Aerial fun

Fortunately, these past few weeks haven’t been all sick and no play.  We wrapped up our 6-week silks intro class toward the end of January.  Trying something new, and active, together was a great experience.

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Matthew made it all the way to the top on the night of our last class.

From here, we could have moved on to the Silks 1 class.  Many people choose to repeat the Silks Intro & Strength Building.  We opted to continue building our strength and practicing what we learned in the intro class by going to the open aerial sessions (essentially an open gym to practice on your own).  Unfortunately, “open” does NOT equal free, but we bought a punch card, which brings down the cost a bit.

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We skipped a week between our final class and our first open aerial.  At first, I felt like I’d lost a lot in those two weeks, but then I warmed up and got in the swing of things.

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Matthew pulled off this move at open aerials.  He was the only male in our intro class, and I think all of the females envied the muscle-building benefits of testosterone.  Unfair advantage!

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We’ve been taking advantage of playground equipment to sneak in extra upper body work, and we just bought a pull-up bar so we can continue some strength building at home.

Aerials are a lot of fun, and you get a great work-out (you build strength quickly when lifting your own body weight!) without the monotony of a traditional gym (something I don’t really mind, but Matthew hates).

The open aerial punch card will take us up to the start of gardening season, when Matthew’s time will be a lot more limited.  I’m not sure what we’ll do after that.  We’d both like to continue, but, in addition to making the time, it’s not a cheap hobby.  Eventually, we’d like to be in a place where we can have our own small rigging (a rigging is what the aerial apparatus — whether silk, lyra, rope, or trapeze — hangs from), so we can practice without the gym fees, and at times that are most convenient for us.

Fuel for active living

Active transportation is one way to incorporate more physical activity into your daily life, but it is not the only means of active living.  Despite a distinct lack of bicycling over the past few days, our lives have not lacked for activity.

The cool, wet March weather has Matthew a bit behind where he’d like to be with planting, so on Saturday, I joined Matthew at the garden.  We planted over forty pounds of potatoes (ten different varieties) and transplanted more of the onion seedlings.  When the sun came out mid-morning, we enjoyed unexpectedly lovely weather, lifting spirits and prompting fun outfits:

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Someone knows how to garden in style: coat, leggings, and rain boots, sans pants, of course.  He grabbed the lantern in case we decided to work into the dark (we didn’t, but it has been known to happen).

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We fueled our efforts with leftovers of colcannon, a dish consisting of mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale (I used a mix of red cabbage and Swiss chard).  The potatoes were leftover from our potato taste test the previous weekend — some of the purple color is the cabbage, but we are also growing a variety of ridiculously dark purple potatoes.

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We went from fifties, sunny, and no pants on Saturday to over a foot of snow on Sunday.  The winter weather prompted us to alter our Sunday brunch plans.  A mile into our eleven mile drive to UCity, on a very snow- and ice-covered main road, we opted to turn back — not worth it.  With the car safely parked again, we headed out on foot to a new neighborhood coffee shop — walkable wins again!

In addition to gardening, PLAY is also a form of active living, great for kids and adults alike.  Today’s slightly warmer temperatures and sunshine were perfect for playing in the still-abundant snow.

While Gabriel tramped around the back yard (in pants), I brought this guy to life, complete with squash stem mouth:

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I scaled back the size of his midsection when I couldn’t lift my initial creation.

After our exertions, we headed inside to warm up and refuel with dinner leftovers: farinata with carmelized onions (the onions make cheese unnecessary); couscous with Swiss chard, toasted almonds, and sundried tomatoes; and roasted sweet potatoes.

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Have examples of how you’ve incorporated physical activity into your life over the past few days?  Please share!

Bike Portland

I knew I couldn’t go to Portland without experiencing the bike scene firsthand, so I was thrilled when Matthew’s sister told us she would have bikes and a trailer for us.  There would also be two extra adult helmets awaiting us, so, with Gabriel’s helmet in our checked bag, we were good to go.

When we arrived, we toured the Bike Cave and saw our rides for the week – two shiny blue road bikes and a Burley double wide trailer.  I was a bit apprehensive about Gabriel in the trailer, since he very much prefers the front seat at home (as do I), but after looking at it, we’d decided it didn’t really make sense to bring the IBert with us.  (The seat is small compared to a trailer, but it would have required another checked bag.)

As anyone who bikes often knows, there’s no bike quite like YOUR bike.  Matthew and I both missed our properly fitted bikes, nose-less  saddles, and more upright riding positions.  That said, bringing our own bikes on this trip really wasn’t feasible, so having two nice bikes, outfitted with locks and lights, no less, at our disposal for the week was quite nice.

Our first ride was a short jaunt to a weekday downtown farmers’ market.  We used the Broadway Bridge to cruise into downtown, noting that we’d be heading uphill on the return trip.  After lunch at the market, we headed home for Gabriel’s nap.

Unfortunately, as Matthew was shifting on the uphill approach to the bridge, his chain derailed.  Hot midday sun, chain wedged tightly, tired and uncomfortable baby, stressed parents, and baby falling asleep in trailer and being rudely awakened combined for a not so great return trip and the decision to trade in the bikes for feet for the rest of that day.

In the interest of maximizing our time and trying to keep to a fairly regular nap schedule (and because Matthew, especially, was uncomfortable on the bike), we compromised and made more trips in the car than I would have preferred, but such is life these days.

On Saturday morning, Matthew and I enjoyed a solo bike ride to visit a couple of bakeries and make a grocery run in preparation for our trip to the Oregon coast.  I enjoyed shopping at the Trader Joe’s located right in the middle of Portland – very accessible by bike.

So . . . a few thoughts and observations on biking in Portland
Well, I am pleased to report that I did not get ticketed or arrested for refusing to let the paint think for me (i.e., obey their mandatory bike lane statute) while cycling around the city.

Going into the “Best Biking City in America,” the number of cars surprised (and disappointed) me.  But after putting things into perspective (bikes make up a 6-8% mode share in Portland, which, while huge compared to most American cities, still means that less than one out of ten trips are made by bicycle) and settling in a bit, I did notice some differences.

First, hanging out at the house in the evenings, we heard a slow but steady stream of cyclists passing by on the small street, something that does not happen on our similarly sized street at home in St. Louis.  Second, most motorists seemed pretty tuned in to interactions with other road users (both cyclists and pedestrians).  Most surprising to me were the multiple occasions where four lanes of traffic stopped at an intersection (when they didn’t have to, unless there’s some ordinance I’m not aware of) to allow bicyclists stopped at a stop sign on the smaller cross street to cross.  Without this courtesy, we would have been waiting quite awhile for a break in the traffic.

Most of these interactions happened at intersections on bikeways.  In Portland, bikeways are regular streets (open to all types of vehicle traffic) that have just a few tweaks to make them better for bicycling – well-placed sharrows, 20MPH speed limits, and minimal stop signs.  Some of the bikeways have low, broad speed bumps, designed to not be a big deal for bikes, while still serving as traffic calming for motor vehicles.

On the other hand . . .
The “bike accommodations” on the bridges were basically extra wide sidewalks.  I felt pretty uncomfortable riding across the Broadway Bridge, with the relatively low height of the railing and my higher center of gravity on the bike.  I wouldn’t have wanted to ride there in heavier bike traffic, because I felt a simple crash could send me plunging into the river far below.

In such a situation, I would have been better off traveling in the normal traffic lanes (especially for the downhill trip), but I’m not sure what reception I would have received from other drivers (both car and bike) for not being where I was “supposed” to be.

On that note, I did hear one person tell us to get on the sidewalk/bike lane as we approached the bridge that first day, right before the unfortunate chain incident, so even Portland has its ignorant and discourteous types.

I also saw plenty of bicyclists who could use a good cycling education course, though I have to admit that figuring out the various types of bike facilities at the same time I was navigating a new city made my own actions a bit less predictable than ideal.

We preferred the routes with “regular” streets or the bikeways to roads with bike lanes.  When we found ourselves on the bike lane roads, we usually opted out of using them, or rode in them with EXTREME caution, mindful of the dangers of being in a less visible position.

All in all, it was a good experience.  Navigating a new city by any mode can be a bit intimidating, but I’d rather figure things out on a bike (or on foot) than in a car any day of the week.  Gabriel did much better in the trailer than I expected, and we all enjoyed experiencing Portland by it’s most heralded (if still a minority) form of transportation.

Review: American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture

I just finished reading American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture, which has been on my list since I heard author Mary Collins speak at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference in September.  Reading a book about our sedentary lifestyles while sitting or lying on the couch struck me as a bit ironic, I must say.  Fortunately, at 168 pages, it’s a fairly short read, and I was not reading it in place of being physically active.

In researching the book, Collins traveled across the country, learning about various human movement patterns throughout history, and how it is that through the generations, we exchanged a very active lifestyle for a very sedentary lifestyle.

In addition to the obvious physical consequences of our sedentary lives (obesity and chronic disease), Collins explores the social, psychological, and cognitive consequences, as well as some not so obvious physical consequences (e.g., the loss of grace in our movements when we do move) of our inactivity.

Collins advocates for many of the things I hold dear: walkable/bikeable streets and community design that allows and encourages active transportation, which will only come about by collective will and government policies that recognize the dire need for these changes and make them a priority and a requirement in all sectors.

Like the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference itself, reading American Idle stirred up a mixed batch of emotions for me.  On the one hand, I am working to promote active living, using many of the best practices outlined in the book.  On the other hand, in order to do this work, I significantly increased my sedentary behavior by trading a bikeable job for one that, for all intents and purposes, is accessible only by car.  I struggle with this contradiction on a daily basis, and the taste of warm weather and prime biking days only makes it harder.

Back to the book . . . . Recommended reading?  Yes.  I consider myself pretty knowledgeable in this area, yet Collins provided some new food for thought.

At my request, the Saint Louis Public Library now has a copy of American Idle, so if you’re local, you can check it out there 🙂