Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Reluctant Athlete: Ass-Kicking... And Not the Good Kind

This week kicked my ass.

I should have a well-written, introspective post reflecting on my first full month on the road to a healthier me. Well, I should have a post about it that I've actually put thought into. Well-written and introspective are optional. Always optional.

What you're getting instead is a slap-dash post that I won't even proofread. I hope I spels gud.

Towards the end of last week, a coworker got extremely sick (but she is okay). The result is that this week I have been facilitating a train group that she was scheduled to take as well as try and keep on top of my tasks so as to not get too far behind before training kicks off in full. I've been coming to work early, leaving late, and spending 7 hours of my now 9-hour work days standing and talking. You'd be amazed at how tiring just standing and talking can be.

I love my job - I am so grateful that I have finally found a job that I want to turn into my career - but this week has been a hard week. When I stepped on the scale on Wednesday morning, I wasn't the least bit surprised to see a gain. Disappointed because I had been on target for over 10 lbs this month, but not surprised. I still (just) hit the 8 lbs goal, but I would have loved to have ended my (full) first month with a bang.

But that's life. We don't lose weight in a vacuum, and figuring out how to live a healthier life even during those times of unexpected ass-kicking busy weeks is just a part of figuring out life.

I should talk about my other goals went this month as part of the monthly wrap-up but it is almost 8:30 pm and all I want to do is put on pyjamas, make a big cup of decaf Earl Grey, finally (FINALLY!) watch the new Doctor Who that aired on Saturday night, and then go to bed.

I just realised that there are no pictures in this post, so here's one from a few birthday's ago. Yes, I am topping up my pint glass as I drink it because I'm classy like that.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Ireland 2014: Dublin

Remember that time I went to Ireland on holidays and then never blogged about it? As we all know, if you don't blog about it then it never happened. Right?

Truth is, I have stared and deleted this post at least once a week since I've been back. Talking about Ireland is something that comes very naturally to me - in fact, I usually have a problem shutting up about it - but I spoke extensively about Ireland on an old blog (found here) after my trip there in 2011 and writing about Ireland this time just felt really repetitive.

Still, I do have stories I want to share so I'm going to suck it up and just be repetitive.

We flew to Dublin via London's Heathrow and I was reminded why I disliked Heathrow. The airport is in a perpetual state of 'upgrading'. If it ever finishes, I fully expect a minotaur to live in the middle of that maze. Still, punchy and sleep deprived, the signs looked an awful lot like a moose.

I'm sure our continually shouts of "follow the moose!"
really endeared us to the other travellers.
We arrived in Dublin and made our way to Ballsbridge in south Dublin to stay with my cousin, Conor.

Patriotic reminder at the Dublin Airport to drive on the left.
I had never stayed with Conor before and I have to say that Ballsbridge was a great location. We were close enough to walk into town if we were feeling up to but there was also a direct bus just on the main road and the Landsdowne DART station just a 5 min walk away along the river. If you're going to Dublin but aren't really jazzed on the idea of staying downtown amidst the noise, there were a fair number of hotels in the Ballsbridge area.

We took our first day in Dublin easy, heading into town around lunch time to do a little casual sight-seeing before attending the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. If there is one thing I insist you do if you ever go to Dublin, the Literary Pub Crawl is it. One thing I recommend, however, is keep your drinks at the pubs to a half pint or a glass of wine. Other than the first and last pub, you usually only have about 20 mins to get your order and drink up before you're off again. At the first pub, The Duke, they have a longer set in a private room. But once you leave the Duke, the educational parts of the pub crawl come between the pubs. You don't need to know anything about Irish literature to enjoy the pub crawl (but you'll definitely know something when you finish the crawl). I have no pictures of that night that didn't end up horribly blurry, otherwise I would post them right here.

We headed out to Kilmainham Gaol early the next morning. You can't make reservations and I really wanted to make sure we got to the jail as Katie said she wanted to know more about Irish history.

The Victoria Wing. If it looks familiar, it's been used in a few movies.
The opening and closing of the jail pretty much bookend the Irish struggle for independence. The tours are about an hour long and worth every penny. The museum attached to the jail is fantastic with a plethora of artifacts from former inmates.

"Beware of the Risen People that have harried and held, Ye that have bullied and bribed."
Paraphrased from the poem The Rebel by Patrick Pearse. The term 'risen people' stems from the Jim Larkin quote "The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise." It was a call to the working class to rise up in protest. If you read Irish literature, especially Fenian or Republican literature, from the early 20th century, the idea of risen people is a common theme.

This is the cell where Patrick Pearse was held after the Easter Rising of 1916. Patrick was one of the instigators of the uprising and read the Proclamation of the Republic out loud from the steps of the G.P.O. Patrick and his brother, Willie, would both be found guilty of treason and sentenced to execution by firing squad.

The plaque on the wall of the area where the executions took place listing those leaders who were executed for the Easter Rising.

After Kilmainham, we made our way to Dublin Castle and its adorable little chapel.

Apparently, you're supposed to pay to go into the chapel. I always enjoy visiting it so much that I would totally pay for it... if I had seen the sign "please pay for your chapel visit in the castle" before I left the chapel. Whoops! Next time.

On our way to grab a bite to eat, I took Katie past this fine establishment.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the first bar I ever got right and truly shitfaced in. My cousins, scared of getting their 16 year old cousin drunk and then returning her to her father would only buy me half pints. Nine half pints later, I needed help walking down the stairs. (Whose bright idea was it to sit upstairs?)

After that stumble through memory lane, a visit to the Guinness Storehouse was in order.

The lease that started it all!
I've been to the Guinness Storehouse enough times to last me until the end of days. That would be three times if anyone is wondering. One of the things I did finally try on this trip was pulling my own pint.

They look so pretty! I want to drink them all!
You get a group lesson and take turns pulling your own pint. When it's done, you get a certificate with your name and get to take your pint up to the Gravity Bar at the top of the Storehouse to drink it. While I was worried about mucking up my pint to the point of not being able to drink it, it turned out to be a really fun and educational option. Also, my pint tasted damn fine. The only downside was that we starting judging every Guinness pint poured for us for the rest of our trip. It was kind of annoying but we couldn't stop. doing. it!

You can hire us for all Guinness pint-pulling needs.
After a quick bite in town (and another pint) we headed home for an early night. We had a day tour to Glendalough set for the next day and we did not want to be sleeping for the drive through the Wicklow Mountains!

After dinner wander across the O'Connell St bridge
Until next time!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Reluctant Athlete: Sleeping and Eating to a Healthier Me

My body has two responses when I'm stressed: sleep and eat. That's it.

When stressed, it is completely possible for my entire weekend to be: sleep, eat, repeat. (Hmm, I think I missed the chance for an awesome [something,something,something] blog name.) In fact, if I hadn't made dinner plans with a friend on Saturday and family plans on Sunday, that would have been my weekend. As it was, I slept until 1 pm on Saturday and had a two hour nap at about 3:30 pm on Sunday.

Right here. This is a perfect sleeping spot.
And food? When I'm stressed, I want to eat. Not because I'm hungry, not because I need it, but because I just do. And while the juicy ripe BC peach waiting for me at home is delicious, you know what probably tastes even better? The apple strudel at one of the coffee shops I frequent. For the record, the apple strudel (or apfelstrudel because apparently I go full German when ordering it) had additional sponge pastry hiding under the apples. Totally false advertising! So I ate the heavily sugared-and-spiced apple slices in the middle and tossed the rest. If I'm going to waste valuable points on crap food, I want the crap food to be worth it.

Hello heaven!
Neither of these options, as I'm sure you have figured out, are conducive to weight-loss. It is also, in case you missed my last 893 references to it, the start of what will quite possibly be the three most stressful months of my life. How stressful? Well, this happened today:

Given all of this, I figured I could use some motivation to keep me on point. I sat down last night and created a spreadsheet to track my weight loss which then turns my weekly numbers into a chart. Because nothing makes me so happy as watching that chart get a little lower every week. (I'll share it when it's a little more impressive. Four weeks in is kind of *meh*)

I'm also going to spend my few waking hours this weekend meal planning for the week so I can make sure I'm set for healthy snacks. Because I am going to want to snack this week... and the 15 weeks after that.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Reluctant Athlete: Because You Can't Lose Weight By Snapping Your Fingers

Trust me, I've tried.

I can be a very 'go big or go home' type of person so setting goals, per se, has never been a problem for me. Setting a goal of losing 125lbs is easy. In fact, it's as easy as typing it: I'm going to lose 125lbs. Bam. Goal = set.

My challenge (and the challenge for many people) is in setting up all the route markers that take me to that goal and holding myself accountable to them. What do I need to do to achieve that goal? What will I do if I fall off track of doing those things?

While the big goals are fun to set, they're not practical without the route markers or smaller goals. So the first thing I did when I recommitted to becoming healthier was sit down and set out my road map to how I was going to reach that big goal. I set three monthly goals. I also set up some weekly goals, but those change week-to-week as I determine what is a healthy change I can make that week to see improvement.

I want to see a 10 lbs loss every month, but I will be happy with 8
I know that 10 lbs is do-able, especially at my current weight - hell, it wouldn't take too much effort the first couple of months to push and strive for 12 lbs at the start - but I also know that the next three months of work are going to consume me. I want 10 lbs, I will aim for 10 lbs, I expect 10 lbs, but if the best I can do during this time of massive change in our company is 8 lbs, then I will be happy with that.

Anything less than 8? Well, we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. Which we totally won't. Right, Andrea?

How do I keep myself accountable to this? I'm weighing in every week (Wednesday mornings, if you care to know) and then texting certain people. These are all people who will appropriately cheer when I go down but also send the WTF? text when I start heading the wrong direction.

I will commit to at least 4 hours of physical activity every week
Okay, this is a 'weekly' goal but those goals are more 'I ate out every lunch last week so this week, I brown bag it every day'. You know, goals that are small adjustments to get me back on track. Not long-term commitments.

If I go to every kickboxing/bootcamp session, then I've reached this goal - and I want to go to every kickboxing/bootcamp session - but it's busy season at work and there will be times when that just won't be feasible because of deadlines and such. Currently (well, up until last week), if I didn't make it to class then I didn't do anything else. This is kind of ridiculous. 

I live in a fantastic walking neighbourhood with a beach a decent distance (and down a sizable hill which is always fun to come up) from me. I have BC's Government House with its wonderful chip trails that I can walk/slowly jog around (also with plenty of inclines). I don't have to do the replacement activity that night I don't make it to the gym, but I have to do it. That's the point.

I will keep a food journal and will follow an informal WW plan
I did WW once and was very successful. Then I did WW and only stuck with it long enough to get all the intro material before I bolted because the only meeting I could commit to going to every week was a who's who of SNL characters. I just couldn't take sitting through those meetings anymore and not being allowed to laugh when certain people started talking.

I dusted off the old (no-longer-in-vogue) program booklets, made a few notes of the recipes listed in them that I liked, and have been mentally tallying up points at the end of each day. I haven't been totally amazing at keeping on top of this so far because GISHWHES! WORK! LAZY! I did honestly give myself until after GISHWHES to start actively keeping a food journal, but this week has really just been laziness (although I have actually been eating very well and keeping portions in control so yay me for eating like an adult) but that changes tomorrow. What? I forgot my snazzy journal cheap notebook at home this morning!

The accountability for all of these also comes in the form of a monthly blog post. I would do weekly, but I get bored when other bloggers post weekly weigh-in numbers. There's a good chance you'd get bored if I did that. I do plan to do weekly posts under The Reluctant Athlete tag, but I'll only make a point of talking about these items once a month.

Otherwise, this blog will continue to be a centre of random useless posts.

If you made it all the way through that wall of text, have a dancing baby Groot (which is kind of, sort of spoiler-y but whatever. WHY HAVEN'T YOU SEEN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY YET?):

Monday, 11 August 2014

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

On Friday night, I sat on my computer watching a green and black clock countdown to midnight at the end of the 2014 GISHWHES campaign. We had a flurry of last minute submissions from our Australian team mates and I was amazed at how much we had achieved in just a few short days. For a team of almost completely new participants - save two of our South Carolina team mates - I think we did really well.

I first heard about GISHWHES from William Shatner tweet. It was during last year's GISHWHES and it sounded interesting so I did a little investigation (I read to learn more then filed the information in the back of my mind as I may like to participate in a future event.

Three months ago, my friend Stephanie and I were talking about GISHWHES. A few days after our discussion (and while drinking my 5th cup of coffee), I texted Steph that we should totally do GISHWHES this year. To her credit, Steph's first response was 'really?' But when I confirmed I was on board, Steph ran with it.

When people asked what GISHWHES was, I always found myself at a loss to try and explain it. It was fun, it was crazy, it was the promoting of random acts of kindness, it was hysterical, it was the start of a few new friendships, it was art, it was being outside of your comfort zone. In short, it was one of the best ways I could think of to spend a week. Still not convinced? Well, then how about some stories and pictures?

ITEM 28. Stage a mini-newspaper boat regatta in a public fountain with at least four competing vessels. We must see intense competitiveness and gambling.

We convinced a family from Texas to help us. We wanted to have one of the boats on fire but it sank early in our shooting and so it never made the final cut.

ITEM 103. Using charcoal or chalk, stencil the term "D2N" on the exterior of a factory. (The "2" must be backwards, but I can't figure out how to do that on this keyboard.)

I can't state this enough, we think we're hilarious.

ITEM 86. Ask a senior citizen for their "buck list". Help them achieve one of the items on their bucket list.

A's neighbour wanted a new computer before she died. A helped her go and pick one out and bring it home. See? It wasn't all goofing around. Also, no pictures for this one because I don't know A well enough (and I don't know her neighbour at all) to go splashing their pictures around the internet.

ITEM 169. Jared Padelecki does not love Excel Documents. Post one to him on twitter that might change his opinion of Excel.

I love Excel. I use it as my default for program for anything that slight resembles a list. Excel is my secret lover that keeps me warm at night. Okay, maybe not quite. But I do really like it and think it is often underutilised by people who just don't understand how to use it.

The Supernatural cast (of which Jared and Misha - creator of GISHWHES - are members of) are known to prank each other a lot on set, so I created an Excel document that Jared could keep track of who and pranked him and who he had tracked. The function kept a running total and if someone had pranked him more than he had them, the difference would turn red so he'd know that he 'owed' them a prank.

Seriously, how can you not love Excel when it can do awesome things like that?

ITEM 41. Go through a TSA (or your country's equivalent) checkpoint dressed for snorkeling. Explain to the TSA what you're doing, prior to doing it. If they don't allow it, don't do it.

I saved this one for last because it makes me laugh the most of any of the challenges I did. We went to the US border check at the Victoria Clipper office. Big ups to the people there for making this happen. They were the ones that pointed out that no photos are allowed at the border check but they have a baggage scan just outside of the border check so, you know, would that be close enough? Yes. Yes, it would.

This is just a small sampling of items we completed (never mind the items on the list we didn't do). Being my first time doing GISHWHES, I really didn't understand exactly what I was getting myself into. And I can't wait to do it again next year.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Reluctant Athlete: Land of GISHWHES

I was going to blog this week about goal setting and some of the goals I've set. But instead, you get this post about how I can't post because I've been too busying participating in GISHWHES to finish writing the post. I failed at my goal to write about goals.

But... but... but I'm having so much fun doing GISHWHES. I am so happy I drank way too much caffeine that one day and then told my friend we should sign up for it. Definitely going to be back next year to participate again. Unfortunately, under the rules of GISHWHES, I can't actually tell you what we've been up to yet. That has to wait until after the contest has closed and we've been given the all clear.

So, I'll talk about goals next week. (And I'll talk more about GISHWHES next week.) But, I can quickly say that I posted another loss this week so yay, me!

Now, back to making a fool of myself in the name of charity and random acts of kindness!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Happy Am 1. August!

Fifteen years ago, I went to Switzerland as an after-thought while backpacking around Europe. I had no intention of visiting the country because everyone I talked to mentioned how expensive it was and how unfriendly the people were. It was only when I was reminded of a family friend I could stay with in St. Gallen that I added it as a possible destination on my European backpacking trip, but it still took meeting another Swiss person who invited me to visit his part of the country to convince me to actually go to Switzerland.

A rainy evening in St. Gallen
It was, in no uncertain terms, my favourite country of the whole trip and I wish I had allotted more time for it, but I had a time commitment to keep in Ireland so I had to move on. Yes, it was the expensive place that everyone told me it would be (especially coming from Italy), but they were also the most helpful people I met during my entire journey.

The vineyard of a family friend, near Basel. Their first harvest will be this Fall.
Obviously, I need to go back to Switzerland so I can try some of their wine!
I had spent most of my childhood longing to learn German and travel to Germany because my mom's family comes from there and I knew so little about the country compared to Ireland. (My dad's an immigrant whereas my mom's family came over a couple of generations ago.) But this desire was almost completely undone by six days in Switzerland. I had loved travelling in Germany, I had even fallen in love with Austria, and wished I could have spent more time in both countries, but Switzerland? Switzerland stole my heart.

Town Square, Thun
When I looked into University programs I could attend in Germany (yay EU passport!), I had the option of a university pretty much next door to where my mom's family comes from or one that was 40 mins from the border with Switzerland.  I went with the proximity to Switzerland. (In fairness, it was also a proximity to my Swiss boyfriend so that decision wasn't just about Switzerland.)

View from the ferry looking towards Merligen, Lake of Thun
I've had the opportunity to return to Switzerland a few times over the years and every time, my love for it grows a little more. If only I could get a job which could afford me the pleasure of living there. (Remember, ridiculously expensive!) So, it really should be no surprise that when the Swiss National holiday of August 1st rolls around, I do something to mark the occasion. (This year, I made a loaf of züpfe and brought it into work.)

Near Fluelen, Lake Lucerne (or Luzern, if you're me)
I could wax poetic about my love of Switzerland for hours - hell, if you've ever spent time with me and made the mistake of asking about Switzerland, I have waxed poetic about it for hours. And I'm not sorry that I did - and I wanted to share some of my love for it with all three of you on this Swiss holiday.

Sunset from my friend's apartment rooftop, Zurich.
Lieb' Schwiiz!