Battling the Winter Blues

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Self care has always been important to me. Now that winter is here it is even more important to take time out of each day to practice self care. The days are short, the nights are long, and it’s C O L D. It’s so easy to drown in the winter blues – especially if you don’t particularly like the winter to begin with. I have mixed emotions about the coldest season – I love the snow and getting outdoors, but I find starting and ending my work days in the dark really gets to me – so it’s so important that I practice self care to keep my spirits up! It doesn’t have to be long or the same routine every time – but taking a few minutes each day to focus and reflect on yourself makes the world of a difference in mood!

Sometimes self care is as simple as hitting the gym for an hour and getting a great sweat on, but honestly my motivation tanks in the winter and all I want to do is curl up and watch movies and drink hot cocoa. Don’t get me wrong, I still go to the gym and feel great after, but it doesn’t quite feel like “self care” when I have to initially drag myself there.

One of my favourite winter self care routines is the simplest. Curling up with a hot drink and reflecting on my day or planning what I’d like my day to be is always a great one for me. Right now, my favourite hot drink is a Vital Proteins Gingerbread latte. To make it, I just brew a cup of coffee in my French press, pour it in with 1-2 scoops of Vital Proteins Gingerbread Collagen creamer into a blender, and turn on high for 10-20 seconds. The result is a creamy, foamy, festive drink. Not only does sitting down with a warm latte calm me down, but the festive flavour really gets me excited for spending Christmas with my loved ones and I have zero guilt drinking it because it is a fantastic supplement coming in at 10g of Protein and only 1g of sugar!

Does your self care routine change with the season? What’s your favourite winter self care routine!?

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Cycology 101 – Commuting to Work

Have you ever thought to yourself that it would be wonderful to bike to work but you have no idea where to start?

Do you just need to buy a bike and ride?

You want to start your day with the wind in your hair but you have to look presentable for work. HOW?!

You have no idea how bike lanes work and they seem to be full of professional racers.

Long story short, deciding to commute to work on two wheels is intimidating.

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My first bike!

In March of 2016 I told my boyfriend I wanted to go for a bike ride with him one weekend. He is a confident cyclist that commutes 365 days of the year, but I just wanted to go on a Sunday stroll with him. We knew my clunky cruiser (which I LOVED) wouldn’t be able to keep up with Grandpa Roadie, so we headed down to the used bike shop to find me a hybrid.

Step One of Commuting – Buy a Bike!

Buying a bike can be intimidating – but the people that work in the store are going to be psyched that you are interested in commuting and are going to want to help you get the best possible bike for your ride. To simply put it, there are generally three types of bikes to choose from – road, hybrid, and mountain bikes. Road bikes are the ones you see that have the funny looking drop handle bars and the rider is “hunched” over – these are the most efficient bikes for commuting, they are light and designed to be quick and comfortable for longer distances. BUT they are freaky to ride if you never have got on one before. Hybrid bikes are in between a road and a mountain bike. They look like a mountain bike with straight handle bars and you sit higher on them, but they are lighter than a mountain bike. They are designed for comfort. Mountain bikes are probably what you grew up on – they are the most common bike to see on the road, but aren’t great for commuting because of their weight and knobby tires – unless you are riding through gravel roads and fields… but let’s just assume you are in a city.

Road bikes intimidated me so I went with a used hybrid bike that cost me $300. It was a brand new bike that was donated to the shop and I was stoked to get it! We went on our Sunday ride and I was hooked. I decided right then and there that I was going to be a commuter. But I had no idea what I needed to do to be one.

*within 3 months of riding I got fed up with the road bikes constantly passing me, so I went ahead and bought a road bike (2017 Kona Jake the Snake) and it was the best commuting decision I made. I challenge you to buy a road bike even if it’s intimidating! It’ll be worth it, I promise!*

 

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Going for a Rocky Mountain ride on Jake the Snake!

Step Two of Commuting – Gear Up!

Unfortunately commuting isn’t the cheapest hobby when you start out – but you end up saving so much when you consider the gas, oil changes, and other vehicle maintenance you’ll save on! Plus.. you’re investing in your health!

So what are the basic things you need to buy?

  • A bike – duh
  • A helmet – duh. *AND WEAR IT*
  • A bike lock
  • Either a backpack to hold gear or a bike bag – I use both
  • Bike Lights
  • A road pump
  • An “emergency kit” including tire levers, a spare tube, a patch kit, a spare chain link & a multi-tool

 

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Stuck behind a train, at least the view is nice!

Other things to carry

  • Clothes for work
  • Wipes
  • Makeup
  • Cell phone
  • ID
  • Cash

If you already don’t have outdoor clothes make sure you buy weather appropriate clothing – I have been caught in the rain, snow, and wind – but there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear 😉

Step Three of Commuting – Bikes 101

Ok, so you have a bike and you have the gear. But do you know how to fix it if it fails on your ride? (It will). Most cities offer bike classes that will teach you the basics or you can ask a biker buddy for some guidance if you need it! Learn how the bike lanes work in your city and brush up on your cycling signals for the road. Ask LOTS of questions and make sure you understand the basics before you hit the pavement.

Another good resource to check out is the biking bylaws in your City. Most of them are common sense safety laws, but some of them can be surprising and a good reminder to keep you safe!

 

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Carson working on his winter bike – so thankful for his helpful tips!

Step Four of Commuting – Planning

There is a lot of planning involved in commuting, especially if your commute is going to be 10+kms. Plan a route, plan a backup route, and plan a backup plan.

In my first six months of commuting, my route changed 3 times, my bike broke down on me twice, and the weather surprised me a handful of times. PLANNING made everything doable. Many cities have bike lanes and keep the information about them updated online. Figure out which lanes are open and plan accordingly & always check the 24 hour weather report so you are prepared for your ride to work and your ride home – this might mean packing extra layers for the chillier ride home. Another good idea is to figure out what you’ll do if your bike really breaks and you can’t fix it by yourself – are you near a transit system that allows bikes on? Can you call a friend to pick you up?

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Some unexpected snow!

I think the most important part of the plan is doing a test ride. Ride to work at a comfortable pace to get an idea of how long it will take you to get there. I like to be conservative and give myself an extra 30 minutes of ride time in case something happens on the path.

Step Five of Commuting – Ride, baby

The first day of commuting is the hardest. I left my house at 5:00AM, it was dark, and within 40 minutes of riding I was lost. Thankfully I had my phone and good ole Google Maps and I managed to get there on time, and I never made that wrong turn again! Commuting is a fantastic way to start your day, better the environment, and better your health. Whether you ride once a week or 365 days a year you’ll make a difference and feel great.

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Enjoying the view of downtown at my halfway point

 

Commuting is a lot of trial and error – and what works for me might not work for you – I keep my “gear” in a saddle bag, my work clothes/makeup/lunch in a backpack, and I keep face wash, wipes, and shoes at work. I get to work and use wipes to give myself a quick wipedown, change in the bathroom, and get ready quickly. I’m lucky that my work has a gym with a shower, hair dryer, and straightener if I want to use it, but usually I just manage with getting ready in twenty minutes in the bathroom – and I haven’t received a complaint from management with how I look! 😛

No matter what your ride looks like, remember that safety is always the most important aspect. Always carry identification, a phone, and don’t ride anywhere you don’t feel safe.

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Fun fact: My biggest pet peeve is seeing cyclists with helmets attached to their bike instead of their head! Wear your helmet, kids!

Calgary, AB, Canada Biking links

My favourite Bike Shop

Good Life Bikes is a used bike shop with amazing staff and Gender Empowerment Mechanics days  – a great environment to learn everything you need to know about bikes

http://www.goodlifebikes.ca/

Calgary Bike Lanes

http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/TP/Pages/Cycling/Cycling-Route-Improvements/Downtown-cycle-track-pilot-project.aspx

https://maps.calgary.ca/PathwaysandBikeways/

Calgary Bike Safety

http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/TP/Pages/Cycling/Cycling-Education-and-Safety/Cycling-equipment.aspx

Take Me Higher

Just in case you don’t know this, I love to travel. Like every other millennial out there, a flight is always calling my name. Trying new foods, meeting new people, and connecting with nature makes me feel so alive. I started really travelling when I was 16 and  have been to a total of 15 countries so far. Last year, I decided that in addition to visiting places around this big world, I wanted to explore more of Canada. This fall I decided to go visit a friend on an island on the west coast, and it was fantastic! We did all sorts of activities while I was there, but by far my favourite thing we did was climbing.

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I had climbed a handful of times on an indoor wall, mostly when I was a kid in gym class. My first day in Victoria my friend took me to a cliff overlooking the ocean and we climbed up to the top for one of the most beautiful views. It wasn’t the most difficult climb out there, but it was a perfect introduction to outdoor climbing. It was easy enough that I could make it to the top without too much troubles, but hard enough that it had my heart racing. The next day it was raining so we did a bunch of fun activities (check out Wild Play if you’re ever in B.C.!) and then we spent FOUR HOURS climbing inside. It was amazing. The community was all so supportive and it fostered an environment where I could really push myself. I really hope to connect with the climbing community back in Alberta. Anyone want to go climb a rock?IMG_1060

Voluntary Discomfort

This is a term I recently learned and am trying to incorporate more and more into my life. Voluntary discomfort is exactly as it sounds – making deliberate decisions that make you uncomfortable. So why am I choosing the hard way in life? To be happier.

2017 is a year where life hacks shorten daily tasks, Buzzfeed can tell you what you want to eat for dinner, you can buy whatever you desire and have it on your doorstep the next day, and you can accomplish anything by a touch of a smartphone. Life is relatively easy. This is where Voluntary Discomfort comes in. If you step back and say, yeah my life is pretty easy, then I challenge you to start being uncomfortable. When you step out of society’s comfort zone you discover a feeling of pride, relief, accomplishment, and happiness.

 

To help you figure out some ways to start using voluntary discomfort, I decided to write out some of the things I have changed in my life and the impacts they have had on me.

  • Wake up early. If you’re like me, you don’t like rolling out of bed when the alarm goes off. It would be more comfortable to hit the snooze button and catch a few zzz’s for an extra ten minutes. Don’t. Use the extra time in the morning to get ready, appreciate the day, and set intentions. By doing this simple task, I am uncomfortable for less than five minutes when I’m choosing to get out of bed on time, but I have become more productive than ever before.
  • Shed the negatives – research has shown that buying new things as an effort to create happiness can cause high levels of stress, and therefore unhappiness. Instead of going out and buying that new car or lamp, think really hard if it will make you happy. A perfect example of this was this summer when I bought a mountain bike. I spent $700 on a used bike that I thought would being me so much happiness – it would allow me to spend time in the mountains doing an exhilarating activity with my boyfriend and provide a great source of fun exercise. I went mountain biking once and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Now there was a $700 bike sitting in my living room that wasn’t being used. This caused enormous amounts of stress on me – I had wasted $700, I was wasting space, and now I was struggling to get rid of it. Instead of going and buying a new toy to cheer myself up, I chose to first shed the negative from my life. I advertised the bike on every possible website, and eventually sold it for $470. Although I took quite a major loss on the bike, the feeling of relief and satisfaction of having it GONE made me so happy. The same research that said buying things causes stress stated that getting rid of the things in your life that you don’t need will cause much more happiness than any new purchase will. I have chosen to deliberately go through all of our belongings and only keep what we need or what truly makes us happy. Selling and donating old belongings made me feel like I had been trapped in a tiny box and the doors finally opened.
  • SWEAT- because this is a health blog, right? Working out is never easy and nor should it be. We push ourselves daily to better ourselves in the long run. If you are reading this blog I can assume fitness is a part of your life so I’m not going to dive into this too much – you know that post workout high? That intense feeling of pride? Imagine if you could make other areas of your life a little more difficult to feel those feelings more frequently.
  • Alternative transportation – this one is huge, and has had the biggest impact on me over the last six months. I started riding 120kms a week on my bike to save a little money and help improve my health. Little did I know it would improve my mental health tremendously and leave me so much happier. Biking is clearly harder than driving. It takes more energy, more time, and more planning. I live less than a kilometer from a grocery store, but yesterday my boyfriend and I decided to ride our bikes 30kms with our packs to get our weekly groceries from a budget friendly grocery store. We did this as a voluntary discomfort experiment. We were tired (ok, I was tired, the mountain biker was ok) and sweaty and our packs were heavy. It took a total of 1.5 hours of cycling to get to and from the grocery store. It was probably the happiest grocery trip we have ever taken together. We got to spend 1.5 hours outside together in the fresh air and got a great workout in. We were able to get a weeks’ worth of groceries to fit on our backs, so we clearly didn’t buy “extras” we didn’t need. We saved money on our grocery bill. And it was free to do. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

 

The options are endless, from taking mandatory breaks from social media and spending more face-to-face time with people to switching the types of food you are eating. The little changes that are uncomfortable at first can leave you feeling so much happier.  What are some ways you make yourself uncomfortable to ultimately feel happy? I’d love it if you’d share your ideas!

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Leading up until now, my fitness goals have included getting skinny, getting a six pack, “being strong”, and getting a six pack (again). These goals were purely physical and what I was doing was not working and it left me feeling drained. It was frustrating it was to see my boyfriend absolutely smash his fitness goals (in ONE month) and I felt like I had been going in a downward spiral. I used the classic “it’s easier for men to get fitness results” excuse and immediately regretted saying it as the words left my mouth. Clearly, Carson was doing something that I was missing – and after talking to him it was clear that my goals needed to be re-evaluated. I have heard of SMART goals many times, but have never actually took the time to set my own SMART goals.

Figuring out what my goals would be was another challenge. I had to sit down and think about what would really help me become better. What would make me happy. I googled “fitness goals for women” and wasn’t really finding anything that sparked my fire. Once I went on to some general fitness pages and read about other people’s goals, I was reminded of goals that I once had that had fallen to the wayside. I chose six goals to work on over the next three months.

Do 10 unassisted pull ups

Do 25 push ups

Do a pistol squat

Hold a handstand for 10 seconds

Ride 120kms/week on my bike

Increase flexibility

In order to work around my crazy shift schedule, I decided that the best way for me to reach my goals would be to create my own fitness plan. This will include three strength training workouts a week, two yoga practices, and riding my bike to work three times a week. I have never made my own fitness routine, but this is just another exciting step along my journey. Check out my Instagram to follow along!

FREE GYM MEMBERSHIP

One of my favourite things about the summer is that it is a cheap time to get fit. You don’t need a fancy gym or a spin membership. All you need is a park, maybe a bench, and a friend to enjoy the sun with. I love heading outdoors to go for a bike ride, play in a park, or even do a strength training circuit! Some cities, including the one I live in, even have outdoor gyms that people can use for free – although, I haven’t personally used them that much! I think my favourite outdoor workout is an arms & abs HIIT circuit. Arms are my least favourite body part to train, but for some reason it is easier when you are in a green space enjoying the fresh air! This week I met up with a friend to do a quick and effective 20 minute arm and core HIIT circuit. I like doing 4 rounds of each exercise for 45 seconds, with a 15 second rest in between! Scroll down for today’s workout!

 

  1. Incline push up – find a bench or a step to use. If 45 seconds of push-ups isn’t quite in your reach yet you can modify by pushing back on your toes and “rocketing” forward into each push up to give your arms a little break in between push ups! Alternatively, you could drop to the grass and do regular push ups or push ups on your knees.

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2. Tricep Dips – Find a bench for these guys and engage your core as you use your triceps to lower yourself down and back up. If you want to make this one easier you can bring your feet closer to the bench. No bench? No problem! You can also do these by placing your hands on the ground behind you and your heels out in front of you!

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3. Burpees – Everyone’s favourite exercise, right? There are many different variations of the beloved burpee, but I do mine by placing my hands flat on the ground, jumping both feet back and all the way forward before rocketing up for a sky high jump! If you want you can add a push up, or you can make it easier by walking each foot in and out one at a time.

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4. Plank – Keep your hips level, core engaged, and count the blades of grass to make the 45 seconds go by faster!

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5. Shoulder taps – start in a high plank with your core engaged, and without swaying your hips use your hands to reach up and touch the opposite shoulder.

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Do each of these moves for 45 seconds with a 15 second break for a total of 20 minutes! And don’t forget to stretch after!! Let me know if you do this workout and tag me on Instagram @tanlines.and.training!

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Spinning Negativity Around

 

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I struggle with many things, we all do and that’s normal. I think it’s important to talk about our struggles in an open and safe environment so we can work together to figure out how to work through each day. Nothing is worse than feeling trapped and not knowing where to turn or what to do. A struggle that I find myself constantly dealing with is dealing with negativity in a healthy way. Our worlds are crazier than ever, and unfortunately they are often filled with negativity. My gut response to negativity is usually one of three things – get angry, shove positivity down the culprit’s throat, or ignore it. There are issues with all three of these reactions, but often I use all three, along with a call to my mom, to help me get over negative experiences.

It’s ok to be mad about things, but don’t let your anger hurt others. Anger is an emotion that is natural, and we all experience it. When things don’t go our way or when something so terrible happens that we can’t even process it, it’s ok to be angry for a little while. Just be careful with this one – while I believe it’s healthy to fully embrace your emotions, anger can tend to impact others in a great way as well, and it will benefit nobody if your anger brings someone else down. Use anger as a short-term release until you are ready to process what to do next.

“Shoving positivity down the culprit’s throat” is a little harsh. What I should call this reaction, or step, is “looking on the bright side”. This may or may not involve the person or event that brought negativity into your life. It may be a conversation with someone about how what they did had a negative affect on your life and what the two of you can do to make it better for everyone. It may be an hour solo yoga session where you discover something that brings that positive light back into your soul. My personal favourite is a phone call to my mom or a friend and we can talk about all the great things in life – whether it’s related to the negative experience or not. I find this “exercise” helps me realize a very important life lesson – positivity always outweighs negativity.

Once again, the last step “ignore it” is rather harsh on it’s own. Ignoring something can cause the bottling up and explosion of emotions in the long run. I actually don’tknow what I want to call this “step” of my process. “Get over it” also doesn’t work, and “moving on” feels like I’m leaving it behind. I guess “live and learn” is the most appropriate. This is the stage of acceptance. The negative experience has happened, and I have used different tools to help me move through the experience to find my light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever process you use, this is the most important thing – don’t let the negative experience dull your positive light. Find your light and let it shine B R I G H T, because when each of us shines a little brighter, the world is a better place.

*picture taken from google*

Balancing Act

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Eating healthy is always a balancing act. Whether you count calories or macros, follow a specific eating routine, or just try to “eat clean”, you need to find a balance so you don’t go bananas! I find that special occasions are always the hardest time to stay balanced. I see people too often using holidays as an excuse to go nuts with our food and end up feeling guilty, bloated, and even sick. Now, I am NOT saying don’t eat those chocolate easter eggs that the Easter Bunny is going to bring you this weekend, but I am going to give you a few great tips to help you feel satiated, healthy, and happy over the holidays!

  1. Enjoy your meals! Most “food regret” comes from uncontrolled snacking throughout piled on top of (usually large) delicious meals. Traditional holiday meals usually include lots of vegetables, protein sources, and other nutrient-filled foods! Try to be aware of the snacks that you consume throughout the day & try to snack on fresh fruit and veggies if you are feeling snackish! I know for me, the mindless snacking is the hardest thing to avoid during – but it can be done! And you’ll enjoy your holiday meal even more if you aren’t as stuffed as the turkey before the dinner begins!
  2. Stay hydrated! Holidays usually means socializing, and that often means bringing out the vino and brews! Try to stick to water to stay hydrated throughout the day, but make sure you enjoy a pint or glass at some point if you want to! Deprivation is as fun as food guilt – NOT FUN AT ALL!
  3. Bring healthy snacks! I was taught to never arrive empty handed. If you are headed off to someone else’s house for the holiday weekend, make a delicious snack that is healthy too for everyone to share!
  4. Enjoy in moderation. I am a huge chocoholic and I’d be lying if I said I’d make it through the weekend without indulging in some chocolate. Instead of setting up next to the giant bowl of mini eggs, I try to grab a piece of dark chocolate every now and then to keep my sweet tooth at bay!

I hope you all have a WONDERFUL weekend filled with laughter, love, and friends & family. I also hope the Easter Bunny treats you well, and you can use these tips to get through the weekend feeling great!

 

*Photo taken from Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/444308319475988456/)

Groceries on a Dime

 

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There is a huge myth out there that eating healthy is expensive. Eating healthy CAN be expensive if you choose to buy that new organic name brand superfood that is going to sit on your counter and go bad before you get the chance to eat it, but if you plan ahead and use some of these simple tips you can actually SAVE money on your monthly grocery bill!

 

  1. Buy dried beans – Beans are a great source of protein and we often grab the convenient canned guys because they seem like they are a cheap and healthy choice! Dried beans are not only a more cost-efficient option, but they also contain less sodium and MORE nutrients than canned! If you have never used dried beans before it is worth noting that planning is essential when it comes to cooking with them – dried beans must be soaked in water overnight prior to cooking and they take approximately 45-60 minutes to cook. Most beans double to triple both their weight and size once cooked!

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  1. Buy in bulk, but be wary of where you buy – Bulk Barn is a great resource for buying products in bulk, but sometimes not always the cheapest! Do your research ahead of time and figure out where the best places are to buy what you need. Certain things that should ALWAYS be purchased in the bulk section include: SPICES, anything used for a specific recipe that isn’t a staple in your house, and dried fruits and nuts.

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  1. Speaking of doing your research – DO YOUR RESEARCH! Make a grocery list ahead of time and figure out where the best place to shop will be. Keep an eye out for local coupons, discounts, and no name brands. When you’re at the store check for any sales that might be going on – but only purchase sale items if you need them for your meal prep that week. You aren’t saving money on sale foods if you weren’t going to buy that food in the first place.

 

  1. Meatless Mondays – Going vegetarian isn’t necessarily an option for many people, I know it probably would never happen in my house! But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat vegetarian meals 1-3 days a week! Not only are vegetarian protein sources healthy and a cheaper alternative to meat, but also it is also a much better alternative for the environment!

 

Check out the blog https://www.budgetbytes.com/ for some awesome budget friendly recipes!

 

 

Do you have a favourite budget friendly meal?! Share it in the comments!