Friday, July 29, 2011

Running into the long weekend


It wasn't four consecutive kilometres - only 3! - but still, I did a 5km workout with 4km of that spent running.  I'm ridiculously proud of this.  Also, I wasn't exhausted when I was done.  How great is that?!  Who knows how I'll feel tomorrow, but for now, I feel awesome.

And it's also the long weekend, which I'm so ready for.  We've got some great plans that may include a picnic lunch in High Park; a day hike at Mono Cliffs provincial park (I think that's where the Beau wants to go); a night at the movies to use up movie passes we've had since Christmas; some wine; some beer; perhaps some tacos; and Monday at home, relaxing on the couch with video games, knitting, books, movies and a kitty.

Also on Monday I will be getting back on the scale as it will be August 1 and time for me to start monitoring the numbers again.  I'm also going to start listing my goals for the rest of the year and what I need/want to do to help end 2011 on a healthy note and to make sure it really is my healthiest year yet.

But until then, Happy Civic Holiday weekend all!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Seeing results

Slowly but surely, I'm logging more distance with my runs.  I'm still doing walk/run intervals, but I'm measuring distance more now and I'm getting there! 

Last Thursday, I ran a total of 3km in two 1.5km intervals, with walking intervals before, after and in between, and logged a total distance of 5km.  Today I aimed to run 3km again...and ended up doing 3.5km.  The best part?  I didn't feel exhausted when I was done!  Not only am I not as tired now, I've noticed other awesome changes to my body since upping the running ante: my legs feel tighter, not in a tight muscle way but in a toned-and-fit way; my torso looks slimmer, which I'm attributing to the extra cardio; and my breathing seems to be much better (though I am on inhalers to help manage this).

It is actually beginning to feel like I could run a 5-k.  I should probably sign up for one, but I'm still a little scared and I want to be able to run at least 3km before I seriously consider doing a 5-k.  But today I was able to run 2km straight through, so that's a start. 

Working out at work is also helping me immensely.  I find myself craving my workouts, which is great.  I've been averaging 4-5 workouts for the past three weeks and I'm fortunate that keeping this up shouldn't be that hard.  I'm also getting some obvious definition in my arms from weightlifting so that's got me excited too. 

THIS is definitely what I needed: to be seeing results from my efforts as this will provide the encouragement I need to keep going.  And maybe when I get back on the scale next Monday, that number won't be so bad.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: The High Road

Terry Fallis' debut novel The Best-Laid Plans was recommended to me by my sister-in-law and, as I trust her judgment, I picked it up, which was a wise move not just because it was excellent but because it helped me through the last (disappointing) federal election.  So it seemed apropos that the Canadian Book Challenge came along right when I needed to read the sequel, The High Road.

*NOTE: here be spoilers.  Because this is a sequel, it's hard to review without giving some spoilers.  Consider yourself warned and read at your own risk.  ;)

The High Road picks up right where The Best-Laid Plans leaves off, with another federal election looming and maverick MP Angus McClintock unsure if he'll run again.  Daniel is happily ensconced in his relationship with Lindsay and Muriel is the same stalwart Liberal, even if her Parkinson's is getting worse.  When Angus decides to run (and how could he not, since the book needs to, you know, happen), Daniel stays on as campaign manager, Pete1 and Pete2 come back to help out, and this time, Angus wants to win.

Living in Toronto, I feel I've been surrounded by campaigning and political attack ads for far too long, what with the federal election this past May, our municipal election last fall and the upcoming provincial election this October.  So it was interesting to see that Angus' Conservative opponent, Emerson "Flamethrower" Fox, had built his political career on running negative campaigns.  When told this, Angus made the decision to not sink to that level, and instead to focus his campaign on the issues, not the dirt.  A novel idea, indeed, and an example of when I would love to see life imitating art.  The other interesting element of the campaigning is the addition of a right-wing independent candidate, Alden Stonehouse, who chose to run as an independent after losing the Conservative nomination.  After the federal Liberals' historic defeat in May, Fallis' book seems to say the only way the Liberals can rebuild is to split the right (or, perhaps, stop splitting the left). 

But political posturing aside, this book, like its predecessor, reads as a "what-if" in Canadian politics, not just what if the Liberals won, but what if governments put the needs of the country first; what if governments were transparent; what if governments stopped playing partisan long enough to actually get the important things done?  Such novel ideas, which is perhaps why they only exist in a novel.

Of course, Angus once again wins and heads to Ottawa with a mandate to investigate the collapse of a major bridge - which leads to an investigation on Canadian infrastructure in general and the need to spend on infrastructure, which in turn will stimulate the economy.  (Art imitating life much?)  And once again Angus makes a huge impact in the government, in his community and in the lives of those around him.  Oh, and the President of the United States shows up - and he's decidedly more Bush than Obama. 

The book ends with the perfect set-up for a third installment, which would be great but perhaps a third book would be a good place to leave it.  While the writing is wonderful, the characters fun and refreshing and the story perfectly sensible (if impractical), too much more of Angus et al would be too much.

The best parts of the book come at the end of each chapter, when Angus writes to his deceased wife in his diary.  These entries provide a sweet but sad glimpse into Angus' mind and life, as he is still struggling with the loss of his wife of almost 40 years.  Much of the comedy in the book comes from Angus' unorthodox way of thinking and being, his forthrightness and his incredulity at the foibles of others.  But when reading the diary entries, a more vulnerable Angus emerges, someone who really is missing a part of himself and is trying to find his way back to a normal life without that integral part.  His wife plays an important part in the book and his connection with her is truly beautiful.  Even though the book is narrated by Daniel, it's still a story about Angus and, through the diary entries, he comes even more into the spotlight. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mid-month update

Today is July 15 which, for all intents and purposes, is the middle of the month and the middle of my scale break. 

I've been doing really well with my gym-going; I went five times last week and four times so far this week (I can't make it today - too busy at work - but hope to fit in a workout tomorrow).  And all that work is not for naught; I'm noticing some improvements: my torso is less rounded; my back doesn't hurt all the time; my arms are definitely getting definition; my thighs don't rub together quite as much; and my cardiovascular fitness is improving - I can run 2km and not be exhausted!  In fact, I can do my full run/walk intervals and not feel exhausted.  I've even started increasing my speed at the end, for an added boost and, come August, I want to start increasing my distance.

In other words: progress is being made.  And it's exciting.  I feel good about myself.  That's right, I FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF! 

Holy shit, took long enough. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book review: Alone in the Classroom

I have just finished reading Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay and it's left me still thinking about it which, to me, is a good sign.  But it's also left me feeling unfulfilled, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  It's only been about two hours since I finished the book, but I feel like this one will stay with me, much like Hay's previous novel Late Nights on Air has stayed with me.

Alone in the Classroom is really about the narrator, Anne, finding out about her family; the story centres on Anne relating stories about her aunt, Connie Flood.  Much like a tree, Connie's story is only one branch but it seems to be the sturdiest and most twisting branch of the tree, at least for Anne. 

Most of the book focuses on Connie, from her schoolteacher beginnings in rural Saskatchewan to her time at a newspaper in Ottawa back to schoolteaching in Maine.  Also intertwined with the branch that is Connie's life are the two men that influence Connie's life the most: her principal, Ian "Parley" Burns and one of her students, Michael Graves.  Both Parley and Michael play important roles in who Connie becomes and how she lives her life.

Also integral to the book are two tragic deaths of young school girls, one of which opens the book, and the reasons for these deaths that are only hinted at and alluded to, but never fully explained. 

It is the non-resolution behind the deaths that left me feeling unfulfilled, but there is enough information presented that the reader can draw her own conclusions and feel satisfied in their accuracy.  My problem is that I had an idea about one of them that I thought was pretty great - turns out I was either way off base or Hay didn't feel the need to clarify things for me.  But this is not a bad thing, merely something I will continue to think about as I dwell on the characters that I feel I know so much about.

And that is also the beauty of Hay's writing, her ability to make me think and care about her characters.  She also has a wonderful way with words when describing the outdoors and the wilds of Canada, which is evident both in Alone in the Classroom and Late Nights on Air.  I still think about the canoe trip in Late Nights, three years after reading the book.

This book feels like Canadian Literature with a capital "L", something I haven't indulged in for far too long.  After reading this book, I found my Toronto-dwelling self yearning for a cabin in the woods, a small lake and trees as far as the eye can see; thankful for the stability of my own relationship and that I'm spared the agonies of the heart experienced by Connie and Anne (and all the women in the book); and curious about my own family, wondering what stories might be hidden in my genealogy, what happiness and tragedy has shaped my own family.

The incredible shrinking loan balances

My loan payments finally found their way through the internets and arrived safe and sound and promptly lowered my current debt load.   It's so nice to see that total going down!

On June 12, I owed $13,430.58 on my student loans.  Today, July 12, it's much better:

CIBC: $4,018.67
NSLSC #1: $5,990.06
NSLSC #2: $1,383.42

Total owing: $11,392.15

That's $2,038.43 I've paid off in a month.  When I break it down like that, it really makes me realize how much progress I'm making.  If I can maintain this rate of repayment, I'll have my loans paid off in five months.  That's December - three months earlier than I had originally calculated!

Making this deadline will depend on how much I accrue in overtime, as that's what's helping me along.  Even if I don't make mad O/T scratch, I'm still well on my way to paying off my loans by the time we're hoping to be house hunting. 

The other day, I got a letter in the mail from CIBC, officially informing me that my one loan was paid in full.  Forget framing my university degree - I'm framing this letter!  Woot!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weighing in on the scale

Ever since I decided to take a break from the scale, I've felt like I've lost my anchor to this blog.  After all, what is weight loss without measuring how much has (not) been lost? 

Of course, I'm not just blogging about weight loss but about getting healthy and being away from the scale has helped me be healthier in other ways, namely I'm not obsessing about the number: what it might be, what is it, what I need to do to get it lower.  I'm not grappling with feelings of guilt after eating a cookie or putting sugar in my coffee.  I'm not disappointed in myself when the number isn't lower than I want it - but I'm also not proud enough of myself when the number goes down, because it's not as low as I want it.

So being away from the scale has been healthy for me in some ways, but I worry it will be detrimental in others.  Will my weight have jumped up when I weigh myself at the beginning of August?  Will I end up back where I started, oh so long ago?  Should I go back to weekly weigh-ins? 

I've read different things about weighing oneself, from once a week to daily to never.  Some literature says to go by the way you feel and how your clothes fit; others say a weekly weigh-in keeps you on track; and others still say a daily weigh-in gives you a clear idea of how your weight can fluctuate and helps you better understand your body.

Then, of course, there's the BMI, which requires a weight to be accurately calculated.  But I don't like using the BMI as a gauge for my proper weight because I lift weights and BMI doesn't consider if your weight is due to muscle or fat.  So then I don't need the scale?

I don't think I'll ever be able to give up the scale (even though, for years, I didn't weigh myself except for at my yearly physical).  For me, knowing my weight is part of me being healthy, even if it does wreak havoc with my emotions.  But I need something to celebrate and seeing my weight go down works.  I also need goals for myself but I need something I can quantify; saying, "I want to lose 2lb by next week" is easier for me than saying, "I want to fit into [insert piece of clothing here]."

What I do have to work on is better accepting the number on the scale and to not instantly tie my self-worth to it.  THAT is going to be a hard habit to break because it's something I've done most of my life. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What worth, a picture?

I hate having my picture taken.  I'm not like some people, though, who won't pose for a photo unless their hair is done and clothes are perfect and the angle is just right.  I don't mind posing for silly, crazy, happy, couple-y or family photos; I just hate the results.

Some people are naturally photogenic.  I am not one of those people.  I practice my smiles in the mirror, I tilt my head one way or look another way and think, "That's not bad.  I need to do that the next time a photo is taken."  And then I do it (or think I've done it) and the photo is AWFUL.  Seriously.  No good at all.

The one thing I'm dreading most about getting married are the wedding photos.  Candid photos there's not much I can do about.  But the professional ones, the ones we'll want to keep forever - those I'm terrified about.  I only plan on getting married once and I really want the pictures to be keepers.  And parents and in-laws will be displaying them...I'm not getting married any time soon, but I've already got anxiety over the photos.

I think I have a problem.

Over the weekend, we were visiting friends in Simcoe with another couple and we took photos all weekend long.  Since I took most of the pictures, I'm not in many, so I asked the Beau if he could snap a few shots of me, as proof I was there. 

None of them are any good.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  Nyet.  Nien.  Nil.  Zero.  Because he's crazy, he likes this photo:

Me, not so much.  In fact, it's kind of awful.  But I feel like I should stare at it until I can at least tolerate it because I need to stop being so down on myself.  Either that or I need to never be in another photo ever.  (In fact, there is a span of about 6 years in my teens where very few photos of me exist, because I hated how I looked in photos back then.  Oh, what I wouldn't give to look how I did back then...)

It's a thing, that's for sure, one I'm not sure how to get over. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Where da money at, yo?

I really wanted to do an update on my student loans, but I'm waiting for a payment to go through.  One of the things about online banking that has always had me scratching my head is how I can make a payment and the money will disappear immediately from my account (which is good, as it keeps me from spending money that isn't there) but then takes days to show up at wherever I've sent it. 

I understand that there is some lag time, as different institutions have to catch up with each other, but I'm always wondering just where my money is (or the binary code that makes up the digital figures that accounts for the money; it's not like I'm sending paper bills through the ethernet) while waiting for it to be applied.  I guess it's just hanging out in cyberspace, maybe making friends with some credit card payment or payroll deposit. 

And I get paid tomorrow, which will mean another payment, which will mean more waiting.  Sigh.  But it's coming!  That number will get lower! 

In the meantime, here's where I stand:

CIBC: $4,015.05
NSLSC #1: $6,157.86
NSLSC #2: $2,052.06

Total owing: $12,224.97

Next week's update will be so much better!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mid-term report card

Since declaring 2011 the year I get healthy, I've felt like I've encountered more obstacles than victories but this is mainly tied to my inability to lose as much weight as I'd like.  So I decided to give myself a mid-term report, seeing how I'm now halfway through the year. 

1.  Financial health - A+
Okay, I've got to give myself credit here.  (Heh, credit.)  Since the start of the year, I've paid off the last niggling balance on my credit card, paid off my line of credit ($5,000 yo!) and eliminated one of my four student loans.  I'm also paying nice, hefty monthly sums on my remaining loans and I'm still on track to have everything paid off by next spring.  This is definitely a bright spot in my health challenge, which I both love and need.

2.  Happy health - B+
I still have my mood swings and I always will, but I'm having fewer of them and they don't last as long.  I'm happy to find that I'm on the right dosage of anti-depressant and I'm happy in my job (even though it still drives me bonkers sometimes).  Also, I'm in a loving, wonderful, stable relationship with the best man EVER and we've got the cuddliest kitty at home.  Oh, and we're planning to buy a home.  I'm in probably the best emotional place I've ever been in my life and things just keep getting better.

3.  Physical health - C+
It was so tempting to give myself a big fat F here, but then I realized: I've got lots going for me physically, even if the scale isn't my friend.  Since I started running, I've improved my cardiovascular health, which is no small feat seeing how I have exercise-induced asthma (which I've finally stopped using as a crutch - woot!).  I've gone to various doctors and, though I haven't always heard the answers I want, I've confirmed that I don't have diabetes, I don't have out-of-whack hormones, my thyroid is normal, my blood sugar is normal - I'm in pretty good shape on the inside.  I'm also getting stronger and have the (faintest of faint) muscle definition to show for it.  So I'm getting there. 

Just like at school, I know where I'm excelling, where I'm getting better and where I need to improve (though in school, I never had to improve anything - I was such a keener!).  The important part is that I consider myself to be passing in all categories and I'm going to keep moving forward - though I'm starting to sound a little like Oprah with all this "moving forward" blathering. 

But seriously, the year is half over already?  Holy crap. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

CanLit fun

Thanks to an article in the Globe and Mail, I've stumbled across the Canadian Book Challenge and I'm going to give it a shot!

I've wanted to read more CanLit and it's only 13 books, which I can easily do in a year.  It's the reviewing that will be more of a challenge, but I'm going to give it a go.  My first book is Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay - just recently purchased on my Kobo with a 20% off coupon in honour of Canada Day.

The reviews need to be posted online, so I'll be posting them here; they will also be linked to the Canadian Book Challenge blog

I can't think of a better book to start with.  Go here if you want to try, too!


We just got home from a wonderful weekend at the cottage and I feel amazing.  On Friday, I slept in then had an afternoon nap then still fell asleep at a decent hour - when I asked the Beau why I was so tired, he replied, "It's because you're relaxed."

He was so right.

It was a great and relaxing weekend, in which I just didn't care about anything that wasn't important, like perfecting my bocce ball game; wearing my floppy sunhat all the time; barbequing everything; trying to spot all the fireflies; and floating on water noodles.

Oh, and I walked around in my bathing suit and didn't care what I looked like - except when I caught my reflection in the window and said, "Hm, I look pretty good."

It was a really wonderful and relaxing way to start summer and end my week off and it was something I definitely needed, after all my pouting last week.  We brought running gear with us, but decided sleeping until 10:30 was more important than a morning run.  The only downside to the whole weekend is we didn't get a storm Saturday night; I love me a good thunderstorm at the cottage.

Both the Beau and I are looking at some crazy hours over the next few weeks at work and we've got some full weekends too, so it was lovely to have a few days together (with our kitty, of course) to do whatever we pleased, which amounted to bocce ball, beer and books. 

And since it was the long weekend, we used the GPS to get us home not via the highways; by mostly avoiding the 400 and driving through farmland and smaller towns, we were able to extend the relaxed cottage feeling that much longer.  And we figure it only added about 20 minutes to our drive, which is great too. 

Now I feel relaxed and ready to face work again, to keep working on getting in shape and to be kinder to myself.  AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!