Fit and Far From Home… (Guest Post)

Last week I was in La Belle Province running a workshop and was hoping to try to hop back onto the fitness wagon. I’ve been travelling a lot lately for work and haven’t always had the opportunity/timing/inclination/energy to work out. I’ve added a few pounds to my mid-section and really need to shake it off. I’m not ready to go pants shopping again!  On top of that I’ll be competing in the World’s Masters Heavy Events Championships in June in Iceland and need to keep prepping for the 2 day competition.

Normally when I travel, I’ll scope out my hotel options ahead and ensure I get a place that meets my standards. My needs really aren’t outrageous, but I need 2 things: a great breakfast and a decent gym. By great breakfast, I mean eggs cooked when I order them, not sometime before I crawled out of bed and by decent gym, I’d like a working treadmill and some weights. Dumbbells or some kind of weight machine is acceptable. Since I’ve been travelling the last 3 out of 4 weeks, I ran out of time to scope out the hotel, and left the details to a colleague I’ve never travelled with and recommendations from a client who recommended the hotel solely for price. In my colleague’s defense, I didn’t tell him about my “high” standards.

This week I’m travelling with a vegetarian who doesn’t drink much, so I figured I’d get the opportunity to eat healthy and not be tempted by all the things that impact my waistline. He also likes to work out. Perfect, I thought! A good influence! All the stars were aligned.  Oh, but wait!

I brought my bathing suit, in case they had a pool. I peeked in the pool area on day 1 and saw it was full of local children having a swimming lesson. Seems like laps were an unlikely scenario.  I entered the nearby gym and turned on the light. Hmm…no lights at 6:00…perhaps it wasn’t used much?  Well, I thought, they have 2 treadmills, that’s good…if my colleague and I are both in the gym, we can both run. On closer inspection, I realized the room was really half-sized, and just had a wall of mirrors, and one treadmill.

The weight machine was missing parts, but had a weird bar attached to pulleys.

The weight bench sat alone, and the dumbbells were nowhere to be seen.

The treadmill was super noisy, and once it got up to half-speed the tread started slipping. Fearing injury, I stopped the treadmill and got off.

The elliptical was also loudly squeaky and needed some serious maintenance.

Within a few minutes of my arrival, my colleague joined me. We did some back squats with the weird bar, but it was challenging as the pulleys were very mobile and would flip 180 degrees at random. Eventually we gave up and went for a run, where there were no sidewalks and lots of cars. Turns out, I haven’t had a real run in a while, so had to give up pretty quickly when I realized my lungs were going to explode. My colleague kindly ran back with me, possibly fearing he’d have to call 911, delivered me back to the hotel then left to finish his run.

I showered, checked email, and went out for poutine.

Day 2, I was inspired by a friend’s burpee challenge and did some in my room. The room has an excess of furniture, but I managed to squeeze some burpees between the beds. Then I realized I could yoga. I signed up for a year of yoga online and started working through it. (Because online yoga is somewhat affordable). Considering how tight my hamstrings have been from flying, it was actually hugely beneficial…until I had to spread out in multiple directions. Done. Just like that. I swear, this hotel doesn’t want me to get healthy!

Luckily I’ve got friends who are looking out for me and in no time at all, after posting my woes on Facebook, had several recommendations for hotel / bodyweight workouts. Looks like I’ve still got options! Now, I just have to stay off the poutine!

 

Sandi is a feminist in the throes of what some would call her mid-life crisis, having gone from exercising only her mind to lifting weights and throwing heavy objects.  Her natural curiosity and need to know everything serves her well in a career in research as well as all things health, science and well…life really.

 

Early season practicing (Guest post)

Back in January, I started my throwing season early. Five months early! I had heard about the Key West Games, that they were “all that, and more!” and felt the need to give it a try. I was a bit nervous about flying to Florida with the new immigration and travel rules, especially since I was travelling with Juan, my trusty pitchfork. I was fortunate that I didn’t run into problems, and that my pitchfork is legitimately considered sporting equipment so I was able to check it with little fanfare.

I don’t have a lot of girlfriends, and definitely don’t do the stereotypical girlfriend things, so when I had the opportunity to join my friend Kathy on this trip, I jumped at the chance. We flew together, rented a car and drove out to Marathon and spent the day before competition sight-seeing. We flew in Thursday and flew home Sunday, so it was quick, but we made the best of our time. As part of our play day, we stopped at a beach, where Kathy taught me some new footwork for throwing the stone. I was able to find an extremely non-aero-dynamic brick to practice with and worked it over for a half-hour. The new technique felt more comfortable than my previous and my throw immediately looked better, even if the distance wasn’t greatly increased.

Our competition was a women’s only field. This is a bit unusual, because the games are often focused on professional men, with masters, amateurs and women taking the back seat. We have our share of fans, but the sponsors and festivals are generally paying the pros to come in, and the rest of us pay our own way. We actually had a large enough group of women, we were able to break into 2 groups: open and masters. Throwing with women closer to my own age was also nice as I was a little more competitive than when throwing against university athletes younger than my child. The crowd loved having us there and I may even have made it into one of the Florida newspapers.

As per usual, this group of women were fantastic. Most of them were strangers to me when I arrived, and they were very welcoming and made me feel like we were old friends in no time. I connected with several on Facebook, so have been able to follow their adventures every weekend over the last 3 months. If I had unlimited time, energy and money, I would have happily joined them a few more times.

As the Florida season seems to be wrapping up, mine in Ontario is just getting started. We’re getting ready to schedule practices and I’ve managed to get myself into some early games, including flying out to Victoria, BC for a master’s competition in May. As my season is ramping up so is my work travel, so I’m looking at ways to squeeze in as many practices as possible over the next couple of months. It seems weird that at 49 I’m still improving my game – but am excited and grateful I can do it. The early start has me itching to get the equipment out and start practicing. I’m thinking Florida was the kick start I needed this year!

 

Sandi is a feminist in the throes of what some would call her mid-life crisis, having gone from exercising only her mind to lifting weights and throwing heavy objects.  Her natural curiosity and need to know everything serves her well in a career in research as well as all things health, science and well…life really.

 

Travel and Exercise (Guest Post)

From time to time I need to travel for work. When I choose my hotel I always try to get a place with a full restaurant for breakfast and a decent gym. I have a few hotels that are my standard go-to chains that are guaranteed to work, but don’t always have that luxury as I’m not always in big cities that even have multiple hotels. My plan when I can’t use a gym is to just do some kind of hotel workout, sometimes it’s pushups and body weight squats, sometimes I’ll more closely follow the hotel workout posted a few years ago at Nerd Fitness . When there are weights, I’ll use them, when there are not, I’ll do cardio.

This week I was at a conference in Vegas, in a hotel with a couple of fitness centers that were quite exceptional. Day 1 I was pretty tired, so decided just to do cardio so I wouldn’t have to think too hard about choices. The gym was sparse as it often is with just a few of the types you’d expect to see, the dedicated runners who spend hours on the treadmill and a few bodybuilders in the weights corner. I did 40 minutes of fast walking on the treadmill, testing my feet on a short run to see how my toes would hold up. All was well.

Monday I hit the gym in the late afternoon and expected the same, but was surprised to see several people in the gym who didn’t meet the stereotypes that I expected to see in Vegas gyms. There was the runner on the treadmill beside me, who looked the part, there was a very attractive, thin blond woman on a bike, wearing her sports bra and with her hair perfectly coifed. There were a few older gentlemen who were doing some light medicine ball and treadmill work, focused primarily on the blond and a couple of men spending time around the weight machines.

40 minutes on the treadmill to warm up, working in intervals to start increasing my running time, then I moved to the weights. The blond had a circuit that she was following: very slowly biking for 5 minutes, holding 5 lb weights on her shoulders for a minute at a time, chatting with the older gentlemen, then walking out of the gym to chat on her phone. She completed this full circuit a few times. The experienced runner left, the older gentlemen left and it was just me, the blond and the vague workout routine guys (VWRG) that were left.

I started on the weights with bicep curls and triceps exercises, with 15lb dumbbells. Normally, I’ll increase by 5 lbs at a time, but when I reached for the 20lb weights, VWRG#1 rushed to the rack, picked up the 20s and carried them to the spot where he stored his cell phone, and set them down. He then moved to a machine to do other work. Clearly he’s never been schooled on gym etiquette. So, I skipped to 25s and carried on.

Because this gym had EVERYTHING, I went to the rack and decided to do some deadlifts. Normally I do partials at home, so wasn’t sure where to start with the full lifts. I started at 75lbs and started to increase pretty quickly from there. I didn’t have my weight belt so was careful to not overdo it. I ended at 225lbs x 3 (which was better than I expected) and when I looked up in the mirror, I saw VWRG#2 staring at me with his jaw dropped. He then put away his 12lb weights. I finished off with 30 x 30lb kettlebell swings, stretched out, then did some sit ups. When I was done, I was drenched. (Pretty blond was still beautifully coifed and not even glowing from exertion.) I grabbed my towel, lifted my shirt and wiped off my boob sweat. I looked up and VWRG#1 had stopped in front of me and was staring, slack jawed. Seriously dude…boob sweat…it’s a thing.

It’s weird working out in a space where other people are just going through some vague motions. Makes me really glad for my training partners who have helped me get into a routine, practice good technique and make me lift hard every week.

World Masters Championships (Guest Post)

This past weekend, I qualified and was able to compete for the first time in the Master’s Heavy Events World Championships held in Amherst, New York. We had 8 events over 4 days, including 2 stone throws (similar to shotput), two hammer throws (similar to Olympic hammers, but we stay stationary), two weights for distance (similar to discuss), caber, sheaf and weight over bar.

I went in with the attitude that I wasn’t there to win. I was competing against several women who’ve been throwing for a lot longer than I and who started this sport with some form of athletic background. This isn’t me making excuses or being defeatist, this is about being realistic about my capabilities and standings. My goal was to enjoy the experience, throw well and try to get some personal bests.

The weekend exceeded all my expectations. Friday night started with introductions and a speech by one of the Heavies veterans welcoming back this great big dysfunctional family. This is what the games are all about. I throw with many of the same women in the games in Canada, some of whom I practice with on a regular basis. Whenever we see each other, we have big hugs for each other and catch up while we throw. In Canada, we call this group our summer family, though many of these friendships continue year round. Thrower spouses/partners are part of the family too, and reconnecting with them created as much joy as seeing my throwing friends again. Sunday ended with new Facebook connections and promises to attend other games.

On the field with nearly 100 competitors from ages 40 to over 70, the support between competing athletes is the same world-wide as it is for us at home. Coaching each other to improve, even if it means you have to work harder to stay ahead is the norm. We had spectators asking us questions while we waited for our next turn, and several times I heard them comment on the camaraderie between athletes. Many were there to win, but they wanted to do it fairly and with solid competition. World records were broken and everyone was excited to see it happen, regardless of whether they were direct competition or not.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I came in 9th overall out of 10 women in my age group of 45 to 49 from Canada, the US and Germany. I reached a personal best of 20 feet by throwing a 10lb sheaf over a bar, with a pitchfork, and I placed, 4th, 8th and 9th a few times as well as 10th in the 8 events

This was an amazing experience. Two and half days with these people, where we met on and off the field was such a high. There was a ton of laughter, ton of support, lots of hugs, wee bit of wine slushies and lots of selfies with new friends. I’m so glad my husband and I backed out of our sport retirement plans and decided to give it another few years. Next year’s competition is Iceland, and you can bet I’ll be working hard to get there.

Exercising during recovery (Guest post)

footOver the last 10-15 years, I’ve been dealing with foot pain. The last three, since I started my highland games sport, have seen the pain increase exponentially. I don’t know if it’s the spinning, the cleats or both, but the pain has been unbearable. Highland games take several hours, so it’s a lot of time on my feet, and I typically would change shoes 3 or 4 times during the day. I’ve finally had surgery on both feet to break some bones and align my toes properly. The time off has been great as I was suffering from burnout from work as well.

It became apparent once the drugs started to wear off after surgery that my lack of movement was going to cause me problems. I’m moderately active normally, but lying in bed with my feet up and doing nothing was making it impossible to sleep, and sleep is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, so when I say impossible, I mean, awake for 36 hours impossible. The first few days I was incapable of doing much, so started working my chest, arms and shoulders with resistance bands, just a few minutes at a time, which was exhausting when drugged, later moving to walking around a bit in the stores to get out of the house and tire myself out. Since then I’ve been craving movement.

I googled exercise options and was disappointed with what I saw, so decided I just needed to be creative and modify workouts I know to accommodate my temporary abilities issues. It’s only been a few weeks since the surgery so still not able to do anything requiring balancing or feet. I’ve been in the gym bench pressing, and am back up to my pre-surgery personal best. I have been in the backyard doing (really) modified high intensity interval training, on a chair with a kettlebell and medicine ball and have started pilates, modified slightly as I can’t flex or point my toes, or have the top of my foot touching the floor due to pin placement. This might actually be a bit of a blessing as my workout has to be much better-rounded to accommodate the handicap.

Getting back into the workouts has really been helping me sleep, is relieving some boredom, is probably helping me to heal faster but is getting me pumped up in general about moving more and integrating a few more options into my normal routine.

Resolution skipping and short term goals (Guest post)

kb2

Every year I work on the New Year’s resolutions, with S.M.A.R.T. (but lofty) goals so I can start January with the right attitude and a plan. Like most people, by February, I’ve lost the plan in a sea of papers that I never got around to decluttering and by March, I’m stuffing pizza in my face and wondering why my pants are still tight.

After a year that ended in complete burn-out, with just a few goals met, I’ve decided that I’ll start my January a bit differently. I will still identify some personal and professional goals, but will keep them relatively modest. But I’m going to spend time reflecting on what went sideways last year that took me over the edge to total burnout. I joke that I broke my feet on purpose to get some time off in December, but there’s some element of truth in that statement. I wasn’t able to schedule my surgery myself, but the timing couldn’t have been better. I needed the time off and apparently needed a week to just lie in bed, stoned on opiates, with my feet propped up and Ted Talks and Netflix entertaining me.

Now that I’ve had a few weeks off with a few more days to go, I feel like I can tackle the new year. I realize that I’m in a much better head space now. I ended the year at work with a really great team where we can redistribute work moving forward, and I feel that I’m finally in a place where I can take tighter control of my calendar. My goal for January is to focus on cleaning up the backlog of projects that went sideways in 2015 (3 of them!) and solve some process problems so I can reengage in February with my clients.

I feel like solving these issues with work will help me to focus again on the basics: eating clean and healthy and working out regularly. Once my feet are healed, I’ll go back to running, back to yoga and just by virtue of the fact that I can’t drive or walk far in January will force me to take lunches to work. Other than that, I’m not setting big lofty goals, I’m not setting my goal to become a concert violinist, hit top 5 in the highland games or lose 40lbs but am interested this year in balancing my work and life. I would hope that finding that balance will open up all kinds of possibilities and ensure I’m not so exhausted I can’t play or even notice the opportunities.

kb1

Sport supports (Guest post)

There was a time I’m embarrassed to say that I was one of those women who was jealous of other women. There were always women smarter than me, prettier than me, more successful than me, and I wanted to be what they were.

Age, experience and being open minded enough to talk to these women went a long way to making me realize that we all struggle with something and not everything is as perfect as it appears.

As a kid, I didn’t really try because I figured that as accident prone as I was, there was no point in wasting my time. I was afraid everyone would laugh at my ridiculous attempts. However, starting my athletic career in the upper half of my 40’s, in a niche sport has been very eye opening.

Caber tossing is not your average “old girl” hobby, but it’s an interesting way to leap into sports. Carrying a 40-70lb log vertically while running and looking for the optimal time to flip it end over end is not something I would have even thought of 20 or 30 years ago. Add onto that another 8 events and you’ve got the makings of an exhausting but exhilarating day.

The beauty of this sport is really around the support system. Everyone is a coach, but not in a pushy, I-know-better-than-you kind of way, but in an I’m here to help kind of way. Sometimes the coach is so good, the student beats them on the next throw.

We compete for placings, but for a new thrower who is throwing against women half my age, or women who’ve figured out the technique years ago, I couldn’t have picked a better sport. We celebrate each other’s improvements, breakthroughs and personal bests. I watch the women beating me and learn from them.

I’m not jealous, but incented. I’ve made some fantastic friendships and am excited to keep working at it to kick last year’s numbers to the curb.  I’m doing instead of watching.  It’s kind of awesome.

image

WOB: Photo Credit: John Cavers: http://johncaversnature.com/

 

Sandi is a feminist in the throes of what some would call her mid-life crisis, having gone from exercising only her mind to lifting weights and throwing heavy objects.  Her natural curiosity and need to know everything serves her well in a career in research as well as all things health, science and well…life really.