When What You’re Already Doing Is Enough

I just had an article published in a little magazine out of Ottawa called Healthy Smile!

(That’s their exclamation mark, not mine. It’s an essential part of the name. You know, just like P!nk).

Smile Magazine Article

I wrote the piece on New Years day. I was pondering health and fitness goals for the year, but realized I have none. And that I’m good with that. In fact, right now I love that.  It’s a re-hash of this blog post from spring of last year.

The article goes like this.

*****

It’s January 1, 2014.  Along with the rest of mankind, I’m pondering fitness and health goals for the year to come.

Against the good advice of most fitness experts, I’m moving away from specific goals this year.  Experts say be detailed when it comes to fitness resolutions: I will work out three times per week.  I will eat four vegetable servings per day. I will complete a 10 K race.

I understand that detailed approach. But here’s the thing.

Sometimes there is too much detail.  Sometimes the list gets too long.  Sometimes with all the “I wills” and “I musts” a girl gets exhausted.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop doing so much. 

In recent years, I have felt compelled to set goals around my workouts.  Complete a certain fitness program. Enter this or that competition. Train for this or that race. Always pushing for more. It’s never enough, it seems, to just move and sweat, to enjoy the feeling of being alive.

But somewhere in the middle of last year I realized something simple yet profound.  What I’m already doing is enough. My varied early morning workouts are enough. I needed to stop adding more things to do.  I’m good…right here.

It was May 2013. I was deep in a work project that was taking up a huge amount of time. I had signed up for an out of town triathlon in early June.  It’s a race my husband and I often go to for a weekend with a group of friends. It’s typically great fun.

But do you know what I did a week after I signed up for the triathlon?

I quit the triathlon.

I had one of those life moments when reality hits.  One of those moments when the to-do list and the self-imposed pressure comes crashing in.  Do you know those moments? And instead of sleeping, I found myself awake at 4:30 in the morning worrying about all the things I need to do in the next month.  I had two big work deadlines the week after the race.  I needed to get “real” rides in, but my bike was still hanging from the roof of the garage.  I needed to get to the pool more.  I needed to practice on open water.  I needed to rent a wetsuit.  I had two weeks of work travel between then and the race (which meant no bike and no pool).  It also meant a lot of time away from my kids.

Nothing earth-shattering; it was just my version of the life-list that everyone has.

Through all this… work, training, life…I also needed to sleep and rest.  I needed to not be awake hyperventilating in my kitchen at 4:30 in the morning.

So after a tearful conversation with my husband (which I’m sure he really appreciated at 5:00 a.m.), I quit the triathlon.

Immediately I was flooded with relief.  The entry fee already paid didn’t matter. Our portion of the cost of the condo rented for triathlon weekend didn’t matter. What mattered was the balance; the ever-tentative, teetering life balance.  There would be other triathlons at better times for me.  Actually, it wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t another triathlon.  The road, the pool and my bike are always there.  The point is to simply use them…and to feel the rush and enjoyment of my body strong and in motion.

So do you know what I did right after the tearful 5:00 a.m. conversation, as my breathing calmed and I physically felt the pressure lift?

I slipped on my running shoes. I stepped outside into my quiet neighbourhood.  It was just starting to rain.

And I ran.

Because I could, and because I wanted to.

And it was enough.

*****

P.S. I figure March 10th is as good a day as any to check in on people’s new year’s fitness resolutions. Did you set any? How are they going?

P.P.S. I’m getting a huge kick out of the fact that my name is on the cover of the magazine, right along side the great fitness/clean-eating guru Tosca Reno, who also was a contributor. I bow to the fabulous and fit 54-year old Tosca.

Tosca, call me.

Tosca, call me.

Announcing the Sears Pure NRG Athletics Giveaway Winners!

It’s as exciting as Christmas…!

As nail-biting as the Oscars…!

As thrilling as Canada v. Great Britain men’s Olympic curling match…!

It’s time to announce the THREE winners of the Sears Canada Pure NRG Athletics give-away!

[sounds of thunderous applause]

A theoretical Ed McMahon is approaching three people’s door steps right now (well, he’ll go one house at a time).

Ed McMahon with cheque

Image source

The TV crew behind is behind him.

Ed is holding the big cheque (i.e., a $50 Sears Canada Gift Certificate).

He straightens his tie. The make-up crew powders his nose and sprays his hair. Someone gives him a quick blast of breath freshener (for good measure).

The production team falls back.  A hush falls over the team.

Lights. Cameras rolling.

Ed takes a deep breath. He breaks into his winning, made-for-TV smile. And reaches in for the doorbell.

This is it.

And the winners are:

  • Sandra B
  • Tracee
  • Tamara
And the crowd goes wild.

And the crowd goes wild.

Image source

Contest Winners

Thanks to everyone who commented and entered!

Sandra B, Tracee, Tamara – I will be in touch with the details. Congratulations and enjoy your new Pure NRG gear from Sears Canada!

 

Feed the Human Real Food Challenge #2: Making “Granola” or “Protein” Bars

OK, in the Feed the Human Podcast 003, I was challenged to make my own “granola” or “protein bars”.

I used to buy/eat a lot of protein bars. Over the years, I’ve experimented with many kinds. They are a easy-to-carry snack when on the go. They satisfy my sweet “give me dessert or give me death” tooth.  I also use bars during long training runs. I eat less of them now.  Part of my nutritional journey has been realizing that so many bars are loaded with sugar, fake sweeteners, weird oils and emulsifiers, and a lot of strange ingredients I can’t pronounce. These days, we keep Elevate Me bars and Lara Bars in the house (as they have pretty clean ingredient lists) for snack-and-go emergencies, but that’s pretty much it.

Knowing I use them, Sandy from Feed the Human challenged me to make my own bars. She gave me a recipe from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain website, for Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter “Granola” Bars. See the recipe here.

The ingredients are simple and sound mouthwatering: peanut butter (or almond butter; I used almond); coconut oil; vanilla; honey; a whack of different kinds of nuts; dates; sunflower seeds; coconut; and some dark chocolate chips.

I pretty much want to live in that bar.

Here’s how I fared in their construction.

Step one. The wet stuff. So far, so good.

Step one. Melt the wet stuff. So far, so good. Note dirty pan from breakfast in the background. Nice.

Step 2. Chop the nuts in food processor. Add in wet stuff.

Step 2. Chop the nuts in food processor. Add in wet stuff. Am turning into food processing Ninja.

Press into pan. Put in freezer for 2 hours.

Press into pan. Kind of want to eat whole batch right from pan in this moment. However, put in freezer for 2 hours.

Take out of pan...

Take out of freezer and pan…

...and cut into bar sized pieces.

…and cut into bar sized pieces.

Wrap and store in fridge.

Wrap and store in fridge.

Wow, those are terrible pictures.

You know those lovely food/recipe blogs where everything is basked in warm light, the kitchen counter is spotless, and there are beautiful linens or summery vases of tulips in the background? (I mean, how beautiful is Danielle’s Against All Grain site?).

Yeah, this isn’t one of those blogs. I love food blogs, but this is real, seat-of-the-pants, I’ve-got-15-minutes-to-make-this-happen, my-kitchen-is-a-mess, life.

But the result was great! The bars were delish. My kids and husband liked them. And in theory, you could throw whatever ingredients you wanted in (e.g. chia seeds, gogi berries, chopped figs, etc.).  I did find they got a little soft when out of the fridge for too long, but they held together. I think next time I will freeze them. That way I could grab one from the freezer when heading out the door, and they’d likely be perfect a few hours later when emerging from my purse. Given the nut base, however, they are not a good grab for my kids’ school lunches. I’d really like to find a nut-free bar I can make that the kids can bring to school.

I will make these, and likely bars like them, again. Easy, delicious, real ingredients, satisfying.

This whole experience bolsters my deep-seated suspicion that I am, in fact, a culinary wizard.

Win New Workout Clothes from PURE NRG Athletics!

For me, one of the great joys in life is sport and fitness. Movement.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many other joys. But I love the clarity of mind that comes with a good run. That moment when I reach the top of a hill on my bike and the road flattens out. I love it when my body delivers two more push-ups, even though my brain is screaming stop this nonsense. And I love the electricity in the air at a race…any race. This means, by the way, I weep a lot during the Olympics.  I mean, did you see the two sisters win Olympic skiing gold for Canada in Sochi on the weekend? My God, I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.

So, by proxy and because I spend a lot of time in them, I get an odd amount of pleasure from workout gear. Like tank tops with a long torso. Socks that don’t inch down in my shoes mid-run. Heart rate monitors. And such. Weird? Maybe. Or maybe not. Sometimes joy requires infrastructure.

So when Sears Canada contacted me to see if I’d like to try their new line of workout wear, Pure NRG Athletics, it was a very quick yes.

 

nrg-banner-gwp-en-01

Uh, I don’t look this when I workout.

Sears Canada sent me three new outfits to try. THREE!

Right out of the box I was impressed. The gear had a great feel. The colours were fun. There is an interesting assortment of styles and lines.

Pure NRG Tank and the Motion Jegging

Pure NRG Tank and the Motion Jegging

 

Pure NRG T-shirt and Stride Pant

Pure NRG T-shirt and Stride Pant

Athleisure Jersey Knit Mock Neck Jacket and Karma Crop pants

Athleisure Jersey Knit Mock Neck Jacket and Karma Crop pants

And the gear feels great on. Most important for the pants, they have the wide comfort waist band. The full length pants (Stride Pants) were long enough for me, which is sometimes tough to find (I’m 5’10); I’d guess a 33 or 34 inch in-seam. The tank and t-shirt were nice and long – full torso coverage, people. And I love the zip-up mock neck jersey. It’s a medium-ish (technical term) weight, fitted, with good width across the shoulders and good arm length.

I was also impressed with the price tag. The price point on this stuff is fabulous. Getting away from the sometimes ridiculous cost of certain brands, this is awesome. Sears Canada is making great workout outfits (not pieces!) available for under $50. I love this.

The price is right. And I don't mean the game show. Not that you couldn't wear them on the game show. Should you be attending.

The price is right. And I don’t mean the game show. Not that you couldn’t wear them on the game show. Should you be attending.

Now this is the really exciting part. 

Sears Canada is giving three (THREE!) of my readers a $50 Sears Canada gift card. That’s a whole new PURE NRG Athletics outfit, people!

So if you’d like to enter to win a $50 Sears Canada gift card, leave a message below in the comment section of this blog, by midnight on Friday February 14th, and you’ll be entered into the draw!  In your message, tell me why you exercise, or do sports, or like to move…or want to move more.

I’ll randomly draw for the winners (THREE WINNERS! MY GOD, THREE! WHY AM I SHOUTING?!) on the morning of February 15th!  Then you can start your shopping spree, courtesy of Sears Canada!

(Only Canadian residents are eligible. Apologies to my wide, vast international audience).

So leave me a comment now.

Like right now. At the bottom of this page.

Seriously, do not leave this page without leaving a comment. Because why wouldn’t you?

And you could be giving  yourself a Valentine’s gift of a brand new PURE NRG Athletics outfit!  Who wouldn’t love that?

Real Food Challenge #1: a Discourse on Mayonnaise (You’re Welcome)

One of the things we’re doing over at the Feed the Human Podcast is a little diddy called the Real Food Challenge.

This is the part where I – as unknowing podcast sidekick – get a simple, do-able (in theory) task related to a change in food habits or a swap to a whole or more nutrient-dense food. The goal is to see if I can get it done, how tricky it is, and if I would continue it as a practice in my daily life. The bigger point is to spur conversation about little things anyone (i.e., you) can try to make a positive shift in their food choices.

So Real Food Challenge #1….drum-roll…make my own mayonnaise.

I’ll say it again…MAYONNAISE.  I’m writing about condiments. Yeah!

My instinctive reaction was…huh? Followed by…sure OK.  Let me give you some important background on my relationship with mayonnaise.  The approximate time before this challenge that I have spent thinking about mayonnaise in my life is about 35 seconds.  I don’t eat a lot of mayo. In fact, no-one in our house does. But it is one of those things we keep around in the event of a tuna salad or avocado-on-toast emergency. Let me put it this way: the almost-full jar I just dug out of our fridge is 9 months past the expiry date. And that fact that it still resembles mayo well past expiry is the point that Sandy at Feed the Human is making. Store bought mayo has extra weird ingredients that mayo needn’t have.  For example, it’s not clear to me what role modified corn starch plays in mayo.

Expiry: June 2013

Expiry: June 2013

So I pulled out my gleaming, year-old, woefully underutilized food processor, and the 5 simple ingredients that fresh, actual mayo requires: one egg, lemon juice, mustard, salt and olive oil. And I got to work.

Check out the recipe (from Melissa  Joulwan and her book Well Fed ) here.

mayo1

It took all of 5 five minutes, and I had a vat of homemade mayo.

Just like magic

Just like magic

 

It was seriously easy.  The “hardest” (i.e., not hard) part was that I had to pour the olive oil very slowly into the food processor. Like the pouring part takes 4 of the 5 minutes. You need a very slow drizzle, so that the magic emulsification can happen. The whole thing made me feel like a culinary superstar.

My error, however, was using extra virgin olive oil, instead of light olive oil (extra virgin was all I had in the house). So it turned out yellow-ish and quite strong tasting.  But that is an easy remedy for next time.

My conclusions on making homemade mayo are as such:

  • it’s dead easy;
  • anyone with a food processor and 5 minutes could do it;
  • I would do it again (I have already bought the light olive oil as a pantry staple);
  • anyone who loves and regularly uses mayo should try it.

And so ends my treatise on mayonnaise (now, that is a sentence I never thought I’d write).

Tuna salad, anyone?

 

 

Feed the Human – the podcast!

I’m excited to announce that I’m co-hosting a new health and wellness podcast called Feed The Human!

 

Feed the Human is the brain child of my friend Sandy. She is a nutrition junkie, ancestral health enthusiast and soon-to-be Holistic Nutritionist. Feed the Human is where Sandy shares her passion, knowledge and ideas about nutrition and healthy eating and a range of information that will support her emerging nutritional consulting practice.

And because she is thoroughly modern, the Feed the Human Podcast is part of the process of information sharing. We’ll be having a long-form conversation about food, movement and the pursuit of wellness.

What’s my role in all this? I am the all-purpose side-kick and fitness junkie. Think Ed McMahon to her Johnny Carson. Or Paul Schaffer to her David Letterman (except with less piano). She, the learned nutrition philosopher and I, the slightly impatient sidekick who just wants to work-out and know what to eat.

Together, we are going behind the science, the sound-bites, the fads. We are two regular moms getting real about the joys and struggles of pursuing health in our busy lives, and working to help you become the best version of yourself. And we’re having fun in the process.

The first two podcasts are up. Check them out below. The Real Food Challenges have  begun (I will be blogging about how I fared on the challenges). And our first guest is coming soon!

Podcast 001 is here.

Podcast 002 is here.

(Note the optimistic numbering system)

We’ll be up on iTunes soon, for your downloading pleasure.

We are just getting going and figuring things out technically (so don’t mind the odd glitch and weird sounds). But, dammit, we will not let perfection be the enemy of good.  The conversation starts now.  And look…we have head phones. Just like Frasier and Roz.

Because we are serious social media moguls, we thought we’d better get some proper photos taken. That way, our photo on iTunes wouldn’t be one of Sandy’s family portraits with a selfie of me photo-shopped into the background. So off we went to Riverwood Photography where Sean worked his magic.  We wanted a photo that would show two people with different perspectives, but having fun. Connected,  but not always agreeing. A ying and yang vibe. Don’t judge me that all I could think of for inspiration was an old ABBA album cover, etched somewhere in the recesses of my mind.  Remember this one?

The photo shoot was great fun, and I think we go our iTunes shot.

Was the final picture ABBA-inspired or not?  You’ll have to wait and see!

The Return to the Page

Hello? (tap, tap, tap…)

Is this thing on?

Finally…finally…I have some time to do some personal writing.

The months leading up to December were insanely busy with a work project. There were a lot of long days and nights. There was not a lot of sleep. There were large doses of stress. Because stress is fun.

But as always, the project got done.  Eventually I got to stop and breathe. At least for a minute…before diving into Christmas and both my daughters’ late December birthdays and various parties, loots bags, cakes and such.  Late December birthdays are also fun.

And then, in a fit of exuberance and escapism (and blessed agreement from my dear husband) I went to Club Med in Mexico for a week in early January with a friend. There I did a whole of relaxing. And reading. And swimming. And working out. And eating of amazing food. And general lounging and musing.

It looked a lot like this most days.

It was very challenging and taxing. But it was just what the doctor ordered.

And then I returned to my life. Here I am in January, reveling in the chance to breathe some more. To just live. Cook. Bring my girls to school.  Walk to the park. Call some friends. Get to know my husband again.

And also…finally…the chance to write.

I held off writing for a while as the ideas churned, and the stories of life bubbled up around me. It was like I was waiting for something perfect and crystallized to form.

And then I realized that waiting doesn’t help.  Writers write. They show up to the page and put words on it. And if they haven’t done that in a while, they just start again. And they trust that the stories will come.  It doesn’t matter if it starts patchy.  And if they do stuff that isn’t brilliant. Like use a bunch of sentence fragments. And start sentences with the word “And…”

They return to the page and write. Because that’s what writers do.

So here I am.

Returning.

Writing.

And trusting more will come.

 

The Great Piloxing Experiment

Here’s a link to my article published in the September/October IMPACT Magazine.  It’s about my experience trying a Piloxing Class.

Yep, I said Piloxing.

I know.  I’d never heard of it either.

Read all about it here.

It starts like this…

“Piloxing.  It’s not a word I’d heard before.  The first thing that came to mind was defuzzing sweaters or fluffing pillows.   I mentally scanned all the fitness articles I’ve read recently, searching for some familiarity with the term.  Nothing.  To me, Piloxing was a brand new word. 

Turns out, it is essentially a brand new word.  Piloxing is a new fitness trend yet to become widely known in Canada.  It an interval style class that is a hybrid of boxing and dance-inspired Pilates.  It was born in the fitness studios of California, the brainchild of celebrity trainer Viveca Jensen.  It blends the power of boxing with the emphasis on integrated movement that is central to Pilates.  Think music, fast paced punching drills, core and strength work, and …if you’re lucky… a touch of dance-inspired of grace. 

I arrived at the Crossing Dance Ministries studio in Calgary just as the instructor Andrea Dean was briefing participants on the central moves of Piloxing choreography.  Andrea is the only certified Piloxing instructor in Western Canada, and has been offering several classes per week since September 2012 through two Calgary dance studios.  I’m glad caught the briefing, because, let me be frank, “dance-inspired” and “choreography” are words not typically associated with my fitness regime.  My dance career came to a screeching halt at about aged 10, as I headed toward a height more suited to the WNBA than the Nutcracker, and I may or may not have botched a few ballet recitals.  I needed all the help I could get….”.  Read more

Life, Triathlons, and Early Morning Hyperventilating

Do you know what I did a week after I signed up for the June 9th Wasa Lake Triathlon?

I quit the triathlon.

Yeah, baby!  I quit.

I had one of those life moments when reality hits.  One of those moments when the to-do list and the self-imposed pressure comes crashing in.  Do you know those moments?

And instead of sleeping, I found myself awake at 4:30 in the morning worrying about all the things  I need to do in the next month.  I have two big work deadlines the week after June 9th.  I need to get “real” rides in, but my bike is still hanging from the roof of the garage.  I need to get to the pool more.  I need to practice on open water.  I need to rent a wetsuit.  I have two weeks of work travel between now and June 9th (which means no bike and no pool).  It also means a lot of time away from my kids.  The weekend of June 9 I do not – do not - want to be away from my kids.

Nothing earth-shattering.  Just my version of the life-list that everyone has.

Through all this… work, training, life…I also need to sleep and rest.  I need to not be awake hyperventilating in my kitchen at 4:30 in the morning.

So after a tearful conversation with my husband (which I’m sure he really appreciated at 5:00 a.m.), I quit the triathlon.

Immediately I was flooded with relief.  The entry fee already paid doesn’t matter.  Our portion of the cost of the condo rented in Kimberly for triathlon weekend doesn’t matter.

What matters is the balance.  The God-forsaken, ever-tentative, teetering life balance.   There are other triathlons at better times for me.  In fact, it wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t another triathlon.  The road, the pool, and my bike are always there.   The point is to simply use them.  And feel the rush and enjoyment of my body strong and in motion.

So do you know what I did right after the tearful, 5:00 a.m. conversation, as my breathing calmed and I physically felt the pressure lift?

I slipped on my running shoes.

I stepped outside into my quiet neighbourhood.  It was just starting to rain.

And I ran.

 (Photo credit)

Cool new gear from NAYAD

I love me some new work-out gear.

When I go through my laundry for the week, most of it is work-out gear. And because I workout at home and alone (cue McCauley Caulken image), I’m not too fussed about the what I’m wearing.  I have my basic black shorts, Lycra capris, or running tights and an array of tank tops.  When I run on cold mornings, I still wear my yellow reflective cycling jacket purchased from Mountain Equipment Coop in 1995.  1995!

So when the lovely ladies at NAYAD Aqua Sportwear contacted me and asked it I would like to try their fitness wear line, my response was a resounding SWEET LORD, YES!

NAYAD makes custom fitness and aqua wear.  Choose from variety of styles (shorts, swim bottoms, skirts, bras, tanks), send in your measurements, and you get a perfectly fitting outfit for your swimming, yoga, gym work-out, or outdoor adventures.

NAYAD women doing awesome things (from NAYAD website).

Love these colours (from NAYAD website)

 

This is good news for someone like me who has long legs, a long torso, broad shoulders, a small chest, and the arm span of an albatross.

My new workout gear arrived last week, and I’m happy as a clam.

Colours even better in person

Comfortable, styling, smooth.  Basically effortless.  This is going to be great for yoga.  And weight training.

I also have images of me wearing it for ocean open-water swim training in Hawaii or paddle boarding in Costa Rica.  Except that I live in Calgary, Canada.  Where it sometimes snows until May.  And the open water swim for my spring triathlon typically requires not only a wetsuit but also some sort of head and foot warming device.

But I swear to you if I do go paddle boarding in Hawaii, I will wear this outfit and generally be awesome.  And when I go to Hawaii, I’ll also order a custom sporty-looking bikini.  For when I run into Gabrielle Reece and Laird Hamilton and we hook up for some wicked-gnarly surfing and such.

Thank you NAYAD.  I love this stuff.  Keep up the great work!