Tag: resolutions

Healthy Swellness: My Downsized Goals for 2021

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I reached only one of the goals I’d set for 2020. And I’m totally fine with that. It was a year when doing anything took what felt like 100 times more effort so I’m really proud of having read 18 books when I set out to read a dozen. For the first few months I was ahead of my goal, and then when lockdown became stricter and I found it hard to concentrate on anything, I fell behind. But eventually I worked on cracking open a book more often and it was such a joy to reignite my love of reading, a pastime I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid but fell out of the routine for almost a decade.

My other goals? Well, I barely got started. I had planned to incorporate more cross-training into my routine, and aimed to do one workout a week that was not running. Instead, other than a few workouts before the pandemic (and a few virtual dance classes during lockdown), I focused solely on running (but at least I ran more than ever, completing the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, and then ran and walked back across Tennessee). Running is what I know, what I can incorporate into my life without a ton of thought, it’s really just easier for me to wrap my head around even though I know in reality I can easily roll out my yoga mat and find a workout online for a yoga session, for one.

And my other goals to eat more veggies and learn how to use my camera? Well, my diet was all over the place last year (I craved comfort foods and nostalgic eats big time, plus I had a hard time finding time to cook so that impacted how I ate as well), and I simply didn’t have the energy to pick up my camera and take an online course.

And while I don’t set travel goals per se (although I did wish last year to go to Thailand and that came true in December, I’m convinced I manifested it!), because of the pandemic, my travel was downsized significantly last year. I went on a total of six trips; four by flight (Vail, Gimli, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and a cruise out of Miami) and two local road trips (to Prince Edward County and a camping trip just north of Toronto at Oastler Lake).

Anyhow, for this year, I just read this New York Times article about making 2021 goals small and gentle. And that really resonated with me. We don’t need to feel bad about not accomplishing a ton right now, living through this crazy time we are all just trying to survive. And they’ll be focused on setting a routine. I already started with including a few things to improve my mornings, and those small things bring a sense of relief in this harsh reality we are living in. Yes, the simple but delicious foamy latte I drink in the morning brings me so much more than just a delicious cup of coffee; there’s a sense of feeling able to take a deep breath and relax even for just a few minutes that comes with this ritual. I think I maybe especially appreciate it since my life has for so many years entirely lacked routine, what with juggling freelance and travel.

So my goals for 2021 will be small:

I will read 15 books—and will do so by reading at least 10 pages a day. I’m building on the one goal I achieved! I tend to go days without reading and then read a ton. But this year I will work on reading just a little each day as part of my routine. I’m thinking at bedtime (although I tend to fall asleep pretty darn quickly once I hit the sack!). I know I read more than 15 books last year, but I think that was largely because I read about four of them while on a cruise for a week. Above are some of the books on my shelf to read this year, plus I’ve got several on hold at the library.

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I will make one meatless dish a week. I actually think I ate less veggies last year than ever. I tend to eat more of my veggies as part of my main, but there are loads of easy ways to enjoy vegetables as a side (sauteed green beans or roasted Brussels sprouts are so incredibly simple), so this will be something I can make a habit out of, and it’ll give me a push to look for delicious main dishes that make veggies and meat alternatives the star. Maybe I’ll finally try to make some dishes from this Ottolenghi cookbook; I’ve had it for years and yet have never cooked from it.

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I will develop a gratitude habit. I like this idea of building off of the good habits you established last year as mentioned in this New York Times article. It also outlines why reflecting on the past year might seem like a bad idea but that it’s good for you (which I learned when I looked back at 2020). And the first suggestion in the article is to develop a gratitude habit. I have the Five Minute Journal, and haven’t been successful in writing in it daily since I’m often in a rush to get out the door in the morning, so instead as I make and enjoy my morning coffee, I will think of one thing I am thankful for, and take it one step further when it makes sense (say if I’m grateful for the delicious meal I’m picking up that day, then I’ll tip more than usual, for example, or I’ll text that friend I’m grateful for having in my life, both are ideas from that NYT article). This is all something I definitely did more of in 2020, but it was not part of an established routine. The one way I do express gratitude daily already? I do hug Billie Jean and Mya all the time and tell them I love them; I am grateful for them every damn day for the joy they bring me.

Have you set any goals or intentions for the year?

2 Comments January 3, 2021

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment December 31, 2018

2015 Swellness: My year in review

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This was not an easy year.

And I’ve been putting off writing this post as I wasn’t sure what to write. But I see from friends on social media today, also reflecting on the year, that it’s been a tough one for many of us, and I suppose there’s some comfort in that, knowing that we’re not alone in our struggles and knowing that we are all looking forward to a fresh start in the year ahead.

As I mulled over this past year for a few weeks, as much as things were rough, and as stubborn as I can be, I have to admit that there were bright, happy moments and lessons I’ve learned. Indulge me if you will as I reflect on them (and take a moment to remember your top highlights of the past year as well, if you haven’t already — it helps, I swear!).

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Travel is a huge part of my life and this year, although every trip always gives me something new to enjoy, having the opportunity to travel to Chile was beyond incredible. Without me even realizing it was a dream of mine, it was a dream come true. Standing there in the stillness as the sun set and taking in the fresh air and feeling so fortunate to be alive and there seeing such beauty is something I think of often and it’s a moment I hope I can keep fresh in my memory always. Add in skiing in the Andes Mountains, glamping beneath the stars and laughs with new friends (love you guys!), well, this Chilean adventure is one for the record books.

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Truth be told, there’ve been many terrific trips. I also had the chance to travel for work with one of my closest friends to Southern California, where I fell in love with the beaches and lifestyle, and tried surfing for the first time. I plan to go back for more surfing as soon as I can. I visited Squamish twice and became equally obsessed with the hiking and views there (I also did a via ferrata climb for the first time). Early in the year, I went to the Cayman Islands for the first time and not only got to swim in the gorgeous blue water of all three islands, I also attended Cayman Cookout where  I got to eat food from and meet Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, Marcus Samuelsson, Jose Andres and so many more top chefs that those days are a bit hazy because my head was spinning — it was almost too much for this food lover to handle. Palm Springs, Calgary, Cayman Islands (for a second time), Los Cabos, Las Vegas, St. Martin, Banff, Montreal, Portland, my passport got well stamped this year.

And, for once, I took a vacation. I know many of you think I’m always on vacation, but most of my travel is for work.  And this year, I took my first trip in several years where I did not write a thing about it. And it was glorious. Just poking about on my own schedule, and exploring the things I wanted to.

When it comes to work, this year included lots of great opportunities to partner and work with brands including Purina, Gatorade, Shoppers Drug Mart, McDonald’s, Scotiabank, GM, Adidas, and so many more. And I also started working on iRun magazine as editor at large, with a super fun team. This year, though, one of my favourite jobs is unpaid: I began volunteering with Save Our Scruff, and learning that a dog that I’ve helped in some way find their forever home is the best news in the world. My heart feels like it could explode when I find out via email about a lovable dog being adopted, and I look forward to doing more with the organization.

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Ah, running. This year was not a good year for running. No personal bests, and some of my slowest races. Which made it mentally difficult as I raced more than usual this year (I think, I haven’t actually done a tally). But I crossed the finish line and now I will figure out how to tackle what to race in the year ahead. Silver linings include the fantastic 15k race Nike put on (if only the weather had cooperated, that would’ve been even more stellar), and having my running buddy run the last leg of the Scotiabank Marathon with me (which, although, it was a slow race, convinced me that I can indeed qualify for Boston).

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What I take away from this year…well, I felt more than ever that I was running around on empty. Scattered and disorganized. And so I’ve been forcing myself to take a step back from things, which is not my natural inclination, but for my own sanity I know I have to. And as much as I post on social media (and I know I do), I also put away my phone more often. “But you’re not getting a photo?” said a friend surprised as we watched a fireworks show. “I know, but when I’m taking a photo, I can’t get to take it all in,” I explained. At the NKOTB concerts (yes, I saw them two nights in a row this year! Best decision ever!), instead of snapping away with my camera, I took the time to fully enjoy Jordan’s abs. And it goes without saying that oh yes, it was worth it! Tee hee

This year flew by even faster than the last somehow…but that’s enough looking back. Here’s to looking forward, and for 2016, my heart is hopeful that exciting things are happening, and that new adventures are in store both with old friends and new ones that are still to be made.

Wishing you a very happy 2016! — Karen xo

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1 Comment December 31, 2015

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