vie En Rose
Not just a day for couples to celebrate, this Valentine's Day practice a little self-love.
February 14th can be a drag if you're single. Or if you're not particularly romantic. Or if you're in a new relationship, or don't like holidays that focus on the pressure of big gestures. Basically, Valentine's Day can be a stressful, anxiety-enducing mess of a day. But it doesn't have to be—even if you subscribe to the above beliefs.
We're all about the idea of practicing self-love this Valentine's Day. Taking time to be thoughtful and considerate is what the day is all about—so why not give yourself a little break by taking the time to treat yourself (or if you're a Parks and Recreation fan—"treat yo'self!").
Whether that means picking up something shiny and expensive (we won't judge), need a little time for yourself (you deserve it), or want to indulge in great food and wine (everything in moderation is our motto) we're rounded up a few things you should gift yourself this Valentine's Day—lovers be damned.
With a cut-out in the back—so your hair doesn't get messed up if you decide to change, of course—and a relaxed fit, this t-shirt dress is your Galentines Day go-to (so everyone knows what's really on your mind).
Sometimes it can be hard to justify expensive purchases that only benefit you, but sleeping solo doesn't mean forgoing luxurious pyjamas. Today's the day to treat yourself with this cult-classic Eberjay pyjama set.
Spruce up your space and personalize it at the same time—consider this marking your territory—with a pretty monogramed pillow.
Get straight to the point with this candle with an empowered message. The scent doesn't disappoint either—notes of citrus, black currant and rose petals are great for a subtle mood boost.
If lounging around is more your Valentine's Day speed, pick up a new set of comfy separates. This one comes with a t-shirt with a message we can't help but agree with.
Chocolates are a Valentine's Day staple—but these ones some with a twist. These anti-Valentine's Day chocolates will satisfy your sweet tooth and your solo status.
If escaping from the world is your Valentine's Day plan, then there's no better way to do it than with a good book. We recommend last year's Giller Prize winner by Madeleine Thiern, Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Make sure to take the time to check in with yourself this February 14th. Do you need a relaxing bath to ease tension? Could you use a little help managing hot flashes? Pick up the Saje Wellness Women's Wellness Remedy Kit for a dose of all-natural care.
Give yourself the gift that keeps on giving. Sliding your feet into these classic slippers made of supple shearling and you won't wish you were anywhere else. Put your feet up—today, and everyday after that—you deserve it!
What else spells indulgence than a super-luxe hair mask? Leave it on for at least 30 minutes (or however long your Netflix binge lasts) and wake up to smooth, voluminous hair that will have all eyes on you. We guarantee it will last longer than the one evening too.
We all know that sometimes it feels like our girlfriends really are our soul mates. Check local listings in your city for crafty events that you are your friends can enjoy together. If none are available near you, try grabbing your girls, a paint set from Michaels and a bottle of wine.