Personal Update – Reality Check: I Can’t Eat Whatever I Want Just Because I Run

Good morning everyone – and Happy Friday!  I can’t believe that the May Long Weekend is upon us.  It’s a really exciting weekend for all of you outdoor enthusiasts because it seems to be the official kick-off to camping season.  We aren’t heading out camping this weekend, however…I feel like I’ve been on the road nonstop for the past month between San Diego and Kelowna and I’m actually really excited to just lay low and relax around the house, get a few good runs in, and maybe take a day trip out to the mountains!

Oliver and I after my 7km run this past weekend in Kelowna

Oliver and I after my 7km run this past weekend in Kelowna

I have a confession to make – when I returned from San Diego after a week of pure indulgence, I could no longer button up my jeans.  True story.  We had a wonderful time – exploring the city, checking out some really cool museums. and eating and drinking everything our little hearts desired – but even with running 5 out of the 7 days we were there and walking probably 10+ kilometres every day, we still managed to pack on a few extra pounds.  Brutal!  But – this may have actually been a blessing in disguise.  You see, up until recently, I wholeheartedly believed that because I was a runner / active person, I could pretty much get away with eating whatever I wanted.  My love of food, after all, is one of the main reasons I began running in the first place.  (For a more inspiring list of reasons why I run, click here.)  I started to get really excited about the prospect of eating all of the things I enjoy on a regular basis – especially when I got into running longer distances and torching more than 700 calories before breakfast.

But here’s the thing.  Especially during my Recovery Program, I was hardly running enough distance to burn off a 200-calorie snack.  I watched my weight begin to creep up and my confidence begin to slide down, which made me feel even more depressed and frustrated about my injury.  And guess how I dealt with that?  You got it – by eating more.  Eventually I was up nearly 10 pounds from where I was in January when I got injured.  So, upon returning from San Diego, I decided it was time to get serious about my nutrition.

If I’m being honest, nutrition is something that I’ve always been passionate about and interested in, but my willpower oftentimes fails me and I find myself binge-eating fast food in my car after a long shift or throwing an entire day into a pile of nutella just because of one little slip-up.  I’ve tried it all – low carb, low fat, high fat, calorie counting, clean eating, intermittent fasting, juice cleansing, eating intuitively – you name it.  Nothing seems to stick – although calorie counting is the one thing that I have found the most helpful throughout my years of weight struggle.

I am trying to find that delicate balance between eating whole, healthful, clean foods that help my body to be the best that it can be, and enjoying the delicious side of life where things like red wine, chocolate and burritos live.  Why is it so hard?!  I know people who truly eat to live – they don’t seem to care what their food tastes like – they just eat what they know is best for them and go on with their lives.  But not me.  I get so DAMN excited about food, it’s almost criminal.  If I have the opportunity to go out to eat, I will spend hours (hours!) researching the best restaurants in the city and looking at the menus drooling over all of my choices.  (Check out my profile on Zomato!)  When we go on a vacation, we truly plan our activities around where we want to eat.  On Sunday mornings, I usually lay in bed planning what I want to cook that week, and then proceed to spend the rest of the day grocery shopping, prepping, and getting excited about eating.  I have been caught laying in my bed staring at pictures of noodles on Pinterest.  None of this is really that bad, but it’s the ‘don’t-know-when-to-quit’ mentality that messes me up in the long run.

Am I Right?

Am I Right?

I could ramble on forever on this topic, but I think I will just leave it there for today.  The compromise I have decided on (for now) is this;

-Try to remain within my calorie limit every day (I use MyFitnessPal to track) but don’t get all bent out of shape if I go over my limit a little bit here and there.  Remind myself that I am human.  I also have to be diligent with being authentic with my entries – not manipulating my food diary to reflect a better day than I actually had when it came to what I ate.

-Attempt to fill that daily calorie limit with 80 – 90% clean food.  Again – I am human.  You are human.  We aren’t perfect.  But I know as well as the next person that keeping my meals clean makes me feel like a million bucks.  And I like to feel like a million bucks!

-Allow myself to enjoy treats / cheats, but then get back to eating well.  For now, I’ve decided that allowing a set number of “treats” per week is better for my lifestyle than allowing myself one entire cheat day because I would likely just binge myself into deep-fried oblivion that way.  I am hoping this will teach me that just because I had a treat at lunch does not mean that I have to have a shitty dinner and then go buy a pint of ice cream and eat the entire thing while watching Netflix.  It’s all about balance.

I’ll be interested to see how this works for me.  Right now, the way my body feels and performs is more important than weight loss, and that’s somewhere that I’ve never been before.  It used to be all about 100-calorie snack packs and burning x-amount of calories on the elliptical at the gym.  Now, I want to eat real, whole foods that will fuel my long runs and repair my muscles after an intense cross-training day.  It feels like a  little bit of a game changer to think this way.  I suppose time will tell.

Running in San Diego

Running in San Diego

What are some of the ways that you stay accountable for what you’re eating?

Do you have a favourite healthy-living blog or website?  A favourite recipe?

What are your plans for the May Long Weekend?

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San Diego: Where to Stay, Eat and Play – The Second Time Around

At the end of April, to celebrate 3 years of loving each other (or something like that), Sean and I ventured to my favourite city in the world – San Diego – for a week.  Some of you may remember when I spent four days in San Diego back in October, and took every opportunity I possibly could to rant and rave about how in love with the place I was.  (Read more about that experience here.)  I was so excited to return back to SD, and I had a list a mile long of what I wanted us to experience while we were there.  Here are a few of the highlights…

My Handsome (Camera) Man and I in San Diego

My Handsome (Camera) Man and I in San Diego

–  –  –

Where We Stayed

I returned to Hotel Vyvant in Little Italy for a second time, and was just as smitten with the property as I had been in October.  (More on that here.)  We stayed in the exact same room that I stayed in last time, and everything was wonderful.  I would recommend this hotel to anyone.

The Beautiful Succulent Display on the Hotel Vyvant Terrace

The Beautiful Succulent Display on the Hotel Vyvant Terrace

–  –  –

Where We Ate

If I’m being honest, I will admit that the real reason I was able to convince Sean to go to San Diego was the promise of the Pizza and Pasta Mecca that is Little Italy.  We returned to some old favourites such as Bencotto, Buon Appetito and Pappalecco, but we discovered plenty of new favourites, too.

Underbelly – A trendy, busy Japanese Ramen restaurant in Little Italy.  Super chill vibe, amazing Ramen.  I recommend “Belly Of The Beast” – Brisket, Hoisin Short Rib, Oxtail Dumplings and Soft-Boiled Egg.  Yes please.

(Im)Patiently Waiting for Ramen

(Im)Patiently Waiting for Ramen

Belly of the Beast

Belly of the Beast

Shorehouse Kitchen – Located in La Jolla, Shorehouse Kitchen is an adorable all-day breakfast and lunch spot with a nautical vibe.  We had probably the best service of our entire trip here, and the food was excellent and reasonably priced.  Bonus: They have a Doggie Menu!

OB Noodle House – This legendary noodle shop that was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives can be found in the hippy neighbourhood of Ocean Beach and is an absolute must for visitors to the area.  Home to a variety of noodle bowls and other asian-inspired dishes, this place is always busy – and for good reason – there are daily draft beer specials for $1 and the food is seriously good.  Brave souls can attempt the Pho 20 Challenge – we did not – although Sean was tempted.  You won’t find a better bang for your buck in San Diego.

Brisket & Steak Pho

Brisket & Steak Pho

Unreal Value

Unreal Value

Extraordinary Desserts – With locations both in Little Italy and Balboa Park, Extraordinary Desserts has earned its reputation as one of the most talked-about spots in the city.  Not only are the desserts to-die-for delicious, but they are crafted into pieces of exquisite art; topped with things like ornate gold flakes and fresh, fragrant flower petals.  They have a full cafe, food and drink menu as well, but we never had room for any of that.  Don’t miss your opportunity to eat here.  We went 3 times.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Layered Something-Something

Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

Beautiful

Beautiful

The Culinary Highlight for my Sweet Tooth - Lemon Berry Cheesecake

The Culinary Highlight for my Sweet Tooth – Lemon Berry Cheesecake

–  –  –

What We Did

Besides eating?  We actually accomplished a ton within a week, even without having a rental car.  The San Diego transit system is very user friendly, and when we needed to get somewhere that the train didn’t go, we used Uber.  Some of our top experiences were…

The USS Midway Museum – Only 2 hours after arriving in San Diego, we found ourselves aboard the decommissioned USS Midway Aircraft Carrier for an incredibly educational experience.  I felt a full range of emotion as we explored every nook and cranny of the ship.  Highly recommended.

Basic Sleeping Quarters

Basic Sleeping Quarters

One of the many Military Aircrafts on board the Ship

One of the many Military Aircrafts on board the Ship

The USS Midway

The USS Midway

Japanese Friendship Garden – Located in Balboa Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden is a simple, peaceful and beautiful way to spend an hour or so.  Take a walk through the pristine park and take in many attractions such as the Bonsai collection and the stunning Koi Pond.

The Beauty of the Japanese Friendship Garden

The Beauty of the Japanese Friendship Garden

Details

Details

Koi Pond

Koi Pond

Fashion Valley  Mall – We didn’t go to San Diego to shop, but I’m sure glad we did.  Runner Friends – The Nike Running Store was unreal.  There is a fantastic selection of stores in this open-air shopping centre, plus it is accessible by trolley.

Old Town – We spent an afternoon in historical Old Town San Diego to check out the many heritage shops, artists and food.  (Check out Barra Barra Saloon for killer nachos!)  This is a really entertaining and educational part of San Diego to spend a portion of your day.

Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego Market

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery & Point Loma Lighthouse – If there’s one thing the United States know how to do, it is how to lay their veterans to rest.  This was one of the most stunning, pristinely-groomed cemeteries I have ever seen overlooking downtown San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.  Take the time to walk up to the Point Loma Lighthouse as well – for the history lesson or the stunning ocean views.  Both will be well worth your time.

Just a small part of this Expansive Cemetery

Just a small part of this Expansive Cemetery

Taking in the View at Point Loma

Taking in the View at Point Loma

Seaport Village – A cute collection of touristy shops along the boardwalk, Seaport Village is a San Diego necessity.  There are plenty of restaurants as well.  If you have had enough, hop on a ferry to Coronado Island.

Morning Runs on the Boardwalk or through Balboa Park – I was just finishing up my 8-week Post-Injury Rehab Program while I was in San Diego, and my final run in the city was also my finally run of recovery.  I could not have picked a more incredible place to complete that chapter of my life.  The San Diego runner community is thriving and vibrant – just head down to Seaport Village around 7am to see what I mean.

An Overcast Morning on the Boardwalk

An Overcast Morning on the Boardwalk

Running Across Cabrillo Bridge into Balboa Park

Running Across Cabrillo Bridge into Balboa Park

Birch Aquarium at Scripps – We visited the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla and it was a phenomenal experience.  The aquarium is home to thousands of aquatic animals – from fish to jellyfish to seahorses to sharks.  There is even an interactive exhibit where you can touch things such as Sea Cucumbers and Sea Urchins.  Arrive right when they first open to beat the school groups – we were glad we did!

Sean in front of the Largest Aquarium - the glass is 10 Inches Thick!!!

Sean in front of the Largest Aquarium – the glass is 10 Inches Thick!!!

Leafy Seadragon

Leafy Seadragon

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

What are some of your favourite things to do in San Diego?

What is your favourite city in the world and why?

What are your upcoming travel plans?

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Hiking Tunnel Mountain in March

Back at the beginning of March, Sean and I embarked on our first official hike of 2015.  Tunnel Mountain can hardly be considered a “climb” when compared to all of the bad-assery in the surrounding Rocky Mountains (think Ha Ling Peak and Mount Yamnuska) but it was still a beautiful way to get out and enjoy the mountains during the wee hours of Spring.

Pre-Adventure Car Selfie

Pre-Adventure Car Selfie

The day began with a stop at Quarry Lake in Canmore so I could go for a short run.  I actually just ended up running laps around the lake itself, which would normally get boring, but how can one be bored with a stunning view like that.

Running at Quarry Lake

Running at Quarry Lake

We then drove to the Trail Head for Tunnel Mountain just past the Banff Centre for the Arts.  There’s lots of parking and it’s pretty hard to miss the Trail Head on the left side of the road.  An easy ascent with stunning views of the Valley, the Town of Banff and the Banff Springs Hotel made this hike the perfect kick off to our Spring Hiking Season.

The Banff Springs Hotel from the Trail

The Banff Springs Hotel from the Trail

Stunning Valley Views

Stunning Valley Views

The 4.3 KM Round Trip took us about an hour up and an hour down due to some pretty gnarly ice patches.  It would probably be quicker in the warmer months.  There are almost no insanely steep hills on this trail, making it suitable for all fitness levels and trail runners.  It is a very popular hike due to it’s location and it’s accessibility, so expect to see lots of people and dogs on the trail.  I’d feel comfortable doing this hike alone just because of the amount of traffic it receives.

These two adorable red chairs mean that you're done!

These two adorable red chairs mean that you’re done!

Lunch with a View.

Lunch with a View.

Sean and I :)

Sean and I :)

The Verdict: Tunnel Mountain is a perfect way to kill a few hours, get your heart pumping, and catch some incredible views without absolutely killing yourself.  It would make for a great conditioning hike, cross-training activity, or trail running experience.  Bring shoe spikes if you’re hiking in the winter months.  In the warmer months, hiking boots or even good running shoes would be fine.

Blessed.

Blessed.

Where have you been hiking lately?  

Which climbs are on your Summer Bucket List?  

What is your favourite cross-training activity?

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5 Things I’m Loving This Month – April 2015

Good morning everybody!  Happy Friday!  I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful week, and, if you’re in Alberta like me, that you’ve been enjoying this glorious sunshine!

Here are a few things I’ve been obsessing over this month;

1. Cru Juice

A Calgary-based company that stands strongly behind their values of producing only the highest quality, organic, cold-pressed, real and raw juices, lemonades and nut milks – Cru Juice has been a recent obsession of mine.  My personal favourite blends have been Menage A Trois, Dirty Lemonade, and The Beet Box.  Pick yours up at the Cru Juice Store here in Calgary or at a variety of other local health food stores.

My Current Favourite Post-Workout Duo

My Current Favourite Post-Workout Duo

2. My New Garmin Forerunner 15

I originally purchased my Garmin Forerunner 15 as a way to track my running without eating up all of my cell plan data with MapMyRun, but this little device has since become like a lifeline to me.  The GPS function will track your running distance and pace, and the watch also tracks your daily steps and calories burned.  The optional heart-rate attachment will provide even more accuracy.  The Forerunner 15 is not Bluetooth Enabled, so I have to sync it on my computer in order to load my runs onto the MapMyRun app, but this hasn’t been an issue so far.  Connect with me on MapMyRun – username adventuretoanywhere

My Forerunner 15 Against a Glorious Canmore Backdrop

One of my first Recovery Runs with my Forerunner 15 Against a Glorious Canmore Backdrop

3. David’s Tea Vanilla Matcha

grand-cru-matcha-10444_s

I have been a long-time fan of Matcha, (a concentrated, finely-ground green tea powder which allows the entire green tea leaf to be consumed) and my love for this delicious powerhouse tea was rekindled last year when I traveled briefly to Japan.  David’s Tea has recently come out with flavoured Matcha in Vanilla, Mocha and Mint.  I am obsessed with the Vanilla Matcha.  I mix it with hot water, a tiny bit of honey and a dash of almond milk and it has been a fantastic morning coffee substitute.

4. Avocado on Toast with Honey

I usually add an egg for extra protein.

I usually add an egg for extra protein.

One of my clients, who has turned into a dear friend of mine, told me a few weeks ago about her new favourite breakfast – Avocado on Toast, but with a bit of honey drizzled on top.  At first I thought it sounded weird, but it is now my full-blown addiction.  Try it – I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

5. Saje Car Diffuser

he_diffusers_carscenter_diffuser_-_3253

I have been a fan of Saje products for years (check out my review of their incredible Apres-Sport Oil here) and I have recently discovered the Aromatherapy Car Scenter, which plugs into the 9V outlet in any vehicle, and emits the aroma of your choice throughout your entire car.  Currently I am using the Rainforest Blend, and it makes my commute in to work like a little mini spa experience every morning.

 

What have you been loving lately?  Do you use a particular app or device to track your running?  What are your plans for the weekend?

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Things I Have Learned from my Running Injury, and a Spring Running Playlist

On January 3rd, 2015, I was out for my morning run when something began to hurt.  And it hurt bad.  It was a shooting pain that ran all the way down the front and inside of my left lower shin, and into the top of my foot.  I tried to “run through the pain” – as so many of us do – only to have the agony become even more excruciating.  I began a long, slow limp home, knowing that something was seriously messed up.  Since that day, I have been on a frustrating learning journey, and I wanted to share a little bit of insight into my experience with you.

Happy Feet - Earlier this Week

Happy Feet – Earlier this Week

Initial Phase – January 

Since the intense pain in my shin did not subside after a few days of rest, and I had terrified the crap out of myself by reading too many online articles about shin injuries (like stress fractures and compartment syndrome), I made an appointment to meet with my Doctor for a second opinion.  The pain could be described as a dull ache while at rest, and a sharp, localized pain while running or jumping, or when I pushed on the sore spot on my shin.  After an assessment, my Doctor’s thoughts were that it likely wasn’t a fracture, but that I should still take 2 or 3 weeks off before running again.  I was told to come back if the pain persisted so that we could take further steps to rule out a stress fracture.  I was headed to Costa Rica anyway, so taking a few weeks off of Running wasn’t as devastating as I had expected it to be.

Failed Return and Testing Phase – February

Upon my return from Costa Rica, I was feeling strong, balanced and ready to run.  I started off with 3K and 4K runs, running 5 minutes at a time and walking 1 minute in between.  I had 2 pain-free, blissful runs, but on the 3rd run, I could feel that nagging shin pain beginning to creep back up on me, so I decided to head back to the Doctor.  I was terrified.  He gave me a requisition for an X-Ray, although he said that if it was a stress fracture, it likely wouldn’t show up on an X-Ray, so he also gave me a requisition for a Bone Scan.  Both tests came back clear (thankfully) but the Bone Scan did show excessive strain on my left shin muscles surrounding the area of the pain.  In simpler terms, extremely severe shin splints.  I was told that if I had continued to run on it, it would have fractured shortly after.

By the way – Bone Scans are really gross.  I am terrified of needles (at 23 years old, I was crying and swearing at my poor scan techs) so it didn’t help that they had to inject “Radioactive Fluid” (creepy) into my veins.  Then, I had to wait around for 3 hours while said fluid absorbed into my bones (gross) and then underwent the scan, which took about 40 minutes.  That part was actually strangely relaxing.

I survived my Radioactive Injection.  I didn't even get a cookie.

I survived my Radioactive Injection. I didn’t even get a cookie.

The Bone Scan Machine

One Of The Bone Scan Machines

Because both scans came back clear, my Doctor gave me the go-ahead to begin Physiotherapy.  I booked a Gait Analysis with an amazing Physiotherapist named Merlin who works at Panther Sports Medicine in Cardel Place here in Calgary.  He doesn’t know it, but I’ve been calling him a Merlin The Wizard.  ;)

Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Phase – Beginning of March – End of April

My first appointment with Merlin lasted almost 2 hours.  The Gait Assessment was incredibly thorough.  He looked at the way I walk, the way I run, the way I bend my knees, looked at the wear on my shoes, the range of motion in my legs, hips and feet, and measured the length of my legs and feet as well.  He asked me a million questions about my running history, my cross-training, my lifestyle, etc.  His general consensus was that I had injured myself because I had run too much, too soon (which I knew) but also that I was running at too slow of a Cadence and that weakness in my Hips and Glutes was to blame as well.  He set me up with an 8 week “Return To Running” program (pictured below) which has me running 5 times per week, as well as a wide variety of strengthening exercises to help build up the muscles in my hips, butt, calves and core.  I’ve seen him twice since and have been making incredible progress.  I am so grateful that I found Merlin.  Even if he did torture me with the Graston Method of IASTM last time I saw him.  (More on that here.)

Patient Feet at my first Physio Appointment

Patient Feet at my first Physio Appointment

My 8 Week "Return To Running" Schedule

My 8 Week “Return To Running” Schedule

What I Learned

I now understand why people refer to their running career as a “Running Journey” – because that is exactly what this feels like.  A long, sometimes painful, often challenging, always inspiring journey.  Here are the 5 main things that I have learned through this entire process;

1. The Importance of Rest Days and the 10% Rule

I now know that a Newbie Runner like me (I’ve still been doing this for less than a year) has to be really careful when it comes to increasing mileage.  Building up slowly – by increasing no more than 10% in distance per week – will be my new Golden Rule.  As will regular rest days / cross training days.  I just got so excited when I started running distances over 5K that all I wanted to do was run, but I clearly overdid it.

2. The Importance of Understanding Cadence

Cadence, or Foot Strikes Per Minute, is the number of times your feet hit the ground in a 60 second period.  If you’re a musician like me, you may be able to relate this to BPM (Beats Per Minute).  Using a simple Metronome App was actually how I first started controlling my cadence during my Return To Running program.

During my Gait Analysis, Merlin determined that I was running at a Cadence of between 130 – 140 BPM.  This meant slow, long strides, spending a lot of time in the air and coming down hard on my feet.  He recommended increasing my Cadence to 160 BPM for the first two weeks of my Rehab, and then eventually building to 170 BPM, which is what I’m running at now.  At first, I began to fatigue much quicker with the increased cadence, but I can now understand how this is gentler on the joints and muscles in the long run.

Currently, I run to a playlist of music set to 160 – 170 BPM so that I get used to pushing myself to my required Cadence.  If I’m being honest…I do hope that someday I can focus less on this…but for now, I will listen to Merlin The Wizard.

3. The Importance of Strength Training

When I first began running, I actually started to skip leg day.  In my (amateur) mind, I thought I was working my leg and butt muscles daily while I was running, so why did I need to strengthen them even more at the gym?  Boy, was I wrong.  Since adding intense strengthening exercises into my routine, I have noticed an unbelievable improvement in my running ability, and in the way that my body feels – and recovers – during and after a run.  Now, I focus at least 5x weekly on my Hips, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs and Obliques.  It’s true what they say – NEVER SKIP LEG DAY.

Accurate?  I think so.

Accurate? I think so.

Have you ever been injured and unable to run?  How did you cope?

What are some of your favourite strengthening and cross-training exercises?

 

PS – Check out my newest Spring Running Playlist HERE on 8tracks.com!  It’s full of my current favourite tunes for running in this beautiful spring sunshine.

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Personal Update – April 2, 2015 – Return to Running & First Time Homebuyers

Hey Guys!

First of all, I am so sorry that I haven’t posted since *shockHORROR* March 8th!!??  Dear Lord that was almost an entire month ago.  I can’t even put into words how busy I have been but I am about to tell you all about it.

Also – I have decided to start including these “Personal Updates” in my blog, which surprised even me.  Adventure To Anywhere first began as an anonymous project – a way to share my travels with the world and with a select few friends back home.  As you probably know, ATA has now morphed into more of a Run / Adventure / Travel / Lifestyle blog.  And I’ve decided – what the heck – I may as well make it a little bit more personal.  I’ve met so many incredible people through the blogging community who have come to learn a lot about me – and me about them – and it has been wonderful.  Let’s all just be friends.

March was a crazy, crazy month.  I have been continuing along with my post-injury “Return To Running” program that my physiotherapist set me up with, which has been going well.  I’ll be posting an in-depth review of the entire experience once I’ve made a bit more progress.  It’s definitely frustrating to not be able to run any significant distance (yesterday I did my longest run since my injury at a measly 4.2 KM) and also to not be able to run for more than one or two minutes at a time before taking a walk break.  But – I can feel myself becoming stronger and faster, and most of my runs are pain-free, so I am going to stick to the program because it’s obviously working.

March in Alberta is always unpredictable.  It’s actually usually the heaviest snowfall month here in Calgary, and we had almost no snow at all this year, so we really can’t complain.  However – we did have a wide variety of weather, all of which made my runs pretty interesting.

image1

Sunny Runs

image2

Chilly Runs

image4

Runs in Hurricanes

Last week I had a follow-up appointment with my physiotherapist, and he did something called IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization) with a metal tool called a Graston.  It was disgustingly painful.  Essentially, he used this lubed-up, torturous-looking metal tool to scrape away and break up some of the scar tissue built up on my shins.  Oh my God did it hurt.  But – it worked!  Even though I was sore the next day, I could almost feel the pain leaking out of my shins, and things have been much, much better ever since.

Have any of you ever had this done?  Did you curse like a sailor as well?

Graston IASTM

Graston IASTM

Probably the biggest and most exciting event of all, though, that made the month of March insanely stressful, exciting and too busy to even comprehend was this – Sean and I purchased our first home.  Well, currently it’s a pile of dirt, but eventually, it will be a beautiful townhouse that we are so excited about.  It’s been a crazy ride and I am so proud of us (and especially Sean, since none of this would have been even remotely possible without him) – we are hoping to be taking possession in early 2016.

image7

On the menu for April is a lot more running – completing my Return To Running program and beginning my training for the Jugo Juice 10K in May, a lot of exciting things happening at work (like our fundraiser fashion show which I will be heading the Social Media campaign for – more to come on that later!) and a weeklong trip to San Diego with Sean to celebrate our 3 year Anniversary.  I’m really looking forward to April, it’s one of my favourite months.

What has everyone been up to?  What are you training for?

Did buying your first home also make you want to throw up and do cartwheels at the same time?

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Product Review: BUFF Multifunctional Headwear

*The following review is my personal opinion only, and I was not paid or perked in any way by BUFF.*

What It Is:
The Original Buff Multifunctional Headwear is a stretchy piece of fabric tube that will change your life.  It is lightweight, breathable, easy to care for and functional.  It is a neck warmer, a face mask, a headband, a scrunchy, and so much more.

image: runoregonblog.com

image: runoregonblog.com

When I Used It:

Running in the Winter

Snowshoeing in Emerald Lake, BC

Traveling through Costa Rica

What I Love: 

-It comes in a variety of colours and prints

-It is quick-drying and both machine and hand-washable

-There are endless ways to wear it

-It packs down very small

Using my Buff as a face mask during some chilly winter Running

Using my Buff as a face mask during some chilly winter Running

What I Don’t Love: 

-I have found it challenging to wear some styles, like the Hood or the Balaclava while doing high-motion activities such as running without things slipping because my head and face are quite small

Where To Get It:

-Many outdoors & sports shops

-Online at buffcanada.com or buffusa.com

What It Costs:

-Approximately $25 CAD

Do you have a favourite running / travel / hiking accessory?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

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My Personal Experience and Healing at Peace Retreat Costa Rica

I arrived at Peace Retreat Costa Rica on an overcast Saturday afternoon.  My eyes were tired – I had been awake as a traveling insomniac for nearly 40 hours by the time I was met by the friendly face of retreat founder and owner, Kevin McQuillan, at the Liberia International Airport.  As we made the hour-plus journey to Peace Retreat, I was overwhelmed by the beauty all around me.  I have been blessed to have visited many beautiful places on this planet, but there is always something so special about those first few hours in a new country.

Arriving at Peace Retreat

Arriving at Peace Retreat

The previous evening, as my boyfriend, Sean, drove me to the Calgary International Airport, I cried.  In fact, I cried a few days before I left.  And for the entire two hours leading up to the moment that we left our apartment.  And then I cried as I said goodbye, and when I checked in for my flight…and then I cried all the way to Toronto.  It was safe to say that I was a bit of an emotional wreck by the time I arrived at Peace Retreat.  I was missing Sean, I was anxious to be traveling alone for the first time to somewhere so different, and I was fighting back the thoughts of the life I had left behind in Canada.

I took this teary photo in the departures terminal at the Calgary International Airport to remind myself how I was feeling when I began my journey.

I took this teary photo in the departures terminal at the Calgary International Airport to remind myself how I was feeling when I began my journey.

Before I begin, I want to explain how I am going to break down my experience at Peace Retreat.  It came to me right in the middle of my trip, during a restorative evening yoga class that Kevin was teaching.  His words were – “Honour yourself – Who you Were, Who you Are, and Who you’re Becoming.”  I smiled as I realized to myself that I had found the perfect way to describe the transformation I was experiencing at Peace Retreat.  Who I Was – the shaky, unstable person I left behind back home.  Who I Am – the person on that mat in Costa Rica, and everything she thought, felt, and experienced during her time there.  And – Who I’m Becoming – the constant transformation towards who I will be, and all of the lessons I will carry with me from Peace Retreat.

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WHO I WAS

Let me give you a quick peek into the baggage that I begrudgingly carried with me to Costa Rica.  Two years ago, I had no significant struggles – other than the basic stuff…scary student loans, awkward twenty-something adjustments to real life, remembering to feed my fish.  But in the last 24 months, my father and my best friend, revealed his long-term struggle with addiction, which led to the eventual destruction of my parents’ marriage, my family, and all of our lives as we knew them.

My entire foundation felt like it was gone.  I went from being the girl from the Okanagan whose parents were happily married and owned a beautiful house in the hills with a big fancy boat, to a girl who watched her father slowly slip away deeper and deeper into the depths of alcoholism until it felt like there was almost nothing left.  I watched my mother attempt to start fresh at 52 on her own, my baby sister struggle with challenges that nobody should ever have to, and everything I had ever felt solid about dissolve into thin air.

I could write for days, weeks even, about my Father’s illness and what it has done to him, to us, to me.  And maybe someday I will.  But the real reason I wanted to write this article is to give my readers a real, raw, transparent and authentic look into the ways that my 10 day solo retreat at Peace Retreat transformed – and healed – my broken spirit.

The moment I arrived at Peace Retreat itself will forever be etched into my memory.  As Kevin showed me to my room and provided a brief tour of the grounds, my heartbeat slowed from anxious and uneasy to relaxed and safe.  I knew right then that I had chosen the perfect destination for my solo retreat.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Flying into Costa Rica

Flying into Costa Rica

WHO I AM

During my 10 days at Peace, I pushed my personal limits in many ways.  I disconnected from most of technology, I forced myself to be social and meet new people, I challenged myself to try things that I was afraid of, and, most of all, I spent 10 days by myself – a great feat for someone who felt she had become a little too reliant on the strong foundation of her boyfriend back home.  During the first few nights, my anxiety was elevated, simply because I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sounds.  After some time passed, I began to relax and enjoy the silence and solitude.

My days looked like this; I was usually awoken by the Howler Monkeys at about 5:30am.  I would typically get ready for the day, change into my yoga clothes, and then spend 10 – 15 minutes doing mantra meditation in my room.  I would then eat a light snack (usually fresh fruit) before yoga began at 7am.  Breakfast was served after yoga, around 8:30am, and then I had the entire day to fill my time however I wanted to before evening yoga at 5pm.

A Happy Face in Costa Rica

A Happy Face in Costa Rica

The yoga itself was transformational and healing.  Most days we practiced a slower, deeper vinyasa flow, which was a huge change from the fast-paced, calorie-torching classes I was used to taking back home.  These classes were challenging in an entirely different way.  The postures were held for longer, and the instructors were attentive and made adjustments to you as they needed to.  The evening classes were typically more restorative, and on several occasions emotional.  I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one who had ended several classes with tears flowing down the sides of my cheeks while I lay in Savasana.

When I wasn’t in yoga class, I would fill my days with poolside relaxation, reading, writing, journeys into town to buy groceries or to the beach, and self-guided meditation.  I spent one day zip lining, which was thrilling, challenging and empowering, a day in the nearby town of Tamarindo for some shopping and dinner with a few of the girls I had met, and an afternoon in a life-coaching style session with Kevin, where I was able to release a lot of the things I had been holding onto when I arrived at Peace.  I ate whole, healthful foods and drank no alcohol other than one fresh strawberry mojito in Tamarindo and the local beer I had on my last night.  With each passing day I began to feel lighter, as if some previous weight had been lifted.  I began sleeping better, meditating more deeply, and being more mindful of everything I did – including my yoga practise.  I found peace in stillness where I would formerly find unease.  I found relaxation in solitude where I would formerly find anxiety.  It was a beautiful transformation.

Sunset Beach Yoga

Sunset Beach Yoga

WHO I’M BECOMING

I have been home from Peace Retreat for 3 weeks now, and I cannot express my gratitude for the time I spent there enough.  Since returning home, I am a much more calm and mindful person.  I came home to a couple of rude awakenings – my car broke down the day I got back to Calgary and had to be taken in to the shop THREE times to fix the problem, costing me just shy of a thousand dollars.  The stress reaction in my shin returned when I began running again after 3 weeks of rest – meaning that I was to endure another devastating, lengthy period of no running.  And, most traumatic of all, my father ended up back in the hospital for complications due to his illness, and I was told that he may not survive this time.  I was on a plane a few days later to go and say what I thought were my final goodbyes.

Even though life has thrown me several harsh curve balls since returning home, I have been able to handle them all with ease and grace, and I know that I owe this behaviour to my time spent at Peace Retreat.  Experiences that would have formerly crippled me and left me panicking, crying and looking for someone to blame instead brought me to deep breathing and approaching the challenges in a new way.  And guess what?  This is a MUCH more peaceful way to live.

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The main things I learned at Peace Retreat were;

1. Solitude is a blessing, not an inconvenience.  Being peacefully alone with oneself is one of life’s greatest gifts.

2. You have no control over the world around you – you can only control your own reactions to the circumstances before you.

3. Your worth as a human being is not defined by the struggles of the people you love.  It is okay to distance yourself and create the person who YOU want to be instead.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t still love these people.  It just means that you will not let their choices determine your destiny.

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I envision myself headed towards a life filled with even more peace.  I aim to continue meditating through my favourite forms – mantra meditation, art and running – and to continue practicing yoga, but in a new way.  I used to see yoga as a workout…my intention was typically to get my heart rate going and burn lots of calories.  After spending time at Peace Retreat, I now see yoga as a way to connect inward to myself and as a meditative way to connect movement to breath.

I also plan to spend more time alone.  And not alone by laying on the couch watching Netflix and texting my friends…truly alone, in pure, quiet solitude – especially in nature.  My time in Costa Rica has also inspired me to do more solo travel.  It is such a beautiful and empowering thing, and you feel stronger and more confident every single day.  I actually currently have my sights set on Scotland – where I plan to visit one of the amazing girls that I met at Peace Retreat.

If you’re searching for answers, whatever your struggles may be, I hope that, instead of looking for them outside of yourself, you instead turn to seek them inside of yourself.  Whether you need to book a solo retreat to Costa Rica like I did, or go somewhere else, or just take a day to sit with yourself in the comfort of your own home, I promise that you will feel stronger, more peaceful and more balanced if you simply tune in to yourself and give yourself what you need.

You are always ready for Peace.

*Read my detailed review of the Peace Retreat Property here.*

*Interested in doing your own retreat at Peace?  Check out their upcoming retreat called Ready?  Shed!  Glow.  I wish I could go more than anything!*

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What To Wear for Winter Running

As many of you may or may not know, I am a huge fan of winter running.  I love the cool, crisp air, the fresh tracks in snow, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a run in sub-zero temperatures.  Lately, I have received a lot of questions about how I dress for these winter runs.
Shockingly, less is more when Winter Running, because our bodies warm up a surprising amount the second we start moving.  Here is a brief overview of how I will dress based on temperature (posted here in degrees celsius – sorry to my American readers!).
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0° to -5°
-Long Tights (my favourites are Lululemon Wunder Under Pants)
-Moisture Wicking Tank or Tee (my favourite – Lululemon Cool Racerback)
-Light Fleece or Athletic Jacket (my favourite – The North Face Glacier 1/4 Zip Fleece)
-Thin Athletic Socks
-Running Shoes
-5° to -12°
-Long Tights
-Moisture Wicking Tank or Tee
-Long Sleeve Top or Base Layer Top
-Light Fleece or Athletic Jacket (my favourite – The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket)
-Medium Athletic Socks
-Running Shoes
-Lightweight Gloves
-Earmuffs
-Face Cover  (my favourite – Buff Multifunctional Headwear)
-12° to -25°
-Base Layer Top and Bottoms
-Long Tights
-Fleece or Light Sweater
-Light Athletic Jacket
-Medium Athletic Socks
-Running Shoes
-Gloves
-Buff Multifunctional Headwear
-Earmuffs or Toque
-25° and below
This is where I draw the line.  I will opt for an indoor workout such as yoga or an hour at the gym instead.
Tips for Winter Running:
-Less is more.  Leave the bulky clothes at home.  As soon as you get moving, your body will warm up and you will not feel as cold.
-Stay close to home.  During a long run, consider several loops of a shorter route.  This way, you won’t freeze for long if you end up needing to walk home.
-Do your warm up inside so you can get running as soon as you get outside.
-Shower immediately after arriving home.  You’ll be surprised how much more you sweat when you run in the cold, and waiting too long to shower will likely result in catching a chill.
-Bring lip balm and a bank card in case you get injured and need to call for a ride home.
Tips for Running in Snow and on Ice:
-Expect slower times.  Your stabilizer muscles will be working harder on slippery surfaces and it’s not worth a fall to push yourself too hard.
-Run on snow when possible for better traction, but beware that there may be ice underneath.
-Invest in traction footwear like YakTrax for especially slippery days.
-Wear Moisture-Wicking socks.
What are your Winter Running must-haves?  Do you have any go-to indoor workouts for the extremely cold days?
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Playa Negra, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

In January of 2015, I spent 10 days on a solo retreat in the beautiful, funky little beach village of Playa Negra.  I went on this trip for some personal healing in a beautiful setting, but I was provided with so much more than that.  Below is a recap of my time in the town, along with recommendations on Where to Stay, What to Do, and Where to Eat!  The town itself only holds a population of about 200 people, so the selection is limited, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the food, lodging and services offered.

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Where to Stay

My opinion here is obviously biased, because I had the most incredible stay at Peace Retreat during my 10 days in Costa Rica.  (Read more about that experience here.)  I would absolutely, whole-heartedly recommend Peace Retreat first for just about anyone traveling to Playa Negra.  The relaxed vibe, jungle setting, and comforts of home make this an ideal retreat destination.  And the twice daily yoga classes don’t hurt either!

Peace Retreat

Peace Retreat

For those of you looking for a more central, beach-front location right in town, I would recommend checking out Hotel Playa Negra.  I never actually went into the hotel, but I met a few people who were staying there and they had wonderful things to say.  The location couldn’t be more central, is just steps from the beach, and there is a big pool and restaurant on-site that is open seven days a week.

What to Do

1. Playa Negra

Made famous by the 1994 film Endless Summer II, Playa Negra boasts some of the best surf in the country.  Named for its black sand that can be found on the shoreline, Playa Negra is a rugged, earthy, laid-back beach.  There are a few trees if you want to lay in the shade, but otherwise the beach is vast and wide-open.  In January, it wasn’t busy at all, although I did catch word that this isn’t always the case in the busier months.  Bring a beach blanket and waste the day away dozing in the sun, or rent a surf board or paddle board from one of the surf shops just steps from the beach.  Make sure you stay for the sunsets – they are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen!

Playa Negra

Playa Negra

Playa Negra Sunsets

Playa Negra Sunsets

2. Morning Yoga at Peace Retreat

Peace Retreat offers daily yoga classes that are open to the public Monday-Saturday at 7am, and Sunday at 8am.  Entrance is by cash donation, and if you don’t have your own mat, there are plenty available to borrow.  The studio is stunning – walled by screens so that you can enjoy the gorgeous jungle surroundings, sounds, and a gentle breeze.  Be sure to bring your own water bottle and an open mind!  Classes are typically an hour long and are suitable for all levels, even if you’re brand new to yoga.

Peace Retreat Yoga Studio

Peace Retreat Yoga Studio

3. Ziplining with Pura Aventura

I spent a half-day on a Canopy Zipline Tour with Pura Aventura, and it was one of the highlights of my entire time in Costa Rica.  We were picked up from our accommodation, transported to the centre where we met up with the rest of our group, briefed in safety and use of the ziplines, and then guided through 11 incredible ziplines high above the jungle canopy.  The guides were friendly and hilarious, but most importantly they were safety-oriented and extremely competent at what they were doing.  It was the best $50 I spent in Costa Rica.

Ziplining in Guanacaste

Ziplining in Guanacaste

4. Mangrove Paddleboarding

This isn’t actually something that I did during my time in Costa Rica, mostly because I just ran out of time, but it looked absolutely amazing.  I met two fellow travel bloggers at Peace Retreat, Christian and Kevin from WNY Expeditioners, who made a really impressive Video Blog about their experience.  Check it out here.

5. Day Trip to Tamarindo

Tamarindo is about 45 (give or take depending on the roads) minutes away from Playa Negra, and is definitely worth the trip if you’re looking to break up your quiet, contemplative beach time.  Tamarindo is much more populated and a lot busier than Playa Negra.  The population of the actual town is only around 500, but can swell to closer to 5,000 during busy tourist times.  You’ll find lots of shopping, several restaurants and bars, busy beaches, tons of tour companies and an abundance of friendly locals, expats and tourists.  We arrived around noon and left around 9pm which gave us plenty of time to explore, shop, stop for lots of drinks, eats and treats and take in yet another beautiful sunset.

Tamarindo Sunset

Tamarindo Sunset

Where to Eat

1. La Ventana

The closest restaurant to Peace Retreat, La Ventana is the “Starbucks” of Playa Negra.  Incredible coffee, tea, and a breakfast and lunch menu that features fresh, healthy items such as vegetarian curries, nourishing stir-frys, hearty breakfast burritos and organic baked goods.  There is also a small cooler in the shop that retails items such as raw honey, goat’s milk yogurt, and bunches of organic kale.

Rice Noodle Stir Fry at La Ventana

Rice Noodle Stir Fry at La Ventana

2. Jalapeño Taco Grill

Located on the main street in Playa Negra, Jalapeño Taco Grill was a place that I visited many times during my stay in Costa Rica.  ‘Home of the $2 Taco’ (beef or chicken, fish is an extra $1), Jalapeño has an extensive menu that features fresh Mexican items such as tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, fresh guacamole and homemade salsa, and delectable fresh fruit smoothies.  My personal favourites were the $3 Fish Tacos (made with fish that the owner had just caught that morning and was cleaning out back when we arrived), the Beef Burrito, and the Coco Loco smoothie.

$3 Fish Taco

$3 Fish Taco

3. Cafe Playa Negra

Cafe Playa Negra is also right on the main street in town, and is open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner daily.  They serve Peruvian food, which I knew nothing about before I ate here, but I can now say is probably one of my favourite types of Cuisine.  Think tons of fresh fish and seafood, beef and chicken, lots of vegetables, legumes, corn, potatoes and rice.  Oh – and killer ceviche.  If you’re apprehensive to try the unique Peruvian dishes, there are also many international menu items such as burgers and fries that will satisfy you.  Be sure to order dessert – the cheesecake and lemon meringue pie were amazing.

Seafood Feast at Cafe Playa Negra

Seafood Feast at Cafe Playa Negra

4. Villa Deevena 

I never ate at Villa Deevena, and I am pretty sure I will regret it for the rest of my life.  Located a little off the main road in Playa Negra (closer to Peace Retreat), Villa Deevena is a world-class dining experience that people come from all over Guanacaste to enjoy.  A few of the people I met during my travels had the pleasure of eating here, and they had nothing but incredible things to say.  Prices are higher than the average price of dinner in Costa Rica, but well worth it for the exquisite entrees.  Reservations are recommended.

"Downtown" Playa Negra

“Downtown” Playa Negra

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