Even though the year of being 23 was the fastest year so far of my life.
I blinked and I am at another birthday.
But yesterday was a beautiful day, I had the afternoon off and I did something I never have done before: I celebrated my “day before my birthday.”
I got a gourmet cupcake from a local bakery and went to Starbucks to write.
Proof to those doubters in my life that I do, indeed, eat sugar sometimes.
One of the most important things I have learned about life so far is that it is to be lived with intention. Life throws curveballs that we can never plan for, but while we are living, I think it is important to think about WHY we are living. So I may not expect everything that comes my way, but reflecting on where I have come from, where I want to go and asking for advice from those who are wiser and more accomplished than me are a part of my foundation.
I try to make a point of enjoying being young. I think that is why I enjoy running so much, because I sometimes get a taste of what it is like to have bad knees, hips or chronic pain. The days following a big race, I cannot jump out of my chair or bend down to the ground as fast as normal and it gives me an appreciation and a delight that I can return to my youthful pace in a couple of days. I can push my body to it’s limits and still feel unstoppable.
I feel like I need to throw in a disclaimer that being young is not better than being old. It is all stages. I just want to enjoy this one as deeply as possible.
I couldn’t find any photographic evidence of me on the board, but here is a picture of me standing close to it. Which counts.
I went to concerts and music festivals.
Brand New Concert
Spent time with loved ones.
Said good bye to loved ones.
Watched my closest cousin marry the love of her life.
Helped prepare for my sister’s wedding this summer.
And a thousand other things that make up 365 days.
I was saying recently to a close friend that many people I know glide gracefully into adulthood. That is NOT me.
If anything, 23 was the year of the belly flop. I graduated university and began a brand new stage and I didn’t necessarily do it with grace or style. But I did it with passion, so I am hoping that counts for something.
One of my favourite quotes is by Henry David Thoreau:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear;
nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life,
to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
Here’s to 24. And to sucking all the sweetness and marrow that the year has to offer.
I have a really exciting initiative to share with you all today. Recently, I was one of several Fitfluential Ambassadors selected to be a part of the Under Armour What’s Beautiful Campaign. What is unique about this sponsorship is that it carries a message - everyone with a fitness goal can join this and I want to invite you all along for the journey!
When I received my first piece from them in the mail, I wondered if Under Armour read my mind; I LOVE the colours they sent me.
Our dear old dog wandered into the photoshoot. Typical. . .
What is beautiful to me now has not always been the case. Growing up with an anorexic sister has been occasionally similar to growing up with fun-house mirrors. There tends to be a constant reminder of THIN and the relentless drive for it in our culture and psyche as North American women.
I have fallen prey to it in the past. I have punished my body rather than celebrated it’s abilities. The way I see it, I have already used up my quota of days prescribed to think down on myself, my abilities and my body. The only days I have remaining are those where I believe that I can accomplish more than seems possible and to be full of gratefulness for a body that can DO what I need it to do. Really, there is nothing more I could ask for.
So if beauty is not having a perfect body, being able to say the perfect thing at the right time or being witty, impeccible and a trend-setter, what does beauty mean to ME?
This is beauty to me. Which is why I am thrilled to partner with both a North American and International company to share the message. Because it needs to be shared.
So what is the campaign?
Participants declare a goal. (I am looking at you!) It can be anything from learning to run 5 KM to eating healthier to focusing on a balanced lifestyle. Then, it is time to join the community, set up a profile and start documenting your progress. Under Armour provides challenges to members to help with reaching the goals.
Hop over to the website and set up your profile. Create your photo and video introducing your challenge and how you are going to achieve it.
Next, make some friends! Follow athletes, start conversations and start a support network for yourself by joining teams. I have started a team called Team Ultrarunner for those who are running ultramarathons AND for anyone who is wanting to complete an upcoming race injury-free.
Want another reason to join?
Aside from offering an incredibly supportive and empowering community for women, Under Armour is handing out weekly gifts to individuals and teams who are owning it! Also, at the end of the campaign, Under Armour will be giving out a trip to 10 finalists and three winners will be given a trip to Costa Rica for a 4 day yoga and surf retreat.
So sign up, join my team and a thriving group of online athletes and win some Under Armour stuff while you are at it!
What is the definition of beautiful to you?
If you signed up, share your goal and page in the comments so we can all follow and support you!
I had a weekend of running! I have run for the past 8 years or so mainly solo. I have run with local trail teams and varsity through university, but I seemed to thrive on hitting the trail, freeways and sidewalks alone without leaving notes or letting my friends and family know where I am. I love just dropping off the radar and running to my hearts content.
I do realize this is unsafe and a 127 Hours incident in the making.
Recently, I have tried to broaden my horizons and realized how much faster my runs are slipping by with someone to talk to. I used to claim that a run was me time where I didn’t need to talk. But adding a friend to a workout adds so many new dimensions to a run. Examples, taken from this weekend:
Saturday morning – 7:15 am – 1 hour
Angela is a blogger friend (EatSpinRunRepeat) who is one of the most inspiring people in my life. This girl does everything, succeeds at all of it and somehow makes it seem like a breeze. So when we run, we discuss everything from blog platforms and tech problems (she always has a guy for it) to pushing each other when we tackle that huge hill. She is a fast and dedicated runner and helps me keep my speed up and I am sure to get that stretch and foam roll in at the end and still be on time to teach my fitness classes.
I didn’t run this one. After teaching three classes, I headed up to Ancaster to cheer on Simon as he was in the area to run a leg of the 100 Mile race with his team. It was great to check out the race because I am planning to run it next May as well as to meet some amazing local ultra-runners. It was great to make the connections as I continue to train and become a better athlete; it is important to be surrounded by athletes who are role models. It looks like my summer trail workouts are going to be with groups from now on which is a fantastic change.
(Oh, and for the record? Not only did Simon’s team win – they set the course record. Again.)
Sunday morning – 8 am – 1 hour
I have coached these ladies for the past month and a half and it has been a pleasure to see them go from not running at all to ripping out an hour. I warned them that I was doing a Running with Friends post and they struck a pose! These ladies help me remember why I started running – to see them discover all the pains and joys that come with sport has been such an exciting and rewarding thing for me. And people that run together share an endorphin fuelled bond. (And Starbucks, in our case. We like to call it a Coffee Run)
After church, I met up with another inspiring athlete and forgot to take a picture but…
Hydro Cut Trails – 12:30 pm – 1 hour
Ashley is a trainer friend who is an absolutely ridiculously shredded Crossfitter. I took a Kettlebells class with her and needed to walk out for a “drink”. (Really, I was just dying). I have recently won her over to the dark side and she has taken up trail running. This was her first foray into the local trails and it was a pleasure to show her around. Running with someone who is stronger in another sport is a huge benefit because we are swapping benefits – I teach her the ins and outs of trail running and introduce her to more local runners and she makes sure that I keep muscle density as I increase my race training. Win. Win. And she is a true athlete and adventurer – really just a pleasure to be around.
So why run with friends? They strengthen your weaknesses, keep you accountable and help the miles fly by. I am completely won over to this whole running with friends idea. This is also a part of a challenge that I am working on with Under Armour. Stay tuned for more info on Wednesday!
Every so often, it will be 4:30 am on a Friday morning and I will be sitting in my car in the driveway debating on whether or not my spin class will miss me if I don’t show up.
Actually, it is most Friday mornings.
Because I fit training and fitness instruction around a full time job, I am often given the times that no other sane human would decide to be up, in exercise clothing and sans coffee. Somehow, life has thrown a schedule to me where sleeping in is 5:45 am on a week day and 6:30 am on a weekend. [My mother likes to cheerfully remind me that I will adapt perfectly to having an infant someday.]
I haven’t always loved mornings. And some days I still don’t. But I have found some clever little tricks to fool my body into thinking it is thrilled to be up in morning darkness until I get a surge of endorphins to carry me through the rest of the day.
1. Try to get to bed at a decent hour.
2. When that inevitably fails, make sure everything is 100% ready to go for the next morning before you go to bed. I have been known to sleep in my sports bra and padded shorts so I can literally roll out of bed, grab my clip ons and drive to the gym. If I am running a trail or two, I have the shoes by my bed and my garmin laid out so I can hit the road 5 minutes after waking if I want.
4. Have someone or something that holds you accountable.What keeps me going when I just want to stay at home and conveniently “forget” that I was supposed to be teaching a 6 am class is something that happened this winter:
It was weather like this:
Except add snow and ice, so not really like this but just as wretched
Roads and schools were closed. I had been in a car accident 2 weeks earlier and totalled my car. I inched to the gym, passing vehicles going 30 km an hour and arrived half way through the time my class should have started. I taught what I could and afterwards, a woman in the back came up to me and said, “I was awake listening to the storm last night and was wondering if I should come this morning or not. But then I remembered it was you teaching and I KNEW you would be there.”
So now I am plagued with the paranoia that they think a lot higher of me than they should considering I think about bailing on them almost every Friday.
But having a friend meet you (if you can find one as crazy as you are) or having a group waiting to be instructed is a safety net to make sure it HAPPENS.
5. Bribe yourself. Before you write me off, it is a sad reality that I can be convinced to get out of bed before a rooster just because there is Starbucks waiting for me at the end of my workout. Some call that a problem, I call it success.
But seriously. The real question is WHY should you exercise that early in the morning? Well, if you aren’t a morning person and have tons of time – don’t.
I am speaking to the many people who are here who I know are busy and if you are following a training plan for a marathon or have some goals you want to tackle head on, sometimes a morning workout is the best time of day as there is rarely a soul to bother you and it is amazingly quiet. (I sound quite introverted for an extrovert). But it is the one time of the day I claim as MINE. I don’t need to worry about answering my phone or email because everyone else is asleep.
Another benefit is you are up, moving, full of endorphins and then your workout is over for the day. Life can happen. You are more likely to be consistent with it if you have a routine going where no one can bother you.
A final word: Big breakfasts. Because you can.
If none of this has made any difference, watch this and feel epic about morning workouts.
When I was very young, my mom’s brother passed away from an unknown heart condition in his early thirties on a Valentine’s Day evening.
Every February 14, my mom will buy a bouquet of flowers for James, call her mother and our family will spend a few moments talking about this man that I will never remember. Growing up, hearing a death at thirty something seemed to me like he had lived a nice full life, but now that my age is steadily creeping upward (let me have this moment of lament – I have a birthday next week), dying in your early thirties has registered as the tragedy that it was. I see the affect that it has had on his family and how Valentines Day will always be bittersweet.
So heart conditions are heredity in my family. I run to keep mine healthy and strong, but genetics are genetics. So when I found out that my friends were orchestrating the Michael Fisk Memorial Arrhythmia Run, I was completely on board.
A bit of background:
Michael Fisk was raised in Roseville, Ontario. He graduated from Southwood Secondary School, was a trained Physiotherapist and a qualified Biology Teacher. He was a ski instructor for over 20 years at Chicopee Ski Resort and was also a Field Manager at Flag Raiders Paintball. Mike was happily married to his high school sweetheart with 2 young, adorable sons. Mike has touched many lives in the Waterloo Region and he is sadly missed by everyone who knew him.
A fatal, sudden arrhythmia took Mike. He had no pre-diagnosed heart conditions, and no indication that anything was of concern. He was healthy, active and living his life to the fullest. He was 35. It was a total shock to everyone.
Proceeds of the run go toThe Canadian SADS Foundation, a registered Canadian charity, that is dedicated to supporting families affected by inherited cardiac rhythm disorders. SADS refers to a variety of cardiac disorders which are often genetic and can be responsible for sudden death in young, seemingly healthy people.
Join me on the trails on August 25 for a 5 KM run to raise awareness for healthy hearts and to remember Michael. It will be a beautiful run at the Chicopee Ski Resort with a BBQ and a day pass to the resort with access to beach volleyball, disc golf,hiking and biking trails and tennis.
It was early last Saturday morning and I breezed downstairs to head out for the day. I walked through the kitchen on the way to pour myself a cup of coffee and saw my youngest sister sitting alone at the table, picking at cold egg whites and a couple of blueberries and calling it a meal.
I lost it.
I looked at her and said as emphatically as I could ” You are stronger than this!” and stormed off to work.
We talked back and forth later and I tried my best to let her know that it wasn’t her that I am angry at. It is her eating disorder. Her stupid, selfish, life taking eating disorder.
The one that makes my words catch in my throat when I see her in a tank top or towel, headed to the shower when I realize how incredibly small it has made her. So small I want to cry but instead I look at another member of my family and manage some sad laughter.
The one that allows her to think she can regularly eat portions that do not even support basic body processes and be ok.
The one that has robbed her of so many years.
The one that has made me realize that as long as it is here, I will most likely outlive my baby sister.
THAT is why I am angry. I think another reason I reacted is the sheer helplessness of dealing with anorexia. Everyone always has an answer: Have you tried this? Some relative tried this and it WORKED. The problem is that after a decade, we have tried everything and done everything we can. I think a decade ago we thought that by this point it would all be over. And I think at this point we have realized it never really ends. And sometimes, there is a deep guilt in being happy. Because I don’t know what it feels like to wake up everyday and not feel anything other than the horror of needing to face your greatest fear at least three times that day. I think it is the same guilt that many people feel when a loved one is hurt and they aren’t: Why not me instead?
So in answer to my insensitive comment about Jolene being stronger – she is. She is one of the strongest people I know. But an eating disorder is just so equally strong and she fights it every day. Everyone gets tired every now and then. Even the people who are in the sidelines with her.
And as we come to terms with the fact that Ed is here to stay and that we need to find a way THROUGH instead of a way OUT, I feel so very blessed to call Jolene my sister.
No matter where life takes us – to me you are perfect.
When it comes to all natural supplements, I have been a marketers dream.
Tell me it will decrease inflammation, increase antioxidants, lubricate my joints or clear my skin and it is down the hatch. I have suffered through kelp mixed with water, oregano oil under my tongue until it burned, and drinking a series of disgusting concoctions for the sake of my health. I start every new supplement with the greatest of intentions, but considering they often don’t taste anything close to candy, not even stale candy, I abandon them before a month is through.
There is at least one supplement that has stood the test of time for me. I have literally been taking fish oil willingly for years. I listen to my naturopath and rotate oils through my simple omega 3-6-9′s with vegan oils, to salmon oil to cod liver oil. There is only one problem: I believe in the go big or go home mentality when it comes to supplements. If I am going to take fish oil, it is going to be in oil form. So it is not surprising that I occasionally take a hiatus because a number of mornings slip by when I don’t WANT to shovel a tablespoon of oil down my throat. Which then turns into a couple weeks.
You get the picture.
So last week, I was at my favourite local health food store with some coworkers because the store was celebrating their 4th birthday and were giving away free gluten-free cake. Obviously the words “free” and “cake” were what prompted me to interrupt everyone’s work day and haul them across the city. There were a host of vendors sampling products and I was taking a shot of sunflower seed milk here and kombucha there when I came across a woman in the far corner. She handed me an electrolyte shot and I took it with indifference – you taste one, you have tasted them all.
Suddenly, she pulled out fish oil that she promised would taste like candy. She had my attention and high scepticism. I took a shot.
Holy cow batman, it ACTUALLY TASTES LIKE CANDY! I picked up a bottle and discussed the awesomeness in a bottle that would soon be mine. And before I left, I sheepishly asked her for another shot of the stuff.
Before you think I am clinically insane, let’s recap.
WHY TAKE FISH OIL? To my understanding, the average north american diet gives you high doses of omega 6 and very low omega 3. To prevent heart disease and reduce inflammation, you want your omega 3 and 6 to be balanced. Taking fish oil helps with this because there is a high dosage of omega 3s.
What Fish Oil did I buy?
Barleans Organic Oil in Mango Peach flavour. It is a cod liver and salmon oil sweet smoothie dream.
… Why? (x 2)
Packed with essential Omega-3s, Omega Swirl was created to nutritionally support:
• Heart Health
• Cholesterol Levels Already Within a Healthy Range
• Joint Mobility and Bone Density
• Energy and Endurance
• Skin, Hair and Nail Health
• Mental Health, Wellness and Acuity
• Blood Glucose Levels Already Within a Healthy Range
• Sexual and Hormonal Health
And now, taking my fish oil will be a morning high light. For those days when this rings true:
A big thank you to all of you were so patient as I pressed a giant reset button and took a few weeks off of blogging to go on the Trek and get organized when I returned. This past Friday night, I spent that majority of the evening unpacking, organizing and going over the financial details of the trip. Can I just say that driving all the way to North Dakota and back cost me a mere $330 in my Prius? LOVE my car!
I have gotten a lot of people asking me about my trip. How it came about? How the experience was? How I am feeling? I have a lot of caring people in my life and I figured this is the best way to bring everyone up to speed.
How it came to happen: A couple Wednesdays ago, I was sitting in my regular spot in Starbucks, sipping a latte and trying to hammer out my column for AJ: The Green Athlete. The latest one can be seen here.
I was short on time and I was scrambling to find an organization that connected athletes and environmentalism. I forget exactly how it happened, but I landed on Adventure Scienceout of the blue and read their information on 100 Miles of Wild Trek in North Dakota this spring. I began furiously typing up my piece, getting more and more excited about the organization.
I thought it was an American company, but I felt a compulsion to email the founder, Simon Donato, and said I wanted to get involved somehow. I was thinking helping with the website, content, copy or promotion, but within 10 minutes, he had emailed me back and said that one of his athletes was hit by a car and potentially could not participate in the trek and would I be interested?
The days before leaving were a blur of requesting time off from bosses, cancelling appointments and a surgery, borrowing gear from friends, getting travel insurance, buying gear from Adventure Guide and figuring out how to tell my mother who had left the country for a short trip and had no idea that I would up and leave for a 100 mile trek while she was gone. (She has known me for over 23 years, I cannot understand why she would be surprised anymore).
My favourite conversation was with my AJ boss before I left. I called him to ask permission to go:
“So, it is going to the badlands of North Dakota and running 100 miles and it would be my vacation time and I will get everything done that I need to when I get back and (Insert other run-on, desperate pleading sentences here)”
He was silent for a moment. “Jessica. I knew you were an unusual human being when I hired you, but I can never get used to the requests you keep throwing my way. But GO!”
So I went. I had a brief conversation with my father as I headed to the border so he could tell my mom and break it gently. He gleefully crowed “THIS is the reason I held you over the banister by your ankles and swung you around when you were young – so you wouldn’t be afraid of anything!” (Do not jump to thoughts of child abuse. We loved it and always asked for more.)
Anyways. So the drive was a LOT longer than I thought. I taught a spin class before heading out and was on the road by 8 am on the last Friday of April. I had loaded up my iPod with new music and an audioversion of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, but the roads blurred into each other and I was almost hallucinating when I reach Minnesota for the evening to stay with one of the trek leader’s houses.
I saw distances like this on my GPS.
Drive 760 km, then turn left
Soon, I was in the barren world of cactuses, oil trucks and country music. I heard advertisements for liquor stores that were leveraging cattle branding parties as a reason to come in and buy booze.
I arrived on the Saturday to the tiny town of Grassy Butte where I abandoned my car, picked up my huge back pack and headed to the base camp with the leader of the trek, Richard.
From there, I met the team and was briefed on what we were to expect for the week.
We were to head out into the badlands and would cover territory that people have never walked on and probably will never walk on again. We were to stop every 2-3 hours for “science” as they called it. We entered an analysis of the surrounding vegetation and wildlife into a book and took film and video footage to back it up.
Why? Because they are planning on putting in 30 – 50,000 new oil wells in the badlands over the next 5 years. Our team’s goal was to go into the badlands as a completely neutral group of scientists and ultra runners, go to the wildest and most remote bits of the badlands and report back. The research will be taken to the University of North Dakota and the information will be presented to the citizens to help them make informed decisions when it comes down to the decisions surrounding the oil pads. Also, many years ago, it was the Badlands that inspired Theodore Roosevelt to develop the National Parks System and it was our job to see if the Badlands were as life changing now as they were back then.
I can tell you they are. I spent 7 days immersed in them, outside every day. Some days it was so cold that we woke up with frost on our tent and other days I came back with a sunburnt nose. We saw every form of wild life and woke up to sights like this:
Photo cred: Andrew Reinhard
I had experienced a lot of sad and discouraging things in 2013 – a break up, financial set backs, surgery, fear for Jolene. And even though the Badlands didn’t take any of that away, it was a reset button. I met some of the most incredible people who either love science or ultra running and in many cases both. I was able to learn so much from the people around me. I learned how to orienteer from a US Army Ranger and discovered native flints in the creek bed with a geologist. The badlands broke me open and then filled me again.
Getting away from the sappiness, an average day out there would begin with this.
We would put on our running clothes for the day (or in my case, almost every piece of clothing I brought to stay warm) and head to the eating area for Stoked Oats. (Buy them).
By around 7 am, we were ready to hit the Badlands with our maps, detectors and garmins. I was either on team Speed Deer or Mountain Kitty and we covered 20-30 miles with 3000-4500 ft of altitude each day. We would hike, climb and run through rolling buttes, grass lands, cattle feeding pastures and creek beds reporting on the wild life, landscape and oil pads, arriving at the last point at around 5-6:30 pm each night.
Modelling some petrified wood
Taken on the last day. They told us to take fun pictures but after running through miles and miles of cattle grazing, this was as creative as we could get.
We were picked up and taken to base camp, which moved about 3 times throughout the course of the Trek. From there, we would “shower” (baby wipes), change into every article of clothing we had and gather around the fire to eat dinner and discuss our day, which was recorded or filmed to provide additional data.
By 10 – 11 pm each night, we would fall exhausted into our tents and the day would start all over again.
Richard Rothus: Archaeologist, Historian, and Owner of Trefoil Cultural and Environmental and was in charge of Basecamp and Logistics.
Andrew Reinhard: Director of Publications for the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), Archaeologist. He headed up the control group which walked the trails of the Badlands.
Tim Puetz: Biomedical Research, National Institutes of Health, Army Ranger. Ultrarunner.
Keith Szlater: Technical Service and Basecamp and Logistics coordinator.
Tyler Leblanc: Our paramedic and member of the control team.
Jane Davis: Community Health Educator and Ultrarunner.
and, um. Me.
Needless to say, it was a wonderful experience to get to know all of these amazing and accomplished people over the course of a week. Another cool thing about the trek is that we carried the Explorer Club Flag.
The Explorers Club is an international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research, of which Theodore Roosevelt was an honorary member. The flag represents the impressive history of courage and accomplishment, and has been carried by members to the Moon, the depths of the ocean, and around the globe. I am excited to be able to join the club having been on an approved expedition with the flag.
I will be going on more adventures with this team as I am now an ultrarunner for Adventure Science. I was given a huge boost of confidence by some of the ultra runners who told me they didn’t slow down for me. It instilled a desire in me to train harder, race more frequently and in more international races and the belief that I am good enough to do it.
It was sad to say goodbye to everyone on the team, but last Saturday, I dropped Jane off at the airport and began the long trek home. I stayed in Chicago for the night, ate deep dish pizza for the first time in my life (overrated) and slept for a solid 12 hours.
I arrived home on Sunday night and hit the ground running Monday morning.
Needless to say, with 48 hours of driving, I had a lot of time to think, some of which relates to the blog. Keep your eyes peeled for some new changes. Laces and Lattes will be around for a long time, but it will continue to change because I keep changing. Thank you all for being along for the run!