Real Talk Thursday: things i’m unimpressed with this week

It feels like it’s been a doozy of a week over here. There’s been a lot bubbling up in the career and home arenas, which I hope to be able to talk about soon.  Though much is exciting, it’s also been exhausting and I’ve been a total grumpus.  So today is an airing of all my minor grievances for the week, because I’m a firm believer that if you voice your complaints you can let go of the negative feelings associated with them.  Here goes nothing. Let’s get rid of these grumpies!

Things I am Unimpressed with This Week

1. Allergies: Seriously allergies, are you done yet? Just when I think they’ve passed, I wake up to a series of ridiculously overpowering sneezes and never-ending congestion.  The bushes in the ravine behind our house have sprouted new blossoms and I blame them entirely for this allergy resurgence. Super uncool.

2. Price of parking downtown: At the risk of sounding like my father, who can rant about parking like the best of them, I’m going to rant about parking. I went downtown for an interview on Tuesday and had to pay $9 for 1.5 hours. I should be used to this. I’ve lived in Vancouver almost my whole life and it’s just the way parking is here. But somehow we’ve crossed even my threshold of acceptable parking prices. In my mind, $7 was reasonable for 1.5 hours.  The extra $2 was just not okay.

3. The new season of So You Think You Can Dance: Years ago, me and one of my best friends were roommates and we were addicted to watching SYTYCD. I remember amazing music and routines that stuck with me for days after watching. I was super pumped to realize the show is still on the air…until I watched it. Where was the dance? I think I saw about four routines in the entire hour of the audition episode. Most of the time was devoted to dancers’ dramatic backstories. I want the dance, not the filler! Give me the dance!

4. My upper body strength: Even after several days of rest, I continue to struggle with even 5 consecutive negative push ups. I don’t know if it’s the allergies, the stress, or just ebbs and flows in body energy, but I am now struggling to keep my form for more than 2-3 push ups. It’s ridiculous. I haven’t even attempted negative pull ups. Ugh.

5. Vacuuming stairs: I haven’t lived in a place with carpeted stairs and no-built in vacuum…ever. Granted, that’s because I’ve only had stairs in one of my rentals in the last almost twenty (!!!!) years. Using an upright vacuum in stairways is practically a death mission. I am constantly terrified that I will trip over a cord and fall either to my death or paralysis, not to mention it feels like a full-body workout dragging that thing from step to step.

Ahhhh, that does feel cathartic, doesn’t it? Things are looking sunnier already.

 

Monday Musings: on listening to your body

Today, my body felt sluggish and tired. My muscles are often sore these days as I try to incorporate more strength training, with more weight and increased complexity.  Some days, I just don’t feel like I have it in me to work out. Today was one of those days.  I contemplated taking an extra rest day for recovery, but something didn’t feel quite right about that decision either.

When I really stopped to listen to what my body was saying, it wasn’t saying that it needed a day off. It was saying ‘I don’t want to run’. It was saying ‘I don’t want to grind it out at the gym’.  But it was also saying ‘I still want to move today’ just not at any level of intensity. The first thing that usually comes to mind for me is taking a long walk, but today my mind was screaming ‘yoga!’.

For many, this would be a perfectly natural choice, but I haven’t done yoga in well over five years. In fact, I have never really practiced yoga in a meaningful way. I’ve done my own thing, without instruction, and mostly at times of my life when I was experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. In those situations, I found yoga to be surprisingly calming. However, as soon as I found myself in a more balanced headspace, I’d inevitably abandon yoga in favour of more intense workouts.

For whatever reason, and though I don’t consider myself highly anxious nor stressed right now, yoga felt like the only suitable option for me today. And for once I found it easy to squash the inner voices that usually tell me to run anyway, to get a better workout in, to push through the muscle discomfort. I am generally a fan of this pushing through the discomfort, but I also believe that sometimes our bodies are telling us to slow down for a reason.

What I can tell you is that my body was undoubtedly craving a gentler form of motion today, not that yoga movements are easy for me, mind you.  I have the flexibility of a 60-year old. Actually, scrap that, I’ve known some supremely flexible 60-year olds. I have the flexibility of an 80-year old.  My balance has suffered tremendously since my injury. I struggle to quiet my mind.  I was ready for all of that today. When my flexibility interfered with completing the most challenging variations of movements, I was kind to myself and stuck to the basic or modified versions. When my balance wavered, I avoided getting frustrated with myself and simply started over until I was in balance again. When focusing on my breathing, my mind, quite miraculously, was able to flush my running hamster wheel of thoughts right down the drain. I achieved inner quiet and felt completely rejuvenated.

Afterwards, my body felt noticeably less tense, my muscles loose, and my mind calm.  Even if these feelings turned out to be short-lived, what I had was certainty: listening to my body worked today.  I find it incredibly tempting, and actually consider it a point of personal pride, to force myself to work out hard even when I’m tired or sore or just plain don’t feel like it. In doing so, I sometimes bulldoze right over what my body is telling me.  I have to remember that sometimes those inner voices are telling me to slow down for a reason. I have to remind myself that exercise comes in many forms, not all of which leave your body feeling exhausted, or that an extra day off is not always a sign of laziness or lack of willpower.  It sounds so obvious, and yet I am highly experienced at ignoring what my body is telling me. Today has been an excellent reminder that listening deeply and letting go of self-imposed expectations is sometimes the best course of action.

TWIR #58: It’s the Wine Weekend’s Fault

I have had a lazy kind of week and I blame lingering effects of the wine weekend. Excuse making at its finest. Let’s get this shameful summary over with.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 4 wineries visited but less than one bottle of wine consumed (impressive!)
Observations:  There is no way around this: I sat on my ass pretty much from 8 am to 6 pm.  We were in the car, then having lunch, then wine tasting (during which, technically speaking, I was standing), then driving again.  We went for a forty minute walk but that was about as much motion as this poor body saw.  But I think I deserve major kudos for being in wine country and not even polishing off a bottle of wine between the two of us.

Sunday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: The resort we stayed at had a gym so I had big plans to work out during our trip.  However, as many resort gyms are, it was fairly light on equipment. In fact, the weights situation was pretty tragic and there was barely any space to move around. There was at least a spin bike, on which I tried to fit in a decent workout, I really did! Hear me out. The spin bike was about eight feet away from a mirrored wall and all I had to look at was me, way too close for comfort. It wasn’t the view I had in mind for my workout and I just couldn’t handle it for more than thirty minutes. Or maybe it was just that I was anxious to get started with the day’s wine tastings….You be the judge.

Monday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: epic ass sitting
Observations: If I thought Saturday was bad, I was even more sedentary on Monday. I didn’t even attempt to work out in the morning after finding the previous day’s gym adventure so depressing.  Instead, all day my sitting was interrupted only by the occasional stop for wine tastings or food. But man that wine was good.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session + cardio
Relevant Stats: 60 min. training session + 20 min. spin
Observations: There was no hiding from exercise after a weekend of laziness. My training sessions are a surefire way to ensure that. My trainer was back to her old tricks of trying to work me up towards pull ups (as if I’ve ever had the desire to do pull ups) and full-on tricep pushups (also something I’ve no desire to do). I followed up with a very brief cardio session at the gym, you know, to kill time before meeting a friend for savoury waffles. If you must know, mine was topped with smoked salmon, hollandaise, and poached eggs. Pretty sure the workouts didn’t come close to burning the calories in that deliciousness.

Wednesday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: Nashville episodes watched, 4; naps taken, 2
Observations: I’m not sure how I can reasonably blame the weekend wine trip for this monstrosity of laziness, but I sure do. I planned to run but it was disgusting outside so I contemplated the gym instead.  The only problem was that I stopped at contemplation and failed to move action. Before I knew it, I had spent all day on the couch alternating between naps and episodes of Nashville and I had not a speck of exercise to show for it. Total sloth.

Thursday
Activity: Abby Grind (hike)
Relevant Stats: 4 km
Observations: The sunshine returned! And it was also forecast to be our warmest day of the year so far. If you live in Vancouver and experienced our rainy/snowy/sort-of-cold winter, you’ll know this was a big deal. I planned a bigger hike out in Chilliwack but spent 2.5 hours cursing iTunes for refusing to sync songs to my iPhone (a perplexing issue I still haven’t resolved!!!!!) and opted for something far closer and far shorter instead. Though not as challenging a hike as I’d hoped for, at least being among the trees calmed my iTunes rage.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 85 min.
Observations:  Does one good workout in a week make up for the rest of this crap pile of exercise? I think so. Today I killed it with the strength training, and trust me when I say my glutes are still reeling from the experience. I upped my weights on everything, and even reintroduced single leg squats even though my ankle was very unhappy with those movements.

Even though most of the workouts this week were pitiful, the fact that I ended on a high note means I’ll feel good while cramming my face with Cinco de Mayo tacos tonight.  That’s my flawed logic at work.  As for the rest of the week:

Trail Tuesdays (it’s new!): what you need for shoulder season hikes

Spring is finally starting to arrive here, which has me thinking about hiking.  When the sun is out and temperatures are rising, it’s tempting to want to get cracking on your hiking bucket list. However, just because Spring is…springing (see what I did there?) into action where you live, it doesn’t mean higher elevation trails aren’t still in winter’s grip.  This is what we call shoulder season, that transition between winter and hiking season, and it’s basically a crap bag of weather and conditions for which you need to be prepared. That’s why today’s post is all about how to prepare for shoulder season hiking.

Quick note: My recommendations here are for lower elevation day hikes during shoulder season, not more ambitious scrambles or mountaineering. That’s not my jam and it requires a considerable amount of knowledge and gear, neither of which I have.

Tips for Picking Shoulder Season Hikes

1. Check mountain forecasts not city forecasts: :  It may be sunny and snow-free where you are, but mountainous areas tend to be their own weather systems. Many National, State and Provincial parks have detailed weather reports for their parks, and some even have weather stations within the parks. These will give you far more accurate expectations for weather conditions on the trail.

2. Whenever possible, check trail condition reports:  Many parks also provide regularly updated trail condition reports that can keep you informed of all sorts of things that can ruin your planned hike (i.e. avalanche risk, washed out access roads, washed out trails, deadfall on trails, etc.). There are also countless online forums where other hikers provide trail reports.  Just be sure to check report dates to ensure you’re actually using recent information.

3. Follow the sun: Your best shoulder season hikes are on trails that get the most daytime sun exposure.  They’ll be the first to be snow-free in the Spring/Summer and the last to get a solid base of snow in Fall/Winter. Consider whether the sun’s trajectory is going to work in your favour on your planned hikes. For me, that most often means southwest facing slopes.

4. How low can you go: Low elevation may not yield the most spectacular views but, unless you know what you’re doing in snowy conditions, they are your best bet for hitting the trails during shoulder season. It’s simple science: snow lingers longest at higher elevations.  You have all summer to summit peaks and to get epic panoramic views. Keep it low in shoulder season.

what to take, what to wear & what to know

It’s important to note here that basics like first aid kits and other safety gear should be carried year round, so I haven’t included those items below. Though much of the gear I have mentioned below is also helpful year round, I think it’s particularly critical for the varied conditions you’ll encounter during shoulder season.

1. Light-Weight Waterproof Jacket: It may not be raining or snowing at the trail head. It might even appear to be a perfect day.  But I promise you that even a couple hundred metres of elevation gain can leave you standing in drastically different conditions, not to mention that weather systems generally change more quickly in the mountains.Take it from me, the girl who never carried a rain coat and nearly froze her ass off several times in the dead of summer: a compact, light-weight waterproof jacket will offer great protection against rain, snow and wind when temperatures don’t warrant a full-on winter coat.

2. Microspikes: The earlier in the season you attempt to hike, the more likely you’ll encounter some form of snow or ice.  I have been ill-prepared for many a shoulder season hike and have descended very long sections of trail only by combining a fierce crab-walk with some anxiety-riddled tree hugging. I don’t recommend either. Microspikes barely take up any room and will save you from making a spectacle of yourself in front of more prepared hikers (not that I would know anything about that).

3. Hiking Boots: I hate hiking boots. They are clunky and heavy and they interfere with my ability to feel the trail beneath my feet. Vanity alert: I also don’t have the leg shape to pull off hiking boots with shorts. Whenever possible, I’m the first to go with trail runners for any hiking experience. The one exception is shoulder season. If it’s not slush or snow, it’s going to be mud.  Any and all of these will lead to wet feet if you’re stubborn (like I’ve been in the past) and refuse to wear your hiking boots. You have all summer to hike in trail runners or low day hikers but this is the time to keep your feet insulated and dry.  For most moderate snow conditions, I find that hiking boots suffice, though there are the odd occasions when even gaiters would’ve been welcome.

4. Gloves & Toque/Hat: It’s generally good form to carry these two items, but it’s especially important during shoulder season. Should temperatures or weather change, you will be far happier.  I’ve also been known to use my hands to help me climb through steep sections of snow. Do that with bare hands just once and you’ll pack gloves forevermore.

5. Poles: I wrote about how much I hate carrying poles in another post in which I recommended carrying them in case of injury. Well, trekking poles are equally helpful for shoulder season in case you encounter snow and ice. They will give you a little extra stability, particularly descending on snow or crossing steep snow slopes.  I’ve also used them to test snow depth and stability when on unfamiliar terrain (more on unfamiliar terrain later).

6. Headlamp:  Hiking in shoulder season can sometimes take longer than expected due to trail conditions,  we sometimes forget the days are still shorter, and it can seem a lot darker in the woods than out in the open. If you are unexpectedly slower than planned, a headlamp is a great thing to have on hand. They’re cheap, light-weight and a lot brighter than the built-in flashlights on smart phones.

6. Know your route and know your limits:  If you do encounter snow during shoulder season, it’s entirely possible your route won’t be easily identifiable.  There may be no track to follow, and not all routes have tree markers. Let me tell you that even when I’ve been on trails I’ve hiked a million times in Summer conditions, I’ve found snowy conditions change the landscape enough that it can be disorienting and you can easily be led astray. Even if there are tracks in the snow, you can’t be entirely sure that previous hikers are on the right routes or travelling safely. Snow is an entirely different ballgame and what looks like sturdy snow may not be. If you’re unsure of the trail’s direction or snow stability, call it a day and wait for warmer weather to finish the trail. Safety first!

With the right gear and information, shoulder season hiking can be absolutely stunning. If you don’t believe me, here’s just a taste of the tranquility you can find:

Typical shoulder season: Wet snow, all of which had melted by the time I descended.
This was the wettest, stickiest snow to hike through. It constantly clumped on my microspikes but it was still worth it.

Happy trails!

TWIR #57: You Can Do a Lot on a Sprained Ankle

I often benefit from minor injuries. I realize this sounds like an odd statement, but they ignite some sort of stubborn, inner flame in me, one that causes me to rebel and say “I can still do stuff!!” Don’t mistake this for pushing the limits and furthering damage to an injury, mind you. I’ve learned that lesson painfully and slowly over the last year. I am just so, so, so terribly familiar with sprained ankles that I know what I can and can’t do with one.  This week, I attacked my seemingly small range of possible workouts with a level of commitment that I rarely show for…anything these days! Let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: big win = avoiding mid-day fish and chips
Observations: I was a bit of a sad panda care of my stiff ankle so my boyfriend took us on a field trip to Steveston where we went for the world’s slowest walk. My biggest accomplishment was resisting fish and chips, a feat only accomplished because I had a big enough breakfast that I wasn’t hungry.  I was less successful resisting treats from a heavenly smelling (think: butter-laden air) bakery where I acquired both a pain au chocolat (which turned out utterly mediocre) and a double-chocolate cookie sandwiched with salted caramel buttercream (which turned out to be every bit as delicious as I’d expected). All in all, an excellent rest day.

Sunday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 65 min., mostly upper body
Observations: There was no more avoiding exercise. After the day prior, a double pastry day with far more sitting on my ass than I usually allow, I needed to hit the gym.  Thanks to my trainer, I have an absolutely massive repertoire of upper body exercises to draw from. This workout was proof that you can work up a good sweat with strength training, even if you’re really only working your abs and arms.

Monday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength training
Relevant Stats: 20 min. spin bike + 60 min. strength
Observations:  I was feeling confident in my ankle’s healing and decided to test it out on the spin bike. It held up, even with standing sets, but I didn’t push too hard with speed or resistance. I also tested the old ankle’s response to dead lifts and squats, both of which were fine. Side lunges, on the other hand, were not fine. Damn you lateral movements.

Tuesday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. stairs + 15 min. spin bike + 45 min. strength
Observations: En route to meet a friend for a lazy beach stroll, I stopped at the gym and fit in a decent workout. I tried stairs but found that, with any speed or resistance, the ankle wasn’t loving it. I wrapped up my cardio warmup by hopping over to the spin bike. I have to say, though, my upper body and shoulders were definitely not happy with me about three consecutive days of  strength training.

Wednesday
Activity: cardio warm up + personal training session
Relevant Stats: 10 min. stairs + 60 min. personal training
Observations: One of the good and bad things about commuting downtown for my personal training sessions is that I have to endure rush hour.  It’s good because I inevitably arrive downtown way earlier than I need to, which forces me to go to the gym first, but bad because that means I sometimes show up to my trainer already tired. Thankfully, this week I only had 10 minutes to spare before my training session. I thought my trainer would take mercy on me because of my ankle, but she showed surprisingly little concern. Sure, she stayed away from jumping, but I still had to dead lift 100 lbs and I still had to do single leg dead lifts (extra fun on a wobbly ankle, I assure you). Plus, she integrated a new arm/shoulder exercise which made me question whether I have actually made any progress with my upper body strength. Bless my trainer for always finding a way to make me feel like I’m still the weakest human on the planet.

Thursday
Activity: spin + strength
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 50 min. strength
Observations:  Though I loathe the location of the spin bike at my gym, it’s becoming one of the few cardio options for me at the gym so I sucked it up and gave it a go. After a half hour, I switched over to strength and killed my arms and shoulders yet again. I was able to do more leg and glute exercises, for sure, but I’m trying not to load too much weight on my poor ankle quite yet. Of course, after this workout I was positively starving and finished my lunch with a “dessert course”–a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch.  So….you win some you lose some.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I learned a very important lesson today: do not go to my gym at 9:00 am on a Friday. Everyone is either coming out of a fitness class or milling about waiting for the next spin class and it is a zoo.  For the first 15 minutes I had to horde any available equipment, which amounted to a 30 lb bar and one mat. Thankfully after 10 minutes the masses cleared and I fit in a decent workout, which I then followed with 16 km of walking. But don’t worry, I completely negated it all with a giant pecan ganache brownie for lunch. Balance.

Another week is done and all I can say is:

I’m looking forward to a rest day tomorrow during which my exhausted shoulders and arms may recuperate from the barrage of workouts they faced this week….oh, and we’re going to restock our wine collection so that will also make up for a tough week of strength training. Yay wine!

Real Talk Thursdays: I’ve been completely frivolous this week…and I haven’t felt better!

This week is the first week that I have absolutely no meetings, phone calls, or interviews. This should be anxiety-inducing since this means zero work prospects. Even worse, I haven’t done a single thing other than send one email to a company I’ve been chatting to about contract work.  That’s right. I am unemployed and I sent one email this whole week, booked zero meetings, and have generally done absolutely nothing related to my career.  Instead, I have been entirely frivolous with my time.

If you don’t believe me, here’s just a smattering of the utterly unproductive and largely unnecessary things I have done so far this week:

–watched 9 episodes of Nashville, 4 episodes of Cake Wars and, for reasons I don’t at all understand, 2 episodes of LIVE with Kelly.

–made “freezer waffles” (i.e. waffles that I freeze for future consumption), banana cookies,  lemon squares, and mini lemon blueberry buttermilk cakes

–gone for multiple mid-day walks often accompanied by phone conversations with my parents (perks of retired parents: they can actually talk on the phone mid-day)

–met a friend to wander the beach and get gelato (though, much to my anger and in contradiction to their posted hours, the gelato place was not open…I have still not recovered from this)

–fell down the rabbit hole reading Ask Polly posts , which led me down another rabbit hole reading Dear Sugar posts. Couldn’t. Stop.

So yeah, that’s a whole lot of me doing whatever I feel like doing in the moment, all of which are things that are most certainly not going to help me generate an income any time soon. You’d think I’d be a ball of anxiety, starting to panic perhaps, feeling all sorts of discouraged and crappy about things.

Nope.

I have to tell you that this is the first week in a long time that I’ve felt good. It’s the first week that I’ve had energy, that I haven’t dragged my exhausted ass to bed at 9:30 or taken a late afternoon nap. I’ve gotten less sleep and feel way better. I’ve felt calmer and, dare I say, happier.  The only thing I can attribute this to is that I’m not filled with dread knowing that I have to go out and essentially try to convince people (and myself!) that I’m interested in my profession. It’s delightfully liberating so, as much as I should probably be infinitely more productive, I’m just going to allow myself to enjoy these few days of frivolity entirely guilt free.

Monday Musings: on metaphysics of injuries

If you read Friday’s post, you’ll know that I have yet another sprained ankle. It’s not a particularly bad one judging by the relative lack of swelling or bruising.  Then again, the one thing I’ve learned about ankle sprains is that after a few of them they don’t swell or bruise as badly.  I used to think that was a good thing when, in reality, it’s just a sign of really bad damage. This is all rather beside the point of today’s post. The point is that my ankle is sprained again and the timing is…interesting.

I was in the midst of a really great run (in the sunshine no less!) when my ankle crumbled beneath me. I could easily look at this from a purely objective standpoint:  I wasn’t paying any attention to the ground, I stepped awkwardly on a rock, and I have weak ankles from past injuries. Long story short, I could just say it was bad timing and clumsiness and call it a day.

Or I could look to metaphysics, which would hold that there is powerful connection between mind and body. Metaphysics provides a more holistic view of our injuries, emphasizing that there is an emotional or psychological root to virtually any physical issue. Where it gets really interesting, to me at least, is when you look at the metaphysical causes of ankle injuries.

Ankles, you see, are critical for a sense of grounding, stability and mobility.  Ankles literally support us and propel us.  Ankle injuries can occur when we feel unsupported, either by others or by our own beliefs; and they can be a sign that we aren’t willing or able to move forward, particularly when moving forward means a change in direction or taking a stand.  Bet you didn’t know how much you need your ankles just to hold your shit together, did you?

This isn’t the first time that I’ve read up on metaphysical causes of ankle injuries (or any injury for that matter), but I was reminded of it on Friday as I killed time icing my foot. What I found particularly interesting was that, just as my ankle decided to go in a different direction than the rest of my body, I was grappling with how to get out of a potential commitment to work I didn’t care about and wondering what I would possibly do in its place. In other words, just as I was agonizing over my crumbling beliefs and fear of moving in a new direction, my poor ankle, that pillar of stability and motion, crapped out on me.  If that’s not a powerful mind-body connection, I don’t know what is.

This is all endlessly fascinating to me, except for the part where I realize that essentially I have to figure out a way to fearlessly forge a new direction for myself…That part’s a little less fascinating, but I suppose eventually I have to tackle the bigger issues, don’t I?