TWIR #41: Last of 2016

Well, 2016 has almost come to an end. It’s been…different than I expected. Let’s leave it at that for now, and hope that 2017 brings about real healing.

Saturday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 1 large family holiday event
Observations: Well, I visited emergency on Friday night at the lovely hour of midnight thanks to a terrifying rattling/wheezing/crackling noise that started to happen every time I exhaled.  After waiting a couple hours, a doctor spent roughly two minutes with me, basically telling me my lungs sounded clear and to do all the normal things I already know to do when sick: rest, drink fluids, no alcohol, etc. Helpful.  Thanks to a late bedtime, Christmas Eve consisted of a lot of laying around exhausted before heading to my boyfriend’s parents’ place for festivities. Thankfully, my coughing stayed relatively at bay, so I wasn’t that person, you know the one who comes to a large family gathering hacking up a lung and thereby infecting everyone else.

Sunday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 1 large family event, 2 waffle makers
Observations: I had originally planned to celebrate Christmas with a run in between family events. You know what they say about best laid plans. Instead, I had a sneezing/coughing attack and completely threw my SI out of whack. Like badly. By mid-afternoon walking was uncomfortable and sitting was even worse.  It was like a flashback to four months ago and I was livid. On the plus side, Santa brought us two waffle makers, which either means we can have some serious waffle parties or that we need to choose between the fancy new vertical maker or the ability to make four waffles at once. Tough decisions in this household.

Monday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 2 magical snow walks
Observations: My SI continued to be quite stiff and painful. The blow was softened considerably by opening Christmas presents (my boyfriend and I did our own gift exchange on Boxing Day…anything to prolong the Christmas experience!).  We continued our celebration with not one but two incredibly slow and careful walks in beautiful, heavy, falling snow. I was in heaven. There are few things I love more than snow walks.

Tuesday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 2 less magical slush walks
Observations: Between the lingering cold and lingering SI pain, about all I could manage was another day of walking.  This time, the walks were less magical as rain had taken the place of snow and turned everything into an ugly, dirty, slushy mess.  Still, I was pleased to feel less pain and to be able to walk at a fairly normal pace (when I wasn’t avoiding ice).

Wednesday
Activity: stairs + treadmill + strength
Relevant Stats: a mixed bag adding up to an hour
Observations: After what seems like an eternity without a workout, I was determined to do something. Something ended up being 20 minutes of moderate work on the stair machine, 10 minutes walking on 15 incline on the treadmill (about as long as I can walk on a treadmill because walking on a treadmill is beyond awful), and a half hour of strength focusing on my arms since my SI is still a disaster.

Thursday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 minutes, remedial
Observations: Alright! I’m back to basics yet again! There is nothing like doing single-leg “deadlifts” unweighted, sliding one leg back on a slider instead of having it in the air.  It’s the ultimate way to remind yourself you’re essentially back to square one.  Is this year over yet?

Friday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 2 dozen cookies baked, 0 cookies consumed (major victory)
Observations: Well, I thought my SI was on the mend but yesterday’s training session did a serious number on it and today it feels ten times worse.  And that meant no workout for me. It seems 2016 is going to end without one last kick at the workout can.

I am so ready to say goodbye to 2016 from a health and fitness perspective, and my greatest wish for 2017 is that I find a more sustainable way to keep my injury at bay.  This week gets a big:

end-of-2016

Happy new year y’all! Wishing you all a smooth transition to 2017.

Mid-Week Tangent: NYE Cocktail to End All Cocktails

Well, the last of my holiday-themed mid-week tangents has arrived at long last, and I am determined to go out with a bang. Today, I present to you the most delicious yet deadly of NYE cocktails. This is the cocktail to end all cocktails. This cocktail, in fact, comes with a warning that no one ever heeds.  I promise you, I warn people all the time, they never listen, and then they are sorry the next day. I myself have fallen victim to this wicked little cocktail.

Are you ready for your warning?

Warning: These are deadly. They will sneak up on you. You will think you can have another, then another, then another and you’ll think that you’re feeling fine. It will hit you suddenly, like a freight train, and it will leave you absolutely wrecked the following day. Consume these slowly and intermittently. Have no more than four throughout the night. Do not mix with other beverages. Consider yourselves warned.

Look at that classy thang.
Look at that classy thang.

The French 75
Description: This bubbly delight is refreshing, delicious, subtle and highly drinkable. It has the added element of classiness because of, hello, champagne bubbles.  It is also a cocktail whose name has a backstory, which I can always appreciate: “The 75-millimeter M1897, a light, potent little gun with a vicious rate of fire, was the mainstay of the French field artillery in World War I. Hence the drink.” See? Small but mighty. Perhaps this is a good time to go back and review my warning.

Recipe: 
–1-2 ounces gin (I go big with 2 ounces)
–healthy squeeze of lemon juice (most call for 1/2 ounce, but I say do it to taste)
–1/2 or 1 tsp sugar
–Champagne to fill champagne flute (3-5 ounces, depending on how strong you like it)

Notes:
-Use a good gin, but not a highly flavoured gin. This is not the time to whip out your fancy cucumber or rosemary infused gin. Make it neutral, but not crappy. I am still convinced that people who don’t like gin are just drinking really bad gin.

-Champagne or sparkling wine varies greatly in taste and price. The good news is this drink is forgiving with sparkling wines and champagne. Cheap works fine because gin and lemon will rescue the bubbly.   You can even use Prosecco here, but I’d advise to eliminate sugar from the recipe if using Prosecco since it’s a sweeter wine.

-Sugar: I don’t even use sugar in my French 75s anymore, but I am a lover of gin and a hater of sweet cocktails. For first-timers or gin-haters, sugar can soften the blow of the drink, but I encourage you to experiment over time with the right amount of sugar, or non-sugar, for you.

-Champagne flutes: obviously these are optional. I think they lend a fancy element to the drink and make it extra celebratory for nights like NYE, but you can make it any glass you have. You’ll just have to measure champagne more closely in larger glasses. Recipes vary greatly from 2-5 ounces of champagne to be added. It all depends on how much you like gin.

Happy new years to all and to all a good night!

Training Tuesdays: What I Learned in Training this Year

Well, this year has definitely not been the year I expected in terms of health and fitness, not by a long shot. Despite a strong start, the year quickly degraded into a series of injuries that carried me through to December. As a result, I learned a lot about my body and my spirit:

  1. Healing can take longer than you think: That expression, past performance isn’t a predictor of future performance has never held much weight in my mind. Until now. Just because my body has always healed quickly doesn’t mean that it always will.  This year proved that to me. Eight months after my injury, I’m still nowhere near 100%.

2. Healing is just as much about building emotional resilience as physical resilience: My head and heart took a beating this year as I struggled to remain at my old fitness level. I had many breakdowns. I still have moments where I get insanely frustrated. The comparisons to my former self, the want to push harder than I am currently capable of, the fear that I will never be able to do the things I love again, these things require immense emotional resilience. The injury is just an injury. It’s how I think and feel about it that are the real challenges.

3. My glutes hadn’t worked a day in their lives…and they still try to cop out all the time:  All those years of squats and lunges were a waste! I hadn’t been engaging the right muscles. After eight months, I can finally tell the difference between engaging my glutes versus relying on surrounding muscles to carry the weight. I still have moments where my attention lapses and I fall into old patterns, but I’m getting more consistent in using the right muscle groups every day.

4. Running really isn’t the be all and end all…and neither is hiking: Do I have days where I wish I could run farther and faster? Yes. Do I miss insanely long hiking adventures? Yes. But in the absence of those things this year, so many other good things have taken their places. I’ve had more time with friends and loved ones.  Upon reflection, I learned that much of my motivation to hike the longest trails possible, to workout for hours on end, was really out of fear of boredom.  What would I do with that time if I weren’t using it to be active?  Turns out, I had no need to fear boredom at all.

5. I still loathe pushups: Enough said.

That right there, is 2016 in a nutshell.

TWIR #40: Ho Ho Ho Edition

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! And then it’ll be just one more sleep ’til CHRISTMAS!!!!! If you can’t tell, I am a sucker for the holidays and can’t wait to tear into my stocking and feast on turkey. So let’s get this TWIR out of the way so we can get on with the holidays! I can’t say it was the best week. I was sick, and my SI was being a grumpy gus.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: shortbread christmas trees baked: 12, chocolate snowmen sandwiches stuffed with peppermint buttercream baked: 7, Christmas gift shopping: almost complete
Observations: This was a highly productive rest day on my part. It started awkwardly when my IKEA delivery showed up early and without a phone call and I had to run to the door in pink bear pajamas, no bra, hair in disarray and flour caked to my hands. Sigh. Aside from that unfortunate experience, I got our small-batch Christmas baking done and almost completely finished my Christmas shopping. The major feat with shopping was that I only lost my patience once the entire time I was out. That is significant growth on my part.

Sunday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 65 min. snow walk = magical
Observations: I planned to go for a run, I really did. But then after breakfast we decided to head out to do some of our joint Christmas shopping together, including a very costly trip to the liquor store for gift wine. Very costly. At any rate, by the time we got home I was already starting to feel sluggish. We went for a spectacular walk in heavy falling snow, and I called it a day.  Sure enough, by that evening I could feel my sinuses getting congested. The cold was descending.

Monday
Activity: second consecutive unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: ultra high laziness
Observations: Sure enough, I woke with a cold and instantly had zero intentions to work out. I used to push this all the time and usually ended up with a lingering, horrendously disgusting, deep chest cough. And laryngitis. I’m learning. About all I accomplished was reading 80 pages in my new book and watching a shit ton of Food Network.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: Sadly, I can’t cancel training sessions at the last minute or I’d be out $90. So I forced myself to go to my training session where I told my trainer I was sick, thinking that she’d make it easy on me. To her credit, I think she tried. What I learned during this workout is that taking daytime cold meds makes my heart race in weird ways when working out. Also, holding a bar above my head to do walking lunges was a dizziness disaster waiting to happen. I finished my sorry training session and promptly went home to veg for the rest of the day.

Wednesday
Activity: spin + rehab exercises
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 10 min. rehab exercises
Observations: I needed to do something after two days of sitting around. I did a half-ass spin workout with zero sprints and lower tension than I’m accustomed to. Still, it felt good to sweat and breathe deeply and, for a brief moment, my nasal passages were perfectly clear.  Sadly, my SI and even my sciatic seemed to be displeased with me by day’s end.  I actually blame all the sitting over the last few days for this setback. Slouching on couches is a sciatic’s worst nightmare.

Thursday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: this cold is making me angry
Observations: Turns out I may have bitten off more than I could chew on Wednesday. I was on my feet most of the day, running errands and getting holiday stuff taken care of.  I woke up feeling worse Thursday and, though I was starting to feel stir crazy from sitting around so much this week, I couldn’t fathom a workout. Energy levels were way too low. Instead, I felt sorry for myself and continued on my path to using the most amount of tissues ever used by a human in a four-day time frame.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 55 min.
Observations: Well, I had to brave the mall today on what is apparently the busiest shopping day of the year. So, hopped up on cold meds, I decided to make it a double header by heading to the gym after the mall. Plus after two days of sedentary living my back and SI were killing me. I needed to move! It was a pretty light workout by all accounts, but good to move and sweat. I’m hoping the SI stabilizes so that maybe, just maybe, Christmas magic will grant me the ability to have a pain free run this weekend!

So it’s been a bad week for recovery and training, but who cares because it’s almost Christmas!!!!! And because of that, this week gets a big, old:

jolly-santa

Happy holidays y’all. Have a good one, in whatever way you choose to celebrate the season.

Throwback Thursday: Christmas Eve Hiking Edition

One of the things I love most about my family is they are always game for a festive outdoor adventure, even in the icy grips of an Alberta winter. One year, my parents and I were brave enough to don skates and cruise around Lake Louise in -38 celsius. I couldn’t feel my feet after five minutes. But it was the holidays and we had to celebrate in iconic style.

Last year, our family once again braved the cold, heading out to Lake Louise for a short but snow-tastic Christmas Eve hike. I believe it was a balmy -15 or -20 which, by Rocky Mountain standards, isn’t all that terrible.  Plus, once you get moving it’s really not that bad. The point is that we spend time in the outdoors as a family. Inevitably this means several things happen:

–My parents take forever getting their gear on at the car while my brother and I stand around freezing our asses off.

–My brother is aghast at the cold because he has 0% body fat

–My parents have to stop several times to shed layers and/or adjust their spikes, which involves many annoyed exchanges between the two of them

–My brother and I get impatient and essentially hike off by ourselves, then have to wait for them at the top, where we quickly begin freezing our assess off all over again

I know what you’re thinking: how is this a good time over the holidays? Let me tell you, despite all those minor annoyances, my brother and I get the chance to catch up, I get to be in nauseating awe of snow and mountains, we are doing something active, and we are all together. Even better, my dad gets super excited to take pictures of wondrous winter scenes and show them to us later at home. It’s a good time, I promise. In fact, as I write this, I’m sad because my parents no longer live in the heart of the Rockies and the times when our whole family will be together at Christmas are growing fewer and farther between.

Not to get lost in nostalgic reminiscing, though that is sort of the purpose of a throwback Thursday post, let me instead leave you with some visuals of Christmas Eve Family Hiking Adventure 2015…I really need a shorter name for that.

img_7458
One of my favourite spots to snap a picture at Lake Louise. This is at the very start of our family adventure day.

 

Siblings await parental arrival.
Siblings await parental arrival.
At the end of the trail. My excitement cannot be contained.
At the end of the trail. My excitement cannot be contained.
Family photo...well, minus me because too much snow = nowhere to prop up a timer.
Family photo…well, minus me because too much snow = nowhere to prop up a timer.

Happy holidays to all of you and your families!

Mid-Week Tangent: apparently I hate holiday beverages

I’m back with another holiday-themed mid-week tangent. I was trying to generate a list of my favourite holiday beverages for this week’s post, but a strange thing happened as I contemplated all the most popular of festive drinks. I realized that I pretty much despise them all, or at most find them to be a once a year indulgence.

For your reading pleasure, and to inspire your wrath, I brazenly present you with my top 5 absolutely disdained holiday beverages:

5. The Peppermint Mocha:  I don’t understand this combination. Chocolate and peppermint I understand. Coffee and chocolate I understand.  But coffee with peppermint? No. This is all wrong, except for the whipped cream, which is always right in my books. My recommendation, scrape off the whipped cream and dump the rest in the trash.

4. Eggnog Latte:  I usually drink one of these a year only to confirm that they ruin both coffee and eggnog. I know these are a much beloved holiday beverage, but hot eggnog is just not the way to go in my books. Ever.

3. Eggnog: Eggnog has this strange allure. I sort of love it but, like most humans, find it to be a little cloying and heavy when consumed in large quantities. If I could buy a 250 mL eggnog, it would last me the whole season, but they insist on selling it only by the litre. It’s a conspiracy. The absolute only way to make eggnog tolerable is to cut it with vigour in the form of substantial amounts of rum, and even then only one a year will suffice.

2. Gingerbread Latte: This is an abomination of a coffee beverage. I have never actually ordered one. I base my opinion solely on a single sip of someone else’s latte that I had years ago. Spice syrups always taste artificial to me, and this is no exception. Do you know where classic gingerbread spices belong? In a cookie. Maybe a loaf cake. They belong nowhere else and certainly not in a perfectly good shot of espresso.

1.Hot Buttered Rum: Do you realize that you’re actually drinking rum with butter?!?! Hey, I like butter as much as the next person. You should see how much I put on my toast in the morning. But in a drink? That’s madness.  I am not sure I’ve ever consumed more than a sip of a hot buttered rum at any point in my life, and I’m quite certain I will keep it that way.

Lest you all think I’m just a scrooge of holiday beverages, I assure you I have my passions.  Tis the season for a nice, classic hot chocolate or, if I’m feeling really crazy, a peppermint hot chocolate. Both must be liberally coated in whipped cream.  Otherwise, I’ll just stick to my usual suspects: wine, fortified wine, coffee with baileys or maybe a nice chocolate porter or stout. Now those are drinks I can get behind, holiday season or not.

Training Tuesdays: why I still work out over the holidays

The holiday season is beyond in full swing. In fact, we’re just five days out from Christmas (!!!!!). It can be hard to fit in quality workouts in the midst of holiday celebrations. If it isn’t family events, there’s getting together with friends, the gym is closed for holidays or, let’s face it, we’re stuffing food in our faces. All of these things are, in my opinion, way more fun than working out. As I’ve said before, I am fundamentally lazy and I welcome any semi-legitimate excuse to postpone or even cancel a workout.

Let me let you in on a very big secret: my motivation to work out over the holidays has nothing to do with my health or fitness.  That would be far too noble a cause for me. In all honesty, the real reason that I force myself to fit in even the shortest workouts over the holidays is to preserve my sanity.

grumpy-cat
I apologize for using grumpy cat but this is what would happen to me if I didn’t work out over the holidays. Instead, I work out and am able to remain in the festive spirit.

We all know that too much of a good thing inevitably bites you in the ass. This is true of things like chocolate, or ice cream, or even wine (not that I would know anything about such things).  For me, it’s equally true of family time, social time, Christmas music, and holiday cheer.  All of these things are great in general, but too much of any of them start to get to me. In every day life, I am able to carve out all sorts of pockets of quiet time for myself but that seems to vanish over the holidays, gobbled up by quality time with the family and friends, countless holiday parties, special dinners, Christmas gift shopping, etc. etc. etc. etc. It’s all just too much.

My holiday season workouts are my only brief, shining moments of solitude and peace. I can take a break from Christmas tunes and play the music I want to play. I can take a break from endless conversation and trying to put on my best cheery social face and lapse into glorious silence. It will sound overly dramatic to say, but I absolutely need this time to myself to survive the holidays. It’s amazing what 30-60 minutes of time to myself can do in terms of recharging me for more socializing, gluttony and general cheeriness.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for a reason to work out over the holidays, don’t do it to burn calories or to appease your sense of guilt. Don’t even do it for the betterment of your health and fitness. No, none of these are as powerful a form of motivation as maintaining your sanity.

When you’re feeling like you can’t possible spend another minute listening to Christmas carols, go for a run. When you’ve grown irritable at everything coming out of your beloved family member’s mouths, head to the gym. When you can’t possibly stomach another second of holiday madness, use that as your cue to work out. Your sanity, as well as your friends and family, will ultimately thank you. Your waistline won’t complain either.