TWIR #123: smoke baby

Our little town has fires burning in all directions which has meant smoke, smoke and more smoke (also: extra shout out to anyone who got the Hawksley Workman reference in my post title…even though I know no one will…even though you should know him…ahem, okay I’m done now).  It’s not awesome when it’s this smokey during our prime outdoor season, but we’re making the most of it. Let’s see how.

Activity: hike + core
Relevant Stats: 5.5k hike + 15 min. core
Observations: I had planned to do a longer hike, but I was solo and forgot my head phones and was over it by the time I completed the usual loop. But I decided to do a short  core workout on the patio afterwards, you know, to get more smoke into my lungs.  Sometimes I don’t make the best decisions.

Activity: stairs + strength
Relevant Stats: 20 min. stairs + 30 min. strength
Observations: I had to decide between taking advantage of the one legitimately cool day we might see for weeks vs. avoiding the smoke. I chose taking advantage of the cool weather, and headed out to the giant staircase, but only for 20 minutes. I could blame the smoke, but really I just didn’t want to run stairs anymore. Good thing I had back-up-planned a half hour at-home strength workout to round out the day. We then spent hours watching the best golf tournament I’ve seen this season.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 47 min.
Observations: I can’t remember the last time I had a good spin workout. At first I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I rocked out a solid spin session. All it took was some ultra depressing David Gray songs to fuel some serious hill climbs. I know it makes no sense, but it worked for me.  We also went for a long walk after work when the sun (briefly) managed to carve its way through the smoke, so I considered this a highly active day.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations:  I tried out the new kicks to see how they performed with strength training. I rocked some dead lifts and back squats for the first time since before our vacation, and they were hard but good. I also threw in some skipping and shoulder work for good measure. My trainer would’ve been so proud of me.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 mins.
Observations: My personal trainer was away this week so I felt like I had to really make the most of all my strength workouts. I was also still testing out the new shoes so I tried to incorporate a range of activities. There were some box jumps, some single-leg squats and a whole bunch of core work.  Unfortunately, I got a little too eager with some of my kettle bell cleans and managed to tweak my SI a little bit. Sigh. Even shoes couldn’t me save bad form.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: city day!
Observations: I got up ultra early, caught a flight to Vancouver for a few meetings and then flew home. The one good thing about travelling to Vancouver for work is that the two offices I go to are quite far apart so I always get in a lot of steps. This day was no exception. I balanced out all my sitting with lots of airport and inter-office walking. Thankfully I didn’t have any time to seek out some of my favourite donuts and cakes…which, let’s be honest, I would’ve done if I’d had even 5 more minutes to spare.

Activity: mini hike + driving range
Relevant Stats: 7ish km hike + 1 bucket of really, really bad shots
Observations: I don’t know if today’s hike even qualified as a hike, but we were out in nature, on a trail, and there were some hills. To be honest, we picked an easy breazy trail on purpose, because I actually had to work this morning (whomp, whomp), so it was a super late start plus I was still feeling tired from yesterday’s travels. Alas, we did it, and then went to the driving range where I raged (silently and internally) for an hour, as is my usual driving range custom. Before, it was because I couldn’t hit irons. Now my irons are doing marginally okay but I can’t drive or hit a hybrid to save my life. My partner says “that’s golf.” That does not help my rage. Sigh.

Once again, the weekend is here. I’m crossing my fingers for the winds to shift and the smoke to (finally) clear a little bit. Even if it doesn’t, I am looking forward to some outdoor down time. It’s felt like a long week and I feel ready to clear my head with lots of fresh (or sort of fresh) air and activity. Happy weekend y’all. Hope you get out there too!


Real Talk Thursday: the slow decline of a 5am day

I rarely travel for work, but when I do I like to complain about it. Because I am a hermit, and a homebody, and generally prefer to stick to my usual routines. Travel interferes with all of that. Today I had a quick, same-day trip to the big city which always entails a very early morning. In turn, the very early morning entails a slow decline to my day whereby by roughly 7pm (about as I am writing this), I have zero mental or physical energy left to give.

Also, I realize a lot of people get up earlier than 5 am every day of their lives. You are amazing to me. I require more sleep. A lot more sleep.

5 am — wake up call. I feel…tired.

5:25 am — out the door. Maybe this won’t be so bad. I feel more alert.

5:27 am — I am not alert. And my contact lenses are blurry AF because my eyes are so tired and dry.

5:35 am — coffee is heaven. I am brilliant for always remembering to set the coffee pot before an early morning.

5:57 am — made it to the airport. This day is going to be okay.

6:35 am — This airplane is fully boarded. This day is going to be fantastic because we are ahead of schedule.

6:55 am — scratch that. we are right on time

7:00 – 7:55 am — cardiologists (two of whom are sitting in front of me and talking very loudly) are clearly morning people. I hate them. It’s still going to be a good day, though.

8:00 am — on the train into the city. Public transit is magical when you get a seat. I am feeling good about today.

8:30 am — I am in Starbucks. More coffee = my day is getting better.

9:30 am — Yawns. Uh oh.

10:30 am — Is it only 10:30? The meeting I flew down for doesn’t even start til noon.

12:00 pm — I can do this. I can survive this meeting. Only five more hours to go.

2:00 pm — Wait, what did that person just say? How long have I been tuned out for?

3:30 pm — I feel like this meeting should be over. We have covered all relevant items. Why are we all still talking???

4:30 pm — I am f’ing tired. Why is this meeting still going?

5:00 pm — Ugh. Transit is so freaking crowded at this time of day. And hot. I am sweating. I want to be home.

5:30 pm — The dude next to me in the food court is playing really loud music on his phone. Really loud. I want to rip his iphone from his hands and hurl it…anywhere away from me.

6:00 pm — What is what the multiple staging lines at airport security? Just. Let. Me. Through. Damnit.

6:30 pm — Why are there no good napping spots while you wait for planes? Finally boarding. So tired. Will still be another two hours until I am home. Why do I do this to myself? I need to get back to my non-travelling, hermit ways ASAP.

As you can see, my optimism lasted roughly until 11 am. And then it was a slow decline into crankiness, whining and complaining. Just be thankful you’re not the one who has to put up with me when I get home tonight.

Training Tuesdays: trading in my running shoes

Does anyone remember back in the early 90s when Nike cross-trainers were all the rage? If you don’t, here’s an interesting read on their roots.  That’s really not the point, though. My point here is that the early 90s was the last time I wore cross-training shoes or training shoes of any kind. Somewhere along the way I switched to running shoes, and then as I actually started running, I became increasingly fussy about the type and style of running shoes I wore (as runners are wont to do).

The problem is that over the last couple of years, my running has become less and less frequent. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve run at all in the last four months. Sticking with running shoes made sense when my primary activity was running, but as my primary activity has shifted to other things like hiking, strength-training and golf, I had to wonder if it made sense to shake up my shoes too. Since my running shoes were on their last legs anyway, it seemed like the perfect time to do a little research on training shoes.

I did some reading on why training shoes might be advantageous and amidst the sea of online information, the key benefits seemed to come down to:
–Stiffer Soles
–Flatter Soles
–Less Cushioning
–Wider toebox
In general, these characteristics are designed to allow for more lateral movement, greater stability, and more power generation. In theory, wearing training shoes should mean engaging the right muscles more often (by improving form), reducing injuries, and increasing power. Doesn’t that all sound fantastic?

Now, I’m a casual strength trainer as far as lifting goes, so at first the idea of having a specific training shoe felt a bit ridiculous, so why make the change? I am generally a believer in specialized footwear for specialized activities. I already wear either trail runners or hiking boots for hiking adventures. I own some seriously snazzy hot pink golf shoes for the course. Why not invest in shoes for strength training? Well, honestly I haven’t tended to think of strength training as requiring a different type of shoe. And yet, the more I read the more convinced I became that my running shoes were probably not the best option. I mean, I wouldn’t go for a run in golf shoes, so why would I strength train in running shoes right? So I decided to make the switch.

My Verdict (after one workout):  I can’t say I noticed a huge difference on most moves where both my feet were planted. The two exceptions (in today’s workout, at least) were with weighted side lunges and single leg dead lifts.  On side lunges, the extra stability in the soles definitely prevented the normal feeling of foot sliding/tilting that I experience in running shoes. On single leg dead lifts, my planted foot felt far more stable/less wobbly than with typical running shoes. I can’t say I experienced the feeling of more power on standard dead lifts or back squats, but I’m a far more casual strength trainer than most, so I wasn’t expecting a significant difference.

What I can say is that my shoes are super cute for middle-of-the-range training shoes, and I think many of you can identify with the extra workout energy boost that we can experience when we have a new piece of apparel that we love, so there’s that.

Over the next week, I look forward to testing these out with a wider range of exercises, including box jumps and some additional single leg movements where shoes might make a greater difference. For now, though, I’m happy to say my running shoes are OUT and these training shoes are IN.

TWIR #122: back to life, back to reality

Well, after a gloriously relaxing and mostly unplugged week away, I was thrown back into the daily grind this week. Well, that’s not exactly true since it was a long weekend followed by a 3.5 day workweek, but it was still a stark contrast to vacation. Since we returned it’s been hot, it’s been smokey, and I’ve been trying to get back into a good groove of work and exercise. Let’s see what that’s looked like.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: so.much.driving
Observations: We took the looooong and scenic route home from the campground, most of which was full of amazing views. Until we hit the wall of smoke. In a 20 minute timespan, we went from stunning sunshine to the thickest smoke I’ve seen in years. Still, it was a chill and food-filled drive home. We stopped for lunch at a craft cidery where we inexplicably drank beer (and ate a cheese plate…but also salad), then hit a local chocolate shop, then stopped later for sushi. There was a lot of sitting, and a lot of food. But the real amazing moment was driving up to the border crossing  and having only two cars ahead of us. Three cheers for small crossings!

Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 8 km
Observations: We were able to get out for a good hike since the smoke hadn’t rolled in to our ‘hood (yet) and the temperatures were still moderate.  It felt good to move after a day of sitting on our butts. And then we rounded out the day watching the world’s most dry golf tournament.

Activity: golf
Relevant Stats: 18 holes + beach time!
Observations: I know that a round of golf is not really a workout,  but it was hot as hell and carrying a bag for 18 holes seemed like enough for the day. Also, the course was super backed up and it took us almost twice as long to play a full round, so there wasn’t much time left for anything else…well, except for a little bit of beach time. We hadn’t been to our local beach yet and I am not sure we’ll be back any time soon. It was hella crowded, and the lake bottom had way too many twigs and sharp rocks for my liking. I’m a little high maintenance when it comes to lake swimming.

Activity: cardio warm up + strength
Relevant Stats: 15 min. spin + 30 minutes strength
Observations: Well, the smooth sailing of not really pushing myself in workouts had to come to an end sometime. I went back to normal weights after a week of using my paltry little 8 lb dumbbells (the only weights I own) and holy hell it was hard. I was also irked because what I really wanted to do was go for a short hike, but it was far too smokey.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations:  I told my trainer to take it easy on me because it’d been a while since I’d used any significant weight. She didn’t listen. I had to do 3 back-to-back shoulder/arm moves using heavier-than-usual weights. By the third set, I could barely lift my arms. Super uncool.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 minutes
Observations: I honestly have no idea how long I was at the gym. Could’ve been more, could’ve been less. I just considered it a feat that I made it at all. Afternoon workouts are not my jam, and I really thought after a morning of meetings and errands that I was just going to throw in the towel on a workout. Instead, I fit in some solid shoulder and upper body work, because I’m a sucker for punishment, and a few leg exercises to round it out. It still felt like I was getting used to heavier weights, but also like I was getting back into my normal rhythm.

Activity: hike + driving range
Relevant Stats: 5.5km
Observations: After three days stuck inside at the gym, it felt fantastic to be back outside. It was still smokey, mind you, but the more days our air is filled with smoke, the more I get used to it and barely notice it. Also, I would have done anything to avoid another indoor workout. We also learned that 34 degrees is too hot for the driving range. But on the plus side, I hit several good iron shots, which are usually my nemesis so yay!

That brings us to the weekend, where there is expected to be more smoke, but also some rain to hopefully do some natural work on all the fires raging in every direction. Happy weekend y’all!

Mid-Week Tangent: trying all the ice creams part II

If it seems like I did nothing on holiday but eat mass-produced, mediocre ice cream, you would not be altogether wrong. We went through four pints of ice cream in a week, none of which were particularly interesting, but all of which are not available in Canada, which gave them an air of mystery and scarcity that I could not ignore. And so, not in addition to last week’s battle of the brands, here is the second and final instalment.

Battle of the Brands: B&J’s oat of this swirled vs. Haagen Dazs Salted Caramel chocolate trio crispy layers

Let’s start with all the technical stuff, shall we?

Product Description for Haagen Dazs Salted Caramel Chocolate Trio Crispy Layers: Journey through layers of lightly salted caramel ice cream and irresistible chocolate ice cream stacked between crisp Belgian chocolate for an unmistakably sophisticated sweetness.

Product Description for Ben & Jerry’s Oat of this Swirled: buttery brown sugar ice cream with fudge flakes & oatmeal cinnamon cookie swirls

Who Won?
Once again, these are vastly different flavours but once again Ben & Jerry’s took the prize, and this time by a landslide.

Can we just start by acknowledging that the Haagen Dazs ice cream has the most ridiculously long and confusing (as far as ice cream names are concerned) name ever? No one needs 6 words to describe their ice cream. The major issue with this new “flavour”, though, was its utter lack of flavour. I didn’t actually realize that it was salted caramel until I went to write this post. There was no salt. And no discernible caramel flavour. I tasted barely chocolatey ice cream and nothing but. The crispy chocolate layer was nice, but I would’ve have been just as happy with chocolate chunks. I feel like Haagen Dazs is trying to be inventive when no one needs innovation in ice cream. What you need in ice cream is flavour. This one is a giant fail in my books.

To be honest, the Oat of this Swirled, although it won by a landslide, wasn’t even particularly great. It was good the first night, but by the second and third nights, when my appetite for ice cream was reaching unprecedentedly low levels, I couldn’t even finish my bowl. The cinnamon in the cookie swirl became cloying and I found myself mining through the ice cream for coveted chocolate chunks. Still, I blame this lacklustre response to a week of general overindulgence, certainly including an unnecessarily large ice cream intake, rather than blaming the ice cream itself. I know it was good ice cream, and definitely the better of the two.

The moral of the story here is don’t eat four pints of ice cream in a week, even if you are sharing. The secondary moral of the story is, if you do opt for excessive ice cream consumption, avoid the ridiculously long named crispy trio from Haagen Dazs. I promise you, you will miss nothing.

TWIR #121: all the vacation, all the beer, all the sunshine (almost)

Vacation continues and we’ve been living it up in the sun, with beers in hand and tons of pool time and golf time. Until Thursday, that is, when the weather turned to crap and suddenly I found myself freezing cold and wishing I’d packed some full length pants. Still, a cold day on vacation is better than a day at work, so yay vacation! Let’s see what I’ve been up to.

Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 8 km
Observations: Holy f’ing mosquitos and horseflies. There are few things that I hate more than being stalked on a trail but incessant and aggressive insects who want to eat me alive. Honestly, this was my least favourite hiking experience in years, and it had nothing to do with the trail itself and everything to do with the bugs. Thank god we were able to salvage the afternoon with pool time, sour ales and ciders.

Activity: rest day
Relevant Stats: major relaxation time
Observations:  I could’ve worked out. We had zero plans. And yet it was gloriously sunny and warm, so we golfed instead. And then hit the pool for  more pool time. And more beers. And more cider. Vacations are the best.

Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 13.5 km
Observations: This hike will be known as the great water debacle for years to come. I won’t rehash the whole story again because you can read it here. Thankfully, It was a beautiful hike with stellar views of Mount Baker, so the fact that I barely survived (okay that was an exaggeration) was an afterthought as soon as I got some water in me. And pizza. Because if you’re going to sweat out all the sodium in your body, you should at least replenish it with pizza. And that we did, at our favourite road side pizzeria and pub.

Activity: outdoor strength workout + driving range
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Glory hallelujah, I hit several good shots with my 8 iron! I am a terrible iron player. Like hopeless. I pretty much rely on my hybrids, the occasional driver, and my putter. But today I hit at least 5 good iron shots. Win. I also had a great outdoor workout with some very targeted exercises to try to re-stabilize my SI a little bit since it had been driving me nuts lately.

Activity: outdoor strength workout + golf
Relevant Stats: 35 minutes strength + 9 holes golf
Observations: It was a cool and cloudy morning so we hit up the golf course where for the first time on this course I did not slam multiple balls into the water on the 7th hole. It was a major victory. Upon return home, I forced myself to do a short strength workout outside before heading to the pool for sunshine and beverages, because when the sky suddenly and completely clears at 4pm, you take advantage of it.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: all of the clam chowder…and a bread bowl too
Observations: We woke up to rain and my in-laws were heading down to visit us for the day and between those two things I just couldn’t muster the will to work out. So instead I did nothing all day but walk about 5 km. And eat a giant bread bowl filled to the brim with clam chowder. I felt ill and didn’t get hungry the entire rest of the day, which is really quite an accomplishment for me because I am almost always hungry.

Activity: golf + outdoor strength workout
Relevant Stats: 40 min. strength + 9 holes golf
Observations: I have really been killing the outdoor workouts this week and I have the sore glutes to prove it. Most importantly, however, I had my best round of golf in a very, very long time. I barely had any mulligans, and I also had my most consistent set of tee shots ever. If it hadn’t been for a totally abysmal 9th hole, I would have been in the 40s on a par 34! I know that doesn’t sound good, but you haven’t seen what I used to score.

Now the long weekend is upon us and I’m staring the end of vacation squarely in the face. It is sad but we’ve had a wonderful week so I am trying hard not to complain or get all woe-is-me about it. When I do, I reach for one of my new favourite sour ales (some of which will be coming home with me) and remind myself that home is pretty great too. Happy weekend y’all. May you find sunshine and fun things.

Mid-Week Tangent: Trying all the Ice Creams

Whenever I am in the States, I feel compelled to investigate the selection of Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Canada gets such a paltry collection in comparison so I do my best to consume as much new-to-me ice cream as possible while I am here. Today’s post features a double-header and a battle of the brands. Oh, you are in for a treat today (pun absolutely intended).

Battle of the Brands: B&J’s Gimme S’more vs. Haagen Dazs Peanut Butter Salted Fudge

Let’s start with all the technical stuff, shall we?

Product Description for Haagen Dazs Peanut Butter Salted Fudge: Decadent swirls of salted fudge and the crunch of chocolate covered peanuts blend with smooth peanut butter ice cream for a tantalizing combination of tastes and textures.

Product Description for Ben & Jerry’s Gimme S’more: toasted marshmallow ice cream with chocolate cookie swirls, graham cracker swirls & fudge flakes.

Who Won?
Look, I know I’m not comparing apples to apples here, since these are two starkly different flavours. so this battle of the brands is ultimately a reflection of my personal taste preferences. Still, I will declare a winner in this flavour throw down and that winner is Gimme S’More.

Honesty, if I could have combined elements of the two ice creams, I would have been happiest. The Gimme S’more with the peanut butter ice cream base would’ve been a dream. The toasted marshmallow ice cream base that Ben & Jerry’s promised me didn’t deliver. I got no marshmallow. In fact, until I re-read the description I was certain it was a graham cracker flavoured base. But the chocolate cookie swirls and graham swirls were my own versions of sugary heaven, and I think they would have been just as delicious in a peanut butter base.

The truth is the Haagen Dazs lost me suddenly and quickly with something that was right on the label, but which I overlooked because the second I see chocolate and peanut butter I am sold. The culprit? Chocolate covered peanuts. In my world, there is no occasion for chocolate covered peanuts. Ever. Period. End of story.  Also, the fudge swirl didn’t taste salted. I could have gotten over the lack of salt in supposedly salted fudge, but the blasphemy of chocolate covered peanuts was too big a sin for me to overlook. I mean, I’d still eat a pint if you gave it to me, but…Gimme S’more still wins this battle.

Stay tuned. If time and meal plans allow, I may be able to knock out yet another ice cream battle before vacation ends. The suspense must be killing you.