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  • Sucker For Donuts, Health Documentaries, And All Things Shiny And New

    Tim Hortons is a Canadian chain of coffee shops. Some would say “Timmies” is the closest we have to an organized religion. Every single time a new donut flavour or a new baked good item comes out, suckers line up to try it. Me. I am the sucker. I used to work at Tim Hortons through high school, and first year of university, so you’d think that I breathed enough donut vapours to last me a lifetime, but apparently not. In the last ten years, I found myself handing over bills and coins in exchange for chicken stew in a bowl, Nutella bites, birthday cake timbits, donut sticks, and various combinations of apple pie and pumpkin spice flavours applied to everything. Every time my tasting experience falls somewhere on the continuum between meh and mediocre. Whatever I end up getting usually tastes just as you’d expect – dough and sugar. But I never learn, and next time there is a triple berry explosion morning glory limited edition muffin, I’m there. This is what health documentaries are like too. There are always new ones. They always sound exciting. They promise ground-breaking stimulation to your brain, and life changing takeaways. Like the new apple cinnamon graham cracker donut, they rarely do. Why? Because they are documentaries – films designed to entertain, not be accurate sources of information. Yes, yes, we often USE documentaries as sources of information. But that doesn’t make them GOOD sources of information. Heck, some people use donuts as sources of sustenance. Doesn’t make them good sources. To expect substance from a health documentary, is to expect a satisfying fullness after a donut. That’s not how they are made. That’s not WHY they are made. So, I just enjoy them for what they are – donuts and documentaries – a mouthful of sugar and dough. Hugs, SOLO

  • Snot Sponge, White Noise, And I Want A Refund

    My tiny human woke up at 1am, and stayed up until 4am. This is (thankfully) NOT a regular occurence. I would die. But yesterday she was sick, and miserable. She whimpered in her crib for a while, until the whimper escalated to an angry wail, and the executive decision was made to pull her out. But not before Italian and I argued who was a worse parent for letting her whimper, and not pulling her out right away. Because that’s an important point to clarify at 1am. Italian spent his entire day, acting as a toddler pillow, and a snot sponge. I spent my entire day, staring at my computer screen at a coffee shop – mostly because there is no white noise track loud enough to drown out the whining of a sick child. Must be something about the frequency and sound waves. I put on gym clothes in the morning, packed my gym bag, then worked all day in gym clothes, and then took off gym clothes to take a shower in the late afternoon. All without having gone to the gym. I am thinking of good intentions, and road to hell here. When I came home from not-gym in the late afternoon, a little delirious from hunger, she wrapped herself around my ankles, and screamed, until I picked her up, and carried her on my hip everywhere I went. If I held her, she conceded, and dialed the screaming down to a whining. She held on tight, and wet-coughed into my neck (and occasionally into my face). She breastfed, smearing my breast with snot. Italian held her down, while I took her temperature. She screamed bloody murder, and we were both drowning in self-loathing, and guilt. It was a magical family moment. My eats-olives-chicken-and-whatever-else-you-give-me toddler was gone. Pork chop was a no-go. Vegetable soup was a no-go. Tomatoes – nope. Avocado toast – not really. Cheese. Yes. Always in the mood for cheese. Blueberries were a hit. Today. Tomorrow might be different. And, so cheese and blueberries it was. It got worse before it got better. The list of activities in the past 48 hours included: freaking out at the fact that I have never seen my child this lethargic, calling Telehealth in the middle of the night, going to the family doctor the next morning, and forcing pink goo of antibiotics to treat a bi-freaking-lateral ear infection down her throat. All in all, I would have liked a refund on the last two days. But then something-something-resilience, tough times, universal human experience, growing stronger, developing immunity, no good without the bad. Blah blah. Still want a fucking refund. Hugs, SOLO

  • The Hummus Creature, And The Moments We Otherwise Forget

    Italian handed me a 23-pound creature the other day – completely covered in hummus. It was either clean the floor and clean the high chair, or clean the creature. I chose the latter. Hummus was on her hands, in her hair, on her clothing. In the folds of her neck. “Please don’t touch mommy with your disgusting hands!” I heard myself saying. I ended up sitting on the (heated!) bathroom floor, completely naked, while holding and breastfeeding the creature. Soon we were both covered in hummus. I just finished reading a book called “On Being Human”, where Jennifer Pastiloff talks about writing down couple of moments of your day that you would forget otherwise. This is one of those moments. There are little beauties everywhere. We just have to look for them. And then when we find them, we have to keep them close, even when they or drift off to sea, and that isn’t hard, really, when you think about it, because everything always leads to something else and when you feel sad and empty and like it all means nothing, you might look out and see two shopping carts and you might remember: I just have to look, listen, and tell the truth and the beauty will be there. That’s what beauty hunting is. Hugs, SOLO

  • The Grind Of Parenthood

    Dear Diary, I’ll keep using this stupid tagline, until my brain remembers and comprehends that this is a blog – for reference, see my last post. Anywayyyyy… The ONE thing I have always been terrified of, before becoming a parent is the grind. The grind is that thing that my friends, who were also parents, told me about – you have a newborn, and then you blink, and they are twelve, and you have no idea where twelve years have gone, you just know that your garage door really really needs painting (again). “Oh, time flies”, parents would laugh and shrug. “It just goes so fast, I don’t even remember anything.” Ok, seriously? Here’s where I, childless, catless and husbandless, would shudder. What do you MEAN you just blink, and twelve years go by? I don’t have time for this! I can’t just blink through twelve years. Have you SEEN my bucket list? I’d be shaking my head to myself, as I drove to the airport yet again, flying to LA, or to Portland, or to Managua, or to Tel-Aviv, to run a race, or take a course, or attend a festival. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want the blur. The grind of the mundane, when all days bleed into each other, and you blink and it’s Monday, Monday, MONDAY. January, December. January, December. How is Starbucks playing fucking Christmas carols already? They were JUST selling heart shaped candy? And now I look back at the last year, and… smile. No. Gently chuckle at my own naivete? Not at all. This past year has been the fastest / slowest year of my life. It flew, yes. But it also didn’t fly. It also crawled, and dragged, and also moved at regular average speed at times. This morning, I found myself in that blur that I was dreading. It was a race to the finish – wake up, coffee, peanut butter toast, breastfeed, wrestle my damn peanut butter toast away from my toddler (Mommy’s toast! MOMMY’S!). Italian and I juggled the baby (parents of twins – hi, M. and K.! – you have my adoration and respect forever) – as he fed her, I got dressed, he changed her, I packed her diaper bag, he put snowsuit on her, I started the car, cleaned the snow off the car, drove to daycare, rushed to the dentist to spend ninety goddamn minutes in a chair to get a cracked filling fixed, oh and gym, and back home, and sit my ass down in front of a computer for the rest of the day, because work. Blur. The grind. It was also kind of fun. I’m looking forward to doing it again tomorrow. Hugs, SOLO

  • A Writer Or A Blogger?

    Dear Diary, It’s 6.33am, and the kid is still asleep. And when I say asleep, what I really mean is that she is in her crib, and in her room, but is starting to make those early morning noises – not crying, but rather, babbling. Or “talking”. On some days, this lasts for few minutes, before she expresses her displeasure and readiness to be pulled out. On other days, this can go on for twenty minutes, and then she falls asleep again. “La-la-la! Baaaaa! Waaa!”. She is practicing one consonant after another. Dutifully. Carefully. Meanwhile, I sit in front of my desk with greasy hair and a weak cup of coffee, and try to will myself to tell the truth in this blog post. Not that there is some dramatic secret truth… Rather, the truth IS fairly ordinary – the kid, the coffee, the hair – but I’ve always been terrified of the ordinary, you see. Yesterday, I stayed up two hours past my ideal almost-never-happens 9.30pm bedtime, trying to figure out how to change few things on my new website. I have been abandoned by yet another web designer after he delivered on the “big redesign”, which is doing nothing for my almost-addressed-omg-done-so-my-work-there abandonment issues. So, now I’m trying to navigate my way though the backend of a freaking customized Worldpress template, and trying not to break anything. The one thing I’ve been trying to change? The heading on the main page menu that says “Writing”, and links to all of my blog posts. <– See how I said blog posts? This is really what this is, isn’t it? A blog. Phew. I have not actually done this for a while – written a true as-life-happens rambly blog post, so bear with me. I am remembering how to do this, as I type. And I’ve missed it. When I first started this blog, I posted almost every day. I was on my way to a big scary race (OMG, does anyone remember? It was the Spartan Death Race that I signed up for a year in advance). I tracked my training, and my meals, and wrote about races. Writing was always a medium of expression, not a means to an end. The topic did not matter as much, but it did help that I had a specific topic. Having hundreds of blog posts here, spanning the range of seven years, I can see the movement through the “life’s stages”. I wrote about working at the college as a psychology professor, about teaching yoga, about running, about obstacle racing, about travel, about obstacle racing AND travel, and about coaching. I hung out in the “coaching” space, for a while, as this is my job, and therefore, my life – I’ve never been that good at separating the two. Then pregnant, and not pregnant, and pregnant again, and, hi, baby! And maternity leave. And I’ll admit all those things left me somewhat confused. What the heck do I write about now? Surely, I can’t write about the daily life of a stay-at-home mother? I mean… SHUDDER, amirite? Except, I WAS a stay-at-home mother, and I was not exactly travelling and racing, but rather breastfeeding million times a day, and trying to shovel some food into my mouth in between. But, BUT… if I blog about motherhood, what the hell does that make me? Don’t answer that. It makes me a “mommy blogger”! No way. As much as this round-about reasoning and thrashing around stresses me out, it entertains me at the same time, because objectively I do know that it’s fruitless. Oh, I have had many client conversations about just this – struggles about being and feeling like “just a mother”, and what does that mean? Where this thrashing around landed me personally, when it comes to my writing, is in a bit of a stalemate. I’d look at my pretty new website, with the section called “Writing”, and navigate away – probably to Google “my first Crayola”, and “12 months sleep regression”. I had a lot to say, but surely none of it was interesting, so… I left it. And left it. And left it. Except yesterday I got called out by my own coach (she is awesome, I should tell you more about her sometime). I told her about the analysis-paralysis, and how I don’t even know what to write any more! It really sounded a bit like a whiny teenager, complaining that she had nothing to wear, while drowning in clothes. “What is the difference between Writing and Blog?” she wanted to know. “Are you sure it shouldn’t just say… Blog? I mean… that’s what it is, isn’t? Personal writing? I was half expecting to find academic papers under “Writing”.” Damn. You know how sometimes people get overwhelmed by a pretty leather journal – with its blank pages, and intimidating golden letters embossed on the cover? Yeah. That’s to say – yesterday, I stayed up past my bedtime, and figured out how to change the menu item heading from “Writing” to “Blog”. And breathed easier. And thought of my clients who are overwhelmed by certain labels. “I know I am a personal trainer, but coach…”. “I know I CAN call myself a nutritionist where I live, but…” . The WEIGHT of certain labels is too much sometimes. What does it MEAN? If I am to wear this label, I can only do “the thing” perfectly! But if I can’t do the thing perfectly, then surely, I can’t call myself the thing! All that to say is that I started this blog post with “Dear Diary” to remind myself that this is a fucking personal blog. To remind myself to chill the fuck out, and enjoy the thing. Namely – processing my life through writing, and sharing it on the internetz for no specific reason, but knowing that someone out there might just be feeling the same way. Hugs, SOLO

  • What To Do With Your Foreign Loose Change

    Couple of weeks ago, going through boxes in my basement, I found a little pile of foreign coins from at least twelve different countries. Costa Rica, Italy, Czech Republic, Russia, India, Nicaragua, Israel – the list goes on. The banks usually do not accept foreign coins, and many of these countries I would not be going to again any time soon. I remembered that on couple of my flights, you could actually get rid of our leftover foreign change by putting it in an envelope, and flight attendants would collect it. The money would then be sorted, converted into one currency, and donated to charity. After a little bit of digging, I found that 1. yes, it’s a thing!, and 2. yes, you can send money directly to them, if you, like me, have random foreign coins kicking around the house. From the website: Change for Good is an innovative partnership between UNICEF and the international airline industry. Established in 1987, it is one of UNICEF’s best-known and longest-running partnerships. Thanks to the generous support of customers and participating airlines, the global Change for Good program has generated more than $174 million, which has contributed to UNICEF’s efforts to helping save and improve the lives of millions of children around the world. You can send your foreign coins here: UNICEF USA ATTN: Change for Good Program 125 Maiden Lane New York, NY 10038 You can learn more HERE. Some folks wondered whether it would be worthwhile to send a bunch of coins in mail – surely, the shipping would cost as much, if not more, than the actual value of coins themselves. I ended up paying about $15 CAD for the package, which is probably as much or even more than the value of the coins in the envelope. Yet… I feel like it’s still worthwhile, and I’d rather pay $15 to Canada Post, AND have someone put the coins to good use, than to throw them out altogether, or have them lying around my house. Some folks may decide differently, and that’s totally ok. For example, you might decide to just throw out the coins, OR make a donation for $15 CAD to UNISEF instead. #changeforgood #unisef #foreigncoins #travelhack #declutterforgood #giftinmail #americanairlines Hugs, SOLO

  • Meat Eaters, Plant Eaters, Science Bros And How To Talk To Your Clients About “Game Changers”

    If you are a nutritionist, a personal trainer, a strength coach, a health coach, a dietician, or anyone working in ANY field that has anything to do with nutrition or health, you WILL probably hear about this film. Whether or not YOU will choose to watch this documentary, your clients absolutely will. They will come to you, and ask if you have seen it. They will ask what you think. [Because you are super awesome, and they trust you, and they want your opinion.] As they utter the question, you can practically feel your eyes rolling into the back of your head. But you force yourself to look at your client, and smile gently. [What’s that noise? Ah, that’s your gritting teeth.] Five Categories Of Clients’ Reactions To “Game Changers” When it comes to “Game Changers”, people’s reactions can be loosely classified into one of the following five categories. Kujo The Meat Eater They are a dedicated meat eater, and you can take their dead cow out of their cold dead hands. Their right to a burger that is properly pink in the middle is right up there with the right to keep and bear arms. Vegans are stupid, vegetables are stupid. Arnie is kinda cool. But everyone else is stupid. It’s all vegan propaganda, damn it! They’ve seen the film, and now they want to talk about it! Kale The Plant Eater They are a dedicated vegan, or plant-based eater (a more recent label that tries super hard to avoid political ring of “vegan”), and are thrilled. They are super happy that someone has finally seen through all that meat propaganda, and exposed the truth. Meat eaters are killing the planet AND destroying their bodies. The film has validated every single one of their life choices, and they think everyone should watch it, and have their minds blown. They’ve seen the film, and now they want to talk about it! Kyle The Science Bro They pride themselves on being an evidence-based coach, and know that basing any actions on anything but hard cold (peer-reviewed) data is stupid. This film is nothing but misinformation and fear mongering! They have already pulled up all the original references, and assimilated a detailed list of factual inaccuracies and logical leaps in the film, and have that list on the ready for anyone who asks. They’ve seen the film, and now they want to talk about (how stupid) it (is)! Kevin The Impressionable Eater They are a meat eater by default, but honestly, they could take it or leave it. Watching “Game Changers” made them go “wow” a number of times. They’ve been especially impressed with the penis experiment. They have seen “What The Health” two years ago, and made an attempt to change their diet back then, but it did not really stick. This is exactly what they were looking for! Motivation and inspiration. Yes! They’ve seen the film (twice), and now they want to talk about it! Agnes The Diet Agnostic They are diet agnostic, and eat mostly everything (except for peanuts. They are allergic to peanuts). They do not get distracted by shiny new objects – they are playing the long game. They’ve seen the film, and they really don’t want to talk about it (mostly because there is nothing really to talk about). They would like your feedback on their latest training cycle though. [In fact, they are probably a fellow coach. :)] Will They Listen? Let’s be perfectly realistic here. The Meat Eaters, the Plant Eaters, and the Science Bros are not wanting to talk. They are wanting to rant. Let them. Nod. Ask open-ended questions. Help them continue eating for their goals – with animal products, or without. The Diet Agnostics will not even ask you about the film. They might not even watch it. Most productive coaching conversations will happen with the Impressionable Eaters. They will be inspired, and motivated by the documentary. They will have questions. They will WANT to try eating more vegetables. Think about it! How often does that happen? One fellow coach asserted that because his clients were not “professionals”, he did not feel the need to start a discussion around a documentary. I disagree. Any discussion that client is motivated in having is a coaching opportunity. Some Questions They May Have Here are some questions that your clients may have, and some questions YOU might want to follow up with: “Is it true that meat is so bad for you?” “Ah, I can see how you’d have this question after watching the film. Can you tell me a bit more? What points in the film stood out for you? What led you to asking me this question?” This may lead to a conversation around “how do we know what we know”. This may be an opportunity to talk about how we evaluate information, and the sources of specific claims. Perhaps, your client would even want to learn a bit about the scientific process. Or not. That’s cool too. “I think I want to try eating vegan!” “Cool! When did you want to start? How long do you think you want to try it for? What would you do, once your trial period is over? Are you hoping to lose weight? Clearer skin?” See more in specific strategies below. “I want to lift a car! Will eating vegan help me lift a car?” [Or run fast, or jump high, or qualify for the Olympics]. In other words, will changing my diet to plant-based help me significantly improve my performance in a way that the film seems to suggest? “Maybe.” Try to resist the temptation to squash your client’s hopes and dreams. After all, the subtext of their question is probably: “Folks in the film stopped eating meat, and stopped feeling crappy. They feel great now. I wonder if I would feel great too. I want to feel great.” How do they find out? They can try eating this way, and look at their performance benchmarks. Nothing that comes out of your mouth will come close to seeing numbers move or not move after a dietary change. Four Strategies To Have A Client-Centered Coaching Conversation Regardless of what category your client falls in, the following strategies will help you have a client-centered coaching conversation, and help your clients reach their goals. Remain neutral “Have you seen Game Changers yet, coach? What do you think?”. It’s a trap. Resist the urge to take the question as an opportunity to share YOUR thoughts and beliefs about the film. At length. Just don’t do it. By shutting down the conversation (and that’s what happens, when you engage in a Hamlet-worthy soliloquy on why health documentaries are an awful source of health information), you’d be wasting a great coaching opportunity. This is also not the time and place to show how much of an expert you are, by dismantling every inaccuracy or error. Your client is already confused and overwhelmed. Don’t add more to their plate just to appease your own ego. Instead, try this exercise – see if you can have a discussion about this film with someone without explicitly stating your beliefs around eating meat or not eating meat. Usually that would mean asking a lot of questions, and listening a lot, which sounds a lot like… good coaching. Praise Find something (anything!) to give them a high-five about. “So glad you asked!” “Ah, good to hear that you are so curious to learn more about your health.” “Kudos for seeking more info, and for coming to me for help.” Why bother with the praise? Starting with positive feedback, allows the client an opportunity to engage in “self-enhancement”, a basic type of motivation that is associated with increased self-esteem, increased sense of control and all kinds of great things. All good things when you are trying to help someone reach their goals. You may know this practice already as “looking for bright spots”. Maya Angelou’s quote comes to mind here: “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Make your client feel good for coming to you with questions. Frame the proposed behavior change as an experiment If the client wants to try eating a more plant-based diet, that’s awesome. Here’s where you, the coach, come in! You can help them strategize, implement, and assess. The client may be inspired by the film, and want to “start tomorrow!”. Have a conversation around what they would need to put in place first. What are they currently eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? What would they eat instead, if they’d no longer be eating animal products? Brainstorm options. Help them to set up the specific parameters for the specific experiment. Is this something they want to try for a week? For a month? Even if they want to eat this way “forever”, it is still beneficial to identify a time interval at which they will evaluate how this approach is working for them, and tweak if necessary. How will they know if this experiment is going well? What will they be on the lookout for? Will they pay attention to changes in their energy levels? Quality of sleep? Weight? Nocturnal penis activity? Your job as a coach is to help the client to go from vague to specific and actionable. Stay on their side. No matter what. Regardless of whether they choose to experiment with the new way of eating or not, whether they stick to the change for a day, or a week, or find a new lifelong way of eating that makes their body happy – stay on their side. The client should have absolutely no doubt that they can come to you for support no matter what. This is where staying neutral (see earlier point) will make your life much much easier. If you manage to maintain neutrality from the beginning, your unconditional support will be much more believable to the client. Compare this to a situation, where you scoff at the documentary right off the bat, point out all the inaccuracies in the science used, and then have a client who STILL decides to try a plant-based way of eating after seeing the film. If this client “falls off the wagon” a week later, they’d hesitate to come to you for the fear of gloating and “I told you so” eye rolls. Or, perhaps, you endorse the documentary passionately and without reservations, and the client discovers some inconsistencies in the film, and brings them back to you. Want more resources? This article debunks some of the big claims made in the film (and includes an interview with my super awesome colleague Brian St. Pierre). This article provides a scientific review of studies and research mentioned in the movie along with full citations (for the Science Bro in you). This article from Precision Nutrition help you talk people through the latest fads, including “health advice” coming from Dr. Oz and Gwyneth Paltrow. Hope this helps. Until there is a new documentary. Now go eat some vegetables. They are good for you. But you already knew that. Even before the documentary. Hugs, SOLO

  • Marathon Cinderella – A 41-Year Old Mother Of Three Who “Believed”

    A 41-year old full-time nurse, and a mother of three, came 6th at recent World Champs, and the media is having a field day and crocheting motivational pillows with slogans like “If you believe it, you can achieve it!” The superficial story as I heard it was as follows: It was super hot. All these runners were dropping like flies, but our nurse, who did not run her first marathon until her mid-thirties, full of determination and grit, just kept on keeping on like the little engine that could. And voila – 6th place. This is like the runner’s version of Cinderella. Except, Roberta Groner is no average 41-year old nurse, y’all. — She was a competitive runner in college. — She ran her first marathon in 3:12:42 – more than an hour faster than the average finishing time (light years in marathon time). — She ran 100 miles a week (12-15 hours of training) leading up to this race. — She met the 2020 Olympic standard with her 2:29:09 race in Rotterdam earlier this year. Sure, based on her past performances placing 6th at the World Championships was not the most likely scenario for Groner. Before the carnage began, she was on track for 30th spot in the field of 68 runners (28 of them never finished). This IS an incredible accomplishment for a master’s runner. There are only two other women in US who managed to break 2:30 after their 40th birthday – both professional runners. But if we only look at the news headlines, we miss the complexity and nuance. The overarching message of “work hard, and you’ll get there” is oversimplified at best. Groner started out with incredible genetics, AND solid running background – at least two variables that we’d have to account for, when looking at her success. The message is not “it doesn’t matter how old you are”. Rather, it’s: “Solid running base, consistent training coupled with great genetics and a little bit of luck, can help runners elite-level performance into their 40s.” Unfortunately, THAT wouldn’t fit on a pillow. Hugs, SOLO

  • The Other Kind Of Endurance Racing, Or Super Long Travel With An Infant (Aka Operation Motherland)

    My last ultra endurance race (aka getting from Canada to Russia with a baby) wrapped up last week after twenty four hours in transit, three airplanes one way, and twelve hours time difference. Extra weight of a nine month old infant. Gear – stroller, car seat, carry on bag. Crew – mom. Two things made the journey super long – 1. there is no direct flight from Toronto to Moscow, and 2. we are not from Moscow. Thus, three flights were as follows: Operation Motherland – Leg 1: Toronto –> Warsaw Flight duration: 8.5 hours This was the longest flight of the three, and, to be honest, did not suck significantly more than a regular long overnight flight. [I think overnight flights were specifically designed to torture people. Because sleep deprivation IS a form of torture, and what better way to up the ante, than to carry out said torture in a flying machine NOT meant for any sort of horizontal positioning.] We were at the airport with time to spare, so I even had time to hunt for extra salty shitty chicken soup, while the kid played on the carpeted floor with the plastic utensils. On the plane we enjoyed the entire row to ourselves with extra leg room, and few hours in, the flight attendants installed a baby bassinet – a contraption that looks like a mummy sarcophagus. Baby T barely fit, but she did get a bit of snooze time in there, and I think I even managed to catch a bit of sleep. Operation Motherland – Leg 2: Warsaw –> Moscow Layover in the airport: 4 hours Flight duration: 2.25 hours The most painless flight – both because it was the shortest, AND because the babe slept through most of it, then cooed for the remainder. This is the kind of air travel with a baby I do not mind. By this time in the journey, I was seriously regretting not getting my food prep game on, and bringing our own meals (wraps, snacks go through security without issues and sit in the stomach oh-so-much-better than the endless supply of pretzels, and chocolate bars). Operation Motherland – Leg 3: Moscow –> Novokuznetsk Layover in the airport: 3 hours Flight duration: 4.5 hours In retrospect, it would have been nice to stop in Moscow for a night or two. One more flight is not just one more flight. It’s 4.5 hours of flight + 3 hours of layover + waiting for luggage at your final destination + driving to wherever it is you are actually staying. By the time we got on a plane, the baby was exhausted, as she has not slept for more than couple of hours in a row, so it was quite meltdowny in our row. The guy sitting next to us stared straight ahead for the entire flight, trying to ignore the pandemonium of clean and dirty diapers, plastic ducks, rice snacks, water bottles and swaddles happening few inches away. I felt quite bad for him. All in all, this has gone better than expected (mostly because I expected hell). I get to do this all over again in reverse order in about three weeks. Hugs, SOLO

  • Operation Bucket List 2.0

    I’ve been thinking of re-writing my bucket list for a while. It has gone through few iterations, and the very first version was jotted down when I was a teenager. In the last few months, I have finalized the date of my return to work, and have been looking at daycares for the baby (gah!). I have also registered for a writing class in the fall, ran two trail races – my first two postpartum, registered for a trail half marathon, and have been feeling a little bit more like myself. With that in mind, I decided to give the bucket list exercise a try. I made a point not to look at my old(er) bucket list for now. Note the new section “Parenting” – whoa! Sport run the remaining legs of the Great Canadian Death Race (I ran legs 1, 3, and 5 in 2015, and hoping to run much more gnarly legs 2 and 4 in the next few years) run Reckless Raven Ultra in Yukon – this one is in the summer, unlike the notorious Yukon Arctic Ultra, which takes place in January (no, thanks!). The full distance is 50 miles, but they also have a relay option, so I have not decided how long I want to go. In either case, the pictures of the course are mind blowing, and the only way I am not getting lost in Yukon is if someone marks the course for me. run a trail race in Italy – I do not have a specific race or distance in mind (so if you have suggestions, holler at me), however, I’d like to shoot for something super pretty – which won’t be difficult – and mid-distance – say, 20-30km. participate in the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica – this is a 230km stage race along the coastal line that I’ve had my eye on for a while. My favorite part? You run during the day, and sleep at night – completing the distance over about a week. do a century ride on a bike – I recall this one from my old bucket list, and it’s still on my mind, so… here it is. I should probably get a bike, and ride for few months before I attempt this, huh? do an IronMan triathlon – yep, still kind of hung up on this one. This is another one of those someday goals. I’ve always said that IronMan is something I can train for and complete in my forties, or fifties, or sixties. participate in North American Obstacle Course Racing Championships – this race is taking place in Vermont for the second year in a row. I could have made it this year, if I really really tried, but breastfeeding makes long road trips away from baby difficult for now. The state of my shoulder would only allow 3k course too, so I am not convinced I want to drive for eight hours to race for less than an hour. Writing write a short story – most of my writing is blog posts, articles, essays, and social media posts, so I find other formats somewhat intimidating. I have recently enrolled in the fall course, focusing on the fictional (!) short story, so this will be doubly challenging. The goal is to finish the course with a completed short story! write my birth story – my labour and birth experience messed with my head somewhat, and one way I know to process traumatic experiences is storytelling. I have pages on notes, thanks to the writing prompts from my writing coach, but I have not yet started putting it together into anything coherent. I trust that I will when I am ready. attend a writing retreat on French River – this is a 5-day writing retreat few hours away from where I live, complete with amazing views, yummy breakfast delivered to your door, and workshops and seminars with other writers. receive 100 rejections – I started a little project sometime last year that I called Operation 100 Rejections. In order for me to receive 100 rejections, I’d have to send in at least 100 pieces of writing to be published somewhere. This one is slow going. attend a writing program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity – I applied for one of their programs last year, and did not get in. In fact, that rejection kicked off my Operation 100 Rejections. I am hoping to do either a writing program, or a writing retreat there someday. Travel go back to India – India has been calling ever since I left, and I swore I would not become “that person” who takes one life-changing trip in her twenties, and then spends the rest of her life talking about it. take Introduction to Buddhism course at the Tushita Centre – this ties in with the previous item, as the Tushita Centre is located in a small town at the foothill of Himalayas. The course is ten days, and would make for a perfect short-ish trip to India. I have already done a ten day Vipassana silent retreat, and this course is a bit less intense – less meditation time, not as severe, and an instruction/learning component which I really enjoy. visit a winery in Chile – it looks like Chile will be the next winter getaway destination. Costa Rica was amazing, but the family consensus was that it’s way too hot for January/February. Chile is long and skinny, thus, you can “pick your own adventure” when it comes to the climate. The average winter temperature in small coastal towns only few hours away from Santiago ranges from +21-24C – perfect. go to Iceland for the belated honeymoon with Italian – this one is way overdue, obviously, but we won’t be the first married couple to take their honeymoon years after the actual wedding. visit Florence and Venice in spring or summer – Italian works, works, works during the summer, so we have seen (and loved) Italy in late fall, and middle of winter. This visit will be short, and require some planning (and will be worth it, I’m sure!). visit every state in US – I am well on my way with this one, even checking off few states throughout my pregnancy and relatively early postpartum – Texas last year, and Arizona this year. visit every province in Canada – the East Coast and Northern provinces are still on the list. take a road trip to the East Coast – another short-ish summer trip that will need to be planned. I am thinking that we’d fly to save time, then rent a car to look around. go to Napa or Sonoma with Italian – California zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, here we come! Will have to look into best times to go – thinking November one year would be a perfect little sun boost before the Canadian winter. take Italian and baby T to Santa Cruz, CA – there is something about that not-so-small town. It is just far away enough to be missing all the craziness of SF, but it also has everything – fantastic coffee and food, a CrossFit box on every block, Whole Foods, and beautiful beach. It’s also super expensive, so… will have to figure out how to swing this one. live in California – this is new. I have no idea how this one is going to come to pass either. Looking at my life right now, it’s not happening any time soon, but I have learned not to question bucket list items as they come. I might live in Cali for a year, or two months. I might end up there in twenty years, or next winter. Meanwhile, if you know someone who needs a house sitter, let me know. live in NYC for two or three months in the summer, subscribe to New Yorker and check out various awesome events – this is what happens when you subscribe to New Yorker for few weeks, and let yourself daydream. Another item that is unlikely anytime soon, yet I am putting it out here to marinate/manifest. Parenting introduce baby T to her great grandparents – we are heading to Russia in only a couple of weeks to do just that. I am lucky enough to have three grandparents still living – my maternal grandmother and grandfather, as well as my paternal grandmother. run a race with baby T – I guess technically I have already done that, as I did run the last leg of Sinister 7 last summer, while in my second trimester. But they did only give me one bib, so… teach baby T to read in Russian – any book is better in original, and I have an opportunity to allow my kid to read some of the greats as they were written. take baby T to her great great grandmother’s grave – T was named after my great grandmother, and her great great grandmother, who is buried in my hometown. Technically, I can check this off in about three weeks, however, I’d like to do this when she is old enough to appreciate what’s happening. I am not yet sure how old that is. Ten? Twenty? I will add to this list as ideas occur to me, and as I peek on my old list, and want to transfer some items over. Hugs, SOLO

  • Operation Mommy – Baby Led Weaning, Purees, And Three Books I Consulted

    I first heard about baby-led weaning from my best friend who used it with her daughter. It sounded messy, and exciting. My jam. As I scared and entertained myself in the last few months of pregnancy by Googling all things infants, I came across many discussions about feeding styles on the mommy forums. What stood out to me is how frequently the question posed was: “should I feed my child purees OR try baby-led weaning?”. Whenever you see something set up as an EITHER OR, it often is a false dichotomy. The options and choices are much more numerous, but… we fail to see it that way. I started reading more on the topic. Here are the three books that I consulted on all things feeding babies. They all suggested a very different approach, which in turn, allowed me to end up picking and choosing things from each. Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods—and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett Baby-led weaning is a relatively new phenomenon, which has been gaining a lot of traction. The idea is that, instead of starting your baby on cereals and purees, which has been THE way for my parents’ generation, you wait until your baby displays signs of readiness, and then start them directly on finger foods. No spoon feeding. The grandparents were not thrilled with this approach. They were nervous about choking, they hated the mess, and it was just… different. The main principles behind the approach definitely appeal to me, as a health coach – we encourage children to explore the new foods, the new tastes and textures, instead of grinding everything into paste. We also trust that they will self-regulate when it comes to the amount of food, instead of shoving spoonfuls of kale pear something-something in their mouth. The Best Homemade Baby Food On The Planet by Karin Knight and Tina Ruggiero Inspired by my mother and mother-in-law who would invariably show up to my doorstep with dozens of little containers of chicken soup for baby, apple sauce for baby, and all the things for baby. I checked this out of my local library. Martha Stewart, specializing in baby food, I am not. It was helpful to read through a more traditional approach to feeding, just to compare and contrast it to baby-led weaning. The latter does make more sense to me. I had two issues with the recipes in the book: 1. Either, they were so simple, it felt downright condescending… “Baby Whammy Avocado Pudding”. Take half an avocado, mash the avocado with a fork. Feed it to your baby! Voila! 2. Or, they were more involved, but… simply did not sound appealing. I could not bring myself to cook perfectly good chicken, and then throw it into the Vitamix with steamed peaches, cinnamon, and banana. I am not a big fan of dishes with too many ingredients, period. High quality ingredients taste great on their own. And, if I can’t get jazzed about a dish, then… why feed it to my kid? Baby Self-Feeding by Nancy Ripton and Melanie Potock This was probably my favorite of the three. From the get go, the authors discuss the pros and cons of various feeding methods, and encourage parents to pick and choose aspects of each. This book was mostly a guide with some recipes at the end. In direct contrast to the previous book, I found many recipes I was looking forward to trying – pasta with creamy avocado sauce, banana bread, energy balls, lemon basil hummus and more. Notice the trend here – those recipes sounded good to ME. I’d eat them. So… I’m happy to make them. AND eat them along the side of my child. One thing that seems strange to me with more traditional methods of feeding is the separation between YOUR food and BABY’S food. I will eat this, and you will eat that. It seems to create precedent for similar separation in the future, where parents find themselves cooking multiple meals – one for themselves, and one for the child, or consume different foods. For example, I have heard clients say: “I do have cookies and chocolate in the house, but I don’t eat them, those are treats, just for my kids”. I also heard clients say: “I do have cookies and chocolate in the house, but those are just for me, I don’t let my kids eat that crap!”. Both lines of reasoning strike me as inconsistent. At the end, we settled on baby-led weaning about 80% of the time, and traditional spoon feeding, and baby purees 20% of the time. During the summer, Italian works long hours, but I try to have both breakfast and lunch with the baby. She sits in the high chair, I sit at the table, and we eat very similar things. I eat Greek yogurt and strawberries, and so does she. I eat scrambled eggs, and tomato slices, and orange slices and so does she. Grandparents enjoy spoon feeding the baby, and it can be a convenient/less messy option on the go. Meanwhile, when I am not pressed for time, I let the baby go wild with strawberries, bananas, avocado, pieces of chicken, lentil curry, toast, and whatever else she seems to express interest in (which is… everything). Hugs, SOLO

  • Running Coach In My Ear, And A Year Of Using Aaptiv – App Review

    I’ve been playing with Aaptiv for the last year or so. I say “playing”, because I have never used it exclusively for more than few weeks at a time. It started as an attempt to find something semi-motivating, as I tried to find ways to exercise, while staying at home with a baby during my maternity leave. In the last few months, I have been using it mostly for some yoga flows at home, as well as treadmill and outdoor runs. For those not familiar, Aaptiv is like Spotify, but for fitness – a huge catalogue of audio-led workouts, varying from yoga and meditation to strength training and outdoor running. What I Loved The Music. The voiceover instruction is set over modern music, so you feel like you are in a fitness class. You can even choose workouts based on the music you prefer. 80s or hip-hop, they got you covered. The Instructors. You start getting a feel for instructors, but all of them are positive and enthusiastic. In longer workouts, they do not “hover”, but rather pop in regularly to provide encouragement. They also did not strike me as “cheesy”, which can be challenging when your primary role is “rah-rah-rah!”. Ease Of Use. It’s super easy to use – no different than cueing up a song in your phone. In fact, a number of times I wondered how on earth would I ever go back to following a traditional strength programming on an ugly Excel spreadsheet. Here’s my running warm-up from yesterday: Convenience. This ties into ease of use, but there is something about “not having to think” that makes the workout that much more convenient to follow. For example, if I am going to follow along with a yoga video, I have to find a yoga video, cue it up on my laptop, set up the laptop somewhere I can see it, and then keep looking at the screen, as I follow along. With Aaptiv, you can have your phone in your pocket, or nearby, and simply follow the voice instructions. That was probably my favorite aspect of the app – not having to look anywhere, and not having a separate device. This came in especially handy during outdoor runs, as you are “taking your coach with you”. I’ve never followed guided runs before, and I loved loved loved that aspect of it. For bonus points, give one ear bud to a friend, and voila, you have a partner workout. [Just make sure to use wireless headphones, so you don’t trip over each other.] Cost. At $14.99 per month, it’s quite affordable. Training Programs. There are many pre-set programs if you wanted to follow something a bit more structured. For example: “Train For A Half”, or “Touch Your Toes In Two Weeks”. I completed “Run Your First Mile” program few months postpartum, and it was a great way to get back into running slowly. It is also both motivating and satisfying to see your own progress through the program, as you check off one workout after another in a given set. What I Didn’t Love The Music. Yes, I loved having the music in the background, but I would love the option of cueing my own soundtrack, and having the instructor guide me through the class as well. Right now, the voice instruction is often tied to the music though – for example, the instructor may say “on the next drop, you’ll pick up the speed”, or “you’ll maintain this pace until the end of the song”. The Lottery Factor. Having an app where you can easily pick out a workout from thousands of options, and then having an upbeat coach guide you through that workout is awesome. It’s awesome for beginners, it’s awesome for travelling. It’s awesome for being stuck all day at home with a baby, and not being able to get out to the gym. It will never ever replace a high quality periodized program – for strength, for running, for… anything, really. Aaptiv would be a great option for beginners (assuming they are relatively healthy AND relatively fit with no injuries), but I would not recommend this as the sole source of movement and exercise for any extended period of time. You are essentially just doing a bunch of random workouts, instead of following a thought out program. Tracking. The tracking options in the app leave a lot to be desired. For the most part, your tracking will be limited to “done” or “not done” status. You’ll be able to see whether or not you have completed the workout on your calendar. However, there is no way to track time, performance, weight used or anything else really. Once again, this would be fine for beginner exercisers starting to get into the habit of regular movement. Advanced exercisers would want a more consistent way of assessing their progress. Progress is most obvious when the same workouts are performed at regular cadence over time. You can SEE the numbers going up. Aaptiv is aimed more at “I get bored easily” crowd, where the focus is on “do something every day” and “do something new every day”. That’s fine. Just not as effective. Injuries / Special Conditions. I did not find a place anywhere to specify that I had a particular injury. There are some options for prenatal training – yoga, breathing, etc. However, mostly, this app is aimed at general population, relatively healthy, and without injuries or special conditions. Otherwise, rotator cuff tear or not, you are doing overhead shoulder presses with dumbbells, and push-ups. Occasional Glitches. There were multiple instances when completed workouts did not show up as completed. I did reach out to Aaptiv support, and after quite a bit of back and forth, and a bunch of screenshots, some of those workouts have been marked as complete. However, the client care team was not particularly helpful or apologetic in the matter. [By the way, the “right” reaction here would have been to 1. apologize, and 2. offer partial refund to the client. Neither was done.] Changes In Programming. Now, I can accept an occasional glitch as the reality of all things tech. However, here we are talking about the company deciding to remove workouts, training programs, or entire categories of workouts (like rowing) after they have already been launched for weeks or months with no warning to the users. In practicality that means that some people were weeks or months into a marathon training program, and then logged in one morning to find that the entire training program is gone. This has happened to me three weeks into a 10k training program. I opened up the app, and…. all of my check marks have disappeared, and it looked like I was starting the program all over again. If anyone has ever followed a program of any kind, you know how defeating it is to seemingly start from scratch. Some days I only get my butt out of the door for that little check mark. It happened again with another training program, at which point it’s made me lose enough faith to NOT kick off any training programs within the app, but rather use individual workouts only. Quite a loss to the company, I would say, as getting “hooked” on a program is exactly the kind of thing that would KEEP the users paying the subscription fees. It is plausible to make the user experience more smooth here – the company would need to ensure that the announcement about intent to remove certain programs is done well ahead of time, AND all users who have started the program have an opportunity to finish that program. Too Much. At some point, Aaptiv introduced the coaching aspect, as well as the group support aspect. You could now fill out a questionnaire with your goals, and the app would make recommendations for your daily workout, as well as help you track a daily habit, and other goals. You could also join others in group challenges, as well as share your workouts on the built in forum on a social media feed. Honestly… that’s too much. This is an app trying to be all things to all people, rather than focusing on the ONE thing they do so well – audio guided workouts for many modalities, and many levels. I don’t need a coach, and I don’t need an app to remind me to drink water. And if I do, surely, there is a better app out there, focused on JUST the water consumption. With all the added functionality, I started feeling overwhelmed. Conclusion My subscription is coming to an end, and I do not think I will renew. There are other apps and services I want to try (Fitness Blender, SOFLETE, Street Parking and Noom are currently on my radar). However, I will continue to recommend Aaptiv to some people – specifically, people who want to start working out at home, people who get bored easily, people who would love having a new workout every single day, and people who are relatively healthy and fit with no acute injuries. Meanwhile, any other apps or subscription services I should look into? Hugs, SOLO

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