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. 

 

Natural Pain Management

I am one of those people who loves a good wallow. When I feel low, I am the type to hide out and binge watch Netflix (and usually binge eat things I shouldn’t). This is particularly true when I am in physical pain. While I used to pop advil like they were candy at the first sign of any pain, this isn’t my style so much these days. However, I do often reach for one when I am really having a hard time even though they cause total chaos in my stomach. In my quest to lead a more natural and holistic life, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Dr. Jason Marr, a naturopath and expert health and wellness speaker. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of hip and other joint pain as I was still trying to push through my marathon training. One of the supplements that Dr. Marr mentions, Genuine Health’s FAST Pain Relief, has really done wonders for my hip pain and I can’t recommend it enough. While I did receive a sample, this is by no means a sponsored post and I genuinely stand behind the product or I wouldn’t mention it here.

I think there are so many natural products and supplements out there that can help us with pain management and prevention, but the information can get overwhelming. I think that is why it’s often so much easier to reach for something conventional over the self, even when we know there are potential scary side effects involved. I was very excited about this interview as it provided me with so much helpful information that helped make sense of it all. I also learned the word nutraceutical which I just think is a really great word. Can’t wait to drop that one in a conversation. But seriously, did anyone else know about this word? How did I never know it before? So, without further ado, read on if you’d also appreciate some information about natural pain relief:

 

  1. We are so quick to reach for pain killers when we are sore from a workout or have a headache. What are some more natural options to dealing with this? How can we prevent pain before it happens or mitigate it through our diet and supplementation?

Over 4.5 million Canadians suffer from the pain of arthritis, and millions are diagnosed with other pain syndromes.  Everyone experiences some level of pain on a regular basis, whether acute or chronic. With questionable efficacy of natural health products for pain, and negative side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs, the need for safe, natural, effective treatments that work quickly, with sustained results, is glaring.

Glucosamine is a standard that sufferers of arthritis and other pain syndromes often self-medicate with. Natural eggshell membrane is a naturally occurring source of glucosamine, with the added advantage of also being a source of hyaluronic acid and other substances associated with joint health.  This more natural nutraceutical supplement is taking the world by storm for the management of pain syndromes, and in particular, for arthritis, when it comes to reasonably evidence-informed natural medicines.

Physical medicines, such as hydrotherapy – The application of hot and cold therapy to the body using water as the vehicle, and cold laser (low intensity laser therapy) are mainstays of my practice for the management of pain.

Other nutraceutical supplements that may have a role to play in pain management and anti-inflammation include those from herbs, such as curcumin, white willow bark and boswellia, nutrients like the specific omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oils, and vitamins and minerals that may be deficient in the body, such as magnesium, calcium, antioxidants and the B-vitamins.

  1. Why do you think that FAST products are a better choice over a conventional pain killer?

Natural eggshell membrane products are currently the most effective natural health products for chronic joint pain by far.  They produce results quickly and sustainably, are well-supported by scientific literature, are easy to use and safe, and are inexpensive.  This is an essential component to a natural health approach to joint pain in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory diet, essential fatty acids from fish oils and other anti-inflammatory means.

  1. How do natural remedies for joint pain fare over time and can they prevent further pain?

Most pharmaceutical pain management tools come with high risk of side-effects and dangers when used regularly for extended periods of time. NSAID drugs (such as Aspirin, ibuprofen) come with an increased risk of bleeding and peptic ulcer disease, for example, and acetaminophen depletes the body of antioxidants, stressing the liver’s ability to perform adequately.

Natural remedies can be as effective as pharmaceutical medications for the management of pain when used appropriately and in the proper doses.  While natural remedies are not always safe for everyone, and you should consult your experienced healthcare practitioner prior to using them, they often exhibit fewer side-effects and less serious interactions, particularly for long-term use.

  1. What is the single most powerful food when it comes to natural healing and prevention for pain?

Water.  Without proper hydration, every cell, tissue and organ in your body suffers, and struggles to produce or use energy appropriately.  Especially for runners, adequate hydration, proper rest and recovery, and optimal fuelling with an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet (ie. More vegetables than everything else) must come before anything else.

  1. As a runner, what small diet change can I make to make sure my joints as muscles suffer as little as possible?

Drink more water.  Eat more vegetables to obtain a more anti-inflammatory diet.  One way to achieve this is by adding a scoop of a superfoods greens powder like any of Genuine Health’s Greens+ powders to your daily morning regimen, in a smoothie or just with water.

If you want to add supplements to your plan, at the top of your list of options should be products like natural eggshell membrane (ie. Genuine Health’s FAST Pain Relief product line), and pharmaceutical-grade fish oils.  To get the most out of fish oils, ensure you’re delivering a minimum of 2000mg of combined EPA and DHA each day to your body.

From a lifestyle perspective, get adequate rest and ensure at least 1 day of complete rest per week.


Dr. Jason Marr is a Naturopathic Doctor, an Expert Health & Wellness Speaker, and Director of Evoke Integrative Medicine Ltd. (www.evokemedicine.com) in downtown Vancouver, BC.  He arms urban professionals with evidence-based, integrative, real-world tools to maximize productivity, creativity and learning agility, while overcoming fatigue, stress, anxiety and burnout.

 

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Right now I am supposed to be sitting in my cramped Kia Rio driving from Chicago to Toronto after having run the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Instead, I am sitting at the kitchen island in my Toronto condo after shoving my face with a Thanksgiving feast writing this.

This is now the second year in a row that I haven’t reached my goal of running a full marathon and to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Social media is currently agonizing, taunting me and reminding me where I should have been this weekend, but here I am sitting Toronto, having run a total of zero kms this weekend. While last year I didn’t make it to the marathon because I admittedly wasn’t training enough, this year my decision not to run was based off of agonizing hip pain that made even walking feel impossible after any long run. Despite the slow start to my training, I was SO determined to run this year and once the hip problems really set in I tried to ignore it and really really thought I could push through it and find that inner grit and mental strength that every marathoner talks about. I just wanted to get there and finish, even if it meant crossing the line in over 5 hours. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that my hip was so sore I couldn’t sleep after a long run, and then it started happening after shorter runs too, and then it was starting to hurt just from walking down the street. I was stretching, rolling, doing yoga and trying anything to self-rehabilitate.  Eventually, I decided to suck up my pride, look after myself and defer my entry until next year.

While the pain this year was certainly out of my hands, I do keep asking myself if trying harder earlier on would have got me there. While the pain was there all summer long, I also started noticing something else in those early summer days. My head was not in the game. I don’t know if this was from the pain or from something else. I just didn’t want to run. This wasn’t normal exercise procrastination this was a straight up I-hate-running-and-don’t-want-to-run feeling. Training was becoming a chore, and something I absolutely dreaded. If I missed a run, I ended up stressed, angry at myself, and totally let-down. I don’t know if these thoughts were a result of the pain or if the thoughts were making the pain feel worse than it actually was. While all of this was going on work was getting crazy and I still hadn’t settled into my commute and my new routine at my still-new job. A true perfectionist, it took me a long time to admit that my pain and my negative thought loops would keep me from running a decent race, or even finish the race, not the way I wanted to make my debut at this distance. After much reflection and a run where every single step hurt, I decided to defer to next year. I cried and cried and cried when I hit the defer button online. I couldn’t believe I had let myself down again. But then something happened- I felt relief. I suddenly didn’t feel as stressed.

I quickly came to the realization that the very same thing that inspired me to START running was now the cause of one of the main reasons I had to completely stop running for a bit; stress, and the perfectionism in my head I constantly try so hard to quiet. At first, I felt shameful about this. It was hard for me to tell people that I was having hip problems and that I also honestly just didn’t want to run. Being a runner, after all, had become such a large part of my identity and social life. But slowly, after a few weeks of coming home from work and literally doing nothing, I came to terms with it. My body and my mind had been trying to tell me something important, I just needed to stop and listen. I really tried to focus on myself and not on what everyone else would think of me dropping out of the marathon. I normally wouldn’t advocate for this kind of lifestyle but honesty, I was very lazy for a few weeks, I ate what I wanted and drank what I wanted and it felt great. I’m not saying that this is the best way to take care of your mental health, but I think in this situation I just felt so relieved and relaxed and let go of the impossible standards I so often set for myself. Learning that this is okay was a huge lesson for me. Of course, being the active person that I am, my body started telling me it was time to move again. Instead of lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement, I listened to my still sore body and focused on walking more, getting off the subway a stop early, taking breaks in the day to do some stairs, carving time in my schedule to get to a yoga class. Mainly, I didn’t stress about fitting tons of activity it. I did it when I felt like it and if I skipped a day, that was okay too. I tried some new fun recipes, I enjoyed lazy Saturday morning coffee walks with my husband and my dog, I made social plans after work with my non-running friends. I like to think this was just as healing for my mind as it was for my hip. I truly believe that we can’t be well physically if we aren’t taking care of our mental health first.

As I prowled social media this weekend and watched my favourite blogger cross the finish line in Chicago, I started finding what I had been missing again. My hip is feeling a lot better, I’ve achieved a bit more (of that impossible thing called) balance in my life, but most importantly my mind is ready. My motivation is there again, and it’s REALLY there.

Getting back into it last week with my fav running pals

 

Am I going to jump back into running 5 days/week? Absolutely not. But I am going to slowly get back into it, keeping up with my yoga and other strength classes, doing some proper physio with a professional and taking care of my head again. Hopefully I will start to rev-up the training again mid-December in preparation for some Spring races, but if my head isn’t there, I won’t force it. So much about being healthy is about finding what works and keeping it as enjoyable as possible. Of course, I want that to be running. But I want it to be running for me, for my goals, for my mental health, for my well-being, not for my perfectionism, my worries about what others will think or because I think I have to run a marathon to call myself a runner.

Thanks to all who have listened to me agonize over this and still loved me anyway, marathon finisher or not. You know who you are!

Consistency

How sticking with one thing can change everything

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Over the Easter long weekend Happy Hubs and I drove to Northwest Indiana to spend some time with his parents as well as spend a day in one of our favourite cities- Chicago. If you haven’t been to Chicago I highly recommend checking it out. It has some amazing coffee shops, incredible food, beautiful buildings and a waterfront to make all Torontonians envious.

Normally when it comes to travelling, even 3-day weekend getaways, I let everything fall out the window concerning the healthy lifestyle I lead in my day-to-day life (because nothing counts when you’re on vacation right?) However, at the beginning of this year a friend and I vowed to run a minimum of 100km/month for all of 2016. At first, I thought this would be a no brainer and was pretty excited to see that number reach over 200km/month once I started training for some goal races. However, after looking over my training logs, it seemed that I was in for a bit of a challenge. If there was anything consistent with my running, it was that I am unbelievably inconsistent.

Up until recently, it was apparent that I thought I was running much more than I actually was. Looking over my logs, even in the months leading up to my first half marathon, my runs were scattered all over the place. One week I’d run 4 times, the next only once, some weeks had no runs at all. I embarrassingly realized that I wasn’t even giving myself a real shot when it came to training.

While I am aiming to run a marathon this fall, I didn’t really have any upcoming spring races in mind (besides the Sporting Like 10k that I run every year) when I started running a consistent 100km/month. Very quickly though, I started to notice some small changes. I have been sticking to a long run every. single. week. and my gains have started to become very apparent on those long runs. Each week, just by consistently running 14-17km, I am getting faster, something that has never happened with long runs before. Building a base at these distances has helped me immensely. Until this recent consistency, I always took walk breaks but I haven’t taken a walk break now for over a month on a long run! While I have been doing speed work for quite some time, and throw in hill workouts every now and then as well, it’s really all started to come together since I started sticking to my long runs. For the first time, I feel like I am seriously improving at distance running and I feel I can begin to set some solid time goals (before, my approach was always “just finish”).

A big thing that has helped with this is that I started doing my long runs with the club I run with whereas I always used to do them alone. Running with people has helped me so much because we push each other to keep going, and chatting away week after week makes the kms fly by. On a bit of a whim, I have decided to run a half marathon at the end of the month in Montreal. I’m approaching it as more of a training run, just to sort of see where I am after a few solidly consistent months of running.  I think I kind of owe it to myself, now that I’ve actually been staying consistent.

All of this being said, one thing that I love about Nike Run Club is that so many different cities also have a club that more or less follows the same schedule. It’s pretty cool to see the larger Nike community on social media and know that we are all in this together. Happy hubs and I decided to stay overnight in Chicago and, to not throw off my consistent training, decided to do my long run with NRC Chicago on the Saturday morning.

I sure am glad we did. We have both spent a fair amount of time in Chicago before, but there is something to be said about seeing it on a run. We woke up bright and early at 7:00am, put on our run clothes, scarfed down some breakfast and headed out. It was chilly, but nice and sunny which definitely made up for it. It was pretty cool to see the Nike space in Chicago. While the space was different, it had the same vibe that the Toronto club does, a solid group of like-minded people buzzing about all there for the same purpose. The pacers were super welcoming and glad to have visitors from Toronto joining them.

We ran a gorgeous 8 mile out and back south along the waterfront. The waterfront trail in Chicago is just amazing. Sure, we have some nice parts of ours in Toronto, but it doesn’t even come close to the beauty that is the waterfront in Chicago. I’m already dreaming about running along it the next time I am there. If you are visiting Chicago, make sure you take a walk along the waterfront (north or south, it’s all gorgeous). The view from the Adler Planetarium is something else.

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If you had told me a few years ago that I would wake up at 7:00am while on a holiday for the purpose of running 8 miles, I would have not believed you. They say that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Now that I am three months into consistently running, I can’t imagine NOT running, even on vacation. It’s crazy how easily something can become a part of your life if you really make the time for it.

Now excuse me while I go get ready for a run….

Happy trails!

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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)

FREE Yoga!

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Living in Toronto has some serious perks. It is clean, it is full of incredible culinary talent, there is never a shortage of stuff to do, it is diverse, it is full of ravines and parks, it is friendly, there is an endless supply of incredible coffee shops and we are home to the best hockey team in the NHL (just kidding on that last point). I know that since I have never lived anywhere else for a LONG period of time I am a little biased, but I kind of LOVE Toronto. I also love that Toronto is finally starting to be recognized as a “cool” place to visit (thanks Drake) as I have always found myself trying to explain that Toronto is a worthwhile city to visit to my less-than-informed American friends. What I love most about living in this city though? The endless opportunities it provides me with to stay fit and not have to pay a single cent.

It is no secret that I am actively involved in Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club here (not like I talk about it on Instagram or anything…) which is an incredible community to stay active with. However, there are also so many other opportunities out there as well that go beyond Nike. There is literally something for everyone.

I’ve been trying to stay a lot more consistent with my running recently and made a vow to start practicing yoga again so I can take the time to stretch and balance out my tense muscles from increased running mileage. I always knew that Lululemon offered free community yoga classes but for some reason I never actually looked into it.

Well, after speaking to a fellow Nike Run Club member, I felt it was about time I checked out a free yoga class. The class I decided on was the community class at YYoga Queen West, an hour long Flow class that starts at 2:45pm hosted by lululemon.

I would suggest if you check this class out, arrive a good 15 minutes early to claim your spot (you can’t register ahead of time for this class). When I arrived at 2:30, it was clear the class was going to be very busy. The studio is beautiful and guests to the community class are allowed to use the lockers and change rooms. Bring your own yoga mat or rent one for about $2.00. There are also a lot of props (blocks, straps) in the studio that are available to use for free.

The class was packed, but not in a way that hindered movement. I secured a spot near the back of the room as it had been quite some time since I had practiced. The instructor was great, and led us through an energizing vinyasa sequence. The selected music was perfect for this type of class and helped me get into the groove and comfortable with the poses. I was definitely sweating a little bit once we we were deep into our vinyasa, by the time we ended the class in savasana I was feeling so perfectly rested and stretched out. In fact, it was definitely one of the best Flow classes I have ever been to, and it was free!

The instructor did an amazing job of walking around and correcting everyone’s poses when needed, especially given the class size. It was apparent that everyone in the room was more or less familiar with the poses and because of this, I don’t think this would be the ideal class for someone who has never done yoga. However, it wouldn’t be that difficult to follow along if you are new to yoga.

I can’t wait to get back and stretch it out again and look forward to attending as many Saturday community classes as I can!

Check in with your local lululemon to inquire about the free classes they offer. A lot of studios also offer donation-based community classes once a week, a great option for those who may not be able to spring on a class membership.

Toronto is truly great this way, and I know that the Toronto Public Library system and Mountain Equipment Co-op also offers free yoga classes. Stay tuned as well for the schedule of outdoor summer Park Yoga, something I am very much looking forward to attending.

Namaste!

Spokehaus T.O.

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It takes a lot to get me out of bed before 7:00am. Even on the most exciting days, it can be tough. However, yesterday I actually got up before 6:00am!! All in the name of a solid sweat session!

A few weeks ago I saw something on social media about a new Spinning studio called Spokehaus that had opened up in Toronto. Fast forward to last week and I finally looked into a little more. They are offering your 1st class for free as a trial so I figured I may as well give it a try! According to their website, Spokehaus promised to be an experience like nothing else:

“We reinvent your typical spin class- the spokehaus workout is a kick-ass, low impact, high intensity full-body cardio party on a bike. We warm you up, work you out and cool you down.

Targeting your core, legs, butt, arms and heart through a series of carefully choreographed movements that will transform your body, your mind and the way you feel about your workout.

Music is at the heart of everything we do.

Every 45 minutes we bring down the house with specially curated playlists that will push you out of your comfort zone and help you get lost in the movement- music that is continually inspiring, motivating and will challenge you to push through each work-out- break free of the daily grind and let us help you find your rhythm.”

Those words were enough to get me to sign up. To me, it sounded a lot like Soul Cycle, which I know has a bit of a cult-like following from my friends in New York. Since we don’t have anything like Soul Cycle here, I think Spokehaus has a chance at being really successful in Toronto. An experience it was!

I used to take group cycling classes back in University and in recent years have been a big LesMills RPM fan. I find a cycling class is a really good way to balance other workouts with running. It’s a killer cardio workout, amazing for your legs and core and a good way to “flush out” my legs after a week of running many kilometres.

Needless to say, when Happy Hubs and I walked in to Spokehaus, located at City Place, at 10 to 7:00am yesterday, I was feeling pretty confident about getting through an early morning sweat session and assumed I knew what the class would more or less entail.

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The front of the studio is bright and simple, with lockers (no lock needed, they are all keyless and you can set your own code) and a big open reception area (including that fun light sign pictured above). We were greeted by a very friendly young woman who gave us cycling shoes, this is a clip-in class but shoes are provided. Shortly after, we walked into the studio with our Instructor, Courtney, a bubbly brunette who was exactly the right level of enthused for a Monday morning (anything TOO enthusiastic can be a bit too much sometimes, but especially early in the morning). It was at this moment that I realized this was going to be anything BUT a normal Spin class. The studio was dark, except for a handful of large candles in front of Courtney’s bike, something I appreciated as I was still struggling to keep my eyes open.

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That all changed the minute the music started. I suddenly felt like I was at an uber-cool club and I wasn’t sure if I was asleep and maybe still dreaming. After a track or two I knew I was definitely awake as I was sweating my face off. In fact, I don’t think I can remember a time in recent history when I have sweat that much. Courtney led us through the tracks (top 40 EDM remixes) and we did everything you’d expect in a cycling class- sprints, climbs, standing sprints, heavy resistance etc. What I liked about the class however, and something that I haven’t experienced in previous cycling classes, is that most of the tracks included some sort of upper-body work. We did a lot of different push-up type movements over the handlebars and one track was even pure upper body. We used small hand weights and sat upright while Courtney led us through bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses etc. I will admit, I am pretty fit and scoffed a little bit at the 2lb weights when I first picked them up- but my arms were burning by the end of this track. We cycled on home to an angry Eminem song and then were all handed cool wet towels with eucalyptus oil which was an amazing treat and the perfect energizing and cooling boost I needed after such an intense sweat.

I exited, surprised that it was sunny and bright outside the studio as I had honestly forgotten whether it was day or night. Spokehaus sells juices and Kombucha from Greenhouse Juice Co. and I couldn’t resist a “Root Beer” Kombucha. Not too sweet, and just the right amount of root flavour. The changerooms are bright and clean (although a bit small) and filled with great natural bath and body proucts for guest use.

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I left feeling so glad I had forced myself out of bed at 6:00am for the class. It was a great experience and what really made it stand out was that it was a total body workout- not something I’m used to from a spin class. The music was great, the atmosphere was super fun, and the extra little touches went a long way. And they should- at $28 for a drop-in class you’d expect something different, fun, luxurious and a killer workout. I don’t know if I’ll be back- not because I didn’t love it (I did), I just probably (and unfortunately) can’t stomach a class that is fairly steeply priced. If I had more money, I would find it easier as it is worth it, it’s just a shame that the cost makes it a little elitist (but I think that is what they are going for here, and I know Soul Cycle has faced the same criticism).

Spokehaus is still offering you to come try your 1st class free for a limited time though so if you want to check it out head on over to their website and prepare to sweat your face off!

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Vegan Bulletproof Latte

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If you know me, you know that there are a few things I really really love. One, of course being Happy Hubs, the other being coffee (and depending on the day, I may sometimes love coffee over Hubs). I literally cannot before coffee. Sometimes even after. I am NOT a morning person to say the least.

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However, about a year and a half ago I discovered Bulletproof Coffee and it may or may not have changed my life. Of course, the kind I made at home wasn’t technically bulletproof because I didn’t buy the MTC oil or use the endorsed coffee, BUT I did blend my coffee with some grass-fed butter (which is incredibly hard to source in Toronto if anyone else has noticed, ugh!) and a bit of coconut oil for quite some time. Let me tell you, that stuff kept me going. It made me love Hubs before my coffee even because I knew what sort of great energy boost was coming my way, and even better, I could function well into the morning on this stuff, no repeat cups needed. Eventually though, I tired of it (and I also moved downtown and could walk literally 3 minutes to amazzzzing cafes with amazing whole milk lattes) and stopped drinking it.

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Well, recently for the sake of my eczema compromised skin (and because of my Cowspiracy triggered environmental guilt), I have been going dairy free. As someone who LOVES a whole milk latte, this has NAWT been fun. Almond milk lattes just aren’t the same…

It’s been harder to function in the morning without looking forward to a whole milk latte. Until I remembered that blending coffee with coconut oil creates a yummy creamy blend too.

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For the past week I have been drinking this on the daily. It provides a healthy dose of fat in the morning to help fill you up, keep hunger at bay and stabilize blood sugar levels and it definitely helps curb that 2:00pm slump when all I want is sugar! Seriously, this is like drinking the juice out of energizer batteries, I kid you not.

Of course if you don’t have an espresso machine or milk steamer, you can just blend some coconut oil into your regular brewed coffee and throw in a splash of almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice), it is a slightly different experience, but still pretty amazing with the same benefits that will go a long way.

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I use my own homemade nut milk for this recipe (I follow Erin Ireland’s recipe) but store bought also does the trick in a pinch.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup almond milk (or dairy alternative of choice)

1 tbsp. coconut oil

1-2 shots espresso

cinnamon, to taste

Instructions:

Steam milk to desired temperature. Place coconut oil in mug under espresso spout and pour shot(s) on top (this makes it melt). Pour coconut oil and espresso into blender and blend for about 10 second. Pour back in mug and add steamed milk on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Put feet up, enjoy and prepare to take over the world!

 

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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Let it snow!

I have a confession to make. Last Saturday I didn’t get out of my pjs until about 6:00pm. On Sunday, I didn’t get out of them at all (unless you count the 40 minutes that I put leggings on for to go get take out, after which I put my pjs back on). Monday was not much better.

I had planned on going for a long run on Sunday as I start to train to run the Around the Bay 30km road race. However, with no one to run with on Sunday and the choice to instead enjoy that post-holiday bliss on the couch with never-ending “Friends” episodes, I chose this option and didn’t get out there. On Monday, I had tentative plans to run with a friend that didn’t pan out (i.e. I slept in) so I was faced with another long day of pjs and “Friends”. “I’ll go later” I kept saying. I find it so easy to just continue down a path of laziness once I’m on it, am I alone in this?

I really don’t like going for long runs on my own and I especially don’t like them when it’s -14 with the wind chill. I just kept thinking about this all day and it was making me pretty grumpy. WHY HADN’T I GOT UP AND JUST GONE!?  I thought about doing it on the treadmill in our condo gym, but the thought of running in the same place with nothing to look at for over an hour made it even more unappealing. Naturally, the solution seemed that I just shouldn’t run at all.

At about 4:30pm I had been thinking about this (a.k.a. whining about it) for a solid 6 hours. “ENOUGH,” I said (okay, I didn’t actually say that, but my husband did). “If you want to go for a run, then go for a run!” He was right. The more I sat around and thought about it, the later it was going to get. Eventually it would be too late, and then I wouldn’t go at all and would be so grumpy from two full days of no movement. “It’s cold!” I whined. “Then what did you buy all that expensive running gear for?”. He had a point. Besides, I had to get into my training at some point if I really did want to run Around the Bay and it would only take about an hour out of my evening, which included approximately 0 other plans.

At about 5:40 I FINALLY had all my run gear on and was ready to go. I headed out, and quickly realized that it was very windy and then ice and snow started pelting me in the face? oh well, must keep going, it wasn’t that bad. Only it kept getting worse and eventually I was running through the thick of Toronto’s first snow storm. I knew that it was cold and a bit windy out, but you’d think with all the excuses I had come up with, I would have looked at the forecast a little more closely and noticed the storm warnings (and then used this as the ultimate excuse to not go running). The streets were pretty dead, and the snow was starting to pile up. I considered turning around and heading back, but just around this point I found my pace and noticed what peace can be found running through a winter storm (occasional blustering gusts of wind aside).

I told myself there wasn’t really a good reason to turn around now and running through this storm was perhaps my punishment for putting it off for so long. I set out to do this, and I would do it, if just to prove to myself I was stronger than my excuses. Plus, there is something so satisfying about getting out there and doing something that others may find crazy. I think I’m a little masochistic that way at times. Why run 12km in nice conditions when you can do it through a blizzard? Take THAT excuses. I had already put of this run for so long I didn’t want to give up, even if it wasn’t the best of conditions. Somehow, I made it to my turn around point at 6km. The distance back never seems as bad, and it really wasn’t. I was actually surprisingly warm too, proof that all you need is the right gear and a little movement. I passed another runner on my way home and we shared a friendly nod and wave as if we were in on some secret together. There was some comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only crazy one out there, and that’s what I love about this sport. Even on the strangest weather days, you’ll always see a runner out there.

There is always going to be a reason not to get out there and move. Trust me, I am the queen of excuses. Too hot, too cold, too humid, too rainy, too full, too dehydrated, too tired, etc, etc. However, as long as you have the right gear and aren’t putting your safety in jeopardy, you’re never going to regret a run. Even in the blowing wind and snow, it felt GOOD to move after two days of being sedentary. Besides, “crazy conditions” are all relative. Through the bad windy patches I reminded myself of my cousin who goes on day-long snowshoe expeditions in the Northwest Territories. On any given day there, it is -40, before the windchill! Yet, she gets out there and moves, for fun and because it feels good to move and be active. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are athletes who train through 100% humidity and 40 degree weather!

We don’t have control over the weather and this was a nice reminder that if I want to run a race in early April and train through the winter, I will probably be faced with more days like this. I owed it to myself to at least try. Now that I know I can do it, I know I don’t have any good reasons to not follow through on my training and run this race come April 3rd.

It’s all what you make it my friends. Stay tuned for more anecdotes as I attempt to take on a full training schedule throughout the winter months, a first for me.

BRING IT ON 2016!