On Happiness and being Selfish

The photo below is what one looks like when it’s only Tuesday but it feels like Friday and you’ve had the craziest few weeks and you try and leave the office before 6:00pm and you go to the bathroom down the hall and then come back and then realize that your badge isn’t working to let you in to your office and all of your stuff is there and you feel like crying but instead you find a random phone and call security and you wait 5 minutes and they finally show up to then tell you that their badge doesn’t work either and they’ll be right back and you wait another 10 minutes and then they come back with a master key only the master key doesn’t work so they tell you they’ll be back in a bit again, so you wait and then they return and tell you that they are doing a security upgrade on the 12th floor and for some reason out of all the badge scanners in the building the badge scanner to your office on the 15th floor is connected to all the scanners on the 12th floor so they have to call some people and halt the upgrade the technicians are working on so they disappear again and then return and someone on their cell phone opens the door and then you finally get in to your office and get your stuff and it’s almost 7:00pm and you head outside to walk home and realize it’s POURING ice cold freezing rain and you don’t have a hood, an umbrella or even a hat, so you just step out in the rain and put your music on and start walking home and burst out in explosive laughter in the middle of Front Street in downtown Toronto and you look like a crazy person but you don’t even care because for some reason you’re ridiculously happy and all the crap that happened is just funny and not really that important and at the end of the day you have a choice to make light of it all and enjoy these random moments instead of taking the easy route and deciding to be miserable and cold and tired.
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My older brother has always had a way with words. He is able to perfectly express even the deepest and most intense emotions by just writing them down in a way that I am not able. Without a doubt, he always nails it. It wasn’t long ago that he said to someone in our family, “happiness is something that you seek out with a vengeance, not something that is given” and I keep returning to those words again and again when I feel like giving in to a rough day and feeling sorry for myself.

I recently found myself in a huge rut where I was truly unhappy for quite some time. I woke up dreading the day, and then would spend the entire day looking forward to going to bed that night. When bed time came around, I would then panic as I tried to fall asleep as I knew I would soon have to wake up and face a new day, going through it all again.

Before I go on and bore you with the details of the rut I was in, I will start this off by saying that I don’t think being selfish is something to aspire to or necessary take pride in. However, being selfish is something that we all have to and SHOULD do at certain points in our lives. I’m not talking take-the-last seat-on-the-bus-when-there-is-a-pregnant-woman-waiting-for-a-seat-because-your-feet-hurt selfish, but more along the lines of look-out-for-you-in situations-where-the-outcome-impacts-your-well-being selfish.

During my little rut and depressive state, I decided I had to make some sort of change and I found myself in a position where I had to make a very difficult decision. I agonized over it, and I mean agonized, lost-sleep-didn’t-eat-had-near panic attacks-drove-my-husband-crazy agonized. After seeking advice from my closest confidants (best friends, family, my pets, the barista in the coffee shop down the street, etc.) they all helped me see that it was pretty obvious I had already made up my mind.

It took me a while to admit that I wanted the outcome that I did. I needed others to say it for me, to justify it, to validate that I was doing the right thing. It was so hard for me to admit what I wanted because making the decision I did was purely, pretty selfish. The only person my chosen outcome would benefit, was me,  even if that meant leaving others a little less-than-impressed, scrambling and over-loaded.

I don’t like to villainize the word selfish because sometimes in situations like this, I think being selfish is exactly what we need. Even though I like to consider myself confident, assertive and not afraid to go after what I want, as a female in our society I also always unfortunately am always worried about being “nice” and not letting others down. Of course no one wants to let people down, and being nice is certainly a desirable trait. But for the purpose of this post, and for others who may be going through something similar, I will say one thing: f**k being nice and just be selfish.

I realized that my agonizing came from the fact that I was so worried about what other people would think, how they would react and how it would make me look instead of the actual decision itself. When I took that out of the equation, it was a no-brainer. Why was I worrying so much about how other people felt when I knew that the decision I wanted to make would make me so happy?

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So, I did it. I took that leap of faith and went after what I wanted. It was really scary, but not any scarier than feeling stuck and miserable every day. And you know what? People weren’t as upset about it as I thought they would be, in fact, most people understood. Making that change was worth it, it felt good and it was empowering to truly just look out for me. Now, from the other side of it all, I remind myself constantly that I chose happiness and I will continue to choose it, even on the days where it feels out of reach, because I can, and because I have the power to choose it over and over again.

Admitting you’re unhappy can be scary but it is something only you can do. Once you admit it, you are that much closer to being happy. To actually realize that you have the power to take the steps and action that lead to happiness is even scarier.  But the true, shake-in-your-boots fear comes when you actually take that action. When you face the fear and take a leap of faith. Trust that faith you have in your decision. The view from the other side is worth it. Just like you are the only one who can admit that you are unhappy, you are also the only one who can decide to be happy and take the steps to get there. No one else can do that for you. Happiness isn’t given, or even something the universe owes to you, so be selfish and seek it out with a vengeance. 

 

Living in Lyme “hell”

Almost 3 years ago now, Zach and I worked one last summer at our beloved Summer Camp. That summer was supposed to be the best yet; we were both on senior staff, all of our closest friends would be there and as soon as camp was over we would be taking the California road trip of our dreams. Halfway through the summer, right around the time of our anniversary, Zach became ill. His symptoms were very much meningitis-like, but when he went to the camp doctor he was told if he was vaccinated then it wasn’t meningitis and probably just the flu. He was sent on his way with some tylenol for the extreme back and neck pain (he worked in climbing so he “could have pulled something”) and orders to rest. After over a week of this I vividly remember we were sitting in my car and I was looking up his symptoms online. One thing kept coming up: Lyme Disease. It made sense. Zach worked in a wooded area, we were in North-East Pennsylvania, and he spent his days outside. After quite a few warmer winters, the deer population was out of control (I had never seen so many deer before!) so vector borne viruses like Lyme, were at an all time high. I kept reading words like “epidemic” yet no one even thought to test Zach for Lyme. He did not think it was Lyme because he never had a rash or found a tick on his body. If you read up on Lyme, the literature almost makes it seem that you have to present the classic bullseye rash if you have Lyme. This went on for two months, and it was really scary to see such a fit and active young man literally just start to melt away. Zach is not a big guy to begin with, but all of his clothes started falling off of him, he was constantly tired, battling stomach issues and dizziness and he was also impossible to be around. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt knowing that something was going on but I also seriously considered leaving him because it was so bad and he kept brushing off how awful he felt. When we were in California, he almost fainted 3 minutes into a hike- this is a guy who can get up any random day and run 20+ km with no complaints. It just wasn’t right.

When Zach returned home, he went to another doctor. He was prescribed beta blockers (a bandaid solution) for his irregular heart beat. It was only after he insisted (or I insisted while on the phone with him) that they test him for Lyme.

Not surprisingly, all of the tests came back positive.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and this post is really all about that, to make you aware of what Lyme can look like. Lyme carrying ticks have been confirmed in Toronto (not surprising considering how many cases have been reported by our neighbours directly to the south and our warm winter) so it is inevitable that if you spend time outdoors, you will come in contact with ticks.

Today, Zach is here to tell his story about his experience with the disease. Please read on and share.


Facial Palsy- one of the many symptoms

Facial Palsy- one of the many symptoms

So this is a story about Lyme disease. This is a story about the often misdiagnosed tick-borne disease that’s quietly causing disarray in the medical community. I’m not going to speak in absolute medical terms here (I’m not a doctor); I’d rather speak about this from a personal side. So here we go.

Late summer 2013 – I had just finished working my last of 3 summers at Island Lake, where I met my amazing wife Ali. This summer at camp was unlike any of the other 2 summers though. It will always be remembered, for me, as one of the worst summers of my life, and now how I wanted my last summer to go. However, camp wasn’t ruined for me because of the usual reasons – a relationship gone wrong or an insufferable boss. That honour belongs to Lyme disease. I’ll remember the sequence of events forever, like they happened just the day before. It started with back pain and progressed through various other types of symptoms until I literally hated everything and everyone in my life. Hate is a strong word, but the irritability associated with Lyme disease is the real deal. For example, on our post-camp vacation in California, Ali stepped on a wasp, barefoot while walking along the beach. In a Lyme-induced rage, I told her off and made sure she kn ew that she was inconveniencing me by being a human that feels pain. Lyme-me was a truly dickish guy. So this leads me to the bulk of the story.

What exactly was I feeling? There’s no good answer here for what I was feeling throughout this whole experience. With Lyme disease, it really seems like the Universe throws the kitchen sink at you. I mentioned back pain (which made me double over) and I wish that was the worst of it. They say that Lyme starts off like meningitis and then it’s everybody’s guess, what’s next. Well, that’s true. I had:

•Fevers

•Irritability/hatred towards everything

•Diabetes-like bladder control

•Hot flashes and dizzy spells that ended with me blacking out at really inopportune times

•Night sweats

•Facial palsy

•Heart palpitations caused by fluid and swelling around my heart

•Constant light-headedness

•No appetite (and resulting weight loss)

•Depression

•Insomnia

•Nausea

•Fatigue

•Slight alcohol intolerance

•Etc. Etc. Etc., the list goes on

But forget about the symptoms. They’re scary as a whole and all, but the scariest thing about Lyme is that there are no standard symptoms. This disease is f*****g scary; absolutely scary. And it breeds a sense of hopelessness in most of its prisoners. My treatment was gruelling (I’m not trying to compare this to chemotherapy, etc.), with a 3 week oral antibiotic regimen followed by a 3 week IV antibiotic regimen with twice-a-day infusions, after my EKG and echo revealed worsening heart irregularities. To this day, I assume that treatment completely worked, and mostly, I do live a normal life. It wasn’t an easy recovery process and it did take some time to feel normal again. However, I notice tiny things that are different about this “new” normal life – I’m more generally fatigued, I struggle with my alcohol tolerance, my digestion has never quite been the same and every so often I feel my heart pumping abnormally.

But in classic Lyme fashion, that was the treatment specific to me. Even the treatment is completely different depending on the individual and how early it’s caught. I caught mine early on, at the beginning of the second stage (Lyme has 3 stages) thanks to Ali’s persistence (she knew this was Lyme from day one somehow), even though I didn’t have the “bullseye rash”, which actually only appears in about 25% of reported cases.

So I somehow caught this mysterious disease, which has mysterious symptoms and doesn’t have a standardized treatment. Fun right? Ali and I struggled through this process. She was understandably worried, which led to all of our long distance phone calls being hijacked by conversation about the best Lyme-literate doctors in Chicago and the most recent research. It was so hard to go through all of this and not be in the same place. There was so much that was unknown and neither of us had any sort of answer as to what was going to happen. It just seemed like it was one piece of bad news after another and everyone was dancing in circles not sure how to proceed. I’m so thankful to have Ali in my life, and I’m especially lucky to have had her throughout that whole process. Who knows how long it could have gone on had she not insisted that it was Lyme.  It was also unbelievably difficult to go through this while battling with insurance companies (something that is still going on to this day- Canadians, never take your health care for granted).

Once I started working with an infectious disease doctor things got a lot easier. Finally someone had some answers and was able to help me through the healing process. I was grateful for my doctors who helped get me better, but I know that a lot of people often feel failed by the medical community when it comes to Lyme. This is definitely a problem in Canada, where there are not as many confirmed cases and the health care system lacks knowledge.

Nearly November and starting to feel better

Nearly November and starting to feel better

Since there is so much unknown about Lyme, it seems that Doctors don’t really test for it unless you say “test me for Lyme disease”. The biggest thing that I want everyone to take from this is to always remember to be an advocate for yourself and your own health. There are thousands and thousands of cases that are not diagnosed every single year due to the ambiguous symptoms. This can go on for years and only gets worse over time. The number of reported cases is shockingly high but it is estimated that the actual number of cases is probably double those reported.

Doctors are amazing people, but it is so important to speak up and trust your gut, not just taking what someone else tells you for the truth. If you have meningitis or even mono like symptoms that will not go away, please talk to your doctor about Lyme. Tests can also come back as false negatives with Lyme as well, and there isn’t a gold standard for testing. There are a lot of unknown and scary factors surrounding Lyme.

Remember, most people won’t present a bullseye rash, this is something that a lot of doctors don’t always seem to know. This may be especially true in a place like Toronto where a lot of cases have not popped up yet. If you spend time outdoors and have been in a grassy or wooded area, check yourself for ticks, this is what a tick looks like. Have your partner check you for ticks. Double check even. If you find one, this is how you remove it. Take it to your doctor. Wear long pants if you are out hiking, or clothes that are light in colour so you can see a tick. Check your pets for ticks too. Also remember that sometimes they are incredibly small, the size of a grain of sand, a pin point or a poppy seed. If you have a lot of dark hair like I do, you may never find a tick. This is why it is so important to always listen to your body.

For more information please visit these sites:

Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Saying yes to every opportunity

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I tend to be a pretty positive person but as anyone else who has been on the job hunt knows, it can be hard to keep your head up while searching for the next opportunity, particularly if you work in a pretty small field like I do. If one thing is true, job hunting isn’t as simple as just sending off resumes and cover letters and waiting to hear back (although that is how I got my last job, so I’m just going to assume that was my one lucky chance and it probably won’t happen again).

In recent weeks, I have really been striving to just get myself out of the house and meet people, regardless of whether or not it will help my job search. I think the hardest thing for me about being at home is that I don’t get to talk to adults all day (just the cat) and as an extrovert who gets my energy from other people, this isn’t easy. Hence, getting out of the house and meeting people. Besides, you never know what can come your way just by getting out there and having an open mind.

A few weeks back I signed up for a lunch n’ learn at BrainStation, which is an amazing learning space here in Toronto offering workshops, courses and other great offerings (like yoga! And bonus, there is a great coffee shop attached to it!) The lunch n’ learn was with the experiential marketing specialist from Vega, Kelsey Reidl. I signed up because I love Vega and their products, and for 10 bucks how could I say no to a delicious lunch and the chance to sit in a room with potentially a bunch of other wellness folk? I was happy to learn that Kelsey and I have a lot in common- we are both actively involved in the fitness community here in Toronto, love connecting with people and enjoy a good cup of coffee!

As Kelsey told the story of her journey and what steps and opportunities led her to her role with Vega I found myself deeply inspired and feeling a little more hopeful about my own current job hunt. But before I ramble on about it, I am overjoyed to share that Kelsey is here herself today to talk about her journey in her own words- how saying yes and taking chances can not only lead you to your dream job but impact your life in so many ways. Read on and prepare to be inspired- whether you are job hunting or not! (also, I’m glad that I’ve been succeeding at #4!)


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I am so excited to be guest posting on Happy Fit and Free today! Like Ali, I’m a local fitness and health enthusiast currently living in Toronto. When I moved to Toronto I had no idea what the journey I was about to embark on would look like, but with constant curiosity and a positive attitude I made sure that each day included some sort of adventure. What’s more is that on this path, I truly have found myself to be at a place in my life and in my journey that I truly feel happy, have communities in fitness, and am creating more and more freedom to live my life to the fullest each day!

Today, and for the past few years, I’ve been hanging out in what I’ll call my ‘yes phase’. This phase of my life was really ignited when I moved to Toronto and knew next to nobody, and was not familiar with my surroundings.

What I’m chatting about is not just applicable to those of you in new places though. By turning on your ‘yes phase’ you are embracing a chapter of your life that can bring about great shifts and welcomed changes to your routine. Perhaps you are that someone who is ready for more, whatever that may be, and can find inspiration to look for it through some of tips.

As I reflect on what got me to where I am today as a marketing specialist, nutritionist, and lifestyle coach, it was simply about saying ‘yes’ to the right opportunities and really believing that the more that I put myself out there, the more opportunity could (and would!) come my way.

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I’m going to elaborate more specifically on action items that I took to launch me towards more success in all areas of my life;

Other people will believe in you, before you believe in yourself

When people ask me to speak at an event or to help them with their nutrition, I still have a moment of wondering why in the world I would be the right person. There’s an element of self-doubt or fear that many of us are challenged with on a daily basis that we need to get over!

When people ask me to speak at an event or to help them with their nutrition, I still have a moment of wondering why in the world I would be the right person. There’s an element of self-doubt or fear that many of us are challenged with on a daily basis that we need to get over!

Others will often believe in you and take a leap on your skills before you even solidify that you’re great at them, but I speak from experience when I say it doesn’t matter!

In these moments of being challenged with an opportunity or the moments of being believed in to take a leap, you MUST say yes and do it whether the confidence is there or not. That can be practiced and worked on after you commit with a ‘yes’. All that it takes for others to believe strongly in you is for you to exude your unique confidence and skill set with grace

Join a new community

If you’re stuck in your longtime friend bubble, it’s time to push along and expand your network! Opportunities present themselves when you join new communities and establish relationships with key people.

As I mentioned, coming to a new city with very few friends and family was daunting to me. I had this hunger to connect with like-minded people though, so I decided to pursue some new communities that would help me meet others. For me that included joining and working at a small gym, attending evening classes at a local tech school, asking to join various online communities (i.e. a women’s networking group on FB), and even developing relationships through social platforms like Instagram.
Community is such an important piece of our lives that we often neglect as young and independent people. But remember that it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a community to propel you to the top…

Share your story

Are you an introvert or extrovert? Maybe you’re a combo, but regardless of what your personality type is I want you to spend an afternoon crafting your story or your elevator pitch.
I used to hang around an amazing lady who was well connected in the health industry. When she would introduce me to any of her friends, she would go beyond just ‘Kelsey this is Jane, Jane this is Kelsey’. She went deeper and always gave a quick bio on each person she was connecting.
It would be something like ‘Kelsey this is Jane, my former roommate who runs the blog The Fitness Connection and adopted that cute rescue dog I showed you a picture of. And Jane, Kelsey is my colleague at work and we were the ones who created the video on how to execute a great social media campaign’. See the difference?
First, I think it’s important to start introducing our friends with more than a name. Give them context and bring them to life so that conversation flows immediately after an introduction.
Second, and the point to the above story, is that we should start thinking about our own elevator pitch for introductions. If you’re stumped, think of what you’d want your friends to say about you or what qualities you aspire to have. Practice this 30 second pitch and live it out, every day. Remember that you are your own brand, and have an opportunity to sell yourself at every interaction. These interactions are what create opportunity.

Get out more

Still unsure of how you’re going to create more opportunity for yourself? Here’s the most difficult piece… You need to get out of your house more.
You can have the most crafted elevator pitch and be a member of the most influential community, but if you never physically show up you’re missing opportunity.

For example, when I pulled myself off the couch last week to attend a run club I ended up getting a wonderful introduction from a friend saying ‘Kelsey is a great sport nutritionist’. Not only did this run club allow me to join a new community, it allowed me to then share my story and background as a sport nutritionist with someone new, and therefore give people the opportunity to learn about my services and believe in me enough to hire me.

All of the pieces came together in that moment. And this is why it’s important to say yes to opportunity (the right ones anyway) and infuse a bit more hustle into your day if you’re looking to create connection.

I’ll leave you with a quote… “Most of what exists in the universe—our actions and all other forces, resources and ideas have little value and yields few result. On the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact.” In other words this quote is the concept that 80% of our results come from 20% our efforts… so my advice to you is to start making more efforts.

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Kelsey’s Bio

Kelsey Reidl is a holistic nutritionist, fitness instructor, and business mentor for driven women who are ready to embrace a more natural life through clean nutrition + daily self-care. As a multi-passionate entrepreneur she keeps busy educating on essential oils + whole food nutrition, sweating at studios around the city, snapping photos of food, and checking out all of the amazing coffee shops around town. Follow her on instagram and twitter: @kelseyreidl

 

A Healthy Mother’s Day

Often times any sort of Holiday or celebration can side track our healthy lifestyle goals. Of course, a Holiday is definitely a good reason to indulge a little bit, but that doesn’t mean going all out. With mother’s day coming up this weekend, I know a lot of people (myself included) like to head out for a huge meal, or spoil mum with a feast of chocolate and cake (and wine!) at home. This year, I tried to keep it a little healthier as we planned what we were going to do. By no means was this my way of saying to my lovely mum that she needs to be healthier, but more so, she is just very much like me; health-conscious and tries hard to stay on track. I thought I would share it all with you here and perhaps inspire you to plan activities that are a little healthier but still centred around our superheroes, our Mums!

Take a trip to a Flower Market! On Saturday mum and I will be heading to the Blossom and Bloom Flower market here in Toronto at Union station. This will be a nice way to get in a bit of movement (walking there and back, and around the market), get outside, and allows us to spend some quality time together with nature, a proven way to reduce stress. Sure, mani pedis are fun, but that involves sitting down and inhaling nasty chemicals.

Photo from blossomandbloom.com

Photo from blossomandbloomshow.com

Brunch at Home: Instead of heading out to a restaurant where we will be likely to indulge in less-than healthy brunch food, I will be hosting a home made brunch right here for mum and grandma! On the menu; lemon ricotta coconut flour pancakes, egg and veggies frittata, fresh fruit salad and grapefruit juice (maybe with some champagne in it hehe). Making a brunch at home is a guaranteed way to have a healthier day, you know exactly what is going into everything you make and have more control over portion size as well.

Photo from healthyrecipeblog.com

Photo from healthyrecipeblog.com

Treats: instead of spoiling mum with tons of chocolate (she would kill me), I’m going to make these delicious looking vanilla macaroons made with genuine health fermented vegan protein + powder. These treats are loaded with healthy fats and protein and are sure to satisfy. I love this protein powder because mum, like me, often has a hard time digesting whey and soy. This powder is made from all veggie protein (no soy!) and fermented so you won’t be left feeling bloated after consuming. All the leftovers for mum obviously. I’ll also cut up and serve some of their amazing protein bars – these things are seriously delicious and taste like Candy. They also make a great alternative gift to chocolate for this health conscious mums out there 😉 Though, if you do want to spoil mum with chocolate I always recommend ChocoSol, of course!

Photo from meghantelpner.com

Photo from meghantelpner.com

Another great way to spoil mum without all the junk is buying her a gift that she can use instead of eat. I’ve had my eyes on these Rosefield watches and I think a lot of mums out there would love one!

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What are you doing to spoil your mum this Sunday?

P.S. Since I’m a foster mum to two puppies, do I get spoiled too? 😉

Redemption

“Hello fear, thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.” -Cheryl Strayed

On Sunday morning at about 8:25am I hurried into a crowd of people as it rained down on us. I was cold, shivering, wet and incredibly tired. I had slept about 4 and half hours the night before. I had acid reflux from the generous glasses of red wine I had the night before. My stomach didn’t feel quite right, my left contact was bugging me and I felt a little twang of pain in my right knee.

Fast forward to 2 hours and 15 minutes later, I’m soaking wet, super hungry, my makeup has run down my face, my right knee is throbbing, I have a terrible stitch in my side and can feel about 3 pulsing blisters on my feet. Yet, I am overjoyed. I just crossed the finish line of my 4th half-marathon, my second in 2 weeks, and I finally beat my PB from almost two years ago, something I’d been chasing ever since.

After my mishap in Montreal last week I kept oscillating between wanting to quit running and wanting to fight back and train harder. A lot of my running friends were running the GoodLife half marathon and I was honestly feeling a little jealous. I wanted to give it another go and be out there  on the course running with them. The course has a pretty big net downhill which appealed to me and I was kicking myself for running Montreal when I should have just signed up for GoodLife, on home turf.

“Why don’t you just do it?” a running friend asked me. No, that wasn’t a good idea, was it? I had just run a half marathon a few days ago. But….I wasn’t sore. In fact, I barely felt like I had been on a long training run (probably because I walked so much). Her voice was in my head all week. I couldn’t possibly do it could I? Was it really stupid if I did?

Something you may or may not know about me is that I am relentlessly determined, or maybe we could say stubbornly relentless (just ask my husband). Once I have an idea in my head, I can’t let it go. And so, I found myself toeing the start line on Sunday morning for the GoodLife half.

I cared a lot about this race, only I also didn’t really care at all. I was so terrified that it was going to be another disaster that I didn’t really tell anyone (me, not tell anyone? about running? unheard of). My fear almost kept me in a zen-like state. I figured I didn’t really have anything to lose though (except my pride, my ego, maybe my knee…) and did it anyway.

Of course I was hoping for that PB, but I honestly just didn’t really think it would happen after last week. After only really committing to running the race on Friday, I tried to approach Sunday with little to no strategy. I didn’t set any reminders to drink water on Saturday. I didn’t monitor what I ate. I drank wine. I went to bed late. I didn’t take any pre-race photos of my outfit the night before, or even really get my clothes ready (of course I threw together an outfit shot the morning of). I didn’t chug a bunch of water on Sunday morning. I didn’t eat what I normally would before a run. Instead, I ate what I wanted. An egg, a piece of toast to go with it and a half a piece of toast with peanut butter. The weather sucked, it was raining, grey, windy and pretty cold.

Haphazard Outfit Shot

Haphazard Outfit Shot

I drove up to the start line with two running friends and my friend Rachel and I decided that we would start together and hopefully stick with each other as long as we could. Before I knew it, we were off. We took it nice and slow, chatted away and in my head I was just treating it like a nice easy long run.

I had broken down this race into 3 separate parts and I had a plan to get through them all. Part 1 took us from the start line to km 6, Yonge and Sheppard to the area where the sporting Life 10k starts. The first 2km or so are gentle with a steep decline, BUT around km 3, that becomes a steep incline. This hill really is the only tough part of the race and I was pretty nervous about it. To me, this was going to be the biggest challenge and I just wanted to run it without stopping. I figured once I was over this hill, the worst would be behind me, and I was right. My plan for part 1 was to take it nice and easy and not stop. I had never run this stretch of Yonge and wanted to conserve my energy. I made it up the hill without walking. It was a doozy though and seemed to never end but oh man it felt good to reach the top. From there, I kept it slow and steady until we reached the Yonge and Blythwood area.

Once we reached the same area where the Sporting Life 10k starts, I knew it was time to coast. I was familiar with this area having run it many times (going both south and north) and was excited to have it fly by. I called this part 2, a nice easy downhill from about km 6 – km 15 or so, ending at King and River, right around my neighbourhood. This was my time to gain some speed and pick it up a bit and I did just that. In what felt like no time we had reached Rosedale Valley Road and km 11. I started to tire a little bit, but nothing extreme. The weather, while not ideal was actually feeling kind of nice at this point. It was cloudy so there was no sun beating down (I hate that when I run), and the rain had turned into a nice mist. Around km 13.5 I started to feel a bit light headed and started eating the banana brownie I had packed. At about km 15, the end of “section 2” where the Bayview Extension meets the King East area, my knee started feeling really off. It wasn’t bad enough to stop, but it was painful. I knew it was going to be an uncomfortable finish but didn’t think I’d be putting myself in any danger by continuing on. I tried to stretch it out as best I could as I ran by doing some weird hopping kicking movements that I can’t even really explain.

At about km 15.5 I saw Hubs smiling face and he jumped on the course with me to pace me to the end. This was part 3 for me, which spanned from King and River to Ontario Place. I knew this meant it was time to push it and finish strong but I tried to approached it nonchalantly, almost as if I were going for a 6k tempo run through my own neighbourhood as I would on any given day. I knew the route well and knew how quickly it would pass. I also knew this was going to be the hardest part for me. I have always struggled around this mark in any race. I saw my dad at km 17 when I was getting pretty tired and doing a sad limp run from my knee pain. His cheering definitely helped. I had to take it back a notch a few times during this part but I didn’t walk. I was so close to the end. Of course, at about km 19.5 I got a terrible stitch but I was so determined to run through it after making it so far. Right around the 20k mark it was almost unbearable, but it faded away to a dull ache after a couple hundred metres. Zach left the course just after this and I knew it was time to give it my all. I always try and sprint the last 500m, but this time I took off with about 700m to go and I don’t even know where I got the energy. I literally left everything out there on the course. This is always my favourite moment of a race and it always feels like the crowd is there roaring for just me. I knew I had achieved that PB and I pumped my fists up in victory as I crossed the line. I think I maybe even yelled “YES!”

I quickly realized that not only was this a PB, but I also had run a half for the very first time with NO walk breaks and even better, if my calculations were correct- I ran a negative split! It felt amazing!

I waited in line for my medal and immediately realized as I cooled down just how awful the weather hard turned again. Very quickly, I began shivering uncontrollably and I noticed that the wind was nearly  blowing over everything in its path. Still, the smile couldn’t be wiped from my face.  I obviously enjoyed a post-race coffee and butter tart to celebrate 🙂

Frozen but overjoyed

Frozen but overjoyed

Once home I was VERY happy to have a hot bath and the run already started to feel like a distant dream. Did that REALLY happen? It was such an amazing day and I continued the celebrations with a pizza and two beers on the couch in our cozy condo.

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Thank you to everyone for believing in me and for the congrats! I’m having a nice week of recovery and only running a few times because I am also running the Sporting Life 10k next week! It’s such a fun race and pretty much a guaranteed PB every year. After that, I’m going to step back a bit from running (maybe do a long run and an easy run every week) until I start my training for the Chicago Marathon in June. I figure this is a good time to really work and focus on my core strength (hello bathing suit season!) and maybe figure out what’s going on with my knee!

Sometimes, you just have to tap into that fear and show it who is boss. 

Spring Tips for Eating Well

I know that it is now April (though you wouldn’t be able to tell by the blast of snow we received here in Toronto) but it was just March. For those who do not know, March is Nutrition Month, this is certainly a National Health Observance that I can get behind and the inspiration behind this post. Inspiring people to eat well is something I enjoy so much- especially once people realize HOW GOOD (and how easy) healthy food can be, dessert included!!!

Maybe it’s the (impending) arrival of spring, or the post-easter binge guilt getting to people but over the last few days I’ve had A LOT of friends telling me that enough is enough and they are really needing to get back on the healthy eating train (amen, I am right there with you).

But what is nutrition? What constitutes a healthy nutritious diet? There is SO MUCH information out there. Gluten-free? Sugar-free? Paleo? Vegan? Fat-free? Juicing? It’s hard to wrap your head around it all isnt it? And once you finally get on board with a certain diet, everything seems to change faster than you can say “saturated fat”.

However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s not. Following a nutritious diet is easier than you may think. The first step in this involves ignoring all forms of media you see surrounding healthy eating and health foods, present and past. Okay, so maybe that part is hard. Especially when you see beautiful models promoting a certain diet who tell you if you do what they do, you’ll look like them (they’re lying). Now, once you are able to block that out, throw out what your grandma has told you regarding nutrition (“eggs are high in cholesterol and therefore bad for you!”) and try and ignore your mother too (“whole-fat milk will make you fat!”). Okay, hard part over. Here comes the easy part.

Here’s the secret: Eat real food.

If you follow this rule, you will be healthy, you will feel great and you will be able to eat guilt-free.

What is real food? Real food is something that grows in the ground or is raised on the ground and has been minimally processed. Plants, animals, it’s all real food. Boxed diet chocolate granola bars? Not real food.

Here are the guidelines I follow when it comes to determining what counts as real food:

If you must eat a boxed or packaged meal or food product, read the ingredients. Are they chemicals? Something made in a lab? Do you know what those things are? Can you pronounce them? Are they all things that are grown in the ground? If you can answer “yes” to the last three questions, then go ahead, eat it. Same thing goes for eating out at restaurants.

Limit/eliminate refined sugar as much as possible. But wait, sugar comes from a plant doesn’t it? You’re right it does. But do you know how much work goes into processing that sugar cane to get the sugar? A lot. But what about organic cane sugar? It’s still processed sugar. But what about strawberries? Grapes? They are high in sugar sure, BUT (and this is a big but), they are good sugar, and they aren’t processed. Those grapes and those strawberries are exactly the way nature intended them to be. Eat up. If you need a sweetener for baking, reach for something like pure maple syrup or honey, as they are not as processed and are closer to their natural state compared to something like white sugar.

Do you see where I’m going here?

What about dairy? I thought dairy fat was bad. False! Dairy fat is good and can actually be an aid in weight loss. In fact, go for the full-fat kind. I’m serious. It will fill you up and keep you fuller longer, not to mention it’s full of protein and doesn’t go through as much processing as it’s low-fat versions. (Bonus points if you can get your hands on non-homogenized products that are pasteurized at the lowest temperatures).

What about meat and eggs? Meat is super complicated and as someone who follows a vegan-ish diet, it’s hard for me to tell you what meat to eat and what meat to not eat. Personal opinions and choices aside, meat isn’t bad for you as long as it’s not ALL you’re eating and you don’t eat it with every meal. It is a great source of protein, and rich in B vitamins and iron. Most people will get more than enough protein by eating a balanced plant-based (with or without dairy) diet, but meat can certainly help you get more. The key here: keep it as natural as possible (back to my main theme). Natural means you’re eating a cow that was raised in a natural environment, that ate a natural diet. You are what you eat, therefore, you are what you eat eats as well. If you eat a cow who ate lush green grass and NOT processed corn feed, you are going to get the health benefits of eating something that ate something healthy, as nature intended.

Don’t be afraid of fat. We need fat, it is crucial to brain functioning and as long as we are getting real, good fats, we won’t gain weight. Remember again that dairy fat is good, so is the fat that is found in things like nuts, olive oil and avocados.

Plants. Eat all the plants. All of them. In every form. In any way. Chopped, sautéed, steamed, raw, roasted, purred, heck even fried. Calories don’t count when it comes to veggies. DIG IN.

When it comes to my own eating I follow this one simple rule, as said by Michael Pollan: “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants”

The “not too much” brings me to another important point. Eat until you are full. Eat when you are hungry. If you eat mostly real foods, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll eat too much.

One last thing to remember- eating well doesn’t always mean total deprivation of all the yummy things. Sure, if you want to be the absolute best you can be, by all means, go all in. I just don’t think that this type of lifestyle is realistic or sustainable for most of us. What is a birthday without a birthday cake? What is a trip to the cottage without some chips? It’s all about moderation. Moderation doesn’t mean you can eat these things in moderation once a day, but maybe once a week or once every other week. When you do indulge, please don’t feel guilty, the last thing anyone wants is to have a negative relationship with food. Food is amazing, it brings us together, it nourishes us and it gives us energy- not to mention, it brings us so much joy!

Keep it simple, remember these few things and you’ll be feeling great in no time at all!

 

Some suggested reading:

“In defence of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto” -Michael Pollan

“Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” – Michael Moss

“Eating Animals” – Jonathan Safran Foer (this is a good read if you are pondering the philosophy and the ethics behind eating meat, of course it encourages a vegetarian diet but it talks about how unnatural the meat industry is, worth a read even if you vow to not never up meat)

Goals and Accountability

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How many others out there have vowed to or set out to accomplish something or make a change and have not been able to stick to it? How many of you have uttered the words “I’ll start tomorrow” or “next week I will really start”? Come on, don’t be embarrassed, I know I’ve done it! In fact, I think I do it on a weekly basis.

As an undergraduate, I wrote my thesis on Goal-Setting Theory. Locke & Latham’s Goal-Setting Theory states that in order for someone to work hard towards achieving a goal it has to be specific and challenging (but not too challenging). People who set a specific and challenging goal are much more likely to achieve it than those who set a “do your best” goal.

I often think of this when I take a hard look at my own goal-setting habits and techniques. When it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, I don’t think that goals should be all-or-nothing big goals. For example, I often set goals that are maybe a bit too challenging (to me), such as “I’m going to work out every day of the week for the next 6 months,”  “I’m going to run a marathon” or “I’m not going to have any sweets for an entire month”. Furthermore, these goals are seriously lacking in specificity. What constitutes a workout? What counts as a sweet? What steps are involved in running a marathon? When I set out to achieve these things, they are simply too challenging and when I am (inevitably) faced with failure, I often just say “well, I’ll try my best”. This is okay, and trying your best is certainly a step in the right direction. However, I would argue that it makes room for excuses and won’t actually lead to achieving a goal or making a lasting change.

With summer coming up, a lot of friends have been asking me for advice on how to reach a goal (running a certain race, fitting back into an old bikini, etc) and I certainly have some for myself as well. A lot of these friends are frustrated because these goals are something they have tried to reach before and haven’t been able to. If you too are trying to achieve something, here is my advice to you:

  • Make your goal specific. Instead of “I’m going to run a marathon” make it something like “I’m going to run a marathon in October, and to get there I am going to start training at the end of May and dedicate 4 days/week to running”. Instead of “I’m going to workout every day of the week for 6 months” make it something like “I am going to work out 7 times a week, where each workout will last 30 minutes”. Instead of “I’m not going to eat any sweets for a month” change it to “I’m not going to eat any sweets that are made from refined sugars or over 250 calories”.
  • Make your goal challenging, but not too challenging.  For me, this means taking a step back and being honest with myself. What is realistic? What do I already do but can improve upon? For instance, I currently run about 3 days a week. This has become a part of my routine and most weeks it is “easy” enough to fit in but sometimes it can still be a challenge. I realize however that training for a marathon involves a little more. Aiming to run an extra day/week is hard because it is more than I already do. But, it is not overly challenging. Instead of saying “I’m not going to eat any sweets for a month” (too challenging), limiting myself to only eating sweets made without refined ingredients will still be a challenge (I LOVE SWEETS) but is more attainable. I can say no to an indulgent sugary easter chocolate bar knowing that I can still eat one of my homemade nut butter cups, or enjoy a few pieces of high quality dark chocolate.

Thirdly, I am going to add an additional point that I find helps me reach a goal just as much as setting specific challenging goals.

  • Hold yourself accountable. Accountability goes a long way when it comes to reaching a goal. Have a friend join you as you reach for your goal. Having support and encouragement through it all makes it easier and you’ll be less likely to give up if someone is right there with you. If you can’t get a friend on board, join a group of like-minded people working towards similar goals and build a community (running with a club helps me immensely with my running goals). Sign up for a bootcamp, take a healthy cooking class, join an online community, there are a lot of groups out there that can help! Talk about it. People who are running marathons are known for this. It’s not about boasting, it’s about making it known so that it’s easier to stick to. If you talk about it, it becomes a part of your regular thought patterns and conversations, serving as a constant reminder to keep with it. Be that annoying person, tell everyone about your goal. Reward yourself. This can be a small reward for every step, or a big reward once you reach the goal. Try and keep these rewards healthy and not food based, especially if your goal is weight loss. For example, it is no secret that I love workout clothes. In the past I have been successful reaching a healthy lifestyle goal if I allow myself to purchase a new piece of active wear at the end of each successful month.

Don’t give up! Setting a goal can be daunting but it should also excite you. Be realistic with yourself but don’t forget that it should be hard! If it wasn’t, you would have already done it. Hang in there and keep pushing!

How to Deal- Late Night Snack Attacks

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I don’t know about you, but I have a serious love affair with snacking and always have. I find during the day I am very mindful about what I eat and what snacks I consume. However, once I’m at home, dinner finished, workout done and cuddled up on the couch, my snacking becomes completely mindless. This is a phenomenon that has been observed time and time again so I know that I am not alone in this. Yet, even as someone who is completely conscious of living a healthy lifestyle, that all seems to so quickly fly out the window the second I sit down in front of the TV at night (which I will admit, in the winter it has become a daily thing- I’m not perfect). It doesn’t even matter if I’m full from dinner still- all of the sudden I want to eat EVERYTHING (and usually everything that is bad for me). Today I thought I’d share with you what I do to help combat this:

  • If I’m not hungry and I keep feeling like I need to eat something, I’ll TURN OFF THE TV and go into my bedroom and read. Reading stimulates my mind enough for me to stop thinking about eating ALL THE SNACKS.
  • As soon as I find myself wanting to snack while I watch TV I stop and ask myself “am I really hungry? did I eat enough today?” If I am not really hungry, I’ll drink a big glass of water or make some tea and then reassess. If I realize that I didn’t eat enough, I’ll then consider having a snack. This helps me with make my sense of my snack cravings and makes me conscious of what is going on in my body and mind.
  • I think about how I will feel tomorrow. Sure, a giant bag of bulk candy or a bag of chips may sound great in the moment, but how will I feel after I eat it or the next morning? Chances are, not great. Knowing this and keeping it in mind is sometimes enough to prevent a snack attack.
  • I’ll brush my teeth. Once my teeth are all minty fresh I am less inclined to snack.

IF I must snack simply because my craving is taking over or I really am still hungry, here is how I deal, because let’s get real, I can’t watch “The Bachelor” without a snack…

The key here is to make CONSCIOUS and MINDFUL decisions of what goes in to my body, and yes, I do believe that night time snacking is not always a bad thing and can be a part of a healthy lifestyle:

  • As noted above, I will always try and drink a big glass of water or have a tea first and then see if I still want to snack.
  • I always make sure that I have healthy snacks on hand, so even if I eat a lot of said healthy snack, it won’t throw my body off that much. Preparation is key here. When planning out my meals and writing my weekly grocery list I always include healthy snacks.
  • Keep rich, “healthy” chocolate on hand, a.k.a. NOT Cadbury mini eggs. I can eat a million of those without stopping. However, when I have good, rich, dark and low-sugar chocolate around, I can eat one to three pieces of it and feel totally satisfied.
    • I recommend chocosol or something similar
    • A quick trick to make a healthy chocolate bar in a pinch- melt some coconut oil on the stove top and add cocoa powder and natural sweetener of choice (maple syrup or honey) to taste. Poor into the bottom of a muffin cup or small container and place it in the freezer. In a short period of time you’ll have a delicious creamy chocolate treat!
  • Bake healthy and satisfying “treats” ahead of time to have on hand when you want a snack! Anything packed with healthy fats and superfoods that mock a traditional treat is great:
  • If you’re more of a chips and salty/crunchy kind of snacker, reach for (or make) some of these healthier choices:
    • Popcorn! An air popper is a quick and easy way to make a healthy snack. Popcorn is packed with fibre and when you make it yourself you aren’t going to be eating a bunch of chemicals like the ones found in the microwave varieties. Top with whatever you like- butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, or my personal favourite- nutritional yeast
    • Kale chips as so easy to make (and way cheaper than buying store bought kale chips) and almost taste exactly like potato chips. Follow this recipe and use an oil spray bottle for flawless results
    • Olives are good for you and taste delicious too. Plus, they’re so salty it’s hard to eat too many
    • Pickles- same as above!

If you must indulge in the less-than-good kind of snack (hey, it happens) the key thing to remember is portion control. I know that if I buy a Costco size bag of mini eggs or a family size bag of chips, I will eat the whole thing (it’s not my fault!) so if I do give in to my less-than-ideal cravings, I make sure I only buy a small quantity so I literally can’t eat more than that small amount. Think a mini bag of mini eggs, a snack size bag of chips, a mini cupcake. BUT, always remember, the less you eat these things, the less you want them. Giving into these cravings is a sure fire way to make you crave even more (it’s science guys, I’m not making this up).

I hope this helps those late night snackers like me! Have a great night everyone and happy (healthy) snacking!

27 Kilometres for 27 Years

With an early January birthday, I often feel that my birthday is the REAL beginning of a new year, because it is literally a new year, at least for me. I find it hard to believe that as of last Thursday, I am now in my 28th year of life. The highlight of my day may have been when my mum FaceTimed me from school and had her entire kindergarten class sing “happy birthday” to me. The most endearing part of this is when they did the “are you 1, are you 2, ” part and the kids stopped counting at 9. I’m not sure if they just didn’t know how to count beyond 9 or if they just couldn’t imagine that their teacher had a “kid” over the age of 9. With a bit of coaxing, they (exhaustingly) made it to 27, and I think I heard one kid say “wow!” haha. I hear ya kid, when I was that age, if someone said “27” I would have thought wow too. Yet here I am, now in my LATE twenties, when most days I still feel about…14.

I will say, as I mentioned around New Years, I’m always amazed at how quickly time seems to pass as I grow up. With each year, it just seems to go faster and 26 FLEW by, and what a year it was. Being in the latter half of my 20s has without a doubt been such an amazing stage of my life thus far. Of course it  has had its challenges, but I am so acutely aware and have enough perspective to know that these challenges are often somewhat juvenile, and in the grand scheme of things, life in my 20s has been truly charmed and dare I say “easy” (I’m being really positive today guys).

As 27 approached, and I thought about how I would like to ring in my own personal new year I knew that I wanted to start this year off by challenging myself more than I had the year before. I got the idea from a camp friend of mine who is always a big advocate for pushing yourself and making yourself better through it all. With a few big goal races in mind this year, I decided to start the year off with a big challenge of running 27km, a single kilometre for each of the 27 years I have spent on this planet. While my camp friend often does her birthday run in MILES (so impressed) I’m not quite there, but 27km would definitely be a challenge for me, and the furthest I had ever run.

So, on the dawn of my 27th birthday, I set out with a running buddy and long time friend of mine (seriously bless her soul for agreeing to this insanity) to run 27km. I decided ahead of time I would dedicate each kilometer to something that had made an impact on me in my 27th year. I figured that this would give me a reason to get through those tough kilometres when I was struggling and didn’t feel like I could go on. I knew that this would be difficult, but I wasn’t quite expecting how difficult it would actually be. The first 17kms were not that bad, however, since I haven’t really been training distances longer than 12km in QUITE some time, the distance definitely caught up with me and the last 10k was STRUGGLE CITY. All in all though, we did it! Even if that meant having to take some pretty hefty half kilometre walk breaks in the final third of our run. In the end, it felt AMAZING.

Without further ado, this is what got me through each and every kilometre and what made my 27th year one for the books:

Kilometer 1: This one went out to my dear husband (it’s sometimes still weird saying that) and the love and support he brings to my life day in and day out. Thank you for being my best friend, biggest fan and my rock. I absolutely love our little home and the life we are creating together and I can’t wait to see what the next year and all of those after it bring with it.

Kilometer 2: Dedicated to our beautiful fairytale wedding, including all of the stress that went into it and the two weeks of sleepless nights leading up to the big day. I wouldn’t have done it any other way and sometimes I still can’t believe it was real and actually happened.

Kilometre 3: For my running buddy, Sarah who somehow agreed to run 27km with me on a day when it was -3. Who does that? Well, she did, and I absolutely could not have done it without her!

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Kilometre 4: I ran this one for the sport of running. For each and every run that I was able to go on this year and for being better for it after each one. For the deep meditation that comes along with the sport and for every race I ran this year. For the people that I have connected with and re-connected with because of running and the community that I have found within it.

Kilometre 5: For landing an amazing job shortly after my 26th birthday. I work in a pretty niche field and there are not many people who have finished my grad program and ended up in a job actually in the field. Through some incredibly hard work (and having the fortune of “right place, right time” on my side) I landed a dream, adult job in my field with zero connections in the organization. THAT was satisfying.

Kilometre 6: Unfortunately, said dream job was a contract filling in for someone who was on leave. This wasn’t a case where my job could be extended unless the other employee did not come back. So, in December I found myself unemployed again. Kilometre 6 went out to dealing with this frustrating reality and learning to be positive when things didn’t play out the way I wanted them to.

Kilometre 7: This one went out to my colleague Michelle who was my life line over the 10 months at said job. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without her and I am so grateful for the friendship we formed, which helped me get through the bad and stressful days!

Kilometre 8: Went out to Jose Bautista, because Game 5, need I say more.

Kilometre 9: Went out to my family who is there for me no matter what happens. This includes the family that I was born into and the family that I have chosen as my own. It was definitely a year when I had to lean on all of you and ask for a lot of support and I was met with that and then some, every step of the way.

Kilometre 10: This one was dedicated to our new government. HALLELUJAH!

Kilometre 11: This one went out to my very first grown-up, and probably overly-generous salary. For the first time in my life I was able to save, pay all my bills and then have a solid sum left over for spending. This amazing salary allowed me to do so many great things in my 26th year and I recognize it was a real privilege. This kilometre also went out to the loss of said salary and learning to be okay with it. R.I.P. disposable income

Kilometre 12: This one went out to the beautiful Canadian rockies and the west coast. The beauty of our country is truly something that everyone should see in their lifetime. I am lucky enough that I have seen this area twice now, and it was so special to share that beauty with Zach this year.

Kilometre 13: This one went out to coffee. I don’t need to say anything else really, but living downtown has it’s perks, and FINALLY being able to walk to about 4 different incredible coffee shops in under 5 minutes was definitely a highlight of this past year.

Kilometre 14: Craft beer. 26 was a year of discovering and trying so many amazing beers both here and in the states. Enough said.

Kilometre 15: This one was for our condo, we waited a long time to find the perfect place and it is so great to have a place that we call home in (what we think is) the best neighbourhood in the city.

Kilometre 16: This one was for the sun who decided to shine on the second half of our run, making what could have been a very cold day a little more bearable. Thank you for 27 years of sunlight.

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Kilometre 17: This one went out to my new in-laws who are quite possibly the sweetest people in the world. We may come from very different places, see the world a different way and I may be really LOUD while they are pretty quiet, but I believe these differences make us have a stronger relationship and I was so happy to welcome them into my life as parents this year.

Kilometre 18: This one goes out to kleenex because god knows I cried a lot this year (which wasn’t unique to being 26, but is just me)

Kilometre 19: Went out to my mum who let me and Zach live with her well beyond our stay and gave up so much to help us as we got on our feet independently and for all that she sacrificed to help us make our dream wedding come true.

Kilometre 20: This one went out to airplanes. Airplanes are INCREDIBLE people, how do we forget this? This year airplanes brought me some REALLY special people who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and that was awesome.

Kilometre 21: This one went out to my camp friends (some of whom arrived by said airplanes this year) and having the type of people in my life that I can go years without seeing and still have the closest of relationships with, picking up right where we left off!

Kilometre 22: This one went out to the St. Lawrence Market for bringing me so much joy this year. Food=joy.

Kilometre 23: Went out to my legs. Who just could. not. at this point. But, the pain was a reminder that I am alive and I am able bodied and I am runner. This went out to my legs who carried me to and from work every day and led me to win quite a few “workweek hustle” fitbit challenges this year. Despite their flaws, and my negative feelings that I sometimes project on their appearance, they are truly the greatest thing I own.

Kilometre 24: This one went out for a year of a really healthy mind. I’m not sure that there have been many others in my life that have been this healthy. Of course I had my moments, BUT I believe that is just what we call life. Our mental health is so precious, and I am so grateful to have had such a healthy year.

Kilometre 25: Went out to my Aunt Janet who was so sadly taken from us this year, much too early. Aunt Janet was a force to be reckoned with. She was an incredibly successful and determined business woman who often reminded me to work hard if I want to get where I want to get. I still can’t believe she is gone and I am so happy I was able to spend time with her before her passing.

Kilometre 26: Went out to my country and the gratitude I feel every day for living in a place where I feel safe and have the power to make the choices I want surrounding my life and my body. It was a bit of a scary year and I often have to remind myself how lucky I am to have been born by some random chance in a country like Canada. There are so many other people out there who didn’t get that lucky, and it is so important to remain humble about this.

Kilometre 27: This one was for no one else other than ME. For freaking doing it and running further than I had ever run before and living to tell the story. And for my 28th year and everything it is going to bring. For being the best I can be.

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Reflections

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The hangovers have (hopefully) subsided, afternoon naps have been taken and the champagne bottles are now empty. As I grow, it is always so amazing to me how quickly the first day of a new year rolls around. As we say hello to 2016 I find myself reflecting on what was one of the best years yet. A year ago today, I was in this exact same place, yet so many wonderful things were about to unfold over the next 365 days, some planned and some unexpected. 2015 saw a lot of change and some amazing much anticipated experiences- a big move and a big wedding. Of course, like many people, 2015 handed me some loss as well, and with this loss, a healthy reminder that even a perfectly planned year will never be perfect. However, when taking the time to reflect today sitting in front of a crackling fire surrounded by those I love, I find myself pondering over the unexpected events that shaped 2015 and the smaller day-to-day lessons that have made me grow so much in one short year. What stands out about the unexpected and the day-to-day in 2015 is all of the love that surrounded me as these experiences unfolded.

While I don’t know what the year ahead will hold and I of course have some goals and resolutions I want to reach and keep, unlike last year I am most excited for the unexpected- the large and the small- the notion that 2016 begins with nothing but possibility. It’s a little exciting, a little anxiety provoking perhaps, but mostly calming.

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What I do know is that no matter what happens, the love that has been given to me in 2015 and every year prior will continue to be here. I will foster that love, with myself, my husband, my friends and my family. I will hold on to that through the ups and the downs and rely on it at the core of any lessons that life throws me. I will spread it on the happiest days and perhaps more importantly, on the darkest of days as well. Whatever you do this year, do it with love. We don’t always know what will happen in a year, but if you hold on to that love through it all, you may just find that no matter what happens, you’ll end up where you want to be. And, if you’re as lucky as I am, you may find that you start the next year in the same place you started the year before. A year older, maybe a little bit wiser, but most importantly, surrounded by love.

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