Tag: goals

Healthy Swellness: 2019 Year in Review

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What a year!

I realized sometime late this fall what a wonderful year I’d had so far (and it only got better from there). And I was surprised. The past several years have often wrapped up with a feeling of heaviness as time flies by and a feeling that I’ve just gone through the motions of living. While I still stress and have anxieties about work and finances and exactly where the heck my life is heading, this year I feel I was able to just trust the process a bit more, and in the meanwhile incredible opportunities and experiences filled my year and, yes, I’ll say it, fed my soul.

What I’ll take away from this year:
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New and old friendships that mean the world to me. I read some quote recently about how you don’t lose friends, but  we only learn who the true ones are. I have some friends from childhood, some friendships have developed over the past decade and, thanks to my work and regularly meeting people on press trips, new budding friendships, and I try not to take any of them for granted. If I say, “Let’s grab a drink!” I mean it and want to follow through with meeting up. This year, I was smarter about how I spent my days and who I chose to invest my time with, rather than making plans out of feeling obligated, and am happier for it. I’ve been friends with Jennifer (her site is Travel & Style) for more than a decade but we only more recently started again spending more time together; this is a photo from our trip to Arlington, VA, this year; I’ll be blogging about that soon!

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I am happier when I am focused and present.  With friends here at home, it’s about carving out time in my schedule so we can catch up properly. Making time for the people that matter to me. Putting down my phone (Must I post this photo or that photo in real time? No!). When away from home, it’s about letting go of the need to fit in a million things into my day so I can focus on and enjoy what’s in front of me. I had the most rewarding opportunities this year on some longer travels; I drove my myself (a huge feat in itself for me–as someone who gets really anxious getting lost) through the mountains in Alberta over the course of about two weeks namely in Jasper, Banff, Kananaskis and Calgary(the photo above is at Drumheller, just outside of Calgary). While I’d been nervous about so many hours solo in a car, it was truly a trip of a lifetime and singing out loud with jaw-dropping scenery all around me, every day I felt like my heart was going to explode with happiness.

In August, I spent most of the month pet-sitting in Brooklyn and having the amazing wealth of time to poke around that incredible city made me love New York City even more than I already did because I was able to just be there without stressing about running to this shop and to go see that sight. As someone who tends to be more cautious and practical by nature, I’m so glad I didn’t talk myself out of doing this month in NYC (initially I was super worried about both my cat and dog, managing juggling work from afar and a million other little stresses and I went back and forth for several weeks about whether I could pull off a month away from home). In the fall, with an invite to run the Istanbul Marathon, I ended up staying for several more days after the race than I’d felt comfortable with initially (due to the flight option for my return home, I was there for a full 10 days) and that ended up truly being a gift. Wandering Istanbul and visiting the stunning mosques without the pressure of having to fit in everything I wanted to soak up in a short amount of time was something I know I am very lucky to be able to do. I was able to just soak up the incredible city I was in. And this month, just when I was ready to wrap up an already incredible year with a great trip to the Dominican Republic, I was invited to Thailand and spent an exceptional two weeks (including a few days of personal vacation time) poking around Bangkok, Phuket, Kanchanaburi and Chiang Mai. And while the trip started off terribly with my phone going missing upon landing in Bangkok, that upsetting incident just forced me to remember that material things can’t replace the exceptional experiences I had in store, ones I will remember the rest of my life. Like when a baby elephant sat on my lap.

 

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I am stronger than I realize. From making it through some terrible work situations to running a fantastic race where I almost made my Boston Qualifying time, and running a terrible race in Istanbul (it was just two weeks after running Detroit), I realized this year I am more resilient and determined than I give myself credit for. I’ve been told I am hard on myself (but aren’t we all?) and this year I tried to be kinder to myself. It worked sometimes, and of course, I have highs and lows, but overall I think I managed to feel more at ease with me, imperfections and all. Do I wish I were a stronger runner or have accomplished more in my career? Always. But I feel like I’m in a better place to actually make that happen. For many years, I’ve felt incapable of actually doing things, paralyzed by fears and anxiety, but I’m back to being in a head space where I can put plans into action.

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I should do more things that scare me. That drive in Alberta, in many areas where there was no data or GPS reception? I was nervous about it. More terrifying was when I got completely lost during a solo hike on that same trip. Thankfully I found my way (and the lesson from the hike is that I shouldn’t do not frequently used trail solo going forward). This year also brought me to the French Alps, and I ended up paragliding many, many feet up in the air even though I wasn’t quite sure it was something I was comfortable with (long story, but I had somehow confused what paragliding was when I agreed to it and somewhat before I knew it, was harnessed in and in the air!) and it was one of the best adventures I’ve experienced. To be honest, mountain biking in the Alps was much scarier for me. It’s the second time I’ve done it and I go very slowly and the chances of crashing seem so high! But perhaps the most terrifying thing I did was white water rafting in Arizona. My jaw hurt from clenching my teeth so hard. The idea of being tossed out of the raft and having to float and then having to try to get back on the boat all the while potentially hitting rocks, that’s not something I was comfortable with. None of that happened, though; all of these scary things, I forced myself to be brave and nothing bad happened. I need to continue to work on not letting fear hold me back.

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I’ll be going to boyband concerts for years to come. OK, this is not something I realized just this year. I’ve known this a long time, but ultimately, the lesson is to do what makes you happy. If that’s seeing NKOTB and the Backstreet Boys over and over, well, go ahead. Do your thing. I recall mentioning to a friend once that I felt guilty for shopping for myself during Christmas, and she didn’t understand. “You work hard, why feel guilty about buying something for yourself?” she said. And yet this treat-yoself guilt still seems to be ingrained in me but I’m trying to let go of it. This year, I was blessed with seeing NKOTB once, and BSB twice and did I mention I met Howie? So whether it’s cutting out of work to fit in a workout or spending a lot of money on a concert I’ve already seen, I’m worth it. You’re worth it, whatever it is that makes you happy. In my opinion, boyband concerts totally count as self-care.

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Photo credit for this shot of me with Howie goes to Toybox, where the after-party was held; I’m forever grateful the photographer captured this!

Saying so long to the past decade…

With this also being the end of a decade, with such a positive 2019, I feel optimistic as to what the next decade holds. I spent the last 10 years rebuilding my life from what felt like scratch. I had to start the decade with the end of a long-term relationship, then had a few extremely difficult few years where my biggest accomplishment was simply making it out alive (2014-2016 were years I’d rather forget but I try to look at them now as having made me stronger). This decade, I lost my amazing cat Kobe; he was the first pet I had has an adult and he saw me through so many significant moments and that was a crushing loss in 2018. But it’s also the decade I adopted my very first dog, Billie Jean, who makes my heart grow bigger every day.

I’m looking forward to a brand new year and a brand new decade. Here’s to making it an exceptional one!

K xo

 

Leave a Comment December 31, 2019

Healthy Swellness: 2018 Year in review

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2018 was a struggle.

Was it worse than last year? No. 2017 was stressful, and this year was just stressful but rather than feeling super wound up about it, I spent much of this year numb, as though my brain just shut down because I couldn’t manage even the energy and thoughts it takes to get stressed out. I’m not sure if it’s thanks to years of freelancing (which as fun as it may seem from the outside, you have to put a lot of pressure on yourself, or at least I do, and I find it quite anxiety inducing). I had too many days when I just felt like I could only throw up my arms because I just felt I couldn’t adult anymore.

When times like that would hit me hard, it’d take digging deep and reminding myself of the good things I had going on through the year…

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I found better balance in my schedule this year. 2016 left me burnt out with 31 trips, so in 2017 I scaled back but still found myself stressed with being away from home too often. This year, I happily settled into a manageable balance between travel, work and life at home. I traveled nine times plus four road trips (and two same-day trips but those don’t really count, it’s the being away from home overnight that throws my schedule for a loop). Those trips included some favourites, such as Calgary and Banff and Chicago (three times!), and new destinations I’ve long had my list, including one epic drive down Highway 1 in California in a rare vintage Mercedes and the incredible Mexico City. I often had FOMO in the past about travel, but after steady travel for several years now and it being extremely draining, but now I know these amazing places in the world will always be there. It’s not worth sacrificing my sanity to flit around the world every other week. This year I felt much more relaxed and loved having time to take Billie Jean on hikes and to see friends.

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I made new friends and made time for existing friendships. About a year ago, out of the blue, I got a really sweet note from an acquaintance, because, kind and empathetic person that she is, she knew I was ruminating about an altercation she’d been witness to. I’d only met Tiffany a few times in real life on a couple of press trips, but we got to know each other well when I was coming to Calgary for work and she invited me to plan extra days and stay with her and her adorable family and we explored Banff and Canmore together (this part of Alberta is one of my most favourites of everywhere I’ve traveled). And she’s just as fun and awesome as I thought she’d be. In addition to new friends,  I spent more quality time with my old friends. From fun dining out excursions whenever I had a car to the very first solo trip with one of my best friends. Life often gets in the way for us to hang out together regularly but she was able to come along on a press trip with me in December to Miami for a cruise. I’m so happy we were able to spend that time together (plus it was on the Celebrity Edge cruise ship, which is a stunner; I’ll post about that soon).

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I worked with brands I’m thrilled to support. So real talk, this “influencer” world is a mega frustrating realm to work in. With people buying followers and likes or not being transparent, it’s not an equal playing field whatsoever so it can be aggravating. But it is incredibly rewarding when speaking to certain brands about partnerships and hearing how they perceive Health & Swellness and why they want to partner with me, and I see that they really get what I’ve created for my platform. This year included working with brands I’ve long been a fan of including Reebok, President’s Choice, Shoppers Drug Mart, YMCA, Clif Bar, Kind Snacks, to name just a few, plus press trips with Marriott. And let’s not forget Michelob Ultra; besides repping the brand and racing in their Night Race, I had a steady stock of beer all summer, so it was a good summer, cheers!

I started working with some great outlets and people. In addition to having more stability and routine in my life thanks to traveling less, I also started working with two brands on a more regular basis and the teams for both are very supportive and open to my ideas and they’re just a joy to work with. One is You Are UNLTD, a magazine and website focused on changing the convo when it comes to aging. Aging doesn’t mean shriveling up and all sadness, people! And the other is D’FYNE magazine, a fitness and lifestyle magazine for women 40+. I swear that working on that mag makes me want to work out more, these women are fit and so incredibly strong.

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I ran my 12th marathon and, oh yeah, I was on a Nike billboard. While I’m still chasing that elusive BQ, and this year I raced less than usual, I ran the Chicago Marathon for the third time and had a decent result considering I had an awful cold for the race. Despite that, that race weekend in the Windy City will forever be a running “career” highlight thanks to the fun Nike squad, the informative and fun activations I got to attend and yes, that Nike billboard of me on Michigan Avenue.

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Even now looking at this photo of me with the poster, it still doesn’t seem like real life.

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I had to say goodbye to my first fur kid, but my sweet animal kingdom continues to bond. I suffered a huge loss about six weeks ago: my cat Kobe passed away at home. He was 17 years old. Kobe was a chill cat, he minded his own business and wasn’t one to seek attention from other people but of all the pets, he was always the one who wanted the most snuggles from me. I adopted him 16 years ago, so he moved with my from uptown to the east end and to the west end and in that time had to welcome not only a tiny kitten but also a rescue dog into his household and has been there though many upheavals in my life. I wasn’t prepared for him to go, but can you ever be ready for that? I think of him daily, and my heart still feel broken (I think it always will). I miss his presence and loud snores very much.

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The other two nutballs, Mya and Billie Jean, are healthy and happy. Mya, since Kobe’s death, seeks much more affection and I love that she’ll often come to snooze beside me now. As for Billie Jean, she continues to adapt to life in the city. She’s much more curious about people in the park and is much quicker to trust people than she was before (even letting people she just meets to pet her). One of the best days this year is when I happened to track down puppy photos from her rescue home in the DR and learned about her origin story. The joy and delight she exudes gives my heart a lift every single day. You have to spend time with her to see what I mean. My bestie who adores Billie Jean has said she’s never met a dog like her, and that part of what makes Billie Jean so sweet and special is because she’s happy, she’s really happy. I won the lottery with my rescue pup and my two cats. Love you and miss you, Kobester.

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So what’s next for 2019…

I didn’t accomplish many things I wanted to in 2018; I didn’t have time to blog about things I’m passionate about as much as I wanted to from the start of the year; for several years now, I’ve been wanting to pick up my reading habit again (I used to read a book a week at least, but haven’t done that in forever). I don’t have a fully fleshed out list of goals, but working on this blog more and reading remain on that list.

I also would like to improve my health and fitness. This year, I came down with what felt like cold after cold. I’m writing this right now sniffling and tired, actually. Thankfully nothing more serious health-wise, but it’s not like me to be under the weather so often and so I need to improve my immunity; maybe just wash my hands a helluva lot more, and take vitamin C. Fitness-wise, I want this to be an epic running year, and I’ll soon be choosing a few key races for spring and fall. I also want to incorporate a little more variety into my workouts, and in fact have already started to by going Spinning, taking a few classes at Studio Lagree and meditating using the app Calm (a gift from partnering with Capital One).

2019 is a fresh start. I still have much to get in order but I’m feeling good about climbing out of this rut. Life is fleeting. Even before Kobe died, I knew his time was near and so I made an effort to dance around the living room with him more often and let him cuddle as long as he pleased even if it meant I was trapped sitting or lying down when I had shit to get done. Nowadays,  I tell Mya and Billie Jean how much I love them every day and smother them with affection, and reach out to friends more, even if it’s just a quick text to let them know I’m thinking of them. The year will fly by in a blink of an eye. So let’s learn lessons from this past year, move on and make the most of 2019.

Wishing you a safe and happy new year, whether that’s out partying or at home and asleep before midnight!

Karen xo

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P.S. Here’s my #2018BestNine. The Chicago Marathon figures prominently (I mean, being on a Nike billboard is effing epic!) plus a few travel photos (Miami and Bowen Island) made into my most liked posts. By no means reflective of my year or what my real everyday life is all about, but we all know how Instagram is, but definitely some great moments from the past year that have helped shaped me into who I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment December 31, 2018

Fitness Swellness: 3 reasons I’m anxious about the 2018 Chicago Marathon

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I’m about nine weeks into training for the Chicago Marathon and why’s it taken so long to post about this? Well, in part because training takes up a lot of time (leaving little time to blog…) and because I’m pretty nervous about this race.

This time around marathon training snuck up on me. A few months ago I’d talked to Nike Canada (one of the race’s sponsors) to explore whether running this race again would be possible (I ran it last year and in 2014) . Before I knew it, the race was three months away and boom, I met with Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran, and I had a three-month training schedule and had to kick things into high gear immediately.

For my personalized training plan, Brittany chatted with me about how I’ve trained thus far for the 11 marathons I’ve done, and asked me about my goals for this race. My goals (A, B and C) are all to PB.

When Nike sent me a magnet detailing my three months of training, with my goals boldly printed on the top, I started hyperventilating. Seeing it in print, with an intense schedule of training, well, shit just got real. I texted a few friends “Goodbye, see after October 7!” since it appeared I’d be doing nothing but running for the next three months.

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When I had a chance to have a more careful read of the training plan, I realized it wasn’t that much more in terms of frequency than my training last year. Brittany’s training plan has me running mostly five days a week. She’s made some of the recovery runs longer than the ones I added in 2018. She also has my longest run, this week, at a distance of 34k (up from the usual 32k distance I’ve done in the past). In addition, she’s made some of them a little tougher (a few of the long runs, I’m to pick up the pace at the end, for example).

I’m very much a realist when it comes to most things. Perhaps that makes me approach things with less of a lofty, optimistic view, but that’s just how I think I’ve been wired. Is this a Capricorn thing?

In any case, my A-goal is to PB with a time that will guarantee I qualify and get into Boston. My B-goal is to meet the BQ standard. C-goal is to marathon PB (my marathon PB is from Chicago 2014).

And here’s the thing: right now, with three weeks to race day, I don’t feel like I can PB. There, I said it.

3 reasons why a PB feels out of reach to me:

  1. I’m basically going from couch to marathon. Typically, I maintain a certain level of running fitness year round, regardless if I have a goal race. But this winter and spring, I ran very sporadically. Then right when I was going to ramp it up and train consistently for the Lululemon 10k race in Toronto, I caught a cold and flu that knocked me out for three whole weeks. Then, finally well enough to run again having recovered from the flu, my eye doctor ordered me not to wear contact lenses for two whole weeks. I’m too nearsighted to run without lenses and running with my glasses would be very uncomfortable and awkward with my prescription so I took those two weeks off of running. Five weeks of no running meant I was a starting from zero. And I still haven’t gotten my strength and pace up again to what I used to run.
  2. My marathon training schedule is three months-long. I usually train using a four-month training plan. It wouldn’t normally be as much of an issue if I were in good shape to train over three months (…but see point #1 above regarding starting from scratch!).
  3. This summer’s brutal heat and humidity has drained me both physically and mentally. It’s been an incredibly hot and sticky summer. I know it affects everyone’s training, but if you’ve ever seen me exercise, I sweat a lot and am miserable when drenched in sweat. The conditions mean my runs are even slower and difficult than ever and I just spend a lot of the run thinking of how unhappy I am in that moment. What have summer weekends consisted of? First I spend a lot of time dreading the long run I have ahead of me and then the rest of the time I am feeling sorry for myself in a pool of my own sweat as I pound the pavement. I even cancelled plans to play tennis one weekend because I’m done with drowning in a pool of my own sweat all the time.

I know this isn’t the optimistic, I-can-do-it post that’s fun to read. But this is what the reality is for me right now. REAL TALK, that’s all the rage now, isn’t it? 

I swear this isn’t just pre-race jitters…I’ve thought this for weeks now, and runs that I think should feel effortless are still hard work.

On the bright side, I have learned a few things and can recognize the silver linings, too, with regards to training for Chicago 2018, and I’ll post about that in Part II of this blog post.

Are you running Chicago this year or another fall marathon? How’s your training going?

 

1 Comment September 18, 2018

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