It’s the final countdown

Do do do do, do do do do do, do do do do, do do do do do do do.

Anyone catch the tune? I’m on my final countdown to graduation!!! While I don’t have my exam schedule yet and therefore don’t know what exact day I’ll be done, I know that it will be by April 30th at the latest! And hopefully it will be a few days BEFORE that, since we have officially booked tickets to fly to the Philippines on May 1st!

This semester is promising to be busy (who am I kidding, I’m four weeks in and it’s already been busy) but the carrot in front of my nose is dangling and I’m full speed ahead!

I have four academic classes this semester and a practicum and what I’m enjoying the most by far is my practicum. It’s at an integrative health clinic called INLIV that specializes in “Inspiring Amazing Lives”. Right up my ally right?!

So far I’ve been shadowing an exercise physiologist doing mostly baseline fitness testing (CPAFLA protocol). Since I’ve learned this protocol in many of my classes I get hands on experience running the tests which has been great. I have also shadowed some of the trainers and helped with a blood lactate test, all of which has been great experience. Coming up this week I will be put through a workout by the Fitness and Health Director (yikes!) as an ‘initiation’. I’m actually really looking forward to it, but not the next day when I can’t walk! Clearly I do predominantly cardio workouts!

This was me gazing into my future at my high school graduation. Can't believe this was SIX years ago!

This was me gazing into my future at my high school graduation. Can’t believe this was SIX years ago!

This is a few of my girl friends and I celebrating at our high school grad. In a few months I will be doing the same thing, except that I'm skipping the cap and gown and hitting the beach in a bathing suit. Or whatever other adventures we have is SEA!

This is a few of my girl friends and I celebrating at our high school grad. In a few months I will be doing the same thing, except that I’m skipping the cap and gown and hitting the beach in a bathing suit. Or whatever other adventures we have is SEA!

One Semester Down, One to Go

About a month ago, with 6 weeks left of my fall semester, I started thinking about the things that I’m proud of that I did this semester. The list started growing so I decided to start writing them down. With only a few months left until I’m done my undergrad I am doing a lot of reflecting on the past six years, what I’ve learned (both in school, out of school and about myself). Here is the list, in no particular order: Note, not all of these apply to me, there are many that are things I’m proud of people in my life for.

– Starting this blog!
– Surviving the condescension of my personal finance prof
– Having the courage to take personal finance and then actually learning something from it
– Deciding in the first week of school that there were no courses that interested me for a fifth course and refusing to waste $600 on a course I was going to hate
– Picking up Spanish by correspondence instead
– Keith’s decision to and subsequent application to law school
– Keith studying his pants off to write the last possible LSAT that will allow him to start school in the fall (providing he gets in, which I have total confidence of!)
– Sarah’s decision to leave one job for another that would make her happier (and pay her more!)
– My brother Michael making the fall world cup team and winning 2 individual and 3 team medals and setting a new world record in the relay
– My friend Jess for not only successfully returning to competition after an injury that sidelined her for a year, but returning to competition, making fall world cups and then winning a gold and a silver medal and a relay medal!
– Starting a project with Michael that I’ve been planning for a while
– Completing a 30 day yoga challenge
– Continuing to do yoga 2-3 times a week since the challenge
– Learning how to headstand on my own!
– Completing my first trail ultra marathon
– Shea and his band Reuben and the Dark rocking a Cross Canada Tour (their first!) and getting noticed by some serious industry people
– Organizing my best school schedule ever (I only had school on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s). I could really get used to ‘four’ day weekends!
– Abby for completing the first of her two degrees!
impossible2Possible’s Expedition Botswana youth ambassadors for completing an incredible expedition and the whole i2P team for making it happen
– Completing 51 tests, assignments, papers and labs over the course of the semester
– The number of weekends I spent in the mountains
– Completing 5.5 courses (and getting straight A’s) – HA ya right, definitely not straight A’s
– Getting my first 100% on a paper; and then doing it again a couple weeks later
– Having the guts to reach out to David Wood (The Kickass Life) and interview him for a project
– My entrepreneurship group winning our class prize on a presentation that I thought was going to be the worst of my life
– Just saying NO to procrastination!

I think it’s so important to take stock every once and a while on what is special, what you’re proud of and what stands out to you. Beyond these moments of pride, there were tons of moments that I’m not proud of, and while I learned from each of them, I choose to focus on these instead.

Although not everyone is finishing a semester, everyone is approaching the end of the year. What are you proud of? What did you do that really stands out? Please share, I’d love to hear them!!!

Here are some of my favourite moments from the last few months!

I made it! It's too bad there isn't a video of me tearing down the hill full 'grin' ahead. I couldn't stop smiling!!!

Finishing my first trail ultra in Canmore

It's funny, they don't look particularly appetizing in this photo but I am drooling just thinking about them!

Finding the best ever sweet potato recipe for thanksgiving. It will be making an appearance at Christmas!

Hiking in beautiful Yoho National Park

Hiking in beautiful Yoho National Park

When Laura came to visit!

When Laura came to visit!

An awesome birthday hike and weekend!

An awesome birthday hike and weekend!

30 Days of Yoga Complete!

Earlier in the month I wrote about how I was embarking on a 30 Day Yoga Challenge…and it is now officially complete!

A brief re-cap. I started this challenge for several reasons: I don’t love doing strength and my body is paying for it because of the volume of running that I’m doing, I have some residual weaknesses and imbalances from back when I was speed skating, and I was looking for a way to challenge myself while I took some time off running. I also was introduced to the most amazing yoga studio (Yoga Santosha!) that has an incredible intro offer ($39 unlimited first month). What better way to get bang for my buck?!

I couldn’t commit to being at the studio every single day based on my school schedule, but conveniently on the days that I couldn’t get down there, my university offers free classes for students. So Tuesday/Thursday I went to yoga at school and the other days I went to Santosha.

I tried all sorts of different classes: ashtanga, satva, flow, hot flow, yin, restorative, yin/yang and groove! It was so much fun trying out all of the different instructors and styles. I loved that each instructor had a different way of explaining things, some that stuck with me and some that entered one ear and flew out the other.

I will admit that I missed two days (dun dun dun). The first was in the middle of a super crazy two weeks of school that just happened to be during the challenge. Over a quarter of my grades for this semester were determined from work due during two weeks. On that day I was super tired, cranky and fed up with studying constantly. I realized after that it was probably the MOST important day for me to get on my mat, but alas, it didn’t happen. I forgave myself right away because of how hard I was working and just extended the challenge by one day. Perhaps it was my time spent on the mat that helped me let it go, as that is a concept taught in every class.

The other day was this past Sunday when we were hiking in Banff. Normally I would have done sun salutations, but it just didn’t happen so I won’t try to make up an excuse.

Overall, regardless of the two slip ups, I am extremely proud of myself for completing the challenge. Below is a list of things that were great/I’m proud of/to reflect on:

  • I must have gained some strength since my ‘six pack’ muscles are the most defined they’ve ever been. But I also can feel major differences in my practice from the beginning to the end, demonstrating the strength of body and mind that I have gained.
  • My practice improved tenfold. I realized after I started that I probably should have done yoga more that twice in the past six months leading up to starting the challenge. But it was what it was and I made the best of it. My first and last days were ashtanga, which was neat because so many of the poses were night and day differences.
  • I LEARNED TO HEADSTAND. All by myself. No wall and no teacher! The very first day I didn’t even try to go up. Later on I had the teacher help me and then did it against the wall. And on my third last day I surprised myself and got all the way up all by myself, right in the middle of the room! Afterwards the teacher came over and I couldn’t help but totally dump my excitement on him (thanks Chris for your enthusiasm!). In the next three days I did a total of three teacher supported and three unassisted headstands. HELL YA!
  • I finally can upward dog/backbend comfortably (sort of). Because of some issues with my low back I find upward dog and back bends uncomfortable. Over the course of the month I talked to a few different teachers about technique, was extremely patient with myself and worked really slowly to make improvements. Overall, I think I might just baby my back a little, and have been trying to gently push it a little bit more. It really is helping a lot and I am seeing lots of improvement, with less and less pain.
  • My breathing became much stronger and I learned to use breath to my advantage in my practice.
  • Part way through I had to do a sit and reach flexibility test in one of my classes…yup, I rocked it (haha).
  • My poor baby arms survived. Speed skaters are known for anything but their big strong arms. And I believe the same could probably be said for runners. After about three days I started saying that my arms were cooked, and I never knew what was coming! By the last ten days I was getting lactic acid build up in my arms in downward dog and almost always had the shakes.
  • I learned to love yoga; maybe the most important lesson of all. I have already bought my next pass and have plans to hit yoga groove tonight. I have found a way to strengthen my body, mind and soul in a relaxed, supportive, nurturing environment.

A big thanks to all of the teachers at Santosha that made my experience so incredible. Thanks to Keith for joining me at many of my classes and Sarah for both introducing me to the studio and cheering me on (right there beside me in headstand!).

For now, I can’t wait to get back on the trails! The only thing I missed was having lots of time to run! Now I’ll just have to find balance!

And just like that…

Another expedition comes to an end.

For each expedition there are thousands upon thousands of hours that go into the backside of getting the youth from their home towns to the deserts on the other side of the world. First and foremost, Ray and Bob put their hearts and souls into every tiny expedition detail. On top of that the education team spends countless hours researching, writing, formatting and polishing the curriculum. The schools team spends hours and hours recruiting schools, mentoring them with the curriculum and getting them set up with the technology that they need to participate.

Then there are the youth ambassadors, training their butts off day after day. Each one balances training with school, volunteering, in some cases jobs. They spend time on conference calls with the education team and with the expedition team learning curriculum, culture, and time management.

Then there are the sponsors. Without the generous sponsorships, none of this would ever happen. It is absolutely incredible the support that i2P receives in order to create all of the inspiration that it does.

I always feel a little sad when an expedition finishes. It’s always a little anti-climactic. I don’t have any videos to watch as I drink my coffee in the morning; I don’t have photos or tweets to look forward to throughout the day.

It’s exciting too though, because since I’ve been a youth ambassador I know that each and every ambassador is coming home changed. Tired, more experienced and maybe even a little dirty, but changed. And hopefully each and every person that was a part of the expedition through the videos, tweets and updates can feel that change and be inspired.

Here are the final videos. I love how the personalities come out of the youth ambassadors as the expedition goes on. I can’t wait to get to know each of them better as we work together in the future!

Cheers to everyone involved! Another phenomenal effort in the books…I am excited already for the next!

Day Three:

Day Four:

Day Five:

Day Six:

Day Seven:

Visit www.impossible2Possible.com and follow @GOi2P on twitter to learn more!

Humans in the Wilderness; Does Our Physical Activity Belong?

There is a topic I’ve had on my mind for a couple of months now that I have been debating how to form into a post. This semester I am taking a class called Natural Environments, Wellness and Health at university. It is taught by a prof that I had during Running Tunisia who was extremely helpful in re-arranging my exam schedule in order for me to be in Africa. Later, her daughter Emma was chosen for Expedition India and I had the pleasure of watching Emma strive under the incredible physical feat of nearly a marathon a day (with an ultra smack dab in the middle!).

Only a few hundred metres into our weekend in Yoho National Park. Keith was a bit of a slave driver and made me carry the bigger backpack that was practically bigger than me! (Just kidding, he took over just down the trail from here).

Janice is one of the most dynamic profs I’ve ever had, frequently acting out the aggressive charge of a grizzly bear and telling stories about her vast experience in the outdoors.

In this class, much like the name suggests, we have been studying how natural environments, like parks, lakes, mountains, and trail systems for example play into human health and wellness and the material has had me reflecting.

Since before I was even born my family has been into outdoor pursuits. We camped, canoed, kayaked, hiked, biked, skied; you name it, we did it. Heck we even have a photo of my family canoeing, complete with me in my mum’s tummy. And while we were always environmentally conscious – practicing no trace camping, never leaving our campfire smouldering, respecting wildlife – I’d never reflected on how our physical activity, specifically running, hiking and mountain biking, impacted the environment before this class. Don’t get me wrong I knew what human activity could do especially those who left their garbage etc, but I had always thought of our family as environmentally friendly enough that we didn’t have an effect.

One of my favourite photos from Yoho. There was such an incredible amount of running water in the park. All I could think of is how important it is that we protect this precious resource.

As a avid hiker, trail runner and mountain biker living a stone’s throw away from the Canadian Rocky Mountains, I get on ‘mountain time’ every chance I can. I think I’ve been in the mountains more weekends since I got back to Calgary two months ago than I have stayed in the city! But this topic has been weighing on my mind lately in a big way. You see as much as I’d like to think that I’m environmentally friendly by respecting wild life and packing out my garbage, the truth is that I’m invading areas every time I’m out there that otherwise would have been peaceful. Whether or not I see a bear or cougar, or even squirrel or pica for that matter, I’m trespassing in their home. The trails that have been used by thousands of human feet and over the years and have become highways were once for four legged creatures only. Each time I step off the path to have a pee (which we all know is about 47 times per hike) I am ‘ruining’ some untouched forest, crushing small plants, disturbing the moss and frightening the small creatures.

Another factor is that each time I go out there I use my car, which while is pretty good on gas is still emitting fossil fuels. While I’ve always said I would prefer to live IN the mountains rather that NEAR the mountains, even in towns like Canmore, Banff and Whistler you need to use a vehicle to access most trails.

Early in September, my first escape to the mountains. This is just down from the ‘summit’ of Mount Yamuska during our hike/run.

I really haven’t come to any conclusions, and I’m not going to go off on some rant about how horrible humans are. But I’m thinking about it. A lot. I guess right now I should just be grateful that there is still wilderness to explore, still wildlife to admire.

Perhaps eventually my reflection will lead me somewhere, to some wildly spiritual conclusion. But for now, what do you think? Is there a place for human physical activity in the wilderness? Are the obvious human benefits more important that the negative effect on the wildlife? Are there ways for humans and wilderness to both be sustained? If you have any insight, please leave it in the comments! I am having trouble forming conclusions of my own and would love to hear how others have (or have not) made peace with this issue.

This is from atop one of the glaciers in Yoho. Isn’t it beautiful? The sun flirted with us all day coming in and out of the clouds and managed to burst out while we were on the glacier. (Photo credit on all photos in this post to Keith).

Happy Halloween! And A Personal Challenge…

Since my race on Thanksgiving, (Grizzly Race Report) I have been taking a break from running. I find that after a big race when I don’t have another on the calendar I need a little time to decompress in order to want to run again. It is good timing right now because winter is setting in and I won’t be racing again until at least February.

Ever since I stopped skating a year and a half ago, I have struggled to do strength workouts. As a speed skater we spent a lot of time in the weight room and I just don’t have the desire to get back in there and lift. I have dabbled in strength classes (when I’m back home in Yellowknife) and done some stuff that I make up for myself, but when it comes down to it, I just don’t love doing it. As a result I have some residual weaknesses and imbalances likely left over from my time as a speed skater (turning ONLY left can take a tole on the body!) that nag at me.

SO in an attempt to balance myself out while challenging myself in a different way than running I decided to do a 30 day yoga challenge! My goal is to practice yoga every day for 30 days. I was inspired to do this by my friend Sarah who did one herself in the spring. She said it was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things she had ever done. While many yoga studios offer 30-60 day challenges, I decided to do mine on my own. The rule with ‘official’ challenges is that you have to practice everyday AT the yoga studio, but with my school schedule it’s just not possible. And since my university offers free yoga classes twice a week (conveniently on the days that I can’t make it to the studio) it seemed fair to be able to practice there as well.

I bought myself a 30 day promo pass to Yoga Santosha (if you’re in Calgary check them out! www.yogasantosha.ca), which is this amazing studio in Calgary. Their one month promo is the best I’ve found in the city, which for a student is a good thing! It’s only $39 for the whole month! Keith bought one too and has been coming with me quite a bit, and we meet Sarah there quite often as that’s where she goes (and where she did her challenge on the same promo).

Today is day 17!!! There is no question that it has been a huge challenge, not the least of which has been making time for classes despite a heavy midterm schedule. But I have improved my practice SO much already and am enjoying trying all of the different classes that they offer at Santosha. The teachers are so approachable and for the most part run really fun, relaxed classes (I’ll admit that on days that I’m tired it’s not always fun).

Once I start training again I’ll have to scale back, but I do want to keep going 2-3 times a week since I know that one of the best ways to prevent injuries is to stay strong. Luckily I’m really enjoying it so that shouldn’t be a problem!

On a completely different note since it’s October 31st I have to congratulate everyone who completed the 100 miles for October challenge this month! There will be a post on this coming soon, but in the meantime, you know who you are!

Happy Halloween! Hope everyone enjoys lots of yummy treats today!

My roommate Abby’s incredible pumpkin. Isn’t it a work of art?! She’s a pumpkin genius!

Sassy Salads – Part One

I LOVE SALAD.

Now I know what you’re thinking…

“Who loves salad? It’s just a sneaky way that parents world wide came up with hiding vegetables!”

So I guess I better be transparent so that you’re not disillusioned: I also love vegetables (more on that another time). But I will clarify my love of salad…

I love SASSY salad. Salad with character. Salad that dares to be different. Salad that stares at you from your plate igniting your imagination, bombarding you with colour and begging you to dig in. Goodness, I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

This summer I ate a lot of salad. It’s a summer staple for me really. But because we were house sitting most of the time, and busy with work and play, our salads generally consisted of a bunch of spinach compiled with peppers and tomatoes and finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Pretty plain. Pretty boring.

So now that I’m back at school and in my own (albeit new) kitchen, with my own pantry to chose from and the grocery store a stone’s throw away, I have been indulging deliciously sassy salads!

At first I thought I’d write a post compiled with some different pictures and call it a day. But there is far too much fun to be had in salad so it will have to come in a few parts.

First up:

(As usual, get creative! I give full permission to go nuts with your own substitutions…we all know I never follow recipes by the book either!)

2-3 leafs romaine lettuce torn into pieces, washed and spun in a salad spinner
1/3 green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 roma tomato, chopped
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp dried cranberries (unsweetened)
A sprinkle of sesame seeds

Layer peppers, tomato and avocado over the bed of lettuce. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and cranberries overtop, followed by the sesame seeds. Top with your dressing of choice (see today’s below).

Makes a large salad for one, or a small salad for two.

Mum’s Special French Dressing

1/4 organic liquid honey
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup oil
1/2 white vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake to combine. If the honey is being stubborn and refusing to mingle with the others, throw the jar (without the metal lid!) in the microwave for ten seconds, or use a small whisk.

Refrigerate leftover dressing so that it’s on hand for your next sassy salad!