Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If It Works....

Paranoia.  That's all I can describe it as.  I keep thinking I've gained weight.  Not owning a scale or having ready access to one like I used to makes me constantly wonder about my weight.  People say, 'Go by how your clothes are fitting,' but that doesn't work for me because some have stretch fibres and some don't.  What if they're fresh out of the dryer?  Some days my jeans feel tight and others not.  The jeans have no stretch.  My sweats, which normally hang off me. were tight when I put them on the other night.

Why am I so obsessed with a number?  Where does weight gain begin?  In my opinion, it's when you stop paying attention.  Two pounds becomes five, and so it goes.  Since the end of boot camp I haven't had a lot of activity except for walking in our very hilly neighbourhood.  Therefore, it's fair to assume that I'm not burning calories as I ought to or once did.

So, with all this in mind I finally got myself back to the club to begin my winter work out routine.  I made it there twice last week for two 30 minute power work outs and weighed myself on the ancient triple beam balance scale in the ladies' room.  It told me good news; that I was two pounds below goal.  I also finally made it to a Weight Watchers meeting where I weighed in at one pound below goal.

What this all points to are several things: 1.) I'm paranoid, but a bit of healthy paranoia never hurt anyone who wants to maintain a significant weight loss.  2.) I have developed sufficient muscle mass that I go on burning calories even when I'm not involved in strenuous activity.  3.) Parts of me (like my bum) may have lost some muscle tone so my pants fit differently -i.e- my body has changed shape.

But most importantly, I have to remember that I have developed a pattern of eating from which I don't deviate.  If my portion sizes remain the same and the type of meals and snacks don't vary too much, if I limit the number of Christmas treats, then weight gain will not be an issue.  In other words, I need to have faith in a system that works which I set in place years ago.  Like the saying goes, 'If it works, don't fix it'. 

Which is not to say I don't need to move more.  Off to the gym.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Over

Sadly, boot camp has ended for another year.  On Wednesday we concede to the fact that the weather is just not going to allow us to continue so I will pack away my long-sleeved shirts and look for a way to continue training indoors.  We may purchase some personal training sessions and train once a week at the weight lifters gym we went to last year.  We have also renewed our membership at the Balmy Beach club so we can use the fitness room there.  Once again, a new fitness facility is opening on the site of my old gym.  I'll investigate it as well.  I'm walking more and more.  And there'll be skiing!  So I won't be sitting still.  I'm also thinking about participating in the 'Hair of the Dog' run on New Years Day sponsored by the Balmy Beach club.  It's a 9K run which starts at noon so it gives me plenty of time to wake up on New Years Day.

I'm going for a weigh in on Saturday and to hear about the changes that have been made to the Weight Watchers program.  Since reaching Lifetime status I don't often go to meetings anymore and I rarely count points unless it's a new food.  I've been eating roughly the same amount and types of foods for five years now so they should definitely keep me where I want to stay as long as my activity level remains high.  Have I discovered the secret to weight loss?  Who knew it was as simple as eat healthy foods in small amounts and move more?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Am I the Same Girl?

In near-freezing temperatures, once again with very little sleep, I ventured out for boot camp this morning.  It was hill training day and we chose a street in the neighbourhood with a short, steep slope.  I set a goal for myself to run it six times and I'm happy to report that I did it. 

While running I heard this song on my IPod.  I have a fondness for old R&B and it has a nice steady beat for running to.  When you get to the chorus you'll see where the title for this post comes from.  As I felt my muscles warming up and my whole body rising to the challenge of tackling the hill I heard my brain responding to the chorus; 'Am I the same girl?  Yes, I am, yes I am'.  And I am.  I'm the same girl who used to feel victorious after tackling a hill, finishing a race or doing an hour's training.  I feel like I've lost touch with that girl but she's still there.

To that end, I have to go back and do what worked before.  I think I've gained a few pounds so I want to return to a Weight Watchers meeting, not just for the weigh-in, but to touch base with all my weight loss buddies and remember that I'm still the same girl who likes a few more bevvies than is good for her and who thinks she's smarter than any weight loss program.  So, this Saturday will find me where it used to be, with bum on seat at the meeting where I first began losing weight nearly five years ago.  I'm looking forward to seeing some of the people I used to know and being inspired by their stories.  I'll try very hard to put the past where it belongs and retain only what is relevant to my moving forward.  It's all I can do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm Human

It's been a month since I last posted here and I wish I had more to report than the simple discovery that I am, after all, only human.  I've been letting my training slip by not making it to my Sunday walking group.  Boot camp has been rained out a lot, as well as the fact that I was on holiday for a week.  I have no idea what I weigh, having skipped weekly weigh-ins now for several weeks.  Where is all this taking me, I wondered?

Yesterday at boot camp I gave a dismal performance.  I ran the first warm-up mile just fine; better than fine, I thought, but the subsequent ten minutes of interval training left me weak, breathless and so exhausted that I could barely do any strength training.  It is not like me to wimp out on things like push-ups or pull-ups but I found I just had no strength.  The trainer said I had burned out doing the warm-up mile too quickly but I didn't think so.

The previous night had found me up several times cleaning up after the puppy.  I think Lily ate something in the garden, like a Gladiola bulb.  We were cleaning up the garden on Sunday afternoon getting ready for winter and one of the little offset bulbs may have landed on the ground when I pulled them up.  Everything she finds on the ground goes in her mouth.  All I know is, now I have two rugs to shampoo.  At 2:00 a.m. you do NOT want to do what I was doing.  So that's where the tiredness could have come from.

The other problem is asthma.  I was first diagnosed with it about 15 years ago when I still smoked.  Asthma induced by smoking would suggest to me that it involves permanent damage, but I went off my meds voluntarily this summer because I felt so well I decided I didn't need them anymore.  My doctor was cautious and suggested I should just have one puff of my inhaler per day but I didn't even do that.  Lately I have noticed a 'heaviness' or feeling of obstruction in my bronchi.  I know this means I need my meds.  While on holiday, the extreme humidity and dampness in certain parts of Bermuda meant that I had to rely heavily on my asthma meds and the tightness and obstruction quickly went away.  Now it's back.

So, yesterday, on returning from boot camp I fell into bed, not even bothering to shower and dozed for a few hours.  I woke up feeling none the better.  I took Lily out for a walk.  I thought some gentle walking and fresh air might help.  Foolishly, I let her off the leash and she took off.  Round and round the baseball diamond she ran, score imaginary home run after home run.  She ran under the bleachers and hid from every attempt I made to put her leash back on.  She drank from every puddle.  I couldn't run after her (and it would have only made matters worse) and I was becoming upset and even more breathless when a young man and his Golden Retriever appeared and helped bring her back to me.  On the way home I was so exhausted I was almost crying.

Once home Lily vomited puddle water three times, once on the living room rug which had received other of her ministrations the night before.  I figured I had better deal with the rug while the sun was still shining so I wrestled it out on to the front porch to steam-clean it, nearly passing out in the process.  I have a mini steam cleaner which meant I had to squat or crouch while using it.  That involved much huffing and puffing on my part and when I was done I felt a bit shaky.

I wobbled back into the house and collapsed on the couch.  I tearfully asked myself "What's wrong with me?" and the answer came loudly and clearly; "You're sick, you dummy!"  And so it was that I conceded that gee, maybe I'm not well. 

Last night I went to bed at 8:30 p.m.  This morning I woke up at 9:30 a.m. when HIggie suggested that maybe thirteen hours of sleep was more than enough.  I do feel better but it's going to be a slow and cautious recovery.  And yes, I am taking my meds.  My asthma is NOT cured, I am not superwoman, and I will, occasionally let my training slide or even gain a few pounds.  I'm human.  So shoot me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Not Giving Up

Last weekend Higgie and I participated in the Terry Fox Run.  This is an annual 5 and 10K fun run to raise money for cancer research which has been ongoing for the past 30 years.  Terry Fox was a young Canadian who lost his leg to bone cancer but did not give up his dream of becoming a long distance runner.  Instead, he took his dream across Canada by running on his artificial limb, beginning in St. John's, Newfoundland and ending, when ill health left him no choice, just north of Thunder Bay, near the Manitoba border.  He undertook this enormous task to raise awareness for cancer and the need for further research and funding.  He was 18 years old.  Shortly after giving up his run he died when his cancer returned.

This was the third year we have participated in this run.  Since cancer has claimed the lives of people in both our families and touched us again most recently when Higgie's dad was diagnosed with rectal cancer we feel it is a moral obligation to participate.  Here's a picture of us, post-run:

Since last weekend I've had a less-than-stellar week.  Boot camp was canceled Wednesday when my trainer injured his back, so my training has fallen behind.  I've had no more offers of work and I was turned down for unemployment insurance benefits so I'm utterly broke.  I've been feeling, if truth be told, like an abject failure.  One day this week was spent entirely in avoidance of the real world by playing computer games and napping. 

I forced myself out of the depths yesterday by bringing my mother home for lunch.  It was a perfect Fall day with lots of warm sunshine and no humidity.  I made a roaring fire in the chiminea in my backyard and Lily consented to be a lap dog for the afternoon.  I can't consider myself a failure if I am able to make one old lady this happy:

Later, yesterday afternoon I looked at ads in the local community newspaper and saw a job posting that intrigued me.  I may send out a resume today.  Here's what I've learned from running and the legacy of Terry Fox: you can't give up.  If you do, then you can't say you tried.  No one is a failure at everything.  Terry Fox didn't fail because he didn't make it all the way across Canada.  If he had stayed home and just thought about running he wouldn't be remembered in the way that he is today.  I don't expect to be remembered in the hearts of Canadians the way he is but I would like to be able to say at the end of my life (as did he, no doubt) that I never gave up. There's always something you can do, no matter how small and we all contribute.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's Been Too Long

I can't believe I haven't posted here since the beginning of August.  Here it is, Labour Day Weekend.  Summer's over!  Arrrgh!!!!  Actually, the best part of summer is now, in my opinion.  September is a great time to travel because there's no one around and the kids are all back in school.  The days are still warm and the humidity is gone.  It's also a time for starting over.  Judaism marks September as the start of the new year.  I think they got it right.  It's always felt that way to me.  Maybe it had something with starting back to school.  In any case, I'm trying hard to be optimistic.  So many things have changed in the past month that I need to figure out a way to fit the pieces all together.

I shelved the idea of becoming a personal trainer, at least for now.  Going over the course material for the nutrition part of the course felt too much like trying to date an ex-boyfriend.  Been there, done that, don't love you anymore.  I don't believe I know enough about fitness to teach it to someone else.  I could be wrong but I'd rather just assume the cheerleader role.  I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

I've been working sporadically on my fitness but haven't given it as much dedication as I should.  Miraculously, despite a lack of consistency, I find when I do give it my all I get great results.  I ran stairs today and did them really well but I am averaging only two boot camp work-outs per week lately instead of three and not even getting any extra runs in on my own time.  My weight has stayed the same, however, so I guess I've learned a thing or two in the past five years of reaching this state of grace.

Meanwhile, there's my wonderful puppy who continues to astound me with her affection, loyalty, brains and obstinacy.  Life with Lily is a lesson in something new every day.  We learn from each other.  Dogs start over every day because everything is always new for them.  While I continue to reinvent myself I need to remember that we all need to move on.  Some of us need to move faster.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Power to Change

I received my course material for the Wellness and Nutrition course I'm about to take and it has proved some fairly interesting reading so far.  One of the ideas put forth in the first couple of chapters is that most weight loss programs fail because they assume all participants are ready to change.  This, the book claims, is a fallacy.  People may think they're ready to change but they could initially participate out of a sense of fear, panic or obligation.  They don't really want to change, or at least, not yet.  This could well explain the drop out rate I observed at Weight Watchers, and the obstinacy with which some people faced following the program veiled under various disguises of 'no time', 'no money', etc.  It really just boils down to 'I don't want to'.

Mulling this all over in my head last night, I watched a wonderful documentary about one of my life-long favourite musicians, Pete Seeger, called "The Power of Song".  What the film brings home with perfect clarity is that Seeger influenced a generation by singing to children when he was banned from adult venues for his so-called Communist sympathies.  Every kid who every went to camp learned "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and that was a generation that embraced folk music and the attendant peace movement.  Just as Woody Guthrie had "This Machine Kills Fascists" painted on his guitar, Seeger's banjo says "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Makes it Surrender".  How else could a simple folk song end a war and breakdown social barriers?  Because, as the song says "We Shall Overcome".

Which leads me to think about the music on my IPod.  I've often touted this device as being the greatest invention of the 21st century and I do believe it to be so.  Its' small size and ease in operation makes it the perfect companion for the music lover on the go.  But as a tool to break down barriers, motivate us to change?  Can it do all that?  Yes it can.  Being a lover of folk music means I like any songs that deal with social activism, so here's a sample of what's on my playlist: 

 "It's a New Day" by Will.I.Am. 
Written for Obama's campaign, it was performed at the Inaugural Ball by Will.I.Am and electrified me.  It has some very inspiring lyrics that tell us, among other things, to 'Stop and cherish this moment'.

"Lovers in a Dangerous Time" by Bruce Cockburn.  Another life-long fave of mine, Canada's Bruce Cockburn has also had a life of activism.  There is a line in this song which, despite its violent imagery, absolutely rivets me: Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight/ you have to kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight".  Shocking but powerful.  Sometimes change can be a struggle.

"Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel.  There's a feeling of redemption and reward in the line 'Grab your things, I've come to take you home.  I try to keep this one cued up for crossing finishing lines or reaching (most appropriately) the top of a hill.

These are just a very few samples of the over nine hours of music my little IPod Shuffle can and does hold.  But this tiny device is very mighty.  If there was room I would write on it "This Machine Kills Lethargy and Banishes Doubt".  It also contains the power to change.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Running in the Rain

The difficulty with an all-season boot camp work out is that sometimes you will encounter inclement weather.  This morning it began raining almost as soon as we pulled into the parking lot at the beach.  We agreed however, that unless it began to thunder and lightning we would continue.  Fridays are hill running days so we proceeded to the steepest street in the beach to run the hill for 20 minutes.  I was wet and the road was slippery with oil slick but my shoes griped tight.  Pretty soon my wet clothing was chafing here and there and the humidity, rather than being dispersed by the rain, only became worse.  It felt like running through a wall of warm jelly.  I made it up the hill four times despite all the discomfort.  My record on a perfect day is six so I thought it was pretty god, all things considered.  Ironically, or perhaps appropriately, the song on my IPod as I made it up the hill for the last time was Chicago's "Feeling Stronger Every Day" from which the webtag for this blog was derived. 

It was one of the toughest days on which to work out; the humidity made my glasses fog and I couldn't see, there were mosquitoes galore back down at the beach where we returned to do our strength training, and the rain had made all surfaces slippery.  The pull-up bar almost slid out of my hands, and the bench was almost to wet to hold on to while doing dips but I managed two sets.  Kneeling in the wet sand to stretch out my quads and hamstrings left huge patches of sand clinging to me that took much brushing to get rid off.

In spite of everything it was one of the best work outs I've had in a while.  But I say that every day.  The only reason I can find for this is like the song says....'Stronger every day....'

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Bold Move

So, in the interest of staying true to the concept behind this blog, I have taken a major step.  I've been sitting around for weeks now asking myself "What's next?" 

If I give up working for a weight loss organisation does fitness and weight loss cease to be foremost in my life?  The answer to that was an obvious "Not on your life," so which direction to head in next was a gaping, yawning void. 

Well, not really.  My good friend Mo has, as mentioned, made the career choice of becoming a personal trainer.  She is very happy with it and working almost as hard as she wants to with very little effort getting started.  To that end, and at her urging, I signed up for Step One of the process by enrollng in a course for Wellness and Nutrition.  I mostly want to see if the nutritional priciples I have learned are, as I suspect, in keeping with generally accepted wisdom on the subject.  Once I have a certificate behind my name I can proceed in a number of directions, Personal Weight Loss Coach being one of them.  Next would come a course to become a Personal Trainer which would mean I could add fitness training into the mix.  How nice it would be to have a few clients I could work one on one with, rahter than the thundering hordes of the past who would not contemplate any sort of movement.  I hope this works out.  Stay posted.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Last night I watched an episode of one of my favourite TV shows, "No Reservations", hosted by author, foodie and one-time chef, Anthony Bourdain .  I've long been of fan of Bourdain's going back to when an excerpt of his book "Kitchen Confidential" appeared in New Yorker magazine several years ago.  It seemed like finally someone was telling it as I remembered it from working in dozens of restaurants over the years.  I was jealous I hadn't written it myself.

Over the years I have often wondered why I didn't turn my obsession with food into more of a career - beyond waitering, bartending and wine sales, that is.  Now there are bloggers and food writers galore.  How come I'm not one of them?  I fell like Marlon Brand on in "On the Waterfront": 'I coulda been a contender...'  But then I watched this episode.  On the liked episode you will see various people talking about their food obsessions.  Some of them are within normal parameters, whatever normal is, and perfectly understandable, like the guy who has taken pizza to a whole new level, of the chef that likes to catch the fish he serves.  But when Tony met with a couple of food bloggers that's when I began to be happy I didn't take my love of food in quite the direction they did.  All three of the guys he interviewed confessed that they had never been what you might call social successes so food had become their lover, their friend and replaced everything their lives didn't have.  They were all very obese and one gentleman said, perhaps with a hint of exaggeration, that he was told by a doctor there was more fat in his blood than red blood cells.  As for Tony, a renowned meatatarian, he too is on cholesterol meds, as he confessed at the end of the show.  He's 53 years old!  I was yelling at the TV; "Tony, eat some vegetables!"

So.  Do I want food to be an obsession like those guys and have to go on medication because there is so much fat and undigestable protein in my blood that I can't function?  Hay-yull no, as they say in the south.  I still live for real barbecued ribs and will never turn down a good steak medium rare, please, but watching shows where people act like gluttons (Check out 'Diners, Drive-ins & Dives') for an instant case of vicarious heatburn).  The days of seaching for the perfect eggs benedict (I once ate them every day while on a two week holiday) are over and I do not miss them one bit.

On the other hand, could it not be said that turning up for boot camp in 30C weather is also an obsession?  I had no transport this morning because Higgie was working so I ran down to the beach in what was already registering as 26C (80F) and joined two others in our agility training routine.  It was tough, but I did get a second wind partway through, and despite a few sand flies biting me I was able to do a full minute of plank pose and the rest of the strength training we normally do.  I didn't make it quite a far with bear crawl but my crab was slightly better.  I wouldn't have missed it for the world, truthfully.  I drank plenty of water and walked home up shady streets at a good pace.  Later today I'm going to take my mom out for lunch and might just have a pint and the pub's famous Stilton burger.  I'll leave half the bun and forgo the fries - and guess what?  I won't need medication afterwards - or ever!  Let's see: which do I prefer?  Thirty sit-ups in the sand at 7:00 a.m. or cholesterol meds?  Healthy obsessions?  Nothing wrong with 'em. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Heat Wave Leaves No Options

We had a temporary respite from the heat and humidity and reached record-breaking highs yesterday with a temperature of 41C (105F).  Hoping for a break overnight, we awoke this morning to find no such thing and the temperature at 6:00 a.m. was hovering around 80F.  Heat isn't our only problem here; it's also about humidity.  Because the city is set in a natural basin we find ourselves with air the texture of wet cotton some days.

Nevertheless, we set out for boot camp as always for our Monday interval training session.  The first part involves a one mile run which was very difficult considering the heaviness of the air even beside the lake.  After a brief cool down we began running in two-minute intervals followed by two minutes of walking.  What I typically observe of myself is that I gradually get faster with each interval, and while this was also true today my speed was nowhere what it has been on other, more temperate days.  We finished off with strength training, and even here I was not my usual self; struggling with bench dips and praying for Bruce to say 'Stop' when doing push-ups.  Despite drinking lots of water, it really felt too warm to be working out.

Walking back to our cars I had a conversation with another boot camper who said she just couldn't stop eating.  I suggested she use boot camp as a metaphor -i.e.- she didn't want to stop eating last night and as a result she feels terrible.  She didn't want to get up this morning because it was too hot to work out but did anyway and now feels great.  Both were tough decisions to make.  Which one made her feel best?  She said it is hard to think rationally sometimes where food is involved and I agreed but I also believe it takes practice.  Everything gets better with practice.  Just like boot camp.

It looks like it's trying to rain and I must get Lily out for her walk.  The weather is going to remain hot all this week but maybe there will be a break in the humidity if we get some rain.  Not walking Lily is not an option, rain or no rain, heat or cold.  There is no other option for me than to continue to work out and practice healthy eating.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


After several days of scorching heat and humidity (typical July weather) we woke this morning to cool breezes and moderate temperatures.  Off went the a/c and open went all the windows.  Let the air in!

At the beach the air was remarkable; fresh and clean and energizing.  Which must be why agility training went better today than it has for a while.  I was actually able to pick up speed when we ran the rope ladder, rather than plodding through it, as I have in weeks gone by.  I actually passed two of the other women twice.  The agility drills we do consist of running up and down a nylon rope ladder which is laid down in the sand.  We do a series of ever-increasing drills that involve first one step in each rung of the ladder, then two steps, then steps inside and outside the rungs, as well as running sideways.  We do this drill for twenty minutes and it is then followed by marching, skipping and running forwards and backwards in the sand.  The sand makes balance and stability harder and your body will work harder to accommodate the lack of a firm surface.

When we've finished working our lower bodies we begin on the upper.  Bruce asked us today "Are you ready to be animals?" to which I replied "Grrrrrr!"  Then we did bear walk - walking on all fours - in the sand.  Higgie and I were over-achievers and did it for twice the proscribed length.  That meant, of course that there was twice the distance to cross coming back the other way in crab walk.  I made it about 1/3 of the way before collapsing.  Since triceps strength is one of the hardest things to come by, I find crab walking extremely difficult.  It's also tough on my weak wrists but I compensate sometimes (like today) by balancing on my fists instead.

Working our core consisted of plank pose, which I have always been pretty good at, having strong shoulders, but this morning the minute we held the position just seemed to fly by.  I felt my abs engage and hold me like - a plank!  Then we did side plank; balancing on one forearm and the sides of our feet.  That was a little bit harder but maybe I was getting tired. 

It was a great work-out and I felt I had surpassed myself.  It still thrills me to see that I continue to gain strength.

I've started a new part-time job in a field I know nothing about and I find I'm enjoying it.  I almost see a parallel between being able to learn a new skill as well as train my body even harder than before.  I feel like there's a whole new world out there.

Walking back to the car we saw another French bulldog puppy.  He was a month younger than Lily and much smaller.  I can't believe how much Lily has grown this month.  Tonight we take her back to puppy school for lesson two which will be leash training.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how well she does.  She improved so much with just one lesson.  But hey!  If I can keep growing in strength, so can she.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eating Mulberries

Years ago I heard an interview on CBC radio with the then-mayor of Toronto, John Sewell.  He said one of his favourite things to do in the summer was to pick mulberries from the many trees in the city.  They are a popular ornamental tree because they grow quickly, provide ample shade and attract birds.  Their fruit is highly edible but almost no one harvests it, so Mayor Sewell would knock on people's doors, introduce himself as the mayor of the city of Toronto and ask permission to pick their mulberries.  He then made jam and pies from them.  I was absolutely tickled by this idea of free fruit for the picking and began to make note of locations of these trees around the city and since that time I pick and eat them wherever I find them.

Walking Lily in the early morning has given me ample opportunity to enjoy mulberries this summer.  There are several of them in my neighbourhood.  They look and taste like a smaller, slightly sweeter blackberries.  and they are absolutely delicious.  I feel so fortunate to be walking in the early morning and tasting summer fruit that would otherwise go to waste.  It feels almost decadent.

Another great summer experience brought to me courtesy of walking Lily is a stroll beneath the many Serviceberry trees which are another popular, fast-growing tree found here.  The scent of their blooms is intoxicating.  Apparently, the fruit, which will come later, is also very tasty.

What a gift this summer has been so far; walking my puppy and tasting and smelling summer's bounty.  I'm so glad I gave myself this opportunity.

Life's short and so is summer.  Eat mulberries.  They're free!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stepping It Up

Lily has a bladder infection and is prone to more frequent urination right now so I have stepped up her twice-daily walks to three.  I have a brain infection and am dreaming about eating cake and fudge so I need to run more.  Seriously, last night I had a dream that I could not stop eating a huge peanut butter sandwich cookie filled with peanut butter cream frosting which had been given to me by Michael Jackson's mother.  After that, I was stranded on a ledge of a high building trying not to commit suicide while being sent up (and consuming) chocolate cake and fudge from the concerned group of citizens gathered on the street below.  I am not a sweet-eating person so I have no idea where these dreams came from, except they might speak to my fear of regaining my weight.  It's a bit daunting not knowing where my next paycheque is coming from so I've been feeling a bit insecure.  I think I've let my fears eat away at my confidence.  I know one thing that restores me and gets my brain in order.  Time to lace up the running shoes.  When I come back from a 30 minute run I will have figured out a plan - at least for today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stronger, Faster, Better

Interval training on Monday at boot camp was a remarkable experience.  By adding one more run per week when not training with Bruce I am getting faster and tire less quickly - and all I did was add one more 30 minute session!  What this does for my mental health and self esteem is indescribable.  I feel optimistic and believe there is a path out there for me and I will find it.  So much better than wallowing in regret and 'what might have beens'.

We're training with a couple of other people who are not happy with their current state of fitness.  They are both quite depressed about it and I find myself acting as cheerleader, remembering all too well how self-conscious and embarrassed about my own lack of fitness I once felt.  I keep reminding one woman that she just had a baby and needs to cut herself some slack but she hates the size she has become and pushes herself very hard.  She's an inspiration.

I still believe finding Bruce as a trainer and doing boot camp are two of the best things that have ever happened to me, though I should probably fit meeting Higgie and getting Lily in there somewhere too.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Walking With Lily

My 17 week old French Bulldog, Lily got the rest of her vaccines yesterday which means I am finally able to walk her.  Last night I took her for a walk in the neighbouring schoolyard and park.  I was delighted with the beauty of the evening and the wonderful young families I met.  I shake my head in horror and wonderment to think that previously on a Saturday evening I might have sat watching TV instead.  Lily has changed my life.

This morning kicked off the inaugural walk of my walking group - and marked Lily's first walk on the boardwalk!  A group of six women and one husband, as well as Higgie, met at the eastern end of the Toronto Beaches boardwalk and we walked together at a very good clip the full 3 kilometres to the end where we did five minutes of strength training and stretching before we walked 3 K back the other way.

Enroute we encountered my dear friend and former Weight Watchers leader Mo, together with her husband and her new dog Pico.  Here is a picture of Mo introducing Pico to Lily:

We hope that Mo and Pico will join us in the weeks to come when we continue to walk and exercise together.  I had a great time walking and talking with the group and really look forward to doing it again.  Like walking with Lily last night, it's something I really wish I had started sooner.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye

It is with some sadness that  I have said goodbye to my job as a Weight Watchers leader.  I had a remarkable two years and enjoyed it very much but it is time for me to go.  I realise I have moved in another direction and to that end my talents are best served elsewhere.  

Weight loss is difficult and I believe it requires a particular mindset.  Without sufficient discipline and determination it can be nearly impossible for some people and while I have seen many successes there were too many people falling by the wayside that I couldn't reach.  I can only say, 'Let those who have ears hear'.  Perhaps there will be someone else there for them. 

While I see my journey as being far from over, I was having difficulty accessing the same amount of enthusiasm as I once had for the program and it was beginning to show. I will continue to pursue fitness goals as I believe that ultimately they are more important for me at my stage of this journey.  I need to do what's best for me.  To that end, I will blog more here about boot camp and my other types of physical training. 

Nothing has ever  empowered me as much as learning during my first boot camp four years ago that I could actually DO this!  Going from a sedentary lifestyle to a fit and active one at my time in life was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me.  I often tell my trainer, Bruce that next to Higgie he is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I often find myself thinking about the film "Chariots of Fire".  Higgie hated it and I thought it was over-long, but I will always remember the line the young Scottish runner spoke when he described how it felt to run.  He said he could 'feel God's pleasure'.  I feel the same.  To feel my body moving rhythmically and steadily is a form of meditation for me.  It clears my head of any of the evil that tends to lurk there; my lack of patience, anger, jealousy and other damaging thoughts all seem to fade.  I need to go to that place more often and concentrate on moving more all the time.  It's what will keep me thin - and sane.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Walk-It Challenge

Anyone who reads here will know by know that fitness is a primary goal and pursuit in my life.  So, yesterday when I participated in the Weight Watchers 5K Walk-It Challenge with my fellow Weight Watchers members I felt like there was a door opening from one world to another and I could share some of what I have learned and discovered about myself through fitness.  I also finally came to an understanding how little some people actually do move.  I've always, even at my heaviest, been a walker and a hiker.  I didn't realise how fortunate I was.

From the beginning I could see that some people were struggling to keep up so I kept running back to the end of the line to catch people up and get them to step up their pace.  It's a trick I learned from Bruce.  He runs with me, forcing me to keep up to his pace.  I therefore walked at a faster pace then some of the members and they changed their pace accordingly.  I did this two or three times.

I met a lot of new people and saw others I haven't seen for a long time; members who had transferred to other meetings, members from now-defunct At Work meetings who were now going to traditional meetings, and some who remembered me from fill-ins I have done.  It really brought home to me what a family we are and how staying close and only better our cause.

In the end I had quite a few people thank me for making them keep pace and helping them realise they can walk this distance; that by talking and sharing the time and distance meant nothing.  To this end, I have decided to form a walking club.  Stay tuned for further details about walking with my Weight Watchers members.

More Pictures:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Believing in Myself

Had an amazing meal last night with my friend and former-but-always-will-be Weight Watchers leader.  I scarfed more sashimi than I've had for awhile.  Must have needed my lean protein fix.  We talked about how I need to stick to my convictions about what motivates people to get healthy.  I believe in appealing to their intellect.  I believe we all have that.  I don't buy this 'lowest common denominator' crap and I won't stoop to cheap tricks.  I frequently quote Robert Browning on how "a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for."  We need to stretch a bit to get things working, and this can mean the mind as well as the body.  I don't think Browning is too high brow, nor is any other literary source.  It's the message that works for me. 

Everything in my life relates to weight loss and vice versa.  I see my life and my interests as one big metaphor that relates to how I view my lifestyle choices.  For example, I've been thinking a lot this week about the great novels of our time which I studied here and at UCLA and have begun to re-read them.  What does Robertson Davies have to say to me at this time?  Does Margaret Drabble still resonate?  Will Iris Murdoch have a different message nowadays?  I want to re-visit the me that read those books back in the 80's and understand where she's coming from these days and what has changed.  If I can use my response to literature as a gauge it may help me to understand how I've grown as a person and how well I've managed to re-wire my attitudes towards food and life in general.

So far, I've learned that great books are still great but my level of concentration is not as good as it once was.  Still, the message is there and I am learning that who I was when I first read these books has only been made stronger by going through the fire that has been my life.  Just like steel, as referenced in 'David Copperfield'.  I reflected on that concept this week as I remembered the 38th anniversary of the death of my father.  It was an incomprehensible loss to a 19 year old girl just starting her adult life.  I doubt my father would even recognise me today if it weren't for the fact that my nose is still frequently stuck in a book.  He sure wouldn't recognise the boot camp me, even though he instilled the seeds of that discipline in me as he did my brother with his deep, abiding respect of the military.  I miss you, Dad.  Rest well.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Boot Camp: Agony of Da Feet

Running has created more foot problems than I have ever previously had, and I've had a few.  My bunions, which were formerly sleeping giants, have come to life with full force and they ache, sometimes all night.  I also continue to get a blister on the inside edge of my right foot.  I had hoped orthotics would fix all these problems but maybe it's too soon to tell.  All I know is, after doing interval training at boot camp this morning I am sitting here now longing to soak my feet in ice water but I have no basin to soak them in and Lily thinks bare feet are highly edible so the socks and  shoes stay on.

Yesterday at a Weight Watchers staff meeting I commented to another leader that having lost weight had given me tremendous energy and helped me feel half my age but the feet tell the tale.  I wore my 'grandma' sandals' - clompy, unfashionable Mephisto walking sandals to and from the meeting and my pretty high-heeled sandals at the meeting.  I can't wear high heels at all anymore for any distance of time and forget all about walking in them.

Still, a small price to pay, perhaps, for the chance to get fit and thin.  Though I still long for pretty shoes.  Can't have everything, I suppose.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boot Camp and Puppy Love

Did I ever doubt if Lily would be anything but a great addition to my life?  Heck, no.  All the more reason to get up early.  She fits our lifestyle so completely.  Get up early to walk the dog, get up for boot camp, what's the difference?  One makes you sweat more.  We practice running with Lily up and down the driveway.  Our neighbours think we're nuts as we trot along like trainers at the Westchester County Dog Show.  She will never be able to run at our pace but she loves to run.  Soon, when she's had all her shots, we can take her to the park to run, though I would be very hesitant to let her off the lead.  This is a popular breed to get stolen.

Meanwhile, boot camp continues and I find everything I ever knew about training seems to fit tongue and groove with everything I am learning about dog training: patience, attention to detail, consistency.  It all pays off.  My weight has stopped fluctuating, I have more energy and I sleep better.  Oh, and I have a dog.  Did I mention that?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Backing Out

I'm backing out of the 10K race in Ottawa.  No Ottawa Race weekend for me but not because I can't do it.  It's not the knee or the hip - it's the PUPPY!!!!

Meet Lily.  She's a French Bulldog.  I got her three days ago.  She's 11 weeks old which means I can't go anywhere for the time being.  Not that I mind being home with this much cuteness around.  She's learning to walk on a lead and go potty outside but the weather has been so terrible I had to buy her a raincoat.  Here's Lily looking like Super Dog in her outdoor apparel:

We love her to bits and don't mind having to miss our 10K to stay home with her.  There'll be other races.  Meanwhile, she has made my mother very, very happy.  She wept tears of joy when she met her.

Stay tuned for more stories about Lily - oh, and fitness and weight loss too, of course!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Boot Camp - Week Three

The weather has finally improved so there should be no more cancellations.  I'm happy that we can now move forward because I'm looking to seeing improved strength and ability in myself.  Having said that, I am finding it interesting to note that while I believe I can do better, I am stronger than some of our newer members.  This is only to be expected; everyone has to start somewhere, but I had almost taken my strength for granted. Of course I remember a time when doing a simple push-up was one of the most difficult things I had ever done.  Looking back over my journal from the first year, one of the most frequent comments was "I want to puke".  Everything exhausted me at a much faster rate than it does now.  Nowadays the routine is familiar and almost comforting.  It's definitely enjoyable, something I would never have said four years ago.

Today was interval training, which is one of my favourites because I love running so much.  We run a mile to start with and then do five sets of run/walk for two minutes each.  We follow this up with two sets of strength training exercises: push-ups among them.  I am getting far, far better at those.  I can go a full minute and get my chest lower than originally.  I'm working on doing one-legged bench dips and leg curls for the sake of strengthening my knees but it's slow-going because I tire quickly and wind up having to put both feet down.  My goal for the end of the summer is to be able to do more of them.

It was a gorgeous morning, sunny and bright and the leaves are at the point of early Spring perfection where they are that tender green in colour that will last only a very short while before they come out in full and darken in colour.  These are days to revel in.  Thanks to boot camp I get to enjoy them more.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Boot Camp - Day Two

We are partway through our first week of boot camp - and I'm loving it as much as ever!  Higgie couldn't come this morning because he had to go to work early but we were joined by a new couple.  She is one of my Weight Watchers members but I feel like I've met her husband before somewhere too.  He's very fit and funny and a great addition to the group.

There was a heavy mist all over the city this morning so we never did see a sunrise but there'll be plenty more of them to come.  It felt mystical and slightly eerie to be on a deserted beach in thick fog.  Our work-out had me feeling pretty warm but when I took my jacket off the cool, damp air put a chill on things pretty quickly.

Stupid Knee was fairly quiet but I did feel the occasional twinge.  I'm sitting here with an ice pack on it at present and I will take a Celebrex shortly, but all in all it was pretty co-operative.  Practically everyone else in the group has an ache or a pain or an old injury they were moaning about so we're a sad bunch!  But we'll get better.

It's tough to put into words just how incredibly happy it makes me feel to know I'm doing my favourite work-out again.  It means my weight fluctuations will cease, I'll have more energy and I can get back to running.  It even makes the half-marathon feel do-able.  Boot camp makes many things possible.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Boot Camp Starts Today

It's official, boot camp starts today after a one-week delay.  The weather has improved to a balmy 5C and though the sand on the beach will still be wet from Friday night's storm we will still be rolling around in it, no doubt. 

I've been awake since 1:30 a.m., not from excited anticipation but just because I am going through another period of sleeplessness.  I spent Saturday afternoon in the emergency ward with my Mom who had another little spell of passing out.  This time she was seated, thank goodness, so nothing was broken.  The stress of it left me a bit rattled though and I have slept badly since then.  I'm hoping increased activity will put an end to it.  I'll try to nap when I get home this morning.

Stupid Knee has been responding well to Celebrex and I can bend it pretty well so I'm going to attempt running.  Higgie, on the other hand, has had bad knees ever since Harry's Spring Run-Off.  He's been getting treatment for them but he refuses to walk anywhere and when forced to he won't bend his knees so heaven only knows how he'll fare this morning.  He was advised by Dr. Wade not to run for another week yet so he thinks that means walking too, although Wade did say he should be.  He's thinking he'll come down to the beach with me and meet everyone and then go home.  I hope Bruce persuades him to stay.

I'm looking forward to meeting the other participants.  There are two Weight Watchers members, one of whom I know, together with her husband whom I have not met.  I think I know the other Weight Watchers member but I'm not sure.  I'm glad she decided to participate, whoever she is.  I will continue to encourage members to join us throughout the season.

Time to go kick Higgie out of bed.  More later when I'm back home and have shaken the sand off me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boot Camp - A No-Go

It didn't happen.  We didn't start boot camp this morning, despite my having gone to bed early and setting the alarm for 4:45 a.m.  I had planned the number of layers I was going to wear and how to stay warm.  But I managed to miss Bruce's email cancelling this week's activities by 5 minutes.  He sent an email out last night shortly after I had gone to bed and I didn't read it until this morning when the alaem went off.  The first thing I did was check email and there it was.  Did I go back to bed?  What do you think?

We had blizzard conditions yesterday, with white-outs and freezing temperatures.  Though none of it stayed on the ground by my house it's likely that there would have been ice on the boardwalk by the lake which would have made for dangerous conditions.  We're waiting for next week when this cold weather front is supposed to pass.  Darn it!  While I'm glad my knee has another week to recover I'm missing the endorphin rush - and the calorie-burning action.  Good thing we're talking about tracking this week at Weight Watchers because I know how effective it is when I can't rely on activity to help me stay at goal.

May this week and this weather system soon pass.  I need some Spring!!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

More Boot Camp Memories

Am I crazy?

It's been raining and cold all weekend and we just had a brief flurry of snow.  Boot Camp starts tomorrow.

I've been going over journal entries from previous years.  Here's one from the fall of 2009.  The weather then is much like it is right now:

After only managing to get four hours sleep last night thanks to snoring husband, puking cat and asshole neighbour I was not in the mood for the cold wind, 34F degree weather and misty rain.  Nevertheless, and despite Higgie and I asking each other if we were crazy, we met with Bruce and proceeded to run the longest steepest hill in the beach.  I slipped on a wet leaf on the road that was not visible in the dark and almost landed on my head, and by the third time up I felt nauseous.  Fortunately, we stopped after that and then went down to the beach where the waves were roaring onto the shore with the intensity of a hurricane.  We did push-ups, pull-ups and bench dips all the while trying not to get blown over or too wet.  I could barely hear Bruce calling out instructions because the wind took his voice away.  Just when I though we were done he made us do walking lunges for 100 meters and then do the whole strength training circuit over again.  It truly was a tough, tough morning.

This is from Year three (again, in the Fall, but still...)

Freezing temperatures this morning; ice on the boardwalk and crunchy sand.  I'm not allowed to run or walk hills so I power-walked the boardwalk (oh yippee) while Higgie and Gail ran one of the nearby hilly streets with Bruce.  There were very few people out at first but on my way back down the boardwalk I saw one running club and a few people walking their dogs as the sun slowly showed itself as a pink streak on the horizon.  My fingers and butt were very cold and I never even broke a sweat.  I was late joining the others for the strength training portion of our work-out so I did a few extra push-ups and dips just to get caught up.  It was far from being the boot camp work-out I am used to but it was better than staying in bed, even if it was freezing cold!  We just signed on for 10 more sessions and there's no snow predicted for the whole month of December so we'll see how far we can take it.

But then there were some great moments, like this one:

Good drill, good knee, good ice pack.
It was cold this morning and there was a not-inconsiderable breeze down by the water but I had tons of energy and flew through the agility drill.  My knee cooperated right up until the end when some sumo squats kinda undid me.  No pain but I could feel the strain and knew I had a date with an ice pack as soon as I got home.  There was a gorgeous sunrise and I couldn't help but be pleased as we did rolling side plank that when I rolled to face the west I saw the downtown skyline all twinkly lights and as I rolled to the other side I saw red and orange sky to the east.  Fabulous sight! 
I'm sitting here getting colder by the minute thanks to this ice pack strapped to my knee but I will get into a very hot shower in a few minutes and feel great again.  Ah fitness!  How I do adore thee.  I'm crazy, I know....

Crazy or not, I've been sifting through memories of previous years all this weekend and becoming more and more excited about challenging myself once again through a tough fitness regime.  I re-reading my old journal entries one issue seems to surface again and again, however; my knees.  They do not respond well to this sort of treatment.  I'm presently having knee trouble for no good reason and have been icing and resting it all weekend.  I'm sincerely hoping that they will stand the test and get me through this year with few problems.  I've come to understand that I must ice them after all activity.

Tune in later this week to see how our first week goes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Boot Camp: A reverie

I'm about to start my fourth year of boot camp training and I'm remembering the first year.  I thought I'd share some thoughts from a journal I kept.  I decided to take up this type of training when it was offered through a gym I used to belong to.  The gym is long gone but the trainer, Bruce Tisdale has continued the tradition of a tough outdoor work-out with everything a boot camp brings to mind: outdoors, early hours and not fancy stuff, just a stripped down, bare bones work-out.  My reasons for wanting to do this type of work out had to do with my brother's years spent in the military.  I figured if he could do iIt, I could do it. The final 20 pounds of my weight loss goal were slow in coming off and I wanted something that would bolster my discipline.

The first few weeks were very tough because of inclement weather, illness and injury.  I wasn't in as good of shape as I thought I was, the early Spring weather and the local dog-poo infested park where we first began to train were enough to turn everyone off.  Here are a few comments from a journal I kept:

Today was killer and it's only going to get worse!  We went to the park and Bruce laid out a course about 100 yards long which we were to run and then do a series of lunges when we reached the other side.  Then we ran back and did it again.  We did this for ten minutes and then he switched it to 20 military squats at the end of the run for an additional ten minutes.  I was drenched with sweat and my glasses fogged up.

I wanna puke.  Today was the hardest so far and I felt very weak for some reason.  I had another lousy night's sleep and 6 hours is just not enough to go on when you're working out this intensely.
Today we did sprinting for 100 yards with a walk or jog back to the finish line.  We did this for 20 minutes.  I jogged back at first but after a while it was a fast walk and more like a jog than a sprint.  Then we did ten minutes of bear walk, which is walking on all fours, followed by ten jumping jacks at the finish line, then crab walk back with more jumping jacks, squat-hops and lunge-walk.  I was ready to heave by the end of it, my breathing was all raggedy and my bum was wet from plunking it down on the grass during that god-awful crab walk.

Both myself and another woman commented to the trainer that we thought we were getting worse, not better.  He said it was because everything he was giving us to do was becoming increasingly more difficult.  I hadn't realised there was any difference in the difficulty level.  Now I feel better.

Which I came down with a cold I had to miss a few sessions.  On my return I discovered we had relocated to the beach.  It was a more attractive setting but the work just got harder.  Sand got everywhere - in my shoes, in my ears, even in my underwear.  Doing push-ups and crab walk in sand chafed my hands to bits until I got smart enough to bring gloves.  But I began to notice things - like how all the colours of the Canadian shield could be found in the sand beneath my face as I did push-ups, and how the sun would rise as we did sit-ups, and the flocks of cormorants that would come in to feed.  Could it be I was starting to enjoy it? 

The hardest part of the training seemed to be the run back up a very steep hill to return to the gym at the end of the session.  Silver Birch Avenue is the steepest street in the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood and I was determined that one day I would make it, running, all the way to the top.

Funny things happened:
Today I was doing pelvic lifts on my back with my feet on a park bench and a dog came up and licked my face.  I screamed and then laughed so hard the dog thought I wanted to play.  It was hilarious.  His owner could barely get him off me.

Damon Allen is a jerk!  The famous CFL quarterback who retired yesterday after a stellar career including running a total of 7000 yards (I'm quoting here; I don't actually know this stuff) is Bruce's best friend and as a tribute to him we did a football drill today including something horrible called 'breakdowns'.  I almost had one.  They involve marching in place (in the sand) for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds of running in place while squatting as low as you can go.  We did four sets of this.  It was exhausting. 

And I did make it up that hill:
I was very slow and definitely feeling tired so I had no idea that I would find it in me to finally conquer that hill .  As we were stretching before run back to the gym, I leaned back in a lower back stretch and looked up at the clear blue morning sky and thought, 'Whatever else I gain from this, I at least have this sky to look at.' The run back up the hill begins at a slow, gradual and steady ascent.  It leads past the office of a medical professional who performs liposuction.  His sign reads 'medical slimming techniques'.  Sure, there's the ticket.  Get your fat sucked instead of running it off.  I find it ironic to be running past there three times a week when all I'd have to do is fork over thousands and risk my life, not to mention have some very ugly scars.  As if.  I looked up and saw I was very near the hedge that marks the limit of my past efforts up that hill.  The next thing I knew the hedge was gone.  I reached the top of the hill and my feet stopped before I did.  I was staggering and gasping but I felt very elated.   As I walked home afterwards I think I was strutting with pride. 
Today I kept thinking about all the times I had wished the fat would just magically disappear, all the excuses I made as to why I could never do Weight Watchers, how diets didn't work, how I was too old to exercise, how I had injuries, etc., etc., etc.  Here's what i have learned: if you want something badly enough you have to work at it.  You can't buy it or borrow it from someone else. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pictures from Harry's Spring Run-off 2011

Here we are, in all our glory.  I don't look as happy as I feel but I do think this picture shows determination.  Both of these were taken crossing the finish line.


Higgie looks a but more rested, but he stopped to walk a few times.  Or maybe he just takes a better picture!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Aftermath: Dr. Wade & Spinning to the Beatles

Two days later and I'm still stiff and sore - but the pain in my hip is GONE!  We walked and stretched a good deal after the run on Saturday and I ran up and down the stairs in my house dozens of times yesterday doing laundry and I also worked outside raking leaves, but the soreness is only in my quadriceps and hip flexors (those tendons in the groin) this morning, not the hip itself.

I had one more visit with Dr. Wade to make sure there was no damage incurred by the run.  He was pleased to hear I no longer have hip pain but he did feel some tightness still in my glutes.  He set me free from further treatment (and expense, thank goodness!  The bill came to over $400.) but told me to be sure to put my Super Feet inserts back in my shoes to prevent pronation or be looking to get some custom orthotics made one day.  He gave me the go-ahead to take a spin class today in order to work out the kinks and reminded me to trust in my training.  He told me I've reached a level of fitness that should allow me to be confident that I can accomplish most challenges I choose to undertake.  I'm that fit?  Who knew?

So, off I went to spin class at noon, to find that once again I was the only person there.  To make it even more fun the instructor had prepared an entire set of Beatles music to pedal to which made the time go faster (and my feet!) so I can now say I don't really hate spin anymore.  I'm still sore though, and likely will be for a few days.

Heading for the shower marvelling over the concept of being fit.  Me, the kid who hated gym class.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Harry's Spring Run-off

Yesterday marked the first competitive run of the year for serious runners and even though I was doubtful I would be able to participate, I came, I saw and I conquered!

This run is sponsored by Canada's largest and most exclusive purveyor of mens' clothing, Harry Rosen.  All proceeds form this run go to research and treatment of prostate cancer.  It's in its 32nd year.  I participate in it not just for the challenge of running it but because my brother is a prostate cancer survivor.  It's very hilly course through one of Toronto's most famous and beautiful parks.  I first participated three years ago, shortly after reaching my goal weight.  I did the 5K course and found it very hard-going.  Last year I completed the 8K course and found it even more grueling but finished with a very respectable time of 54:35.

Here's a picture from the first year, in the 5K race:

This one is from last year, near the finish line in the 8K:

This year, because some still unexplained pain in my right hip which has been well-documented here, I was unable to train much and I was really doubtful about being able to run at all, much less finish the course.  I decided not to worry about time and to allow myself to stop when necessary.  I was definitely not prepared for how well things actually did go and I can only say it must be as they say about training: the body remembers.  It really was as if my body said 'I can do this.  I know how'.

I can only say it surpassed my wildest hopes.  My time was not as good as last year's; 58:19, but I was pleased to still come in under an hour.  I beat Higgie by 3 minutes, which shocked the heck out of me, and I didn't stop once, except for a millisecond twice to get a drink of water which I drank as I continued to move forward.

The last two times I have run this course I've been working my body too hard to appreciate its beauty but yesterday, going at a slower pace, I was able to relax and enjoy the run in a way I never had before.
It was a sunny but cool day, and despite doing several minutes of warm up stretches and walking lunges to get my quadriceps moving and my hips loose, I knew it was going to take at least 20 minutes for my body to accept the concept of running.  I had purposely lined up four slower songs at the start of my play list on my iPod, beginning with "Horse With No Name", and old favourite of mine.  The lyrics really spoke to me, in a way they never have before because they were so completely appropriate to the situation at hand; 'On the first part of the journey, I was looking at all the life, There were plants and birds and rocks and things...'  I really forced myself to look around me and enjoy the brilliant sunshine, even if it was only 3C.
My hip was creaky and sore for the first 10 minutes or so, and I even got a stitch in my side to start out with, so it wasn't exactly a glorious beginning.  I promised myself I could stop after the first four songs were through but somehow I forgot about that promise.

I soon warmed up and had to take off my running gloves, even though they are very handy for wiping my nose!  I tucked them into the waistband of my pants.  I was glad I had resisted wearing a running jacket.  I chose not to because the bibs we were given this year had a timing chip built into them and we were told not to put anything over them or the scanner would not be able to record our time.  That would have meant pinning the number on over the jacket and the jacket would have had to stay on.  I wore a long-sleeved tech shirt with a singlet-style tech shirt under that but together with a fairly heavy running bra it was more than I needed and I got pretty warm.

Higgie and I started running together but he soon got way ahead of me.  I caught up to him at the first water station, which was at the 4K mark.  After a few sips of water and with the knowledge that the run was half over at this point, I felt very refreshed.  My back was starting to tighten up so I made a point of correcting my posture by standing more erect and activating my core muscles.  It was at this point that I really began to enjoy myself.  The course was taking us around Grenadier pond at that point, a large and natural pond in the centre of the park and t he view was exquisite.  I was actually smiling, I was enjoying it so much! 
I tried to pick up my pace as the beat of the music on my iPod increased.  It might have been "Let's Get it Started" by the Black-eyed Peas that did it but I did start moving faster.  I knew I had to save something for the final hill.  I lost time on the descents because I can't run downhill (bad for the knees) but that slowing down also gave me a chance to refresh myself and regain strength.  I made it up the final hill at a snail's pace all the same but managed to sprint to the top and across the finish line punching the air and saluting the race official who was reading off my name and my speed.  I was thrilled and elated.  I didn't expect to run the whole way and I certainly didn't expect to make it up that last hill.

When I stopped running I felt dizzy and sick and had to walk it off for a long time.  I stretched for several minutes while waiting for Higgie.  They wouldn't let us stay near the finish line so I didn't get to see him cross it.  He said his back had tightened up and he had been forced to walk for a few minutes a couple of times.  I was surprised because he has been training much harder than me.  I began to think that the spin classes I took might have been more of a help to me than I thought.

I rode home in the car sitting on an ice pack for the sake of my hip.  We picked up my Mom from her seniors home to bring her out for lunch with us.  I was still wearing my medal and bib.  People were curious about my 'look' and Mom told everyone in the place I had 'won the race'.  I admit, I felt like a winner, even if I did finish in the dead centre of the pack.

We went out for a victory lunch of Stilton burgers (what is it about stinky blue cheese that goes so well with beef?) and sweet potato fries washed down with pints of Fuller's London Pride at our favourite British pub.  Mom had a good time hearing about the race, even though she still confuses what we do with every sport on the TV in the pub.  Yesterday it was soccer.

This morning I am still feeling exhilarated, if tired and very sore.  My legs are killing me.  I need to get out and rake leaves or do something physical to shake off the stiffness.  I'm seeing my chiropractor tomorrow to make sure everything is still working okay.

Can't wait to see Bruce on Thursday and tell him how well it went.  I'm really looking forward to the Ottawa race weekend in May, now that I know I can still do this.
'Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run...'

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

After weeks of treatment my hip is finally better, and I have therefore been cleared to run in my first race of the season this weekend.  Harry's Spring Run-Off takes place Saturday morning.  This will be the third year year I've run it.  I haven't run in weeks so who knows how it will go?  It may be more of a walk-run, especially on the hills, but I just want to finish.  I've been walking as much as I can because walking seemed to be the answer.  The more I walk the better it feels so Dr. Wade said perhaps running on it would have a similar effect.  Let's hope so!  I'm tempted to go for a run this morning, but what if it makes it worse?  I'd almost rather find that out on Saturday.  Meanwhile, I will go on doing my stretches.  I would have liked to go to another spin class today but I'm working at a fill-in for another leader.  Maybe I'll go when I get home.  I'm training with Bruce tomorrow and I know he'll have lots of good suggestions on how to make it through the 8K course.

It just feels good to know that once again I have overcome a physical set-back.  The treatment wasn't cheap and will only be partially covered, thanks to Higgie's insurance, but I would willing spend the money,  I will never give in to pain or let it keep me down for long.  I've come too far for that.

During this time I'm made some interesting discoveries: I need to watch my food consumption very carefully if I'm not going to be more active, and while I still don't like Spin, it's a good form of cardio activity.  It's about the only thing that's kept me going.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I made a remarkable and embarrassing discovery which may lead to my hip getting better for once and for all, but not before I spent nearly $400.00 on chiropractic care.

I'm a fanatic for good shoes.  I have wide feet and they are a size ten.  I have bunions, which, while hereditary, were also likely caused by my wearing four-inch heels when I was in my 20's.  Nowadays I mostly wear flats; sensible shoes from makers like Clark's and Ecco, with arch supports.  Very boring.  So why would I be wearing five year old walking shoes from a manufacturer of running shoes that no serious runner would ever touch (Nike)?  They are leather walking shoes I bought at an outlet store in Pennsylvania for $30.  Most of my shoes cost five times that, so why was I wearing them?  My rationale was that I only wore them for brief periods in Spring and Fall when it's not sandals weather.  (My sandals are made by Mephisto). 

So there I was, receiving my umpteenth chiropractic treatment from Wade the other day when he happened to notice the tell-tale swoosh on the side of my shoes.   He was pretty dramatic in assessment of them ("They're shit!" he said.) 

Our neighbours are gutting their house and they have a dumpster bin parked in front which they said we could use so in went the shoes as soon as I got home.  I have dozens of pairs of old running shoes which, because the padding inside is worn down are no longer suitable for running but the arch support and impact resistance is still good, so I dug out an old pair of Sauconys to wear and off we went on a shopping trip to Home Depot (we're renovating too.)  While walking around Home Depot I began to notice something astonishing: my hip was feeling better.  I was aware of a re-alignment of my joints taking place together with a loosening of the muscles in my hip and bum.  Was it just the shoes? 

I've been taking large doses of Ibuprofen these last few days and on the weekend I threw a coin into a wishing pond (the money in the pond will go to the relief of the Japanese tsunami victims).  I wished for my hip to get better.  Maybe it's the treatment from Wade, or the spin classes.  Maybe it's the anti-inflammatory properties of Ibuprofen, maybe it was the wishing pond.  But what if it was just the shoes?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I will never forget the first time my leader skills were put to the test.  When going through Leader Training, the One Minute Motivation was a coaching skill that was taught to us.  It's a method to help members understand that a situation needs to change and what they must do to effect that change.  It stood out to me as what could be a most valuable tool.  Little did I know that I would be using it so soon after learning it. 

The week following training I was asked to fill in for another leader.  At the end of the meeting a member approached me and asked if she could speak to me.  She told me she was very near goal but had lost her motivation.  I asked why she thought this had happened and what emerged was a story that would have been a motivation killer for most people: she was a single mother of two young boys, she worked at a very demanding job in the health profession and had a very abusive boss.  As if that weren’t enough, her brother had just been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and was very sick.  At this point she began to cry.  We talked about how the situation really did call for her to be as strong as she could and that her determination would then affect all areas of her life, including her food choices.  She admitted that as a health care professional she felt hypocritical for not living a healthier lifestyle.  We agreed that losing the guilt would considerably lighten her burden.  I suggested that her children also needed her to be healthy for them.   I then followed up with the OMM, believing I had found the perfect opportunity to use it.  When asked ‘What needs to happen here?’ the member replied that she needed to be stronger.  She then followed up by saying not only could she, because she had done it before, but that she would do so because she knew it was what was required.  We shared a hug and I went on my way wondering how she would do.

A couple of months later I was asked to fill at the same meeting.  As the members were weighing in I suddenly recognized the very sad lady from weeks before receiving her Lifetime Award.  I rushed over to congratulate her.  She said she had decided after our talk that she had the strength and discipline to continue.  She was also surprised that I remembered her (as if I could forget!).  She also told me her brother was much better.  She was a very happy lady that day. 

I’ve used the OMM many times since then and believe, as I did back then, that it is a powerful tool, as are all the principles of weight loss that we offer our members.  I believe now more than ever that Weight Watchers changes lives.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I'm Hip

See, I'm hip. I'm no square.
I'm alert, I'm awake, I'm aware.
I am always on the scene.
Making the rounds, digging the sounds.
I read People Magazine.
'Cuz I'm hip.
Like, dig! I'm in step.
When it was hip to be hep, I was hep.
I don't blow but I'm a fan.
Look at me swing. Ring a ding-ding.
I even call my girlfriend "man," 'cuz I'm hip.
Every Saturday night with my suit buttoned tight and my suedes on
I'm getting my kicks digging arty French flicks with my shades on.
I'm too much. I'm a gas.
I am anything but middle class.
When I hang around the band,
Popping my thumbs, digging the drums,
Squares don't seem to understand
Why I flip. They're not hip like I'm hip.
I'm hip!
I'm on top of every trend.
Look at me go. Vo-dee-o-do.
Sammy Davis knew my friend.
I'm hip, but not weird.
Like, you notice, I don't wear a beard.
Beards were in but now they're out.
They had they're day. Now they're passé.
Just ask me if you're in doubt, 'cuz I'm hip.
Now I'm deep into Zen meditation and macrobiotics,
And as soon as I can I intend to get into narcotics.
'Cuz I'm cool as a cuke.
I'm a cat, I'm a card, I'm a kook, kook, kook.
I get so much out of life.
Really, I do. Skoo ba dee boo.
One more time play "Mack the Knife."
Let 'er rip. I may flip, but I'm hip.

The above lyrics are courtesy of David Frischberg, one of my favourite jazz singers, known for his witty and humourous songs.  I quote them here today because I think I can cautiously say that my hip is on the mend.  I took my mother for a very long walk yesterday and despite my hip joint protesting painfully at the start, by the time I got home a few hours and 8K later, I was feeling much looser - in fact, I felt 'hip'.  I think maybe I had been babying it a bit too much and kept myself too inactive.

I took my Mom for a walk yesterday on the boardwalk which runs along the eastern beaches in Toronto.  She doesn't walk very far but I wheel her part of the way in her wheelchair and when she's had enough of a rest she'll get out and walk.  We had lunch at the same lakeside pub where we celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago.  She remembered the party (she doesn't remember much) with great pleasure, as well as 'that little boy' (her great-grandson, who was in attendance).  She had a glass of wine which she enjoyed thoroughly, as well as sweet potato fries, which are new to her.  After lunch we walked some more.  We admired the lake, which was flat and placidly grey, saw and greeted many dogs; I gave up trying to teach her to pronounce 'Vesla', the breed of one of them (she's rather deaf and it came out wuh-hezla) and observed three male mallard ducks out parading for prospective mates as well as a shrub full of congregating sparrows.  After a few pleasant hours I wheeled her home.  Mom was very excited to have gone out; this long winter has made her shack happy and she gets lonely.  My brother is in France right now on regimental business and all the visiting with Mom is left to me.  She forgets when I was last there and thinks months have gone by between visits.  As always though, she is very easily entertained and loves to stroll along the lake front.  I wish I could get her out more than once a week but my schedule and the weather hasn't always allowed for it.  Fortunately, she lives just a 20 minute walk from my house.  We moved her from her former home downtown a year ago so she could be closer to me.  Otherwise, even weekly visits wouldn't have been possible.

Walking back home, mostly uphill, I observed that my hip was becoming less and less painfully tight and I felt my hamstrings engaging in a way they haven't done since I stopped running.  It felt superb.  So I made an old lady happy and fixed (I hope) my stiff hip problem.  Maybe it was my reward!

In a few minutes I'll be heading for a Pilates class at the new gym.  I have always said Pilates seems to fix whatever is wrong with me.  Let's see if that's till true.

Later today: Spinning with Higgie.

Coming soon:  Boot Camp!