Moksha LA baby

Moksha Yoga LA, I made it!


While in California, not only did I discover destination races are the best, but destination yoga is also a must. And considering yoga pretty much exists in every part of the world, you will not have a hard time finding a place to practice. Trust me. Or if you’re lucky (like me) and belong to a yoga community, your search practically take cares of itself. You’ll have a difficult time finding city where there isn’t a Moksha Yoga studio. Again, trust me on this. Or if you’re really, really lucky and friended all your teachers (aka Jackie Szabo) they will tell you were you need to go and who to take class from. When I told Jackie I was going to LA after my race she was nice enough to give me a comp card for my visit! Hey, vacations are expensive enough if I can take advantage of a free class I will. I was also on a mission to meet Ezmy Stavroff. Ezmy, if you’re reading this I came by to see you. Twice! I’m sad I missed you, but am really looking forward to seeing you in Costa Rica. Until then…

Yes. I’m going back to Costa Rica. For another yoga retreat.



So, during the very little preplanning Cecilley and I did for our West Coast adventure I made a list of 5 things I wanted to do: run our race (obviously!), find the Full House house, ride a San Francisco Trolley Car, drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, and take a class at Moksha Yoga LA. I did all these things and way more!

The first day Cecilley and I arrived in LA it was very late so we made the plan to visit the studio the following day for the noon class with Emily. I didn’t know it at the time, but Emily was one of the LA co-owners. The studio had a very cool and hip vibe, but the studio, according to Cecilley, isn’t located in the best part of town. But I wasn’t judging. I was in LA and practicing yoga! Where in LA exactly didn’t really matter. The practice room was funky with it’s exposed ceiling and pretty walls and hanging lights, it had a homey feel to it and I could see myself practicing there everyday. Everything was off to a good start in my books. Although I wasn’t greeted with the overwhelming welcomeness I imagined I would receive. Okay, so I may have made it a little too clear I was a Moksha-er from Moksha Downtown and that I knew Jackie – Jackie actually taught at the studio for a month not too long ago. Okay, so I may have made this very clear. But I completely understand why the receptionist and Emily did not reciprocate my over exaggerated excitement for being there. I apologize if I scared anyone. I couldn’t help it I was really happy to be there.

Emily taught a great class which was unexpectedly cut short when an gentleman in the class had a seizure. This was something I’ve never seen nor experience before. Ever. I have to commend the LA staff and the students in class, everyone acted so fast and handled the situation with professionalism and calm. It’s gotta be the yoga! Emily was also kind enough to comp everyone’s class this day which was super kind of her. I hated leaving the studio with that feeling of being on edge. I had to go back and make things right.



So, I went back to the studio the very next day to shake that feeling and start again. It was Friday and Cecilley and I had devoted this day to Venice and to the beach. But first to rekindle my Moksha LA first impression. There was a new receptionist to who was more than helpful and understanding to yesterday’s happening. Again, another excellent start. This noon class was taught by Angela, a 60 minute Moksha. Straight up Moksha is my go to for days I’m feeling off. Angela was extraordinary. Her guidance, her words, she gave the room a real sense of peace and grace (the complete opposite from the chaotic energy I felt the day before). Angela gave me that robust feeling I needed to walk away with, and then some. Having ended class with a quote – “You can’t begin the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one” – it’s like she knew me. She knew exactly what I needed to hear.

And with those words Angela saved Moksha LA for me.


Wake Up, Nike Women’s Marathon!


Hello, Toronto! I am officially back and ready to rekindle my fitness regime after a much needed break (from both the city and from running). Everyone needs a break once in awhile, it’s important to refuel the mind and body, and that is exactly what I did on my west coast vacation. But now, as a promise to Erin, I must make up for a lot of loss time.

Oh my goodness California is amazing! This may also be a slight bias opinion due to the fact my race went really, really well. But seriously, California is amazing.


My name on the Nike Town wall of runners!


I am super excited to talk about my adventures and my first half marathon! Not to sound full of myself, but I rocked that race. Even though I was not as fast as I wanted to be (I was shooting for a sub 2 hour time) I ran the race in 2:09. However, after looking back I have a lot to be thankful for. I felt super strong, hard core and pumped the whole way through. There was a leg of the race around the 11 mile mark when I felt really slow. I wasn’t fatigued or tired. I was just slow. But after a boost of Beyonce’s Run The World (Girls) anthem —  the music during the race was too perfect — I was able to pick it right up and push to the finish, despite almost running straight into a wedding proposal happening at the finish line! I sprinted through that finish line (as Erin said you should always do), didn’t stop once, I didn’t walk, and I ran up each and every hill.

Ladies, this truly an invigorating race and one I would do again in a heartbeat. That Tiffany necklace and attractive firemen do make the whole thing worth it in the end. It also helps San Francisco is a very cool city, and that Nike does an amazing job hyping up the spectators before and during the race. Nothing is better than an excited crowd! Another benefit is the scenery – running a race in a city you’ve never been to, or only visited briefly once or twice (or maybe a million times) regardless it makes for a completely different race experience on its own. It makes for excellent distractions. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, running along Fisherman’s Wharf, spotting Alcatraz from a distance. We even saw bison along the way! This all made the hills not so bad. Surprisingly, mine and Cecilley’s hill training was actually enough. Although I was very doubtful of this the morning of our race. Seeing the vertical streets downtown as we waited corralled around Union Square – this would put doubts in anyone’s mind. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought that we haven’t prepare nearly enough for what was about to happen.

Cecilley was another reason I survived this whole thing. We started the race together, but she gave me the confidence to break away from the crowd and go after my goal time. So I ran ahead, into the sea of purple shirts. Cecilley’s carefree attitude and positivity was just what I needed around me. She was the best friend to have along for this crazy ride and the best running buddy I could have asked for. Good thing, this whole TNT/running a half marathon was her idea after all! And not only did Cecilley take care of me the night before the race and the morning of: she made sure I ate good running food and made sure I was hydrated: she also acted as my Erin substitute when I felt the need to sing a song about our race. Only Matt truly understands the Erin and Jill pre-race rituals. Cecilley, thank you! You may have been my saving grace. And I’m so proud of you! You ran so fast!!


Cecilley and I towering over the hills!


I still find it hard to believe we actually did it. After all the months of fundraising, training, more fundraising, climbing hills, and more running our race came to an (unexpectedly pleasant) end on Sunday, October 14th. But, now I have no idea what to do with myself! This is something our coaches and mentors didn’t prepare us for, the post race blues. I want to start running again, but for now I’m going to bask in the glory of successfully completing the Nike Women’s Marathon and not dying! That’s until Erin and I start training for the Blue Nose Full Marathon of course!

The route for the Nike Women’s Marathon was great and the support throughout the race was incredible. Team In Training had a huge presence at NWM – makes sense being the official race to benefit blood cancers. But Cecilley and I were a part of something much bigger than the race itself. Women and men (yes men are allowed to run this race too) from all over Canada and the US did exactly what we did, we trained hard and raised a tone of money to be there. We earned the right to run and that felt really good. Each time I heard someone yell “Go Team!” or yelled to me specifically “Go Canada!” or “Right on, Ontario!” I felt even better. But the stories I heard and the coaching moments I saw during, after, and before the race truly brought everything together for me. The energy I had from the moment I woke that morning to the last person I watched cross the finish line, that feeling stuck with me. Cecilley, myself and the 25,000 other Team In Training participants all did an amazing thing that day. We all ran a race! And we helped change lives. These are two of my new favourite things to do. What’s up next? I need to plane my own race where I can make this happen.

Thank you Team In Training, LLSC, and Nike for an experience I will never forget!

I went Piloxing

Jessica demonstrating a plioxing move.


What: Piloxing — demo class
When: Wednesday @ 7pm
Where: Street Dance Academy (160 Spadina Avenue)
Who: Jessica Sayde


A few months ago, Jill and I went to CanFitPro and discovered a new workout that is supposedly sweeping Hollywood: Piloxing. (In the promo video, Hilary Duff and Melissa McCarthy are supposedly fans.) It was just beginning to break into Canada and we knew we had to try it.

Well, on Wednesday night, I tried it.

One of the few Canadian piloxing instructors, Jessica Sayde, knew that Jill and I wanted to take a class and when she had set up a free demo class at the Street Dance Academy, she let us know! Jill was away running a half-marathon, but I jumped at the chance, having no real idea what I was getting into.


Behind this door, Piloxing awaits.


The class was small, about 10 people. We all wore dance or yoga gear and were barefoot.  (If you take a lass, bring a towel, mat and water. No shoes necessary!) Normally when you Pilox (is Pilox even a word?), you wear half-pound gloves, but they hadn’t arrived from LA yet. Since it was the very first class, we were all fine with this. Gloves would just make everything harder, right? After a quick introduction to the basic moves, we jumped in: 45 minutes of bouncing, punching and what felt a whole lot like dancing, followed by 10 minutes of floor work. The class was set up in “blocks”: we’d do a punching sequence, following by a skipping/dance sequence and some ab-centric stuff. Repeat. The blocks got more complicated as we progressed through the class and we worked out way up to a combo: punch, punch, uppercut, punch, skip, skip, skip, skip, repeat.

But the dancing. Oh, the dancing. I recognize it’s not really dancing, but there was definitely choreography.  Despite the fact it’s called Piloxing (Pilates + boxing, get it?!), the workout felt more like boxing plus dance aerobics with a focus on abs. And it felt like dancing because the music was LOUD. So loud I found it impossible to follow Jessica. Even turning down just a smidge would have helped me immensely. My complete lack of coordination (I cannot punch and kick at the same time to save my life) didn’t help.

But I had fun. I liked the punching stuff. I liked constantly moving. The hour flew by and we were all drenched by the end. I liked the concept of making boxing fun, acessbile and female-friendly. Unlike the Muay Thai boxing class Jill and I took, this class was mostly women — only one man was brave enough to join it. Will I go again? Sure. Will it become a regular part of my workout routine? Probably not. Will I tell others to give it  try? Hell yes.


 Take this if: you’re looking for a high-impact aerobic workout or if you want to box but don’t want to do it in a traditional boxing gym.


Jessica is teaching classes at the Street Dance Academy every Wednesday from 7-8pm, a drop-in is $15.

Want a better idea of what Piloxing is all about? Watch the video below:



My October Happiness Check-In


So remember when I set goals at the beginning of the month? I barely remember them, let alone following my progress. October has been buuuuuusy and it’s taught me an important lesson.

Thinking about happiness and working on your happiness is a luxury. It’s hard to prioritize happiness when you’re stressed about money, family or work. And I live a pretty comfortable life. I’m lucky I get to worry about happiness.

With that in mind, let’s look at October’s goals and how I’m doing.


1) Do new fitness things once a week

It’s mid-month and I haven’t done anything new yet. But I am going to Piloxing this week, so it’s not too late to turn it around. And I hired a running coach for next year, so that counts, right? (I’m counting it.)

I have also figured out this month my prime happiness fitness threshold. I need to work out at least four times a week to feel like me and feel good about myself. So that’s not directly related to this goal, but I think it’s probably more important, in the long run, than trying some crazy fitness craze.


2) Have people over

This hasn’t happened yet, but not for lack of trying! Everyone is as busy as we are! It will happen. I have faith.


3) Buy a new piece of furniture

I look at the IKEA website every day. Get that coffee table in, IKEA, and I’ll be there!


4) Don’t complain about work or at work

I’m getting better at this, I really am. It’s a work in progress.


5) Do daily sit-ups

This is one I’m doing pretty good at. Daily isn’t happening, but 4-5 times a week is.


And, upon reflection, this month hasn’t been as bad as I thought, has it? I’m working on a lot of stuff, even without realizing it. I guess that’s what happiness is about: constant progress. And I haven’t forgotten September’s goals, either. I’ve worked on clutter (cleaning the backyard and the front bench), waking up early (I see 6:30am more often than I don’t), am doing yoga regularly (but not 3x a week) and have kept my weight down (not in the 170s yet, though, but it’ll happen. Soon.). So I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. That’s part of happiness too, right?



I hired a coach!

Let’s do this.


A running coach, that is. After running three half marathons and Around the Bay 30k, I’ve learned a few things.

I don’t know enough about running to develop plans that work for me.

I’m not getting better as quickly as I’d like.

If I don’t have a goal, my training goes out the window.

I thought that getting a coach might change that. I had a coach for basketball right up to the very end. The most elite athletes in the world have coaches. They have coaches to make them better. I have a fitness budget, I have the desire to become a better runner. Why not hire a coach and see if it works for me?

Yesterday, I met with Andie, my new coach. Andie is the FitStreets queen. I really liked her style and approach to running and when I learned that her running coach option (she outlines all her services on her site) was reasonably priced, I figured why not? I want to run a full marathon, so let’s do this right.

We grabbed coffee at my office and discussed the basics: my time goals, my running routine, my shoes and gear, what races I wanted to run in the lead-up to the full marathon, how I should track my work-outs and what to expect out of training for a marathon. She’s now going to put a 20-week plan together for me leading up to the Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon on May 19, 2013.

I’m exited. I’m terrified. But so far, I think hiring a coach was the right call. I like the idea of having a personal plan that’s designed for me and my needs, that will work around my injuries and schedule. I also like the idea of having a sound board for my questions and a place to channel all my running-related queries. Because, let’s face it, my friends don’t want to hear about those as often as I want to talk about it.

I’ve felt like I’ve been in a running rut since Midsummer’s. Sure, I’ve been running and had a great race with Jill. But I haven’t set any goals or looked forward, I was just going through the motions. I want the Bluenose to change that.

I’ll let you know how it goes.



Monday Miles: October 8-14


A busy work week, a wedding and a day of feeling not great meant only three work-outs this week. Can’t win ’em all.


Monday: rest

Wasn’t 100% planned, but since I felt stiff from the long run the day before, decided to take a break.


Tuesday: 5.9km in Leslieville @ 7:15am

Almost wasn’t going to run in the morning, but at the last second, decided to do it. I try to tell myself that if I keep thinking about working out, I should just do it, but easier said than done, right?


Wednesday: 5k in Riverdale @ 6:45am

I felt so productive and inspired by my Tuesday run that I did it again on Wednesday.


Thursday: rest

Planned to go to lunch time yoga. Forgot I had a committee meeting. Went to that instead.


Friday: rest

Had to be at work at 6:30am this day so a morning work-out wasn’t going to happen. Planned to do lunch time yoga, but was too busy (and burned out) to do it and post-work plans meant taking a second rest day in a row. This was the day I felt like crap, so figured it was better to be safe than sorry with this one.


Saturday: 8k in the Beach @ 9am

With a wedding to attend on Satruday night, I made plans to meet up with Kate to do a morning beach-side run and to check out her new house. I love the beach in the fall: the weather is perfect for running but the cooler temps means there’s not as many people on the boardwalk. It was a sunny, chilly day and this run was perfect, capped off with a delicious coffee from Lazy Daisy!


Sunday: rest

I went to a wedding Saturday night. I probably could have gone to yoga if I really tried, but ugh. No. I chose instead to lie on my coach and watch a man jump from space and made promises to myself I’d be better next week.



Race Recap: Island Girl Half Marathon Relay

Erin’s Story:

When Jill announced her half-marathon plans way back in the spring, I spent some time hunting for great tune-up races. I knew two things: I wanted to run on the island at some point and I wanted to run a relay. I never seriously considered the Island Girl Half Marathon before because the thought of doing two loops of the same course seemed torturous. But as soon as I saw they had a relay option — with each member doing one 10.5k loop — and it was 3 weeks before Jill’s race, I signed us up. I think it’s important to try new races each year, so I was eager to give this one a go. We had a great plan: run the race, then spend the day kicking back on the island in the sun.

Months later, I realized the race was the same day as Word on the Street. The timing would still work out — race in the morning, WOTS in the afternoon — but there’d be no relaxing post-race.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I was running, but not a lot. Once the Scotiabank half marathon was removed from my schedule, I lost focus. But I knew I was in shape enough to have a strong run, it was just a matter of how strong. I wanted to come in around 1:00 for my 10.55k loop (the more ambitious goal was sub-1:00 but my run needed to be amazing in order for that to happen) and I knew Jill had it in her to come in under 55. So we set out team goal for sub 2:00.



Jill slept over the night before and we woke to a chilly, cloudy morning: perfect for running but terrible for the ferry ride to the island. It was magical and surreal being in a park that’s jam-packed all summer long when it’s empty and early. The island is beautiful. And the vibe for this race is really fun. It was small — maybe a couple hundred runners — and from the moment we arrived at the ferry terminal, it felt like a party. We caught the 8am ferry over, cheered for the 5k racers, then walked around to keep warm. We were a bit nervous as to how the relay exchange would work. I was going to run the first leg and Jill was going to run the second. So I stripped down, got in the corral, laughed (with delight) at the Groove Crew warm-up and we were off.

The beginning of the race was crowded, but it cleared out quickly. I headed towards Hanlan’s point. I came out a bit too fast: 5:17, but I felt good. I slowed a bit because I didn’t want to burn out. I quickly fell into place with a blonde runner with about the same build and same pace as me. We didn’t talk, but keeping her in my eyeline helped me through the next 2 kilometres (5:29, 5:35). At the 3k mark, there was a water station. I felt good, so I powered through and said good-bye to my pace pal. My hip started to twinge here, not in a painful way, but in that yes-you-have-hip-problems-don’t-forget-about-them way. I focused on breathing and slowed down a bit through kms 4 and 5 (5:45, 5:52).

The midpoint of the race comes through the centre, so I knew Jill would be cheering! Kilometres 6 and 7 were tough (5:58, 6:02) but then I learned that the course took us along the boardwalk! I was excited about running on wood and by the awesome views. Once I hit the 8k mark (6:03), I knew sub 1:00 was in my reach if I picked it up. So I did. I was tired as I rounded the corner at Ward’s Island to head back to the relay exchange, but found a surge of energy thanks to Carly Rae Jepsen and a chatty fellow runner I decided I needed to finish ahead of. As we passed the Rectory Cafe (5:55) I saw a wedding part crossing the path and felt bad the had to deal with a race on their wedding day. I yelled an exhausted congratulations anyway (I loved that I was seeing a wedding while running and wanted them to know that! That, and the bride’s vintage dress was so beautiful) and picked it up for kilometre 10k (5:45). By then, I was spent. The relay exchanged seemed so far away. Then I heard the announcer yelling “40! 40!” crossed the mat, high fived Jill and saw her speed off. 1:01. Close, but not enough. But I ran well and knew out team goal of sub 2 was well within reach. It was up to Jill now.


Jill’s story:

The high five portion of the race was by far the best part! As I saw Erin come roaring around the corner of the Centre Island turn I was ready for my turn. Erin looked good and strong out there as I cheered her on at the half way point. I wanted more than ever to do the same. When the announcer yelled our number I thought “Erin’s here already!?”. I was pumped there was no way we’d not break out goal time, I just knew it. But to add to that, Erin told me I had to run my loop of the race in 52 minutes — no pressure at all — but as soon as she said it, I really wanted to run my loop in 52 minutes.

Being the faster sister, Erin made me the anchor of the team. This was perfectly okay with me. But while Erin was running I was waiting around. Runner number 2’s (myself included) got the short end of the stick: not only did we have to wait around for the 5k race we had to wait for our partners to run their share. This was something I had not thought about until afterwards. We ended up waiting around for what felt like hours (because it was) and I was getting rather antsy. Catching the 8am ferry felt unnecessary at this point. Keeping to the fun aspect of the race and the Hawaiian theme there were hoola dancers at the transition point to entertain us. With Jimmy Buffet playing in the background the wait wasn’t really that bad. And Erin did run her part very quickly too which also helped. The weird part about this race, however, was how my nerves really got to me before a race. And I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, San Francisco is all I could think about up to this point, and the fact the race was creeping up ever so quickly, and Cecilley and I still had more than $2,000 left to fundraise. Plus, work was getting insane and my training was suffering because of it. I had a lot on my brain leading up to the race and to top it all off Jackie Szabo was getting ready to leave me and Moksha Downtown forever. I had more than enough to think about.

But having the Island Girl race was a good distraction, which was something I needed. Running races with Erin was always been fun, but this time we would be a team! When Erin took off at the beginning I was so happy to watch her go. But then confusion set in and I had no idea where the exchange point was. I did not want to miss her or miss my part of the race. I had a lot riding on me, me being the anchor and all. Luckily, there were other runners lingering around nearby. I followed a group of ladies who looked like they knew what was going on. We found the very nice organizers who then explained everything we needed to know. Perfect! I could relax and would not mess anything up. All I had to do was let Erin cross the mat at the transition point, high five her, then run! That’s exactly what we did.



It was more of a jump high five actually. As Erin yelled “Are you ready?” when she saw me jump out from the crowd, I yelled back “I’m ready! I’m ready!”. This got us a few laughs from the crowd – I was really ready to run at this point and I took off along the route Erin had just done.

As ready as I felt watching Erin, my body was not. I felt very heavy and slow the entire time. Not uncomfortable, thank goodness, but slow. It was a weird feeling and an new one for me. With all the races I’ve done I could not relate to this feeling. I’ve had plenty of hard training days where walking would have been faster than my running speed. Mentally this is not what I wanted at the point in my training. I made the loop around Hanlan’s in dire need of a boost. I grabbed a Gatorade and tried to speed up. But I still felt the same. The race felt long and that 5k mark could not come fast enough. There were two sets of signs and I was too confused and frustrated with my body and legs to know exactly how far I had left to go. My stellar tacit of casing my competition wasn’t working either I was more often alone on the route then with bunches of people. The I saw Erin – the half way mark arrived! She yelled at me to pass people (in true Balser competitive spirit). And so I did. I passed more and more ladies until the Centre Island bridge was in sight. I held on and sprinted to the end. I had one opponent left and Erin yelled for me the “pass her!” And so I did. Coming in at a time of 53 minutes. This felt bizarre. There was no way I was that fast. But I was. All my NWM training must be paying off. The course is flat, fun and being on the Island is the best! We will run this race again next year. It was so fun! But next time I might have to run first. It’s only fair.

The race: 21.1k in 1:54:30

The route:

Monday Miles: October 1-7









I know, I know, today is a Tuesday. But yesterday was a holiday, one spent traveling home from Thanksgiving at the cottage. And do you know what you get when you add a chaotic work week to a family-oriented food-filled holiday?

Not a lot of exercise.

Let’s recap.


Monday: rest

After working out five days in a row leading up to Monday, I decided to give my legs a rest.


Tuesday: 5k, 6:45am @Riverdale

This was my usual “get a quick run in route” through Cabbagetown and Riverdale park. This was a slow one, as my legs are rapidly getting used to the fewer kilometres.


Wednesday: Hatha Flow, 1:15pm @ Yoga Tree

Work is getting busy, so I made plans to get to the office early to get this class in. It’s getting tougher to do lunch time yoga, but I’m happier when it happens.


Thursday: rest

This was not planned. But I had two after work events, 4 work meetings and stayed up too late watching the presidental debate. Note to self: you don’t need to watch the whole debate if you plan to read every single analysis and recap written about it.


Friday: Hot Yoga, 12:15pm @ Yoga Tree

The original plan was to do my usual 1:15 hatha class, but I was in the mood for a workout — even though I forgot to bring lean underwear (TMI, I know) and a towel. Despite these inconvenciences (and the fact this class thoroughly kicked my ass), I’m glad I went.


Saturday: rest

This was bad planning on my part. I should have ran first thing in the morning, but didn’t. Then we were going to head to the cottage, so it seemed like there wasn’t enough time. (There was.) Oh well, it happens.


Sunday: 10k, 11am @ Cottage

Matt’s cottage is on a hilly road. This makes this run challenging, but also beautiful and interesting. And since Jill is running the very hilly San Francisco half marathon next weekend, it seemed like a good way to prep for marathon Thanksgiving eating and Jill’s final long(ish) run before her big race.



This week I have fewer work events and no holidays, so I hope to get at least 6 workouts in. Oh, and I’ve committed to running a full marathon in Spring 2013. But I haven’t been very faithful to my race commitments this year. So we’ll see.




A Walk in the Woods: Hiking the Rouge River Valley

JK and me ready to hike. JK has yet to get the memo that bright colours = better fitness.


JK and I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed this summer and both came to the same realization: we needed to do a hike like that. And soon. After some research, we settled on a time (the last two weeks of July 2013) and a place (the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland). There was only one problem: neither of us were big-time hikers.

Sure, I’d done the day trips in high school biology, with my dad and Envirothon. I even lived on an island in a tent for a summer for a summer job during university. I knew we could do it. But we wanted to get some practice in first in order to avoid a lot of the problems Cheryl faced on her journey. It’s far better to discover your boots are too small or your sunscreen gives you a rash on a 10k day trip than a 220k adventure.


Riverside hiking! Don’t fall in!


We set the day for our first trip — September 29 — and thanks to the Toronto Hiking website, settled on the Rouge River Valley trail path. Depending on the route we took, it would be anywhere from 8k to 12k and would range from easy to a little bit difficult. Pals Steph, Anita and Aaron decided to join us and we were off. Aaron drove (thanks Aaron!), which made finding the trail pretty easy — it’s right next to the zoo.


A map of the trail network, courtesy Toronto Hiking. We didn’t cover all of it, so we’ll need to come back!


And we were off. We kept a brisk, but manageable pace. The trail started through a meadow, then turned into woods after a kilometre or so. We eventually ended up down by the river and followed that for a while. After taking one too many wrong loops, we settled by the river for lunch, then retraced our steps back to the car. Overall, it was about 2.5 hours and we probably hiked 10k. We saw other people, which was reassuring because it meant we weren’t totally lost, but never enough people that it was crowded or overwhelming. Rouge Park felt like a wilderness gem in the city, and I was grateful to have found it.


JK and Aaron chowing down on homemade cookies (thanks JK!), granola and other hearty hiker foods.

It doesn’t get much better than this.


There’s something about being in nature that is soothing. It helps me return to my roots, anchor me. We are all part of something bigger, and that’s amazing. Too often I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city, of my career, of publishing. Places like Rouge River Valley remind me that nature isn’t far away at all — I just need to go seek it out. Make time for it. Bring it into my life. This epic hike next year is an extreme reaction to this need, but it can be done in littler ways everyday. Than you, Rouge River for reminding me of that.

And for giving my legs a killer workout.


Reflecting on September and Thinking about October

(Click for bigger.)

September is absolutely my favorite month of the year. Book season amps up (festivals, launches and awards, oh my!), the fall wardrobe comes out (I don’t feel complete without boots, a scarf and a cardigan). The weather is perfect, work is busy and I can be outside with freezing or sweating profusely.

However, it’s also a busy month, which means my happiness project and my goals for September quickly fell pretty low on the priority list. Let’s see how I did.


1) Eliminate Clutter

After attacking the living room with vigour, I also cleaned out the kitchen cupboards and did a major book cull. But you knew this from my last recap. Since then? Not much. However, I have gotten much better at cleaning the car litter regularly and have a large pile of stuff waiting for Jill’s yard sale. The second bedroom is next on the list and I hope to get to that sometime in October.


2) Lose 10 pounds

Again, a half-victory here. With book season in full season, I tend to stuff my face with free food and free wine at events. It gives me something to do and it means I don’t have to buy/make dinner when I head home. I’m consistently 6 or 7 pounds below where I was when I made this goal, so that’s a plus. But I’m okay with that. The weight will come off if I stay focused. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I don’t want to deprive myself simply for the sake of a number on a scale. I want to feel healthy and strong. And I do. If I hit that sub-180 mark, I’ll let you know. It’s in my reach.


3) Wake up earlier

This was the big success of September. I love waking up earlier. I’ve added daily sit-ups and push-ups to my routine. But, being the overachiever that I am, I may be trying to do too much with my extra bit of time. I need to scale back and be realistic. I can still do things after work, after all.


4) Do yoga 3x times a week

In four weeks, I (almost) accomplished this three times. As in, I went to yoga 2x a week. Yay me! I think 3x a week takes effort, but is not unreasonable. I want to maintain this going forward and as long as I can get one lunchtime class a week in, it’s totally doable. And there’s nothing wrong with twice a week yoga, anyway.


5) Make a skirt

This was a giant failure. But It did get me thinking about being creative and making more things during my free time. So if I’m more mindful about my creative projects and think about making time for them, that’s a win….right?

Overall, not a bad first month. Could I improve? Definitely. But that’s what life is about.


Now, on to my goals for October.

1) Do something new fitness-wise once a week

Now that my racing season is over, I have time to do things other than run. Jill and I were rockstars at the trying-something-new in the spring, and I want to get back into that. I have a squash date with JK planned and want to trying piloxing. The Regent Park Aquatic Centre is almost open, so I have a swim in mind there. I’ve swam and played squash before, but it’s been a long time since either was part of my everyday fitness routine. So let’s change that.


2) Have people over

All summer long, our house was sandwiched in a construction zone: our next-door neighbours did a top-to-bottom renovation and the condo behind out house is almost complete. As a result, our backyard was a disaster zone and having people over seemed strange. Now that we have it back (and it’s cool enough to have an indoor party), it’s time to get social again.  I have an epic dinner party planned for November (it’s still on the DL, details to come) but that’s too far away. Let’s be social now.


3) Buy a new piece of furniture

When we first moved it, we went crazy with the new home purchases. And we had to — we needed a new couch for upstairs and for downstairs. Then we bought some cheap patio furniture and a new futon to replace the cat-destroyed mattress in the second bedroom. Although Matt and I do a lot of looking, we haven’t made a big investment purchase since the futon almost a year ago. It doesn’t have to be expensive (I’ve had my eye on this coffee table for a month — c’mon IKEA and stock it in Canada already), but I want to to serve as a reminder that making a home is an on-going project.


4) Don’t complain at work or about work

I’m a big complainer and tend to use a lot of negative language. It’s not productive or helpful. And I love my job. I like working hard. Why muddy what is largely a positive experience by being grumbly or grumpy? My plan is to not complain needlessly and to frame any legitimate complaints in a constructive way. This will probably be harder than it looks, but I’m up for the challenge.


5) Do daily sit-ups

100 sit-ups takes about a minute. A minute. Maybe two. So why not make sure I do some every day? It’s an easy way to squeeze in some ab work and have a moment on fitness on even the busiest day.


How was your September?! What are your goals for October?