Still walking, but not enough!

It’s been two months since I last posted an update on my summer walking challenge. On May 2 of this year, I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2. Five months to walk 300 km. Easy peasy! Right?

I got off to a really good start reporting 87.07 km by June 2 and another 63.59 km in the month that followed. Two months into the challenge, I was already half way to my goal. In my third month, I walked another 68.83 km for a total of 219.49 km.

That’s when I slipped off the rails and I’m sad to say that in the past month I walked and/or hiked only 38.41 km! What happened? Well, I could make plenty of excuses. There was time spent with grandchildren. We did go hiking while they were with us, but other than that, I didn’t take time away from them to go for regular walks. We’ve had some rainy days. I do own an umbrella, but it’s easier to stay indoors on those days. And then there’s the fact that I hurt my back again. That one was a pretty good excuse for a few days, but even though it’s still not 100%, I could be going for short walks. In fact, they might even be good for me.

Most of all though, I’ve just been lazy! When it became obvious that I’d be able to reach my goal well ahead of schedule, I slacked off. Now it’s time to get off my butt, lace up those walking shoes, and finish the job! With only 42.1 km left to go and a full month until our anniversary, there’s plenty of time to get this done!

Halfway there!

On May 2nd, I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th anniversary on October 2. Some days I really look forward to walking. Others, knowing that I’m going to be reporting my progress here on the blog is the only thing that gets me up and out the door!

This month, I’m a couple of days late posting an update because we’ve been camping without internet for the past few days, but I’m happy to report that by July 1, I’d logged another 63.59 km. That’s over 20 km less than I walked in the first month, but I’ve walked a total of 150.66 km. Two months into my five month challenge I’m already halfway there! At this pace, I should be able to complete my 300 km well ahead of schedule.

Again, most of my walking has been on the streets of town, but we hiked just over 9 km while camping at Big Knife Provincial Park in mid June.

In last month’s update, I mentioned that I needed to invest in a new pair of walking shoes. I tried on several different pairs, but as soon as I put these ones on, I knew I’d found what I was looking for!

It was obvious immediately that these were shoes I’d be able to walk many miles in! They’re very supportive, but incredibly lightweight, and as the name implies, they’re like walking on a cloud! That’s thanks to the flytefoam cushioning in the sole and the soft gel unit in the heel. I also love the fact that at least 20% of the primary material of the shoe’s upper is made with recycled material!

So, even on those days when I don’t really feel like it, I’ll keep on walking and report my progress again next month.

Walking challenge update #1

This is just a quick post to update you on the walking challenge that I wrote about in this post on May 2nd. My plan was to walk (or hike) 300 kilometres in the five months leading up to our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2nd. The anniversary actually has nothing to do with the challenge other than giving me a good end date to aim for! I wrote about my plan because knowing that I’ll be reporting my progress on the blog makes me accountable. It gets me off the couch and out the door on days when I really don’t feel like walking! 

So, how have I done so far? In order to meet my goal, I need to walk at least 60 km a month. For my American readers, that’s approximately 37.3 miles. In the past month, walking 6 days a week, I’ve actually covered 87.07 km! 

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Most of my walking so far has been on the streets of our small town, but I also explored some of the Hardisty Nature Trails and this week we’ve been camping at Dillberry Lake Provincial Park where we did a short 2.3 km hike on Monday evening and then hiked 8.93 km on Tuesday. With a small group of friends I also took part in a 5 km fundraising walk for multiple sclerosis on Sunday. Together we raised over $2500! 

One thing that I’ve discovered in the past month is that I need to invest in a new pair of walking shoes. So far, I’ve been wearing old ones that don’t have much life left in them. I do have my trusty Merrell hiking shoes, but I don’t want to wear them out walking the streets of town. I could also use the ASICS running shoes that I bought last year specifically for the treadmill, but I want to save them for indoor use. Hopefully by the time I update again a month from now, I’ll be able to show you some new shoes as well as reporting another 60 km or more. 

 

A new challenge

I’ve been feeling very sluggish lately. I still do my morning exercise routine most days, but I quit weight lifting earlier than usual this spring when I foolishly tried lifting something I shouldn’t have and hurt my back. It’s okay now, so I really have no excuse except laziness and lack of incentive. Today I decided to do something about that!

Remembering back to last year when I walked 179.5 km as part of the Hoofing It Across Canada fundraiser for NET cancer research, I recalled how good all that walking felt and how much it helped to have a specific goal. That’s what I needed; a new challenge!

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October 2, our 45th wedding anniversary, is 5 months or exactly 154 days from now. I have decided to walk (or hike) 300 km between now and then. That’s an average of 1.95 km a day. (For my American readers, that’s a total of approximately 186 miles or 1.2 miles a day.) I know that I’m capable of walking further, but I also know that I won’t walk every single day and I want to set a goal that’s realistic and achievable. I’m telling you about it so that you’ll help keep me accountable. In fact, I’m wondering if anyone wants to join me? If my goal isn’t right for you, set one of your own and tell us about it in the comment section below.

Why walk?

Walking has many benefits including:

  • It’s accessible, easy, and free.
  • It reduces stress and decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety which, for many, have been escalated by the current pandemic.
  • It improves heart health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • It increases blood flow and therefore improves energy levels.
  • It improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • It reduces the risk of some cancers.
  • It boosts the immune system.
  • It helps prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
  • It reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • It burns calories.
  • It promotes more restful sleep.
  • It improves flexibility and helps ease chronic pain and stiffness.
  • It improves brain function.
  • It’s even been linked to longer life expectancy!

My current walking challenge is not a fundraiser, but I will be participating in a 5 km walk for Multiple Sclerosis research on May 30 in support of a close friend who battles this disease. If you would like to add your support, you can find my fundraising page here.

100 pounds!

I started lifting weights in the early 1990s. It was never my intention to become a body builder, but I had recently entered my 40s and I thought that it might be a good idea to do something to try to keep in shape. We already had the equipment in the basement and hubby, who was a phys ed teacher at the time, had been lifting for several years, so I had him set up a routine for me and my lifting days began. I would never have foreseen that I’d still be lifting all these years later!

Unlike many serious lifters who work out year round, we only lift from mid October until the end of April each year; the months that the golf course is closed. We have a short summer season here in Alberta and we want to spend as much of it as possible engaging in outdoor pursuits, not working out in the basement! Over the almost three decades that I’ve been lifting, I’ve had good seasons, bad seasons, and  even one when I didn’t lift at all. We spent that year teaching English in Japan and rather than seeking out a gym to join, we spent as much time as we could seeing the country and soaking up the culture. There were also a couple of partial seasons including the winter that we headed off to China to spend a semester teaching there.

My best year to date was the winter of 2005-2006. I was 53 years old and many years pre cancer. At the end of that season, I was bench pressing 97.5 pounds. Why I never pushed myself to add just 2.5 more pounds and press 100, I’ll never know! I suspect that the golf course opened and I probably thought that I’d be able to push that little bit further the following year. In ensuing years, however, I never made it past 90 pounds again. That is until this year!

Each of the past few years, I had a midwinter PRRT treatment that set me back strength-wise, but I kept on pushing myself and refused to quit completely. Am I ever glad I did! I guess I didn’t realize how much those treatments were actually taking out of me, but I haven’t had one since last June and I cannot believe how strong I’ve felt this year. Today I did something that I gave up hope of ever doing a long time ago. I bench pressed 100 pounds! That might not seem like a lot to many more serious lifters, but to me, at 67 years old with two cancers, it was huge!

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It was back in February that I first caught a glimpse of potentially reaching a new personal best. It was definitely on a distant horizon, but barring injury or sickness, it might just be possible. It was very shortly after that thought crossed my mind, however, that we got the call telling us that my father was dying. We had to drop everything and head for Vancouver. With that interruption, I thought the possibility was gone, but when we got home, I picked up where I’d left off and soon realized that it might still happen. I’ve continued lifting later into the spring than I normally do partially because, with the Covid-19 shutdown, there wasn’t a lot else to do, but mostly because I was so close to reaching my goal and I simply couldn’t let it slip through my fingers this time.

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Definitely feeling pretty proud of myself!

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Coping with the new normal

I was supposed to be in the city this afternoon for an appointment with Dr W concerning cancer #3 which is located in my thyroid. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, that didn’t happen. Clinic visits are being restricted to only the most urgent cases while people like myself are required to make do with a phone call from the doctor. Had I been in the office, Dr W would have done an ultrasound to determine whether or not there has been any change to my thyroid since I last saw him six months ago. We both agreed that that would have been the best scenario. If I was able to have an ultrasound done in the community where I live, we might have gone with that option, but the closest place that I could do that would be the hospital located an hour away. Since we both know that a hospital is a higher risk location than his clinic would be, we agreed that that wouldn’t be a good choice. Instead, we wait. We wait until the Covid-19 threat passes and I’m able to see him in his office again. He’s predicting June or July, but no one knows for sure. We wait and we pray that the cancer doesn’t grow or spread; that the additional two or three months doesn’t make a difference.

I was also planning to stop into the University Hospital dental clinic this afternoon to pick up a supply of the fluoride gel that I use once a day to protect my teeth from harmful effects of the radiation that I received after cancer #2 was surgically removed.  Thankfully, though, that can be sent to me by mail.

As we enter the fourth week since our province declared a state of emergency and services began to shut down, we’ve all experienced many changes. Most, like accessing my fluoride, have been fairly simple to deal with, while others, like not being able to see Dr W and have my scheduled ultrasound, are more challenging and may have serious long term effects.

Thankfully, for retirees like hubby and I, the impact of Covid-19 has thus far been easier to bear than it has been for many others. We don’t have a business to close, jobs to lose, or children to teach at home. Nevertheless, the novelty of staying home 24/7 wears pretty thin and many of the frustrations that go along with the current situation affect us all. In light of this, I thought I’d share a few things that are helping me deal with our new normal.

Routine.  I like routine at the best of times, but it’s even more important in times of uncertainty. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be flexible or spontaneous, but having some structure to my day really helps keep me on an even keel.

Adequate sleep.  I try to go to bed at night and get up in the morning at about the same time each day. That takes a bit of self-discipline. I tend to be a night owl and I could easily stay up way too late, but I know that I function best if I get about 8 hours of sleep a night. Thankfully, in spite of the fact that I’ve had a couple of nights where odd dreams that probably indicate an elevated stress level have kept me from sleeping well, most nights have not been like that and I feel well rested.

Exercise.  I’m very fortunate that, unlike many people who are finding it difficult to exercise because their gyms have closed, I have everything I need here at home. Monday to Friday my day begins with a 25 minute exercise routine that focuses on core strength, flexibility, and balance. Our basement gym consists of a treadmill, two weight benches, and a large assortment of free weights. Three afternoons a week find me down there lifting weights and on the alternate days, I either walk on the treadmill or outdoors. Sunday is usually a day of rest.

Healthy diet.  If anything, we’ve been eating better than ever since the beginning of this pandemic because I’ve been a little more intentional about meal planning. That started three weeks ago when we visited five grocery stores in one afternoon and found their meat departments almost empty! Thankfully, the shortage didn’t last and I’ve since been able to add enough to the freezer to last us quite awhile. We keep very little unhealthy snack food in the house, so even with many more hours at home, we haven’t been tempted to fill up on junk food.

Spiritual nourishment.  Prayer and Bible reading are regular parts of my daily routine that help keep me balanced. We’ve been missing the opportunity to meet in person on Sunday mornings, but we’ve been enjoying church online.

News, but not too much!  I don’t want to live with my head buried in the sand, but at the same time, I don’t want to become obsessed with every detail of what’s going on. I’ve continued my habit of reading the news after breakfast every morning. We subscribe to one newspaper online. I check the world, national, and local news each day, but I very seldom read editorials. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching our provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health give her daily Covid-19 update each afternoon online, but I don’t watch TV news.

Connection.  Staying in touch with friends and family by phone and online has been a vital part of staying sane. I enjoyed a lovely visit with a group of girlfriends via Zoom one evening last week and we’ve also enjoyed chats with several of our grandchildren.

Purpose.  It think one of the key ingredients to coping throughout the ups and downs of life and perhaps more than ever right now is having a sense of purpose. In addition to the usual day to day activities like meal preparation and exercising, I’ve been cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen cabinets and I’ve been using Duolingo to learn Spanish! Of course, there’s also the blog! Writing it and connecting with all of you gives me so much pleasure!

The one thing that I’d like to be doing more of these days is getting outdoors, but we seem to trapped in a never ending winter. Our snow is usually gone by the end of March, but not so this year. There’s lots of sunshine in the forecast though and our daytime temperatures are beginning to inch up over 0ºC (32ºF), so perhaps this too shall pass just as we know the pandemic will.

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So, my friends, how are you coping? What are some things that are helping you get through these most unusual times?

 

Fashion or function?

I love a stylish pair of sneakers. You’ve seen some of my favourites here before.

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I also love the fact that sneakers are no longer only for wearing to the gym or for running. In fact, a pair like these from Circus by Sam Edelman wouldn’t even be suitable for those pursuits. I have, however, worn them with a dress.

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Then there’s this pair that I bought specifically for walking in Europe last spring.

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Here I’m wearing them overlooking a beautiful stretch of sandy beach in Belgium.

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My husband gave me these metallic blue ones for Christmas just over a year ago. They look especially good with jeans.

But sometimes what a shoe looks like isn’t the most important factor. One of my goals for the new year was to get back into the habit of walking on the treadmill at least three times a week (on the days that I don’t lift weights) and for that I needed a new pair of comfortable, supportive shoes. At the sporting goods store I was confronted with an entire wall of running shoes and trainers and I had no idea where to begin! Of course, my eye was drawn to the cutest and most colourful ones, but I had to remind myself that that wasn’t why I was there. Thankfully, a very knowledgeable sales clerk steered me in the right direction. If I was only going to use the shoes on the treadmill and not for other gym activities, she recommended running shoes as opposed to trainers. That narrowed the search to half the wall! Looking at my feet, she immediately realized that they’re narrow and suggested two brands that I should consider. These are the ones that I settled on.

I’ve only put about 8.5 kilometres (5.3 miles) on them so far, but I think they were a good choice. They’re lightweight but sturdy, and gel technology in the heel and the forefoot provides plenty of cushioning. The fact that I also like what they look like is simply a bonus! I’ve added them to my list of clothing purchases for 2020, but I really think of them as an investment in my health as opposed to a fashion item. Sometimes function takes precedence over fashion!

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12 Days of WholyFit

Some of you who saw my recent fitness photos on Facebook have been asking what they were all about. WholyFit is a Christian alternative to yoga that offers fitness workouts for body, soul and spirit. Sessions are taught by well trained fitness professionals using exercise techniques that meet industry standards. Carrie is one such instructor. I’ve known her since she was a child and I took a series of classes from her a couple of years ago. When she introduced a 12 day fitness challenge on her Facebook page earlier this month, I decided to give it a try.

I know that there are some Christians who believe that we should never bend our body into yoga-like poses because in doing so we are bowing to false gods. What absolute poppycock! In very simple terms, yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline which includes breath control, meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily positions that are designed to be relaxing and to increase physical strength and stamina. While yoga has its roots in ancient eastern religious thought, it is not a religion and it definitely doesn’t own the poses!

As with anything else, it’s a matter of intentionality. The Bible tells us, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). As long as we don’t become obsessed with our own physique, when we take care of our bodies, we honour and glorify the God who made them and we equip ourselves to be better able to do the work He gives us to do. If we contemplate or meditate on His Word or His works while we stretch and pose, so much the better!

On December 5, Carrie posted the first challenge. Each day participants were to practice the pose at home, snap a selfie, and post it on their Facebook page. The idea was to try to hold each pose for 5 to 10 breath cycles (inhale and exhale). In some cases, I was able to do that quite easily. In others, not so much! The entire exercise took two weeks to complete because, in accordance with scripture, Sundays were a day of rest. For those of you who haven’t already seen my photos, I’m including all of them in this post. Since Richard is already well practiced at taking photos for the blog and it isn’t easy to take selfies while holding the poses, he acted as my willing photographer.

Day 1  –  Cross Balance

This pose was very similar to one that I’d been working on in a Balance and Mobility program that was recently offered by Alberta Health Services. Though I can hold it significantly longer than I could at first, I’d eventually like to be able to lift my back leg higher and keep it straighter.

Day 1 copy

Day 2  –  Side Shield

I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this pose and was delighted to find that I could!

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Day 3  –  Bell

This one looked easier, but it wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be.

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Day 4  –  Overcomer Side

I discovered after the fact that the palms of my hands should have been upward instead of down on this one which would have engaged different muscles. Oops!

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Day 5  –  Candlestick

As opposed to being a static pose, this one involves slowing lowering yourself into this position and then reversing back up to a standing position keeping the heels lifted throughout.

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Day 6  –  Sword

Carrie gave us two versions of this one and I opted for the simpler one. She advised that we not try the more advanced version unless we had first practiced this one sufficiently as it requires greater shoulder strength. Though lifting weights and paddling the kayak have given me fairly strong shoulders, I knew that I’d best leave the advanced version for the younger set and not take a chance on injuring myself. As on Day 1, I was surprised at how difficult it was to fully straighten my extended leg.

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Day 7

Carrie designated Day 7 Blooper Wednesday. Her instructions were: Post your best blooper picture (if you’ve got one). Spend some time practicing 1 or 2 postures that you’ve worked on so far. Reflect on all the ways God is making you NEW and thank him for it 💕Since I’ve been weeding out photos and getting rid of ones I don’t want to keep, I didn’t have a blooper photo to post, but the latter part of her message resonated with me. Have you ever stopped to ponder how truly amazing our bodies are? Though my body is riddled with cancer and there are various parts that don’t work as well as they once did, I can walk, dance, kayak, hike, ride a bike, hug a loved one, lift weights, and bend into and balance in all sorts of poses! I can hear, see, taste, talk, think, and reason. I have so much to be thankful for! 

Day 8  –  Breastplate

Again, Carrie gave us two versions and this time I was able to do the more advanced one!

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Day 9  –  Forward Dove

This one definitely needs work. Again, it was a challenge to get the extended leg as straight as it ought to be and I kept threatening to tip over before Richard could get a picture!

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Day 10

By Day 10, the poses were getting more difficult and I wondered if I’d be able to do the final two! Carrie’s instructions for this one were to drop one hand or two to the heels. One hand I could do, but two was an impossibility! I simply can’t arch my back that much.

Day 10 copy

Day 11  –  Shield of Faith and Fire Extinguisher

Carrie gave us two poses to try on Day 11. The idea was to hold the first pose, Shield of Faith, and then drop one hip to the floor and move into the second pose, Fire Extinguisher. That one just felt like I was relaxing on the floor!

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Day 12

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about back on Day 10! The final two days weren’t too difficult after all. Overall, I’m pretty proud of what this 66 year old body was able to do.

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If exercise, getting in shape, particularly increasing balance and flexibility, are on your list of New Year’s resolutions, I’d definitely suggest giving WholyFit a try. It’s more than just an exercise program as it offers faith centred health and wellness ministering to spirit and soul as well as body. If there isn’t a trained instructor in your area or you prefer to exercise at home rather than attending a group session, DVDs and video downloads are available on the website.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

Strong arms at the ready?

I lift weights every winter to keep in shape, but this past winter I had a more specific goal to spur me on. I wanted to be able to paddle our kayak longer than I could last summer without feeling like my arms were going to fall off! In particular, I wanted to be able to do a five or six hour trip on the North Saskatchewan River this summer. I started lifting earlier in the fall than I usually do and I continued later into the spring. By the time I quit, just before my May 23 cancer treatment, I was lifting more than I had for several years!

No, we haven’t done that kayak trip yet, but over the past three days, I’ve tested out those arms and shoulders and I think I can do it! On Wednesday we played 18 holes of golf in our local seniors tournament. That’s not a big deal, but then on Thursday we paddled the kayak for more than three hours. Last year that would have been more than I could handle and I must admit that by the time we finished, my arms were sore. I went to bed that night wondering if I really could handle the long river trip, but when I woke up the soreness was gone and I golfed another 18 holes!

Thursday’s excursion took us back to the Battle River, a tributary of the North Saskatchewan  that meanders through central Alberta and western Saskatchewan. Starting at Big Knife Provincial Park, we paddled upstream for an hour an a half. The river moves slowly, so paddling against the flow isn’t as challenging as it might sound.

Battle River

Other than waterfowl, we didn’t see any wildlife, but we were both reminded of Psalm 50:10 when we saw the cows grazing on the grassy hills overlooking parts of the river. “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”

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Can you see the curious bovine faces peeking at us in this one?

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Holding the camera still enough in a moving kayak to get crisp photos with the zoom lens is virtually impossible, but I did manage to get this one of a very protective Mama duck and her offspring.

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We really weren’t very close, but she squawked and flapped about in quite a frenzy trying to warn us away from her lone duckling. I’m sure her poor heart was beating faster than any duck’s is meant to and I wished I could reassure her that we were no threat. As if scaring her once wasn’t enough, we met her again in exactly the same spot on our trip back down the river. This time Junior was hidden somewhere in the reeds, but once again she did her best to scare us away.

In spite of the fact that the Battle moves slowly, the trip downstream should have been a bit quicker, but we were bucking a stiff wind much of the way and it took a little longer than we expected. We were glad when the bright yellow buoy marking the location of the Big Knife boat launch came into view!

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There will be more kayaking and more golf before we tackle the North Saskatchewan, but campgrounds with decent wifi are few and far between, so it might be a little while before I can post again. Even this one took hours to put together!

 

Winter fun!

Today was supposed to be a weight lifting day, but when snowshoes are delivered to your door in the morning, it’s the first day without any wind in absolutely ages, and this is waiting just down the street, plans just have to change!

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Ever since our snowshoe adventures over the Christmas holiday, snowshoes have been on our shopping list and we finally ordered these ones from Costco. They’re Canadian made and we especially like the bindings with their easy-to-use ratchet buckles. They come as a kit with a carry bag and telescoping poles that can also be used as trekking poles in the summer.

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This winter seems to be lasting forever, but now that we have our snowshoes, I’m much less anxious to see spring arrive! Hopefully we have a few more opportunities to get out and enjoy the snow before it melts away. On the other hand, that is the golf course we’re snowshoeing on!