Tag Archives: Walking

3 Things I Love About Autumn Hikes

This autumn has been an odd one so far here in Ontario as climate change continues to disrupt our normal weather patterns.

Early September is often still hot here, but the heat continued on through October this year. I was actually still wearing shorts and other summer gear as recently as a week ago!

Now the weather is jumping back and forth between unseasonably warm and cold temperatures from one day to the next.

One of the most noticeable side effects of this strange weather has been a delay in when the leaves began to change colour and fall off for the year. There are still quite a few trees with green leaves in southern Ontario even though we’re already more than halfway through October.

I’m hoping this will mean that we’ll have a delayed beginning of winter as well. There hasn’t been enough time to spend exercising while out in nature as I like to have when the weather is mild.

Hidden Details Being Revealed

Some of the trees in my neighbourhood have begun to change colour. Once the weather cools down enough for other species to join them, the landscape changes quickly as other trees follow in their footsteps. At some point, all of the non-evergreen

As much as I’ll miss the sight of green plants this winter, it’s always interesting to spot the now-abandoned nests that birds created when no one could see what they were doing up in those branches or to see how sparse a forest can look when all of the plants go dormant for the winter.

If I still wrote poetry, I’d write a poem about all of the things we might not have noticed when the year was still young. There’s so much room for inspiration when you visit a place you’ve been to many times before and notice something there that you hadn’t picked up on before.

Friendly Weather

I was originally going to call this section mild weather, but it honestly feels downright friendly to me after the long, hot summer we had. It’s so nice to go outside again without feeling like you’ve stuck your head in an oven.

Not only are the chances of suffering frostbite or a sunburn are lower than usual at this time of the year, October is a pretty pleasant month if you like spending a lot of time outdoors. Any shivering or perspiring is generally kept to a minimum, especially if you dress in layers and remove or add them as needed.

Despite my interest in fitness and nature, I’m not the sort of person who enjoys spending a lot of time outside when it is very hot or cold outside. This is something that confuses certain folks when they first get to know me, but there’s a massive quality of life difference between spending hours in the woods when it’s 15 degrees Celcius (60 Fahrenheit) versus -15 C (5 F) or 45 C (113 F).

To me, nature is something best explored during moderate seasons like spring and fall. Yes, they can both be unpredictable at times as far how quickly their temperatures can shift, but they’re generally the best times of the year to spend hours outside without suffering too many negative health consequences for that decision.

Mentally Stimulating Exercise

There’s a huge difference between exercising to a pre-recorded video indoors on a cold winter day and getting to explore the world around you when the weather is more agreeable.

I’ll get my workouts in either way, but I have to say that I find a lot more pleasure in exercising at the park where I’m surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of autumn.

Something as simple as hearing the crunch of leaves as I pass through them or seeing a neighbour’s dog stubbornly chase squirrels adds a little bit of joy to my normal routine. (Don’t worry – I’ve never seen a single dog catch a squirrel at my local park. The wildlife here is too smart and fast for pampered city pets to keep up with).

It doesn’t have to be anything exciting in order to catch my attention. Even subtle changes are enough to keep me interested in my surroundings as I exercise.

How does the changing of the seasons affect your workout routine? Will you be hiking or walking anywhere interesting over the next few months?

Why Walking in the Rain Is Underrated

No, this post isn’t a reference to any of the old, classic songs about walking in the rain. I actually hadn’t heard of Johnnie Ray or The Walker Brothers before I googled the title of my post to see what others were saying about the idea of taking a walk on a rainy day.

This past weekend saw Toronto celebrating the end of Pride month with a street festival and series of parades for the LGBT+ community.

The weather at the end of June can be unpredictable here. Usually, it’s hot and sunny during Pride Weekend, but every so often it’s rainy and cool for the festivities. This was one of those years when some people wore light jackets to stay warm and I’d wager that nobody ended up with a sunburn.

Streets that are normally packed with so many people you can barely step a foot in any direction while Pride events are going on were actually half-empty this past weekend. I could walk up and down the street without accidentally being jostled into anyone, and this was even more true once it began raining harder than it had been earlier in the day.

As I wandered around looking at the various booths, I realized just how much I like walking in the rain for a few different reasons.

Moving Slowly, Paying Attention

Cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians generally all slow down when it rains. While Toronto’s streets are looked after pretty well in most cases, rain can make even the nicest street unexpectedly slippery if there’s been a motor oil spill or if it’s precipitating heavily.

My city is normally such a busy, bustling place that I relish it when we all get the opportunity to move a little slower and notice things on a street that I might not have picked up on before. There is something satisfying about exercising your body and mind at the same time through walking and paying closer attention to your surroundings than the average person might on a warmer and drier day.

For example, the sides of certain buildings in Toronto are decorated with massive murals or other works of art. Some of it was either  high-quality graffiti or was specially designed to look like that style of art. Other paintings were probably officially commissioned by the city due to how long they’ve been around and how visible they are from the street.

No matter how long I live here, I continue to be occasionally surprised by the pockets of art that can be found in the most unexpected places. It makes me smile to notice something new while out on a long walk.

It’s Quiet and Peaceful

Rain seems to chase people away from the outdoors more than almost any other type of weather. I understand the desire to stay indoors during a violent thunderstorm, but I’m sometimes surprised by how even a light sprinkling of rain is enough to keep many folks from enjoying a park, Pride festival, or other outdoor activity.

The streets are so much quieter when it’s raining. Areas that are generally quite busy on a clear day are much less crowded on a rainy one. I’ve noticed that the ordinary sounds of city life – from a door slamming to the distant sound of someone loudly listening to their favourite music without headphones – seem to be muted as well.

There is something incredibly peaceful about walking around in such a quiet environment. I don’t normally notice the background sounds of city life unless something incredibly unexpected and loud happens, but it’s refreshing to see just how quiet an area can be when there are fewer people milling around and when sounds seem to carry for shorter distances.

The World Looks Different on a Rainy Day

This might be the fiction writer in me peeking out here, but I’ve long thought that the world looks different from normal when it’s raining outside.

The colour of a building often darkens when its wet. I’ve noticed this the most with structures made from wood, stone, or other natural materials. To make this even more interesting, I’m not the sort of person who typically pays a lot of attention to architecture or design. It’s only when a house or building has had it’s exterior changed in some way that I’ll be more apt to stop, pause, and pay attention to the way it was put together and how it looks different when it’s wet.

Clouds change the way an area looks as well. For example, a thick enough patch of fog can appear to erase buildings entirely. There have been times when I’ve looked out the window and been unable to see what was on the other side of the street due to how foggy it was here in Ontario. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve no doubt seen an occasional reference to this from me. It makes me smile every time it happens.

There’s something a little magical about walking down the street and not being able to see the top of a skyscraper or tree. If the kind of magic that exists in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings were to suddenly appear in our world, I’d like to think it’s first act would be to play around with what us humans can and cannot see when we’re outside exercising on an overcast day.

Even if you stick to what is currently possible in this world, it’s still cool to notice all of the changes in an area when rain, clouds, fog, and other natural weather phenomena change what we can see, how far we can see, and even how quickly we move.

How do you feel about walking in the rain?

 

 

Health and Fitness at the Dollar Store

One of the biggest misconceptions some people have about getting fit is that it requires a significant investment of money in the beginning if you’re starting out with little to no equipment.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A few nights ago, I took a stroll around a dollar store to see what kinds of health and fitness items they had for sale there. I jotted down everything I could find that could somehow be connected to this topic, and the list was much longer than I ever would have imagined it would be.

Seriously. I was expecting to find maybe ten things there, but I ended up finding closer to a hundred of them if every category is fully expanded to include every example in them.

This is what they had for sale there:

  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Sandals
  • Hair ties
  • Socks
  • Sports bras
  • Ponchos
  • Support insoles for shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach towels
  • Goggles
  • Bug Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • First Aid supplies (bandaids, disinfectant, etc).
  • Plastic and metal buckets of various sizes (for transporting dirty or wet items back home)
  • Reusable plastic water bottles
  • Fishing poles
  • Headlamps
  • Small lanterns (if hiking or camping are on your to-do list)
  • Pet toys (for playing tug-of-war or fetch)
  • Pool toys
  • Toys and games for all ages/abilities (dart guns, dart boards, balls, chalk, jump ropes, etc)
  • Young children’s toys (plastic baseball bats, miniature golf clubs, etc)
  • Balloons (for water balloon fights or other similar games)
  • Beach toys (small shovels, plastic molds for making sandcastles, etc).
  • Frisbees
  • Rainbow flyers
  • Gardening tools (hand rakes, small shovels, etc).
  • Badminton rackets and balls
  • Plastic/rubber balls for other sports
  • Hula hoops
  • Sports equipment (rackets, balls, etc).
  • Yoga mats
  • Kettleballs
  • Resistance bands
  • Exercise wheels
  • Push up stands
  • Stretch bands
  • Roll out exercise wheels
  • Yoga mats
  • Yoga towels
  • Nonperishable, fairly healthy snacks (nuts, beef jerky, bottled water, canned fruit, applesauce.)
  • Many types of large reusable bags (for toting around everything on this list!)

Some of the items on this list did cost more than a dollar, but all of them were very inexpensive in general.

Whether I was planning to hike, swim, build sandcastles play any number of sports, jog, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, garden, go camping, or participate in any number of other activities, there were products for almost every type of exercise one could possibly imagine. I was seriously impressed by their selection.

Why am I recommending checking out your local dollar store if I believe in minimalism and buying quality over quantity?

There are a few reasons why this could be a smart idea under certain circumstances:

Not Everything Needs to be Well-Made in Order to be Useful

Several years ago, I bought a sun hat from the dollar store that suits my purposes perfectly when I want to exercise outdoors on a sunny day. Was it fashionable? Well, only if you’re a time traveller from 1995, but I’m not the kind of person who worries about how trendy I look when I’m working out.

Why spend $60 on something like that if you can spend $2 or $3 instead for the exact same outcome? For the kinds of activities I do, the type of hat doesn’t matter in the least. Anything that shades my face and neck from the sun will be more than adequate for my purposes.

It’s a Low-Cost Way to Try New Activities

For example, I like the idea of playing badminton. Every so often, I toy around with the thought of playing that sport as part of my fitness routine.

As mentioned above, the dollar store carries badminton equipment. While it isn’t made from high quality materials, it would be the perfect thing for me to play around with if I ever decide to finally add this sport to my list of preferred activities.

Spending a few dollars wouldn’t break the bank, and I could  go to a secondhand store or a regular store to find much sturdier equipment if I decided that this was something I wanted to play more than occasionally and my original racket broke.

Speaking of broken items….

Losing or Breaking A New Item Won’t Be So Disappointing

I’m very protective of the few possessions I have that are top-notch. Anyone who wants to borrow them has to earn my trust first, and I’d horribly disappointed if they were damaged, lost, or destroyed in an accident or through someone else’s carelessness. There are certain places that I really wouldn’t want to take those items to due to the risks of them being exposed to the water, dirt, or sand that could ruin them.

The nice thing about dollar store purchases is that you don’t stand to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars if they’re accidentally broken or lost. I wouldn’t hesitate to lend out something like a hula hoop or a pool toy I bought from the dollar store to a friend or relative.

If that item was later returned to me in pristine condition, great! If not, I’ve only lost a few dollars at most. Replacing it won’t hurt my bottom line at all, so I don’t have a problem lending it out or taking it places where the risks of something happening are higher than usual.

What’s At Your Local Dollar Store?

Assuming you live in a part of the world that has dollar stores (or pound shops/variety stores, as they’re sometimes called), what kinds of health and fitness items have you spotted there?

I’d love to compare my list with yours!

My First Outdoor Walk This Spring

My first outdoor walk this spring happened this past weekend. Since it isn’t possible to magically transport one’s readers to Toronto to experience this for themselves for half an hour, I’ll tell you exactly what it was like.

The wind had a slight cold snap to it, and I shuddered a little bit every time it blew against me.

There were still dirty patches of snow on the ground. They were especially noticeable in parts of my neighbourhood that don’t get a lot of sunlight in the average day.

The sunnier places where other snowdrifts had recently melted were now soggy puddles of cigarette butts, lost receipts, candy wrappers, and other small pieces of garbage.

A few people were bundled up in big, warm coats like it was still winter. Others had transitioned to lighter spring  jackets.

Some of the dogs were still wearing their cold-weather jackets, too.

The ground was muddy in the places where it wasn’t paved over with cement. It was brown and dull just like the bare trees and most of the bushes.

But on the Other Hand….

I live in a city, but the contrast between the sky and the ground here reminds me a little of my neighbourhood.

There was no ice on the ground at all. I could walk as quickly as I wanted to without any fear of slipping and falling.

The temperature was warmer than it’s been in months.

No one was wearing toques, gloves, or scarves. Many people who were wearing heavier coats had left them unzipped. This isn’t something that happens when it’s truly cold outside.

Some of the dogs weren’t wearing any winter coats at all.

One guy was walking down the street while wearing  running shoes, a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt. I would have been chilly if I were him, but maybe he was from a much colder climate and found 10 C balmier than people in southern Ontario do.

When the sunlight touched my face, it felt warm. It’s always a happy surprise when that happens for the first time in the spring!

There were the beginnings of so many flowers poking up from the soil that I couldn’t begin to count them all. It’s too early for the majority them to have buds yet, but their stems were looking green and healthy.

I even saw two red flowers that had already begun to bloom. They must have either been recently transplanted from a warm indoor location or be varieties that don’t require many warm days at all before they bloom.

When I looked at the trees closely, I saw tiny buds on their branches.

Some parts of the sky were brilliantly blue. Toronto can go many weeks without a single clear day during the autumn and winter, so it was a thrill to look up and not see a thick layer of grey clouds overshadowing the sun and sky. It was like the world had doubled in size overnight.

Spring has finally, truly arrived in my city. I look forward to many long walks as the weather warms up. What are you looking forward to this spring?

How to Get Back on Track With Healthy Habits

Just about everyone has an off day or even week every once in a while. I recently found myself started straying a little bit from my normally much healthier habits.

Let’s just say that the after-effects of a stomach bug mixed in with the long, dull, dreary days of March did not make me all that eager to eat my vegetables or do my normal workouts even after I started feeling better.

I’m now back into my regular habits after this short break, though.

No matter how long it’s been since you slipped up, you can always recommit yourself to the goals you set for yourself earlier. It’s never too late to try again.

Remind Yourself Why You Made These Lifestyle Changes

Whether you were hoping to build muscle, run faster, lift heavier weights, reduce your risk of certain diseases, or reach some other goal, it’s important to remind yourself why it is you made these changes in the first place.

If you’ve been keeping track of your progress, now would be a fantastic time to look back over your old stats to see how they’ve changed over time.

For those of you who don’t have any statistics yet on anything related to fitness and health, now is the perfect time to change that if you’re interested in keeping track of how you’re doing!

(Maybe I should write a blog post about statistics, fitness, and health at some point in the future. What do you all think?)

Plan Ahead

It’s much easier to get back into healthier habits if you put some thought into your daily routines ahead of time.

For example, this might involve making sure your gym bag is packed with clean clothes and ready to go the night before you were planning to go back to the gym, setting an alarm to remind you to meditate at a certain time each night, or running to the grocery store to stock up on healthy food before your stomach becomes as empty as your fridge is.

Will it save time? In some cases it might, but in other cases you’ll be doing the same five or ten minutes of prep work regardless of when it happens.

With that being said, the psychological benefits of not having to pause and look for a clean shirt or a specific piece of workout gear can be enormous if you’re already struggling to find the motivation to get back into your old habits. It’s so much easier to start a workout if you can jump into it right away without any delay.

Make It as Easy as Possible

Speaking of healthy eating, I’m just as big of a of planning and prepping meals and snacks ahead of time as I am of making sure that workout gear is always ready to be used.

When I get home from the grocery store, I immediately start washing and chopping the fresh vegetables I bought so that they will be ready for an instant snack the next time I’m hungry.

There’s something about having a few plastic bags or containers filled with ready-to-eat snacks that make me much more likely to actually pick them up the next time I feel hungry.

My meals are often planned in advance, although I do try to include some wiggle room in case someone invites me out for a last-minute dinner or I decide to eat a large plate full of fruit, vegetables ,and one small serving of hardboiled eggs or cold, leftover meat from a previous day instead of a traditional meat and two vegetables dinner.

The nice thing about washing produce in advance is that it makes it so easy to assemble one of these light meals when I’m hungry and at a loss for what to eat. At the most, I might need to wait twenty minutes for my eggs to be ready, and I can nibble on the rest of my dinner during that time.  If everything I want to eat that night has already been cooked or is a fruit or vegetable, I can have a full plate of food ready for me in less than five minutes.

You don’t have to eat exactly the same way I do, of course, but working with whatever your preferring eating style happens to be is going to make it much easier to make healthy choices. A fridge full of nutritious food that’s just waiting to be heated up or eaten cold is going to tilt the odds in your favour.

Take It One Day at a Time

I wish there were a quick-fix when it comes to fitness and health, but there isn’t. Any permanent changes you make to your lifestyle that you want to keep going indefinitely can only begin with the decisions you’re making today. A small shift in your daily routine might not seem that impressive a few days from now when you look in the mirror and can’t notice a single change in your body, but all of those little adjustments can lead to amazing results over a long period of time if you keep pushing forward.

I won’t mention any identifying details about them out of respect for their privacy, but I have multiple friends and acquaintances who have dramatically changed their lives for the better by slowly tweaking what they ate, how often they exercised, and what kinds of exercise they did.

This blog is never going to be the kind of site that encourages all-or-nothing thinking. Getting into better shape is a journey no matter what your current fitness level is in or how long you’ve been pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

No matter how long it’s been since you drifted away from your healthier habits, take it one day at a time. You’ll be back in your old routines before you know it!

6 Ways to Stay Active While Travelling

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! If any of my readers will be travelling anywhere soon, I hope you have a safe journey. One of the tricky parts of travelling is figuring out how to adapt your daily routine to all of the new experiences that come with visiting another place. Between spending… Read More

3 Reasons Why You Should Meditate Outdoors

I’ve slowly been trying to incorporate more meditation into my routine after the long break I took from it earlier this spring. This spring has been a chilly, wet one so far here in Toronto. We’re only now beginning to have a few days in a row where it hasn’t rained and the temperature has been above 10… Read More

Exercise Makes Me So Hungry

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet. I don’t mind writing a long post when the topic requires it, but I also think there’s something to be said for conserving your words if fewer will do just as well. My exercise routine was interrupted a few times over the winter due to an injury… Read More