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 117 of 365: A Conversation Between My Mind and My Body

Heard my husband up early this morning.  Woke me up and I actually thought it was later than it truly was.  It was just before 7AM.  He came back to bed and didn’t know I was awake.  Shortly after he fell back asleep my mind started have a discussion with my body.

“If you get up and get your run in now, within the hour, you’ll be done.”

My body ignores my mind.

“It really could be done a lot sooner than you expect.”

Body protests by finding a more comfortable position.

“Listen…You can definitely lay here longer but you’ll end up having to do this later in the morning.  You know you won’t be as happy doing this later than you will be if you get this done now.”

My body, hating when ‘someone’ else is right, puts it’s feet on the floor.

The mind was right.  I was up, dressed, logged just under 5KM and stretched all in under an hour.  During my 35 minute run, I saw one cat, five fisherman, six snails and many cherry trees in full bloom.  Also during the run, my mind was keeping my body on track.  When my body wanted to take a break, my mind responded with, “Your not about to fall over yet.  You can still keep running.”

Day 61 of 365: A Breakthrough

After sleeping for about ten hours last night, I woke and thought to myself it’s time to step on the scale.  I was nervous to do this.  About five years ago, my weight peaked around 250 lbs and for the last three years, I’ve been constantly trying to breakthrough the 200 lbs barrier.  At the end of October, (the last time I was home and had access to the bathroom scale) I stepped on it and was at 203 lbs.  I was heart-broken after working so hard the month prior and for becoming slightly active throughout the summer.  This result made me gun-shy but the idea of not knowing bothered me more.

So I got out of bed and stepped on the scale.  It’s an old scale and the display is different from what we normally see today.  I looked down and thought to myself, Is that right?  Am I still above 200 lbs?  I tried to keep one foot on the scale and lean over to get a closer look.  That didn’t really look but I did get a better view of the pound markers.  I stepped on the scale again.  Did that really say…?  Let me step back on there just to make sure.  Oh my…I’m 193 lbs.  That’s well below 200 lbs.  I’ll check just one more time so that I have three consistent results.  Yeah!  I’m 193 lbs.

I’m not just under 200 lbs.  I’m well under 200 lbs.  I would really dwell on getting to 198 or 197, just under 200 and enough under that daily fluctuations would not be a factor.  I’m 193!  That’s 10 pounds less than the last time I stepped on the scale and about 15 pounds less than the start of the year.  Logically that does not make sense but once you factor in the two vacations and the holiday season between the end of October and the start of the new year, there was an approximate 5 pound gain.  All day I’ve been beaming and glowing.  It feel like a serious weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Overall, I just feel good.

After the wonderful experience this morning I went out for a short run.  3.5 KM in the neighbourhood.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a good run.  It was tough and my legs felt tight.  It took my 26 minute to complete the 3.5 KM.  I was okay with that.  Not every run can be great and I still had a very active day ahead of me.  I returned home, got ready and my husband and I drove into Bloor West Village.  We parked in the neighbourhood and got onto the subway.  First stop…St. Lawrence Market.  This is a wonderful place to find almost anything you want to eat.  Everything looked great but we didn’t buy too much.  Just some bacon and fried green beans and garlic.  (They are yummy and being snacked on as I write this post.)

Second stop…Yorkville.  The Cookbook Store followed by some purchases at Lululemon.  I’m now the proud owner of a new tank and some running crops.  From there we walked over to Bloor and Spadina, grabbed some lunch and then continued to walk over to Bathurst station.

Third stop…High Park.  We got off the subway and walked from High Park all the way to Jane St and then back.  We made stops in the eight or ten stores.  The first store was the Running Room where my husband bought me a travel size foam roller.  (Sherri – I hope you’re smiling!)   We stopped for a small coffee at Second Cup and eventually made our way to Swan and Firken to watch the end of the Washington vs. Winnipeg hockey game.  Once the game was done we wrapped up and headed back to our vehicle.  Ten hours later we were heading back home.  In that entire ten hours we sat down for one subway ride, lunch, coffee and the last period of the hockey game.

So even though my run wasn’t great I still had a very active day.  It was a wonderful day with my husband and a wonderful day back home.  I’ve really missed the city.

Day 59 of 365: Bring it on!

Ever have one of those days where you are about to leave for a long trip, you’re feeling good because you’ve been preparing in advance and as your day is wrapping up at your boss decided to start tossing curve balls?  And have you ever felt like no matter how you explained your point of view you just knew what you were saying was not coming out right?  And even though you left work and you don’t need to go back for eleven days, you just were not able to let it go?  And even though you are packed, prepared, and knowing you should be feeling good, you just aren’t there?  Well if you’ve never had a day like this, then you are a very lucky person.

As much as it is over and behind me, I’m having a tough time letting it go.  I decided a gentle Hatha yoga titled ‘Bend & Stretch’ would be a good options.  35 minutes of relaxing my mind and body with a stretch before a long flight seems logical.  My body appreciated this approach but my mind constantly wandered away from my breath and into my day.  On top of all of this, I’m feeling tired…drained.  I’d like to be able to enjoy my fritatta dinner and then go to sleep.  That will happen soon, within the next hour or so.

We will be up at 3:45 AM and the taxi will arrive at 4:20 AM.  After that the day is out of our control until we make it home.  Most people who know me know that I’m always in control.  Most people who I’ve worked with could not imagine me any other way.  I like things a certain way that are usually logically justified.  I’m not rigid or routine based but being able to make the decision is important to me.  There is one exception when I’m not like this and it is when I’m on an airplane.  I am the most relaxed person when flying.  I know that I have no control over anything that happens on a plane and the thought that I could change something that I don’t like is illogical.  (I’m like this 80% of the time in traffic too.)  Yep, I cannot not change the shows that are playing, I cannot change if the flight is delayed, and I definitely cannot change who is sitting around me.  In the situation of being on a plane, I am comfortable know that I do not have control.  And you know what?  Most of the time on a plane, I’m a very happy and relaxed person.  It also has to do with knowing that no one can get ahold of me during this time.  It’s time all to myself.

So tomorrow is the day I fly to Toronto from Europe and then go for a run when I get home.  I’m excited for the challenge.  My running clothes and shoes are packing in my carry on (easy access for when I arrive home).  I guess this means that I’ll also be exercising my mental toughness tomorrow.  Yeah…Bring it on!

Day 34 of 365: A Longer Distance Rediscovered

This morning I had no interest in getting up and going out for a run.  My husband eventually encouraged me after a round of, “No! No! No! No!”  He then told me he now knows where my eight year old niece gets it from.  My immediate response was, “She doesn’t do that!”  I’m not sure if that helped or hindered me.

As I began my run, I was dreading it.  The plan is to follow the same route but go a little farther before turning around to take the distance to 6KM.  The plan was also to make this a long slow run.  The purpose of the run was to increase my distance, not race myself.  When I was about 1.5KM into my running coming up to Lake Malta, I decided that I would not follow my planned route.  Instead, I would do a lap around the lake and head back home.  (One lap is just over 5KM.  The lake is man-made and designed for rowing competitions.  As a result, it’s a very long lake.)  Quick calculation told me this change would put me close to 7KM by the time I made it back home.  Logical mind reassured me that if by the time I finished the lap I was having a difficult time, I could just walk home.  Mind and body were in agreement on the new plan.

As soon as I started heading around the lake, I felt good.  The wind was gone.  There were other runners.  The sun was shining.  Happiness was smiling upon me.  Not only were there other runners, there were also people out walking, people riding their bikes and people downhill skiing.  Oh yeah, this lake has a little hill that you can ski down year round.  In the summer, the hill is covered in brushes that are ski-able.  Anyways, I kept coming across plenty of runners and as a runner I decided that I would wave.  Usually when I’ve run in Poland, the runners don’t wave.  There are no nods, smiles or acknowledgement of any kind.  Today I decided that this should be different.  If a runner made eye contact with me and wasn’t in the middle of sprint, I would wave and I did.  They liked it!  4 out of 5 runners would wave back and some would also smile.  It’s like they know about this wave but no one ever does it.  My goal was to make the runners running the Lake Malta lap more friendly and they were.

Aside from waving success, the turnaround point at the far end of the lake (pictured below) was a true turning point into a very strong headwind.  There was no chance to even consider running faster.  But that was okay.  Running fast was not part of the plan.  I completed the lap and still had enough in me to run home.  I returned to my starting point 59 minutes later.  Longer than I expected but so was the route.  The route ended up being 7.7KM (half of that in a strong headwind).  I’m glad I changed up my route.  After I knew I wasn’t going to do the same route yet again, I was excited for my run.

The five hours following my run consisted of eating breakfast, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, walking to the cafe for a take away cappuccino, walking to the flower shop, cooking more at home and then finally sitting down to call and talk to my parents.  In all of this activity, I sat down to eat breakfast and then sat down for a few minutes while my cappuccino was being made.  Even when I was talking to my parents, I found myself pacing through the apartment.  Now I’m sitting as I write this blog and record my activity for the day.

Today I enjoyed my run.  A longer distance rediscovered.  I cannot remember the last time I ran over 7KM.  But within the next couple of months, I am certain 7KM will become a comfortable distance once again.

Lake Malta

Day 6 of 365

Got up this morning and went for a run.  Well, not quite.  Got up this morning, laid in bed for an hour and then went for a run.  It was a great run though.  My endurance was strong, my stamina was with me the entire time.  I stayed focused on what I was doing and had a great run.  41 minutes and 45 seconds later I had covered just over 5KM.  It was the first run of the year and it was a good one.  My runners high immediately had me contemplating entering two half marathons this year.  One in April and one in October.  My very logical mind reminded me that I have not run in over two months, I have not run very consistently in years, and this was just one great run.  My logical mind encouraged me to have a few more great run before I commit to any half marathons just yet.

After a long hot shower I headed down to the gym with my husband to teach him a new weight lifting routine.  We walked through the different moves ensuring his form was correct.  It was about 80 minutes of demonstrating the moves and then having him do them.  It made for a relaxing day in the gym.  A little work, a little effort, a nice Sunday afternoon.