Day 364 of 365: One…

A year ago tonight, I sat in a restaurant with my husband and shared with him my goals for 2013.

“2013 was the year I…”

  • Settled back in Canada
  • Challenged myself to be active for 365 days
  • Got in touch with my feelings and truly identified what I want in life.

A year ago, we were on a work assignment in Poznan, Poland.  This assignment had us spending the majority of our time there.  As much as our time in Poland was simply amazing (my views on life and culture have been greatly broadened), it was isolating too.  Not being able to fluently speak the language has major draw backs.  It’s limiting when attending parties or even considering joining a social group.  People were so kind and helpful but once the encounter of working through the language barrier was over, I both sides were happy to go along our merry ways.

Being isolated and feeling bored was no way to live.  And I was also feeling like I was on a treadmill, going nowhere.  I needed to get focused on something, anything (other than work) to help avoid wilting away.  The building our apartment was in had a good gym and pool.  We lived in a neighbourhood near three large parks.  Being active seemed like a great option.  I could challenge myself to try different activities and it gave me something to focus on each day.  At the same time, I also wanted to be back home.  We had not lived in Canada since 2005 and when we finished up in the USA, we went right to Poland.  An exciting adventure far away from where I wanted to be.  Exciting and boring all at the same time.  2013 had to be the year that I took my life back.

Setting these goals didn’t happen overnight.  In 2008, I came up with the idea of 365 days of straight activity while reading Julie & Julia.  The idea came and went because the timing wasn’t right mostly due to a lack of real motivation.  Getting settled back in Canada was something my husband and I had been focused on since 2010.  We knew our assignment in Poland would not last through 2013 so this was the time to seize the opportunity.  Personally, I’ve been struggling with being in touch with my feelings for some years now.  (Coming out of the other side of 2013, I believe this is natural for most humans.)  Overall, it took me about a month (December 2012) or so to get pen to paper and narrow in on three huge goals.

It paid off.

Getting settled back in Canada.  My husband and I finished up our overseas work assignment at the very end of August.  We were back in Canada for Labour Day weekend.  Part of settling back in Canada included stable employment, buying a home, reconnecting with friends, and getting engaged with the community.  Our employer was very happy with the work accomplished in Poland (and with the Dutch office) along with our dedication and flexibility in working in three major manufacturing facilities.  He has now assigned us to corporate global projects and allows us to be based in Toronto, Canada.  Prior to coming back to Canada, we were searching for a condo to buy.  In October, we made an offer and it was accepted.  We are almost homeowners being that we do not close until May 2014.  Until then, we live with my husband’s parents.  (It’s everything you could possibly imagine and more.)  We see our friends all of the time and we have begun to establish ourselves in our “temporary” community and in our “upcoming” community (which also happens to be the neighbourhood we lived in prior to moving to the USA in 2005).

Challenged myself to be active for 365 days.  If you are a follower, “THANK YOU!!!!”  There are 176 of you (and over 3800 hits!) and that is something I never expected.  Being active for 365 days was something else.  The first ten days were horrible.  Actually, one, two and three were not bad.  It was really four through ten but I’ll get more into that in tomorrow’s blog post.  Blogging as part of this challenge has been a great outlet.  Isolated in Poland, this blog allowed me to share with others in a free-flowing manner.  Daily blogging was also a chore.  I had two major times this year where 1) I had to take a break for a few days and 2) I just didn’t do it regularly.  I moved past both of those phases and I’m finishing the challenge strong.

Got in touch with my feelings and truly identified what I want in life.  As I mentioned above, I think most everyone goes through a phase when they feel like they are on an emotional treadmill.  Sometimes you need to be there to get through.  Treadmills are boring but if you use them correctly, you are a better, stronger person when you get off them.  This past year I’ve let go of some hurt and I realized what it is that I want and why I couldn’t see that I was actually moving in the right direction even when it felt like I was going nowhere.  Being on the back-end of this goal, I thought I would be in a different place right now but I’m not and I’m okay with that because where I thought I needed to go ended not being where I needed to be.  Emotions, feelings, desires…they are all tricky but as you peel away layers the fog slowly clears out and the view gets better and better.

With 2013 about to come to a close, I’m getting ready for a big 2014.  Most of my goals this year will be broken down into multiple projects, big and small.  In writing my goals and using the statement, “2013 was the year I…” I create a mini vision and/or feeling of what it’s like when the goal is achieve.  I start to create something to move towards.  Here’s what I’ve got for 2014.  Again, it’s all going to breakdown into a bunch of big and small projects this year.

“2014 was the year I…”

  • Became a homeowner in a neighbourhood and condo that I love.
  • Took control of my weight and moved my BMI to the lower quarter of overweight.
  • Helped my family move towards where they need to be. (Yep, this one has a ton of personal content.)
  • [I haven’t filled in this blank just yet.]

Today I went to the gym in the morning and spent 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer.


Day 319 of 365: I Have Plenty

  • Day 315 – 48 Minute walk, distance not tracked
  • Day 316 – 75 Minutes elliptical trainer, intervals
  • Day 317 – 25 Minutes yoga and stretching
  • Day 318 – 65 Minutes elliptical trainer, hills
  • Day 319 – 26 Minute walk, 2.5 KM (heavy rain)

Since we’ve been back from Europe, we have definitely noticed some differences in everyday life.  Very simply, people drink more coffee in Europe and less sugary beverages with shots of espresso.  People love to walk and easily do as opposed to driving around for everything.  (Sometimes I even question if my vehicle will be towed if I “cross the line” to the next property to pick up something even though I did shop there already.)  One colleague I saw in Miami, who I also saw in Poznan, said to me, “I just want to walk somewhere.”

So quality of life is quite different.  Attitudes and perspectives on how to live and what’s important are similar but have very different approaches. 

One of the most significant changes I’ve noticed is how different advertising is and the message that is consistently sent in most ads.  Before reveling this, please let me assure you different colleague in Pittsburgh who spent approximately a year in Europe noticed the same thing. 

Advertisements in North America constantly sends you a message that you are “without” or “lacking”.  This could be anything from simple retail purchases (clothing, etc.), to vehicles, to food. 

So the question I’ve received from other is, “What is European advertising like?”  Well, I have a hard time telling you about television advertising because I did not watch a lot of television in Europe (another major difference).  What I can say is that most advertisements were for banking, at home hair colouring, and over the counter medication.  The advertisements I noticed the most were billboards.  Their focus was movies (at the theatre), travel, and grocery stores.

The other major difference between Poland and North America is that most people in Poland live in flats/apartments/condos.  This means they do not have yards and as a results, there were many beautiful parts in and around Poznan.  These parks gave people the ability to spend quality time outside.  Parks have great playgrounds for kids, gym equipment structures for adults, open spaces for very young kids to learn to kick a ball, and lots of park benches for people to sit on.  This point ties back to two above; one, I was rarely at home seeing television commercials and two, people are not being told they are without even when they have less than the average person in North America who is constantly being told they are without.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve probably had 2-3 major shopping expeditions.  I believed I was without adequate fall and winter clothing.  To a certain extent I was.  After living in Miami for 18 months and making do with what I had in Poland last year, I needed a few things.  However, as I see so many advertisements (even while watching television on the elliptical trainer) telling me I do not have enough, that is simply just not true.

When I stop to take stock of what I have, I know that my vehicle is three years old with less than 20,000 miles and is soon to be considered outdated according to what I see on television, however I also know that I’m without car payments and my vehicle is more than large enough for my husband and I who share this one vehicle. 

When I look in my closet, I have more than enough clothes.  So many apparel companies now a days do short or small runs to make you believe you have to buy fast in order to get this “limited edition/limited run” item.  However, how many exercise tops do I really need?

When I stop and think about it, I’m not really hungry all the time.  Commercials constantly “tell” me I have not eaten enough and that I should be eating something more right now but I just had a great roast chicken dinner.

It’s crazy when you really stop and think about what you are without.  I have shelter and clothes and food and transportation.  I have plenty. 

Unfortunately, there are many out there that are not as fortunate as me however does buying a fast food sandwich, a limited shirt or a new vehicle really get people a true fix to their situation or does it provide immediate gratification that will quickly pass?

One of the other “things” advertisements are telling me is that I’m not “included” if I do not have whatever is being advertised at that moment.  So again, I’m without and not included.  These advertisements are playing preying on insecurities and truly not providing a solution when we cave to their advertisements.

There are so many differences in what I’ve seen between Europe and North America and what I’ve taken away is that it’s more important that ever to be confident in myself.

Day 312 of 365: I’m Still Here

  • Day 301: 40 Minutes Recumbent Bike
  • Day 302: Walking
  • Day 303: Hour with Personal Training (Resistance Training)
  • Day 304: Yoga & Stretching
  • Day 305: 40 Minutes Elliptical
  • Day 306: 36 Minute Walk
  • Day 307: 15 Minute Stair Climber & 15 Minutes Treadmill
  • Day 308: Yoga & Stretching
  • Day 309: Yoga & Stretching
  • Day 310: Walking
  • Day 311: Yoga & Stretching
  • Day 312: 30 Minutes Resistance Training & 40 Minutes Elliptical

Last time I blogged, I was in Florida.  Just yesterday, I returned from Pittsburgh, PA.  This past week, my husband and I were travelling on business.  We were in Pittsburgh from Monday through Friday.  This week, I found fitting in activity or exercise the hardest out of all my travels this year. 

We stayed in Shadyside, a beautiful urban neighbourhood just outside of the downtown core.  After work we walked to dinner every night with the exception of Tuesday. 

Recently, my activity has been a challenge.  My commitment has not been strong and I’m not sure why.  I think this challenge is catching up with me.  My desire to be active or to even set time aside for me has been minimal.  The absolute bare minimum.  My goal this week is to change that.

Today I was at the YMCA working hard, building a sweat.  Tonight I’m blogging in an attempt to get my ass back in gear. 

There were two highlights from my trip this week.

  1. I saw one of my dearest and closest friends.  She is also one of my biggest supporters.  Haven’t seen her in a couple of years, if not more.  She looked amazing!
  2. One of my dinners out was with a colleague who also lived in Europe overlapping the time my husband and I were there.  It was so great to share experiences about being there and coming home.

So if you’ve missed me, I apologize for not being here lately.  If you thought I was done, I ‘m not.  It’s now the home stretch with less than two months to go.  There is no giving up!

Day 294 of 365: Yesterday I Ran A Half Marathon

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, today’s post would be the sensationalized version of my half marathon.  Here it is…

It started on Saturday when we went to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon expo to pick up my race kit.  My tote bag include my bib, some goodies, and a bunch of flyers and coupons.  My husband came with me and we spent the more close to three hours at the expo.  It was a fun way to kick off the weekend before heading to Chinatown for lunch and then to our hotel.  We chilled at the hotel all night except to step out for dinner.  Very relaxing. 

When I woke up on Sunday, I was feeling good but very quickly my anxiety level start to climb.  It was not good.  As we walked over to the start (about ten minutes away from our hotel) it got worse and as soon as I started to see all the people, I became very emotional.  We were there 45 minutes before the start and I did not relax until five minutes before my corral started.  Everything that was going on was so overwhelming. 

So there were six starting corrals and they released one every five minutes.  It was really well spaced out.  Here’s a picture of me in a sea of 20,000 runners.  Actually at this point it was probably closer to 18,000 people or so. 

I'm the one in the white hat.

I’m the one in the white hat.

Once we got going, I was still wound up but really calmed down 5K into the 21.1 KM.  Around 6-7 KM, I saw my husband again on the side of the road.  He was there to cheer me on.  It was great to see him.

The run was starting to go well.  I trained to run 10 minutes, walk one minute.  I followed that plan, not running too fast, not getting caught up in what other runners were doing.  Sticking to the plan gave me confidence and helped removed any doubt I was feeling.

Before I knew it, I was approaching kilometer marker 17.  What a great feeling.  With just over 4 KM to go, I was getting exciting and feeling really proud.  Walking through the Gatorade and water stations really paid off.  The hardest part was the end of the race.  When they post signs saying, “500m to go,” “400m to go,” “300m to go,” 200, 100…this last 500m seemed so long.  There were kilometers that seemed shorted. 

Right near the end I looked for my husband and found him.  He saw me too and snapped this great picture of me.  My main goal for this half marathon was to finish strong and I think when you look at this picture, you can see I accomplished that. 

Approaching the Finish

My second goal was to finish under 2:15.  That didn’t happen.  Instead my time was 2:26:45 but I’ll be okay with it eventually.  And I’m now really focused on improving that time next year.

When all was said and done my feet were really sore but I was happy.  I love my medal however made sure not to show it off to too many strangers today.

Happy Moment STWM

I need a little break from running but more importantly from training for a race.  Right now I’m registered for the Running Room’s Resolution Run on December 31st (what a great way to finish this challenge) and then for a hilly 5K race in April 5th (Harry’s Spring Run Off).  For the remainder of the year, I’m going to refocus on strength training and building back some muscle I’ve lost while being focused on training for the half.

Tonight, my husband and I went for a 30 minute walk.  I’m also going to be doing some more stretching tonight.

Foil & Medal

Day 243 of 365: Greetings from Canada

We’re back and it feels great!  Yesterday, I completely forgot to post so this long post below will recap our travels, yesterday’s activity and today’s!  Here it goes…

So the flight on the Dreamliner was not a dream.  The plane was fine.  Not a single issue.  The only non-issue with the plane is that the seats were not comfortable.  It was impossible to fall asleep.

The service and experience on Lot Polish Airlines was horrible.  First you need to “upgrade” to watch any advertised movies.  The entertainment selection was horrible.  One good movie, one episode of Friends and Modern Family each.  One episode of three different dramas that I’ve never watched.  Not nearly enough to last the entire long haul trip.  Is this that horrible?  Well, it’s not as bad as the next two examples…

  1. The guys beside me spilled their drinks.  It was an accident and they wanted to clean it up so not to leave the seat so wet.  The call button is pressed for the attendant and 15 minutes later, they still never came by.  I eventually had to stop them in the aisle to let them know we needed some napkins AND…
  2. …Let them know that the girl on the other side of the aisle spilled her entire glass of tomato juice and that it needed to be cleaned up.  For whatever reason, the attendant brought napkins for us and nothing for the tomato juice.  Five minutes later, they gave her mother a stack of napkins and walked away.
  3. And one other thing too was that they only once offered water mid-flight on an 8+ hour flight.  Typically other airlines will walk through the cabin every 90 minutes offering water.  It’s so dry that it’s impossible to pass up.  So no response to attendant call button and no signs of the attendants.

I’ll never fly Lot Polish Airlines again.  A truly horrible experience for the third time.  (I’m not going to go into previous experiences.  I do want you to make it to the end of this post.)

In the end, we arrived safe and sound at our final destination.  My parents are so happy to be spending time with us and we are happy to be spending time with them.

Yesterday (Friday), I woke up at 7:00 AM after being up for 20+ hours the day before.  Immediately I went out for a run.  3.2 KM in 22 minutes.  It was a very fast run for me.  It felt good after spending so much time on airplanes the day before.  We also took a day trip to Grand Marais, MN after doing some work in the morning.  As it turns out, I’ll be heading back to Poland in 12 days for a short 10 day trip to support/complete a project that I’ve been part of for the past few months.

Today (Saturday), had a delayed start.  My phone did not reset to the correct time zone and when my husband set the alarm for us to get up this morning, he didn’t notice.  We woke up late and missed a lot of good things at the farmer’s market this morning.  That sucked!  Aside from that, the rest of today was picking up groceries, grabbing lunch with Mom and Dad, unpacking a little bit and spending time with my brother, sister-in-law and niece.  It was an easy going day, for the most part.

After my brother and sister-in-law left, my niece and I did some yoga together.  I put on my 30 minute yoga for runner’s video and she wanted to do it too.  She did great and it was fun having another person doing yoga with me.

Tomorrow I will complete a 16 KM long slow distance run.  It should take around two hours.  Hopefully I will not sleep in but who knows.  I suspect that if I ask before bed, my mom will make me blueberry pancakes for breakfast once I’m done my run.  I’ve got to go…MOM!!!

Day 233 of 365: Hill Repeats x4

So I guess the title of the post gave it all away.  Today I did four hill repeats.  Total distance was 6.1 KM in 48 minutes.  Citadel Park is about 2 KM away from my apartment.  Running over there is mostly on a grassy path along the river.  It’s a pretty nice mental break before hitting the repeats.

Here’s a recap of each repeat:

  1. Pass 18 month old boy with mother on way up and on way down.  Breath is steady but feeling good.
  2. Pass 18 month old boy with mother on way up.  Boy looks at me with strange face.  (I’d think the same thing too.)  Notice bride and groom starting to come down top of hill.  They are out getting pictures done in park.  Breathing is strong on the way down.
  3. Pass bride and groom who stop at half way point of hill to pose for picture outside old fortification from WWII.  Between bride, groom, photographer and assistant, they are practically taking up the entire roadway at half way point.  On run down, I run between photographers bag and brides personal gift bag to avoid running through the picture.  (Maybe I should have just run through the picture.)  Pass father and daughter pushing bicycles up hill on my way down.  Breathing is getting loud.
  4. Pass bride and groom who are still posing beside old fortifications.  They are now taking up less space.  As I crest the top of the hill, I catch up to father and daughter still pushing bicycles up the hill.  Breathing is very loud and daughter turns to see what the noise is and then leans over to dad to tell him about crazy women who is running back up the hill.  He turns to see crazy women.  On way down, bride, groom, photographer and assistant are at the bottom of the hill trying to figure out a great picture by using a parked Porsche as a prop.  (I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes.)  Breathing is getting better from pure joy for completing the repeats and I know that I will need to stop at a red light in about 50 meters.

Who knew that hill repeats could have so many distractions?

Day 231 of 365: An Injury Delivering Motivation & Perspective

On Sunday, August 11, I blogged regarding a lack of motivation.  It was day 223 of 365 and I was feeling like I was doing this “just because”.  At that time, I decided to take a break from blogging to allow myself time to think and reflect on why I’m doing this year long challenge.  It’s important to be excited to do this.

On Monday, August 12, I took time to ask myself the following questions:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Why is it important to me?
  • What do I hope to accomplish with this challenge?
  • Why am I running a half marathon?

Through brainstorming and list making, I was able to start to remember why this challenge is important to me.  My brainstorm had at least 25 different answers to the question “Why?” and that made me feel better.  Shortly after, I went out for a run.  I was going to run 10 KM to make up for missing my Sunday slow long run.  Partway through the run, I felt tight and since I hadn’t run in a while, I decided to cut my run short.  As I impatiently waited for the cross walk signal to turn green, I decided to dash seeing that the tram was crossing in my direction and the cars were at a complete stop with almost no where to go.  As I got half way across the street, I heard their engines getting louder and I panicked into a sprint and then my left calf popped.

My momentum had my land on it and the pain nearly brought me to my knees.  As I pulled up, I continued to hop on my right foot to the far side of the sidewalk.  I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe this had just happened.  Just as I’m starting to feel better about wanting to be active on a daily basis, my calf pops and I’m in tears.  Luckily I was only 0.75 KM from my apartment.  I called my husband to come meet me and I began to hobble home.  My head down, pain in every step, my face hiding behind the visor so not to make eye contact with anyone.  I was heartbroken.  I was certain my half was done and at that very moment I knew I wanted to complete this challenge more than ever before.

Once home, I spent two days in bed with my lower leg resting on a carry-on suitcase.  Three times a day I would ice my calf for thirty minutes.  On the second day, I added a tension bandage for extra support and that made huge difference.  I went from barely able to walk on Monday night to running 11 KM on Sunday.  I spent time researching what had happened to me and how to make it all better.  Finding great resources was easy but having a supportive husband was even better.

On Monday night, when I would stand up to keep moving and not let the muscle seize up, I couldn’t walk forward.  It was too much for my calf so instead I walked sideways.  On Tuesday morning, I was doing the same.  By Tuesday afternoon, I was able to walk a straight line again, just not very fast.  Each day was better and better.

So when motivation and inspiration is lacking, an injury, the possibility of it all being taken away, can really put challenges and opportunities into perspective.

August 12 – Day 224 – 4.5 KM in 36:38.  Injured my calf.

August 13 – Day 225 – 1.6 KM in 24 minutes at 0% incline.  Peak pace at 4.2 KM/hour. (Treadmill)  Also, upper body strength training all in seated positions.

August 14 – Day 226 – 3.6 KM in 45 minutes at 2% incline walking at 5.2 KM/hour. (Treadmill)

August 15 – Day 227 – 5 KM in 52 minutes at 2% incline.  Run/walk pace ranging from 5-7.2 KM/hour. (Treadmill)

August 16 – Day 228 – Walking around city.  Distance approximately 5 KM in 2 hours.

August 17 – Day 229 – 4 KM run in 30 minutes at 2% incline. (Treadmill)

August 18 – Day 230 – 11 KM long slow run.  1:28:15

August 19 – Day 231 – Yoga for Runners.  30 Minutes

Knowing I still need to be very careful with my calf, I have calf exercises to do to help strengthen the muscle.  I’ve also decided that days when I’m not running, I’ll be doing low impact cross training.  This will most likely be yoga until I complete my half marathon on October 20th which is only nine weeks away.