If I’m Not Wearing a Tracker Does My Walk Still “Count”?


A number of years ago I got a FitBit. Then I updated to an Apple Watch. I was looking for ways to motivate myself to get more active, and, for a while, it worked. I would be very pleased when I saw that I had hit my step count goal, or when I saw my heart rate get to a target zone during an intense workout.

These days my level of physical activity is not where it was when I started wearing these kinds of fitness trackers and that is, in large part, due to the ongoing symptoms of Sweet’s Syndrome (and whatever the heck also might be accompanying it – diagnosis still pending). I’m certainly having to adjust to taking things much more day-by-day than I ever have. On good days I can go for a brisk walk, on bad days my joints hurt so badly that even walking around my house becomes a challenge. And yet, I continued to put on my Apple Watch each morning out of habit. Now, to be fair, this device does more than track fitness details, but I started to find the “motivating messages” (“keep moving! You can still reach your goal!”) rather discouraging. Many days it wasn’t a lack of motivation that was keeping me from hitting a certain step count. It was pain and fatigue.

This past Monday I went to put my Apple Watch on first thing in the morning as I usually do and I realized I just didn’t want to. I knew it would be another “slow” day and I just didn’t need another reminder that I wasn’t going to be hitting that magic number of steps.

I’ve now gone without the Apple Watch for 3 days and the funny thing is that on each of those days I did go for a walk. I’m not going to lie, I’m still working through a sense of “but I won’t get credit for these steps” anxiety, but I’m also learning that I kind of need to chill out about all of this. Does a walk still “count” if there is no tracker to track it? 🙂

This also got me thinking about other “trackers” I use in my life – I have the “Today” app on my phone (tracks “good habits”) and I use Bookly to track the number of hours I spend reading. Why? What is the point of tracking my activities so obsessively? I guess I can see some positive benefits of this, but now that I’m living with a chronic illness I can also see a big downside — there is this enforced pressure to live up to a certain standard (How many steps did you take? How many books did you read? How many words did you write?) day in and day out. My reality is that each day brings vastly different conditions and I have to be able to be ok with this. I think these trackers are adding to my stress and anxiety around having a chronic illness. So, I’m going to ditch them — maybe for a while, maybe for good.

The End (of Sabbatical) is Nigh

And just like that, we are at the end of 2015! I’m always amazed at how fast a year whips by, but I was especially aware of it this year. When I began my sabbatical year back on January 1, 2015 a year felt like a nearly endless expanse of time. Perhaps I thought that this year would be different. Perhaps I thought that being on sabbatical would slow down the passing of time, that if I took the time to read, to savour, to think, that I wouldn’t feel as though the weeks were flying by. I was wrong.

So, now I’m in the final days (7 left!) of my sabbatical, although as my friend and colleague, Gregory, pointed out the other day, I am, in actuality, “like everyone else at Brock now, on holiday break.” I suppose he has a point given how quick I was to jump in to sabbatical mode this time last year.

It has been a good year. It was a busy year and when I look back at where my days went, the list looks something like this:

Over the course of the year I also was constantly reminded about what sabbatical (in an academic context anyhow) is and isn’t.

  • It is a gift. I felt so grateful to have so much dedicated time to work on my book manuscript. I sat with it day in and day out for months. I immersed myself in the project in a way that would have been impossible without sabbatical. I put in long hours and worked 7 days a week on the manuscript for a good chunk of my sabbatical time. People kept telling me to “take a break,” but I had been gasping for time to really sink myself in to this work and I wasn’t going to tear myself away from it until I had a full and polished manuscript ready to send to the press.
  • It is a privilege. If you get to take sabbatical you are very, very privileged. Do not forget this. It is important to check your privilege and to be careful how you talk about your sabbatical with others.
  • It isn’t a vacation. I am sure I had friends and family who were genuinely baffled by the fact that I couldn’t drop everything and come for a visit or go on a leisure outing this past year. As mentioned above, I am sure that I actually put in more hours at my desk this year than I regularly do during the years I’m not on sabbatical. When you are on sabbatical you are hyper aware of how rare and precious this time devoted to your research is. I know I won’t get another sabbatical for a while and I didn’t want to waste a single second of it.
  • It isn’t a magic “cure all.” I think I was guilty of imagining sabbatical to be this blissful, stress-free year. I might have imagined that I was going to sit at my desk, think lofty thoughts, and become a better person. When I imagined my sabbatical I didn’t imagine the days filled with writer’s block, panic, and stress related to “imposter syndrome” (“what if I don’t have anything interesting to say after all?”). My imagined version of sabbatical also didn’t include getting sick, debilitating migraine headaches, sick pets, sick friends and family members, bad weather, travel woes, and financial worries. But, guess what? All of those things were also part of the year–of course they were, because sabbatical isn’t a magic bubble!
  • It is a limited amount of time. At the start of sabbatical it may seem that you have SO MUCH TIME to do ALL THE STUFF. But, in reality, it is only 365 days, just like any other year. I did get many of the things I set out to do crossed off my list, but there are other things (clean out the basement, reread all the Sherlock Holmes stories) that I’ve not yet managed to accomplish. I guess I still have 7 more days!

It has been a good year, but I am looking forward to going back to teaching  in January. I love my classes and I am excited to teach in the beautiful new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts.

Niagara VegFest

So, I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Life is busy.

One of the things that is keeping me busy is planning (with my awesome VegFest planning team!) the first-ever VegFest in Niagara.

Mark your calendars for June 2nd and come celebrate the many wonderful things about a plant-based lifestyle at the Niagara VegFest. There will be delicious food, workshops, vendors, exhibitors, prizes, a film screening, and some absolutely amazing speakers!

Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House were recently named “Indie Powerhouse of the Year” by VegNews, and you can catch them at the Niagara VegFest!

photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

We are also so excited to welcome Douglas McNish to the festival. In addition to speaking about his role as a vegan chef at places like the Windsor Arms, Douglas McNish will also be doing a signing of his new book, Eat Raw, Eat Well.

Douglas McNish

We will also be joined by the ever-amazing Marni Wasserman. You don’t want to miss her healthy living, plant-based demo.

Marni Wasserman

Jane’s Walk

I just heard about this weekend’s “Jane’s Walk” initiative (thanks CBC!) — I love this idea! Even though St. Catharines isn’t listed as an official participant (yet), I’m going to get out my walking shoes and my camera and explore my new adopted neighbourhood in downtown St. Catharines today.

Updated — photos from my walk.

The Garden City Plan

An article in the St. Catharines Standard discussing the city’s “blueprint for the future” caught my attention this morning. The draft of the City’s new official plan is available online and makes for quite an interesting read. Of particular interest to me were the following points:

1) “The City will balance the provision of a safe, functional, and attractive pedestrian and cycling oriented environment with an acceptable level of vehicular traffic” and “The city will encourage alternative forms of transportation that promote energy conservation and a healthy lifestyle.”

2) “The City should establish a minimum 1 %, and work towards a target of a minimum 3 %, of the capital budget of all major public buildings and structures, for the provision of public art.”

There are, of course, many more things discussed in this document, but I find these two particularly encouraging!

There will be a series of open houses and presentations in the coming weeks so that members of the community can find out more about the plan and have their say.

Notes from the Great Car-Free Experiment

The Great Car-Free Experiment continues and I’m happy to report that things are going well. Of course it is easier because I am attempting to get around in pleasant summer weather and I am on a summer timetable. I have, however, decided to take this experiment into September. I’ve been walking, biking, busing and car-pooling my way through August, and I want to see how long I can keep it up. I just cancelled my fall parking permit, so I guess that means I’m committed to this project.

The City of St. Catharines just announced another set of bike lanes, so this is certainly good news on the car-free front. The biggest challenge I’ve had with cycling around this region, however, is the lack of bike racks. I’ve been really surprised to discover just how hard it is to find a bike rack at retail centres. So far this has been the single biggest deterrent to getting around by bicycle. Today, for instance, I had to go to the grocery store — I could have easily biked, but I opted for the bus because I wasn’t sure if I’d find a place to lock up my bike in front of the grocery store. I thought I’d encounter more difficulties with the traffic, but that hasn’t been an issue as the drivers in this neighbourhood have been quite courteous. But bike racks? I didn’t anticipate this to be a problem. Come on people — there are all sorts of bike rack options out there, let’s work to make this region a little more bike-friendly!

Oh, and while I’m at it — how about making this dream of a regional transit a reality? I was chatting with a friend about going to see some plays this fall and I realized that it is easier for me to get to downtown Toronto (a distance of about 107km) to take in some theatre than it is for me to get into the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake (a distance of about 20km). What the heck?!

Parking the Car

With my move to St. Catharines a few years ago I became more dependent upon my car. This wasn’t a conscious decision, but it is a pattern that I have fallen into because of convenience, I guess. I’m not happy about this. When I lived in Kingston I didn’t own a car — I walked everywhere and did all my errands on foot. Sure, sometimes when I was lugging home heavy groceries I might have wished for a ride, but overall it was easier to not have a car in that city. The proximity of the campus and the downtown shops and the residential areas makes Kingston a very walkable city, in my opinion.

I haven’t found St. Catharines to be a very walkable city. I know it will be better when I eventually buy a house downtown (a goal that is, for various reasons, a little ways off right now), but a city should have more than one neighbourhood that is conducive to walking. I’m not talking about an after dinner stroll — I mean the ability to be able to do errands on foot, to be able to park the car and not have to rely on it every day. While I it made me smile to read about a local man’s pledge to give up his car, it also made me kind of sad to realize that in this city a lifestyle like this qualifies as “news.” Like Randy Ouellette, I am really happy to hear that St. Catharines has signed the International Charter for Walking and that the city council is exploring ways to make it easier for people in this city to opt for walking or cycling instead of driving so much. There are positive changes starting to take place already — the nice new bike lanes on Lake Street, for instance, are a wonderful addition!

Then there is this scary news, which seems like even more incentive to stay off the roads. Wouldn’t a regional transit for Niagara be wonderful?

Splash Class

Since I joined the YMCA a couple of weeks ago I’ve been going to aquafit (or “splash class” as I affectionately call it), and I have to say — I love it!! I was hesitant to go as I’ve never really enjoyed fitness classes, but this is awesome!

There are a number of instructors that teach the splash class, and it changes each day. There’s one instructor that I especially like. He makes the classes so much fun — the time flies by and you hardly even remember that you are exercising. When I arrived at the pool today I was so happy to find out that he was leading today’s class. Hooray! About halfway through the class I moved a little more towards the back of the group so I could be in deeper water (deeper water = more resistance and a better workout). As I continued exercising at the back of the class I was really surprised to hear all the people around me criticizing the instructor. My first thought was “are they nuts? This guy is the best instructor at the Y!” My second thought was, “I guess the phenomenon of people sitting at the back of the class complaining happens no matter what the class and no matter who the instructor is. You can never please everyone!” I found this to be a strangely liberating thought to have as I stare down the start of another academic year.