Hello, Inspiration {4}: It’s a Breeze

I’m not big on resolutions, but I am big on opportunities for self-renewal. January is peak self-renewal time for me and this year I took extra advantage of it.

By the end of last year, after an illness-plagued fall, I was feeling rough. I hadn’t been eating well and my last good workout was becoming a distant memory. I could have acted on that nagging suggestion to change my habits in mid-December, but mid-December is a pretty ridiculous time to start making those kinds of changes, wouldn’t you say? So I planned for January and its brimming potential instead.

January 1 found me working up a sweat and feeling much better for it. I got a new phone for Christmas and spent some time browsing for apps that would keep me going; I ended up downloading a whole bunch intending to stick with the ones that worked best.

A lot of the healthy-habits type apps were either annoying or not especially motivating. Many of them, as well, seem to attempt to do everything, as if a major overhaul is the only way to make health goals succeed. (Maybe that’s the case for some people, but it doesn’t work for me.) I did find one I really like though – enough that I thought I’d share it.

It’s called Breeze and it’s made by Runkeeper (which I also use). It popped up as a suggestion on my phone and since I like Runkeeper I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s really simple – it just tracks the steps you take each day using the tachometer in your phone.

I think I like it because it’s friendly, and it offers motivating comments as you go throughout your day.

Breeze app messages screen

It gives a goal each day, based on your own activity level rather than suggesting the unattainable-for-the-average-person 10,000 steps. And when you reach your goal, it gives you confetti. I like confetti.

Breeze app confetti screen
It also assigns you a spirit animal. I’m not sure exactly what the point is, but I think it’s cool. (I started off as a lion and then became a fox, evidently due to my short bursts of activity. See? Walking down to the Starbucks in my office building does have its benefits.)

Breeze app spirit animal

In any case, now that January is nearing an end I figured some people might be looking for a bit of inspiration to keep going. This is one of mine.


Becoming a Fit Chick

When I was in 3rd-year university, I rowed crew (but only for the year because by the end of it I had managed to psych myself out). We did two workouts a day – we were on the water at 5:15 every morning and did dry-land training each evening. I don’t remember much about what that was like other than having to try desperately not to fall asleep in my 8:30 a.m. classes.

One day our dry-land training was scheduled to be a session with a trainer from the BC Lions football team. I went dutifully down to the gym expecting it to be a damn hard workout, but I figured I’d do my best. I got there to discover that for some reason I was the only one who showed up. Whether it was a coincidence or everyone else wimped out or I was just the only one dumb enough to go I never did find out, but once you find yourself in a situation like that the only thing to do is suck it up and do what the big Hungarian man tells you to do.

The workout was a plyometric one – basically using your own body weight to increase speed and power. It’s really freaking hard, especially when you have a Canadian Football League trainer treating you like a varsity athlete and expecting you to complete the specified moves—no skimping on reps—without much of a fuss.

In the end, I got through it, and it still felt better than an earlier workout the day after coming back from Christmas break (during which I kept up my training exactly not at all), after which I threw up outside the university’s main gymnasium.

I’ll always remember that year, both for those two workouts as well as for the intensity of the beginning and end of my university rowing career. At the beginning, I went through tryouts and made the team thanks to my sheer determination not to die during the runs we had to do (there’s a reason I didn’t formally take up running until 10 years later), and I finished the year with my brain and its fear of pain winning out over what I had trained my body to do. All in all, it was a great experience.

Despite seriously thinking I was going to end up alone and stranded on the road leading up to the university during one of those tryout runs, I took up running after I got married because I had discovered I wasn’t the type of person to go to the gym. I do occasionally, but it’s boring and I hate strength training on my own. I liked running, on the other hand, because it was a challenge and it got me outside and I met some new people while doing it. I also subsequently discovered that I like at-home workouts. (Jillian Michaels was a frequent companion during my 30 days straight of exercise two years ago (eep! Already?!). I’ve been trying another new at-home series that I really like – it’s the FIT CHICKS Fierce in 8 series, which I was given to try out and share with you.


There’s a lot of things I like about these workouts, so as I sit here with my inner thighs burning that post-workout burn, I’ll share my top 10 with you.

1. It’s Canadian! Hooreh!

2. The use the term”fierce” a lot. I love that.

3. They introduced me to UFC squats (Google it and weep), which should rightfully stand for Unbelievably Freaking Challenging squats. They are SO hard.

4.With the Fierce in 8 DVD set, I have 8 workouts I can do at home. Much less boring than one workout (even one with 3 levels).

5. The workouts are only about 20 minutes, but they’re HIIT-style (high intensity interval training) so I really work for those 20 minutes.

6. They offer 2 levels to follow in each workout – one chick does the advanced moves while another shows modifications for beginners or lower-intensity options.

7. It’s hard enough that the first time I saw a lot of the moves I actually said, “Oh shit” out loud.

8. The UFC-bootcamp-style Fierce Fighter Chick workout made me feel totally badass.

9. They use a 10-second countdown clock (for when I feel like I can’t do anymore and then see that lovely 10-second countdown start and realize I can probably do a few more.

10. They have been SUPER friendly in all my communication with them.

FIT CHICKS Tex mex power bowl

In addition to the 8 workouts on DVD, this series includes an ebook with some tips, nutritional info, amazing recipes focusing on whole foods and clean eating, and a sample meal plan. Plus, there’s also a workout calendar, which I love. I’m all about calendars. It’s even colour-coded.

FIT CHICKS green smoothie

The FIT CHICKS workouts, along with a variety of motivational tools I’ve found (some of which I’ll share with you in upcoming Hello, Inspiration posts), actually have me feeling better about my fitness goals again after a tough fall that included getting really sick and totally losing my health mojo. The boost to my mental health is a nice side effect too.


How are your health goals going, whatever they are? Need a motivational kick-start? I’ve got a chance to win a Fierce in 8 set from FIT CHICKS below. To enter, leave a comment about your own health and fitness goals and complete the Rafflecopter entry form. (If you don’t want to rely on luck and want to get straight to it, you can buy the set on the FIT CHICKS website.)

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!


Co-founded in 2008 by best friends Amanda Quinn and Laura Jackson, FIT CHICKS is the largest women’s-only fitness company in Canada. With a focus on fierce fitness for ALL women, FIT CHICKS offers 8-week, award-winning, boot-camp-style programs at over 20 locations, as well as weekend health retreats, DVD programs, personal training and host 2 TV Series called “Shape Up with FIT CHICKS” on Rogers TV. Their commitment to women’s health earned the company 2014 Top 10 Fitness Professionals in Canada by Can FIT Pro & 2013 Stevie Award for Women in Business – Health & Wellness Company of the Year. FIT CHICKS will continue its mission of getting Canadian women pumped about health in Season 9 of CBC’s Dragon’s Den and bringing their DVD programs to The Shopping Channel in Jan 2015. Visit www.fitchicks.ca for more information.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On the Road to Reykjavik

After dipping down below the acceptable depression threshold a few too many times recently I did a little thinking. It started out primarily as a WTF attitude (as in why me? Why again?!) but perspective comes from the strangest places.

What are you doing to take care of yourself? people often ask. Do you get enough sleep/exercise/time to yourself? And the answer to all of those is, mostly, yes. I mean, yes and no (because does any parent of young children really get enough?) but I think I do okay in those areas.

The trouble is I haven’t been doing the right things. I’ve become really good at sitting on my bed after the boys are (finally) asleep and browsing through Facebook. I can read status updates and comment and click that like button with the best of them. It’s definitely a retreat, but it’s not exactly fulfilling.

That realization (as obvious as it might be) didn’t really become clear until I was talking to a friend recently. This guy — a firefighter, sort of a guy’s guy — asked a simple question: “What’s your outlet?”

What’s my outlet? Um, gee. That’s a good question. I like to write and I like to run, but have been doing neither on a consistent basis.

“You know that giant LEGO Death Star in my basement?” he continued. “Yeah, that was an outlet.”

I pictured him escaping his three kids or a long day at work by going to the basement and slowly, literally piece by piece, putting that together.

That’s what I need – not a LEGO Death Star, but a project.Team Diabetes

In my last race package was a brochure for Team Diabetes and, unlike most of the brochures I get in race packages, I had kept it. I’ve supported the Canadian Diabetes Foundation in various ways for a long time because I’ve had several family members affected by diabetes. Most personally for me was my Grandma, who was legally blind after losing much of her sight to the disease.

True to my largely impulsive nature, I had a look at the Diabetes Association’s website and found myself signing up for a Team Diabetes race in Reykjavik, Iceland next year. I registered without worrying too much about the slightly intimidating fundraising requirement, because I needed a project and this would be it. (Or one of them, anyway. I’m nothing if not ambitious when it comes to finding projects to distract myself with.)

Islandsbanki Marathon

Photo credit: Islandsbanki Marathon

I’ve already got some fundraising plans and some donations from supportive friends. And I’ve got a bit of a posse too. After I signed up, 6 friends (so far) did as well, and more are thinking about it.

Fundraising for this event will be a challenge and a bit outside my comfort zone (especially because I hate asking for money), but that’s sort of what I like about it. It’s something to focus on other than who has posted a new photo to Facebook. I’m excited about it, so that qualifies it as an outlet, don’t you think? I do, so here I go on something that is just for me – not me as a mom or anything else. Just me on the road to Reykjavik.

If you want to support me in my fundraising goal, you can donate here

Crazy Runs and Mountains

One lovely summer evening, my friend Tamara and I were running by the river. Tamara, you should know (because it’s relevant to this story), is a little bit crazy. She runs crazy races in crazy costumes and thinks nothing of getting up crazy early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to run 10k.

I should have kept this in mind when registering for a race she told me about.

Alas, I didn’t think about any of that (which might have been because she bought me ice cream after that run by the river). Instead all I heard was “Banff” and “night race” and “glow sticks.” I heard “five miles” and mentally translated that to 8k and decided all of those factors added up to a race that I should register for. I’d get to run in the mountains in one of my favourite towns, it would be my first night race, and the distance was just enough to push me to run a little bit more than I had been. So I registered, booked us into a hotel for the weekend, and considered myself quite adventurous.

Somewhere between registering and race weekend I started thinking of the race as 5k (instead of five miles), and it wasn’t until I was talking to a co-worker last week about our weekend plans that I remembered. “Um, isn’t that race five miles?” she asked. “Um, shit,” I thought. Yes. Yes, it is. Ah well. I’m sure it will be fine, I figured.

Racers in the dark near the start line

Racers in the dark near the start line

And then race day came and we headed out of town. My mom (who always manages to catch these things) saw on Twitter that the race course had been changed because there was a Grizzly on the original course (and I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t want to be eaten by a large, hungry, male Grizzly who’s stocking up before hibernating for the winter). And I looked at the description of the race and realized the course had us running straight up a mountain road. The original course, which I hadn’t bothered to check because adventurous people don’t worry about these things, also had us running straight up a mountain road, but there was also, I think, more of an over-and-around element to the original course. The revised course was pretty much exactly straight up the mountain and then straight back down again.

Did I mention it was snowing?

It had snowed all day and I’d been up that mountain road many times before (by car, thank you very much) so I knew how long and steep it was (and how icy it would be coming back down) and I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

I couldn’t do much but ignore the butterflies in my stomach and put on my Yaktrax and see what happened.

Glow sticks going byRunners with glow sticks

What happened—the details—doesn’t really matter. It was part painful and part exhilarating, part dark and slippery and part beautiful. It went from a ridiculous-sounding idea to actually quite fun.

Mostly, it was a reminder that every once in a while we all need to do something just a little bit crazy.


I’m joining Greta from Gfunkified as co-host of #iPPP (or iPhone Photo Phun), a weekly link-up that requires nothing more than a blog post with a photo from a phone camera (any phone camera, not just iPhones). We want to see your funny, your yummy, your heartfelt, your favourite phone photos of the week. Link up below!


Lacing Up

I’ve had lots of excuses for not running in the last 18 months. At first it was because we had just moved and there was a lot of snow on the ground and I didn’t really feel like breaking my neck. And then I got pregnant. And then I had just had a baby. And then there was snow on the ground again.

Then my husband got me some Yaktrax, which removed my fear that I might break my neck. The first time I wore them it was -18C (about 0F) and I managed to stay warm enough and figured I was good to go. But then in January I twisted my ankle and I stopped running, and I didn’t really start again.

I started to think maybe I wasn’t a runner anymore. I was feeling too old and achey. My knees weren’t cooperating. I was sucking wind and generally feeling like all my running mojo had veered off the path and run away without me.

I did other things. Boot camps and Jillian Michaels workouts and yoga. Long walks with big hills. Pilates. All of which were fine, but I didn’t find myself in any of them. There was a piece of me missing.

So I took to the trails again.

I’ve walked a lot in our area in the short time we’ve been here, but when I started running I didn’t yet have my go-to running routes the way I used to. And we live on a ridge, so no matter what direction I go I end up coming home on a hill. But still, I ran. I looped out and back, and followed paths. I found some trails and ran them to see where they went. I still sucked wind, but I was running. I had no particular thoughts about it; it just seemed good enough.

This morning when I got up I re-evaluated my planned run. My knees were complaining and I was sore after a challenging yoga practice last Wednesday and a stroller fit class on Friday. I was feeling like I’d been working hard and maybe skipping a run wouldn’t be a bad thing.

And then I got inspired and figured I’d do a short one. It was my day to walk the dog anyway.

If you follow my Facebook page you know how it turned out. I got to the end of the “out” part of my planned out-and-back and saw the entry to a path I hadn’t seen before. So I went down it. To make an hour-long story short, I got lost. After following a series of paths I ended up way, way down at the bottom of a glen and, just as I was starting to wonder where the trail came out, it ended.

end of paved path

Apparently this is where the sidewalk ends.

I have no idea why the trail ends there. At some point, someone must have decided that was all they were going to do. Or maybe they ran out of asphalt.

In any case, I found my mojo. It was down at the bottom of a glen, waiting for me on a rainy Sunday morning.

I’m a runner again.