Category Archives: Fitness

Why I’ve Decided to Start Walking to Mordor

When I was a preteen, one of my uncles gave me copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I read and enjoyed The Hobbit immediately.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy took longer to get into. The vocabulary in it kept making me pause to look up words I’d never heard of before, and the pacing was slower than I was used to in the other stories I discovered at that age.

Still, reading about the roughly 3109 kilometres (1932 miles) that Frodo and Sam walked during the course of this adventure did grab my attention. I was the sort of kid who liked the outdoors in small doses before I ventured inside again to cool off and have a snack.

The thought of walking – and occasionally running –  as far as they did while being hunted down by all sorts of malevolent creatures and skipping second breakfast made me shudder.

As an adult, I wonder what it would be like to walk that distance for the sheer fun of it. There have been various points in the past when I’ve run across accounts of people who made spreadsheets that tally how far the characters walked to get to each each milestone in the plot  and when they as a fan can pretend like they’ve reached the next one based on how far they’ve walked in real life.

It was only recently that I discovered a site that keeps track of this information for you. Walk to Mordor offers free cellphone apps and also has a space on their website for people who prefer to log their miles that way instead.

The best part about this game is that it gives you notifications about what is happening in the story as the distance you’ve travelled reach specific plot points. It starts in Bag End, Frodo’s home and the opening scene for this tale, and it goes all the way through what happened in the Grey Wood after the battles had all ended. I like the thought of that.

The man who created it developed it out of his love of these books, and I’m talking about it today simply because I think it’s an incredibly cool idea that I thought some of my bookish followers who also enjoy exercising might want to check out.

As always, this blog does not feature sponsored content and I am not being compensated for this post in any way.

Why Mordor, Though?

Because it’s a challenge.

Over the past five years, I’ve been keeping track of some of my fitness-related statistics. I’ve walked an average of 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) a day since I first began recording this stuff. This includes days when I didn’t move much due to illness or injury, so that number is higher when I’m feeling well.

Weight training is my other main source of exercise. I still find it challenging, and there’s nothing I’d change about my lifting routine at the moment.

As much as I enjoy walking, it doesn’t give me that same sense of accomplishment that moving up to a heavier set of weights or noticing how my body changes when I lift weights and eat a good diet.

By no means am I bored with walking…but I do like the idea of seeing all of the distance I put in on the average day add up to something tangible.

There’s also the fact that Walking to Mordor has a definite end date. If I continue at my current pace, it will wrap up at the end of winter or beginning of spring in 2020. I like the idea of starting something new while knowing that it won’t and can’t last forever.

(Relatively) Calm Entertainment

Photo Credit: Dawn Endico

This style of storytelling appealed to me, too. I’ve been looking for a fitness app that was somehow tied to science fiction, fantasy, or speculative fiction for a while now, but I was selective about what sort of adventure I was going to be signing up for.

First of all, It needed to be something that wasn’t going to track my location in the real world or sell my personal information to other companies. There is far enough of that happening in the world as is!

I also wasn’t interested in an app that tried to get me to move faster or for longer distances because of a storyline that involved anyone being chased by zombies or other dangerous creatures.

While I can see how that would be very motivating for some players, it’s not the sort of thing that I personally find appealing. Tell me a good story, but do let me move at my own pace while everything is unfolding.

Knowing how it ends for Frodo and his many companions was yet another reason why I decided to sign up for this game. I was definitely not feeling calm the first time I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there is something to be said for returning to a world you’ve visited many times before even if it’s plot isn’t exactly what most people think of as a soothing one at first glance.

I was willing to pay for what I was looking for, by the way. The fact that I found a free app that fit my criteria was icing on the cake.

Join Me

If anyone reading this wishes to friend me on Walk to Mordor, do a search for Lydia Schoch. I kept my username there simple on purpose, and I’m happy to share my journey there if we’ve talked before and you’d like to link up.

Either way, I may be blogging about this game and others like it again in the future as I move through the various scenes. The thought of turning exercise into a non-competitive game appeals to me very much!

3 Things I Love About Spring Hikes

Signs of spring are popping up everywhere now here in Ontario. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed the photos I’ve been sharing there of our first flowers of the year.

It’s still a little too muddy and chilly outside to spend much time traipsing around out in nature,  but I’m hoping the weather will become nice enough to change that soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the joy of going on hikes or walks during this season. There are many reasons why this is the perfect time of year to do that. Today I’ll be sharing three of them with you just like I talked about my love of autumn hiking last year.

The Peace and Quiet

Toronto almost feels like an entirely different city in each of its four seasons. Things grow quieter here in the winter, especially once all of the December holidays have ended.

Summer is our busy, tourist season. There are certain parts of the city I don’t visit much at all during those months because of how crowded they are when kids are out of school and families visit Toronto. Tourists are always welcome here, but I’d rather visit familiar landmarks in the off-season than wait in long lines outdoors to see them in the never-ending heat and humidity of August.

Spring and autumn are transitional times. We don’t have as many tourists or warm weather at these parts of the year, but the weather can give us many unexpectedly beautiful days. It’s been my experience that there aren’t as many Torontonians venturing to a park or the woods in the in-between seasons for reasons I haven’t quite figured out yet.

At any rate, I like these quiet, peaceful days out in nature. Sometimes they start out cold and foggy but later turn out to have several hours of mild, comfortable weather in the afternoon. It’s always a gamble at this time of the year, but I like grabbing those few hours of decent weather when possible and using them to visit parks that haven’t yet begun to see their full stream of warm-weather visitors.

I’d also much rather go wander around outside on a day that is slightly chilly and overcast than one that may leave me sunburned or overheated by the end of it. To each their own on that topic, though.

The Outdoor Exercise

After spending the last several months exercising indoors due to a mixture of weather and health-related reasons, I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been to start doing some workouts outside.

There’s something so invigorating to me about feeling the sun and wind on my skin as I exercise. Watching all of the TV shows or exercise videos in the world can never replicate that sensation anymore than they can show what it feels like to greet a friendly neighbour you happen to run into while exercising outdoors.

Life isn’t always conducive to this, of course, especially when I had a sore foot a few months ago and needed to avoid slipping or falling while it healed.  With that being said, it’s a nice experience when possible, and I’m hoping to do it much more regularly now that I’m feeling like my old self and the sidewalks aren’t dangerously slippery for anyone who needs to be careful to avoid a fall.

The Scenery

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, spring is my favourite season of the year. Winter is cold, snowy, drab, and long here, so it’s always a relief when the temperatures rise and I begin seeing bright splashes of colour on the landscape again after the flowers begin blooming.

I’ve already paused more than one walk with my spouse in order to snap a picture of a flower or new leaf on a tree. Every bit of colour that’s added to the landscape makes me that much happier.

It’s going to be even nicer once I’m able to visit a forest that isn’t dormant at all any more! I can’t wait to see flowers, leaves, and grasses growing no matter what direction I look.

If you’re also a fan of hiking or taking long walks, what do you like most about it at this time of the year?

3 Things I Don’t Love About Fitness Culture

A few days ago blogged about the four things I love about fitness culture. Today I’m going to be talking about three things I wish I could change about it.

Since it can be difficult to read people’s tones on the Internet, know that I’m bringing up these concerns because I care about this topic quite a bit. Everything I’m about to say is coming from a genuine, sympathetic perspective.

The Pseudoscience

What is it about the topics of diet and exercise that attracts so much pseudoscience? I’m all for each fitness enthusiast figuring out what works for them as far as what they eat and what types of exercise they do, but I’m also alarmed by how many ads I’m seeing for products claiming to do things that are either scientifically impossible or could potentially be dangerous if tried without a doctor’s supervision.

For example, I keep seeing advertisements for products that are supposed to block your body from absorbing certain types of calories in the food you eat. I’ve seen other ads for products that claim to be able to get rid of belly fat without diet or exercise, along with many other strange declarations.

While these kinds of ads have been around for a long time, I’m surprised by the fact that people are still falling for them. It would be amazing if there really were a magical pill, powder, device, or spell that allowed everyone to eat and drink whatever they pleased with no side effects, but sadly that’s not how the human body works.

The Consumerism

Consumerism is one of the biggest reasons why I stopped following fitness blogs and social media accounts. As a minimalist, I have no interest in buying a whole wardrobe of fitness clothing in order to have matching outfits when I exercise. What other people wear is not my concern, but I personally don’t see the need to buy new stuff if what I already own still functions perfectly well.

My workout outfits tend to be old, stained, and/or already mostly worn out. I like the fact that I can do any exercise in them I want to without worrying about ruining them. They’re impossible to ruin! If I didn’t wear them while exercising, I’d probably turn them into dust rags or throw them away entirely.

I follow this same rule when deciding when or whether to buy new fitness equipment. A yoga mat and a few pairs of free weights in various sizes are all I need. This seems to run so counter to how many well-known fitness enthusiasts operate that I often find it hard to connect to them.

The Objectification of Women

There are many wonderful stock photos out there of people doing all sorts of exercises, but in order to find them to illustrate my posts on this topic I need to wade through far too many images whose compositions vary widely depending on whether a man or woman is being shown in them.

This is a typical photo of a model who is a man.

 

Look at how his body is covered by loose, comfortable clothing. The photograph is framed in such a way that the weightlifting itself is what’s most important. The model is lifting heavy weights, and he’s totally focused on doing it properly in that moment. Nobody cares if he’s perspiring, has messy hair, or makes a funny facial expression while he lifts.

I do my best to share pictures of as many different types of fitness models as possible. This includes gender, race/ethnicity, disability, and as many other visible markers of difference as I can possibly find because of how important inclusivity is.

However, this is a mild version of the sort of photos I find when I look for fitness models who are women.

 

As you’ve probably noticed, they are not exercising at all. They’re using cell phones, and yet this is being tagged as a “fitness” photo. This happens far too often.

I’d like to be perfectly clear here that I have no problem with pictures of women exercising in sports bras and yoga pants. That’s what I wear for some of my workouts, especially if it’s a warm, humid day and I’d prefer to perspire from the workout itself instead of from unnecessary layers of clothing.

The issue is that male models are at least pretending to do workouts while female models are often either posed in sexual/suggestible ways or aren’t shown working out at all.

I don’t know about all of you, but this isn’t a time when I worry about how I look in any way. My only focus is on getting a little stronger, faster, or more flexible than I was the last time I did that routine. It would be really helpful to see this reality reflected in fitness culture imagery.

How do you wish fitness culture would change?

4 Things I Love About Fitness Culture

With the weather gradually warming up here in Ontario, I’ve been spending more time thinking about fitness and fitness culture.

Once the last patches of snow and ice have melted for good, my neighbourhood is going to have even more people going out and about for a jog, walk, bicycle ride, or other forms of exercise that aren’t so easy to do indoors.

Some people workout outdoors in all sorts of weather, of course, but it’s invigorating to see a much larger number of folks getting some exercise on a nice day.

While I’m waiting for that to happen a few weeks from now, let’s talk about the five things I love about fitness culture in general.

The Focus on Sustainable Change

What sustainable change looks like will vary from person to person, but most people seem to respond best to small lifestyle changes that build on each other.

For example, I’ve followed bloggers who switched from a completely sedentary lifestyle to an active one by beginning with a five minute walk one day.

As their stamina and overall health improved, they gradually moved to longer walks and then later to running, swimming, weightlifting, or other forms of exercise.

This is a pattern I’ve seen repeated in my own life, too. Changing everything at once often doesn’t work longterm. Picking one habit at a time to either begin or discard does. The smaller it is, the higher the chances are that I’ll be able to stick with it.

The Respect for Perseverance

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past five years is how crucial it is to keep going even when your goals seem just as far away today as they did yesterday or last week.

Losing weight and building muscles takes time.

So does learning a new language, finding someone to date, getting a  job that suits you better, and any number of other goals that someone might want to achieve.

There may be times when you don’t seem to be making any progress at all, but that doesn’t mean that pattern will continue. Good things often come to those who work diligently for them.

The Optimism

Our world is filled with things that either can’t be changed at all or take the efforts of far more than one person to be nudged even a single inch in a  direction.

I believe in both acknowledging this fact as well as focusing on the things that I as an individual do have influence over.

On a societal level, this can be something as simple as picking up a piece of trash you find on the street or holding the door for someone behind you. These little acts can make a big difference over time as more and more people participate in them.

On a personal level, I think there’s something to be said for taking note of all of the subtle changes that happen as one grows stronger, faster, or more fit. Fitness culture in general does an excellent job of encouraging people to track their progress and celebrate every success they have along the way.

I’d argue that our world needs more of this optimism. We can both fight for a better future and acknowledge all of the good that already exists around us.

The Discipline

Like perseverance, discipline is a skill that can be transferred to many parts of someone’s life other than their workout habits.

If you know how to have the self-control necessary to jump into an exercise routine on a day when you’d rather stay in bed, it can make other difficult parts of life a little easier to deal with as well.

This wasn’t something I necessarily thought I’d learn when I first began working out regularly, but I’ve seen all sorts of positive results in other areas of my life from learning how to make and stick to a regular fitness routine.

For example, I’m not a huge fan of calling medical offices to make appointments for myself even if they’re for perfectly routine check-ups. I started to become a little less nervous about this once I got into the routine of pushing myself a little farther with each workout. There’s something reassuring about seeing how far you can go if you step just an inch out of your comfort zone at a time!

Fitness culture’s encouragement become more disciplined is definitely one of the things I appreciate the most about it. If I’d known this was going to be an unexpected side effect of getting back into shape, I might have done it much sooner.

What do you like the most about fitness culture? On a more lighthearted note, how many of you also don’t like making medical appointments?

Ghosts of Fitness Past: Things That Have Thrown Me Off Course and How I Dealt With Them

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons people give for not being interested in work out. It wasn’t that many years ago that I was one of them!

Here are a few things that used to be barriers for me when it came to getting healthier and stronger.

Feeling Disconnected from Fitness Culture

How I Dealt With It: I stopped trying to connect with it.

I’m tentatively hoping to write a couple of posts about my impressions of fitness culture in general later on this spring, but for now I’ll say that this is a complicated topic that I have a lot of thoughts about. There is absolutely nothing wrong with structuring your life around becoming as fit as possible…but that sort of strict attention to detail doesn’t work for me personally.

Yes, I eat a healthy diet and have found several forms of exercise that I love. These are interests I deeply enjoy discussing with people who share them. There are so many different workout routines and diets out there that I always enjoy discovering what has and hasn’t worked for other people.

With that being said, I do not want to filter every morsel of food I eat or every other decision I make through this lens. This technique seems to  work beautifully for some fitness enthusiasts, but I’m the sort of person who needs to have those occasional breaks – and I’m not only talking about food here – in order to stay interested in following my diet and exercise plan the rest of the time.

Hating Exercise

How I Dealt With It: I drilled down to what it was exactly about working out that made me dread the thought of it and chose alternative forms of exercise.

To make a long story short, it turns out that competition is my kryptonite, I do not enjoy running at all, and I’ve never met a team sport that I found enjoyable.

Kudos to those of you who like them. They’re simply not stuff that appeals to me personally.

Since at least one of those three things were present in the vast majority of the workouts I did in gym class, it took a long time for me to tease them away from my thoughts on exercising in general.

Once I realized that I enjoy dancing, lifting weights, and brisk walking, it became a lot easier to fit those things into my regular routine. I’m always open to trying other forms of exercise, too, now that I know that my dislike of this activity isn’t universal.

Not Wanting to Start

How I Dealt With It: I agreed to do some sort of physical movement for five minutes before re-evaluating how I’m feeling that day.

This isn’t a mind trick, either.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, there have been times when I stopped after five minutes of exercise and decided to take the rest of that day off even if I wasn’t injured, sick, or in pain.

By skipping that one session every once in a great while, I maintain the motivation to continue working out the other 99% of the time. This seems like a fantastic trade-off to me.

Perfectionism is a trap.

Five minutes of exercise is better than zero minutes.

Not only that, but I’ve found that the hardest part of any workout is actually getting it started. If you can convince yourself to start the routine, it often feels much easier to finish it than to stop partway through.

Feeling Frustrated with My Progress

How I Dealt With It: I set goals and made observations about things that had nothing to do with the numbers on a scale, measuring tape, or body fat percentage.

This isn’t to say those numbers are unhelpful, but they’re far from the whole picture when you’re trying to figure out if your fitness program accomplishing its goals.

One of the first changes I noticed when I began exercising regularly again about five years ago was how much more energy I had.

Suddenly, I was sleeping better and not feeling so drowsy in the afternoon.

That wasn’t something I’d anticipated at all when I first began working out, so taking note of it was a sign that I was moving in the right direction.

A reduction in the amount of anxiety I was feeling was the next helpful sign. This happened weeks before the numbers on the scale nudged down enough for me to realize it wasn’t a fluke and I was slowly losing weight.

What are your ghosts of fitness past?

4 Things I Miss About My Old Workout Routines

I have a slightly embarrassing story to share with all of you today. About two weeks ago, I was walking around barefoot in my house and accidentally smashed my little toe into one of my hand weights that was lying on the floor. (Pro-tip: this is not an amusing way to pass your time. I’d… Read More

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Toned, Lean Arms Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Ab Blasting Interval Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt & Thigh Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More

Why Do Library Holds Arrive Simultaneously (and Other Questions I Wish I Had Answers To)

Lately, I’ve been taking a break from my normal interests like reading science fiction and exercising outdoors in order to try other stuff. One of the consequences of this has been that I haven’t come up with as many blog post ideas related to those topics as I’d normally be playing around with. I suspect… Read More