fitness · motivation

Stop Pushing

Okay okay I get it. I’ll stop.

It’s been a really bad half a year for me in a lot of ways but a really good half a year in other ways. On the professional side, it’s all roses. My practice is full to the brim and I’m teaching in a program I love with so much room for growth and spreading my painfully acquired wisdom to new therapists. My kids are stable and overall, so are my key relationships.

Yet, I’m struggling. I stopped exercising in September and just didn’t bother to start again. A wave of lethargy consumed me, but only in the narrow field of my physical self. Inside my brain I was brimming. In the outside world, I was atrophying. It’s so strange to be depressed in this particular way. I’ve joked that I’m so good at coping that I mostly don’t notice my depression when it slams me but these past few years, winter is just shit. Sorry for swearing. No. Not sorry. It’s shit. Shit for me, shit for people I love and who depend on me and kids. . .the world gives not a shit for how shitty you feel. It goes on demanding things of you, paying lip service to your mental health and then blaming (or worse punishing) you for not doing enough about it. Ya, that’s me, a mental health provider, and that is what I know to be true. Add peri-menopause and it’s just, you know, shit.

When I realized I really didn’t even feel like riding a horse anymore, I knew I was really in trouble, but the idea of making myself do more made me want to cry. So I tried stopping.

This I where I’m at right now. I’ve stopped. But stopped what? It’s hard to describe exactly. I’ve stopped trying to be or do a thing that is not what I am right now. I am not some kind of super charged athlete. I never have been. I’ve done some cool things and pushed myself in ways I’m proud of. The Bike Rally (Toronto to Montreal in 6 days) twice and the half marathon last year are two things I’m really proud of. But you know what? That’s as good as it’s going to get for me. I don’t need to do more. I don’t need to even repeat any of it. My body is aging and it needs to stay active but if my idea of active is to keep pushing myself to do more, I just end up in a shame spiral fighting myself and I’m not interested in that today.

I have returned to the gym. I did the 30 minute circuit, the most vanilla workout ever. It’s all I can handle right now. I went to yoga. Plain yoga. Not hot yoga. Not power yoga. Yoga. It was good. I may ride next month but I think I’m not fit enough to have that be fun for me right now so I may wait to get back to that. I am not doing anything longer then 10k ever again so there will be time this summer to ride my bike with Sam and Cate and Kim. Yay. As always, my dog makes sure that I get out of the house at least once a day. She’d better be immortal.

I’m turning 50 in June. I don’t think it will be my fittest birthday ever. That’s okay. I’m grateful to be alive at 50. I’m grateful to have meaningful work and beautiful friendships. I’m grateful I can to a 30 minute circuit or a dog hike. I’m grateful my life is in my hands and I will spend the remainder of it giving back to this sad, barely comprehensible world. I’m grateful for my superstar coping and oh dear sweet universe I will be grateful for spring.

The cute slightly sad looking head of a yellow lab on my leg, wearing orange leggings with big white polka dots



dogs · fitness

Lost Without My Doggo (Tails From the Woods)

Hi. This is me, still not doing very much by way of movement. . .EXCEPT. . .dog walking.

In this post I will contemplate the different types of dog walks as I see them. You can argue with me, but I just made this all up so you can be right if you want.

Basic walk: This is the 7:45am walk around the small park. It is necessary for the dog’s health and short because I (or you, or someone) has to go to work or school. The dog loves it and the human just needs it to be over (1km).

Panic walk: This walk happens right before you have to do something important but the dog needs it and you love the dog. So you walk very fast and yell at the dog to stop checking every bit of pee-mail she has and lets go because you need to move. (1km)

Information gathering from teenager walk: This is the one you ask your teen kid to come on with you so that the dog gets a walk and you maybe get some info (intel) on their life or the life of a sibling. Children who are looking in the same direction as the adult talk more than children being directly interrogated. Don’t believe me? Try it. Car ride, swings in the park, park bench, ski lift or. . .dog walk. (1.8km)

Hang out with a spouse walk: The spouse you never see. Ya, that one. Go for a dog walk, get a coffee, don’t forget the Timbit for the dog. (1.8km)A happy yellow lab standing in snow looking up. There are snowshoes with boots in them all around the frame

It’s so cold I hate you dog walk: This is the walk that you wish you never owned a dog for. Except she is so happy and loves you for taking her, so I guess it’s okay and she can stay, but I can’t feel my face. (1km)

Cottage road dog walk: Casual, delightful, you remembered to put your snow pants on so you are not too freezing. Love the cottage road dog walk. (1.5km)

Forest tromp with dog: Snow! Forest! Happiest dog ever in the world. These are the best walks. They can be casual and slow or fast and sweaty. Everyone is having a good time, especially the dog. Let’s face it, the dog always has a good time. (4km)

It doesn’t matter what state you are in or I am in or how long it’s been since I wore running shoes. It doesn’t matter if I’m depressed and peri-menopausal and hate everyone. The dog is always up for a walk and the dog is always happy. Therefore, I walk the dog and the fog of life lifts just a little bit. May your year be full of happy dog walks or some equivalent even if you don’t feel very fit and even if you are exhausted trying to be a feminist in these weird times. Dogs see your potential. Dogs know you’ve got this. Dogs think you are a-okay.


An Ongoing Food Adventure

I normally blog about activity but since I’m not exactly active right now and don’t want to talk about it (grumble), I thought I’d talk about an interesting food experiment I’ve been engaged with this last year.

I looooove food, I loooooove cooking and I haaaate grocery shopping. I also hate having to decide what I’m making, although once I do decide, I seriously enjoy the process. I am conscious, also, as many of us who write on here are, of what I am putting in my mouth and the mouths of the family for whom I am responsible food wise. I want fresh, tasty, nutritious, fun and interesting food on the table. It is my belief that if it meets those criteria most of the time, then the other looming adjective that I ignored  (“healthy”, whatever that means, I just seriously can’t stomach defining that any more, pun intended) just kind of follows along for the most part. I also like the idea of eating less meat even though I love meat.

I was intrigued through my good friend by a service that delivers meals weekly to my house. These meals are not pre-prepared. I have to do the prep and cook them. However, they are pre-measured and contain only what is required to cook the meal. I’m not going to name the company here but you can look the services up easily. There are a few now. I order three meals per week and they are meant to feed two people per meal. The servings are usually generous so we often have left overs for another meal or two out of it.

Here is my evaluation of the experiment. Total success.

Things I love are as follows:

For the most part, they are totally tasty and satisfying. I love that I don’t have to go to the grocery store as much. I love that I don’t have to think of what to cook. They give these lovely instructions with each meal and the description of the food just makes you want to eat it that second.

Vegetarian Pad Thai

With its familiar mountain of rice noodles, Pad Thai is probably the most popular and recognizable Thai dish the world over. Our vegetarian version is bursting with perfectly seasoned cubes of tofu, cashews, bell peppers and edamame. Tossed in a Sriracha-spiked sauce, our well-balanced twist on a beloved classic won’t disappoint.

That isn’t even the best description. It’s just the one I have in front of me. They never ever talk about calories, or “light” meals, or low fat or any of that crap. “Well balanced” here is talking about taste. The taste is well balanced. It totally is.

I have acquired new skills through this process and an appreciation of prep work that accelerates the cooking. Most meals take a half hour to prepare. I also never knew how important vegetarian demi-glace could be, nor did I realize that lemon or lime zest is, like, EVERYTHING.

The down sides include too much grilled tofu. I don’t care how long you marinate it, it’s boring as a main protein. I have also forgotten how to cook otherwise, lol, just kidding, sort of.

A photo of a page of instructions for Vegetarian Pad Thai that includes picture of each step.
Is this Yum or What?

Enjoying food is joy. This is a total win.



The Inactivity Gravity Well

I’m in one. I’ve been sucked down. 

I didn’t even go riding this week and that’s saying something. 

It started after my personal best 10k. I didn’t go back to running immediately. Then I added new things to my schedule, teaching (with an hour commute each way) and more carpooling (because the kid with the license went away to school).  The result is a sense of profound busyness and over scheduledness. 

I also let go of my self care in other ways. I haven’t been to a body work person of any sort in months and all my chronic things are active. This is what made me not want to ride today. It’s jarring on my body and my body is hurting. 

This weekend coming up I have a teaching intensive for two and a half days, commuting there and back. It’s a therapist training program so there is tons of exciting inner work. There isn’t a lot of time for outside. Because when the students have free time, I’m in staff meetings. 

I feel whiny and grumpy and owie. I can’t follow my own darn advice. I know what I need, yoga, Pilates, weights, but I DON’T WANT TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT EAT PASTA. 

I’m in a sort of hibernation mode that is unfamiliar. Honestly, I think I just have to suck it up. I keep telling myself “next week, next time, tomorrow” but tomorrow never comes because it’s always now. 

The bright spot is my dog. I’m still walking every day twice a day at a brisk pace. So I’m not dead yet. 

So people…kick my butt…nicely. 

A black cat flopping on a top step. He looks deflated.
This is how I feel….blergh


Accidental Personal Record

I didn’t want to do another half marathon but I promised. My partner signed me up for the Army Run in Ottawa. It was a marginally consensual sign up. But he was excited and I figured it would all be okay. 

The summer was busy and hot at the wrong times. I hate running in the heat. I didn’t train much. Neither did he frankly but he has that particular combination of base fitness and stubbornness that he can do just about anything he puts his mind to. So as the date approached, I knew that 21.1k was not going to happen for me. 

The event gave me the option of dropping down to the 10k and I took that instead. I thought I’d just take it easy and walk as much as I needed. It was going to be an obscenely hot day for September anyway. I had zero expectation. 

The event itself was huge. And you know what? It was super fun. It’s not just a Canadian Forces thing. It’s in support of wounded soldiers and they had a place of honour in the run. The city really owns that run. The Prime Minister ran the 5k (in 23 minutes !!! ). The Minister of Defence ran the Commander’s Challenge, the same run my partner did. It was the 5k and then the half. There were a couple of other Ministers running other distances too. There were kids and moms carrying kids and strollers and basically every combo you can imagine running 5 different events storming the streets of downtown. 

Doing politics on the run. The PM and the Minister of Defence

I just set out to do my best. Not a record, just survive really. And then, there it was, 10k in 1:13.20. A personal best by accident. 

I told my partner I’d do the half next year. It always seems so possible from this perspective. 

Who else has tripped over a personal best?

Sweaty white middle age woman in a green tank top looking pleased with herself.
Do I look smug? I was smug. And sweaty

Horse Magic in Iceland

I’ve been home for almost 2 weeks and I still don’t have words. I think about what I want to say and my heart clenches with so much stuff I can’t think. Where do I start? What can I tell  you? Perhaps I’ll tell it as a story.

Once upon a time, a woman got a link from a friend to a site on the internet. She was curious and opened the page. “Golden Circle Horseback Riding Adventure“, it promised.

This is a picture of me with a smile that is so big it is dwarfed only by the horse nose in the foreground. Horse selfies FTW.

Bah! This isn’t working. I’m not good with Disney-esque things. But actually? This was the most perfect trip of my life so far and I’m going to tell you why.

First of all, Iceland. I know I know, it’s super trendy right now and super expensive unless you do it cleverly. Let me tell you, let me say, let me convey the absolute breath taking beauty. Let me assure of you the magnificence both in the grandeur of the landscape and the subtly of each flower and bit of moss. Let me tell you about the sky and the clouds, the ever changing mosaic of sun and wind and rain.

Let me tell you about the living earth that bubbles up and overtakes in cycle after cycle of volcanic activity. This place is literally on the cusp of the world, where two plates meet and slowly move away from each other. It has spilled to the surface and offered itself to us. It is harsh and glorious.

The people that live there are hardy and funny. They are serious and ridiculous. They are all related, descendants of  Danish and Norse men who sailed out to find something, grabbed some Briton women along the way and scratched out an existence for the last thousand years. All the time they have been there, the horses have been with them. Icelandic horses are a distinct breed. In 982AD the island was closed to new horses to preserve them. They are prized for their hardiness, their compact strength and their gates, which include the Tolt and the Flying Pace.

What struck me most about them was their universal good nature. They are so much like the place they live. They are elegant and subtle. They are expansive and magnificent. Each is unique but together, they create a consistent predictable herd, each knowing it’s place in the inevitable cycle of life.

My incredible daughter looking so cool in her sunglasses and riding the most stylin’ blondie named Gladur. He was also known as Billy Idol. That hair tho.

I could not have seen this place in a better way or in better company. From the moment I opened that link four years ago, I knew I was taking my daughter for her 16th birthday. That is, if, she was still talking to me at 16 and if, if could still ride. I was blessed with everything I wished for.

We rode for 7 days. Some were gentler than others but most were exhausting. Some were downright punishing as they were exhilarating. We changed horses 2-3 times per day. Each time we had to get used to a new mount. If we didn’t figure out how to engage the Tolt (a smooth fast pace) we were doomed to sit trotting at an uncomfortable speed for a lot of the trip. The canter is hard on the horse over long distances so it’s discouraged unless we have permission. We spent some time in the back country in simple huts with basic amenities.  We spent some time in luxurious hot springs in the open air.

We were 17 women and three guides taking in magic with every breath. My daughter was the youngest at 16. The oldest woman was 71. I had no idea until the last day. Most of us hovered between 40 and 60 and it was a connection to horses that brought us all there.

Our head guide was German and told us the story of how she came to be guiding in Iceland on a ranch. She had a professional career and a home in Germany and she came on a trip not too many years ago. Then she came back on another a year later. Then, when she went home, it didn’t feel like home any more. She fell in love with the country or the horses, or maybe it’s the same thing. She was no longer comfortable in her skin in her “homeland” so she ditched her life and moved to Iceland. She was the first person who told me a story like that but then she wasn’t the last. A colleague, a client’s son and even my own daughter feel the pull. The place seduces you somehow. I could feel it too but I’m too entrenched at home.

It was a physically hard trip but I didn’t care. I could have stayed for two weeks or three. I could have stayed in the back country travelling with the rhythm of the horse. I would have slept in a tent or under a rock on soft moss. Maybe it’s the Icelandic Elves that call to us.

They offer another trip with the same company that involves more back country and riding with the herd, just like in the days of the Althing. I’m seriously thinking about it and I know my daughter wants to go. I might lose her to the Elves or a beautiful descendant of Danes and Britons. But it’s calling me.

black sand
The black sand beach in the foreground. The ocean gleaming in sunlight in the back ground. 13 women on horseback begin a gallop into the wind, as it should be.



Two Years Without a Scale

It’s been about two years, maybe a little more, since I literally threw out my scale. It was old. I think it was my mother’s scale in the house I grew up in. It migrated to my bathroom in my teens somehow and I just kept lugging it around with me.

I can’t say that my scale and I had a horrible relationship. In fact, until I joined this community and started to pay attention to assumptions about health, fitness, weight and acceptance, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I dutifully weighed myself nearly every day for most of my life mostly, I thought, out of curiosity.

Now it is true, if I am completely honest with you, that there were a few years where the scale gave some useful reflective information. It was a time in my life that I lost a lot of weight. Why did I lose this weight? Divorce, a super messy one at that. I lost so much weight that my hair started to fall out (it never really recovered). I could not get the weight to come back to my body as my anxiety and stress ate my guts out and made me nauseous with every swallow. I’d get on that scale and hope there was more to me almost every day. For the longest time there was not.

Eventually, the divorce chaos calmed down and I was able to get hold of myself. When I say “get hold of myself” I’m not talking about my ability or inability to eat. I talking about actually finding myself and who I was. This is not a cliche. That is seriously what happened. It was the confidence that I was me and me was okay and I was going to be just fine that allowed me to start eating normally again and not to have each bit of nutrition go up in a flare of despair induced combustion.

My scale returned to a neutral item.

But I have a daughter.

And I found all these people who think gloriously and critically about the assumptions I swallowed about what the scale says and why we should or perhaps should not listen.

My scale didn’t vanish from my life immediately but I did start to wonder why it was there. I went up a pound. I went down a pound. Not much changed for me because of those things. Things changed because I started a therapy practice and I ran 5k and I biked all over the place and I rode horses and did pilates and and. . .that stuff. Life stuff. I loved my kids and they grew and I loved my partner and friends and all those things grew and changed. None of it had any relationship to the scale any more and the scale had nothing to say to me about the quality of my life.

I started to hear it’s actual voice, or maybe my voice, some part of my voice, when I stepped on the thing. I went up a pound (aw. . .sadface). I went down a pound (yay. . .happyface). I was already writing for this blog ad hoc. I was deep into a new understanding of what exercise means in my life and in the lives of other people around me and nothing was about pounds. I had worked to stop seeing health and food in moral terms for my clients. I stopped accepting “I want you to help me lose weight” as a goal in therapy. But there I was on the scale a little “yay” and a little “boo” depending on what it told me.

So I threw it out.

Nothing changed.

Except it is quieter in my head in the bathroom in the morning.

A white and grey coloured bathroom scale commonly found in places you buy these things. You stand on it with your feet and get judged by your own precious self.