TWIR #131: cats, and workouts, and turkeys, oh my!

In these parts (i.e. Canada) last weekend was Thanksgiving, which meant turkey and family and, for me at least, a whole lotta driving back and forth between family events and our house to take care of the new cat. It was a bit much, in all honesty, but I made it through albeit a little more tired than usual. I’d like to say that the festivities didn’t impact my workouts, but that would be a lie. I found myself struggling to fit in workouts over the weekend and, in the end, accepted that neither life nor myself are perfect, and sometimes these things just happen.

Activity:  at-home strength workout
Relevant Stats: 40 minutes
Observations: Since I knew I was heading out of town for the bulk of the day, I didn’t want to abandon the new cat for longer than I had to. I opted for an at-home workout including some strength and stability work and a whole lotta skipping. Thankfully, it has been so cool outside that skipping on the back deck in the sunshine was no longer an overly sweaty ordeal. I spent the rest of the day driving back and forth from our Thanksgiving weekend vacation rental so I could be on cat medication duty and also have family time. Sigh.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: tuuuuuurkey…and a whole lotta wine
Observations: I could’ve easily worked out before heading out for more family time, but W network was playing The Holiday, and the cat was in ultra cuddle mode and so it just didn’t happen. Instead, I made pancakes, drank a litre of coffee on my own and relaxed with the cat before abandoning her for family Thanksgiving dinner.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: cat monitoring + being ultra lazy
Observations: We got back from Thanksgiving festivities fairly early in the morning, and I commenced cat-care duties yet again. She was very needy after being left alone for a night. Once again, I had intentions of going to the gym or working out in some way and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I blamed my wine consumption at Thanksgiving dinner, but really that was just an excuse.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 15 minutes spin + 30 minutes strength
Observations:  After two days of laziness, I was actually ready for a solid workout. I warmed up on the old spin bike before getting back into some heavier strength work since my SI had been feeling relatively normal.  In fact, I felt like my old self again. Win!

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 45 minutes
Observations: My trainer worked my arms hard and I really hadn’t realized just how much strength I’d lost from taking one week off plus one more week of easier workouts. Holy hell, I had absolutely nothing to give on the rows and bicep curls. I had to downgrade weights on both and even then I could barely make it through a set. Sled pushes were also infinitely harder. It’s always humbling to realize that even short breaks make a difference in your fitness.

Activity: cardio warm up + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. spin + 40 minutes strength
Observations: Although stiff from my training session, I forged ahead with another solid workout. After a quick spin warm up, I moved into strength work, focusing on legs, glutes and abs to give my tired arms a break. I was pleased with how my SI held up and almost getting myself back to my previous weight levels on a lot of exercises.  Take that, SI!

Activity: stairs
Relevant Stats: 27.5 minutes (yeah, I’m counting that half minute)
Observations: I thought it had been a couple of weeks since I ran stairs, but a quick glance at my workout tracking app told me it had actually been close to a month. That made me feel slightly better for feeling like I was going to die the entire time. Why are stairs so damn hard?!?!  Still, I persevered, almost made it a half hour, and somehow didn’t break my body in the process, so I’m considering it a Friday workout miracle.

Now the weekend’s here once again (gotta love short work weeks!) and we have sunshine in our forecast, cool Fall temperatures, and a whole lot of unscheduled time, all of which makes me incredibly excited. Wishing you all a restful weekend filled with all the things that you love. Happy weekend, y’all.


Real Talk Thursday: things I’d forgotten about having a cat.

As I referenced in last week’s TWIR, we got a cat. I have been slowly, steadily (and stealthily) campaigning for a cat. It’s taken a year and a half but my patience and persistence paid off. We’re now parents to the cat I’ve been envisioning for years: an older, fluffy, ultra-cuddly ginger cat. Let this be a lesson to you: never give up on your dreams.

It’s been a solid 6 or 7 years since I’ve owned a cat and, in that time, I’ve forgotten so many of the quirks that come with having a feline friend, things like…

…they are low maintenance but they are not no maintenance: I always said I could never get a dog because they’re too much work. I forgot that settling a cat into a new home is also a lot of work. They do not like change. Ours also had two teeth extracted before we were able to save her from the SPCA so she was on medication and in pain, and adjusting to the second big change in less than a month.  It’s a lot for a little creature.

…they are a major distraction to almost everything (but in a good way): It is impossible to get lost in an episode of Ozark when she is sticking her butt in our faces and walking across our laps. It is equally impossible to focus on work when she is trying to walk across my keyboard.

…they are born trouble-makers: Cats seem to have an innate ability to know where they are not supposed to go, and then repeatedly go there.  One day into her new home and she had jumped in at least three places she shouldn’t have been.

…they are stubborn as hell: This little one has got some health issues that we’re working on, which means she’s not eating as much as she should. Scratch that: she’s actually waging her own little hunger strike most days (don’t worry, we’re getting her to eat enough through some creative approaches).  She’s also stuck wearing the cone of shame for a week or so and absolutely refuses to learn to walk with it. Cats, man, you just can’t get them to do what they don’t want to do.

…they are ridiculously cute:  Despite all her intentional rule-breaking and stubborn refusals to take care of herself, she is still hella adorable. This is how cats get away with anything and everything: they are so cute that you cannot help but forgive them.

In less than a week, this furball has worked her way into our hearts. We will do anything for her at this point (you know, like hand feeding her food like the princess that she is). And that’s another thing I forgot about having a cat: the love you can have for them will surprise you every time.

I mean, look at that cuteness.

Training Tuesdays: 3 keys to injury recovery

Let me start by saying that I’m (quite obviously) not a trained medical professional. In other words, take this with a grain of salt and obviously consult with a professional if you are injured.  What I’m sharing are the things I’ve learned over the last three years of dealing with a chronic injury, mostly through trial and error and stubbornly refusing to listen to perfectly good advice (from professionals). It’s been a journey in so many ways, and one thing is certain: the more I followed these three keys to injury recovery, the faster I have bounced back from injuries.

1. Seek professional medical help fast…and then listen to their advice: I had the tendency to think “I’ll just see if this gets better on its own”. You know what? An injury might heal on its own, but it will probably start to heal a lot faster if you seek treatment. My advice is to keep looking for a physiotherapist or doctor or acupuncturist or whatever is your cup of tea until you find someone you trust and who delivers results. Then see them as soon as you experience injury pain. Most importantly, don’t ignore their advice. I spent years not listening when my physiotherapists told me not to run, and I blatantly ignored their rehab exercise suggestions. I’m still not perfect with the rehab exercises, but I am up to at least a 60% follow through, which is an exponential improvement. And, damn it, more often than not I get better faster.

2. Balance movement and rest:  I know a lot of people with chronic injuries, and I still read a lot of running and fitness blogs. One thing stands out to me: one of the biggest challenges for fitness-minded people is submitting to the need to rest and recover. We want to get back to working out as quickly as humanly possible, and it’s often to a fault. When we are injured, we need to balance rest and movement. Sometimes that means days of doing nothing. Sometimes it means major adjustments to the types of workouts we do–walking instead of running, drastically decreasing the weight we lift, substantially readjusting the length of our workouts, or incorporating additional rest days between workouts. It’s a tricky balance, for sure, but the more I’ve paid attention to balancing rest and movement, the quicker I’ve been back to my usual antics.

3. Recognize the importance of your mental game:  My own critical thoughts and frustration have been my biggest enemy. I spent so much time telling myself I’d lose all my fitness, turn into a total sloth, or gain a ton of weight if I didn’t return to exercising immediately.  None of that was true, at least not to the extremes that my mind conjured up.  I used to get so frustrated about all the things I couldn’t do anymore, that I lost sight of what I could do. When I turned super critical or fired up my frustration, all that happened was that I would push too hard and too fast and wind up hurting myself again. While I’m by no means perfect in this regard, I’ve gotten infinitely better at managing my reactions to injuries. As I’ve gotten mentally tougher about my injuries, I’ve been more at ease with the recovery process and, lo and behold, I’ve actually recovered faster.

Really, this whole rambling post of tips boils down to one thing: if you’re grappling with injuries, be smarter than me.

TWIR #130: here, there and everywhere

I’ve slept in four different places this week. As a total homebody hermit, I am over moving from place to place and looking forward to several blissful weeks of not going anywhere…once I get through this weekend at least. Alas, amidst all this travelling and continued injury healing, my workouts have been a little less solid and a little less regular. Let’s take a look.

Activity: rehab exercises + sitting in a car
Relevant Stats: 20 min. + 5 hours in a car (ugh)
Observations:  I was super anxious about a five hour car trip, you know, since I hadn’t actually sat upright for more than an hour at a time. While it was unpleasant, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. I like to credit the pre-road-trip exercises I did to try to loosen things up. On the other end of the drive we got to catch up with friends and eat a lot of spiral ham, so that was also a big win.

Activity: light strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: After two straight days of doing nothing but eating, I felt the extreme need to do something more active than just rehab stretches and exercises. I made my way to the hotel gym and managed to use some legitimate weight for a solid workout. Then I ate deep fried pickles, so…yeah.

Activity: personal training sesssion
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: Reunited with my first and favourite trainer! Even though it meant getting up before 7 am, it was well worth it. It was so nice to have full trust that whatever she asked me to do was within my range of abilities given my injury. I miss that feeling. And she pushed hard. I had forgotten the many, many exercises of hers that I despised. Prowler chest presses. I had blocked those bastards from my memory. Ugh.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations:  Another morning, another morning workout. My favourite. While the hotel gym wasn’t great, it beat wasting a half hour walking to the better gym. I can’t say my muscles were thrilled with two back-to-back morning workout, but they managed. I also fit in a lot of walking getting to and from various meetings, but found that working from my hotel bed was (unsurprisingly), not great for the old back muscles.  I’m not going to lie, the fancy cake helped ease the pain.

Activity: unplanned rest day + another 5 hour car trip (ugh again)
Relevant Stats: so.much.sitting.
Observations: I feel like I say this all the time when it comes to early morning workouts, but I really meant to get up and go to the gym before we hit the road to head home. But I just couldn’t. I blame the chocolate cake sitting heavily in my belly and making my blood sugar crash like there was no tomorrow. Or I was just lazy. Either way, I didn’t work out, I sat in the car for hours, then struggled to get into work mode for the rest of the afternoon.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Hallelujah! Back to my regular gym! I was so excited to have access to my usual equipment and to have a bit more variety in my workouts. I tested myself a little bit more with step ups and some ab work that I hadn’t done in weeks and was pleasantly surprised that it was doable. Progress! We also got the call from the SPCA that our cat was ready to come home! More to come on this exciting development, but it made for an exciting (but also super stressful) afternoon and evening.

Activity: cardio warm up + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. spin + 30 minute strength training
Observations:  With all that was going on with the new cat, work stress and family Thanksgiving, the last thing I felt like was dragging my ass to the gym. But I did it. And I worked hard.  That’s all you need to know.

Now the long weekend is upon us (well, at least here in Canada), which means turkey and family time. Wishing you all a relaxing and turkey-filled weekend. I mean, even if you’re not in Canada, you should just roast yourself a turkey. You can’t go wrong with that.

Mid-Week Tangent: cake-ploration–fancy edition

Just when you think I’m done with cake-ploration, I’m right back at it! I found myself in Vancouver for work this week, and decided to test out some new cake options.

For anyone who’s read my past cake-plorations, you know I’ve struggled to find the perfect cake.  This week, I abandoned my quest to find the perfect classic cake. Instead, I ventured out into the world of the fancy pastries and cakes. It’s not my usual go-to, but every once in a while a girl’s gotta class it up.

Where we went: Thierry Chocolate & Pastry

What we ordered: Chocolate Marquise (hazelnut dacquoise + salted caramel + crisp praline + chocolate mousse) & a chocolate caramel macaron

A reminder (once again) that I am not a food photographer.

Price Point: $7ish bucks for a slice of cake + $2/macaron (which, by macaron standards, is a steal of a deal in my mind). Honestly, I assumed it would be way more expensive than it was. I’ve paid just as much, and more, for mediocre cakes across the city.

The Verdict: 
I’ll start with the macaron–I ruined it. I couldn’t eat it the day I bought it because I downed that entire cake slice in about 10 seconds. I put it in the fridge, and the next day in a moment of absolute hunger I devoured the macaron directly from the fridge instead of letting it come to room temperature first. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty nonetheless, but it’s difficult to get a good sense of flavour and texture in a chilled macaron. In other words, it was a self-inflicted macaron fail.

Now onto the the cake itself!  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the cake. Like I said, it’s not my style. There is no frosting. There is no actual cake. And I have to admit, I’m actually not terribly fond of chocolate mousse. I used to love it, but somewhere along my life’s journey, my love for chocolate mousse has faded. I now consider it to be more of a dessert annoyance, a sad and sloppy second to my true love (chocolate frosting). That said, it was everything a mousse should be: velvety, rich, chocolatey. But I’m not going to lie, I ate all the mousse off the top of the cake first just to get it out of the way.

Now let me tell you about the true star of this cake: the dacquoise/salted caramel/praline layers. I could have eaten just those layers and I would have been beyond happy. I could have eaten five times as much of the dacquoise, salted caramel and praline and died a happy woman. It was that good. The dacquoise was perfect. The salted caramel was rich and ultra thick, which was essential since skimping on caramel is one of my food pet peeves. Seriously, buy this for those three layers alone. Or, if you’re a normal person who recognizes that chocolate mousse is actually amazing (unlike me), buy this for the whole package. I’ve no doubt it will deliver for you.

With that, this week’s cake-ploration (with a bonus cookie to boot!) comes to an end. But if this has fuelled your desire to read about more cake, you can check out my past cake-ploration posts here, here, here, here , here, here, here and here.

Before you ask, yes, I clearly enjoy my cake.

TWIR #129: the injury rears its ugly head

Well, if you’ve been following along this week, it’s no secret that I haven’t been up to much in the fitness department.  I did, however, potentially break records for the sheer number of hours that I spent laying around, waiting for my back muscles to loosen up, so it’s not like I’ve gone without accomplishment.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to continue on with TWIR, so let’s do this.

Activity: at-home workout
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: In hindsight, maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was super stiff in the morning and thought that maybe a light workout at home would actually help. At times, my injury responds well to controlled movement and low weights. This time around that didn’t appear to be the case. Despite only using 8 pound dumbbells, whatever I did left me even stiffer and more sore. I knew it was the beginning of bad things.

Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: couch laying
Observations:  As expected, I was stiffer Sunday than on Saturday. I thought it would be smart to try to walk it off (again, I assure you this sometimes does help). About 1 km into our walk, it was clear that walking was not helping. We retreated home, where I spent the rest of the day being utterly useless. On the plus side, it allowed us to invest hours in watching Tiger’s comeback in the PGA Tour Championship.

Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: ultra pain + acupuncture
Observations: When I woke up Monday it was clear that something more than rest was necessary. I couldn’t sit upright without sciatic pain, and I couldn’t walk properly either. I was a mess. Thankfully I found physiotherapist #10 who worked some acupuncture magic that provided some fairly immediate relief to aching muscles and inflammation.

Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: mini walks + physio exercises
Observations: I awoke to much less general aching and pain around my SI, but my sciatica was still in full force any time I tried to sit upright. I managed to work laying on my couch, with my knees bent and my laptop propped up against them. I’m sure anyone who cares about ergonomics cringed as they read that, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I also managed a very short (i.e. 2 block) walk and did my physio exercises, which is a miracle because I almost never actually do them.

Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: walk + physio exercises
Observations: Once again I felt better, and was actually able to sit upright in 15-20 minute increments. Hallelujah! But the best part of the day was getting a phone call for a last minute physiotherapy appointment where he once again worked his acupuncture magic. Also, I managed to successfully walk 1.5 km so that was a major win in my books.

Activity: walks + light arm workout
Relevant Stats: 3 km (!!!!) walking + 20 minutes arms
Observations:  As it was the third consecutive day of seeing improvements, I really pushed it and went out for two short walks, totally a whopping 3 km. Yes, that was sarcasm.  It felt like a major victory. When I got home I also did 20 minutes of upper body work. It was my most active day of the week thus far, and I felt like a champ.

Activity: strength training (light)
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I went to the gym! I promised myself I would keep it light and controlled and stop with any pain, and I still focused more on my upper body, but I went! There’s nothing like not being able to go to the gym to make you appreciate the gym. Even though it was a gloriously sunny day here, I didn’t lament the fact that I was working out indoors. I was grateful just to be able to do something. I did some unweighted split squats, unweighted single leg deadlifts (sidenote: are they still called deadlifts if you’re not actually lifting???), and some kettle bell deadlifts to test things out. Some moves felt better than others, but I survived.

Time will tell if today’s workout was a good idea or not, but for now I feel a tad sore but not that much worse for the wear. Here’s hoping I’m on the mend and able to enjoy the weekend relatively pain free. Wishing you all a happy weekend with able bodies!

Real Talk Thursday: let’s get physio

I have to start by saying that my partner was so proud of himself for coming up with this post title, specifically while sung to the tune of Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”. I’m sorry that you now have that song stuck in your head. Trust me, it’s been in my head all day and it’s not pretty.

With that out of the way, let’s get on to the real point here, which is that yesterday as I visited my latest and greatest in a long line of physiotherapists, I came to the realization: I have seen way too many physiotherapists in my time. I did the mental math and came up with ten (!!!), and I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a few along the way. It struck me as a) way too many and b) an assortment of wildly different and unique professionals. And so, today I share my laundry list of physiotherapists and physiotherapy experiences. Let’s get physio, shall we?

First, there was my Banff physiotherapist, who I loved with all my heart and who was my first foray into the magic of physiotherapy. This was a whopping 12 years ago, which blows my mind. She introduced me to the wonder of active release therapy and drastically improved many an SI issue and many, many, many a sprained ankle.

Then there was my Calgary physiotherapist, who I loathed, not only because he told me I had the least flexible spine he’d ever seen on a 30 year old, but also because all he ever seemed to do for treatment was hook me up to one of those Dr. Ho-style pulsing machines.

In the midst of my time in Calgary, I also saw two random Vancouver-based physiotherapists when I found myself injured while travelling for work.

One of the randoms I saw after a particularly heinous trail running fall which left me so badly bruised around my hip and buttock that he repeatedly asked me to retell my story, seeming certain that I was actually a victim of abuse.

The other random left me 100 times worse while treating my SI. While at the time I didn’t know that was what she had done, I now know that she triggered my first case of sciatica. Her office also sent me about a million emails to write a testimonial for her services which, needless to say, I repeatedly ignored.

I then found my long-term Vancouver physiotherapist, who was really a chiropractor who practiced active release therapy. Though he told me I was a “muscle moron” (i.e. none of my muscles fire the way they are supposed to), he was so damn entertaining (and well-dressed) that he remains my favourite practitioner.

I cheated on my Vancouver physiotherapist twice during our time together.

The first time I was visiting my parents in Cochrane. My SI had been driving me crazy and then, while putting on a pair of pants (yes, really), I drove it over the edge and set off the worst case of sciatica I’ve ever had.  Because he helped me regain the ability to walk before my flight back to Vancouver, he will forever be one of my favourites. I like to consider that this was less cheating than a necessity, but it’s a slippery slope.

The second time was a definite cheat. I was lulled into the wow factor of seeing one of the Seattle Seahawk’s sports doctors (or some other Seattle time…who can remember such things?), who was apparently the shit. I paid $250 for a 1.5 hour appointment, proving that I was both desperate and apparently a baller at the time. He poked me with needles and did a bunch of work and none of it made much more of a difference than seeing my usual Vancouver physio, so I never called to book my follow up appointment. Lesson learned: money can’t always buy you a properly functioning body.

When I moved to Vernon, I was referred to supposedly the best physiotherapist here. While I’m sure she was highly competent and capable, she was also joyless and had zero charisma. This was the physio appointment that solidified that I want not only skilled treatment, but also a personality. I never scheduled another appointment.

Which leads me to my tenth and final (for now, at least) physiotherapist, who I have seen twice and who I have dubbed (to myself, not to home) the acupuncture magician.  In other words,  I think we’re on the path to a long-term partnership.

What a journey in 12 years. What a diverse cross-section of different styles and personalities. And, most importantly, what a shocking reminder of just how demanding my body is. Yikes.