Tag: stress

2016 Swellness: My year in review

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I honestly feel like I just wrote my 2015 year in review, like, last month. And that has me feeling a bit panicked. Time is passing too fast. I need things to slow down.

At the end of 2015, I had a one goal for 2016: for it to be better than 2015. And thankfully it was. Although, I can’t even fathom it having been worse than 2015; 2015 was rough. Yes, it had some bright moments but it remains in my memory as the worst year of my life (and trust me, 2010 was not pretty).

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This year had its own waves of amazingness and low points. I traveled more this year than ever. 27 trips (and some of these included multiple destinations) and four road trips — mostly for work, but a handful were personal. And if you’re wondering how much travel is too much travel, well, I know that for myself, this is too much travel. While I look back on every trip fondly and do not regret any one of them, traveling this often is stressful. I recently read a research study about how the week or so before a trip brings on stress and low mood, and with this many trips, I felt like I was constantly in this state. Because the constant packing and repacking of luggage, having to cram most of my responsibilities into the limited time I do have at home, and the complete lack of routine, it wore me down. Often, I’d be so stressed about everything on my plate that things I should be looking forward to and enjoying — like meeting up with a friend for dinner or going to a park to spend time with them and their dog — I instead felt resentful and anxiety about, because that was taking time away from scrambling to get organized, or just have some plain old down time for myself. And that’s a sign that I was overwhelmed.

But for a slew of reasons, I did my best to fumble through it all and maintained the non-stop travel, and looking back on the places I’ve been to this year, I feel very fortunate for all of the experiences. But I’m seeking better balance in the year to come…

As for this past year, memories and achievements that made it great?

I ramped up my skiing skills. With very sporadic ski days in my life (with the exception of Chile last year), I went on three longer ski trips, to Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Telluride (all in Colorado) and a trip to Kimberley, B.C., and am solidly past my beginner snowplow and at the very least am an intermediate skier. I tackled one black diamond in Colorado (although there was a blue in Kimberley, B.C. that I swear was tougher than the black diamond in CO!) and I’m clamouring for my skiing in my life.

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I went surfing (and maybe got a little bit better at it). With not great waves in Huntington Beach last fall in my first surf lesson, I was eager to do more surfing this year, and I had the chance to during a week in Sayulita, and lessons in Barbados and Puerto Rico. I’m not great at it, but I have so much fun doing it. Now I’m keen on trying to spend a chunk of time in a beach destination so I can surf daily to really build on my skills. That feeling of riding the wave is absolutely exhilarating, and worth all of the wipeouts.

I visited incredible cities and towns that made me pause and appreciate how very lucky I am. This year brought me to places around the world including China, Istanbul, Croatia, much of the U.S. (including several trips to L.A. and Healdsburg — and my love for Cali just grows more each time), down to the Caribbean a few times (including Puerto Rico, which has always been on my wish list, and where I got to do this phenomenal hike in a river and rappelling down a waterfall; and Saint Lucia, which is as gorgeous as I’d envisioned it), and a sailing trip in the Greek Islands. This year also was a year I explored much of Canada, and I’m so thrilled Canada is being named on so many 2017 top destinations lists because it actually makes me quite sad to think that many of us in Canada don’t bother to explore our own country when there is so much to explore and I hope this gets us all to check out our home and native land. My time exploring Banff, Lake Louise, Canmore, Kananaskis and Lake Moraine? I think that trip overall counts as the most beautiful place I’ve been. Although Fogo Island is pretty darn gorgeous, too. I can’t forget that I went there andstayed at the Fogo Island Inn, and I also got a chance to visit Charlevoix, Montebello, Priddis, Kingston and Ottawa and Canada is pretty effing awesome.

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With each trip, I soaked up the views and culture, met locals, ate foods that I still dream about (like the tea cake in China), and I feel like I end this year as a better person with a broader perspective than before (travel does that to you).

I had solid quality time with friends and made new ones. With my stress about having no time to do anything, it made me really appreciate the time I did manage to carve out with my closest friends, even if it was something as simple as an impromptu night out grabbing ramen, or going for a run to talk things out. Home is where the heart is… And I made new friends along the way, it’s always nice when you meet people and you just click.

I did my first triathlon. And while this tri in Gulf Shores, Alabama, may be my last, and even now just thinking about the swim gets my heart beating faster now (and not in a happy excited way but I’m going to have a panic attack way), I am proud that I tackled it and completed it semi-decently despite my terrible, terrible swim.

I drove more than I ever have. This is a personal victory. Driving can stress me out, and the fact that I drove fairly regularly (including road trips to Buffalo and WayHome) and for an entire week by myself and with my phone GPS not working properly through a province I do not know when I was in Alberta for the Calgary Half-marathon and exploring Banff National Park, I’m giving myself one huge pat on the back.

I didn’t let running rule my life. Don’t get me wrong. I still love many things about running and plan to continue running, and I still hope to qualify for Boston. But I didn’t do any marathons this year, and ran fewer races overall (halfs in Bahamas and Barbados, the Scotia half, Calgary half, the RBC Race for the Kids 15k, and the Great Canadian Beer Run 5k — I think that’s it, I’ve lost track…) and I tried to add more variety to my life, including taking tennis lessons (and I plan on doing some rockclimbing in 2017). I think this departure was good for me; marathons twice a  year (although I did three one year) had drained me mentally four years in a row. But I am excited to immerse myself back into running more in the coming year, with at least one marathon already planned, Chicago!

I worked with amazing brands and outlets. I love the brands I get to partner with, and this year was no exception. Booking.com, Expedia, Scotiabank, to name just a few, along with the outlets and awesome editors I write for, such as iRun, Metro, amongmen.com, VITA Daily, Toronto Magazine, and more. I get to do some pretty amazing things as work, and growing my brand in partnership with such top notch companies and brands is something I’m proud of.

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Last but not least, possibly the  best part of the year has been getting more involved with volunteering with Save Our Scruff. This year I decided to see if dogsitting was possible with my two cats at home and for the most part, it worked out well. I wrote about why I dogsit for CBC Life (and I’m now officially part of the Save Our Scruff foster roster). While I admit my heart still feels achey because I miss the amazing dogs I had a chance to dogsit, I just think of the small role I played in helping them find the best home for them and it’s worth it and I plan to continue to volunteer as much as my schedule allows next year. (Turtle and Dobie, if you’re reading this, I miss you both so much, my sweet lovable buddies and think about you all the time!)

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I was reminded on Facebook recently of my #2015bestnine, and my caption refers to how every single one of my best nine is related to fitness, and how I’d strive for more balance in 2016. And while this whole best nine business is based on “likes” and not reflective of my thoughts or feelings about this year, I am pleased to see that my best nine this year shows more of a mix including, yes, fitness, but also travel, the all-important ootd — although I tend to think of them more as fun times with friends — and well, a cute coffee (everyone loves a good coffee Instagram, after all!). Two, though, tie into my love for Canada, and I am more happy (and relieved) than ever to be Canadian right  now.

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A friend recently shared her husband’s motto with me: “It could be worse.” And while it made me giggle initially, it has indeed gotten me through some moments this year. When running a half and feeling tired and dejected? It could be worse, it could be a marathon! When stuck traveling with someone whose personality clashes with mine and I want to wring their neck? It could be worse, I could be stuck in an office with that person daily if I had a regular 9-to-5 job! I can often fall into a wallowing state of mind, and this saying helps to jolt me out of my pity party.

That said, I’m looking forward to 2017 with a more positive and determined approach and I’m all in. It’s going to be great, people, I’m convinced of it.

Wishing you a very happy new year and here’s to fresh starts and exciting adventures for 2017!

(And, oh, let’s not forget that this is the year I MET TAYLOR LAUTNER.)

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Leave a Comment December 31, 2016

Healthy Swellness: 9 #FordMindfulness driving tips

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A couple of weeks ago, for Stress Awareness Month, I took part in a Ford Edge mindfulness program (the focus being on how to be a more mindful driver). I met with Ford Canada and yoga instructor, Yumee Chung (who I know from Passport to Prana) and she walked me through a number of ways to be a more mindful driver. Here’s a quick rundown of the tips, so you can bring more mindfulness to your driving:

  1. Stretch before you drive. Yumee recommends triangle pose to help you get limber.
  2. Sit in a comfortable, healthy position. The Ford Edge features 10-Way Power Driver and Passenger seats so make use of that to help support your lower back (this was really key to  me personally as I’ve been having problems with my lower back the last two months). You want to sit back in the seat with your head, ribs and pelvis in ones line. This stacked position helps keep your back happy and healthy.
  3. Do a posture check when driving. We all tend to slouch forward when behind the wheel so do a quick assessment of your posture by sitting tall and sending your shoulder blades downwards. Your chin should be positioned so that your earlobes hover above your shoulders rather than forward (and the car’s voice-activated SYNC 3 tech will help make sure you can maintain this posture since you can just say your commands aloud).
  4. Shake out those wrists. If you find you’re clenching the steering wheel, occasionally take a moment to rotate your wrists and give your hands a shake.
  5. Practice deep breaths. Traffic can be stressful, which could cause you to breathe quickly and shallowly so try five to 10 cycles of inhaling for a count of 6 and exhaling for a count of 8.
  6. Use yoga therapy balls to relax your muscles pre-drive. If you’re going on a long road trip, take a quick moment to use some yoga therapy balls to ease any areas that feel tight. You can do this in your seat by placing a ball between the seat and your back at the spot that feels tight and working out that tension.
  7. Get moving. When you’ve got the car safely stopped, use the time to get your body moving a bit (gently shake your head as though you’re saying “no,” or lean one ear down toward your shoulder and then point your nose in the direction of your armpit (repeat on the other side), or make like you’re a belly dancer and wiggle your spine while seated.
  8. Do a few spinal twists once you get out of the car after a drive.
  9. Use the features of the car that help make driving less stressful. The Ford Edge features Active Park Assist (and I know that I find parking one of the most stressful tasks!), and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) is another feature that can help you feel more at ease behind the wheel.
at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

Hiking Day 2 at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

My #FordMindfulness lessons complete, I also got a chance to drive the 2016 Ford Edge Titanium around town over several days to put these tips into practice and to make my life more mindful. I used it mostly to go drive north of the city to go hiking, where the fresh air and peace and quiet was just what I needed, and I finally made my way to the Aga Khan Museum, which is a stunning building (inside and outside)  filled with beautiful pieces.

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Hiking Day 1 at Cataract Falls

Oh, and you know what makes driving much less stressful for me? The SYNC 3 navigator. I have no sense of direction and even though I went to the wrong mall (don’t ask, haha) at first driving the Ford Edge to go to meet Douglas Coupland for #3Dcanada  and also needed to find a great Thai spot for dinner on the way home from hiking, doing these tasks were a breeze thanks to SYNC 3 and I didn’t enter panic mode.

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park

Ford Canada also sent me to practice mindfulness at Float Toronto, a floatation therapy spot where you float in a dark tank of 10 inches of water that’s got 900 lbs of Epson salts dissolved in it, which allows you to float effortlessly. I’d been meaning to check out Float when it opened, but the idea of it terrifies me so I never put much effort into going. I can get panicky and claustrophobic in pitch black darkness. But I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and give it a shot. The float session lasts an hour, and I spent the first 20 minutes in the tank with the door open  fidgeting around (sitting, Snapchatting, etc), and then since Float told me it’d be warmer if I closed the tank door, I closed the door with a towel to keep the tank door open a smidgen for some light, but it was too dark for me, so I opened it up again. The last 25 minutes I did manage to settle down and just lie there floating…but then I got restless so I got out and showered to get on with my day.

In the end, I’m glad I gave float therapy a try and I can see why it’s appealing to so many people. Thank you to Ford Canada for lessons in mindfulness with the Ford Edge Titanium. I know I’ll use these strategies whenever I get behind the wheel now.

Outside the Aga Khan Museum

On the grounds of the beautiful Aga Khan Museum

Leave a Comment May 16, 2016

Fitness Swellness: Marathon-training mental meltdown

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With six days to go until I run my eight marathon, the Goodlife Toronto Marathon, I’m overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, and I have been for weeks.

It’s more than just pre-race jitters. And it’s more than this having been a brutal winter to train in (although that certainly didn’t help out matters). I think running marathons for three-and-a-half years (two marathons a year, and one year during which I ran three, along with a few 30k races and some halfs and 10ks) combined with my type A personality is swallowing me up whole with stress. Type A personalities tend to be very competitive and self critical, and they get wound up easily. I’m surprised my picture is not next to the definition I just googled. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do better, run faster, and get that PB, but lately, and ironically, the very sport that I’ve been using for stress relief is now perhaps causing me more stress than it is alleviating it.

Don’t get  me wrong. I think some stress when it comes to training is good. It helps keep you disciplined when it comes to your training. But I’ve had a few moments running when I get so overwhelmed with it all that I lose my breath and have to stop running until I stop coughing and can get a handle on my breathing. I had a conversation with a friend who pointed out with concern that when talking about the race, I’m rocking back and forth out of anxiety. And I ruminate on marathon running constantly…”What pace do I have to maintain? How much faster should I adjust for the breaks I’ll need to take to sip water and for fuel? What will I race in the fall if I don’t qualify? If I do qualify, should I still run that race? What’s the weather on race day since the last time I checked? If I don’t qualify this spring or fall, should I try to add another marathon in the fall?” And so on and so on and so on.

I’m  not sure what’s different now that’s allowed this stress to reach this tipping point. Maybe it’s not taking much of a break from marathon-ing. Maybe it’s that I’ve set my sights on qualifying for Boston since I came so close in the fall in Chicago (although I have to constantly remind myself that just because I came within less than two minutes of qualifying doesn’t mean I “just have to take off two minutes.” I have to actually be able to run that entire race faster, it’s not just a matter of two minutes.)

Add to this that I’ve read how being psychological stress will cause your muscles to recover more slowly…which, you guessed it, only made me stress more.

My anxiety hasn’t lead to overtraining. But it has me contemplating what I need to change in my training, and in life. For now, with the Toronto Marathon in less than a week, I thought I’d remind myself of the things I do like about running to try to get into a better mindset for the race:

I’m fitter than ever. Running three (sometimes four) times a week, combined with weekly NTC classes with Nike, means I’m in the best shape of my life.

The friends I’ve made. Through the Running Room and through Nike, I’ve made some incredible friends. Shawna, who I’ve trained with for the past couple of years, well, we’ve laughed and cried through so many runs. I consider her one of my closest friends now (you get to sharing a lot when you’re running for three hours together!), and training is bearable on the days I’m not feeling it because we are training together.

That sense of accomplishment. It’s pretty satisfying to think back to when I could barely run a few minutes for an interval back in 2007 and then last fall running the  Chicago Marathon straight through. Crossing the finish line of any race is more fulfilling than…well, it might be one of the most fulfilling personal achievements I can think of right now, actually. And even more so when it’s a personal best.

The chance to explore. I’ve gotten to discover parts of the city I might have never come across if I weren’t a runner. And not just in Toronto, but when I travel and run in other cities, too. Running in the heat of Bonaire and finding that funny little tree of flip flop sandals, spotting some sea lions in San Francisco as I ran along the waterfront, stumbling into the market full of delicious food running along the Thames in England.

Those are just a handful of reasons. And I have a confession: even in the  midst of all of this anxiety eating me up whole, I registered this weekend to run the Sporting Life 10k race on May 10th…

Maybe it’s a running intervention I need! (gulp)

I’ll return to figuring out my future plans after the marathon. In the meantime, my focus is on this Sunday. “I’m not going to PB,” I told Shawna. “But you can’t go into the race thinking that. You just have to try your best,” she said. And she’s right. After all, as per Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights forevah!): “I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is: It’s in the trying.”

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment April 27, 2015

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