Archive | December, 2012

What I’m Grateful For in 2012

31 Dec

2012 was a big, challenging year for me.

new year 2012

I made some choices about where and who I want to be in the world.  Yes, I started giving my future some real thought in the summer of 2011, but I really got rolling by the end of that year and the start of this one, so I’m giving myself some leeway.

This year I completed my first PT cert, learned to love kettlebells, attended my first conferences, helped run the most wildly successful fresh meat intake our league has yet seen, started getting paid for training people, and started my own business.

I also turned thirty.

It’s been a pretty terrifying process, and I’m just getting started.  There are a number of things that I wanted to accomplish this year; some I did (as I’ve mentioned above), some I haven’t yet.

Off the top of my head, in 2013 I’d like to:

  • Finish my Precision Nutrition cert (well on the way!)
  • Develop a solid business plan (which goes hand in hand with really having a clear idea of what I want my business to look like)
  • Captain the Tramps to a winning season
  • Solidify Plan B’s place in TCRG (and amongst other similar B-Teams)
  • Jam a full game as a primary jammer
  • Deadlift double bodyweight
  • Quit my day job
  • Find a mentor

There are also a number of things that I’m incredibly grateful for that have happened this year.  These are them:

Derby – and the maintaining of my sanity within it.

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Derby feels like an old shoe to me now.  At first it was like a new shoe that I was really excited about wearing because it was so sexy and all the coolest people I knew were wearing it.  Then it was like a new shoe that I bought because I thought it was so sexy and all the coolest people I knew were wearing it, but when I got it home it was really uncomfortable and I hated the way my foot looked in it and I couldn’t even stand the thought of putting it on and I wondered if the people who looked so sexy in it were just so much cooler that they were comfortable in it right away or if they were secret masochists who loved a painful shoe.  Then it was a shoe that had made me miserable for long enough, just sitting in my closet not being worn, so I made it fit me – I put in insoles, wore thicker socks, and started not to care about how I looked in the shoe.  Now it’s just my shoe.  I wear it, I love it, and I can’t imagine not wearing it.  Derby and I have finally made friends and we know exactly how much of each other we can take.  And that makes me so, so happy.

Wicked Awesome Clients/Students/Trainees (I really need a boss name for y’all)

I was so blessed to have a captive audience when I decided to start training.  It was incredibly helpful to have friends, family, and a derby community that was SO on board with me.  It made making the choice to pursue training about a million times easier, in part because I knew I’d have people to train, and in part because I really, really cared about their well-being, but knew that they’d forgive me if I made a mess of things.  When you’re just starting out, you are so scared to make a mistake that you can put up roadblocks for yourself, reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t.  Having friends to teach made one less roadblock I could throw up.  And it has made all the difference in the world.  Also, it’s amazing to see my friends making changes in their health and wellness. I’m grateful to have a gaggle of derby girls who are total badasses and let me help them become even badass-er I’m grateful to have clients that trust me to steer them straight, and who give me their all, not just when we’re together, but in the time that they’ve committed to themselves at home as well.  This is Angela:

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photo courtesy of Ivan Sorensen

I’ve been working with Angela from the start.  She started with me with a large number of physical challenges, not the least of which being daily pain in her knees and back, and daily anti-inflammatories.  She also was a person who had no interest whatsoever in “working out”.  Now, she wakes up without pain, loves to lift, and plans to tackle the Iron Maiden challenge as her 5-year goal.  We still have a long way to go, but she has realized how strong she is – and the capacity she has to get stronger.  Each time she comes into my gym, I see the hardships of her day fall away with each lift.  When I look at her, I see where she can go and what she can accomplish when she gets after it, and it’s so awesome.  Commitment like hers, her desire to get better, that’s what makes training worth it.

My friends and family

I have lovely and tolerant friends and family members who understand that I have to be doing precisely six million things at once, and who work their lives around my schedule.  I have friends who don’t get jealous of derby and its hold on my time, they just come to see games and learn to like it too – which is amazing.  I have a father who tells me I need to get meaner on the track (and I quote: “What is this, a Sunday skate in the park?”) – all the while loving that his daughter has finally found an interest in sports, and a mother who is, and always will be, one of my very best friends.

My wonderful husband

Among those who learned not to hate derby, was my incredible spouse.  He decided not to fight it, and became one of the best derby announcers in the country.  Not bad Slim, not bad.  He has been the most supportive proponent of my not hating what I do for a living, and has made it easy for me to take this leap.  He cleans when I’m run off my feet, he makes sure I have food when I’m at practice until 11, he looks after the dog, and he looks after me.  He is the best partner I could ever ask for, and I am so grateful that he didn’t just end up being a fling like we’d planned.

My tiny dog, and her continuing health

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For those of you who don’t know, I have a tiny dog.  Her name is Stella, and I have an unhealthy attachment to her.  I am SO in love with my dog.  She spent the first half of her life in a puppy mill.  She only has three teeth.  Her jaw was broken when they found her, and had to be reset, hence the ridiculous face.  When we first adopted her, she was 6ish, and the OSPCA told us she might always cower in her crate, hiding from us and the world.  She was the light of my life the first time I saw her, afraid of everything, not wanting to be touched, having to be bribed with hot dog to even come within arm’s reach of us.  Now, she lights up my life with her constant need to be in my lap, her face kisses, her doggish games, and her demands for attention.  She’s getting to be a lady of a certain age (we think 12ish now), and I am grateful every day that she’s with us, healthy and happy.

Clarity and purpose

I think I’m getting clearer about who I am, and what I want from life.  I’m grateful that I’m not as scared as I once was to admit what I want and go for it.  I’m still working on the whole feel-the-fear-do-it-anyway thing, but I’m getting there.

Almond Butter

Yes, I am spending some time away from you now, but you were a big part of my 2012,  and I’ll never forget all of our lovely moments together. ❤

That’s what I’m grateful for this year.

I am sure that 2013 will be full of surprises, awesomeness, and wonder.  I wish all of those things for all of you.  I’m excited for what’s to come.

How to Handle the Holidays

20 Dec

It’s that time of year again (though it does not look like it AT ALL in Southwestern Ontario).  A time of feasting and fun with family and friends.  A time to enjoy life, the company of others, and the bounty of the earth (and the supermarket, and grandma’s kitchen, and the wine cellar).  A time where maybe sometimes, some of us, overindulge maybe a tiny, little bit.

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Here’s the thing: it’s the holidays.  There will be parties.  There will be merry-making.  There will be drinks, and hors d’oeuvres, and sweets.  The end of December tends to bring out the host in all of us, and that’s not a bad thing.  Holiday parties – not a bad thing.  Meals with family – not a bad thing.  It’s the cycle of massive over-indulgence, followed by massive guilt and shame that end up being a bad thing.  Trust me, I know all about the food guilt and shame.

Couple a comfort-food-rich time of year with the stress of getting everything done before December 25th, the money-managing that has to happen, and the challenges of family relationships, and you might be looking at a nutritional and emotional powder-keg.

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But the end of December doesn’t have to be a threat to your health and fitness goals.  Rather, it can be an awesome time,  where you maintain your sanity, maintain your healthy eating habits, and still have a good time with those you love.

Here’s how I try to keep things in check over the holiday season, so that I don’t start my January full of stress, shame, and cheese.

Learn to say no (and to say ‘not right now’).

There are tons of holiday parties, gatherings, lunches, dinners, and events.  Prioritize.  Seriously, you can’t do everything.  Give yourself permission not to attend every single event you’ve been invited to.  If you want to go somewhere, go there.  If you’re doing it because you feel obligated or pressured, evaluate the pros and cons, and let yourself say no.   Absolutely the holidays are about people-pleasing, but as they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  I have spent many a New Year’s Eve trying to attend every single party, and ended up not really having enough time to spend with the people that matter.   The people that love you understand that everyone is facing about a million demands from now until the New Year, and will understand if you need to offer a rain check*.   Try to manage your time wisely, and make sure that you carve out chunks of time that are just your own.

Check yourself from time to time.

Holiday time is stressful.  Trying to find the perfect present, the perfect outfit, and also be on your best behaviour for in-laws or bosses – it can wear on a person.  Make sure to check in on your mental health and stress level.  It can seem like a sprint from mid-December to January 1st, make sure that you use your rest stations.  Running yourself ragged will do you no favours, not for your peace of mind, and not for your overall health.  Realize that sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good, and that being yourself is a pretty good thing to be.

Make Lists.

Right now, on my person, I have 3 to-do lists.  There are days when I have more.  Lists keep me sane.  They keep me on track, and crossing things off them makes me feel good.  The book, The Checklist Manifesto, is totally boss.  It talks about how simple checklists keep the most detailed professionals – surgeons, pilots – on track and operating at their most efficient (it’s also a great gift for that Type-A person on your shopping list).  It’s true that what gets measured gets managed, so list your responsibilities, list the tasks you’d like to finish, list the places you need to be, and list the goals you want to achieve.  Then get after it.  The other nice thing about a checklist is that once something is on the list, it becomes a priority.  For example, almost every single to-do list that I write has my personal training session on it.  That way, I make it a priority and don’t just skip it because I’m too busy.  I make the time, and I’m glad that I did.

Indulge in splurges, not substitutions.

So, I haven’t talked a lot about dietary choices thus far.  I think that’s because managing your stress and checking in with yourself go a long way in helping to keep food choices on course.  However, this time of year offers lots of temptation, and popular media really likes to highlight the familiar scene of binging all December and begging forgiveness come January.  I’m pretty sure there’s a better way.  There are lots of little tips to avoid holiday overeating – eat a healthy meal before you go to parties, keep your plate full of veggies, try to talk more and eat less, keep your glass full of water, and so on.  These will work for various people to various degrees.  Here are the two things that work best for me when it comes to eating over the holidays:

  • Don’t keep checks and balances.  This might be a contentious point, and some folks may respond very well to doing the exact opposite of what I say here, but this is about what works for me.  I know how my food crazy operates, and what will make it spin out of control.  If I start obsessively tracking what is “bad” in my diet, I will start taking measures of self-denial and commence with the negative self-talk.  If, in stead, I try to eat healthy, whole foods 90% of the time, and don’t fuss too much about the other 10%, I’m a much happier, healthier person.  It can be so easy to beat yourself up about “giving in to temptation” over the holidays, but what good does it do?  More often than not, it leads to feeling worse about yourself, and making more of those choices you are beating yourself up for.  Guilt and shame about food add more stress to an already stressful time of year.  This year, try some new, healthy recipes, work in lots of veggies and lean proteins, and remember to enjoy the act of sharing food with friends and family.
  • In order to abide by the advice above, this is my main holiday (and also all-year) eating tip:  Splurge, but don’t substitute.  I LOVE freshly roasted turkey, I LOVE stuffing.  I LOVE pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.  I LOVE Toblerones.  And I will eat these things over the holidays.  I like cookies, and brownies, and truffles, and chocolates, and pastries.  But I just like them.  I struggle, because I know when these things are put in front of me – if I have one, I’ll keep going, and I’ll probably feel bad about it later.  My best tool against eating a bunch of stuff that I sort of like is eating a little bit of something that makes me drool with anticipation.  When the treat is something that I’m crazy about, I can revel in my decadence, be totally satisfied, and move on.  When it’s just a filler, I’ll keep eating because I’m not getting what I really want.  So, instead of eating things because they are there – eat them because you really, really want to.  You’ll eat less, and you’ll feel better about it.

and finally,

When you have time to train, train.

This is a busy time of year, and your training sessions can often be the first thing that gets skipped.  Don’t let them be.  Training time is important time.  Last year, the first thing I did on Christmas morning (after kissing my husband, petting my dog, and putting the turkey in the oven) was went down to my studio for a workout.  Remember that energy begets energy.  A good training session will leave you with more energy to tackle your to-do list.  It’ll put you in a better mood, and can serve as that valuable “me-time” that we all crave.  Remember that training is treating yourself well, and the holiday season is all about treating those we love.  Love yourself – train in December.

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I wish you all the happiest of holidays and wonderful things in the year to come.

* Here’s an interesting fact about the expression “Rain Check”:  It’s apparently American in origin, and refers to a token (originally from sporting events), rather than a cheque to be banked later, so even though the Canadian in me wants to spell it “rain cheque”, that would be incorrect.  Seriously, read all about it.  Also, I think I have a new favourite website.

What I Learned At: The HKC Certification Course

16 Dec

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First the exciting news: I’m HKC certified!  I attended the Toronto Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification course on December the 2nd, and despite having what ended up being pneumonia, I passed my exam and got my certification!  The pneumonia, of course, has meant this incredibly long blogging hiatus, and a ridiculous amount of not training and forcing myself to actually rest and recover (not my strong suit).  But onwards and upwards!

The course was held at Bang Fitness, which let me tell you, is an awesome facility full of lovely people.  If you are a Toronto dweller, you should absolutely check it out.

Our instructor for the course was Master RKC Jon Engum, who was an awesome instructor.

pointing_jonHis passion for the subject matter, practical tips, masterful correctives, and overall smartness made the course a goldmine of useful information.

I’ve been wanting to get a kettlebell certification for a while now.  I love using kettlebells in my own training, and find that they’re an incredible tool for almost everyone.   They are a fantastic way to condition the whole body as  a unit and really zero in on movement patterns and body synergy.  They’re an efficient tool as well, working multiple muscle groups and energy systems, meaning bigger bang for your training buck.  In a 2010 study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), participants burned approximately 20 calories per minute performing kb snatches -that’s 1,200 calories per hour, not counting the additional calories burned following the exercise from the substantial oxygen debt built up from anaerobic training.  Kettlebell training also focuses on ideal range of motion, mindful movement, and precise practice, all of which are cornerstones in what I think is important in training.  I’ve also found that people (especially women) tend to have fewer preconceived notions about kettlebells.  A woman who might initially balk at a barbell will gladly do the same movement pattern with a kettlebell, and to me, this is a great way to introduce them to heavier and more challenging loads.  Barbell fear happens – I’ve seen it.  Kettlebell fear, I have yet to see.  Mostly, the women I train get super-excited about using them, and that makes my job a heck of a lot easier.

Here were the big takeaways from the course:

  • Obviously there were about a million tips on how to coach the swing, get-up, and goblet squat.  I won’t get into them here.  I will say, if you are interested in kettlebell practice, it is well worth your while to seek out an HKC or RKC certified instructor to learn.  I thought I knew how to coach a swing reasonably well before – what I learned at the course made me realize how much more clear I could be in my breakdown, and the best steps to take to get someone moving better in a pretty short amount of time.  Long story short – I feel about a million times more confident in my ability to coach these movements, and I am incredibly glad that I came in ready to learn.
  • Think of, and refer to, those you train as students rather than clients.  Also, think of yourself as a student of movement.  Good idea – that way, I’m on the hook to teach something each session.  And my trainee gets to come in with a learning mindset each session, helping them to absorb what we’re doing more efficiently.  I think this carries over into derby too.  This off-season, my league is structuring things a little differently (in that we’re being really structured).  We’re running clinics on individual skills to get everyone up par on the basics, before we get into teamwork at the start of season.  Each trainer is coming in with a teaching plan, rather than a page full of drills, and I think skaters are responding well.  So, be a student of your physical activity – learn each time you train and get better.
  • This is one that I’ve been using for quite some time (since my first FMS course), but the HKC reenforced the effectiveness of feeding the mistake.  When someone has a faulty pattern or a weird compensation, pull them further into the mistake.  Make then feel what the correction feels like.  They’ll remember what a good pattern feels like SO much more easily when they’ve corrected it themselves, rather than you positioning them correctly.   Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for coaches to manipulate their students into the right position, but this approach works wonders.  Again, derby crossover – Wonky stride?  Exaggerate it.  Get the skater to feel their weakness and actively fight against it.  When I first learned to do this, it blew my mind.  When I see it work with someone who is struggling to groove a pattern, it still does.

All in all, the HKC was awesome, and I’m excited to be certified.  It’s further stoked my love of kettlebells, and I hope to keep going and maybe take some more courses down the line.  In the meantime, I’ll be helping lots of folks get their swing on (and their get-up, and their squat).

Things are looking up, and so am I – the plan this week is to get back to breathing, training, and blogging regularly.  As long as the first one holds up, the other two should be easy.