It’s been a loooonnnngggg time since I last wrote my “regular” blog post of Just Another Day at the Office. Lots of things have come up along the way like family graduations, retirements, relocations and home building. Not that I am offering these as excuses really. I only mention them so you don’t think I have sat around just watching the days go by.
The area in which we chose to build our dream home borders a natural conservancy in The Creeks area of Kelowna, British Columbia. Basically 5 minutes from our door step we walk into 400+ hectares of protected nature/wildlife reserve. Cedar Mountain was the original name of this park prior to the receipt of a large private land donation in 2013. Its original name came from the Western Red Cedar tree that was the dominate form of vegetation in the park. Originally the park boundaries put it at approximately 80 hectares, and it was already considered a large park. Back in 2003, the park and surrounding area was devastated by a wildfire. Basically no trees survived the intense heat of the fire and although Mother Nature’s regeneration has been underway for some time now it will take generations before it gets to its former glory.
In 2013, the park expanded by way of a private land donation from the Johns Family of Kelowna. The added private donation of 323 hectares to the existing 80 hectares brought the size of the park up to the 403 hectares the public can enjoy today. Due to the significant size of the donation, the park was renamed to The Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park to honour them and respect their wishes of preserving the area in its natural state. Hiking up the 2500 feet in elevation for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder what would be around the next corner?? Well it always seemed to turn out that it was just another corner and so the hike continued. The relatively short hike is quite easy but does involve a steep climb towards the viewpoint near the end of the path.
The area does have natural hazards due to the fire however charred timber was removed from the trail to make it more user-friendly. I didn’t realize that one of the natural hazards we would come across would be in the form of an extremely excited golden retriever puppy (a big one!). Now just to back up a bit, I have this fear of walking in the mountains by our place because I worry about bears and cougars as there are many of them around. My wife and I walk together but have no protection of any kind with us should we come across any of the “warm bodied hazards”. We were in a dense mist/fog for sections of our hike, so my senses were already being taxed. During our hike we had this friendly dog run up on us stealthily from behind and scare the jeepers out of us. I couldn’t help but think that if I couldn’t hear this dog who wasn’t trying to be quiet, how would I ever hear the cougar that may be stalking us as we walk? What made this chance encounter even more unnerving was this pup had a very strong physical attraction to my left leg. He ran right past my wife, mounted my left leg in one single motion and began to have carnal relations with my thigh!!! This without even having taken me for dinner or bought me flowers! Anyway, I was having nothing to do with this, so I pried him off, patted him on the head, and sent him on his way…..where were the owners? …no doubt on the trail directly below us, probably enjoying their alone time.
Once you get to the top of the trail you are treated to a spectacular 180 degree view of the Okanagan Lake 2500 feet below you. The views from this vantage point really are worth the hike and we really enjoyed ourselves. Spring can’t come soon enough so we can continue to explore nature’s doorstep, just minutes from our own doorstep. Today’s “Bloggin in the Okanagan” really was just another day at the office. If you enjoyed this post (or didn’t), have questions, etc. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to rate my posts with the stars at the bottom of the page. I appreciate it!
No, I didn’t say Dr. House…..I said, “is there a doctor in the house?” We don’t always realize it but listening to our doctor needs to happen just as much when you aren’t sick as when you are. Often some of the best advice we can get happens when we are not feeling sick at all but are looking for ways to improve our overall health and lower our risk of contracting a major illness. Recently I came across an article in a magazine with an interview with Dr. David Katz who is an internationally renowned specialist in chronic disease prevention and weight management.
In the article Dr. Katz offers us all 5 easy ways we can outsmart illness. He says that what we do with our arms, feet and fork can cut our risk for chronic disease by up to an amazing 80 percent! What follows are his 5 top recommendations:
MOVE YOUR FEET (LOTS!) You should get at least 20 minutes of exercise and no fewer than 5 times per week. You need to not only make the commitment to do it but also keep it. I try to keep as active as possible at least 5 times per week right now and sometimes 6 times. I keep one “down” day to just take things easy and at a slower pace. My routine “right now” consists of a fast/aerobic-paced walk of at least 10 kilometers each day. Now that the snow and ice are gone I will once again substitute some of these walks with running. I don’t look at these outings as a chore, but more as something I choose to do and enjoy.
CHOOSE FOODS THAT LOVE YOU BACK You should never have to sacrifice great food (good tasting) for great health. Look for strategies where they can live in harmony. Low fat and high flavour is our motto at home and has become part of our lifestyle. That’s not to say that we don’t cheat once in a while, but we believe everything in moderation. Always keep lots of fresh vegetables and fruit around and if there are “not so healthy” things that constantly tempt you, then try just not picking them up. Often the “out of sight out of mind” trick works best.
TRAIN YOURSELF TO SLEEP MORE SOUNDLY Since I retired, this one has become easier for me but I still fall into some past bad habits. Dr. Katz recommends at least eight hours of sleep each night as well as sticking to a consistent schedule. I am always surprised at how easy it is to wake up at the same time each day without the aid of an alarm clock because I stick to a routine schedule and this supports Dr. Katz’s recommendations. He goes on to say we should avoid taking afternoon naps as they are likely to end up interfering with our sleep later on that night and so any possible benefit is lost. Since I have been blogging I was in the habit of looking at articles online each night on blogging and thinking about things I wanted to try or how I could fix on my page. The trouble is that I took these thoughts with me as I tried to fall asleep and ended up tossing and turning all night. So recently I have gone back to my old routine of simply reading a book before turning out the light and this has completely stopped the late night restlessness.
DE-STRESS WITH A QUICK “THOUGHT MAKEOVER” Dr. Katz states that research has shown people who report high levels of stress are more likely to eat more and exercise less which is not great when it comes to disease prevention. He recommends finding your “optimal tension-taming technique.” This could come in the form of meditation/visualization and even just old-fashioned exercise. I find how my mind treats stressful situations can make it better or worse. Staying positive and reframing things in a positive light definitely helps me lower the stress meter and get though it.
REACH OUT AND HUG SOMEONE No not your boss or some stranger walking down the street….that could turn out a bit weird. But Dr. Katz mentions the natural human need to feel close to others. Creating connections with others around us might be an even more important defense against stress than exercise. No matter how crazy our days get, my fiancé and I always make time for a cup of coffee together followed by our 10K walk, a run or a trip to the gym. In the old days we took care of all the other things life threw at us and then “if” there was time we got our workouts in. Now we take care of this critical element of our everyday lifestyle first, and then the rest of the day’s activities.
So based on my experience, my recommendation to you this week is to try and incorporate some or all of these strategies into your life. Your health and well-being are important to you and your families.
Today I am smiling for many reasons. I have officially welcomed my 4th month of being retired, I have the love of “the” most extraordinary woman, and have two wonderful kids. In addition to this, there are still many more reasons to be happy and grinning ear to ear. Spring is here in Calgary and the last traces of ice have disappeared from the parks and pathways. The wildlife are all out and about settling down for a busy spring of welcoming their new babies into the world and raising their families.
From what I have been reading, just “feeling” happy may be the secret to our own lifelong fitness success in addition to improving our well-being. There has been some new research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that establishes a link between people who try to enjoy life to the fullest and improved overall health. Researchers go on to say that worrying less may also protect us from the harmful effects of stress hormones. Did you know that feeling down in the dumps on a regular basis puts you at a three times greater risk for developing physical problems later on in life? This certainly supports the notion of finding something you love and just doing it. A happy mind is a healthy one….. so put a smile on your face…. it’s good for you and can be infectious to people around you.
In a past post I spent a bit of time debating the merits of floating as a runner vs. bouncing as a jogger. Well I was actually making fun of joggers really but sometimes they make it so easy. Sort of like all the cyclists out there in their “look at me” outfits (code name for head to toe fluorescent spandex). In the last few weeks it has been warming up outside and we have had some incredibly beautiful mornings. With this feeling of spring I have had hankering to get out of the gym rat race and out into the fresh air. The pathways around my place have still had some ice on them so rather than donning my running shoes I have opted for a pair of hikers with a bit more support and tread on them.
I have been doing a lot of reading lately on the merits of walking compared to running. With the exception of calories burned, walking is as good for you as running. When you walk, however, there is minimal impact on your muscles and joints. This allows you to go further and keep yourself up in your cardio/fat burning zone for an extended period of time. For me this is a good thing as I am working hard to increase my endurance and still drop a few pounds. What I didn’t realize is that although you use many of the same major muscle groups walking or running, it seems like they may be used in “different” ways…. or so my feet tell me.
There are 26 different bones in the human foot that make up 1/4 of all the bones in your body. I know this partly because I googled it and partly because after walking 10 kilometers a day, every day, over the last couple weeks I feel every one of them! It seems I am discovering and feeling things I have never had to in the past. If you are a step counter 10 kilometers is the equivalent of approximately 11,500 steps depending on your stride length. There are also more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in my feet. I think I have felt all of them the last week or so.
Our feet also have 33 joints of which 20 are actively articulated when running or walking. I think that switching from my regular runners with all their padding and support to my hikers may have contributed to some of the discomfort I have been feeling. I think that the pace of a speed walk vs. an all out run forces us to use the same muscle groups but perhaps in a slightly different way. I have noticed that behind my knees and my hamstrings have been quite sore and after my first couple of long walks I had to ice them and also use heat to help settle things down.
Part of this discomfort was also exacerbated by my lack of flexibility. I remember years ago I had my flexibility evaluated and the trainer advised me I was in the 6th percentile. I thought this was great in that I was more flexible than 94% of men my age. Boy I was NOT happy when he clarified for me that 94 of men my age were more flexible than me and not the other way around. Mental note: spend more time stretching during my warm up and cool down.
Over the past week or so I have tried to decrease my distance and pace a bit as well as remembering to get some breaks every few days. I have also tried varying my footwear between the hikers and my normal runners. This seems to have helped a bit.
I have learned that exercising really shouldn’t hurt but perhaps overdoing it might. Everything in moderation I guess!
Funny how certain things you do during the day will trigger thoughts or memories of a past experience. These experiences can be good, bad or indifferent. This past month my fiancé and I have been “enjoying”, we’ll not exactly enjoying, this little tea concoction each day in the late afternoon. It usually gets brewed up right around that “it’s five O’clock somewhere ” hour. If you could imagine a steaming hot cup of Lipton chicken noodle soup without the chicken, or noodles….well without the Lipton actually. It is a mixer of turmeric and fresh ground ginger, in a cup of hot water. The other main ingredient is half of an orange squeezed into the cup. This tea is supposed to cleanse the liver among other wonderful things. You would never know it from the taste but I guess a person can get used to drinking anything after a while…. Even at my age….I guess my liver probably could use a little dusting and cleaning once in a while anyway.
I sort of went off on a bit of a tangent that took me away from my memory and purpose of this little note.
When I was young, probably grade 4 or 5 I played organized community soccer with several of my friends. A good friend of mine who lives with his family down east now (Kingston Ontario?)… Well his Father was our coach. Every game we played at the half there would be this big bag of oranges cut up into quarters for all of us the dig into. Today when I was making up the “tea” and munching on the orange half that is all I could think about was how good those oranges tasted in those hot springs days on the soccer field. Sooo good.
What foods do you have now that get you thinking back to the days gone by as a kid growing up?