My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Belonging

I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging lately.

When I was a kid, I struggled with belonging. I never felt like I really fit in anywhere. I was very shy and overweight, and I didn’t have many friends. I usually felt like the odd one out or a third wheel, no matter what size the group was that I was with.

In my teens, it was even worse.

Things started to get a little better in my early 20s. I began to open up more and it was a little easier to make friends, but I still didn’t have that many. And I still struggled with fitting in and belonging.

I got married in my late 20s and moved to Canada. Almost immediately, I noticed was I finally starting to feel like I belonged.  I was welcomed with open arms by husband’s family, friends, and co-workers.  That was HUGE, especially for someone who’d felt like an outsider most of her life.

As my life in Canada progressed, I found places where I fit in and people to connect with. It was wonderful. There were still occasions where I didn’t feel like I belonged, but they were fewer and fewer.

When I received my cancer diagnosis in 2009, I once again struggled. I struggled with defining myself as a cancer survivor. I was lucky and it was caught very early. I had surgery to remove it and did not require chemo or radiation. I didn’t feel like I belonged in that group of people who weren’t as lucky. It took me a long time to release I was wrong.

When I began running a few years ago, I struggled with defining myself as a runner. I didn’t feel like I was a “real” runner because I was so much slower than everyone else. But here’s the thing I quickly discovered: It didn’t matter if I was fast or slow. A runner is a runner.

And I also realized that running helped me feel like I belonged.  Just like when I first moved to Canada, I was welcomed into the running community with open arms. The running community is awesome! When I’m struggling with my running, I can always count on other runners for encouragement. And I think that’s the biggest reason I’ve kept at it.

A year ago today, my favourite coffee shop closed down. It was a very sad day. Not because they had great coffee, which they did, but because of the people. From the first day I walked into the place, I felt welcome. Someone was always there to offer a smile and a kind word. One of the things I noticed early on was everyone was welcome there.  It felt like home. I quickly became friends with the owner, Juliet. She is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Once I overcame my initial shyness, I started sitting with the regulars. We’d push tables together to make one large table. And everyone was welcome. And oh the conversations we had at the big table! We talked about everything. We did crossword puzzles and sudoku puzzles, we’d discuss world events, we share the good and the bad about our lives. We became friends at that table.  Once again, I felt like I belonged. It’s been a year since the place closed, and I still miss it.

While I sometimes still struggle with feeling like I don’t belong in some places, I’ve learned that you don’t just belong in one place. You belong with those who support you, who love you, who make you feel welcome and appreciated. It could be the family you were born into or the family you chose for yourself. It could be your friends, those you socialize with, or those you work with.  And if you ever feel like you don’t belong, just stop and look around you. Find those you connect with and you’ll find where you belong.

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Why I love being a runner

I think some people were just born to be a runner. But I don’t think I’m one of those people. I never liked running. In fact, I hated it as a kid.

But I don’t think I’m one of those people.

I never liked running. In fact, I hated it as a kid. Growing up, my asthma was really bad, which prevented me from doing a lot of stuff. Plus I’ve been overweight most of my life.

So exactly how did I become a runner?

That’s a good question.

The answer is I don’t know.  Which I realize sounds funny, but it’s the truth.

When I was working out with Tyler, he had me start running as part of my workouts. I remember early on in our time together I joked several times about how I don’t run.

I remember early on in our time together I joked several times about how I don’t run. I don’t know if that’s where he got the idea, but one day he had me run on the treadmill. I was terrified I was going to fall off. That first run was only 30 seconds, but damn, it felt like forever! It took a while, but I was eventually able to run much longer. And then we moved outside, which I found much harder at the beginning. Eventually, I came to love running outside and dreaded when I had to be on the treadmill.

After Tyler and I stopped working together, I continued to run.

I think that’s when I knew I loved running.

So why do I love being a runner?

That’s another good question.

And it’s a much longer answer.

For one, I find it challenging. I put everything I have into every run. I’m not fast. At all. When I talk about running, I often say that “I have one speed … and it ain’t fast!” There are people who walk faster than I run. But I don’t care.

Which leads me to the next thing. A runner is a runner. It doesn’t matter what you look like, doesn’t matter where you live, doesn’t matter your speed, doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running, doesn’t matter how often you run. None of that matters. If you run, you’re a runner. Period. I love that.

Which, of course, leads me to the next thing. The running community. This might be one of the biggest reasons I’ve continued to run. Runners stick together. A runner supports other runners. No matter what, there are always people cheering me on, encouraging me. Even if, or maybe especially if, we are strangers. Every race I do, there are people waiting at the finish line to cheer for me and tell me I did a great job. I love that. They may never realize just how much something like that means to someone like me. And here’s the thing about the running community, runners are everywhere. So no matter where I go, where I run, where I talk about running, there are runners there. I’ve connected with a lot of runners all over the world through social media. And we support each other because we are all runners. The running community is the most inclusive group I’ve ever been a part of. If you run, you’re part of the running community.  Everyone is welcome. How awesome is that!

Which leads me to the next thing. Racing. I love doing local races. Every race I’ve done so far has been a local race. Some day I’ll expand to races farther away, but for now, I’m happy to do all the local races I can. And doing local races helps support charities and causes in my community, so it’s a win/win really. Most of the time, I’m the last one across the finish line. But I don’t care. The point is, I crossed it. I’ve only been running about 4 years. I’ve done about 30 races total in that time. And I have always crossed the finish line. I’m very proud of that, and I think that it is one of my greatest accomplishments.

I’m sure there are a lot more reasons why I love running, but I think these are the biggest ones.

If you’re a runner, why do you love it?

 

 

 

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Thank you

A year ago, I decided that in 2015, I would take on my biggest challenge ever – my first half marathon. And I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t do it alone.  Not only would I need a solid training plan, I would need lots of support from those around me. 

I wasn’t sure what others would say, so it took me awhile before I really started talking about it.  I mean, I told a few people, but not very many.  The people I did tell were very supportive.  As I became more comfortable with the idea, I started telling more people.  Honestly, I half expected at least one person to laugh or call me crazy.  But it never happened.  

In fact, quite the opposite.

The more I talked about it, the more people were supportive, offered encouragement, and became my cheerleaders. 

It was pretty awesome.

As my training progressed, people would ask how it was going and were genuinely interested in my progress.  They would read my blog; and like and comment on my Twitter and Facebook posts.

People would see me out running and would share kind and supportive words and gestures.  Sometimes they would stop me to chat; sometimes they would just shout from their cars; sometimes they would say something as they were walking or running by me.  Some people I knew, others were complete strangers.

To everyone who took the time to encourage me all the way, I want to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for believing in me; thank you for supporting me; thank you for listening to me when I needed to talk.

And really, that’s not enough. 

Those two words just don’t cover what your support means to me.

In those moments where I doubted myself, your words helped keep me going.

In those moments when I wasn’t sure I could take another step, you reminded me that I could.

And during the race when I didn’t know if I’d make it, your kindness guided me to the finish line.

You were with me every step of the way, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

There are a few people I want to mention by name:

To my friend Karen Walsh.  Thank you for your kindness, your friendship, and your support.  Thank you for offering your advice and knowledge.  Thank you for driving me to and from races.  Thank you for always being there to cheer me to the finish line.

To my friend Jeff Zaben.  Thank you for always making me laugh when I need it. Thank you for your unwavering support.  Thank you for being my cheerleader. Thank you for being my best friend.  Thank you for reminding me how strong I am when I feel like I’m not.  Thank you for knowing when I need a friend. Thank you for being you.

To my friend Nick Foley.  Thank you for teaching me to talk in absolutes.  Thank you for believing in me.  Thank you for your constant support.  Thank you for your friendship.  Thank you for showing me I can do anything I put my mind and heart into.

Thank you all for everything you’ve done for me, and continue to do. I’m a better person because of you. My world is a better place with you in it.

Thank you.


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The ups and downs of training alone 

Since I started this new training plan, I’ve been thinking a lot about working out alone vs working out with a partner.  There are good and bad points to both.  I’m sure anyone you ask will give you different reasons for one over the other.

When I first started working out, I was always by myself.  Which, at the time, I think was good because I was just starting out and didn’t really know what I was doing and there wasn’t a lot I could do. I was shy, unsure of myself. 

When I joined my first gym, I was leery about working out around others, afraid of being judged and/or laughed at. The more I did it, though, the easier it got.  Not that I was working out with anyone, just working out around others.  My self-confidence was building.

I was really nervous when I first asked Tyler to take me on as a client.  But the more we worked out together, the easier it got.  I really enjoyed working with someone else, even if most of the time he was just showing me what to do and then watching me do it.  It was nice just having someone there.

Eventually, I got really comfortable around others in the gym, and even began working out with them when I wasn’t with Tyler.  It was nice having someone spot me or check my form to make sure I was doing it right.  I liked having someone to talk to, joke with, and learn from.

Then Tyler moved on, and the regulars at the gym did as well, so I was left to my own devices again.  So I know what it’s like to be with and without someone to train with.

In my opinion, these are some of the ups and downs of training alone …

The downs: 

1) Being alone.  Sometimes we all just need someone to be there.  Sometimes I just want some company, someone to talk to.  

2) Easy to skip a workout. Without someone expecting you to be there, it’s easy to say “just this once” when skipping a session.  And sometimes that can lead to skipping more than once.

3) No one to spot me or check my form. When working out alone, it’s sometimes hard to know if your form is correct. And if you need help with a heavier weight, there is no one there to help.

The ups: 

1) Not needing to rely on anyone.  Everyone gets busy from time to time, but if you’re working out alone, you don’t have to worry about that.

2) You can set your own schedule. You don’t have to work around anyone else’s schedule. You can workout when and where you want, and for how long.

3) You can do whatever workout you want. Self explanatory really.

There are times that I absolutely prefer to be alone when I’m working out.  It gives me time to think, to process.  I often work on blog posts in my head when I’m running.  I think about upcoming events.  Or I think about something new I want to try, whether it be a new activity or a new recipe.  I don’t have to worry about how fast or slow I’m going.  For the most part, I don’t have to worry about time.

But there are other times that I would really love to have someone else there.  Someone to cheer me on.  Someone to help me push a little harder.  Someone who is counting on me being there at a specific day and time.  Someone who I can bounce ideas off of or share concerns with.  Someone who can help make sure I’m doing things right, and maybe offer ways I can do them better.  Someone who is willing to share their ideas, experiences, concerns with me.  Someone who will listen.

I’ve chatted with numerous people on this subject.  Some are adamant that they only train alone; others will only workout with someone else; while others are somewhere in the middle.  Everyone has their own reasons for their answers.  Everyone’s workout style is different.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.  I can see the benefits of both.  I’ve personally experienced the benefits of both.  And I’ve also experienced the downside of both.  

For quite a while now, the majority of my training has been alone.  While I feel like my running has progressed pretty good in that time, I feel like my strength training has suffered.  Maybe “suffered” isn’t quite the right word, but I’m not sure what word would be better.  I made great strides in that area when I had a coach or a partner.  I don’t feel like I’ve done as well alone.  I’ve received a lot of encouragement and advice from various people, but it’s not really the same as having someone there.  Given the choice, on many occasions, I would definitely prefer to have someone to workout with.

And there are days when I’d love someone to run with, especially as I push myself to run longer distances.  I’m both excited and scared about doing my first half marathon.  Excited because it’s a new challenge, something I never thought I’d ever be able to do.  But scared/worried that I won’t be able to do it.  I worry sometimes that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with this challenge.  Sometimes I think having someone run with me once in a while will help push me, especially on long runs. And I know I can use help with my strength training. I want to be as prepared as possible for race day because I know how big of a challenge it is.  In the end, no matter what, with or without a training partner, I will cross that finish line.

What about you? Do you prefer to workout alone or do you want/need someone else there? Why? 

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My friend Heather

If we are lucky, we have at least a few dear friends throughout our lifetime.

If we are very lucky, we find a friend like my friend Heather.

Heather and I have not known each other long, yet it feels like we’ve known each other forever.  We met a few months ago because we work for the same person, Nick Foley.  I have been working with Nick’s company Celebrate the Hero for almost 2 years; Heather has been working with him on his non-profit Move for Inclusion.  And for the last few months, I have been working with Nick and Heather on Move for Inclusion as well.  And that’s how Heather and I met.

I have to say that I liked her immediately.  She is one of those people that always seems to be smiling, and her smile just lights up the room.  And when she walks into a room, people just seem to gravitate to her.  At least that’s how it seemed to me.

Generally, I’m a shy person.  It takes awhile for me to open up to people, to get to know them, to let them get to know me.  But every once in awhile, I meet someone that is different; someone that I just connect with.  Heather is someone like that.

It’s kind of hard to explain.  We just seemed to click.  I found it easy to talk to her.  We can talk about anything and everything.  And she seemed to actually listen to what I was saying … I mean really listen.  To be honest, that doesn’t seem to happen often enough.  I’m sure we’ve all had instances where we are talking to someone but you can tell they just aren’t really listening.  I’ve been with Heather on several occasions when she’s been talking to others, and she always seems to really listen to them.  She makes people feel like they are the most important thing in the world at that moment.  It’s really quite amazing.

Heather and I seemed to have quite a bit in common, which is always nice to find.  And we work well together too.  We are serious when we need to be, but also love to joke around and have fun.

Heather has a such a beautiful heart.  You can tell how much she cares about everyone.  She’s kind, gentle, loving, and caring.  She’s funny, fun-loving, and silly.  She’s generous with her time and attention.  And she’s very smart, too.   She’s just an all-around amazing person.  She makes the world a better place just by being in it.  And she inspires me to be a better person.

I’m happy we met.

I’m happy we work together.

But most of all, I’m happy to call her my friend.

 

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New challenges

So we’re a couple of weeks plus into the new year now and I’m doing my best to push myself, but it’s not been very easy.  Running outside here in the winter is not easy.  I don’t mind the cold so much, but it’s hard to run with snow and ice on the ground.  I don’t have gear for that.

Right after the new year, I was able to do a few short runs before we got the first real snowfall of the year.  I have asthma, although it is well controlled.  Most of the time it doesn’t bother me at all.  But it does when it’s really cold.  The super cold air burns my lungs.  That’s why I was only able to do short runs.  Anyway, because of the cold and the snow and the ice, I haven’t been able to do much running outside.  I have been able to walk a bit, but even that hasn’t been much.  I can use the indoor track, but to be honest, I have been a bit bored with it.  And I still haven’t been able to get back into a gym, so I don’t have access to a treadmill.

So what’s a runner to do?

Well the logical answer is to get gear to run outside in.  I’m working on that.  And I’m still working on getting back into a gym too.

So what else do I do?

I do what I can at home.  I work to strengthen my legs to help make me a better runner.  I work on my core.  I do things every day to help me along in my journey.

So with that in mind, I’ve set up some new challenges for myself.  Some daily, some weekly.  Nothing too big.  Just little things to keep me moving and motivated.

I have a small group on Facebook with some friends.  We are all on our own journeys.  We use the group to share stories, offer support, and try to keep each other motivated.  With that in mind, we set up weekly challenges.  Something for us to do each day for a week.  And then the next week, we change it to something else.  Again, nothing big, nothing too hard.  The first week, it was 10 squats a day; the second week, it was 10 lunges a day.  No pressure either.  Do the challenge or don’t, no judgement.

Along those same lines, I joined a 3 week challenge put on by my friend Wendy on Facebook.  Part of what drew me to this challenge is that it’s all about glutes.  This one is more challenging, to say the least!  So far, we’ve done all squats, different variations, with rest days mixed in as well.  OMG! My legs burn by the end of each day’s workout.  I’m interested to see what else she has in store for us.  I hope she plans on doing more challenges after this one is over.

I also started doing meditation.  This is a bit out of my comfort zone.  I’ve never done it before, but I’ve always been intrigued by it.  I did a little research on it, and watched a few videos on you tube.  I got a new yoga mat for Christmas, so I figured this would be a good use for it.  I laid down on the floor on the mat, closed my eyes, and just listened to myself breath.  I turned the tv and my phone off so that the room was quiet.  The first time, it only lasted a couple of minutes.  But each day, it lasted a little bit longer.  I tried sitting up, as well as laying on my bed.  The floor seems to be the best position for me at this point.  My goal is to do meditation every day, even if it’s just a few minutes.

I also spend several minutes stretching.  When I first joined a gym, I took a stretch class.  I don’t remember everything we did in the class, but I remember quite a bit.  I stretch for at least 10 minutes, but preferably more like 20.  I’m always looking for new moves to add.  Again, I do this every day.

After stretching, I do at least 1 plank.  Sometimes it’s a regular plank (also called a solider plank); other times it’s a bridge plank.  I hold it for as long as I can.  Some days are better than others.  Sometimes I struggle to get to 30 seconds; others, I can hold a full minute.  Again, something I do on a daily basis, or at least try to.

My goal is to keep myself moving.  I’m hoping setting up these daily and weekly challenges will do that, and encourage me to do more and more.  Hopefully, the things I’m choosing to do will also help make me a better runner.  Time will tell there.  But I’m feeling good about all this.

As I go along, I’ll add things as I think they are needed.  I do have a few things at home I can use to work out — a set of resistance bands, a kettlebell, some dumbbells (2lb, 5lb, 10lb), an aerobics step, and 2 stability balls.  I also got a foam roller for Christmas, which I’m still figuring out how to use.  I am looking forward to nicer weather, where I can be outside again.  But until then, I’ll do what I can inside.  Tyler taught me quite a few exercises that don’t require special equipment.  And there is also you tube if I need more.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good with how things are going so far.

And it’s a good start to the year.

 

 

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Mission: Offer Support

Originally, when I started writing this post, I was going to talk about how I offer support to those around me.  Whether it be sending them a quick note on facebook, sending them a card, offering to buy us coffee, or just letting them know I’m around if they ever need anything.  I had planned on giving several examples of things I’ve done recently.

But then things changed.

I found myself in need of support.

And my friends rallied.

It was amazing.

I had planned to go away this weekend to visit friends in Arizona.  I was scheduled to fly out Thursday afternoon, May 1st.   My husband is an accountant, and they always have May 1st off, so that’s why I scheduled my flight that day.  It had been raining on and off for a couple of days, but the weather looked pretty good for that afternoon.

We headed to Toronto (the closest airport) in the morning, stopping for coffee and gas along the way.  It had been sprinkling a little when we stopped.  After we got back on the road, it started raining harder.  A few minutes after getting back on the road, my husband lost control of the car.  We began fishtailing.  He tried to regain control, but couldn’t.  We headed into the ditch and rolled.  I took the brunt of the impact because we landed on my side first.  I remember my window shattering.  I had been looking towards my husband, so I did not get hit in the face with the glass.  I had been bracing myself with my hands, so that’s where I got cut.  When we came to a stop, the car was resting on the driver’s side.  Thankfully we were both wearing our seat belts.  I remember my husband screaming through the entire crash.  Once we stopped, I did my best to calm him down.  It happened so quick, yet it felt almost like slow motion.  My cell phone was in my left pocket.  I had my husband grab it so we could call for help.  He was in a shock, I think, and couldn’t figure out how to call out on it. (We have different types of phones — I have an iPhone, he has a Blackberry).  He handed it to me and I called 911.   The lady who answered was really nice.  Her name was Rachel.  I explained what happened and where we were.  She asked a couple of questions as she sent for help for us.  She stayed on the phone with me until they arrived.  We were in between towns, so help came from both.  The police arrived first, followed very quickly by the paramedics and the fire department.

They talked to us through my broken window.  They were trying to figure out how to get us out safely.  Eventually, one of the paramedics opened the back of the car (it’s a Hyundai Tuscon), and crawled in.  They had removed all the stuff from the back, cut the seat belts to get them out of the way, and laid the backseat down.  They were going to try to get my husband out first, but no one could reach the lever to lay his seat back.  So we decided to try to get me out first.  They laid my seat back, cut my seat belt so I could move.  I very carefully moved my legs out and stepped down near my husband.  I carefully stepped over him towards the back.  At that point, he was able to get out of his seat.  After a couple of minutes, I was able to walk out the back of the car, followed shortly by my husband.  Once I stepped out, 2 paramedics grabbed a hold of me to walk me to the ambulance.  I had remained pretty calm the whole time, but once I was out of the car, I lost it.  I’m pretty sure if I had not had those paramedics holding on to me, I would have fallen into the mud.  I walked to the ambulance and climbed in under my own power.  I never looked back at the car.  They started asking me questions, like my name and birth date, and taking my vital signs.  After what seemed like forever, we headed to the hospital.  My husband was in a different ambulance.  I found out later that he too, walked out of the car and to the ambulance under his own power.

Once at the hospital, we were seen quickly by the people in triage and registration.  One of my first thoughts was to call my friend who I was going to see.  I was shaking terribly from the accident.  I called Jeff and after saying that it was me calling, the next thing I said to him was “Don’t Panic!”  I explained we had been in car accident on the way to the airport.  We were at the hospital, but okay.  I said I would call him later when I had more information.

We were at the hospital for a couple of hours.  I had to get a tetanus shot.  My right shoulder and hand were really hurting, so they did x-rays to be safe.   I was covered in mud.  My husband was covered in mud and coffee.  But we were okay.  We walked away from it.  Relatively speaking, it was a minor accident.  We have minor cuts and bruises, me moreso than him.  But we walked away.

We also spoke with the police while we were there.  No other cars were involved, which was good.  We found out that back tires were nearly bald, which is probably why we lost control.  Or at least partly why.  They gave us a copy of the police report.

My husband’s office is only a couple of blocks from the hospital we were at, so after they said we could go, we walked down to his office.  He called the insurance company; I called my travel agent and travel insurance company.  I also messaged my friend to let him know what was going on.  I had thought still trying to make my trip, but in the end, we agreed it was probably best to cancel and rebook for a later date.

After being there for a couple of hours, we called my husband’s best friend.  He explained about the accident, and his best friend left work early to come pick us up.  He was very concerned, but happy to hear we were both okay.

After we got home, I posted on my Facebook that we were okay, but that we had been in an accident.  I gave only a few details.  Almost immediately, I got messages back, expressing concern, asking if were okay, asking if we needed anything.  Some people asked what had happened.  All day messages came in.  Some who had not seen the initial posting, but heard about it later, posted messages on my wall.  One friend offered to stop by the next day with some coffee and to see if I was okay.  The outpouring of love and support from our friends and family was awesome.  Messages and phone calls are still coming in.

That day started with such promise.

Then the unexpected happened.

And then the most wonderful things happened.  Our friends and family may not realize the effect their simple words had, but I’ll never forget.  They took the time to offer their support in our time of need, and I will always be grateful for that.  When we needed them, they were there.  Even from far away, they were there.

I have always tried to be there for my friends whenever they have needed me.  Letting them know I will always be there, no matter what.

And when my husband and I needed them, they were there.  Without question.  With great concern for us.  They were there.

When we needed the support of the police, paramedics, and fire department, they were there within minutes.

When we needed the support of the staff at the hospital, they were there.

My point is this:   We all need support at one time or another.  Always do your best to offer support to others because you never know when you’ll need that support back.

It doesn’t have to be big.  Just a kind word.  Ask how they are.  Offer to stop by for a short visit.  Invite them out for coffee or even just a walk around the neighbourhood.  Let them know you are there for them.

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Asking for help

This has been a tough one for me in the past.

I grew up very shy and very introverted.  I didn’t start coming out of my shell until I was in my 20s.  I did not ask for help often, even when I knew I needed it.  I would struggle through whatever was giving me trouble.  Although, admittedly, sometimes it was just my stubbornness that would get in the way.  And sometimes I think it was the fear of losing control that prevented me from asking for help.

But the older I get, the more I realize that there is no shame in asking for help.  In fact, it’s often the best thing to do.  And the idea of losing control over something just because you ask for help is quite simply a little ridiculous.  I wish I had learned those lessons when I was younger.

When I started this journey to a healthier me, I knew from the beginning that I would help… and lots of it!  At the beginning I did a lot of reading, watching health segments on tv, searching online for information.  It helped get me started, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough.  But of course, I didn’t really know where to find the help I needed.

Our friend Sharlene was the one who suggested we join Quinte’s Biggest Loser in 2012 when it started.  The first year, I think there was a group of 8 of us who joined.  I’m not sure how many joined the second year.  (And for the record, for some reason they are not doing it on this year).  They had nutrition classes, plus we got free passes to some of the local gyms and lots and lots of information.  Plus I met some really awesome people.  It really kicked up my journey in a big way.

And because I started going to the gym, I met other people who could help me, most important of all is Tyler.  Asking him to help me was the one of the scariest, yet best things I ever did.  His help has been priceless to me.

But I’ve met many people who’ve helped me too, whether they realize they have or not.  Sometimes, their help has just been being a friend, listening to my troubles, or cheering me on.  Sometimes they have given me ideas for my blog.  Sometimes they answer my questions or show me a better way to do something.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the journey is never to be afraid to ask for help.  We can all use help, whether we want to admit it or not.  I’m not afraid to admit that I need the help.

And right now, I could use some help.

I need to add exercises to the ones I already have.  Ones I can do at home or outside, not just ones for the gym.  Ones where I need little or no equipment. Know a book you think might help?  Have a favourite website? Let me know! I can use all the suggestions I can get.

I need suggestions for healthy snacks and meals.  Do you have a favourite recipe? What’s your go-to snack?

I need help with motivation and inspiration.  Do you have a favourite quote that helps you? Maybe a favourite celebrity or fitness guru? Any tips or tricks you like to use to keep yourself going when you struggle?

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Relay For Life 2013

This past Friday night was our annual Relay for Life walk for the Canadian Cancer Society. I look forward to this every year. My husband and I began doing the Relay about 10 years ago, when a friend asked us to join their team. We started walking in memory of his dad who died of liver cancer and my stepdad who died of lung cancer. After my own diagnosis, I began walking for myself as well. And I know several people who are survivors as well so I walk in honour of them too.

I have always been on a friends team, but not this year. This year I created my own team. I wasn’t sure what to expect as team captain, but I was excited as well. I got a little bit of a late start this year because I was getting things ready to do the Relay in Chandler with my friend Jeff and his family. I got my fundraising going and asked everyone I knew to be on my team. I did well with my fundraising this year. I’m very happy about that. A few people said they might join my team or come out for part of the night. It was short notice so I knew I might not get very many.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal of 50 laps at the Relay. In Arizona, I got 46, which is the most I’d ever done. I really wanted to hit my goal this year. But even if I didn’t, I wasn’t going to be upset about it because I’d already accomplished a lot this year. With my new shoes, I was pretty sure I could do it. I like to call them my magic shoes because I feel like I can do so much more since I got them LOL.

The day before the Relay, I started packing the things I would need or thought I’d need. I decided to take a screen tent instead of a regular tent since I had no plans to sleep. I set out a couple of chairs, my yoga mat, sunscreen, bug spray, a blanket, extra shirts, a jacket, umbrella (just in case), snacks, a book, and a few other little things. I packed everything except food and water, which I was saving until I was almost ready to leave.

The morning of the Relay, I slept in as late as I could, then got up and started getting ready. M friend Karen was going to pick me up in the afternoon and take me and all my stuff over. Tyler was coming along to help. Once we got there, Tyler helped me get the tent set up and some stuff organized. I picked a pretty good spot too. I hope I can get it next year too. Or at least one in the same area. After we got things set up, Tyler and I did a lap around the track and some stretches to warm myself up. He couldn’t stay because he had other plans, and I understood. I was happy he could help me get set up. I turned in the rest of my monies, signed in at the survivors tent, and waited for the fun to begin.

Opening ceremonies start and speeches given. Now it’s time for the survivors lap. It’s one of the best parts of the night. So many survivors and caregivers. So amazing to see. The track is lined with everyone else clapping and cheering for those walking. I always get teary-eyed. Shortly after, my friend Doug showed up. After he settled in, we hit the track together. About 9:30 or so, my friend Liz showed up. She had never been to a Relay before. She was very excited. I think she’s working a blog post of her own about it. Dan came down as well and brought me some more water and ice. I was almost dark, so we waited for the luminary ceremony to begin. Another one of my favourite parts of the night. This year, I did luminaries in memory of Warren (my stepdad) and David (Dan’s dad), and to honour two of the greatest people I know — Jeff’s dad Alan and Tyler’s mom Joe.

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If you’ve never been to a Relay event before, I would highly recommend you go. The luminary ceremony alone is worth going for. It’s so moving and so touching. Remembering those lost, honouring those still fighting, and celebrating those who’ve won.

After the ceremony, we hit the track again. Liz and I walked together, and Dan and Doug walked together. After a couple of laps, Dan headed back home. He needed to go to work the next day. Doug, Liz and I kept walking. Liz can only stay a few hours, but that’s okay. I’m glad she could make it, no matter how long she could stay. Doug can’t stay all night either, but I knew that too. My friend Sammy, who is on another team, stopped by a couple of times with her boyfriend. We chatted for a few and I shared snacks I’d brought.

Doug takes off to be with his girlfriend, so Liz and I continue on our own. We walk and talk and laugh and joke. She is so awesome. I love her. She’s one of the greatest people I know. She totally rocks. After awhile, Liz has to leave too. I wish she could stay, but I know she can’t. Hopefully next year she can stay for the whole thing. In the end, we walked about 5k together. Pretty awesome. So I walk her to her car, say goodnight and head back to the track. I have a lot more walking to do.

One of the neat things done at Relay are the lap beads. You purchase a cord and add a bead to it for each lap you do. I think it’s cool. And some people get really creative with how they put the beads on. My cord from last year has 35 beads on it and I did the, in sort of a rainbow. This year, I decided to stick its just one colour to make it easier. Each time I took a break from walking I would add the beads and recount them to see how I was doing. I was getting closer and closer to my goal.

About 5am there is free breakfast – pancakes and sausages. And it’s cooked by firefighters. Awesome.

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I sat and watched them cooking for a little bit before getting in line. I washed my breakfast down with some chocolate milk and then head back to the track. I’d been losing steam for a while, so I wasn’t walking as fast but I was still determined to walk as much as I can. It was starting to get light out so I know it’s getting close to the end. I was listening to music on my phone. The same music that helps me get through a tough cardio session at the gym.

At about 6:30am, I did it. I finished my 50th lap. Goal completed. As I sat down at my campsite, and took my string of beads off to place the last one on, I was smiling and a little teary-eyed. It was an emotional moment. I was so proud of myself for accomplishing my goal, but sad my friends weren’t there to see it happen.

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I decided not to walk anymore, mainly because I was incredibly tired and my feet were hurting a bit. Instead, I took down my tent, packed everything up, and waited for the Relay to be officially done. Then I sent a text to Dan to let him know he could pick me up any time. I slept for about 6 hours or so after getting home. I got up, showered, dressed, ate, and watched a bit of tv. I was still pretty tired, so I went to sleep. Next thing I know, Dan is home from work and its 9pm. I stayed up for a bit longer then went back to sleep again. I woke up about 10am and finally felt like I had gotten enough sleep to make for the lack of sleep at Relay LOL.

Relay 2013 was really awesome, maybe the best one yet. I can hardly wait to get started on next year’s Relay. I’ll be on the committee next year, as well as a team captain. I’m very excited about that. I already have a few ideas churning in my head.

Thank you to everyone who supported me, sponsored me, and helped me prepare. Thank you to Tyler for helping me get set up that day. Thank you to Karen for the ride there. And a special thank you to Doug and Liz for spending part of the night with me. Everyone of you helped me reach my goal. You all rock my socks!

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GUEST POST – The benefits of friendship and support systems

I asked my friend Sarah to write a guest post for my blog. This is what she sent me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

Thank you, Sarah. You’re awesome, my friend.

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The Benefits of Friendship and Support Systems

I have always had the idea in my mind that having support when starting a fitness journey was not an essential part of the process. I never thought much of having a workout buddy or that there would be benefits to having someone there trucking along right beside you through the pain and gain. This all changed when I met Jenn. We very quickly established a strong friendship. I soon realized how wrong I had been with my thought process. Jenn is kind, caring and listens to all the struggles I go through. She understands how hard this journey can be because she is experiencing it herself. After Jenn, I started to meet other people who were like minded at the gym and were always willing to give me helpful advice and support. Without Jenn and these other great supporters in my life, I would not be able to get through as easily as I have. They make the journey fun, exciting and glorious.

Having strong friendships create your support system. These people listen to your concerns, help you create alternative plans if something isn’t working, comforts you through struggles and pain and they give you a sense of belonging and happiness. They help you change unhealthy lifestyle habits and encourage you to give better ones a try.

This being said, these kinds of friendships and relationships do not happen by themselves, it takes effort. Just as much as you need them, they need you. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.

So I want to thank Jenn for opening up my eyes to my new mantra. She made my belief possible and continues to be a wonderful friend in life and my fitness journey.

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