Training Tuesdays: packing for gym-less workouts

As I get ready for a little mini-vacation, I’ve been thinking about the best ways to keep my fitness routine going without having access to a gym. Back in the old days, it was so much easier. I’d just run. I still believe running is the best default workout for when you’re travelling or on vacation, but what do you do if running isn’t an option?  Turns out vacation workouts require a bit more planning if running isn’t your jam. But never fear, I have some tips for how you can get yourself ready for gym-less vacation workouts.

1. Pack light-weight and small gear: Obviously, you’ll need your workout clothes and running shoes, but also consider packing the ultra light workout equipment you might have at home. Things like skipping ropes and resistance bands take up very little space and won’t add weight to your bags. If you are travelling by car, a couple of dumbbells go a long way and won’t take up much of your precious cargo space. Even a few extras will give you a lot more options.

2. Pack a list of all the possible exercises you’ll be able to do with the spaces and equipment you’ll have access to: It might seem like overkill to actually make an exercise menu of sorts, but when I’m in vacation mode I suddenly find it more difficult to think of suitable exercises and piece together a legit workout. I like to make a list of all the possible exercises I can do with my own body weight or with any equipment I can take. If I’m stuck for ideas, Googling body weight resistance exercises can lead to some serious inspiration.  If I know I’ll be close to a park with benches, or a stair case, I can plan to integrate exercises using the space around me as well. Having a pre-made list of exercises to choose from takes a lot of the effort out of planning my workouts and increases the odds that I’ll actually do it.

3. Research what your vacation destination has to offer: You might be able do some double duty by combining tourist activities with workouts.  Even with an urban destination, you may find that trails or other outdoor activities are closer than you think. Can you kayak or canoe down a river instead of walking (both are great upper body workouts) or can you hike to a viewpoint instead of driving? The great thing about dual purpose activities is you are less likely to feel like you’re working out and you’ll have more time to devote to seeing your surroundings.

4. Be creative and use what’s around you: Couldn’t pack your dumbbells? You never know when you might find a good, old-fashioned water cooler refill bottle to use for weights. I’m not joking. When I was in Mexico for a work trip earlier this year, we used water cooler refills and industrial sized detergent bottles as weights for our squat shoulder presses and step ups. We used the dining room chairs for tricep dips. You’d be surprised at how many household items can double for weights or workout surfaces.

There’s really no excuse for falling off track while on holidays, even if you’re nowhere near a gym. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Okay, that’s enough tired cliches for one day. Happy active vacationing, everyone.

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Throwback Thursday: That Time I Took a Million Awkward Photos of Golfers

In addition to visiting Disney parks last week, we also attended two days of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  Before you say it, yes I know that you think watching golf is about as boring as watching paint dry. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. If you want to know how I came about being a golf fan, you can check out my post from last week.  Now, let’s get back to the real story here.

We attended two days of the tournament and I was amazed (and relieved, too) to find watching live golf even more fun than watching on television. Why? I got to pseudo-stalk my favourite golfers. It sounds worse than it is.  I mean, you’re there to follow golfers around the course so it’s not really stalking, but I did find that I have quite the knack for taking awkward photos of golfers, ones that I imagine to be be similar to those of a stalker. Don’t believe me? I am going to prove it to you.

You’ll notice a definite style in this series of photos and I like to call that style “take photos of subjects who have no idea they are being photographed, so much so that they fail to even look in the general direction of the photographer”.  I can’t imagine it will make for a lucrative photography career, but it’s a style I can embrace as my own.

Above: Jason Day, though you can barely tell because he’s not only not looking at the camera, but barely looking up at all. Because of this, you also can’t tell that he’s quite irritated with himself for just missing a birdie putt.

Above: Ryan Moore, though once again you can barely tell because his face is mostly shielded by his hat. He also just missed a birdie putt.

Above: Hideki Matsuyama looks like a sourpuss in this photo but it’s not indicative of his play. He looks that way even when he’s winning, which is precisely why he’s not one of my favourites.

Above: Here I progress to slightly more creepy photography, capturing Rickie Fowler from behind. What I wish you could see is that he was wearing fluorescent green pants with this bright yellow shirt. Only he can pull this off.

Above: Adam Hadwin (a fellow Canadian!) pays zero attention to my camera even though I desperately want to celebrate his miraculous par save on this hole. Also, he is sponsored by Shaw and I used to work there so I somehow feel we should be friends in real life.

Above: My crowning achievement of the tournament: a close-up of my golf crush Rory McIlroy. It almost looks like he is looking at the camera, until you actually look at his eyes and once again, his attention is elsewhere. Sigh. Though I got an excellent picture, I got no high five from Rory. Only the little kids got those. Damn children for being so adorable.

Above: And finally my top creepy achievement, an intentional picture of Jason Day’s butt. Why? I have no idea except why the hell not???

So there you have it. If you’re looking to hire a sports photographer to take sub par and slightly awkward photos of golfers, I am clearly your gal. I’ll be waiting by the phone for your calls.

Mid-Week Tangent: Disney Treat Fail

As you may know from Monday’s post, I spent a few days in Disney World (aka the dark side) last week. Normally, one of my favourite things about Disney parks is the opportunity to jam countless treats into my face. There are so many deliciously different ways to dramatically exceed your daily recommended caloric intake. Despite this, I completely failed to take advantage of the multitude of sinful options at my fingertips and I am already deeply regretful. I managed only one Mickey Mouse pretzel and about eight white chocolate chip cookies. That may sound like a big accomplishment, but it is such a minuscule representation of what was available. Sigh. What was I thinking?

And so, in honour of my failure and perhaps to serve as a motivator for you to take full advantage of any of your future Disney adventures, I present to you a list of all the things that I did not eat but sorely wish that I had:

1. About five more Mickey Mouse pretzels: Let’s face it, one pretzel is not enough, particularly when accompanied by the completely-wrong-yet-somehow-oh-so-right artificial cheese dip. I am the person who uses the entire container of cheese dip and wishes she had more (as opposed to my boyfriend, who barely makes a dent in his, a feat that I cannot at all comprehend but which greatly benefits me as I get his extras). Though the Mickey Mouse pretzels are nowhere near as good as most soft pretzels I’ve consumed virtually anywhere else, they do somehow taste more magical. I fully regret not consuming them daily.

2. Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Sandwiches: These are just Oreo ice cream cookie sandwiches, something that I can buy on any given day in my local grocery store. Still, they somehow taste better and more magical in the parks. It has been years since I’ve had one. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t have one. If you read Monday’s post, you know that it was what can only be described as f’ing cold the entire time we were in the parks. I wish that I were the person who could put aside being cold for long enough to eat ice cream, but I’m usually not. I was uncomfortably cold and made the (foolish and wrong, in hindsight) decision to forego ice cream in favour of warmth. Rookie mistake.

3. Churros: Unlike ice cream, churros are warm and comforting on a cold day. I have no idea why I did not consume a single churro, except that I was under some misguided notion that I should be hungry in order to snack. I have no idea why I sometimes stick to such ridiculous principles. I am ashamed of myself.

4. Dole Whip: Who doesn’t love a good Dole Whip? The answer to that question can only be someone whose soul is dead. It is a miraculous feat of food engineering. How else can you explain a product that is largely the result of food thickeners and a slew of artificial ingredients that is, surprisingly, low in actual pineapple? Still, it is delicious. Similar to my Mickey Mouse ice cream cookie sandwich rationale, it was simply too cold for me to contemplate such a treat. Now that I am back in Vancouver, where it is not only cold but also rainy and grey, I can truly see the error of my ways. At least in Florida it was sunny and there was the illusion of warmth. I can barely forgive myself for this oversight.

5. Frozen Banana: I know, I know, no one really likes the frozen banana. It’s frozen fruit on a stick. It has a paper-thin simulated chocolate shellac that gives you the false impression you’re indulging when you are actually not. They are quite repugnant. I wanted to eat one only to pay homage to Arrested Development (“there’s always money in the banana stand”). Also, see rationale for numbers 2 and 4 (i.e. it was freaking cold).

6. Daily Cupcake: I have no interest in commercially produced cupcakes, whatsoever. They are always a let-down. The cake is almost always either dry, flavourless, spongey or some combination thereof. Frosting, however, is single-handedly worth the cupcake investment. I am only somewhat ashamed to admit that I have been known to eat just the frosting, sometimes accompanied by a tiny portion of the cupcake if only to stave off social judgements. I saw countless cupcakes crowned with an ice cream scoop sized mound of frosting and yet, somehow, I showed uncharacteristic restraint by never ordering one. Similar to the churro rationale, my cupcake fail was largely due to feeling as though I should be hungry in order to eat one.  As a result of my poor decision making, I have no choice but to delude myself into believing that the frosting was likely wretched shortening-based frosting instead of a true buttercream.  But even I know I am just lying to myself.

7. Ice cream cookie sandwich from Scoops in Hollywood Studios: Ever since I had the dreamiest and most insanely delicious ice cream cookie sandwich at Hello Robin in Seattle, I have been on the hunt for more. When I was forced to stand in a ride line behind a girl eating a Scoops ice cream cookie sandwich for the better part of 45 minutes, my poor boyfriend had to listen to me go on and on about how I was going to get one as soon as humanly possible. And yet I did not. Ever. I have no good excuse for my failure here, and instead offer up two piss-poor ones: I assumed the ice cream wouldn’t be as delicious as the ice cream at Hello Robin (which turned out to be true as I did try Scoops ice cream sans cookie) and I feared my boyfriend would silently judge me for eating an ungodly thick layer of ice cream wedged between two giant cookies as a mid-day snack. He claims he wouldn’t have, but I could see the look of incredulity, or perhaps even mild repulsion, in his eyes when I first suggested it.

Do yourself a favour and do not follow my lead in eating your way through Disney Parks. Instead of returning full of magic and sugar and a few extra pounds, I have returned full only of my own regret. No one should have to live in regret, so please go forth and eat all of the things.

Monday Musings: What I Learned at Disney World

Well, I have been to the dark side, and the dark side is Disney World during spring break. Orlando, it seems, is a spring break point of convergence for all walks of life. It makes Florida rife with opportunities to study human behaviour. After just three days in the park (which, I assure you, is about the most that any sane human can possibly tolerate), here is what I have learned:

1.It is virtually impossible for parents to enjoy Disney World: I have never seen nor heard more children getting stern talking-to’s (and that’s my polite way of saying yelled at) than at Disney World. I promise you if you look for it, you can see a meltdown in progress at any given moment in the park. The combination of long days, long lines, and the desire to do as much as you can because “we may only be in Disney World once” is a recipe for epic temper tantrums. You could tell the parents who were arriving for their very first day in the parks. They all looked excited and ready to experience the joy of Disney through their children’s eyes.  But you could also tell who had lived through a day or longer. Those parents looked utterly defeated and exhausted, the myth of Disney being “magical” shattered for life. I have nothing but respect for any parent who attempts to tackle Disney World with small children (or large ones for that matter). I would be waving my white flag within the first hour.

2. It gets COLD in Florida…and no one expects it (including me): Did you know temperatures can drop to 2 degrees in March? I didn’t. I read the forecasts and still refused to believe it. No one packs a coat to Florida, right? Tell that to hordes of people (again, me included) storming into the Columbia store at Disney Springs in search of something to make being outside tolerable. Clearance-priced fleece jackets in hideous shades of toothpaste green and florescent fuschia were flying off the racks like hotcakes. As we stood waiting for fireworks for what seemed like an eternity, one of the only forms of joy I had was counting the number of Columbia fleeces in the crowd. And there were a lot. Moral of the story: it can get cold in Florida, so pack a damn coat.

3. Walking requires serious frogger skills: Between the strollers and stroller parking areas (or, as I liked to call them, stroller graveyards), cell phone walkers and the generally oblivious, it is practically a sport navigating in this park. And don’t even get me started on the slow walkers. I expected them, I really did. Slow walkers are a staple of any significant tourist attraction, after all. Still, I was unprepared for the extent of general slowness. To move through the park without extreme frustration, you’ve got to look for open spaces constantly and move into them quickly and without hesitation. And you absolutely must keep a tight grip on anyone you’re travelling with as you dodge between slow walkers. If you don’t, they will quickly be swallowed into the hordes of dawdlers.

4. The UCA is a real thing: So, it turns out sports teams flock en masse to Disney World. I’m not sure why, but there were lacrosse teams, baseball teams and cheerleaders everywhere. So. Many. Cheerleaders. I thought the UCA (universal cheer association) was something made up by the creators of Bring it On but these cheerleaders had so much branded swag that I can no longer question the UCA’s existence. Who knew? Your added piece of useless information is that cheerleaders are apparently fuelled primarly by Mickey Mouse waffles and chocolate chip pancakes. It wouldn’t be my first choice to fuel high performance atheleticism but, then again, maybe that’s the reason I never became a high performance athlete.

If you’ve learned anything from this post, though, it really should be this: do not, under any circumstances, go to Disney World during spring break.

Mid-Week Tangent: On My Method for Selecting Favourite Golfers

As you may know, we are currently in Orlando, partly feeding our rampant Disney obsession, but also partly to attend the Arnold Palmer invitational golf tournament.

I know, I know, you’re currently asking yourself who actually likes watching golf. I used to feel that way too. I never understood how it became a televised sport nor why anyone would want to watch it. Then, at some point in the early days of dating my lovely boyfriend, I saw an opportunity to extend my visit with him if I could just sit (ahem, suffer) through a bit of golf. The things we do for love.  Somehow, though, it got interesting. I wanted to understand how the game worked. I wanted to see who would crack under the pressure and who would flourish. I wanted to keep watching.

And so it began. Now, well over a year later, I am a full-on golf-watching addict. I don’t play, except for messing around on the putting green, but I do love to watch.  So I’m very, very, very excited to be going to my very first tournament. My boyfriend, on the other hand, appears to be slightly fearful that I will violate the rules by incessantly snapping pictures and/or audibly heckling the players I don’t like. So little trust!

Speaking of players I don’t like, the list is long and my reasons for disliking them are admittedly not rational. In a similar vein, my selection criteria for my favourite golfers is atypical to say the least. And so, I present to you my highly unofficial and illogical criteria for selecting my favourite golf players:

1. Do they “look pleasant”?: This is a purely subjective measure by any standard, but I have absolutely no tolerance for golfers who spend the entire tournament looking like they hate their lives or like emotionless robots (I’m looking at you Dustin Johnson). I get it, golf is stressful and you might want to put on a game face. Some will call it focus, but I just call it being no fun.  I’ll cheer on the guys who look like they’re having fun or at least appear to have a sense of humour.

2. Do they abstain from annoying and/or disgusting behaviors (like throwing golf clubs in a hissy fit when they don’t like how they hit their shot or spitting on the golf course)?  Ugh, I cannot stand it when golfers spit. You are on television!!! Also, spare me your dramatic antics when the ball doesn’t go exactly where you want it to.  Last week I watched as a notable player released his club at the end of his swing, unhappy with it, only to have his club narrowly miss hitting someone in the crowd. Not cool.

3. Do you occasionally do something interesting or unexpected? I used to hate Henrik Stenson (he violated rule #1) but then he won a tournament and gave his wife a celebratory smack on the butt, completely winning me over. He went from no fun to a little playful. Also, he once stripped down to his skivvies to hit a shot from the water. That’s badass.

4. (most important) Do they dress well?: I could write a whole damn post about the travesty of old-man golf pants. Seriously, there are so many fit and slim golf players who walk around in baggy, khaki style golf pants. Why?!?! Wear some pants that fit and with some semblance of style for goodness sake!  I am a fan of bold colours, properly fitting clothes and stylish golf shoes, the combination of which is surprisingly hard to find. Current fashion faves: Jordan Spieth, Ricky Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy.

Notice, none of these criteria have anything to do with being a good golfer. For the most part this means that my favourites rarely win so watching. In the workplace, we often acknowledge that just having talent isn’t enough; like it or not, people with some charisma will often be seen in a greater light than those without. Golf is no different. Come on golfers, get excited and put on some nice clothes and you’ll have a fan (in me) for life!

Okay, enough of my soapboxing. I’m going to go follow Rory and Jason and Ricky around for a few days. I hope to return with photographic proof of their fashion sense and enthusiasm.

Throwback Thursday: Pretzels! Schnitzel! Snowshoeing! Oh my!

It’s been a while since I wrote a Throwback Thursday edition but, since I’m going to Leavenworth this weekend, I thought it only made sense to share a throwback to last year’s Leavenworth getaway, partly because I’m super excited (!!!) and partly because you need to go there.

You may be asking yourself, what is Leavenworth? Well, friends, it only happens to be a charming, Bavarian-themed village nestled in Washington’s cascade mountains.  It is quaint, absolutely over-the-top kitschy, and delightfully scenic.  If you are contemplating a weekend getaway, and live near the west coast, I think I can sell you on the Leavenworth experience.

Outdoor Activities:
If you’re looking for an active weekend, there’s a variety of ways to get your caloric burn on. If you’re a skier, the Stevens Pass ski area is nearby. I can’t vouch for whether it’s good skiing since I am terrified of downhill skiing and have no desire to hurl myself down a mountain on thin slats of whatever-the-hell-skis-are-made-of-these-days.

For winter hikers/snowshoers there are ample trails both around the town and towards Stevens Pass. There’s everything from easy strolls to more advanced routes. Many are well-travelled and do-able with spikes if you don’t own snowshoes (of course, depending on what snowfall is like at the time you visit). There’s also trails for all skill levels, so you can casually stroll or give yourself a killer cardio workout.

There’s even tubing/toboganning options, not that I consider it exercise, but I guess that depends on how many times you walk up the hill before sliding down. I’m sure you could turn it into windsprints for an extra boost of exertion.

Food & Beverage Scene
Let’s be honest, outdoor activities are great, but the real fun is in the food and drink. All the suggested outdoor activities are really just creating space for you to ingest more calories. I’ve only been to Leavenworth once so I can’t say this is a definitive list of food and drink hotspots, but I can tell you that I had good experiences in all of these places. And I eat a lot, so I know food, and I drink…a reasonable and appropriate amount, so I know my drinks.

Andreas Keller: If you aren’t interested in schnitzel, you probably don’t want to go here. But it’s also possible you’ve just never had good schnitzel so maybe just verify your stance on meaty delights by dining here before giving up on it entirely. Also, get the giant pretzel. Oh, and Fridays and Saturdays feature live accordion music.  If that’s not a selling feature to you, this restaurant is probably not your jam in general. You may also, in fact, be no fun.

Icicle Brewing Company: The fun of this place is winter outdoor seating (don’t worry, there are heat lamps). It’s got great energy. I had a flight with two great beers, one mediocre beer and one passably drinkable beer.  But, hey, you can get good beer anywhere these days. Pick places for ambiance. Arrive early on a weekend if you want prime outdoor seating (i.e. near the heat lamps).

Los Camperos: I can’t say whether this was at all authentic Mexican but, quite honestly, when it comes to Mexican-style food I’m easy to please. What I can say is this place had a home-cooked feel, absolutely ginormous portions, and one of the tastiest seafood enchiladas I’ve ever stuffed into my face.

Kitsch Factor
Second only to food, the highlight of a themed village is embracing the kitschy-ness of a themed village. If you like to roll your eyes at over-the-top, largely inauthentic stereotypes, don’t even bother reading on…and probably don’t go to Leavenworth. If you share my love for the unabashed cheese factor, this town will steal a place in your heart.

Kris Kringl: A year round Christmas makes my heart swoon. I love Christmas, not so much so that I want to celebrate it year round, but enough that I willingly stroll through giant Christmas stores even in the dead of summer. If you don’t agree, you may actually be dead inside.

Village of Lights(!!!!!): I also love magical Christmas lights. I don’t believe the village of lights has anything to do with Christmas, but it certainly creates a festive magic. Lights. Are. Everywhere. I mean it. Everywhere.

Nussknacker Haus: This suggestion will make no sense. I hate nutcrakers. I find them terrifying. Somehow, an entire store of nothing but nutcrackers is so oddly fascinating that I simply must walk through it even though I solemnly swear that I will never allow one into my home.

So there you have it. If you’re looking for weekend adventures in the mountains with a healthy side of kitsch, look no further. Can’t wait to get back and dive into faux-Bavarian fun!

*It probably goes without saying, but I am in no way affiliated with the town of Leavenworth, nor did they pay me to write this. I just love themed towns, schnitzel and snow.

 

Mid-Week Tangent: My Personal Heaven (aka Valrhona Cite du Chocolat)

Much like last Wednesday’s post, I’m going to warn you right off the bat that this has nothing to do with fitness, running, training or health.  This post is about the most fabulous place a chocolate lover (like myself) can imagine. If you must link it to fitness of some sort, I’ll encourage you once again to consider chocolate the perfect reward for a tough workout. With that out of the way, let’s move on to my own personal heaven.

Picture yourself in an impossibly large room filled entirely with chocolate products.  Breathe deeply and inhale all that rich, chocolate aroma lingering in the air. Envision entire walls of chocolate-filled tubes, pouring out endless samples to fuel your gluttony.  Stand back and see that beyond the chocolate tubes, every single chocolate product features a bowl of samples into which you can repeatedly dip your greedy, greedy fingers. Are you understanding the magnitude of this chocolate fantasy? Honour-system endless chocolate samples.

Let that sink in.

Only this isn’t a fantasy. No, this was the lucid reality of my visits, because yes I went more than once, to the Valrhona Cite du Chocolat in Tain l’Hermitage. Sure, my initial reason for visiting this part of France was its famed Syrah-producing hillsides.  I won’t lie, though, when I found out that the town also featured a city of chocolate, nothing was going to get in the way of my visit.

Photographic proof that I didn't hallucinate this wonder of chocolate samples.
Photographic proof that I didn’t hallucinate this wonder of chocolate samples. Look at them all. SIXTEEN types to sample…and that’s not all the samples.
Chocolate chocolate everywhere and...many samples to taste (tell me someone out there gets the lame Rime of the Ancient Mariner reference)
Chocolate chocolate everywhere and…many samples to taste (tell me someone out there gets the lame Rime of the Ancient Mariner reference)

There, in this almost unimaginable world of chocolate generosity, I discovered a deep love for blonde chocolate, a variety that I’ve somehow gone my whole life without experiencing.  There, I discovered more varieties of milk chocolate than I ever thought I could taste in a five-minute time span. There, I learned that I can consume at least 11 chocolates within ten minutes and still go on to school a galette within a half hour (more to come on the wonder of galettes in another post).*

In other words, there I learned the true meaning of happiness. Go. Visit. Taste. I promise you that you will not regret it.

*If you’re curious about the 11 chocolates consumed, I believe they were the Tanariva, Bahibe, Caramelia, Dulcey, Ivoire, Orelys, dulcey covered Almond, milk chocolate covered fig, dark chocolate covered salted caramel, and a white chocolate covered dark chocolate and raspberry ganache. No, I did not feel ill after eating them. I am a pro.