Monday Musings: Old Haunts

This weekend was my father’s birthday, so off we went to Cochrane to celebrate with him.  In efforts to help him ring in his 70th year in style, we took him out to the mountains, one of his most favourite places. I won’t lie, they’re also one of my favourite places.  Banff and its surrounding area has always held a special place in my heart, and it occurred to me this weekend that somehow I let myself go a year and a half without stepping foot within park boundaries. I didn’t know just how much I missed it, just how much a part of me it is, until I found myself there again this weekend, standing on the banks of the Bow River staring up at the mighty Mt. Rundle.

Without a doubt,  this is the longest I’ve gone without visiting Banff since I was a child. When I was a kid, we camped around Banff every single year.  It captured my heart so much so that I moved there as an adult. I spent almost four years in Banff, and they were truly some of my best years.  I had hiking at my doorstep. In fact, it’s the place responsible for my true love of trails and the birthplace of my trail running adventures. For the first time in my life, I was part of a small community, the kind  where you couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone you knew. I was part of a quirky, delightful, challenging and absolutely fascinating team within an organization that helped me carve out a path for myself that I never would have considered otherwise.  Many of those quirky and wonderful teammates became friends, friends I still see to this day, though not as often as I’d like. It was a life-altering experience in many ways.

So this weekend, as we visited Banff and surrounding areas I found myself lost in my old haunts: browsing through the Christmas store even though it was nowhere near Christmas, agonizing over what type of fudge to choose from the Fudgery, cutting down back alleys to avoid the hordes of tourists,  thinking of nights out at virtually every restaurant and bar in town, remembering the smell unique to the Rockies in winter (a mix of snow and trees), staring in awe at the grandeur of the scenery in all directions,  and reveling in the familiar motion of winter hiking and the feel of dry, rocky mountain snow (so much better than west coast snow, by the way) beneath my feet.

It was a feast for my soul in so many ways. It reminded me of times when I was at my most active, invigorated by fresh air and the constant presence of epic mountain scenery.  It felt like coming home again. I always hear that expression ‘you can’t go home again’ and, to be honest, I’ve never felt it to be true. Of course places change and evolve. Even in Banff, so many storefronts and restaurants and neighborhoods are different than they were when I lived there.  That’s not the point. Home is nothing more than a feeling.  Being able to step foot into a place and have it feel familiar, even when the sights and sounds around you are not exactly the same, to have it instantly transport you back to a wonderful time in your life, that is what home is.  And I can tell you that any time I find myself in and around Banff,whether in town on on the trails, I am home.

 

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TWIR #93: TGILW

Okay, I know, that post title has way too many acronyms. I’m just over the moon that a) it’s Friday and b) it’s an extra long weekend for me.  Hence the TGILW (thank goodness it’s a long weekend). Certainly it doesn’t have the same ring to it as TGIF but an extra long weekend is worth a clunky acronym isn’t it? Let’s check out what I got up to this week.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: sushi and chocolate and donuts, oh my!
Observations: I am not at all apologetic about the donut that I ate for breakfast nor the melt-in-your-mouth saba aburi oshi at Minami (seriously, if you live in Vancouver, go there immediately. Put aside the fact that you ‘don’t like mackarel’ and put this in your mouth.).  However, I am apologetic for the rapid consumption of chocolate because I ate it all before I realized I really didn’t even feel like chocolate. The freedom of Saturday’s eating sometimes just gets to me, you know?

Sunday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: beach walk + epic kitchen chores
Observations: I have no excuses for this rest day. It wasn’t even raining outside. In fact, it was a beautiful sunny day.  I just didn’t want to.  Instead, we opted to drive out to White Rock for a long walk along the beach because it was so nice out. Well, little did we know we would be driving straight into the epic wall of fog. We left brilliant sunshine in the city to walk in grey fog. Still, it was lovely and refreshing. I spent the rest of the day in the kitchen, deeply engrossed in a true labour of love (at least without a food processor): homemade bolognese. Seriously, there’s way too much fine chopping involved to do this without my food processor. I can’t wait to have my things out of storage.

Monday
Activity: running intervals + strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: I had to use the treadmill for my running intervals but this was still a satisfying workout.  In fact, it was actually more satisfying in some ways because running on the treadmill always feels easier than running outdoors. I cranked that speed up (for me, at least) and felt like I was flying rather than plodding along gasping for air like I do at the track. Regardless, the workout was solid and I was a sweaty beast by the end.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I’m afraid to tell my trainer that the prowler chest presses are getting easy, at least at the weights we’ve been working with.  Let’s just keep that our little secret, shall we? This was also the first training session during which she introduced nothing new for me to hate with a vengeance. I wondered if she was feeling guilty about forgetting our session a couple weeks back. No matter the reason, I’ll take it!

Wednesday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: There is no delicate way to put this: this workout was painful from start to finish. I could tell from my first set of single leg deadlifts that I was not going to have a good workout. My legs were tired. My arms were even more tired. I decreased my weight on all sorts of exercises, dropped down to three sets of most, and generally am amazed that I survived for a full 40 minutes. That was pure dedication…and a whole lotta habit.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: After Wednesday’s debacle, I was determined to fit in a good workout despite it being yet another early(ish) morning workout (any more than one in a week is not my jam).  Although I was solidly on the early morning workout train before Christmas, I’ve definitely returned to the camp of mid-morning workout since the start of the new year. I’m not going to lie. This workout was a bit rough at the start. My muscles just kept asking me why I was doing this to them.

Friday
Activity: running intervals + strength
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations:  More treadmill running intervals! I was going to go to the park this morning instead, but then freaked out about being there in the dark with headphones in because, obviously, I would be murdered despite it being a relatively safe neighborhood. As I’ve mentioned before, watching crime shows has not been good for me.  At any rate, I had a great interval workout on the go before I realized I’d forgotten my breakfast at home and thus had to cut my workout short to pay an ungodly amount of money for a keto friendly option between my gym and my office.  My mother used to tell me I’d forget my own head if it weren’t screwed on. She is correct.

Alas, now the weekend is here and it’s a gloriously long one for me. If you’re wondering when I’ll stop bragging about that to all you two-day weekenders, the answer is never. Happy weekend to all and to all a good night.

For me at least. Sorry…not sorry.

Training Tuesdays: is 2018 the year fitness resolutions died?

I usually dread January at the gym.  Every year, there’s this mass influx of people from start of the month to around mid-February. I can only assume most are spurred on by new years’ resolutions to get fit and healthy. I’d never discourage anyone from setting health and fitness goals. I really do believe it’s fantastic. However, it certainly won’t stop me from complaining about how all the newly minted fitness fanatics overcrowd the gym, make it more difficult for me to get my hands on equipment, create line ups for showers, and generally make the January/February gym-going experience significantly less pleasant.

I had the worst expectations for that first week of January. I walked into the gym expecting to see every machine taken, every last bench snagged, every last piece of equipment claimed. I was dreading it and mentally preparing myself to be in a heightened state of annoyance throughout my workout. But then I arrived at the gym on January 2nd and, well, there were no hordes of new gym converts. In fact, dare I say it was quiet.

My next thought was that maybe everyone was still on holiday vacation. Surely the following week everyone would be back at work and, thus, visiting the gym in droves.  Once again, I went through the exercise of mentally preparing myself and once again my worries proved to be baseless.  Still, there were no masses of exercisers. There was no competing for equipment. There was no battling to find a square inch of gym surface in which to set up my own private workout station. There was just me and the regulars.

In the days since, it’s occurred to me that perhaps this year is the dawn of a new era, an era in which the fitness resolution has lost its steam. Perhaps more people are slowly, gradually finding avenues to work activity into their lives instead of showing up at the gym January 2nd, killing their bodies for four weeks, realizing it sucks to bombard their bodies with sudden and unexpected exercise, and then giving up because they can’t imagine being in that kind of physical pain all the time.  Perhaps more people are legitimately changing their lifestyles with activities that actually fit into their lives instead of trying to fit into a one-size-fits-all, “I-have-to-go-to-the-gym-five-days-a-week-to-be-fit” mentality.  Perhaps we are all finally learning that health comes from doing activities you actually enjoy with a cadence you’ll actually stick with. Wouldn’t that be something?

Or, you know, perhaps it’s just that I live in one of the fittest cities in North America and everyone’s already uber fit here. Regardless, I’m not going to complain about this pleasant turn of events because it means I no longer have to focus my death glare on that girl who’s hogging the kettle bell I want to use while she (obliviously) sits on the bench texting her friends…

Monday Musings: on being a former (and maybe future) runner

About two years ago now, I signed up for an ultra marathon, a mountain ultra to be exact. This after having just one half marathon (which I hated) and one marathon (which I also hated) under my belt, and this also after never really being willing to commit to a legitimate training plan for any running event. Still, at the time it seemed a worthy and lofty goal…until my SI and sciatic crapped out on me.

I tried for a really long time, too long really, to get back into running. I pushed myself to the point of re-injury time and time again.  For the last six months, though, I’ve very intentionally bid a fond farewell to any real form of running. I’ve been content with maybe weekly, but maybe not weekly, interval running workouts at the track. Most of the time, running is a distant memory.

Every once in a while, though, I see people effortlessly bounding down the street or pack myself up for an indoor workout on a sunny day or dread having to drive to the gym for a workout because it’s such a time suck. Those are the moments when I remember the runner I used to be.

I see those runners go by and I think ‘that used to be me…only slower and with a much grouchier look on my face.’ When I look out the gym window and see sunshine I think ‘ahhh, it would be so nice to be out there instead of in here.’ And when it takes me an hour and a half to do a 45 minute workout because I have to drive and look for parking, I think ‘good god, I miss the days when I could throw on my shoes, open the door and just run.’ Sure, these moments are few and far between these days, but they’re still there enough to make me wonder if I will run again. I also wonder if running is just always part of your identity, even when you’re not actively doing it, or at least how long it takes to work its way out of how you see yourself.

The long and the short of it is that from time to time I wrestle with these questions. Other times, I welcome the break from pounding the pavement and wonder if my body is thanking me for sparing it further injury. When it’s pouring rain, I am thankful that I am not out there, like I used to be, getting soaked to the very core, to the point where not even a lengthy hot shower will take away the chills. When I’m able to spend an entire day doing whatever I want instead of organizing my day around a training run or my workout, I’m equally thankful. Running, it seems, can occasionally steal your spontaneity.

As with most things in life, being a runner is neither inherently good nor bad. It all depends, among other things, on what you want for your health, what your body will tolerate, what you love, and what you will sustain. For me, the verdict is still out on whether I will be a real runner again. For now, two years out from when I decided to give my first ultra a try, I’m still conflicted.

 

TWIR #92: longest week ever

Does anyone else feel like the first 5-day work week after the holidays is the longest week ever? Well, I do. Wednesday felt like Thursday. Thursday felt like Friday. You get the picture. It all adds up to my beyond ready for the weekend.  Alas, at least there were some decent workouts this week. Let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: walk + planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 7 km walking
Observations:  Saturday rest days are the best. They involve a giant breakfast donut (yay cheat day!) plus a walk to the local farmer’s market. This week’s visit was a bit disappointing, though, because our onion guy wasn’t there. Seriously, this guy grows the best onions.  You know an onion must be beyond good if I’m taking time to specifically mention it.  Completely unrelated, do you ever have one of those days when you feel like you did nothing but walk all day but then it adds up to nothing? This was one of those days. Only 7 km!?! Wtf.

Sunday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: laziness 10 out of 10
Observations: Can I lie and say the day got away from me and that’s why I didn’t work out? In all honesty, I simply cannot bear the thought of driving to the gym on weekends and I also cannot bear the thought of a track workout in the rain. I have clearly become soft. The rain never used to phase me but now I shudder at the thought of working out outside in the rain, which is unfortunate given that it rains here EVERY DAY. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it feels that way. Instead of exercising, I lounged, read my book, did chores, and ran errands. It was perfect. Sometimes, you just have to take an extra rest day for your sanity.

Monday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Hallelujah to not having a headache anymore and to feeling a bit more energy! It was a sharp contrast to last week, and I made sure to fit in a solid workout while the energy was in me.  I even added weight to my step ups and single legged squats. On a Monday. That’s pretty impressive in my books.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session + return of the after work walk (!!!)
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: It’s been three weeks since my last training session and, even though I do a lot on my own, there’s something about my trainer’s exercises or combinations thereof that leave me so sore.  She also manages to integrate something new every week that I despise. This week’s torture: sideways bear crawls. Ugh. On a more positive note, the rain stopped (!!!!) and we were able to get out for an after work walk, something I find very soothing after an exhausting day at work.

Wednesday
Activity: strength training + after work walk (!!!)
Relevant Stats: 35 minutes
Observations: Everything in my lower body hurt after Tuesday’s session. I decided to focus on my arms, combining all of my least favourite upper body exercises only to spare my legs.  I succeeded in killing my arms, to the point where carrying my bag back from the gym felt like a workout.  But the big win was a second after-work walk of the week! This hasn’t happened since October. The only thing that could’ve made me more excited would’ve been a celebratory donut. Don’t worry, I abstained…but I promise you it was challenging since our walk took us right past our favourite bakery. Mmmm, donuts.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: It was back to legs to spare my arms. I’m sensing a pattern here.  My big win was upping my prowler weight to 120 lbs in between sets of kettle bell side lunges and weighted single leg squats. My legs are not going to be pleased with me tomorrow. Honestly, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to not have half of my body in pain every single day of the week.

Friday
Activity: strength training(ish)
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: It’s somehow fitting that at the end of what I’ve deemed the longest week ever, I had what felt like the longest workout ever (even though it clearly was not).  I had little energy left in the tank for this workout. It could be because I left it until 2:30. It could be that I’ve overdone it other days this week. Or it could just be that it’s Friday and I’m done and I’m more than ready for the weekend.

On that note, I’m outta here. I’ve got some friends to see, some donuts to eat, some wine to drink, and some relaxing to do. Maybe, just maybe this weekend I’ll manage to fit in a workout…but no promises on that if this rain continues. Happy weekend y’all.

 

Mid-Week Tangent: sitting on a year’s worth of chocolate

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a certified sugar addict. I know that’s not an actual certification, but it should be. If it were, I would be the most qualified for the certification than I’ve ever been for any other designation in my entire life.  I’m now imagining a world in which there was actually cachet for no other reason than love for sugar. What a wonderful world that would be…for me at least.

Sorry, I digress. My point is that I am a sugar addict. My love for sugar is widely known in my family, as well, which ensures that I receive several pounds of chocolate each year for Christmas. I’m not kidding.  I normally burn through it at a rapid pace. For once I’m not speaking metaphorically when I say that I’m usually like a kid in a candy store after the Christmas holiday, only the ‘candy store’ is the kitchen cupboard in which I store my personal chocolate stash.  My chocolate stash usually doesn’t know what hit it. I’m just in its face, every night, creating a customized (and large) chocolate sampler uniquely designed to soothe that day’s chocolate cravings.  Needless to say, chocolate typically doesn’t last long amidst these blitz attacks. The chocolate carnage is real.

This year, though, I find myself in a very different predicament. In efforts to,  you know, not give myself early diabetes and also to generally not feel like an exhausted sack of crap on the daily, I have given up sugar six days per week. Now I have just one day during which I can attack my chocolate stash like the sugar predator that I am. For the first time in my life, what used to seem like a short-term chocolate stash is starting to feel like my chocolate Everest.  Based on my new average weekly chocolate consumption, what was once weeks’ or maybe a month’s worth of chocolate at best now feels like a solid year’s worth of chocolate–maybe even longer!

I suddenly find myself facing all sorts of new problems*. Where will I store all this chocolate? How will I keep it fresh?  Should I make an inventory and prioritize consumption based on code or expiration dates? Does chocolate really even expire?  How much chocolate can a human actually consume in one day before making herself ill? Maybe most importantly: can I somehow break my problematic pattern of selfishly keeping all the chocolate to myself, something that I have struggled with since childhood, and instead learn to actually give and share?

I’m with you on this one, Joey.

The questions are never ending as my brain tries to wrap itself around the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead for me. But I’m game to find a solution and confident that I will somehow eat my way through my impressive inventory.

*Relax, I understand that this is not, in fact, a real problem. This is what I like call dramatic effect, or artistic license, if you will. The reality is that I couldn’t be more thrilled to be loaded to the gills with chocolate options every time Saturday rolls around.  In fact, it might be one of my life dreams…

Training Tuesdays: Look what I can do!

Does anyone out there actually remember that sketch from Mad TV?  Just me? Okay then, moving on…

I was thinking of doing a lovely little retrospective of my fitness journey in 2017 but as I was reading through all my old TWIRs all I could think was “Damn this is depressing.” I had forgotten the sheer number of times my injury reared its ugly head last year. So instead of being a total bummer only nine days into the new year, instead I decided to share with you the brief but important (to me at least) list of things I can do at the beginning of 2018 that I couldn’t do at the beginning of 2017:

1. Four sets of 8 tricep push ups without needing a break or losing form. At the beginning of last year it was a struggle to do sets of three. That’s almost triple the push ups, friends. (sidenote: I still loathe push-ups)

2. 110 lb dead lifts. Okay, at some point earlier in 2017 I may have been able to do this, but then I got injured (again and again) and it took me right up until the end of the year to get back to that weight.

3. Negative pull ups: At the beginning of 2017 I couldn’t even do a negative pull up. At all. But now I can do four sets of 3 negative pull ups. I mean, I can barely move my arms the next day, but I can do it!

4. 50 lb + prowler weight chest press pushes without feeling like my arms will fall off the next day. Seriously, this is a major win. The first few times I did these it hurt to do basic things like type and, you know, move my arms at all.  I still hate them, but I no longer fear the DOMS aftermath.

5.  I can feel when my body is moving out of correct form. That isn’t to say that I always stop myself from going ahead with a squat or deadlift even when I’ve moved out of form–if I had mastered that, I wouldn’t have reinjured myself so many times this year–but at least I can tell.  It’s a stark contrast to points during last year when my trainer would tell me she’d see my shoulder dip forward during moves that hurt and I’d just stare at her like she had two heads.  Understanding your body is a really big deal for the chronically injured.

6. Most, most, most importantly, I’m bouncing back from injuries faster than before. For at least half of last year, it would take weeks for me to get back to normal after a tweak or twinge to my injury. I credit not trying to push my running agenda for this one, but finally I am at a point where, for the most part, I can bounce back from a setback with my SI or sciatic in days not weeks. This makes a huge difference to my state of mind.

So here’s to 2018, the year of strength. My sole focus in the fitness realm is continuing to build up my base strength as a means of managing my injury and, for the first time ever, I’m excited to see how much I can move the needle on strength in the coming year. Trust me when I say that if you’d told me I’d be saying that last year, I would’ve told you that you were crazy.