Tag: year in review

Healthy Swellness: 2018 Year in review

Miami Beach

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

Healthy Swellness: 2017 year in review

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As 2017 comes to a close, I will tell you I don’t really want to reflect on what’s been a very hard year. But I will because it’ll help me move forward and motivate me to work on making next year better. Up above is my best nine as determined by that site, and yes, there are some great highlights there.

I have been thinking about this past year all week and even I have to admit that there are some shining moments, ones that I let get overshadowed by overwhelming anxiety and stress. When I put some time into thinking about the year, 2017 will be the year that I will remember for these moments:

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My life changed for the better by adopting Billie Jean. In February, when an extremely scared hound landed at my door as my very first foster through Save Our Scruff, I had zero intention of adopting a dog. I wanted to foster as that was a way I could help a great organization while also getting some quality time with dogs that I could fit with my schedule. Then as Billie Jean came to trust me and came out of her shell more and more each day, I fell head over heels for her. More than love for this incredible pup, she was good for my health. She helped me to stress less and forced me to have more balance in my life. The truth is that there are days I feel stress and anxiety are swallowing me whole and I want me up feeling as though I’m in a dark place, and yet I have no choice but to take her out for a walk. Her trust, sheer happiness and wagging tail are like a switch for me. I exhale and she reminds me that we just have to keep on keepin’ on.

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I got to travel and explore and make new friends. I don’t believe that if you put something out in the world that it’ll come true…but I’d become fixated on visiting Lake Tahoe, and I was lucky enough to travel there for work and it was as stunning as I hoped. The same goes for Park City. I had been intrigued by this city I’d heard so much about and I felt so fortunate when I got to ski there in some epic conditions and do one of the most incredible SUP yoga classes ever. I visited California several times again this year and fell in love with it even more. More and more, I think I’m meant to be a California girl. Belize has always, too, been on my radar and I was thrilled to go on an epic trip there with G Adventures where we went caving, made tortillas from scratch with some inspiring women, and learned drumming with locals. 

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I road tripped all summer long and learned to camp. I spent much of the year focusing on close-to-home getaways with Billie Jean from late spring through to the fall. From a few trips to wine country (including PEC and Niagara) to learning to camp (a new passion for me—and am thrilled about partnering with MEC for some gear I plan to continue to use regularly!), staying in Ontario and enjoying quality time with my favourite dog was perfect. With it being Canada 150, it was great to celebrate what an incredible country we live in and discovering areas I’d never been to like Norfolk County. Besides the fun of camping and exploring Ontario, I’m also giving myself props for all the driving I did this year. Truth is I prefer to be a passenger but feel more comfortable behind the wheel now and even did my first two days at a race track.

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I met Charlie Hunnam. Last year, I got to meet Taylor Lautner, this year JAX TELLER.  What can I say, I fangirl hard for some celebs. As a Sons of Anarchy fan, meeting him, I was on cloud nine. I also go to meet Nicholas Hoult and had dinner with chef Curtis Stone so it was a pretty star-studded year. Oh, and I partied on a Bacardi bus with Luis Fonsi (I still love that song Despacito!)

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I got to see Backstreet Boys in concert. Yes, I’ve seen them many, many times but it doesn’t make it any less special, haha! Front row at their show in Las Vegas cost a fortune and was an ordeal (lining up so we could nab our prime spot at the stage, ugh) but seeing them in concert makes me ridiculously giddy and happy so it was well worth it. As was seeing NKOTB in concert again. I swear I feel an endorphin rush just reminiscing about it while writing this. I got to make a deep connection with the souls (OK, hold hands briefly…) of almost every one of these boy band-ers this year, yassssssss!

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I ran two marathons and cross-trained more. After my longest break from the 42.2k distance, I ran the Chicago Marathon and Hamilton Marathon, bringing my marathon total up to eleven. While Chicago was fine and Hamilton quite terrible, and neither was the ultimate result I wanted, I am proud to have these races completed. A marathon is difficult and a lot of hard training (which I think I forget sometimes) and I have to remind myself that there once was a time I couldn’t even dream of completing such a distance.

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As for  cross-training, I still focus heavily on running but I did work in a bit more variety to my fitness. Dance classes at Dance Life X is something I adored (I grew up taking dance classes and have always loved it). I made the effort to go to yoga classes and through work I got to include workouts such as Pilates, Spinning and HIIT. With Billie Jean, I hiked more and got out into nature more. She’s good for my health in so many ways.

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Work including some fantastic collaborations. Work has its ups and downs but this year there were projects and partnerships I loved working on: Working with Reebok on content about running and travel. Food campaigns with Loblaws. Content with Dairy Farmers of Canada, including this super fun retro-inspired one (above) and one about the power of protein. Some fun video content with College of Kinesiologists of Ontario. And let’s not forget projects I got to include Billie Jean on such as with Dyson and Marks.

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So, what are my goals for 2018…

With just a few hours left in 2017, I see that this year wasn’t entirely without good moments. Looking ahead to 2018, I strive for more balance in my life. While I traveled less this year (which was what I aimed for), I still went on eleven trips and 12 road trips, and the time, effort and disruption to my schedule that caused is simply very stressful and overwhelming for me. I need to work on not overextending myself.

Health-wise, I intend to try to include more variety and will continue to try to improve my running. I think more dance, tennis and Pilates will be key to my happiness when it comes to working out. I will plan on some goal races, but I have not yet decided on which ones. Ideally, I’d like to do one marathon destination race. When it comes to other aspects of wellness, I will continue to work on getting better sleep, drinking more water (I have started to drink a bit more!), and eat more veggies. A little more self-care, too, in terms of keeping my negative inner voice in check. I had a wake-up call recently when a client told me some content beat up on the reader too much, and I realized that the copy was essentially how I speak to myself all the time.

For work, I aim to continue to partner with brands who align with Health & Swellness. I’ve met and worked with several people who truly understand my brand and for that, I’m proud and plan to pursue collaborations with such companies more in the new year.

For this blog, I hope to blog more about my passions. Sheer lack of time has meant I cover some interests too infrequently. I have lots of ideas and things I want to write about, but just run out of time. But if I can achieve a more manageable schedule, you can look forward to more beauty and food posts in 2018 and my ramblings…I’ll try to keep the boy band love to a minimum, I promise!

Here’s to a safe and happy goodbye to 2017, and wishing you an incredible 2018! It’s a year brimming with possibilities!

Karen xo

Lost in Paradise in the Bahamas

 

 

1 Comment December 31, 2017

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


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