Category Archives: Fitness

Take a Walk This Thanksgiving

Close-up shot of a leaf-littered autumn path. Both sides of the path are surrounded by trees and bushes that are still half-full with their autumn leaves and colour. This post will meander much like my Thanksgiving strolls do.

One of my favourite things to do on Thanksgiving or any other holiday that has decent weather is to take a walk.

If the big meal of the day is scheduled for the evening or if the weather is expected to turn chilly later on, I’ll wander off in the afternoon when the temperature is as its warmest.

Ideally, someone will join me, but there’s also something to be said for walking quietly with your thoughts on a day like this one.

Thanksgiving is one of those big holidays that temporarily shuts down the usual rhythms of life here in Ontario. This is even more true this year due to our government asking us to celebrate it with other members of our households only and avoid all unnecessary in-person interactions with other people now that the second wave of Covid-19 is surging.

Yes, there are advantages to gathering with kind relatives during the holidays. I miss my parents, siblings, sister-in-law, and nephews and dream of the day when my spouse and I can be together with them again.

But there are also advantages to quiet holidays at home, and a walk at the nicest part of the day is one of them.

Our slice of the world is a fairly still place on Thanksgiving even during ordinary times. If they’re lucky enough not to be working, most folks stay home and rest on that day or go visit relatives.

The streets are nearly as empty as they’ll be a few months from now at Christmas. Very few restaurants and other places of business are open today, and I tend to avoid the ones that are to encourage them to give their employees a break.

A walk doesn’t require anyone to put on a uniform, miss out on time with their loved ones, or clean up after you. At most, you might need to find something delicious to nibble on in the kitchen when you return back home.

Walks are meditative. There’s nothing like looking at the beautiful world around you, whether it is a forest painted with all of the colours of autumn, a suburban park filled with curious wildlife, or a quiet urban road that somehow feels like a poem that’s about to begin whenever you unexpectedly see a car drive by.

Parent and child taking a walk on an autumn-leaf-strewn path. Taking a walk is a gentle form of exercise that most people are capable of doing. A pet, small child, senior family member, or loved one who might have a disability that makes more strenuous forms of exercise difficult may be able to join you.

If the pets in your life are anything like the dogs my family had back in the day, they will insist on joining you and might just keep you out of the house much longer than you were expecting to be gone!

Good conversations can happen on walks. Yes, this can include conversations with yourself if you’re walking alone. I am not ashamed to admit that I occasionally talk to myself on walks to sort out a problem or figure out what to do with my stories next.

Walking is non-competitive…unless you’re my siblings who genuinely find joy in making everything a competition between them. Ha! For the rest of us, it’s a form of exercise that doesn’t require any scorekeeping or picking a winner.

It’s tempting to overindulge during the holidays. I find it helpful to go take a walk before I decide whether my stomach truly needs another slice of pie or serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. Whether the answer to that question is yes or no, there’s definitely something to be said for giving your body some time to start digesting what you’ve already eaten before digging into another plate. I’d rather be stopped at the point of satiation than cross that line and end up uncomfortably full.

Have I convinced you to go take a walk yet? I hope you enjoy it if I have.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians!

3 Things I Like About Yoga

women doing yoga

While I briefly dabbled with trying yoga once many years ago, I actually dove into it for real a couple of weeks ago.

With all of the restrictions on when and why we’re permitted to leave our homes in Toronto these days due to the Covid-19 epidemic, this seemed like the perfect time to branch out and try something new.

Here are a few wonderful things that have stood out to me about this form of exercise as I’ve been acclimating to it. I’m keeping this post short and sweet because I’m still so new to yoga in general. Perhaps I’ll write longer posts about it in the future!

If any of you have been doing this form of exercise longterm, I’d sure love to hear your favourite things about it as well.

The Focus on Balance and Flexibility

Black silhouettes of various yoga posts against a white background. All of my other regular workout routines are heavily immersed in cardio and strength training exercises.

Yoga requires my body to bend and flex in ways that are quite different from dancing or lifting weights.

Instead of bracing myself to lift a heavy load or pivot to a new dance move, I’m learning how to better hold my balance with a tricky position and gently stretch just a little bit further every time.

The Attention Paid to Breathing Patterns

Dandelion seeds being blown away from a mature dandelion plant. Breathing isn’t something I consciously think about with other forms of exercise unless I’m out of breath for them.

Even then, the only aspect of it that crosses my mind is generally how many seconds or minutes are left until my body can slow down and catch up on some of the air it requires.

The incredible thing about yoga is how much your breath matter even though I’ve yet to become out of breath with any of the poses I’ve done so far.

I’ve actually started to pay closer attention to my breathing during times of the day when I’m not exercising as well as a result of these workouts.

It’s so interesting to see how these sessions are affecting me in that way. This wasn’t something I was expecting to happen at all.

The Reinforcement of Mindfulness

White clouds against a bright blue skyYoga is the slowest type exercise I’ve ever discovered. Everything about it encourages me to pay close attention to what I’m currently doing and think of nothing but holding my current pose.

There is something incredibly relaxing about turning away from all of the distractions of the world we currently live in and existing in a moment.

The fact that I can do that while also getting a good workout in only makes it better.

My Final Update on My Walk to Mordor

Photo of red, mountainous region that looks like Mordor
Photo Credit: Dawn Endico

Last spring I blogged about my plans to walk to Mordor. I updated my progress at the end of August when I was a third of the way through with it and again in November when I was about two-thirds finished.

For anyone who needs a refresher or wasn’t following me when this series began, Walk to Mordor is a free app that lets you chart your miles walked every day and gives you updates on where Frodo and Sam were when they’d travelled the same distance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As I mentioned in previous updates, my kilometres logged varied quite a bit once again for the last third of the journey. I came down with influenza for the first time in many years at the end of December. It was an unpleasant experience that slowed down my progress in this journey. Some days I only logged a kilometre or two of walking, and the recovery period took a while as well.

It’s probably a good thing that none of the good guys in the Lord of the Rings saga caught the flu while they were travelling. They would have been in for a pretty miserable time if they had. Although maybe the elves would have had a secret remedy for that illness?

Pandemic Distraction

Finishing up this trek was a nice distraction, especially during the last part of it when Coronavirus began shutting down so many places to go in Toronto. I’m quite lucky to be able to work from home, but the days do feel long now that I only leave home for walks and occasional visits to the grocery store or drug store.

Reading updates on where Frodo and Sam were and what they were doing in the last third of their adventure has been a wonderful distraction. The challenges we face are obviously quite different from theirs, but I’m seeing interesting parallels between their journey and what we’re all facing this spring.

Like Sam and Frodo, we live in dangerous times where the future is uncertain. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other and do our best to keep pressing forward.

I Recommend This App

Screenshot of progress on Lord of the Rings walking app. It shows that all destinations have been reached. I’d definitely recommend checking out this app to anyone who is interested in the fantasy genre, keeping track of their fitness goals, and/or getting distracted by something useful.

As I mentioned earlier in this series, this is something that can be used for competitive or  non-competitive purposes. There are no time limits on how long you can use it. People who want to push themselves to walk or run more often can do so, but it’s also accessible to folks who move at a slower pace or who don’t like the idea of turning exercise into a competition.

Reading the plot updates is reward enough. There was no need to add any extra layers of pressure to this game, so I’m glad the developer kept it so simple.

The image in this section of the post shows what the screen looks like after you complete all of the challenges. It was nice to see that long, green list of completed challenges.

One of the things I did have trouble with while participating in this challenge was remembering to log my kilometres walked every day. The app doesn’t have any sort of notification system to remind you to do that. Sometimes I’d have to log several days to a week’s worth of activity. Once I got very behind and logged about a month’s worth of data at once!

With that being said, this is a free game, so I wouldn’t expect it to have all of the bells and whistles that a paid app would have.

If anyone knows of similar games out there, I’d sure like to hear about them. It’s never too early to start planning for amusing things to use next winter.

3 Reasons Why I Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator

Photo of person's legs and orange shoes as they climb a flight of blue stairs.

I’m writing this post from the perspective of someone who is able-bodied and still fairly young. Taking the stairs isn’t the right choice for everyone, so listen to your body and your family doctor if this post doesn’t resonate with you. 

When was the last time you took the stairs?

This question popped into my head last month, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

When given the choice between taking the stairs, elevator or escalator, my preferences have shifted in the direction of the stairs for the following reasons.

It’s Faster

Dozens of lego figures crowded together
Toronto is a bustling city. No matter what time of day or night it is here, you will almost certainly be surrounded by dozens to thousands of other people while going about your daily (or nightly) business.

There are many advantages to living this way that don’t quite fit into the theme of this post.

One of the disadvantages has to do with how crowded elevators and escalators can become, especially on the weekends and during rush hour. Elevators and escalators are in heavy demand. They would be crowded even if the only people who used them were chronically ill, physically disabled, pushing a stroller, or carrying a heavy load.

The fact that people who could take the stairs also use them only increases the demand for them. I don’t judge anyone for this decision, but I do personally find it more comfortable to avoid all of that jostling and take the stairs instead.

Why fight for a space on the escalator or wait five minutes for the next elevator when the stairs are right around the corner and mostly empty?

It’s a Mini Workout

Woman running down a flight of stairs by a forestOne of the things I enjoy the most about living in a walkable neighbourhood is how much exercise is built into my normal activities.

While I have a structured fitness routine as well, half or more of the total exercise I get each day comes from mini workouts that happen in short spurts while I’m running errands or travelling somewhere.

Taking the stairs is one of these things I do regularly that only takes a few minutes here and there but adds up to a few extra hours of exercise per week.

In my experience, turning small, easy lifestyle changes like this into habits is an excellent way to become more fit over time. I’d never do this sort of exercise for two or three hours in a row, but I have no problem putting the same amount of time in if it’s two or three hours spread across an entire week (or more).

And the more I take the stairs, the stronger my urge to do it becomes over time.

It Doesn’t Require Special Equipment

Girl holding handrailI don’t know about you, but I have a strong preference for types of exercise that don’t require me to change clothes, travel to a specific place, or use a particular piece of equipment.

Blame it on my negative experiences with elementary and high school gym class if you will. All I know is that it takes far less emotional energy to make a quick decision to walk up or down a few flights of stairs when the opportunity presents itself than it does to change into gym clothes, travel to a gym, exercise, shower, change into regular clothes, and then go home again.

I believe in gravitating towards types of exercise that work for your fitness level, interests, and willpower (or lack thereof). For me, that means taking the stairs more often.

3 Reasons Why You Should Try Mall Walking

Person wearing brown boots and blue denim. The're standing on snow and their boots are caked in snow. Mall walking is a form of exercise involving people walking briskly through the long corridors of shopping malls before the stores open for the day when there are very few other folks about.

This is the time of year when I begin to yearn for spring. It’s one thing to experience snowstorms in November and December when the memory of summer is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Winter weather somehow feels even colder and snowier when it’s been happening for a couple of months already and can be expected to keep popping up for at least two more of them.

Luckily, Toronto has plenty of malls to walk around in while the temperatures plunge and snow falls outside. There is definitely something to be said for taking advantage of all of that dry, temperature-controlled space until April arrives.

If you haven’t tried mall walking yet this winter, here are three reasons why it might be a good idea to give it a shot.

It’s Scaleable

Child running up a flight of stepsWalking can be made as easy or as difficult as it needs to be to meet your current fitness goals.

It can be a short, gentle stroll through the mall for someone who is brand new to exercise or just coming back to it after an accident or illness.

A long, brisk power walk might be a good choice for someone who has been exercising for a while and wants to increase their endurance.

I’ve even seen people run up multiple flights of stairs while on walks in order to give their muscles and cardiovascular systems a bigger challenge. Note: I don’t recommend this one on busy days at the mall or other public places!

It’s as Sociable or Solitary as You Prefer

Two people walking indoors. There is a large wall filled with glass windows behind them. I’m the sort of person who loves walking with a partner or group of people. There’s something about walking and talking that makes both of those things much more appealing to me than they’d be on their own.

The nice thing about walking at a mall is that either of these options is perfectly safe and acceptable.

There are certain places like parks that I don’t feel safe visiting early in the morning and late at night when few other folks are around because I am a short, petite woman. This is even more true during the winter when the sun rises late and sets early.

Malls always have security guards patrolling them, and no matter how early I might show up in the morning I’ve always seen other mall walkers there as well.

I really like being able to get a walk in at the mall by myself or with someone else without needing to think about safety factors like these.

It’s Warm, Dry, and Indoors

People walking around in a brightly lit mallTaking an outdoor walk on a warm, spring day in Ontario is a pleasant experience.

In February? Not so much. Our winters can be beautiful, but they’re also generally wet, icy, and freezing cold for months on end.

While I definitely prefer walking outdoors, it is nice to have a place to go during the winter where you can unzip your coat and walk around without slipping on any ice or snow.

Malls have plenty of flat, even surfaces to walk on. The ones I visit are kept very clean and dry, especially if you visit early in the day before the biggest crowds show up.

There are times during winter and early spring when I impatiently wait for the weather to warm up again. I doubt I’ll ever look forward to this part of the year, but I do appreciate having such nice places to move around in while the weather outdoors is cold, icy, snowy, muddy, rainy, and sometimes all of those things at once in a single day!

If you live near a mall, how often do you go there to exercise?

My Review of the 30-Minute Cardio Latin Dance Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other workout routine.  In addition, I’m not being compensated for this post and have no affiliation with the creators. There is never affiliate… Read More

3 Things I Love About Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This post is the final instalment of a four-part series I’ve been slowly working on about walking during each season of the year. Click on the links in this sentence to read about the things I love about spring hikes, summer strolls, and autumn hikes. Winter is my least favourite season. The  cold temperatures, short… Read More