Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Race Medal Madness

My custom tank, front and back, displays nearly 30 race medals.
Several posts ago I asked the question, "What to do with all these race medals?"

And then I hung them on tree branches and took artsy photos of them. That was funny and interesting. But afterwards, they all went back into the closet.

Until last month. That's when I stumbled upon a web site that offers design templates that allow you to place an all-over print onto clothing.

"Wow!" I thought. "Now I can wear all my medals at once and show people what an awesome middle=aged recreational athlete I am!"

The photo I uploaded to make the shirt.
The site is called Artscow
Basically you snap a good photo, upload it to the site, chose the clothing item and size you want (Whatever your size, I would recommend ordering at least one size larger. I am usually a small or x-small but I order a medium from this site). Then you simply manipulate the size and positioning of the photo  and voila! Done. The price was under $20 USD for this tank top, although shipping was almost the same price, as the goods come from Hong Kong. Luckily, the company seems to consistently offer decent discounts.

Maybe there are more sites like this closer to home (I would love to find a Canadian-based manufacturer) but this one is simple and easy to use, and the colour quality, so far, has been excellent. I've "designed" leggings and a lot of great items from my older kids' exceptional artwork.

#designideas #racemedals

Friday, 29 January 2016

50+, Still at it, New Blog!

It's Been a Long Time...

Still at it: a little running, a lot of strength training. Feels great to challenge those muscles, especially when one is slightly over half-a-century old and metabolism needs a boost!  Signed up at 5 Peaks for the 2016 trail running series, and hopefully adding a half marathon into the mix for this spring and fall.

As lonnnngggg stretched-out paragraphs of fitness blog writing have not been part of my ritual for some time (I will not bore you with the whys, suffice to say, life gets busy, interests shift and change), I have created a new blog. It's simple, all about finding happiness in everyday life. There's enough negativity floating around out there, right? There won't be any "how-tos" necessarily, but rather small, thoughtful (probably funny at times), doses of personal cheer, that keep my heart smiling, and might inspire you to discover or re-connect with your own happy thoughts. Fitness will no doubt creep into the mix, as it does keep my body and mind happy.

Take a visit on your coffee, tea or lemon water break to The Happy Daily Read.

And have a happy day!

Update: It's April 15, 2016. After about 30 days The Happy Daily Read turned into a chore. Trying to write happy on a daily basis made me unhappy and a little cranky. So the blog title much more suited to my ever-changing interests is now known as The Chameleon's Desk. A mix of thoughtful writing, creative writing, fitness adventures and photography. More me. Guaranteed not to be daily!

Now go and have a happy day.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Pole Fitness: For Body, Mind and Sexy Soul

There I was, my 50-year-old self, with two 20-something gals, in a cosy studio, curtains drawn to the outside world, some great music playing, a wall of mirrors and about half a dozen shiny vertical metal poles.

This is harder than it looks (squeeeeeze those thighs!)
but oh so much fun!
It was my first pole fitness class. I was pumped! OK and a little nervous.

Lori Graystone is the owner/operator of Rock N Pole, located in Barrie, Ontario. Although I had heard about Lori’s business in the past, only recently had I summoned up my courage to give it a try, after attending the studio’s five-year anniversary open house celebration/fund raising event for National Down Syndrome Day.

Lori was kind and patient as she led us through some basic moves in the “Pole Intro” class. First, we held the pole with one hand and simply did a “sexy walk” around it, on our tiptoes. I felt a little “out of my sexy element” at first, especially in front of a huge mirror, but it didn’t take long before I felt comfortable. There is no judgement at this studio. Everyone is there to learn a new skill and let’s face it, embrace our inner Venus a little bit at the same time. (Get a good workout and feel sexy about doing it – why not?)

"Fireman's Spin" at Rock N Pole studio

What I liked about this Pole Intro class was the pace. It was easy to manage and Lori took the time to ensure we understood every move. (I am not the greatest at mimicking any kind of move that requires flow. It takes me a few tries before I don’t look like a confused robot.) In the hour-long class, we used the pole for climbing, gripping, balancing, stretching and even massaging our shoulders and back muscles.

Who knew pole fitness could be a viable cross training option for a runner? My typically stiff hip flexors loved the sexy hip rotations that were part of the workout. My inner thighs benefited from the basic “spin,” done by gripping the pole with the crook of your bent knee as well as your inner thigh. The “Fireman’s Spin” required me to “let loose,” something I really need to work on in general. My cautious nature often causes me to “put the brakes on” in all kinds of athletic situations where falling could be the outcome. But as Lori gently reminded us, “You’re not going to fall unless you let go of the pole, and if you do, you’re only one foot off the ground.” (Well, beginners are one foot off the ground. The pros are way, way up there near the ceiling, upside down, doing the splits, with confidence. I witnessed their feats at the open house fundraiser. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.)
"Amping Up" with weights

Rock N Pole’s clientele has been growing steadily over the years as more women come to realize both its physical and esteem-boosting benefits.
“It’s addicting,” says Rachelle, a regular student who credits the pole classes and the friendly atmosphere of the studio for helping her break free of her extreme shyness and social anxiety. “It not only gives me knowledge, skill and strength, but the confidence in myself that I never really had,” she says.
Another student, Lori, admits she hadn’t done much by way of structured exercise except for the typical “mom” workout of taking care of her children. “Just one class made me feel sexy and confident,” she says. Lori made it her goal to reach the top of the pole. Seven classes later, she did it, became stronger and more flexible along the way, and has set new goals.
“I haven’t been poling for very long,” says Mandy, “but I am definitely feeling an improvement in my energy level and confidence. No matter what your fitness level, pole is a great way to get in shape, and the best part is that it allows you to get in touch with your sexy side.”

Lori in full-sexy mode. Shop shoes and stockings at rocknpole.ca!
(As in, Happy Father's Day…Birthday etc. Just a thought if you're stuck for a gift…)

I have since attended one of Rock N Pole’s “Loosen Up” classes, which entails a full hour of heavenly stretching, to softer music and with a slightly warmer room temperature. For my own upper back and shoulder issues, a self-massaging technique, developed by Lori using the pole, works wonders at loosening up my knotted muscles.

I hope to add pole fitness to my weekly workout routine. I’d also like to try to convince my husband we need a pole at home. Perhaps if I purchase a pair of sexy stilettos to go with it, he might approve… (Workout gear and sexy shoes also available for sale through Rock N Pole. Again, why not? You only live sexy once.)

Interview with Lori Graystone of Rock N Pole

What made you decide to give pole fitness a try?

Lori Graystone
Lori: I used to [exotic] dance over 10 years ago, when circumstances left me on my own with three small kids. I barely did anything on the pole, as there wasn’t a place or time to actually practise. So once I saw it was available for fitness, I had to try it, and became obsessed with it.

When/where did you take your very first pole fitness class?

Lori: It was at a studio an acquaintance of mine owned called Brass Vixens, on Queen Street in Toronto (formerly called Aradia), in 2008.

When did you open your own business and where?

Lori: I started my business in February 2009. It was a small in-home studio, in which I did one-on-one training, and I also did home parties for bachelorettes, birthdays etcetera. I have created the Rock N Pole brand from scratch, and although there are certain generic pole moves, I have also used creativity when designing my classes and content.

When did you move to your current location?

Lori: My official grand opening for my new location, 149 Welham Road, Barrie, was Nov 30, 2013. I now have seven, 16-ft poles and run a variety of classes Monday through Thursday.

How many instructors are there and what are their qualifications?

Lori: There are three instructors at Rock N Pole. The "dream team" includes Myself, Tiffany (Tiffinator) and Libby (Libifire). There are always specialty workshops that we participate in on an ongoing basis and also a program of certification provided by the CPFA - Canadian Pole Fitness Association. It is great as we all specialize and have our own way of teaching. You can get a great pole career underway taking classes with all three of us.

Who takes classes at your studio?

Lori: The age group runs from 15 to 60 and includes all walks of life, women who just want to challenge themselves, try something new and of course, have fun.

What can someone expect from her first class?

Lori: You will have a lot of fun, laugh a bit, work hard and learn some basic pole moves, in which you will probably be utilizing muscles that you have never worked before. Building upper body strength seems to be a number-one request of our clients, and we definitely fulfil.

What organizations are you affiliated with and what does it mean to be affiliated with them?

Lori: My studio is part of the CPFA, which stands for the Canadian Pole Fitness Association, and we do meet certain criteria to maintain our status, for example, a low teacher-to-student ratio.

You mentioned that you are also a judge for competitions. How many levels of competition are there?

Lori: The competitions are taken very seriously and judged in three categories per performance: Artistry, Technique, and Presentation.There are different divisions that competitors fall into, Amateur, Doubles, Semi Pro, Pro, and Masters. There are also several "Pole Showcases" each year which allow for more artistic and free style poling.

Has it been challenging trying to explain to people that pole fitness does not mean stripping?

Lori: Yes, it has been very difficult to separate the "stripper" stigma with the benefits of pole fitness. I always tell people, “It is fitness with a touch of sexy and fun.” It does empower women in a way that no treadmill can ever do.

If you had to emphasize one thing to readers about pole fitness, what would it be?

Lori: To step outside the box. Try something new and to realize what an amazing workout it is, not just for muscles but for the inner sexy soul as well. "Rock N Pole: empowering women one spin at a time"

Rock N Pole is located at 149 Welham Road in Barrie, Ontario. They offer four different levels of classes and students work at their own pace: Pole Intro (basic); Hello Pole (basic/intermediate); Zepplin (intermediate) and AC/DC (advanced), as well as eight different specialty classes for all levels, aimed at improving specific aspects of pole fitness like strength (“Amp Up”), flexibility (“Sitz & Splitz”) and spins (“Spun Out”). Students can purchase punch cards (the more sessions purchased, the less cost per class) or a monthly membership. Workshops, including belly dancing, working with pole stars and yoga partners, are also offered once per month. Home pole parties (girls' night in, anyone?) for any occasion are another featured service. For more information or to book classes visit www.rocknpole.ca

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Musings of a Mississauga Marathoner

This is me at the beginning of the race, fresh and feeling confident, waving at the camera man. (Although it looks like how I run on trails, with my hands out, anticipating an imminent face-plant after tripping over tree roots.) 

Hello, my name is Sandy. I am a Blog Procrastinator.
There, admitted. Short and sweet. Let's move on.

I am also a marathoner, for the second time in my life. Ran my first one in 2010 and vowed NEVER AGAIN. However: 

Ran the Mississauga Marathon on May 4. The whole thing. Well, ran most of it. Walked a bit in-between the running. Stopped for two Porta-Potty breaks. (So annoying, but when ya gotta go, the thought consumes you. You can't think of anything else. And I can't pee while I run. I tried it once, with a Depends, on a training run on my little country road. "No go." Haha. Body seems to be incapable of that particular type of multi-tasking. Alas, I digress.)

Unlike the 30K Around the Bay, I paid better attention to my food intake for the whole week prior to the Mississauga race. I "carb-loaded" almost all week, and I even quit drinking alcohol after Tuesday (the run was on Sunday). Whew, that was almost harder than the marathon. (The night before the 30K Around the Bay, I ate a heavy meal of creamy risotto and mushrooms and washed it down with two glasses of wine. Not a good idea. Legs felt sluggish very early on in that race.)

Since we had to be in Mississauga - at the start line - by 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, I went to bed super early on Saturday. We had to leave at 5:30 a.m. to get there on time, which means my alarm went off at 4:30. Ugh. 

Despite the early rise, all was looking good at the start line (including my running outfit. I mean, it was pretty cute. It was grey and black, to match the dark circles under my eyes.) After Mississauga's beloved and remarkably perky 93-year-old Mayor Hazel McCallion saluted all 2800+ runners and wished them well, we were off. The course was lovely and flat, with a great little loop through University of Toronto's gorgeous Erindale campus and some neighbourhoods that looked vaguely familiar to this former Mississauga girl.

Aside from enjoying the scenery, you may wonder if I had any other goals, like, for example, when I planned on finishing. Let's just say the thought of qualifying for Boston (4 hours for a 50 year old female) got thrown out the window several months ago. While I kept up with the distance training, I was not practising speed or hill work, and my cross training was minimal at best. I would have been content with a finish of 4.5 hours. 

Yeah, whatever. 

With a couple of kilometres left to go, the competition was tight at my heels. I gave a brave thumbs-up to the cameraman, who, I am sure, was inwardly laughing his ass off. I know I do whenever I look at this picture.

Let's fast-forward: With 15km to go my right brain cheerily, if somewhat desperately, held on to the thread of a notion that I MAY still be able to make the 4.5 hour time goal. My left brain, however, retorted with, "Are you KIDDING? Have you HEARD the shallow breathing going on here? The girl has MAJOR HEARTBURN! Like the kind she had when she was a newlywed living in her mother-in-law's house! And it isn't going away! It's just sitting there, slowing her pace down rather nicely…." May have been the caffeine-loaded sports gel, I don't know. Or the expired sports gels that I found in the bottom of my running gear drawer….

So anyway, there are advantages to taking frequent walk breaks during a marathon: You get to enjoy the scenery more. Like when me and another runner were taking a walk break through this lovely forested neighbourhood of huge mansion-like homes when a lone deer emerged from the trees. We watched silently as this rather surreal, wildlife moment took place - a young deer ambling slowly across the road during a marathon, not concerned with us crazies at all, as it stopped to forage in someone's garden before continuing on its way.

The runner in front of me turned around.
"Did you just see that?" he asked.
"Yes, it was lovely!" I enthused. "Definitely worth the walk break!"
"Good," he replied. "I just wanted to make sure I wasn't hallucinating." Ha. 
Eventually I passed him, this fit looking guy who was probably 20 years my junior. Had to write that. He probably passed me at some point later, I'm sure.

So on I "ran," with my heartburn, to the finish line. And wow, you should have seen me finish. Under five hours, I'll have you know. By 16 seconds. I mean, as Ann Jackson, my good friend and awesome personal trainer says, when she wins races (yes, all kinds), "I BOOKED it to the finish line." 

When Ann books it, she books it. When I book it, I imagine I am Ann, until I see the video footage. (Yes! The photo company offers you video footage along with photographs!) And then I cry and laugh hysterically and tell all my friends at the celebration dinner (where we get together to celebrate all this crazy running shit that we do) how ridiculously mistaken I was that I could ever possibly look like Ann or any truly competitive athlete. (And that's OK! When you're 50, you begin to know who you are, thank God, and you can laugh about it.)

The conversation goes something like this:
"I really thought I was booking it!" I exclaim through tears of semi-drunken laughter. 
"Yeah, I KNOW!" my running friend Mhairi pipes up, relating to the feeling, as do many of us mere mortal runners. "You feel like you're a gazelle, right? Striding along…."
"Yes! Exactly!" I respond. "Despite the fact that my inseam is a squat 28", I DO feel like one of those long-legged Olympic gold medallists, with the crowd cheering in amazement at my gazelle-like speed, grace and power!" 

Actual Gazelle. 

It's a nice fantasy while it lasts.

Am I happy? You bet. Do I regret buying the video? Not a chance. And if I can figure out how to load it onto this blog, I will. It's my own form of "Gold." Something my grandkids can watch one day, hopefully in amazement. Maybe it will inspire them, who knows? Marathon #2 at age 50. CHECK.

Gazelle, in spirit.

A big thank-you goes out to Ann Jackson of Thrive Fitness Studio Alliston, our great friend, a great athlete and personal trainer, for volunteering to drive us there and back home again. Also I thank my running mates, Janette, Mhairi and Heather for waiting for me, for three hours, after completing the half marathon (a much saner choice). You all made me feel proud, and I am proud of you for your amazing finish times. See you at the next start line!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Fear and Self-Loathing in Utopia

(Serves One Disillusioned Runner. Add Laughter to Suit Taste.)

Today I stumbled upon a guaranteed recipe for fear and self-loathing. I will share it here with the hope that it will prevent other non-Olympic level, everyday runners from falling into the same trap. For most people this will probably read as "Duhhhh, obvious," but clearly, not for me, not today. As usual, I like to inject humour, because it makes me feel better.

Recipe for Fear:

Sign up for a marathon.

Recipe for Self-Loathing Prologue:

Train for, and then complete, another long-distance event before your marathon. Say, for example, Hamilton's 30K Around the Bay. This in and of itself does not produce self-loathing. This actually will produce pride. However, as some of us tend to do along the path to increased fitness, there is always opportunity to throw more challenges at our tired and aching bodies: Come ON, you don't need to REST after your 30K, you need to KEEP TRAINING for the marathon! 

Which, of course, is true. But rest is also important. So last week, I rested my weary post-30K legs. My quadriceps were particularly tender for two full days. Then I tried a circuit training class on the fourth day after the race. It felt good to stretch. On the fifth day, I ran for an hour on the treadmill and then did 15 minutes of strength training, focusing on the legs. On the seventh evening, my husband and I went out to dinner with friends. We did not get to bed until 3:30 a.m. Sunday. Needless to say, I did not attempt any kind of exercise on Sunday.

So here we are, one week and one day after the 30K race, 
and here it is, my personal, guaranteed,

Recipe for Self Loathing:

1. Plan to run a 24K long run Monday instead.
2. Go to your pre-booked therapeutic massage first. Feel fabulous.
3. Run a banking errand for your husband. Mix in lunch. Feel full.
4. Get home, get changed, and get out the door to run 24K. Feel sluggish. Oh and don't forget to strap on that new backpack water bladder for extra weight.
5. Run 7K. Add these thoughts: all the housework you still have to do; all the writing you have planned; how fatigued you still feel; how your new shoes are making your feet feel a little uncomfortable. Gradually mix in: your hate-on for all the snow still on the ground; your strong dislike for grey, dull, damp weather; your irritation with the road and all of its f!!#@!!ng brown puddles that you have to dodge; your un-neighbourly feelings towards the guy in the pick-up truck who drives by and smiles (but it's kind of a bemused smile, like he thinks you're a little nuts). Then feel damp and cold. 
6. Walk 1K. Feel defeated.
7. Go home. 
8. Bake in hot shower for 15 minutes. Feel rejuvenated enough to write blog about fear and self-loathing.

Icing (optional, but key ingredient for today):

Sigh deeply. Gather yourself together. Remember you just ran 30K one week ago and you are 50 and healthy. That's cool. Feel better. Go pick up your kid at the bus stop.

For Best Results:  Always remember to add a pinch of laughter to your "off" days. And NEVER, EVER, plan a massage, lunch, then long run, in that order, EVER AGAIN. Duh.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Still Running….

Started posting running progress with National Post's EachCoach.com. Got published for my little 25K blurb last week. This is a great little motivator! They send you encouraging emails every week with an option to give them another update towards your goal(s). 

Ran 27K last Saturday with five crazy running besties.  Hit a wall of winter wind and hail a couple of times as winter and spring battle it out for their respective positions in this fickle month of March. My friend Heather and I, in-between gulping blasts of cold air, joked how we will tell the story of our training runs when we are old (and hopefully still running) women:

"Remember that day when we ran against hurricane force wind gusts and needle-like hail pellets? And the rabid, gnarly, crazed German Shepherd dogs snapping their drooling vampire jaws close at our heels, remember? That was AWESOME! We are AWESOME!"

Anyway, onward and onward again! Two more weeks before 30K Around the Bay! Hopefully it won't be a frozen solid, blizzard-blasted bay. But if it is, I can hear the future story already:

"It was a vicious, cold-beyond-cold, polar vortex day from hell, if you can imagine the fires of hell frozen stiff beyond your wildest ideas of what frozen stiff could possibly feel like. We ran 30K that day, by gosh, because, well, we signed up for it and paid for it, goddammit. We had NO CHOICE!"

Loving the insanity.

Speaking of which, trying a new cross-training routine this Friday night: pole dancing. Don't ask. OK you can ask: It's a fund raising event for Down Syndrome Awareness Day. Gonna be a blast! Can't wait. Wearing the stretchy pants. There is insanity to be had with cross-training too! 

As my kids say, YOLO, right?
(You Only Live Once)

It's alphabetical. I am above George Poitras. No relation, at least I don't think...

Monday, 24 February 2014

A Whiny Runner's Lament: Oh My Aching Body!

This post could easily slide into my "Being 50" blog but it's fitness related so I'm sharing my thoughts on this rather neglected blog instead (if someone paid me to write this kind of stuff I'd gladly pump it out daily. Just a thought, future employer.) Plus I said I wouldn't whine and complain on my "Being 50" blog and today's entry has a bit of that going for it. In a humorous way, of course. I hope.

So, since turning 50, my fitness routine has not changed. I am still training for running events: 30K Around the Bay happens at the end of next month, which leads up to my second full marathon (Mississauga Marathon) in May. Some 5 Peaks trail running events are scattered throughout spring and summer, as well as the good ol' MET CON BLUE in June, just for fun. Probably another half marathon or two between spring and fall. It all gets me so charged up. Still loving it.


I swear, since turning 50 last month, MY BODY IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. It hurts, all over. Excuse my language, but WTF. My upper arms and shoulders hurt, my hips ache. To give you an example (Go ahead, laugh at this. If you picture it in your head, you can't help but not laugh. I won't hold it against you. I think I should ask my gifted artist of a daughter to illustrate what I am about to describe.):  It is hard for me to take my top off. Yes. It's true. When the pain was at its worst, I could manage to pull a top to about nose level, then I would have to get  my 11 year old son to help me pull it over my head. The first time it happened, I thought, "You've got to be f---ing kidding me. WTF. WTF. WTF." When my arms are crossed over like that, they refuse to let me lift them higher than shoulder level. A couple of people have told me it's my rotator cuff. I Googled it, (of course, because we all love to self-diagnose now, don't we?) and yes, it sounds like that could be the issue. So I really should get that checked. Either that or start yanking all my tops and bras over my hips and butt. Sometimes that works, but not all my clothes are made of Spandex.

Sketch of me struggling with my top courtesy of my daughter, Danielle, who took on this "quick & dirty" commission while bored during an art history lecture. (Background: our Mulmur property on the Niagara Escarpment, which I hope to run, despite all my aches and pains, at the Creemore Vertical Challenge. Anyone? Anyone?
OK, so on to my next whiny complaint: ever since a 20K long run a couple of Saturdays ago, my hip joints have been aching. Joints again. I think "old age" when I say joints (as opposed to what I would have thought in my early 20s). So…I feel like I suddenly have acquired (ouch, I just moved my left arm while typing this and got some elbow pain. Holy frig. WTF.) joint pain issues all over my body. 

During an indoor run around Base Borden track this morning my good running friend and neighbour Janate suggested a few things and I tend to listen to Janate because she is healthy and fit and also an exceptional nurse (the job cuts in nursing sound like an absolutely disastrous idea for our province, by the way, but that's a whole other blog). So, number one, I need to go for an annual physical. Missed last year's because my amazing women's doctor decided to retire the exact month I was due for my appointment. Number two, it may be time to ditch the running shoes for new ones. They do have several hundred kilometres on them. That could account for the hip pain. Number three, I never hydrate as much as I should. Not replenishing properly with fluids and electrolytes can cause aches and pains. When it comes to the arms, I likely overdid it with weight training and then continued to train through a nagging pain instead of resting. I might have torn ligaments and developed scar tissue and then re-injured the same area instead of resting it and letting it heal.

And of course, like I always say, I really should follow a yoga practice. That could solve everything, probably.

In the meantime, I have booked a massage for tomorrow. I am kind of in "interviewer" mode for massage therapists. I need to find one who works with sports injuries. There's a phrase I never thought I would use as it relates to me: sports injury. Wow, kind of feel like a jock. My 11 year old future soccer superstar son would laugh if he read that. Yet at the same time, I'll bet he'd be happy if he didn't have to help his mom undress. (And yes, I could ask my husband to do that, I mean let's face it, it could be a rather sexy predicament, right? Unless it's helping me out of my sports bra after a 25K run. Eww. Yuck. I wouldn't even let my son suffer through that. But by the time I am getting my jammies on for the evening, he's already in semi snooze-mode in front of the TV. Again, food for thought for another blog about 50-something married couples...)

Gotta change out of these workout clothes now. Wish me luck.