Mid-Week Tangent: Christmas Movies of the Week

Hello and ho, ho, ho! I’m back this week with another instalment of Christmas Movies of the Week.  We’re getting closer and closer to Christmas, and my movie watching consumption certainly hasn’t dropped. There are far too many movies to review, and so little time, so today I bring you only the best of the best, by which I mean the ones that I remember well enough to write about, and which I either need to encourage you to check out or urge you to avoid at all costs.

If you missed previous instalments, you can find them here, here, and here.

Journey Back to Christmas: I was super excited for this one because, in my mind, Candace Cameron Bure is usually a pretty good sign that a holiday movie will be of reasonable quality. That was before a magical time-travel-inducing Christmas comet came into the picture. Candace is transported into the future, where everyone assumes she’s some sort of holiday grifter set to take advantage of their community instead of, you know, someone suffering from some sort of mental health issue. A cop takes her into his home but–surprise twist–they don’t really fall in love (a Hallmark Christmas movie first!!), because her heart belongs to her husband, who’s still back in the 1940s. Will the magical Christmas comet take her back in time again or will she be stuck in the future? I’ll spare you having to watch it: she gets back to the 40s. Skip this one. Candace Cameron Bure or not, it gets one tree.

The Magic Stocking: A young girl is gifted an old stocking at a holiday craft fair, which turns out to be magical. Every day the stocking falls off the mantle and some sort of meaningful gift appears inside it. Naturally, no one except the young girl actually believes its magic at first, but soon they’re all sold on this stocking’s power to bring back Christmas magic and heal broken hearts.  This one’s not as bad as it sounds, but trust me that my bar has been lowered substantially with the number of movies I’ve watched this year. I most appreciated that this featured some Christmas magic and not just a love story (although, to be fair, the love story is still there too).

A Christmas to Remember: A Martha Stewart-ish food television icon loses her memory in a car accident and finds a new small-town home, her long-lost Christmas spirit and love while recovering from her amnesia. Bonus points for falling in love with the man who almost ran her over after her accident.  Aside from all the implausible plot details, there was something about this one that took it from one Christmas tree to two. Perhaps that something was the half bottle of wine I drank while watching it…

Hope at Christmas: The one followed the made-for-television Christmas formula to the T.  There was a move from the big city to the small town, gingerbread houses, misunderstandings between potential new loves, and a rapid romance that developed over (I think) five days. It was the stuff that TV holiday movies are made of, chock full of major implausibilities, like buying a book store on a whim or  reading a whole book without noticing that the guy you’re sort of dating is the author on the book jacket. Sigh. Really the enjoyment in this one was its ridiculousness and predictability.

Not a great week in movies, as you can see, but I’m still optimistic that I’ll get another three-tree status movie before the season’s done.

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Training Tuesdays: mental tricks for Winter workout blues

Winter has reared its head here with the first snowfall of the season (at long last!!!). I love Winter. And snow. But despite my love for this season, I still find that I get the Winter workout blues. You probably know what I’m talking about: Winter strikes and your inner hermit wants to just hunker down indoors watching Netflix and drinking hot cocoa; it wants to talk you out of your workouts.

And even if you silence your inner hermit, you might just find yourself lamenting the loss of summer warmth and workout variety. Summer, Spring and Fall present an infinite array of active lifestyle options. Winter steals them from your grasp, or at least only the most hearty (and well-geared) souls are willing to brave the cold and grey to get outside. Long story long, there are a lot of obstacles in your way and it can be tough to stave off boredom and keep your motivation high.

None of these tips are earth shattering, I’m sure, but they are a few of the small ways in which I try to keep myself motivated to get outside or keep my motivation for indoor workouts high during the deepest throes of Winter:

1. Mix up your music: Music isn’t necessarily a motivator for me, but it sure is a distractor. Sometimes in the depths of winter, I like to make a playlist of all my favourite songs from the summer. It’s a kick of nostalgia for a season in which I had far more energy and motivation to work out that I find strangely satisfying. The other thing I like to do is dig deep into my musical archives for something I haven’t listened to in an eternity. Some classic Seal and Jon Secada? Don’t mind if I do. You might be surprised at the boost of energy you’ll get from this.

2. Use an app: I get stuck in a rut with my workouts every once in a while, or I just don’t want to put the mental energy into planning a whole routine. There’s a ton of free apps out there. I still pull out the Nike Training app every once in a while when I just need to not think about what to do, or when I want to throw a few new moves into the mix.

3. Buddy Up: I find this particularly helpful for outdoor Winter workouts. If you make a plan to snowshoe or winter hike or cross-country ski (or whatever your chosen sport is), it’s less likely that you’ll want to bail. No one wants to be that person who backs out of plans.

4. Plan your rest day: There is something about knowing that I have a rest day coming up that makes me more likely to just get out there and do my workout. I either think about something fun I’m going to do that day, or think about how many days I have left (clearly, this is less motivating when you have 5 or 6 days to go, but even then I sometimes find it oddly exciting).

5. Get your friends or spouse or partner or coworkers to exert some loving (and guilt-inducing) peer pressure: This one really only works if you respond well to guilt (which I happen to). I like to encourage my loved ones to kick me in the butt if I start to whine and complain about workouts. I’ve trained my partner well in this respect. When I start to really whine, he sometimes just gives me a look and I know it’s time to suck it up and get my workout out of the way.

Ultimately, the key is finding the mental trick(s) that work for you, and then using them on repeat to avoid the dreaded Winter slothfulness. We can make it through the Winter workout blues, yes we can!

TWIR #139: travel and cat angst

Another doozy of a week has passed. I had another work trip, a longer one this time, and one that necessitated a hiring cat sitters to check in on our little furball. This, of course, filled me with tremendous guilt and sadness since she’s so very attached to us these days. Sigh. Enough of my whining, let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: After two days off, I was ready to dive back in and kill it with my workout. And I did, maybe even a little bit too hard.  Between the deadlifts and back squats and TRX hamstring curls, I somehow triggered something in my SI and my lower was a ball of tightness by the end of the day. It could also have been wearing heels and being on my feet all day the day before, but I prefer to blame a workout.

Sunday
Activity: hike
Relevant Stats: 6km
Observations: Despite the cold and grey skies, we managed to force ourselves out for a hike. My back and SI held up, but barely. Then I proceeded to clean the entire house, you know, so the cat sitters that aren’t even personal friends of ours, wouldn’t think we were slobs.  By the end of all those chores, I was both exhausted and sore. Not the best way to spend a weekend day.

Monday
Activity: cardio warm-up + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. spin + 25 min. strength
Observations: The goals of this workout were to avoid aggravating my SI and maybe actually do some exercises that would help fix it. I did a bunch of deep core work, which didn’t make my SI any better, but also didn’t make it worse, so I consider that a win.

Tuesday
Activity: spin + core
Relevant Stats: 35 min. spin + 10 min core/stretching
Observations: I can’t even pretend this was my best effort. The second I got to the gym i knew i didn’t want to be there, and I pretty much bargained with myself just to stick it out even if it meant not trying very hard. That’s exactly what I did. Some days, you just don’t have it in you.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: Ahhhh, my arms!!!! My trainer decided that this was the week to have me start trying actual pull ups (which were comical), but then she also combined them in a set with negative pull ups, and TRX rows.  My arms were jello by the end, and I solidified my belief that I will never be capable of a legit pull up. My arms just do not want to exert themselves that much.

Thursday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: work. ugh.
Observations: I had an early start and an all-day session with clients, and there was no way I was adding a morning workout to that mix.  I settled for more walking than I get at home, but then also ate grilled cheese and a mushroom soup that I’m fairly certain was cream-based. The soup was delicious, by the way, and I have no regrets.  Our cat-sitter also emailed me to say that our cat was basically traumatized by our leaving, which also made the soup and grilled cheese a necessity.

Friday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats:  60 min.
Observations: I got to see my original trainer! I am always excited until she makes me do slider plank walks and anything with the prowler. Ugh. All in all, it was a good workout, and she was able to do some good work to correct some issues with my form that have been plaguing me since my SI went all wonky again.

With that the weekend is here. We have some early family holiday celebrations and then head home. I am thrilled that this is the last work-related travel that I will do in 2018 and that I will be reunited with my cat. As an anxious cat mom, this makes me more excited (and relieved) than you can probably imagine. Happy weekend to you all. May you find holiday spirit, and cuddles with loved pets (or loved ones) that soothe your heart.

Mid-Week Tangent: Christmas Movie of the Week, Netflix Edition

We are firmly into December, my friends, and that means I can safely resume Christmas Movies of the Week without appearing to be a little fanatical in my Christmas enthusiasm (which I am). Never fear, despite not posting since this post and this post, I assure you I’ve been sticking to a steady diet of all the best and worst holiday movies on television.

Every once in a while, though, we take a break from the made-for-television variety and upgrade ourselves to Netflix. Last week, we checked out one of Netflix’s new seasonal additions: The Christmas Chronicles.  In a way, it was great because it reminded me that Christmas movies actually exist, compared to the made-for-television variety which are essentially just love stories that take place around the holidays. But in another way, it was awful, because it raised the bar on our holiday film watching to a level that no TV movie can ever seem to reach.

I have to admit, through the first 10 minutes or so I had my doubts about this one. The whole kids-with-attitudes thing really interferes with my sense of holiday magic, and the older brother was a little too obnoxious for my liking.  But then the holiday magic entered the picture and I was won over by (in no particular order):

1. Kurt Russell as a rough-and-tumble-but-still-big-hearted Santa: He’s not all ho-ho-ho (in fact, he claims that’s a myth–much like Santa being fat), but he still remembers all the kids’ names and brings enough warmth to make him ultra Santa-esque. Plus watching him get the whole jail house rocking to Santa Claus is Back in Town was worth watching the entire movie to see.

2. Adorable elves: I’m not usually one for animated creatures, but the elves were freaking adorable. And one of them carried a chain saw, which is pretty fantastic.

3. Winston from New Girl as a Santa-believing cop: I never loved Winston on New Girl. He was just…okay. But I loved him in this movie. He was one of the first to believe Santa. Granted, he saw the reindeer take flight and it would be pretty hard not to believe after seeing that, but still.

4. Actual Christmas magic: As far as I’m concerned, too many holiday movies these days just take place around Christmas, but fail to capture what makes the holidays magical.  That’s all fine and well every once in a while, but sometimes you want to dive deep into true holiday magic–the kind where Christmas is on the line, and it takes some sleight of hand by Santa Claus to get things on the right track.  This movie has holiday spirit in spades, and you will find yourself rooting hard for Christmas to be saved even if you think of yourself as a Grinch.

5. A cameo by Oliver Hudson: Because, in my opinion, when it comes to Oliver Hudson, a cameo is still enough to make the movie.

So without giving away the plot details (aka the holiday magic), let me just say that you need to watch this movie, particularly if you’ve yet to find yourself in the holiday spirit. I promise you it will up your Christmas enthusiasm by at least ten percent.

Training Tuesdays: will I ever run again?

Will I ever run again? This is the question that I ask myself, not often mind you, but every once in a while. Sometimes it floats through my mind and I imagine myself effortlessly bounding down the street as though my injury was never even a thing. Other times, I imagine myself lumbering along and I can actually feel phantom pains of my injury, as though at some intuitive level my body knows that running will cause it to instantly fall apart all over again.

When I was first injured, I spent a lot of time reading about other runner’s injuries and comebacks, and I gather that this question of ‘will I ever run again?’ is quite common among injured runners.  I’ve read stories where it took people years to get back to running. During times when I miss running, I hold on to these stories as beacons of hope. And yet the longer I stray from running, the more difficult I find it to imagine ever getting back into the swing of things.

It is a funny thing to lose what was once a significant part of your life. To those who don’t value athletics or fitness, it can seem trite to complain about not being able to run when you still have your overall health and your life is generally good. To those who prioritize fitness, giving up an activity that used to be a core part of your identity comes with a substantial feeling of loss.

Personally, here’s where I’m at with this question: I am not sure if I will run again. I don’t feel a sense of urgency to get back to running, but I do think that one day I’d like to get back to running. I’m still focused on building strength as my primary way of getting back to running form, but I suspect that given the duration of my injury, strength alone will not be enough for me. Based on all I’ve heard from the many, many, many physiotherapists I’ve seen, I’ll eventually have to go through the lovely process of MRIs and extensive testing, likely to determine whether things like prolotherapy or even fusion surgery is the way to go. It all sounds so unpleasant that, for now at least, I’m willing to play the waiting game.

But as I come up to three years of living with a chronic injury, and two years of respecting the injury (i.e. not just trying to run through pain), I wonder if the waiting game will start to lose its appeal and if that nagging question of ‘will I ever run again?’ will become louder and impossible to ignore.

TWIR #138: quick trips and holiday spirit

I have been dreading this week because I had yet another short trip to the big city for work. These trips are becoming less and less appealing to me, particularly when they involve large social outings like Christmas parties. The anxious introvert in me can only handle so much of these things. Aside from that, it’s been a good week for workouts so let’s see what they looked like.

Saturday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations:  As you saw on Tuesday’s post, at-home workouts are no joke. I fit in a quick workout before we headed out for holiday adventures.  I tell you, holding a squat, lunge and wall sit back to back was killer on the legs. By the end I could only muster 30 seconds. And then we went in search of holiday fun, and decorated our second Christmas tree (because one is just not enough) and it was the best.

Sunday
Activity: mini hike
Relevant Stats: 4.5km
Observations:  Despite the grey and cold, we packed up and headed out to a local park for a quick hike. There were some good hills and views, and it felt like enough of a workout that I didn’t feel guilty for slacking off on a weekend. Then we found even more Christmas decorations (yay!) and I went wild cleaning the house, doing some work, and starting our Christmas cards. I was on fire.

Monday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I felt the spin bug and stuck it out for 40 minutes that even included sprints.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still 90% hills but the fact that I did any sprints was a major win. I credit good shuffling algorithms on the old iPhone. My legs were toast by the end, which is always a sign of a good workout, and also credit to Saturday’s at-home session because I know that my hamstrings and glutes were still feeling that one.

Tuesday
Activity: at-home strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: Whoa! Another at-home workout, and a long one at that. Our back deck is great for these workouts because it’s nice and cool, covered and spacious. The only problem is that my skipping rope hits the roof of the deck, but other than that it’s perfect. I did a lot of skipping, and then a good mix of arm and leg stuff, and then finished up with a solid 10 minutes of core work, which seemed like a good idea until Wednesday.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: So, this seems to happen all the time that my trainer decides to focus on a part of my body that we never work on only after I decide that it’s safe to focus on that part of my body the day before. We never do a ton of ab work. Never. So I really thought I was safe doubling down on core work on Tuesday. And yet, lo and behold that’s what we spent a ton of time on in this week’s session, and by the end my poor core was screaming. But I survived.

Thursday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: another day, another flight
Observations: And this is where the week took a turn for the lazy. But for good reasons: 1) I hadn’t taken a rest day in well over seven days, which is atypical for me and 2) I had a full day of flying, meetings, and a Christmas party. Selfishly, I also wanted to avoid packing a second pair of shoes so that I could fit everything I needed for my trip in one little backpack. Me, the girl who used to overpack for everything, successfully left for an overnight trip with nothing but a backpack. Hallelujah.

Friday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: another day, yet another flight
Observations: After a late night on Thursday and an early morning of meetings, I hopped back on a plane bound for home. It was a whirlwind trip, and though some could argue that I could have worked out first thing in the morning, I would like to remind you that I successfully fit everything in one single backpack, a feat which workout clothes and shoes surely would’ve foiled. And also, I went to bed at midnight, which is way past my bedtime, so getting up at 6am was just not an option for me.

And now it’s the weekend and I’m down for some serious relaxation time after such a busy week. I know, I’m a whiner and lots of people love travelling for work, but I am not that person. I am a hermit and belong at home. We hope to do more festive things this weekend, including kicking off our first year of advent calendars that we’ll fill ourselves. Yay! Wishing you all a restful weekend full of whatever fills your hearts with joy. Happy weekend, y’all!

Mid-Week Tangent: our 2018 TV addiction

It seems every year there is some sort of new show that captures our attention and for which we develop a love that borders on obsession. I think last year it was Ozark, and probably Stranger Things and the OA the year before. I mean, we’re clearly not original in our TV addictions, but what is life if you don’t watch all the same things as all the other people?

At any rate, I’m prolonging the embarrassing reveal, which is that this year, at the ripe ages of 39, which feels far too old to become enthralled with what is essentially a televised talent competition, we have become hopelessly addicted to The Voice. We look forward to it every week. We devote two entire nights to watching it. We’ve even shut ourselves into a hotel room just to make sure we caught the episodes while we were out of town. That’s commitment. And frightening.

What is it about The Voice? I could say it’s Kelly Clarkson, who I love for reasons I don’t even fully understand. But that’s only a part of it. I could say it’s because the singers, for the most part, all seem legitimately talented right from the audition stages, unlike the show’s predecessors like American Idol. But that’s only a part of it too. The show just has a quality about it that drew us in right from the first time we decided to give it a go, based on my partner’s parents’ recommendation no less (if you don’t take your television viewing tips from 70 year-olds, you are not living).

You cannot underestimate the lure of this enigmatic magical quality. It allows us to put up with the fact that we hear each singer’s back story every. single. episode as though there are other viewers out there that lack our commitment to watching weekly.  It allows us to put up with Adam Levine and his wretched track pant outfits. In fact, against our better judgment, we’ve started to actually like Adam Levine. I know, it’s beyond perplexing.

Before The Voice, if you had asked me whether I would ever care about a singing competition, I would have laughed in your face, and yet here I am, steadfastly caring about each week’s outcome. We fiercely stand for our favourites, and against our least favourites.  I exhale with genuine relief when America votes to keep my favourites, and I’ve developed such a dislike for some singers that I yell at my television when America doesn’t kick them to their rightful place on the curb. I haven’t had such strong reactions since the first seasons of So You Think You Can Dance (may it rest in peace). We have, it seems, unnatural attachments to strangers, and we are fully okay with it.

Judge if you will, but then I challenge you to give it a try next season. At first you’ll just sort of be lulled in by some good singers and Kelly Clarkson’s charm, but I promise you within an episode or two (or three at most) you’ll be hit by the sledgehammer that is The Voice’s undefinable and magnetic quality. You just wait.