The Half Marathon: A Beginner's Experience

 Mikaela (Left); Myself (Right)

Mikaela (Left); Myself (Right)

I should begin this post by fully disclosing that I in no means classify myself as a ‘runner.’ An athlete - yes, a runner - no. Though my interpretation of the term has shifted slightly given the last few months spent training and competing, I’m not sure that long distance running is my ‘calling.’ So then why enrol myself in a half marathon to begin with?

I’ve been competing in and training for sports ever since I was a kid. Running was always somehow incorporated into the regime, but aside from grade school cross country, my experience was limited. It wasn’t until reading The Year Of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes, that I started entertaining the idea of expanding my goals list - a bucket list if you will. Now don’t be fooled, this experience was and still is about much more than a 21.5km run. It’s about identifying that which frightens or intimidates you, and proving to yourself that you are capable, both mentally and physically, of overcoming those obstacles. So then why a half marathon? Well that one kind of found me!

Running Buddy

Mikaela: “Want to run a half marathon with me?”

Cue the butterflies in the stomach. What Mikaela didn’t realize when she asked me to join her on this crusade, was that I was on a roll of ‘saying yes.’ So naturally as soon as the words left her mouth, I already knew that I was going to have to find a way to get across that finish line. Yes me, someone who had probably only ever run about a maximum of 10km in one go.

On the plus side, I now had a friend to go through this with me! Someone with race experience to give me piece of mind on the big day AND someone to eat a big pasta dinner with me and shoot the shit the night before.

 Laura aka Iron Mom

Laura aka Iron Mom

Find Yourself A Coach

So you’ve just registered for your first half marathon, and guess what? You don’t know the first thing about long distance training! Well… you have a kinesiology degree and you’ve been an athlete for years, so you have SOME understanding. But in my opinion - finding a coach is a SMART decision! There is always something to learn, some way to be motivated, some reassurance to receive when you have doubts. The list goes on! I may have found mine by chance, but I’m beyond grateful to have worked with this seriously inspirational woman.

Laura aka Iron Mom, is beyond experienced in the realm of long distance racing. While putting together the finishing touches on her training programs for 10km, half marathon, and full marathon races, as well as strength training programs, she was on the hunt for some test bunnies. And of course, the ‘Year Of Yes’ in me said “HELL YA!”

Without going into too much detail, Iron Mom taught me the ins and outs of learning my paces, balancing strength training with cardio, setting race goals, giving my muscles proper recovery, and most importantly, helping me persevere when training got tough. If you’re at all interested in training methods/competing, I strongly encourage you to check out Iron Mom via her website as well as on Instagram! Finding a coach means finding a mentor/trainer/teacher etc. Don’t sell yourself short by skipping this step.

Listening To Your Body

I started training with a bang! I was excited, motivated, and ready for the challenge ahead. I was tackling my training program with some serious heart and soul, going above and beyond. The only thing I wasn’t taking into account, was how my body was feeeeeeeling! Gosh darn it, why didn’t I listen. I had increased my running substantially, and was practicing every active muscle recovery regime I could think of. Every one except for REST. Oops.

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After weeks of training, I began experiencing ankle pain, and it wasn’t going away. Looking back, I believe I took a 2 week hiatus from running, but even still there were no signs of improvement. Needless to say, I was beyond discouraged.

“I’m not a runner,” I explained to Laura. “My body isn’t made for this.” Since I’d always believed this, it was easy to make this my go to excuse. And this my friends, is why we have coaches! It was Laura who explained to me that we all have bodies for running. These types of overuse injuries happen to everyone! She even had her own experience with painful shinsplints during her own training. And THAT was what I needed to hear. I found a second wind, and decided that if I wasn’t going to show up on race day, I needed to adjust my plan.

It would have been easy to look at the month ahead, now unable to run without pain, and throw the whole program out the window. But what good was that going to do me? Instead, I took insight from Laura’s multifaceted training regime and hopped on a bike. I spent my weeks rotating through virtual spinning classes, hot yoga, and core and strength training workouts. Given that I was off running for about a month, it was the ultimate cross training Hail Marry.

Race Day

 Give or take 7-10km into the race - In beautiful Prince Edward County

Give or take 7-10km into the race - In beautiful Prince Edward County

I’ll be honest, race day was good to me. As someone who deals with stomach irregularities quite often, I was pretty nervous about what kind of state my gut would be in. But as the fates would have it, I walked up to the starting line feeling cool as a cucumber. My podcast was preset and ready to make me laugh throughout that first hour, the weather offered some crisp late September air, and the vibe I got from other runners was ‘hey let’s go have some fun.’

Well I’ll tell you, the whole ‘fun’ thing got real old real fast. In retrospect, a half marathon is a mental race. Which in my mind, is the best kind of race. Because mentally, you can get through ANYTHING.

2km: Sweet this is going great, I’m sticking in front of the 2hr pace bunny. Ankle feels good, breathing is good, feeling loose. A-Okay.

6km: F*ck what did I do to myself? Why did I sign up for this?

 Myself (Left); My Girlfriend Abigayle (Right) at Lake on the Mountain after the race

Myself (Left); My Girlfriend Abigayle (Right) at Lake on the Mountain after the race

7km: *Walks for 20 seconds

8km: Ok, you can walk for 25 seconds every time you hit a km marker

11km: What if I just hitch a ride? Can I do that?

15km: Did my quad muscles just turn into bricks? I think my quad muscles just turned into bricks…

16km: Oh no, ankle pain is reaaaally setting in. Don’t be a hero, you ran a good race. Maybe your race ends at 16km and you just walk the rest of the way. *Chokes back a tear out of shear disappointment. Walks a full km uphill.

17km: Ok the road is beginning a slight downhill, now is your chance to pick up the pace. A slow jog and you’ll be fine.

18km: Mikaela said the last 3km would be no problem, make them no problem! *Braces core and starts jogging on the gravel at the side of the road so I barely have to lift my feet.

20km: Is that a bright orange coat at the horizon? My sister always wears that colour! That must be her! That means I’m there! *Pushes to the end with all the love and support from my sister and my girlfriend, and my sister’s boyfriend who yells “you’re suppose to sprint till the end!” And that’s exactly what I did… mind you at that point I’m sure my sprint was slower than a baby taking it’s first steps.

Results & Reflection

With any goal we aim for in life, I think it’s important to reflect on your experience. Hence why I’ve decided to write this post. But reflecting goes far beyond a race time on a score card. How did you feel while doing it? What were the mental and physical low points? Where did you struggle and where did you thrive? What allowed you to pick yourself up and power through? Essentially, what worked and what didn’t? I could write a list of answers to these questions. And though my race is over, I know that next time I face an obstacle, I now have SO MANY more tools to overcome it, whatever it may be. One of my favourite mantras during my race was “be a yes; just show up.” I’m not a long distance runner. I don’t run marathons regularly, I’m not in a running club, and I don’t have a long lean body. I’m not a long distance runner by trade… but I can run long distance.

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Post-Run Recovery

I’m not entirely sure if the majority of my muscle soreness was due to the lack of actual running I did in the month leading up to my race, but I could not even climb stairs post run. It took me 4 days to get my legs back. The first of which, I spent a majority of the day in bed resting with an added sea salt & seaweed bath, and a ‘refeed’ of macros and micros (calorie surplus). Because I could, and because I finally felt like I earned it (oh the lies we tell ourselves… aka you don’t need to run a half marathon in order to give yourself rest). My second day of R&R was a trip to the gym, but only for the sauna, stretching, and light massage. By day 3 I was into deep stretches and an upper body workout. And finally, day 4, back on the bike to ring in some (mostly) fresh legs.

Take Home

I’ve learned so much throughout my half marathon experience, rest and recovery being a HUGE one. I’m learning to give myself grace, to listen to my body’s needs, and most importantly, to dive into challenges with a little less fear and a little more YES! I also imagine that I walk a little taller these days. Coming home from Prince Edward County, I stood in my kitchen describing the race to my parents, and once I was finished, I uttered the phrase “I’m really proud of myself.” Sadly, I think that’s a little rare, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. And that night as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I saw my body for the strong and powerful entity that it is. My confidence meter climbed because I chose to challenge myself. If it were easy, it just wouldn’t have meant the same.

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Sun Warrior Vegan Protein: Product Review

As someone who has learned to navigate a plant based diet for nearly 4 years, I’ve done my fair share of experimenting with certified vegan products. In doing so, I’ve begun to set a standard. And in a time when the vegan food industry is booming, why not!

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Nutrition

The obvious focus of nutrition when looking for a great protein powder, is in fact protein content. However, it is important to take in to account the source of protein, as well as additional macros per calorie count and serving. 

Per Serving (25g)
Calories: 90cals
Protein: 17g
Carbohydrates: 5g
Sugar: 3g
Fiber: 1g
Fat: 0g

Your recommended protein intake will vary depending on your body composition and your fitness regime, so it’s usually best to focus on the nutrition facts as a collective group. If your personal protein intake is higher or lower than the serving size, you can easily modify this. I aim for 20-25g of protein first thing in the morning, so I use about a scoop and a half of the given serving size. 

Sun Warrior offers 17g of protein per 90 calories. Our bodies require a balanced combination of 9 essential amino acids. Aside from a few exceptions, plant based food sources on their own, don’t include all 9. By eating a variety of foods, we ensure that the body gets these 9 amino acids. When scoping out a protein rich protein powder, it is important to find a product that does include these essential nutrients.  

It is also important to pay close attention to additional macros. There lies the difference between meal supplements and protein powders! Sun Warrior contains an additional 3g of sugar, a product of organic stevia. Yes this product is certified organic! No synthetic or artificial ingredients!

Flavour & Consistency

Personally, I will try just about any flavour of protein powder. Most brands carry a standard Vanilla and Chocolate. However, Sun Warrior also offers a Natural (no flavour added) as well as a Berry flavour (from organic goji berries). As someone who consistently adds protein to smoothies, having a variety of flavour options is key to a diversified diet. With a Vanilla protein powder I’d be inclined to mix a green smoothie loaded with kale, pineapple, basil, mint, and banana. With a Berry protein, I’d combine berries, banana, and chia seeds for example. 

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Aside from the variety of flavours, Sun Warrior delivers a clean finish that some lower grade proteins just can’t compete with. A well produced protein powder shouldn’t leave you with a chalky manufactured taste. And trust me, you will recognize the difference. Lately I’ve been using the Sun Warrior Berry Blend and it is by far one of the best proteins I’ve tried (and I’ve dabbled with many brands over the years of being plant based). My go to breakfast is a smoothie bowl with blended frozen bananas, almond milk, and Sun Warrior Berry protein. Top that off with some granola and a spoonful of nut butter and you’re off to a great start. Click here for a smoothie bowl recipe - try this recipe and be sure to add Sun Warrior protein!

Another benefit to Sun Warrior is the fine consistency for blending into a silky smooth beverage. If you’ve ever purchased a low grade protein, you’ll notice a huge difference in the texture. Some of those chalky proteins can go down way too thick, and no one wants that. Especially when you only mix nut milk or water for that quick protein fix. 

Storage

Sun Warrior’s convenient container includes both a twist lid, as well as a pop top and retractable scoop for easy use. This recyclable packaging is BPA free, which is a harmful chemical that can, in small amounts, dissolve into foods and drinks.

Available for Purchase

Sun Warrior Plant Based Protein Blend is available for purchase at GT Supplements right here in Georgetown, Ontario. As someone who chooses a plant based diet, it’s great to see a local business offering not only vegan certified options, but - the best of the best. Personally, I base my diet on a myriad of factors including; nutrition, price, quality, flavour, and company culture. Knowing that Sun Warrior holds itself to such a high product standard, allows me to trust that I’m making the right choice for my body and my health. 

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Post Workout Methods to Recovery

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Whether you're a seasoned vet, or looking to invest in your first gym membership, the following practices can (and probably should) be applied to anyone following a consistent workout regime. Given the extensive research surrounding physical activity and recovery, we are constantly flooded with new information regarding that of which we should and shouldn't do in order to maximize performance. Throughout my years as an athlete experimenting with a wide range of sports and training practices, I've had the opportunity to try various recovery techniques, ranging from muscle manipulation to nutrient supplementation to temperature therapy and more. What I've learned, at the ripe old age of 24, is that best practices for recovery can vary based on a multitude of factors. But when it comes down to it, your body is YOUR body. Recovery is highly individualized, and should be treated as such. The following are a few practices that have worked for myself, and I encourage you to try them on for yourself! 

Stretching

Stretching should be a part of your pre and post workout routine if you're looking to optimize performance and recovery, as well as minimize chance of injury. Even though stretching is performed before and after physical activity, these two methods are distinctively different. Dynamic (with movement) stretching is optimal before exercise, and static (stagnant) stretching is more beneficial following exercise. Read more here! Personally, I like to incorporate hot yoga into my fitness routine to allow for deeper stretches and more flexible and fluid movements. 

Foam Rolling & Massage

Muscle & tissue manipulation following physical exertion can help to loosen connective tissue, increase flexibility, increase blood flow to muscle groups in need, and allow muscles to relax. This can all be accomplished post workout by "rolling out" the body with a hard cylinder or lacrosse ball. Click here for a step by step full body foam rolling guide. I aim to use a foam roller following each training session. 

Similarly to rolling, deep tissue massage has proven to act as a healing agent for muscle and joint pain. By applying a deeper more concentrated pressure to trouble areas, massage therapy aims to loosen connective tissue in order to again - reap the benefits of muscle and tissue manipulation. Given that massage therapy is a more costly option, try applying this strategy to your routine as a once-a-month maintenance tool. I'm a fan of Massage Addict, which has multiple locations, and offers a first time discounted rate, as well a membership rate! 

BCAA Consumption

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Navigating nutrient supplement options can be intimidating to say the least. I've found that attempting to decipher false claims from products that really work comes down to doing your research, and experimenting. Personally, the only supplement I consume consistently in an effort to improve recovery, is a BCAA formula. BCAA's are Branch Chain Amino Acids, which aid specifically in muscle recovery. I use AMRAP BCAA Endurance Formula from GT Supplements . This specific product not only decreases muscle soreness and promotes lean muscle growth, but it also increases fat loss and muscle energy. I choose to consume this post workout, but given the energetic properties, consuming during a workout can be highly beneficial as well. And a bonus for you; this product is verified as vegan, has no added sugar, AND it tastes great. So why the heck not! 

Rest

This may sound obvious but if you're the type to be GO GO GO, then this one's for you (and me)! There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to not only rest, but proper rest. After any workout, you'll want to give your muscles adequate rest in order to allow the muscles to repair themselves. Whether that means taking an entire rest day, an active rest day, or exercising different muscle groups, you'll want to ensure that the muscles you've just exhausted aren't being overworked to the point of injury. Another major key to muscle recovery is sleep! A proper nights sleep allows for the balance of hormones, improved mental health, and of course, muscle recovery. Click here for insight on improved sleep techniques. 

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Proper Diet

When it comes to diet and nutrition, there are an overwhelming number of fad diets circling the media. My best advice is to get intimate with your body's needs. You have the option to calculate your daily recommended caloric intake to ensure that your body is getting enough calories for recovery. You can even choose to eat intuitively, by listening to your body, and eating when your body craves nutrients. It's easy to get caught up in restrictive diets, as they offer a challenge as well as structure. Personally, I choose moderation within a vegan diet, allowing treats here and there. More specifically regarding recovery, protein intake is crucial post workout. So if you are someone who follows a structured diet, be sure that this is something you're able to incorporate. 

Essential Oil Treatment

As natural remedies become fashionable in the health and wellness community, more and more athletes are choosing to explore the healing properties of essential oils. My favourite method for soothing stressed muscles, is applying a mixture of peppermint oil (cooling & anti-inflammatory agent), magnesium (I use a mineral spray), and castor oil (to mix and absorb into the skin). 

Listen to your body

I can give you recovery methods until I'm blue in the face (or in this case, until my fingers type a hole through my laptop) but when it comes down to it, you have to listen to what your body needs. Research may tell us that optimal time for muscle recovery is 48 hours, but if your body is still aching on day 3, maybe you need to look at some additional recovery practices. The key is to understand how to best allow your body to thrive. So be mindful, and focus on your needs as an athlete! 

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Commitment to Recovery

As much as fostering a consistent workout routine takes commitment and focus, following through on a recovery routine is equally as important! Physical activity is a stressor that gets placed on the body, and must be counteracted with recovery practices in order to become beneficial. If you're considering picking up a new workout regime, or you intend on increasing your training intensity, I strongly encourage you to first create a recovery plan that works specifically for your body. Injuries caused by lack of recovery can bring your fitness goals to a stand still, which can ultimately become frustrating and defeating. See the bigger picture and treat your body right by making a commitment to recovery. 

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A Never Ending Sense of Urgency

Something I've learned over the past 6 months of owning a business is that there will always be a sense of urgency in your work. Whether it's staying on top of trends, finding the best prices for supplies, or creating the best possible marketing for your customers. There will always be something lingering on that to do list. 

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Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.
— Benjamin Franklin
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Needless to say, Benjamin did work. The man got sh*t done. And there have been times when I've lived by these words. Not many feelings compare to a good day's work. I definitely take pride in my productivity, and I don't believe I would be where I am today if I didn't. That's great and all but, at what point do you have to say "Enough! It's time to kick off my shoes and watch some damn Netflix." Unfortunately, even physically finding time to relax doesn't always put the mind at ease. I've learned that mastering this tricky sense of "must do more," is not so black and white. And to be honest, I'm probably one of the worst people to ask if you're looking for guidance on the subject, because I myself have yet to figure this one out. The best I can do is write frantically and encourage myself to explore the topic further!

Multiple Personalities

I guess what I do know is that being a business owner is about balancing all the different roles necessary to maintain success. The tricky bit is realizing that as a start up, YOU are generally ALL of those roles wrapped up into one person. You invent the wheel, you manage the wheel, and you turn it yourself. And as soon as you learn how to turn the wheel, you want to find new ways to reinvent the wheel. It really doesn't stop. And typically, there's nothing wrong with that. All of those aspects are needed to run a successful business. But at what point do you "take a moment," to just be?

Adjust the Standard According to Reality

What I'm beginning to realize is that there is a big difference between short term and long term goals. Yes I was aware of this before, but I never really forced myself to adjust my standards based on these goals. I'm always going to dream at lengths. I think this may be a key attribute to being an entrepreneur. But giving myself a reality check every once in a while isn't a bad thing. And when I say reality check, I don't mean to discourage or undermine my aspirations. I simply mean to look at my goals and give myself a realistic time frame for what I wish to accomplish. With this in mind, I'm more inclined to appreciate where I am now in comparison to where I want to be in the future.

Running the Business So the Business Doesn't Run You

Frankly, I think this next point could be a whole blog post in itself. Obviously every small business owner runs a business, but I'm going to assume that 99% of those business owners allow their business to run their lives. I've heard horror stories of people waking up at 2am to prep their supply for market days, because they're either understaffed, have family commitments, or their "system" just doesn't work for them. And regardless of what the reason is, it's ALWAYS the latter. I often find that I'm guilty of falling into the same trap. It's hard to let go of the reins sometimes when you care so much about the standard of work that goes into your business. However, building a system that works for your lifestyle is essential to owning a successful business. And I can only aim to be aware of the importance of this, while I continue to learn what works and what doesn't!

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Overcoming Failure with Confidence & Motivation

A question was posed on a popular Instagram account along the lines of - 'How do you overcome failure while maintaining confidence and motivation?' Rather than awaiting the interview to follow, I took a moment to reflect. Because as someone who loves to set goal after goal, shortcomings are not a stranger to my lifestyle. So how can I continue to navigate the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship, despite those moments of defeat? I don't believe there is one magic answer to this question. We all deal with failure in our own way, which leads me to believe that coping becomes a personalized systematic mantra that we sing ourselves to sleep by. 

Uncover the Lesson

Naturally, we've all been a victim to failure. And if you're paying attention, hopefully you've learned a thing or two along the way. Often times, I think lessons are only really apparent in retrospect. Whether that be realizing you shouldn't have put the burner on so high after the smoke alarm goes off minutes later, or putting the pieces together after a bad breakup that maybe, just maybe, your friends were right and you probably shouldn't have 'wasted' those past 3 years. Like I said - retrospect. Unfortunately, some lessons in failure take a little longer to surface. 

Utilize the Lesson

Now if you burnt last night's dinner, are you still going to attempt cooking tonight? Probably. You have to eat and take out gets expensive. And I hope you're not that distraught over a simple mistake you made the night before. So why after a bad breakup, are we so hesitant to try again? As if love is destined to fail us once more. Why do we let some failures eat us alive, while we brush others off like they never took the slightest hit to our ego? When we fail, our sense of self can take a hit, and because everyone gathers a sense of self from different experiences and circumstances; what seems a failure to me may not even affect you, and visa versa. But rather than stew in the negativity that may arise when we let our ego take over, can we turn failure into something useful? Instead of acting on self deprecation, can you turn a lesson into a useful tool to hopefully learn a thing or two for next time. So much so, that we can turn coping, into thriving. 

I'm no expert, but I've yet to let yesterday's failures be reason enough to give up on my dreams. Why not? Because every failure is just a speed bump my friend. It'll slow you down, but it's no reason to stop moving forward. In saying this, some failures should probably be analyzed a little deeper than being treated with Halmark's finest cliche. Sometimes, we need a big defeat to show us that we're on the wrong track. And don't be fooled, changing your course of action doesn't necessarily mean quitting.

Mind the Ego

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Ego; it can become your greatest driving force, or the dark shadow that will stand in your way. And realistically, the choice is yours. So, what feeds your sense of self? Is it your wealth of knowledge, your punctuality, your preparedness? Or is it your ability to make others laugh, your tenacity, your kindness? Either way, we are human, and we carry just about every trait under the sun to some extent, even if that means we're only a little aggressive, or a little manipulative. My point is, we derive our own perceived value from various traits, and depending on the make up of your sense of self, a lack of certain traits will basically attack your self worth. So how do we manage to map our way through failures, counteracting the damage done to our confidence? Well, if you can get to know yourself well enough, you'll learn what drives your ego, and you'll evidently learn how to dismiss that same ego, all in the same breath. 

Taking the time to learn about what makes me 'me,' has been a saving grace, to say the least. Looking at both my accomplishments, as well as putting the spotlight on those moments that I'm somewhat ashamed of, has made it a little more clear as to what my values are. And when I do experience failure, I try my best to consider where that failure came from. Was I aligned with my values at the time, or did I somehow lose track of those positive traits that make me 'me?' And through this, I've realized that sometimes that onus is on me, and sometimes it's out of my control. So when I fall short, it's up to me to make that promise to myself to be better tomorrow. And when circumstance is out of my control, can I find ways to overcome these obstacles by utilizing the skills and knowledge that I do have. By strengthening my sense of self, I'm able to find that confidence and motivation that's necessary when we experience failure. And failure is just that - an experience. Which is temporary, and filled with life lessons. So, what values make you, you? What failures have not compromised your sense of self, but have been a product of your own compromises? And what circumstances have made you question your value? How can you overcome those obstacles? Because failure is a natural and necessary component to life. How you tackle it, is the real test of character. 

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The November Minimalist Challenge

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You're stranded on a deserted island; which 3 things are you taking with you? I'm sure most of us would say something along the lines of a favourite pet, some form of entertainment, and maybe some matches if we're going for practicality. Now what if you were asked this same question, but in everyday life? Impossible, right? Well, maybe not so far fetched - at least that's how the minimalists see it. 

What Is Minimalism?

I like to define minimalism as a way of cleansing myself of anything that doesn't serve me; that being my mind, my body, my health, my home, etc. The list goes on. And when I say the word serve, I simply mean - does it bring my life joy; does it provide purpose; does it better me in some way, shape, or form? Now minimalism doesn't just have to be in regards to "things." Sometimes cleansing ourselves of toxic relationships, bad habits, and certain lifestyle choices help us find greater joys than throwing out old T-shirts ever could. 

The Minimalist Challenge

As some of you have already witnessed, this year I participated in November's Minimalist Challenge. This means that every day I got rid of a number of things, equivalent to the number on the calendar. For example, on November 10th, I got rid of 10 articles of clothing. Now this may not seem like much, but by the end of the month, I had freed myself of 465 things! And I figure what better time to cleanse my soul than right before the holidays... which we all know can be a tad overwhelming and a little too commercial. 

My List of Goodbyes

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How Did it Go?

I've found that as the days progressed, I became more and more willing to let go of my possessions. Things I stopped using or things I was keeping "just in case," no longer seemed necessary. If anything, they were simply clutter that I would rather not look at. I thought this challenge would get harder and harder as the number of things I was getting rid of got higher, but honestly I think it got easier. It's funny how the value of material items change over time. I think the same goes with mindset. Value isn't necessarily a dollar amount, I think it's more so a state of mind. I also realized that keeping something for "nostalgic purposes," is not a reason if those memories aren't pure. This has helped me let go of old gifts, letters, and tokens I've kept over the years as symbols of memories. By all means, keep your baby blanket tucked away somewhere, but maybe it's time to throw away that necklace your ex gave you years ago. Nostalgia is a trickster. Letting go is an art form. 

What's Next?

A 30 day challenge is one thing, but how do we maintain this minimalist lifestyle? If you take the challenge, you'll most likely find that letting go of material things becomes habitual. I've realized that living in a clean and simple space is essential for my own piece of mind, which only fuels my desire to keep it that way. I'm less inclined to buy things I don't necessarily need, or things that I'll only use briefly. And when I do have a need for something, I ask myself how I can meet this need in the simplest, yet most efficient way. You'd be surprised what you can come up with. I've also found that I have a greater desire to give back. In the past month, I've donated a ridiculous amount of clothes, kitchen tools, and random odds and ends. And if it wasn't evident already, giving feels GREAT! It definitely puts things into perspective - literally AND figuratively.

For more information on minimalism, be sure to check out The Minimalists webpage & blog. You can also find them on Instagram for daily minimalist inspiration!

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Conquering the Winter Blues

Winter. The word alone sends a shiver down my spine! There's no question; winters in Canada can be harsh. And I'm not just referring to heating up your car before the sun rises, feeling the ice cold tile floor under your toes, or having to maintain a healthy level of moisture on pretty much every party of your body. Unfortunately, these chilly dark days can prompt my nothing but familiar friend, "seasonal depression." As someone who lives a rather upbeat and positive life, seasonal depression is one pesky little monster who has definitely played a part in challenging my ability to tread water. In saying this, I know that I'm the furthest from alone on the subject, as many Canadians seem to suffer from the same yearly cycle. However, as a repetitive participant in the winter blues, over the years I've been lucky enough to learn from my body; finding ways to nurture and protect it from the season to the best of my ability. So, in hopes of shedding some light on my fellow soldiers - here's a brief summary on how I've learned to tackle the season. Keep in mind, I'm not a doctor - I'm simply sharing personal opinions. If you're struggling with mental health issues, it's usually best to seek professional medical attention, and work to form a plan/coping strategies that work best for you. 

1. Nighttime Routine

Getting the proper 7-9 hours of sleep each night is essential to healthy living. During rest, our  levels of cortisol and adrenaline decrease, allowing our bodies to repair and grow. Limiting sleep can put your body in starvation mode, which can cause irritability, increased stress, and weight gain. A main factor in maintaining proper sleeping patterns is a hormone known as melatonin. Shorter days means cutting back our sunshine hours, which effects our melatonin levels. In order to maintain a proper sleep schedule as the seasons change, it's important to send consistent nightly signals to trigger proper hormone activity. Simple things like dimming the lights, turning off the computer/tv, reading, and practicing aromatherapy an hour before bed, have done wonders for my sleep schedule. I've learned that keeping these signals as consistent as possible plays a important role, so I aim to start my nightly routine around 8-9pm. And on nights that I'm particularly irritable, taking a melatonin supplement half an hour before crawling into bed, has definitely done the trick!

2. Morning Exercise 

Another habit I've gotten into is scheduling my exercise for first thing in the morning. This way, I know I'm starting my day off right, which keeps my mood elevated throughout the better part of my day. I don't have to worry about getting in a workout after a long day of work, and I can save my evenings for "down time," which better prepares me for my nighttime routine. I'm not a coffee drinker, as I can get a little skittish, so I now add pre-workout to my morning routine. This way, I get a quick boost before exercising, as well as half a litre of water (mixed with pre-workout) first thing in the morning! A current favourite --> C4 Blue Razz.

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3. Maintain Active Living 

Aside from my weekly gym routine, I try my best to stay somewhat active throughout the day. Luckily my job allows me to get up and move around as much as I like, but if you're working in a more sedentary workplace, it might be a good idea to take little walks around the office every half an hour, or go for a walk at lunch time. I've also tried to incorporate nightly walks if I'm feeling a little "cabin fever" coming on. A quick 30-45 minute stroll around my neighbourhood usually does the trick!

4. Supplement the Summer 

It's important to understand that as we lose daylight, our body's chemistry changes. Personally, I've learned specifically what my body needs to get through the season. I know that prescription medication isn't something I'm comfortable taking, so I've done my research in finding other options that compliment my diet. Most of this is trial and error, and highly dependent on your personal needs. Supplement-wise, I currently take a B-complex, iron, lysine, vitamin D, and I'm dabbling with ginseng. I would definitely recommend a vitamin D supplement to EVERYONE in the winter, because that's where a majority of us Canadians fall short. And if you're unsure of what your body needs, getting blood work done is a great place to start! 

5. Limit Recreational Drug/Alcohol Use

I'm not much of a drinker, so limiting alcohol use in the winter really wasn't a struggle for me. Alcohol is known as a depressant, which can throw our chemical/nutrient make-up off balance. Obviously everyone has their own tolerance level, so just be mindful of yours. As far as recreational drugs go, I've only ever dabbled with the green stuff. And as much as I found it to be a natural sleep aid and help with anxiety, it often left me feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and don't get me started on the munchies! Anyway, I aimed to go weed free for a month, and I've now surpassed my goal, which I'm proud to say is an ongoing thing. I'm actually a little indifferent to marijuana use, but personally I don't believe that it fits into my lifestyle at the moment. And by cutting it out, I've found new ways to improve my sleeping patterns, diet, and cope with my anxieties. Clearly cannabis use is a personal choice, but it's always a good idea to take a look at your "habits" and investigate whether your choices are serving you in a positive way. 

6. Maintaining Proper Health During Flu Outbreaks

Hopefully I don't need to remind you to take standard hygienic precautions, such as washing your hands regularly or coughing into your arm rather than your hands. But given the heightened normalcy of sickness during the season, I'll shed some light on some of my own practices. Something I've gotten in the habit of is cleaning the equipment I use at the gym before AND after use. Before is a personal preference, and after of course is a courtesy. Washing your hands after your workout is another great practice, as we know that exercise can briefly lower the immune system. Recently I've started using a diffuser to aid some breathing problems, and after researching various essential oils, I've found that eucalyptus oil can play a part in fighting off the common cold/flu. I like to set the diffuser for a few hours as I'm falling asleep - a practice I use about 5 times a week. Along with the essential oils, I started using natural immunity boosting agents from Saje Natural Wellness. Here is a list of the products I'm currently using on a regular basis:

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I'm a big advocate for natural remedies - I wouldn't be sharing these products with you if I wasn't. Clearly somebody hasn't been endorsed yet (cough cough). And my last little tidbit of information; proper nutrition people! It works wonders! When we fuel our bodies with all them nutrients, we give our immune system the opportunity to build and repair before things go too far south.

So all in all, treat your body right! Give yourself the love and care you deserve, because the simple act of doing so, can have an extraordinary impact on your mental health. Again, mental health is individualized. Different strategies work for different people, so work toward becoming mindful of your needs. Maintaining good mental health is an ongoing process, so be patient with yourself.

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Why You Should Be Adding Kombucha To Your Diet

Author: Rebekah Carter

If you're looking for a way to boost your diet with some healthy eating and drinking, and you've already checked out the best blenders for your juicing craze, then it might be a good idea to take the next step and try "Kombucha" tea.

Kombucha is a highly popular fermented tea that's made from sugar and black tea. It's brimming with enzymes, minerals, and vitamins that are great for your body, and over the years, has been prized for its healing properties. Kombucha uses something called "SCOBY", a colony of yeast and bacteria that makes it a nutrient-rich beverage. The process of fermentation for the tea can take up to 12 days, depending on the process you use.

Exploring the Benefits of Kombucha

Although in the past, Kombucha was a very obscure drink, it has quickly emerged as a popular solution for those seeking better wellness. Available in a range of different grocery stores and health food stores, you can either buy Kombucha directly or brew it yourself using strategies that you can find online.

Kombucha is attributed with a number of fantastic health benefits. For instance, the nutrients that Kombucha contains are fantastic when it comes to supporting the body in a host of different ways. Studies surrounding Kombucha at this time are somewhat lacking, but the anecdotal evidence is significant. Here are just some of the ways that Kombucha may be able to improve your health.

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1. Kombucha Improves Digestion

Although scientists aren't entirely sure why Kombucha is so effective at improving digestion, we do know that this substance is rich in beneficial acids, enzymes, and probiotics which are essential to maintaining proper gut health. According to Harvard Medical School, a healthy stomach is brimming with about 100 trillion different microorganisms. This means that we need plenty of good bacteria to survive.

Drinks like Kombucha, that contain beneficial bacteria for your gut, could help to ensure that your microbiome remains in balance, so you're less likely to suffer from stomach problems. Of course, this is all relevant to your overall gut health, so if you’re experiencing serious digestive issues, it may be beneficial to speak to a healthcare professional to see if this can in fact be a solution for you.

2. Improved Liver Support and Detoxification

We constantly expose ourselves to a range of toxins almost every day, which can have a significantly negative effect on the body, often resulting in fatigue or general unwellness.  The liver is one of the most important organs of detoxification in the body. Fortunately, Kombucha is a substance brimming with Glucaric acid, which is great for the liver and natural detoxification.

Kombucha also promotes better digestion with the healthy gut bacteria we mentioned above, which means that you can have an easier time processing food and enjoying more energy every day without having to resort to sugar and caffeine.

3. Kombucha Improves the Immune System

Our immune systems are essential for keeping us healthy. Fortunately, Kombucha is naturally rich in antioxidants, which means that it's great for supporting the immune system. While there's no magic bullet available when it comes to enhancing immune system function, it's always a good idea to do everything you can to improve the immune process.

Kombucha is brimming with a substance that's called DSL, or D-Saccharic Acid Lactone. This substance has fantastic antioxidant properties, and it's not present in any other unfermented teas, although there are plenty of teas out there that are rich in other types of antioxidant.

4. Improves Joint Health

Kombucha is also a great substance to drink if you're one of the many people who suffer from problems with arthritis and joint health. Kombucha fermented tea is full of a compound called glucosamine, which is great for improving the health of your joints, and reducing the pain you might experience due to stiff joints.

Glucosamines are perfect for naturally increasing the level of hyaluronic acid you have in your body, which helps to lubricate and protect the joints. In some studies, this substance has even been shown to provide better, or similar relief as over-the-counter painkillers.

5. A Better Alternative to Other Drinks

If you're sick of piling on the pounds because of all the sugar-laden drinks you consume such as soda, then it's a good idea to turn to Kombucha instead. The substance is naturally carbonated as a result of the fermentation process, unlike sodas which are artificially carbonated through a process of forced carbonation.

This fizzy tea can, therefore, be a natural and familiar alternative to other carbonated beverages, great for providing nutrients and probiotics that might not otherwise be available in soda. Plus, Kombucha contains less sugar than most soft drinks, because the sugar is consumed by the beneficial bacteria. Available in many different flavours, kombucha is also a tasteful and healthy addition to your favourite cocktails! But, we all know it is just perfect as a stand alone beverage!

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