Tag Archives: motivation

Why it’s Not About the Work-Out

It’s stormy out.

Rain and wind are pummeling the west coast. In my community, branches and leaves scatter the streets, drumming up deep, rich smells of pine, earth and Christmas. Our power was out for eight hours last week. More warnings came over the last few days. Tie down the deck chairs, folks, and have your flashlights ready. Mother nature is taking the stage.

And big, ugly political storms brew in the U.S. Well, they are actually in full gale force. Trump’s house is dislodged and being pummeled in the funnel cloud. I stand riveted in the thought of it-can’t-happen. I also stand in deep revelation and reverence of what I, as a women, hope to witness next month. The fury of the storm always clears a path.

A few mornings ago, mid-storm, I got in a workout before my family woke. Typical for me, this morning ritual is driven by a deep need to come awake. To shake off layers. To ignite something. I’m still not sure what to call it, this why of mine.

Post-workout, a hot sweaty mess, I got to the headlines. I took in the torrent of articles about Trump, the emerging accusations of sexual predation, and reaction to Michelle Obama’s powerful and devastating speech.

And I was reminded of something.

We need to be well and keep strong because we’ve got big work to do. All of us. In our own corners and arenas. The world needs us at our best. Strong and powerful. With endurance and stamina and capacity. We need to be ready to step in. To serve. To stand firm in the midst of a storm.

What I know is this. It’s not about the work-out; it’s about the work it’s preparing me for.


Why Would You Do That?

Maybe because it’s been minus a hundred around here a lot lately, but I’m fantasizing about running outside. And thinking about motivation.

I remember talking to one of my neighbours a couple of years ago out on our street after my husband and I returned from a 25-km trail run. It was a late spring afternoon. We’d taken the afternoon off work to go to the mountains to run, getting back just in time to pick the girls up from school. It was the last long training run before the Sinister 7 relay, and we’d pushed ourselves hard before the taper.

We pulled into our driveway and piled out of the van onto our cul-de-sac, finding other neighbourhood kids and parents out enjoying the sunshine. We wandered into the street to join the conversation, as we often do. I love that about our cul-de-sac…that it becomes a playground/meeting ground on warm, sunny evenings.

I was sweaty, dirty and walking a little gingerly.

My neighbor asked me if I was alright.

I laughed and mentioned what we’d just done.

A look of concern/confusion flashed across her face.

“Why would you do that?” she asked, in all seriousness and without a trace of malice.

I couldn’t answer the question. I couldn’t explain it.

But I loved the question. I still love the question.

Why does anybody do anything, when it comes to fitness or sports?

Right now, all I know this…

To move is to feel alive.

That still doesn’t explain why one runs 25-km rather than 5-km. Or why someone runs 50-km rather than 25-km. Why someone climbs ice walls. Or takes Zumba. Or does Insanity. Or lifts bar bells. Or swims the English Channel. Or does yoga. Or whatever.

I’m pretty sure though it’s not all about weight-loss or making your jeans fit — as the women’s fitness magazines might have you believe. Though on some days, in some moments, it can be (I have those moments too).  But those aesthetic things simply aren’t meaningful enough to last.  The desire to move is about how it makes you feel, not how you look. How you feel in your bones. In your own skin. In your bloodstream. Deep in the hormonal recess of your brain. You know, how you feel feel.

I think we need a whole new narrative behind “why”.

So this is what I currently think.

You run, or jump, or swim or dance because you can.

Because you were born to move. And to play.

Because of the chain reaction of chemicals in your brain that gets addicting.

Because it forces you to the present and to feel.

And in some respects to suffer. Perhaps life isn’t meant to be a glazed pursuit of comfort, labour-saving devices, and temperature controlled space. Maybe we are wired to seek a more varied experience. To  hang in that balance – that ever-moving teeter-totter – between pleasure and pain, rest and work. We want to feel protected, rested, quiet, at leisure…for a while. But then, we get antsy (because we haven’t been required to go out and chop fire wood or gather plants for dinner), we seek moments of…well…pow!

I heard a friend say once that he doesn’t have to go off to war, so he puts on his waffle-soled, high-comfort running shoes and goes out and runs marathons. Same instinct.

In planning for their next 24-hour bike race, one of my husband’s teammates said – when they were contemplating going as  a 5 person-team, rather than a 4 person team: “But will we suffer enough?” Same instinct.

So why would I, why would you, do that? Bring on a new narrative.  But I leave you with the words of the great explorer George Mallory:

george mallory


the two week eating challenge

Today I am starting an eating challenge.  Not the classic pie-eating-contest or who-can-get-most-for-their-money-at-the-Chinese-buffet kind.  Too bad, because I always thought I’d be really good at that kind of thing.  No, today I’m starting a two-week clean-eating challenge.  Nothing too dramatic or life-changing.  Just an effort to kick-start the new year and get the left-over holiday sludge out of my system.  As I wrote on January 1 (“the best shape of my life”), I’ve really been working on fitness and healthy eating for the last six months.  On the food front, I’ve been recording my food intake most days, cutting back on portions, being aware of when I’m hungry and when I’m just bored, trying to slay the sugar dragon, and trying to eat a better balance of nutrients.  I still eat, and eat plenty.  But just better stuff and in a more balanced way.   

Yeah, that all sort of went south around the holidays.   I tried to keep it together.  Days when there were no special events going on I stuck to my healthy ways.  But for the days when there were parties, gatherings or visitors – and there were many – bad habits started to sneak back in.  You know, a few extra pieces of cheese, a sniff of pate, roughly half a pan of chocolate brownies I was making for “when the visitors come”.  Also, the “use-one-eat-one” strategy I employed during the mom-and-me gingerbread house decorating party at my daughter’s preschool was not a particularly great one.  Plus, the holidays are extra tough in our household because both our daughters have December birthdays (note to self: stop going on holidays in March).  So added to the mix were two birthday parties and the associated birthday cakes.  It’s not the eating of the birthday cakes when they’re done that’s the problem; it’s the making process.  I’m not much of a cake-maker and cannot gauge a crowd to save my life, so I made two cakes for each party just in case, which means double batches of icing and all those bowls to lick.  All I’m going to say is that, between my four-year old and I, not a lot of that extra icing made it into the garbage.   

But, remarkably, on the scale and in the big scheme of things not too much damage was done.  I kept working out diligently through the holidays.  But my eating habits and instincts have gotten out of whack.  I need a couple of strict weeks to get it together and recalibrate my system.

Thus comes the eating challenge.  Who am I challenging and being challenged by, other than my willpower and the chocolate demons?  I have an on-line coach who coaches a bunch of people in our workout programs.  It’s a great system.  We log-on, discuss our workouts, and talk about challenges, injuries, ideas.  I find it motivates me and keeps me accountable, and it appeals to my competitive side.  If I want to discuss health and fitness everyday I better have made the effort to work out myself.  And every now and again, our coach throws out a challenge and those interested jump on board.  So as of today, it’s a new eating-clean challenge for the group.  Whoever eats clean for two weeks, doesn’t miss a work-out, and logs it with the group every day goes in a random lottery for a small prize.   We can have a cheat meal once a week (don’t go crazy) and one slip up (let’s keep it real) and still be in the running.   It’s not about the prize, of course, it is simply about being accountable to something. 

Eating clean, in my little world, is not too scientific.  It’s about eating real, unprocessed, whole, fresh foods – and doing so in moderation.  No sugar, alcohol, wierd sweeteners, really refined or sweetened stuff.  No hugely high-fat stuff either (so long cheese and butter).  Lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, fish, other lean protein, nuts.  You get the idea.  Nothing new here. 

It will take some focus, and some throwing away of the hidden post-Halloween stash, but I believe it can be done.  Two strict weeks to get my habits back on track.  It’s not that I will never eat sugar or cheese again.  I just need to remind my system that iced sugar cookies and smoked gouda are not their own categories in the Canada Food Guide requiring 4-6 servings a day. 

So game on.  This can be done.  Anyone else care to join?  Should be easy as…well…pie.