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!