Physical Activity, Exercise and Fitness

This post is the first part in a 7-post series on health.

I’ve written before on the topic of health – usually random posts and rants. There is so much information (and misinformation – usually more of this) available for free on the internet that it’s hard to sort through. I remember my first forays into the vast and terrifying world of Google, about seven years ago now; they left me with a headache and not quite sure where to begin.

I’ve read (and studied) enough by now to have formed solid opinions on what constitutes behaviours, patterns and adoptable habits for optimal health, and thought I’d share them here. In mainstream media, there’s a ton of talk about diet and fitness, but less on the other key components: psychological well-being (also included here: stress management and spirituality), and sleep.

In my program, we often discuss health in a multidimensional perspective. I personally like to break it down into seven main components: physical activity/exercise/fitness, diet/eating habitspsychological well-beingenvironmental well-beingstress-management, sleep, and spirituality. I’ll discuss each in separate posts; this first one is dedicated to physical activity.

Physical Activity, Exercise and Fitness

I am a big advocate for physical activity. As a kinesiology student, we talk a lot about the importance of physical activity, and it’s mainstream knowledge by now that regular exercise improves your overall physical and mental health, reduces stress, regulates appetite and even improves sleep. Just moving can help us forge better relationships with our bodies as we focus on what we’re capable, contributing to greater self-efficacy and self-esteem that (hopefully) isn’t axed on our physical appearance. Team sports and group activities provide a social component from which everyone can benefit (humans by nature are social and require interpersonal interactions for optimal happiness, even us “introverts”!).

Of course, exercise can be used negatively as well. In my eating disorder heyday, I was running an hour a day on a treadmill on an empty stomach, my only objective being to burn calories. This type of exercise was not born out of self-love or care; I was using it to feed an obsession and for the satisfaction of seeing the (albeit inaccurate) calorie count on the machine. Today, I run occasionally, but always outdoors or on a track, and always just because I feel like it.

Below, I’ll address some of the common questions I get from people just starting out on their own fitness journeys.

What type of exercise should I do?

Whatever you’ll actually do/stick to. Seriously.

You aren’t going to stick with something you won’t do. If you hate running or weight-lifting or going to yoga or playing soccer, then just don’t do those things. There are tons of different activities you can take up; find one you like. Experiment. Try salsa-dancing. Try kayaking. Try hiking. Try gardening. Try literally anything.

I sit at a desk all day. Is thirty minutes of physical activity enough?

Unfortunately, no. You can’t out-exercise a day spent sitting in 30 minutes. Sure, you’re better off than the average sedentary desk-job worker, but the fact of it remains that sitting for long periods of time is bad for you.

The solution? Walk. As much as you can.

Walking is the most underrated form of exercise. Sure, it’s not intense – and that’s the point. The fittest nations are those who walk or actively commute to work, and do little else by way of exercise. Case in point: most European countries (the French come to mind).

I personally live in a very sedentary city. Our public transit system is inconvenient to use, and so almost everyone drives. We’re also the second most obese city in Canada, and I don’t think that’s a random correlation.

The best part it, almost anyone can build some walking into their day. Take a ten-minute walk during your lunch break. Park further away from your workplace and walk a bit. Pace a bit while you take phone calls.

If you’re in walking or biking distance away from work, do that. I live a half-hour walk away from school, and make the journey as often as possible (weather permitting; it’s snowy here in Canadaland).

If you have the means, a standing desk is an awesome way to keep you on your feet. A lot of my profs have treadmill desks in their offices, which is an investment I plan to make if I ever find myself sitting for long periods of time.

If you’re sedentary and want to begin to improve your health, start walking. Once you manage to build walking into your day (10 000 steps a day is a good benchmark), THEN consider adding other exercises or workout sessions.

I heard that I should do 30-45 minutes of steady-state cardio a day to improve my cardiovascular health. Is that really necessary?

I’m not a proponent of long, drawn-out cardio sessions for health. There are pros and cons, of course:

Pros: Accessible, require minimal equipment (i.e. running shoes), require little planning, can be done without accessing a gym or purchasing more expensive equipment, provide improvements to the cardiovascular system

Cons: Long, provide relatively little “bang” for time invested (i.e. not as efficient as a shorter workout can be), often high-impact (i.e. running is hard on the knees)

If you’re a swimmer, marathoner or shorter-distance runner, biathlete, cyclist, cross-country skier, or any other form of endurance athlete, then of course carry on and disregard everything I’ve said above. If you’re new to exercise but have found that you love to run/swim/bike/etc, then keep doing that. The principle of “stick to what you’ll do” always applies. Ensure that you’re taking precautions to prevent injury, and avoid rapid progression – your body needs time to adapt.

The main point I’m trying to make is that if you don’t enjoy long aerobic exercise sessions, then you don’t need to do them. There are other ways of improving cardiovascular health that provide less wear-and-tear on the body and require a much smaller time investment.

If I’m serious about improving my health, then what should I do?

Honestly, walking and participating in activities you like are a major fitness improvement for most people. That said, some of us *raises hand* genuinely enjoy most fitness pursuits and are perpetually trying to improve our own health. There’s a ton of conflicting information out there; what I’d generally recommend (and try to emulate) is as follows:

  • Walk every day
  • Lift heavy weights 2-3x a week
  • Sprint 1-2x a week (or do a metabolic conditioning  [metcon] workout)
  • Stretch most days/do yoga 1-2x a week

At some point, I’ll write a post on what a sprint/metcon workout might look like, and what heavy-lifting might entail.

What do you do, in terms of exercise? What does your perfect fitness week look like?

Honestly, I’m human. I exercise semi-regularly and am currently working on making it a more integral part of my life, but my reality is that I’m a student who spends more time sitting than she should. I frequently work early 8-hour shifts on my feet and don’t always feel like hitting up the gym afterwards; I’m a morning exerciser through and through (and find that working out intensely later in the day messes up my sleep), but prioritize my sleep over getting up to fit in a workout before I start work at 6am. I attend yoga semi-regularly, run and lift weights occasionally, take walks with friends, and build make a point of getting outside to do seasonal activities when the opportunity arises.

That said, I try to sprint once a week, lift heavy two or three times a week, attend yoga once or twice a week, and get outside (kayaking or hiking) at least once a week. I also try to get in 10 000 steps a day. I’m also currently getting into stand-up paddle boarding and will be trying out rock-climbing soon. It’s a flexible process that varies depending on where I’m at in life, and that’s fine by me. I would prefer to keep a regular workout schedule and am trying to make that happen, but it’s a process. 🙂

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On Career Options

Today’s word-dump summary/subtitle: In Which I Reflect Loquaciously On What the Hell I’m Doing With My (School-Focused) Life

I have a year and three months left of my undergraduate education. In six months or so, I’ll be applying to graduate school, medical school, and who knows what else. The fact is, I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing this time two years from now. This unknown is a lingering stress at the back of my mind – not enough to disrupt my life (after all, what can I do about it?), but its presence is noticeable. I have the impression that most (if not all) of my peers are in this situation as well. We look enviously on those who know exactly where they’re going/what they’re doing. We’re at once violently restless and seeking to settle.

I am an extremely goal-oriented person. Give me something to work towards, and you can be assured that I’ll pour myself heart and soul into it. Give me many things to work towards, and I’ll try to distribute myself among all these (which sometimes works out and sometimes does not). I also want to do just about everything. I have multiple ideas for careers, which all require slightly different paths – and I can see myself equally as happy in any of these.

For example, my primary objective over the past year and a half or so has been to set myself up for a career in clinical research. I would absolutely thrive in a setting like this, but (but, of course there are “buts”) I’ve also begun to consider the amount of life I’ll have to devote to it. At nineteen, it seems fully reasonable to remain in school until you’re forty – and while I’m absolutely still willing to commit to that, I do have to make sure I’ve thought long and hard about the sacrifices that will have to be made. Things like being salaried, buying a car, even getting married and starting a family. These things can still be done, absolutely- however, I wouldn’t be properly salaried until my mid-thirties, and the flexibility and freedom to do many things requiring time and money would be limited until my full matriculation.

The other side to this is “getting there” in the first place. I’ve taken multiple steps in gaining admission to a PhD/MD – from working in a lab (which has helped to garner publications) to taking my MCAT to keeping up my grades to shadowing a doctor to volunteering in various areas in the community (sitting on the board of directors for a youth choir, the Ontario Breast Cancer Association, coaching a soccer team) to maintaining my own extracurriculars (singing in a few choirs, playing in the university concert band, exercising).  That said, my grades aren’t at the “top” (I have a 3.9 on a 4.0 scale – woe is me, I know, I know); my specific clinical volunteerism is lacking.  Getting into any medical program is a lottery; for all that I have going for me, I also have fair bit “against”.

I intend to apply to Master’s degrees. In bio-molecular sciences (here), in physiology, in nutrition. I’m also considering applying to a university that has a B.Sc. program in nutrition and pursue dietetics; I could do a shorter second B.Sc. (two or three years instead of four) on account of the credits I’ve obtained through my kinesiology degree, and work as a kinesiologist/personal trainer on the side; this summer I plan to become a certified personal trainer and a certified exercise physiologist the next (after having obtained my degree), both through CSEP.

This last option is appealing to me on some days; doing a masters, more so on others. The issue is that I love both research and human interaction; I like the idea of both helping others with my current knowledge while searching for new things. I am passionate about physiology and metabolism (and the impact of nutrition and exercise on these); the only thing that I know for sure is that I’m headed somewhere in this direction. My interest in the MD/PhD degree is largely based on this duality of patient interaction and research.

That’s where I’m at, currently. Working towards a balance between my interests and hobbies; my work life; my student life; my relationships (SO, family, friends). Trying to take care of myself as best as I can. My mind is constantly busy; I’m paring back in other ways to try and compensate. I think that this is where the urge to settle comes from – busy-ness is a disease, and I want to slow down as much as my life is currently picking up pace. I’m just going to trust that as long as I continue to work, my career will sort itself out. Hopefully balance preceding this.

Last Day

Today, I write my final exam of the semester.

That doesn’t quite have the impact I’d like it to have. Let me try again.

This evening, after 50 weeks straight of intellectual work, marks the beginning of my “Christmas holidays”. In quotations, because I’ll still be working and visiting people and cleaning my room (the struggle is real) and performing in a couple of concerts and that review paper will likely require at least another revision or two, but there’s nothing that will require CONSTANT VIGILANCE and LAB REPORT WRITE-UPS and IMMEDIATE STUDY FOLLOWING YET ANOTHER MIDTERM.

I’m dying for a break. I fear that my exam-writing stamina will fail me this afternoon, but I can hardly bring myself to care (don’t worry, the adrenaline should kick in as soon as I’m poised to begin writing).

To say I feel burnt out is an understatement.

I already have a mental (and physical, thanks to iCal) agenda for this week – it looks as busy as ever. Next week?

Bare, save Christmas. And though I know that this week will be taken up with friends and family and work, I. Can’t. Wait.

For now, my calendar looks bare. I can’t bring myself to pencil anything in right now. Just the aesthetic of a clean slate is so appealing. But tomorrow, or perhaps this evening, I’ll pencil in one two thing(s):

A day to myself. (And a day to clean my room).

I write my exam from 2 to 5 tonight, then rush off to play in a charitable Christmas concert. Following this, I’m going to pass out in my bed with a book in hand and sleep in until 8 (or, more realistically, until 7 or so) and get to work tomorrow around 9:00. It’s nice to be working just down the street again. After work, I may head over to the lab, or I may head home and begin to purge my closet again. And do all the laundry. Two loads – one for bedding, and one for all the clothes I currently own (I don’t have many any more, which is insanely liberating). In the evening, I’m celebrating the end of exams with the boy (who finishes tomorrow afternoon).

I have nothing specific planned for Wednesday. A dress rehearsal in the evening, and work (perhaps). More cleaning. I’d like to be done that by Friday. I also need to go do some Christmas shopping.

My mind is a mess of scattered thoughts.

Holiday Madness

Snow has been falling and melting since Halloween, taunting us with the promise of a white Christmas, only to be snatched away again as another warm spell hits. As of this morning, we have two – maybe three – inches of slightly crusty snow on the ground. The southern part of the province was blasted yesterday, but by some miracle of the multiple lakes governing our weather systems, we were missed.

Around me people are shopping and decorating; others are giving somewhat depressing lectures as to why they don’t buy into the holiday season, muttering things that half-resonate with me like “Consumerism and materialism”. To a friend, I casually comment that I kind of agree with the sentiment. They nod, only half paying attention, eyes shadowed with that familiar anxiety I know all too well.

The pile-up of exams and end-of-term assignments leaves little room to focus on other things, which I why I dub the Christmas lead-up weeks my “least favourite time of the year”. Not because I hate Christmas – quite the opposite in fact – but because I tend to feel absolutely burnt out and “done”. Between exams and abstracts and band and choir concerts and simple menial things I should do like clean my room and laundry (hah), I go to bed exhausted but unable to sleep, planning my agenda for the next day.

The new year presents “fresh starts” that I seize with gusto, adding more and more things to my plate until I’m just trying to keep afloat again, promising emptily that this time – this time – I’ll do less. Eleven months later, December rolls around once more, and the phrase that most often escapes my lips is “I’m so tired”, or it’s slight variation, “I’m effing exhausted”. There is no sympathy – my peers are in the same boat as me, and the older adults sit by knowingly and promise, “It gets worse.”

“I just want a day to myself,” I lament to the boy, typing up an essay with frantic fingers, a third cup of coffee close to hand. He gives me the cynical look of someone who’s spent two and a half years with my madness, and says, “Stephie, there’s no way you’ll take a day to yourself. You’d find something to do.”

“Would not,” I argue. “I might go to the gym, since that happens about once a month anyways, and maybe I’d clean my room, since that happens about never, but the rest of the day I’d just relax.” He rolls his eyes at me. “I know you.” He says simply, which I don’t deny. I’ve recently found a new job, and will likely be spending the holiday weeks training and working.

I point this out, half in desperation, half excited, worrying that I’ll watch my free time go in a blur of coffee cups. “You’ll love it,” He says with a smile, and pulls me close. “And you’ll have lots of time to spend with yourself, and with me, and with your family.” Which is exactly what matters anyways.

* * *

I love to keep busy. In part, I think it’s some kind of anxiety coping mechanism. If you move fast enough, it can’t catch you. If you’re contributing, you’re not wasting space. This seems to be a common theme among my peers.

The media proclaims that, according to research, we early twenty-somethings belong to an entitled generation, expecting gold stars on everything we do. While I’m sure that holds true for some, I don’t really see it in the majority of my consorts. Rather, some of us work ourselves raw, fearing that in a world where “everyone succeeds”, we’ll be the ones that fail. Others quit “while they’re ahead” – why even try to keep up? In all cases, I think we’re terrified we’re not living up to our full potential. I’d go so far as to call this a cultural disorder.

Busy and productive are the principle measurements of success; we get off on comparing ourselves to what everyone else is doing. “Oh, you think YOU’RE busy? Well, let me tell you what I’ve done this month/week/today.” We pass this off as commiserating during our half-hour meetings for coffee with friends, sandwiched between two commitments off our ever growing lists of “things to do today”.

Sometimes we’re just venting, but I also think that often we’re seeking validation and approval. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself – it’s the fact that the fact that we’re putting aside self-care in the name of attaining some sort of arbitrary height of productivity that gets to me. I can definitely see something wrong here. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to be productive, but when did neglecting our wellbeing become so socially acceptable?

The other side to my personal “busy-ness” is that I love to do so many different things. I love to create music and play sports and go to the gym and bake things and curl up with a cup of tea and a book and attend school and learn as much as I can and help others out and play video games and travel the world and go hiking and skiing and swimming and skating and read articles and write. I just want to be so engaged in everything all at once, and I try to split myself up in as many directions as possible in order to do everything I want to do.

Coming to terms with the fact that I can’t actually do everything is proving to be a challenge.

* * *

In the next seven days, I have two exams left to write and a paper to review; one rehearsal and one band concert; another rehearsal and two choir concerts; a lab lunch, and work training. That’s essentially it. My plans for the three or so weeks off I have include working, yes, and cleaning my room and sorting out more of my clothes, because this is absolutely something that needs doing. But I also plan on taking at least a few days all to myself, and many days to spend with the boy and my family, and at least a few days to spend with my friends returning from out of town for the holidays.

I don’t love the weeks leading up to the holidays, but once I get past these we enter my favourite time of year, so I can’t really complain. I love the Christmas season because it’s time of rest and recharge following a year of growth. Maybe in the upcoming year I’ll focus more on my well-being, on not overwhelming myself. On seeing what I can cut out as opposed to what I can add in. I feel it’s time for a season of a different sort of growth.

On Movement

“Do you like to move?”

I start, blinking at the girl next to me, the source of this question. I’m momentarily confused. “How do you mean?” I ask, thinking that I really don’t love moving homes, though there’s an undeniable sense of excitement the day of.

“Like, are you into sports or stuff?”

With a small mental Oh!, I shrug, self-consciousness winning out for now. “Well, yeah. I was a competitive sprint kayaker, and played competitive soccer before that. I haven’t done either in years though. Lately I’ve mostly just been lifting weights and doing sprints and walking and stuff. I’m currently in exercise ‘rehab’ after having taken about a year and a half off to.. work on some health issues.”

She nods, but doesn’t let go so easily. “I’m a distance myself, though I also took some time off to.. work on some health issues.” She smiles at me then, and I’m smiling back at the deliberate echo of what I’ve just said. Despite myself, I’m curious as to what she means. “My training is mostly focused on track practices right now.”

“Cool!” I reply, and mean it. I am genuinely interested in how other people move.

As my father is known to say, there are three things you shouldn’t talk about in polite company: Religion, politics, and food. I’m in full agreement. Diets tend to acquire a cult-like following, particularly if they “work”; and, seeing as we all have to feed ourselves, food us something that affects us all, however much we choose to implicate ourselves in the actual politics of eating. Because there are politics, believe me – and if you’ve managed to remain completely unscathed I both applaud you and must regard you with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s practically inescapable: tabloids, television commercial, internet banners, ads on the sides of city buses. Foods and diets abound. Unwittingly, we’re consuming and reworking almost every thing we’ve seen (Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 4” provides a thought-provoking apperçu into the ways media affects us).

Anyways, on the exercise matter: moving, as of yet, is not something that has become unduly political. Of course, everyone needs to move, and it’s well-known that movement is essential for good health. Exactly how much or what kind is highly up to debate. Various professionals and fitness experts have all sorts of opinions as to the types of exercise we need, which can be a bit confusing. At this point, I think that the most important thing is that people get up and move in the first place, and are conscious to keep moving in ways that help them to function best. Also vague, I know – I’m certainly not simplifying anything here. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a walk. Go to the gym, if that’s something you like. Swim across a lake. Hike. Swing from monkey bars at a playground. Go kayaking. Lift heavy stuff.

As a student in exercise science, I find the diversity in people’s physical activity levels fascinating. Some of my classmates are hardcore weight lifters and body competitors, training for maximum strength or “ideal” physique, respectively. Others are casual gym-goers, and still more do nothing in the way of “formal” exercise. All of these things are fine, by the way.

My philosophy on exercise has shifted around throughout the year. I spent a number of years training at a relatively elite level, in soccer but more so in sprint kayak. I fell into running roughly around the time my disordered eating started – by the end of my senior year in high school I was running for an hour (on a treadmill) every morning before school. As my mindset shifted towards total homeostatic health (gradually, over the course months), I stopped exercising almost completely.

In May, I began walking to and from work, for a total of an hour of easy movement a day. I began going to the gym intermittently, work and studying often getting in the way. Recently, I’ve begun to go to the gym more frequently, and I’ve set a few tentative workout goals. I actually enjoy the gym environment – when I can make it work for my schedule. I strive to stay active and want to me a more conscious exerciser. I want to move in ways that feel natural to me. I’ve been lifting and doing some sprints. Long-lasting cardio isn’t my focus, just now – running is hard on the knees, and I find myself too bored to commit beyond twenty minutes or so.

A yoga and climbing gym has just opened up here, which sounds absolutely perfect – I’d love to add climbing to my fitness regimen, and yoga is something I genuinely enjoy and would love to get back into (my chiropractor would love that for me also – I appear to have lost quite a bit of flexibility). Price is an issue (I definitely can’t afford a yearly membership, or even a monthly one, on my student budget), so I’m leaning towards class passes and using these types of work-outs as enjoyable accessory forms of movement, with sprinting and weightlifting as my base. Ideally I’ll also walk to and from school every day, though in the winter months that does become harder.

So, how do you move? Is it something you do consciously? Does it just build itself into your day, or maybe not at all?

Redux

Two Mondays ago, I scrambled to finish my biochemistry midterm so that I could leave town and get to Ottawa at a decent hour. I spent a mostly sleepless night sleeping in an unfinished basement next to an assortment of alcohol bottles, a small shot of rum consumed at approximately two in the morning in the desperate hope that it would finally be the factor that made me dead to the world for at least a couple of hours.

I wrote my MCAT the following morning, in a building directly in front of parliament – if I looked out the window beside my computer screen, an interesting urban landscape of tall buildings and people dressed in suits weaving between vehicles and taxis presented itself. I celebrated the end of months of preparation with dim sum and gelato with my accompanying entourage and best friend, and made the five and a half hour trek back home that afternoon with my mother’s best friend, leaving my parents behind (who had come along to help my paternal grandparents move).

The next morning, I received a text from my best friend telling me not to panic, but when I heard about the shooting she was okay, her own workplace (just outside the “danger” perimeter) was proceeding as usual, and Ottawa U was on lockdown. Moments later, everyone around me was talking about the shooting (much of my family and friends reside in Ottawa); and I, equally as troubled, struggled to focus in lab. The closeness of the whole thing – my family and friends, the thought that had I been scheduled for examination one day later, I likely wouldn’t even have written, and would have been on lockdown like my Outaouais collegiate colleagues – left me with a queer feeling I couldn’t quite shake.

I attended two make-up labs, wrote three lab reports and two further mid-terms. Life has returned to normal. I have a running checklist of course work left to accomplish before the end of a term. I have a review paper to write and some Western blots to complete. I’m thinking that this November might, finally, be the month in which I finish the novel I started writing in the eight grade – it’s been knocking about my brain for far too long. I’ve been going to the gym again – it helps me sleep the night through. I have somewhat less focus than I should have in class. I feel this urge to write, play piano, travel, create – but then, that’s nothing new.

It’s time to persevere through the new five weeks of school and the two weeks of examination that follow. I’m craving a season of rest, but I’m not entirely sure that I remember how to do that either. I think that many other people in this western society can probably relate to this sentiment.

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In other news, I dressed up as a snow leopard today. I took one look at the glorious snowfall that greeted us this morning and felt that this would be a worthy Halloween costume.

Pancake Bay

This summer has been beyond hectic; I’m beyond thrilled to announce that I am in the home stretch. I wrote my nutrition exam at the end of July, submitted all of the paperwork required for the end of my internship, and took three days off from the lab to go to Pancake Bay with my family for the long weekend. Camping is one of my absolute favourite things in the whole entire world.

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Located on lake Superior between Wawa and Sault St. Marie (for all you Ontario folks), I’m of the personal opinion that these waters are the most gorgeous in all of Ontario. The lake was frigid due to the late thaw and cool temperatures we’ve been experiencing, but that was hardly a deterrent. While there, we made a short trip down to see the Agawa pictographs. Left by the indigenous peoples as long as a few hundred years ago, it’s amazing how well preserved these still are!

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We took couple of hikes, the first of which ending with us bushwhacking our way through the forest in search of a Geocache. In case you were wondering, we didn’t find it – something about my brother’s handheld GPS being out of calibration. We DID however stumble upon the strangest little camp set up in the middle of the forest. I don’t have a picture, since my phone died. Instead, I’ll provide you with a view of the gorgeous northern Ontario jungle I trekked through in flip-flops:

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Our second hike brought us high up to a view of the entire bay and surrounding area. I’m always so amazed at – and grateful for – all the untouched wilderness that surrounds us here in Canada. It’s a beautiful wilderness.

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The rest of the summer’s looking promising. I have seven days left in the lab, one weekend of work, one soccer game, a practice, and a tournament to coach before I head out to Ottawa to spend a couple of weeks with my best friend and hopefully do some shadowing in a hospital. I’m almost through all of my MCAT content review and am ready to start drilling practice problems and tackling a couple of practice exams. At the end of the month, I have another wedding, and then school starts. Bring it! 🙂

A quick HA update: So far I’ve had three cycles spaced quite regularly. I am beyond excited about this fact, and am looking forward to incorporating more exercise into my routine, as time permits. This summer I’ve mostly limited my movement to roughly an hour of walking on most days, courtesy of my commute to and from work. I’d like to start lifting some weights, do yoga once a week, and perhaps add some sprints (as time permits). I plan to proceed slowly and cautiously, monitoring the impact of exercise on my cycle and of course ensuring that I have an adequate caloric intake. 🙂

Women on Water Paddling Festival

I just spent a marvellous weekend at a women’s paddling retreat hosted by Wild Women Expeditions (<— awesome organization for women only – they have trips and expeditions all over the world!). Around 150 women from all over Canada and the United States came together at camp Tapawingo, Parry Sound, to participate in different paddling classes at an event called “Women on Water”. I went with my mom, a friend, andy er mom. There were three water sport offerings: kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddle board (SUP). I decided to spend my weekend SUPing, having never done so before. The verdict? I LOVE it. The stroke for SUP is the same as a sprint kayak stroke, and I had no trouble adapting to standing.

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All in all, the weekend was extremely relaxing. We slept in camp cabins on bunk beds. Mom insisted I take the top bunk (fine by me!). Wake-up call was at 6:30. I joined the masses of bleary-eyed people lining up for coffee before heading off to the 7am yoga practices. Every time I take a yoga class, I am amazed at how quickly my flexibility improves. Probably due to the fact that I don’t practice nearly enough (I’m sure I’d stop seeing rapid improvement rapidly, haha), but still – being able to touch my toes without bending my knees amazes me. It’s the little things.

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My last event of the weekend was a SUP yoga class. Guys, I am in love. Doing yoga on a paddle board adds a whole new element of stability/core work and zen. I managed to pull off a headstand on my board. It was so fun! This whole weekend was so empowering; I highly recommend Wild Women if you’re looking for a fun and active getaway.

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It felt so good to just get away; to stop worrying about school and lab work and work work and having to be anywhere but in the moment. I’m back now, incubating my membranes in primary antibodies again (we just got a new shipment on Friday!). Tonight’s review topic is momentum (physics Mondays! Good thing the boy is a physics whiz. Fun fact: some of our first dates involved him saving my butt by giving me a crash course in physics just before my senior year final exam). Other plans involve watching Game of Thrones and drinking tea – I have a bit of a sore throat, which has me craving soup even in this gorgeous weather.

Another update: My hormonal issues I talked about in November seem to have finally started to resolve themselves! I started my period on Friday, the day I left for my trip (“great” timing, but kind of fitting). I am honestly so, so grateful. Really. I will never take this for granted, ever.