Building Strength and Resilience

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Research has shown that shifting our focus to building our character strengths boosts positivity and resilience. The truth is, we accomplish far more in life by building on our strengths than by focusing on our weaknesses. And we make our life journey more self-concordant with a strengths-focus, building our self-esteem along the way.

“Only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence . . . One cannot build performance on weaknesses . . . it takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity, than to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. Peter Drucker ‘The Practice of Management’

Want to work on your strengths?! Give yourself this awesome experience!

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We truly are what we eat . . . consistently

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We are what we eat, oh yah. Heard that before, I’m sure! And, if that’s true, why do we eat badly: skipping meals, binge eating, consuming sugar, starchy carbs, greasy fats and processed meat, too much alcohol, etc? So many of us struggle with food choices. And more fundamentally, with our body weight and image? Here’s what I think:

Our day to day food intake Is a dance between our physical need for nourishment, and our emotional need for love. That’s it, in a nutshell.

If we’re in a place where we feel safe and loved, we can let go of the ‘hunched shoulders’ of stress and self-protection. The cloud in our mind and heart can start to lift. We can see a clearer way to nurturing ourselves with nutritious food, our optimism builds, and our stress levels reduce. Continue reading

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater

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What do you do when you find inconsistency within your consistent structure? And what does THAT mean? Well, sometimes we get so caught up in the immediate experience of our work, training & goals, that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Last Sunday, we had a perfect day for our long run. I had my oatmeal 1 hour prior, felt ready to go, looking forward to the route. Truly enjoyed the company of my fellow runners training for a Half Marathon in October – easy chatting and banter as we maintained our steady long-run pace. This went on for about the first 8k, and then, my gut started telling me I needed to find a washroom.

Seriously? Now?
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Is Consistency Really King, or Does it Get in the Way of Brilliance?

I started this blog with the claim that ‘showing up’ consistently yields undeniable benefits. I also said that Consistency is Key to Creativity.

Guess what? There are strongly opposing views to this idea of Consistency being King!

It’s much like the controversy over clutter. Many claim that removing clutter from your work space and your home will allow one to be calmer and more productive (ex. Marie Kondo, Karen Kingston). Others, such as Mihaly Csikszentmihaly in his book ‘Flow’, argue that what might appear as clutter to one, may actually be stimulation and inspiration for others. And another great mind takes this stance: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Albert Einstein

Indeed, there are stories of Leonardo da Vinci (a tidy, controlling, prolific and brilliant artist) who apparently used to mock Michelangelo for his very messy, chaotic studio (in which he produced phenomenal masterpieces).

Alexander McQueen & Studio

Personally, if I have a day where I need to be productive, the ‘tidy up the clutter’ approach works best: turn off email, make lists, clear the workspace, set a time for each task, etc. However, if I’m in the throws of a creative endeavour, such as writing, creating a workshop, cooking, or working in the garden, I surround myself with the makings, references, books/articles, colour and tools – probably the ‘messy chaotic’ look to the outsider. Continue reading

Consistency & Routine

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‘Showing Up’ regularly really counts!

Moving into your fall schedule, embrace the idea of consistency! Take 5 to 10 minutes to think about your goals and dreams, and then work back from there to map out what’ll get you there! Once your schedule for work, play, exercise, rest, nutrition is figured out, you simply need to follow it! ‘Showing up’ consistently yields undeniable benefits.

  1. Consistency begets consistency. Formulate and stick to a plan, and keep the process humming. This means you never have to restart, seeing constant progress and building momentum.
  2. Celebrate the process.The progress towards a goal is almost more rewarding than achieving the goal. Whether training for a race, planning an important life event, taking a course . . . the consistent steps to overcome hurdles along the way are the reward. Track your progress and celebrate each step!
  3. Consistency is key to creativity.We may think that inspiration comes out of the blue . . . but it rarely does! Consistent work towards a goal puts you in position for creative sparks. Work gives space for ideas to connect. Fires only burn when there’s room to breathe.

After reading Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ this summer, I gave myself 1 full week of my vacation to purge my house. This was no small task, in fact, it had daunted me for years. I’d read other books who said ‘do a little every day’, and ‘pick one cupboard or closet at a time’. And I’d tried those methods, which gave me permission to just do a little at a time. Perhaps that method works for others, but for me, it wasn’t enough.

Marie Kondo gave me a solid push to carve out the time, space, energy and tools required, and to embrace letting go of SO MUCH STUFF that I didn’t need or want. The other big part of my success (which translated into 6 clear garbage bags of clothing, 7 garbage bags of ‘garbage’, 5 bankers boxes of books) was my PLANNING and SCHEDULING of the purge. I actually marked out time in my calendar for each specific category, with 4 hours on the Monday for my bedroom closet & front hall closet, 4 hours on the Tuesday for bookcases and file boxes, 8 hours (with a cleaner) on Wednesday for the kitchen, 5 hours on Thursday for the bathrooms and cabinets, etc.

I’m still in the process of getting my discards into the appropriate hands: clothing and shoes to Sistering on Bloor, books to the used book store, other bags ready for the Diabetes pickup, etc. There’s no going back, these things are leaving my house and my life, and I’m lighter and clearer because of it!

You may not have a week to give to purging your home. That’s okay. The key, in my opinion, is wrap your head and heart around the concept of letting go of the past, and to apply a consistent scheduled day/time to commit to the process. Perhaps you could pick 4 Saturday mornings in a row, and assign a category and/or space to each one. Put it in your calendar, be specific, let your family know it’s happening.

Let me know your thoughts! I highly encourage you to embrace the possibility of living with less stuff. Marie Kondo goes so far as to claim this also translates to how we live the rest of our life; our relationships, our work and hobbies – making choices that are honouring to ourselves and others, lightening our load!


My Results

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People have asked me about results: how much weight lost, strength gained, etc. So, I’ve done the measurements after 12 weeks of commitment and here they are:

Weight: lost 3 lb         % Body Fat: down 1.6%             % Muscle: up 2.3%

Inches: down 2″ on waist, down 1.5″ on hips, down 1″ on thighs, and yes, I’ve evened out my arms! (My left arm was 5/16″ bigger than my right when I started, and it’s now just 1/16″ inch larger.)

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Working out at the gym

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Oh, the DOMS.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. You’ve become a familiar friend. And I say friend because I embrace you! It means I’ve trained my muscles well, just enough to feel sore for a day or so. That means progress! (Interesting that it’s always my triceps and my hamstrings that complain the most.) On to the foam roller, yoga therapy balls, stretching, self massage, Epsom baths, massage therapy – these are also my friends. If you’d like some direction on foam rolling and stretching, please see my videos on YouTube (sandyfitjourney).

Secret to anonymity at the gym: Wear a baseball cap. And ear buds. No-one talks to you, no eye contact, it’s great! Especially good if you’re near that person who’s wearing the same workout gear from yesterday, you know what I mean. Continue reading

Ahhh, Sleep . . .

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I have long known that I need more sleep than most people.

True confession: No matter how many hours I get in the night, I sleep walk out of bed each morning, no matter how early or how late. I nod off at parties (you’ve all seen me!). When I was going thru the worst of menopause, I’d sneak out to my car at lunch and go into a deep coma for 45 minutes. I can nap on a hard wooden floor, no problem. My husband calls me ‘the incredible sleeping woman’. (He thinks it’s funny, but I know it’s true).

People might speculate that it’s because I have an active lifestyle with teaching/leading fitness and yoga, running 3x per week, etc. I think that all of those things give me a good, deep sleep at night. And I just need a lot of sleep. Continue reading

Race Report

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5 weeks into My Eight Weeks to Fit, race day came! Around the Bay, 2017, a 30k road race around the bay of Hamilton, Ontario. 9,000 runners do this race! Luckily, we can relay it, so I’d signed up to do the 2nd lap of 15k. Full knowledge that this second lap goes from rolling hills to a few big hill ascents to get back up the escarpment, including The Epic Hill at 25k which is about 600m long.

Weather predictions for days before were grim, hovering around freezing and predicting a lot of rain and wind. Saturday was all that, miserable in Hamilton. On Sunday, Race Day, the rains were mostly done – just the feisty winds to contend with!

As I hung out in the school buses with the other 2nd relayers waiting for our partners, we saw the elite runners cross the 15k mark at about 40 minutes. That’s a 3:00 minute km, folks. Incredible. Got me excited, I wanted to race! (This is not normal for me, usually I’m resigned to ‘let’s see what happens’.)

Starting at 15k

My relay partner came in, we swapped the chip, and oh so lucky for me, another friend’s relay partner came at the same time, so I was able at least to start my 15k with Stacy. Continue reading

If we ‘are what we eat’, why do we eat crap?

We all have the best of intentions when it comes to our food, intellectually knowing that ‘we are what we eat’ and thus we should not eat crap. So why is it so difficult to follow that path?! I’ll admit, this has been the hardest part of ‘My 8 Weeks to Fit’.

Planning and Prep

Most weekends, we tend to cook big batches of stew, soup, grilled chicken, brown rice and the like. Love the slow cooker! So Monday and Tuesday are pretty much covered with left overs. Then the trouble begins! If I don’t have some good options in the fridge, it’s tempting to eat a piece of toast with peanut butter, make pasta, or eat chips. Did I mention I love starchy carbs?! Continue reading