Archives for May 2014

Sweden for the Win (Again!)

Sweden is a very admirable country from a Wellness stand point. They are ON TOP of their game. With their great public health care, 6 weeks vacation, amazing child care and great social services it is no wonder those Swedes are so damn good-looking (not to mention they play great hockey, make amazing furniture and delicious meat balls). They just look calm, don’t they? Today I read an article about a city in Sweden where bikes are being given to citizens if they promise to drive less. GENIUS!  This once again proves that Sweden is amazing (disclaimer: I’m obsessed with Sweden). Not only is this a great way to promote physical activity and active commuting (win!) but an incredible way to take care of our environment (double win!)  

I tried to imagine such a scenario in Toronto. Currently, I cringe just about every time I see a cyclist downtown. Driving downtown is scary enough, but I fear for cyclists! Big shout out to those who commute in Toronto by bicycle, you are brave souls!! Toronto is such a driving city which is a huge shame. But just imagine it for a second, free bikes to those who leave their car at home. Obviously we would need to do something about the lack of bike lanes but if our city planners planned for a greener city that supports active commuting, I can picture it. It’s a beautiful image isn’t it?

What is so different about the way things are done over there? Why do people seem more willing to accept these things?

Just my thoughts for the night. And more time, HIGH FIVE SWEDEN!

Tales from a sort-of runner

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to write a short anecdote about my recent running experience! Let me start with this disclaimer, I have never been a runner, and I still don’t entirely consider myself a runner now. I have never been able to run fast (and I still can’t) and it has taken me a long time to realize that it is not about the speed. I will let you know something embarrassing – I used to be picked last in gym class. I wish I could say it didn’t matter to me, but that’s something that actually stuck with me for a long time. I’m not sure if it was all about athletic ability or maybe popularity or a combination of both, but the label of “not athletic” stuck, especially when it came to my self-confidence. I am sure that a lot of that shame was in my head, I don’t even know for sure if it happened more than once. My friends from that time may not even remember, but that message, while damaging, has also been a great source of motivation on my journey towards health and wellness. 

Running has always been something I have struggled with. I am not kidding when I say that before I actually started training, I could barely run three minutes without stopping. It is still something I struggle with, I don’t ever feel comfortable while running. When I was in University, I had a fitness instructor who always said “make the uncomfortable you’re comfortable” and I think that is an accurate way to describe my current relationship with running. Somehow, I have just found the ability to keep pushing and not give up. Obviously this has become somewhat easier as I train and increase my distance, but it’s never easy. Running is very, very mental, and it hurts. The satisfaction I get when finishing a run however, makes it all worth it. 

What I love about running:

It’s free!

You can do it outside!

Anyone can do it! 

You don’t need any equipment!

It’s a mental workout!

You don’t need a coach!

You can go run at any time of the day!

 

Back in January I decided I was going to run my first ever 10k. Up until 3 weeks before the race, I didn’t think I could run the distance. Until I just did. Now, the distance isn’t daunting. I really want to inspire anyone who thinks that they can’t run. Believe me when I say, I was you, 4 months ago. It was a slow process, but slowly, I worked my way up, and somehow, I did it. I used this running plan, and it was amazing and easy to follow. 

The day of the race I woke up at 5:30am, nervous and excited. The day to prove myself was here. The Sporting Life 10k is a relatively easy course, and approximately 27,000 people participate each year, making it one of the biggest in North America. The course goes right down Yonge Street, Toronto’s busiest, and it is neat to see the whole street packed with runners. The environment was awesome and there was so much energy in the air. My fiancé and I started in the 4th wave, and at 8:40am, we were off! We flew through the first 5k (it is mostly downhill) and I recorded a personal best 5k time, under 30 minutes! However, things got a little more challenging after that. It was hot, and I had been used to training in cooler weather. I started to struggle around 7k and had to take a 30 second walk break, and then another again at 9k. Once I reached that point, I knew the end was near and gave it my all. We sprinted the last 500m and man did it feel amazing to cross that finish line, beating my personal best time by 2 minutes! There were so many spectators cheering us on which really helped. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year (hopefully even faster!)

Where does this leave me now? Well, my head is feeling pretty big, and I figure if I can run 10k, I can probably run 21k right? Yikes…

So there it is, I’m going to do it, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half marathon on October 19. I might be crazy, but in the end, the race is only with myself, and it is all about finishing to the best of my ability. Plus, it sure does feel nice to say “HA!” to that voice in my head reminding me I was picked last in gym class. 

You can do it too, lace up your sneakers and get moving! Whether your goal is a half marathon, 10k, 5k or running 1k without stopping, it is possible if you set your mind to it, I promise.

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The Power of Nature!

Hello Friends!

I realize it has been a lonnnnnnng time since I posted and I am sorry for anyone who stopped by looking for anything health and wellness related and found nada in recent months. A LOT has gone on in my life since I last posted. I got engaged! Very exciting and while the actual day is still 16 months away, it has been SO much fun putting my creative hat on and starting to plan. We are both outdoorsy people so we decided on an orchard as our venue- think dinner under the peach trees, twinkly lights and a ton of natural looking flowers. I get excited like a little kid on Christmas when I think about it! Of course, we cannot forget the point of it all, that I get to spend my life with the absolute best partner a girl could ask for. I cannot wait to share my life with Zach!! I have also now officially completed my graduate program in workplace wellness and health promotion!!! I am very very very very excited and keen to get out there in the working world (stay tuned for progress on that!) Through my grad program I had an amazing opportunity to work in the corporate wellness world two days a week and I really hope to take everything I learned with me into this next part of my life.

I have also been running! Anyone who knows me may know that I have no problem making it through an hour long BODYATTACK class, yet I have NEVER been a runner. This is surprising since my dad has been a runner all of his life and still plays very very fast lacrosse in his mid-50s. I guess I never got that gene. I have enjoyed (suffered) periods of running in the past, but running has always been way more mental to me than anything else. It has been a goal of mine for a long time to run a 10k race, so this year, after struggling with staying active during my first semester of school, I decided to sign up for the Sporting Life 10K in hopes that 1. I would be able to run it all and 2. Committing to the race would keep me active and force me to train throughout the semester. I was right! The race is this coming Sunday, and I’m sure I will post about it afterwards, but I ran the whole distance last week in 66 minutes, only stopping for about 30 seconds. It may not be a competitive time, but that’s not what this is about. I am also happy to report that I stayed on track with a running program since January, a huge plus since I was definitely struggling to stay active during the fall semester. The journey was long and not always pretty. I hate hate hate treadmills and with the winter we just had, I wasn’t able to get outside until the end of March. But boy oh boy, once I was able to take my training outside did I ever see improvement. Which brings me to the point of this post!!! (Sorry about the lonnnnng preamble there).

Spring has finally sprung!!!!!! It is May 7 and temperatures have FINALLY started to reach the double digits. It’s been a long wait for us northerners, that is for sure! I don’t mind the cold too much (I am Canadian after all), but the frigid temperatures that we saw this winter were enough to send even the biggest winter-lovers inside hiding and crying for spring. Now that it is finally here, we shouldn’t waste a single second more sitting inside (I am currently writing this outside wrapped in a blanket with some tea, which, side note, is the best I’ve ever had, from a local Toronto company called Pluck)

A few friends and I have decided to participate in the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30×30 Nature Challenge. The whole point of the challenge is to get outside for 30 minutes, every day for 30 days. This may not seem like a “challenge” but it is surprising how hard it can actually be to fit nature into our lives, and a lot of us don’t even realize how deprived of nature we truly are. Think about what your average day (weekend excluded), looks like. How often do you intentionally spend outside connecting with nature? The truth is, a lot of us are very much so nature-deprived. In the health and wellness industry, nature is recognized as a crucial component to overall well-being. Our relationship with the outdoors is a long and important one, and it is only recently that society has become so disconnected from nature. Think about it, most of us sit inside at a job, which we drive to, while sitting inside a car, then we drive home, come inside and get on with our daily chores. Researchers like Richard Louv believe that not spending time outside with nature is actually detrimental to our health, and I happen to agree whole-heartedly. He calls this “Nature Deficiency Disorder” and believes it is strongly linked to many of our personal and community health and well-being problems, and it makes total sense. 

Nature is GOOD for us. Spending time outside can make us feel happier and less stressed. It also helps us fight off disease and is great for our overall mental and physical health. The 30×30 Challenge website states that nature can make us more empathetic and help connect us with our communities- which I also happen to agree with!

In case you need more reasons to get outside:

  • Nature can help treat depression. One study found that a daily walk in a green space can be as effective as antidepressants to treat mild to moderate depression!
  • Nature helps create a healthier work environment. A study found that employees who surround themselves with plants or those who have views of nature report better overall life satisfaction. I can personally vouch for this one! I have spent time working in a cubicle with nothing but a grey view. It made me sleepy when I wasn’t even tired! I have recently been working in an office where I sit right by a window looking out onto a pound and untamed nature. It is amazing! I feel so much more energized and happy even when I am doing mindless work!
  • Nature is healing. Hospital stays have actually been shown to be shorter in patients who have direct exposure to sunlight.
  • Nature helps us de-stress. Being outside forces us to focus on something that is pure, rather than focusing on the multiple tasks in a technology laden and artificial environment. No one can deny the calming effect of listening to the birds outside! 

I’m sure I could list a thousand more reasons why you should get outside. Visit the 30×30 Nature Challenge website for more reasons to connect with nature and to join the challenge. There is a hilarious quiz which can tell you how much nature you need in your life (hint, it is probably more than you are getting.)

While I strongly encourage a break from technology, if you do take a phone with you, be sure to use the hashtag #natureselfie or #30x30challenge in any pictures you take on your adventures with nature. 

I hope you all participate and build a stronger relationship with our beautiful outdoor world! Now that it is warm, take your lunch outside, get off the bus a few stops early, take a mid-morning “nature break” or simply sit outside in a park or on your porch/balcony or in your yard. I know you can do it!!!!

If you live in Toronto and are interested more in the work that Richard Louv does, be sure to come and see him speak at the Evergreen Brickworks on May 20.

Some of my ramblings:

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source: www.besthealthmag.ca