Monday, 31 October 2011

Motivation Monday #2

Hello my faithful friends. Its that time again! Time to gear up for another week with Motivation Mondays.

Last week went really well! REALLY WELL - if I do say so myself! I stuck to my exercise schedule - YEAH! And completed my first long-ish run (10 km) post-injury at a good pace - so DOUBLE YEAH! Thanks so much for all you comments, tweets, and private messages last week. They definitely helped me stay accountable, focused, and positive. SO THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Despite my great week and renewed dedication to my exercise routine, I must confess I have been struggling to  stay positive. I am still struggling big time with my body image, and I have not exactly been my ideal self lately. I have felt preoccupied, a little impatient, and generally BLAH! I have told myself I need to get to a place where I look at myself and love my body for it can do, for its strength, its adaptability, and what it has survived. I have been trying to remind myself of where this body will one day take me - to marathon glory, motherhood, and eventually old age. I want to be able to look at my scars with pride, with love, and as  badges of honour. I want all of these things...but it is very much a work in progress. My moto is "health trumps beauty", and I know that this statement is so true... But damn! I am 26! I am vain! I wanna look cute in a bikini. Hell I wanna look good naked! I want a rockin' bod like most 20-somethings, nay like most women! But alas, life has charted a different path for me. I am going to need to let go of my vanity and embrace the beauty of health and wellness. So this is my mission this week!

I will lace up my sneaks, hit the pavement, and run with gusto, just because I CAN! I will remind myself with each daily workout that my body is strong and I have the will to overcome this. This week I will...

Monday: Strength Training 45 min. (target abs, butt, and arms)
Tuesday: 5 km Run
Wednesday: Circuit Training 60 min.
Thursday: 8 km Run
Friday: 5 km Run
Saturday: Spin Class
Sunday: 10 km Run

Yes, you read that right. There are 7 workouts in my plan for this week. I am going run this bad mood out of me with some serious blood, sweat, and tears. (the endorphin kick will probably help too!).
Breast Cancer this me officially telling you to FUCK OFF!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten


Sunday, 30 October 2011

I AM BRIGHT PINK

Bright Pink and Fabulous!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it is probably a little surprising that I am only just getting around to writing a post on the subject. I have struggled to find the right words. Breast Cancer has affected my life in a multitude of ways, its effects are profound, and so much could be said. It has been hard to figure out what I really what to say about this particular topic.

When I sit down and think about Breast Cancer; I think about the battles I have watched others fight against this disease (including both my Mother and Grandmother), and the profound affect the BRCA 1 mutation has had on my life. But my story always seems come back to fond memories spent with my Grandpa. Because although my Grandma fought her own battle against Breast Cancer and won, she was one of the unlucky 1 in 9 women who developed this disease strictly because she was a woman. The genetic link in my family actually comes from my Grandfather.

Grandpa was definitely my kindred spirit. Growing up we were like Frick and Frack. Two peas in a pod. Where ever Grandpa went I was sure to be found following close behind, hanging on his every word. I adored him and he doted hopelessly on me. We shared a love of baking, gardening, and nature. He taught me important life lessons about embracing life's triumphs and struggles whole heartily, and the value of possessing  inner strength and a charitable spirit. It has been 13 long years since I had to say goodbye to this amazing man, but not a day goes by that I don't recognize his influence in my daily life and think fondly of the time we spent together.

Grandpa and I were more alike then he will ever know, because both of my genetic mutations; the one responsible for my heart condition as well as BRCA 1 are linked back to him. I often find myself wondering how he would feel if he knew about our genetic history, and what he would think about the choices I am making. And I am confident that he would be proud. Because along with a few of his genes, he also passed on his fighting spirit. I, unlike the women in my family before me, will never wear the badge of honour as a Breast Cancer Survivor. Because I will never have to survive a diagnosis, struggle through chemo, radiation, and the battery of tests that go along with this disease. Instead today I stand up and FIGHT.  In the coming months I will undergo a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction to preventatively treat my BRCA 1 diagnosis. I fight this battle, so I don't have to fight the war.

Breast Cancer is a strong, dangerous, and ugly disease that can beaten, but still does not have a cure. It leaves a lasting impression on all those who experience its wrath. And in my brief 26 years in this world, and within my own own small corner of this planet; I have watched three generations of women face this disease and battle it in their own way. Breast Cancer has become a very prominent fixture in my world over the last two years; during my mother's diagnosis, the revelation of our family's genetic link, and my own journey to treat this disease preventatively - but I am not alone. 23 400 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, 5100 of them will be taken too soon from their families. Of the 1 in 9 women who will develop breast cancer 1 in 29 will die from it. One of my greatest hopes is that one day I can say that we have found a cure for this disease, and cure that is less evasive and less traumatic for the many women who are forced to take part in this war against their own bodies. I am incredibly lucky to have the knowledge and the options that I have, and for that I am grateful. I am part of the Bright Pink population who knows their history, has recognized their high risk status, remains vigilant against this disease, and chooses to act preventatively. Breast Cancer is beatable if it is detected and treated early; so know your history, recognize your risk, get screened, and above all... FIGHT!

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stay Truthful Thursdays

Welcome to my very first "Stay Truthful Thursday". Why Thursdays? (besides the fact that I obviously love alliterations) Well Thursday tends to be the day I fall off the exercise wagon. Thursdays are close to Fridays, which is dangerously close to the weekend. Meaning: Krysten is tired, wants to sleep in and drink wine, and is no longer interested in packing healthy lunches and making time for lengthy workouts. So basically Thursdays are the day life gets to me. I start to make excuses, and justify unhealthy choices, which tends to lead to more unhealthy choices, which leads to a guilty Monday, and well...you know how it goes. So the point of "Stay Truthful Thursdays" is to honestly assess my progress and my goals for the rest of week (aka the weekend - my dreaded dietary/exercise nemesis). And to help keep me motivated during the next 4 weeks on my journey to the Goal Dress.

Okay people so here it is...drumroll please...I have completed 4 out of 4 workouts so far! YEAH! And I am down 3 lbs! DOUBLE YEAH! Motivation Monday has really rocked my world this week! So far this week I have run 2x 5 km, done 1 strength training workout for 45 min., and taken a 1 hour endurance spin class. Not too shabby! But yes I do realize that is not exactly the schedule I laid out on Monday. Pretty close, but not quite. I tweaked some things as the week went along, but the tweaks were necessary to help me organize my workout world with the rest of my world, so I think I am okay it.

In terms of the rest of the week I have also decided to forgo the 6 AM Bootcamp class tomorrow morning. My thighs and abs are quite sore - that good sore that means they got a workout, but sore none the less. But I am planning to do my own strength training workout instead, just not at the ungodly hour of 6 AM. I am just not up for the bootcamp intensity tomorrow, so a change is a must. I also plan to go for a long run -10 km to be exact. The 10 km is looking like it might be Sunday vs Saturday though, because the weather sucks in Canada right now and I would prefer not to run in the rain. Anyways folks that is the plan.

That and to avoid the wine tomorrow...just keep thinking goal dress!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten





Wednesday, 26 October 2011

It's Working...


Motivation Monday is WORKING! You can see by the look on face in the photo above that even I am pleasantly surprised. I am 2 rainy runs in so far! Both just 5 km, because of the weather. And both celebrated with a small cup of pure black cherry juice. It's my new post-workout thing. It is supposed to help with circulation and muscle repair - always good thing after a strenuous sweat session. I have no idea if it really works, but I figure it won't hurt.

So..YES! That is 2 runs down people! 2 runs that if I hadn't actively declared as a must during Motivation Monday, likely would not have happened. I probably would have hit snooze, pulled up the covers, and slept for an extra hour before work. But now that I have momentum, I want more! That dress will be mine!

Stay tuned for a full report Friday after I honestly assess my weekly progress with "Stay Truthful Thursdays", as I attempt to stay on track past mid-week...

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Monday, 24 October 2011

Motivation Monday

Last week was not a stellar week for me. As always I start off on Monday with the best of intentions but as the week progresses...well...I get tired, life starts to get to me, I get cranky, and I definitely end up feeling less motivated. Typically by the time Friday rolls around all resolve has left me. I morph into a sloth at exactly 4:30 PM Friday night - spending my weekend primarily sleeping, lying around watching (mindless but juicy) reality TV, and eating way too much, especially when I am out socializing. FAIL!!! Then the weekend is over, I feel guilty, and start the cycle all over again.

Well NO MORE!! I have decided to add a new feature to my blog, called "Motivation Monday" (hence the title of this post) to inform all my faithful blog-o-sphere friends what I hope to accomplish exercise-wise for that week. It will hopefully force myself to be accountable, and put a stop to my lazy weekend ways.

Why inflict this upon myself, you may ask? And why now? As you all know, my time with this particular body is limited. In a few short months (at a date yet to be determined) I will be saying good-bye to my boobies and hello to a set of implants to preventative treat my BRCA 1 gene. I have discussed at length the implications this is sure to have on my body image, and the already fragile mental state I battle when it comes to my self-esteem in this department. So lately I have been trying to make a conscious effort to LOVE my body as it is (scar, swollen arm, and all) while I still have it. This is obviously a work in progress...

I purchased a goal dress to attempt to show off and enjoy the body I have, while I have it. I purchased a somewhat scandalous bridesmaid dress for my best friend Erin's wedding. Okay, okay...so the isn't completely scandalous. But it is strapless - something I never do, because of my scar and oh yeah...the protruding metal box sticking out of my chest (aka my pacemaker). And the hem-line is also much shorter than I would normally go. Needless to say it is definitely a good few inches north of the knee. I decided that this was going to be my last HOORAH with this body. And I better make it count! The wedding signifies one last time to get dressed up, be with all the people I love, and feel good (ideally GREAT) in my own skin.

But to feel GREAT in my own skin is certainly easier said than done these days. And knowing me, I know I always feel my best when I can say without any guilt that I have been taking care of myself and my body with a regular diet and exercise routine. So that is exactly what I intend to do!

The big day is Nov 19th, giving me 4 weeks to really work it. I want to look smokin' in that dress, and more than anything I want to FEEL smokin' in that dress. So here we go people, Motivation Monday #1.

Monday: 5 km Run
Tuesday: Strength Training Routine (45 min.)
Wednesday: Spin Class
Thursday: 3 km Run
Friday: Bootcamp
Saturday: 8 km Run
Sunday: REST

Ambitious and maybe a little crazy...But I am going to give it a go! Tune in Friday for my other new feature "Stay Truthful Thursday" where I will honestly tell you if I have been sticking to the plan and about this weeks progress.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Genetics Sure Can be Beautiful...

I mentioned in my last post that pregnancies and babies have started to become a regular staple in the lives of the people that surround me. And this weekend was no exception. So much so that I have dubbed it "Baby Fest". We spent Friday night welcoming a friends brand new baby to the world, and my Saturday afternoon was spent with my favourite pint-sized gal - Baby Jayden. I definitely got my baby fill, and was left with a little food for thought as well.

Probably because I have been married for a few years now (3+ in fact), I often get asked where we stand on the baby question. And to be honest I do not know. The short answer is; that right now in my current life, with my current health situation, life is not conducive to pregnancy and babies. The long answer is; that I know I want to be a Mommy one day, but my health is complicated, my genes suck, and I know that the baby journey is going to be a hard and complicated one. So complicated in fact, that I actually can't even fathom it. It is simply a struggle for another day, and another time.

On that note, however, this weekend has left me feeling inspired. I dedicate a lot of space on my little blog to genetics. And I speak both candidly and negatively about my own genes. I have even gone so far in the past to dub them my Nemesis. So it is no secret, if you have been reading my blog, that Krysten definitely drew the short straw when she was picking genes (a couple of times). But this weekend has left me marveling at the allure of genetics. Because genetics sure can be beautiful... when they want to be.

All weekend I have been surrounded by these little miracles and the strong women who care for and created them. As I a stole a quite moment alone in the kitchen with princess Jayden, I found myself looking at this amazing little being, staring out at the world with her big bright eyes, filled with so much hope and promise, as a perfect example of matriclinous beauty. I was instantly struck by the perfect symmetry and elegance of the genetic code. It is amazing to see what our bodies are capable of creating. And it is inspiring to recognize as a woman the strength and power our body possesses.

My faith in genetics has been restored. And I plan to harness my new found appreciation for the female form and our inner fortitude while I face my next great challenge. So Thank you Baby Jayden (and her amazing parents) for a great Saturday play date, and a much needed reminder and inspiration!  

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Friday, 21 October 2011

Feeling Low in Limbo

Lately many friends have been reporting so many amazing life changing events and milestones. There are babies and pregnancies galore (they have been announced in epidemic-worthy proportions lately). Along with all of the regular weddings, engagements, and first time home owners; it has felt like celebration central. Obviously I am exceedingly happy for everyone. But there is a little part of me that feels jealous, and a little sad stuck here in what I like to call my "limbo phase".

All of the tough stuff is done. I have made my decision to move forward with my preventative mastectomy. I have spent the last 6 months thinking through this decision, and prepping for the impact it will have on my health, my body, and my countless body image issues - and I think I have finally come to terms with things. It may sound strange, but part of me feels empowered by my choice. Its not going to be fun, and parts of it are going get ugly; but I feel good about my decision. I have put my psychology degree on hold. I have let work know that I will be taking a brief hiatus in the near future. I have taken my boobs and my husband on one last fabulous vacation. And now...I wait...

I feel ready to move forward, so it is the waiting that is killing me. Booking the actual surgery is the next step, and its a step I am very ready to take. Unfortunately until it happens it feels like all other life plans, events, and milestones are on hold. I have been harassing the poor receptionist at Dr. Hofer's office for the last month, trying to force her into pinning down a date. But so far the closest I have come to anything remotely close to resembling a surgery date is "sometime is either December or January". As a compulsive planner it physically pains me to be without a firm timeline. For me the timeline is not about the surgery itself or even my recovery period - its about the rest of my life. The life I feel has been put on hold to sort all of this stuff out.

I want to get back to my "real" life. The life I love. I want to get back to striving towards my own milestones and celebrating my own triumphs. But right now there feels like there is a little black cloud hovering above my head, and I just want to come out the other side. I am ready, so very ready. But for now I have to focus on the areas of my life that I can control. take solace in achieving my small everyday goals, like; reaching my weekly exercise quota and sticking with my diet (the little things will have to do). And strive each day to be better than I was yesterday...and I will wait...

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Monday, 17 October 2011

Bachelorette Weekend = Diet Fail

In the interest of full disclosure and blog-o-sphere honesty . Immediately after my lengthy post regarding striving for my ideal running weight, my diet ran off the rails. I am chucking this weekend up to a loss and starting fresh...NOW!

One of best friends (Erin) is getting married November 19th and this past weekend was her Bachelorette weekend. Now as far as bachelorette parties go, I don't think we got too crazy. It would probably be considered pretty tame by most people's standands. It was just a nice girls-only weekend which happened to include the spa, gab-fests, several bottles of wine and champagne, a delicious asian-fusion dinner out, and a whole lot of junk food (chips + dip = Krysten's weakness).

This weekend made for an AMAZING time with the girls, something I absolutely adore because all of my best girlfriends live outside the city. Most of them living about 2 hrs away, in fact. Thus making it hard to get my girlie-fix in as often as I would like. So that obviously also meant I easily got really wrapped up in our girlie fun, threw caution to the wind, and threw my diet and exercise plan out the window. OOOOPPS!

Its Monday again, the official start to the week and the official re-start to operation "Achieve Optimal Running Weight". Its a work in progress people.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Finding My Ideal Running Weight


Running has become a big part of my life over the last few years. And in the last year I took my running to a completely different level. Rather than just running routes around my neighbourhood, alone, and strictly for my own personal fitness - I actually started signing up for RACES. Anyone who has ever run in a race knows that running and racing are two completely different things. So this year I have started to get more serious about racing and training, all while setting my sights on greater distances (ahem...half marathon and marathon status...hopefully). And one topic that I just can't escape when I sit down and seriously consider all elements of my training program is the issue of weight and its affect on running and performance.

I am a middle of pack runner - something I originally prided myself on. I mean here I am with a pacemaker and defective heart and I am some how managing to keep pace with other "normal" people. I was just excited not to be dead last. But my competitive nature can't be stifled. The more races I do, the better I long to be. I am becoming one of those runners, you know the ones I mean. The runners who are time focused, are all about the PR, and are signing up for races every couple weeks. You know the type. The type I would have said were crazy if you asked me about it last year...well I think I might be morphing into one of them.
And I have found myself wondering if I would exert myself less and perform better if I reached a more optimal running weight.

I will be the first to admit that when lining up in the corals before a race I can't help but notice the fact that the women in the fastest coral are all lean mean fighting machine. Those women are ripped, and I am easily distracted by their flat abs and lean legs. I have runner-body envy in a big way. So along with the aesthetic benefits of losing a few more pounds (a six pack would be a nice side effect) I also think it might make me a better runner. And I am hoping it might also make my lofty goal of achieving marathon status a more viable option for this Darwinian Failure.

With all that in mind, I started doing some research and I have discovered that my musings actually make sense. I found a great article on the LIVESTRONG website outlining the benefits of reaching your ideal running weight. (You can read the whole article at http://www.livestrong.com/article/183789-ideal-running-weight/ ) But they discuss how excess weight puts pressure on the legs, wastes energy and places stress on your heat regulation and the heart/lung apparatus that carries oxygen to the cells. Unnecessary weight also makes the heart pump inefficiently. Therefore, it limits both speed and stamina and dramatically increases the risk of injury. My heart has enough trouble as is, so I feel like losing some LBS is a MUST if I want to make my marathon goal a reality.

The same article gives you a formula to calculate your ideal running weight. The baseline for women is 5 feet 6 inches and 120 lbs. For every inch above this height, add 3 lbs., and for every inch below, subtract 3 lbs. Your range should be about 10 to 13 lbs. above or below this target. I am 5'4 making my ideal running weight 114 lbs. And confession time: that is not what I currently weigh. I also think because I have a small frame that I would probably want to be somewhere in between 110-115. Those numbers look scary, even to me.

I sit pretty comfortably between...I can't believe I am posting this on the Internet...120-125 lbs depending on the day. This weight is pretty easy for me to maintain. I workout sporadically (always a couple times a week), indulge in the occasional treat, and the occasional glass/bottle of wine, but also don't have to be too strict about things. My ideal weight is 10 lbs away from where I am currently sitting, and I feel like to lose those lbs from here is going to require some SERIOUS effort. But this year I have decided to make a health a priority, so it seems like as good a time as any to really give this a solid go.

So there it is people, in back and white, for the whole Internet to read and keep me accountable. This Darwinian Failure is trying to lose (*cringe*) 10 lbs all in name of marathon glory. Here goes nothing...

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Italian Expose Part 3: Fabulous Sights

Trevi Fountain
Okay, so here we are at my third and final installment of my Italian Expose, and its all about the Fabulous Sights. I fully admit that I have a love affair with this country. The art, the architecture, the history, the food, the unique culture...all of it AMAZING! Its romantic, its beautiful, and you can't walk one city block without stumbling upon an ancient relic or an awe-inspiring church. What's not to love?! With fabulous sights around every corner its difficult to narrow down the must-sees. But there was particular sight that held a certain level of significance for me...

I have a confession to make. This is not my first visit to Italia (spoiled, I know!). I actually made my first journey to this gorgeous country during my senior year of high school for a whirlwind week long trip during March break with a group of my best friends, and the geography department. This trip also happened to coincide with the early stages of my Long QT diagnosis. I was in the middle of my final attempt to utilize beta blockers for treatment. This was drug number 5, and my cardiologist also prescribed an antihistamine to help inhibit the allergic reactions that had plagued me throughout my several other early attempts. I was feeling rough to say the least, but excited for the distraction and the escape this getaway offered (sound familiar?). I was ready to do something fun and shake off the funk I was feeling, and hopefully return feeling refreshed and with a viable beta-blocker option. The trip was great and my girlfriends and I made memories to last a lifetime. But I was not exactly functioning at an optimum level and I experienced a setback while over there. I ended up missing of all things - the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel!

Ponte Vecchio
I spent that entire day beginning sick to my stomach. I am not sure if it was the combination of meds, stress, and just pure exhaustion. But on the morning of the Sistine Chapel I threw up on the bus, and by proxy one of my best friends Lauren (*sorry Lauren! Love you! - and yes we are still friends*). And while everyone hustled into the Vatican Museum I hustled across the street to the "Vatican Cafe", where I spent the rest of the day occupying their washroom. Not great! Not exactly a highlight! But I swore that one day I would return to Italy and see that Sistine Chapel (damnit!). And on my final night in Rome I made sure to follow the old tradition and toss my three coins in the Trevi Fountain. The 1st to ensure I would return, the 2nd to ensure I would find love, and the 3rd promises marriage.

The Sistine Chapel in all its glory
So on my return trip nearly 9 years later; as I found myself walking into the Sistine Chapel with the man I love and my husband -everything felt just as it should be. And I was moved to tears. The beauty of the chapel is indescribable, and the irony of my current situation was not lost on me. Here I was returning to this sight of all sights on the cusp of yet another battle for my health. Knee deep in another genetic diagnosis, getting ready to venture into a new and unknown medical experience; and I was struck by how different I feel this time around. Last time, things felt bleak, unsure, and somewhat hopeless. But this time I know I am stronger than this set of circumstances. This time around I know I will get through it, and be better for it. And this time I am struck by the perfect symmetry and balance of my life and this experience, and I was reminded that everything will end up just as it should be.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Monday, 10 October 2011

Italian Expose Part 2: Fitness

Running in Florence
So before I left I wrote a post about running on vacation. Should I do it? Or should I just throw caution to the wind, embrace the word vacation and leave running and all of my usual routine behind? Well folks I packed my sneakers and took the plunge...2 whole times (ha!).

I gave running some thought in Rome, and definitely looked lovingly at my sneakers a few times. But Rome is crazy busy (both traffic-wise and pedestrian-wise) and a bit of a labyrinth. The streets do not run in a straight line and I really struggled to get my bearings. I spent the first 3 days attempting to navigate the city; ending up lost more times then I would like to admit, and spending way too much time trying to figure out how to safely cross the road. I admit I just was not comfortable running in Rome. And I don't think I was the only one, because running culture wasn't very prevalent there. I saw 2 runners while I was there, and both of them outside the city center. People seemed to run only in the parks and trails, so needless to say the sneakers stayed packed in my bag while we were in Rome.

At our next stop, the sleepy little lake-side town of Varenna up in Lake Como, the cobble stone streets and very minimal traffic made for a good running location. But by the time we arrived I was beat! We had done a lot of walking since the minute we landed in Italy. Our feet were our primary mode of transportation, and they were used a ton. I wish I brought a pedometer with me so I could give you all accurate stats, but I would guess we were averaging anywhere between 10-15km each day. Not to mention my husband's obsession with climbing any available ridiculous high tower or basilica. I am not a climber and have pretty serious fear of heights. But I definitely gave it a whirl and climbed the old dizzying, swirling staircases, hanging on to the rope "railings for dear life to see the city-scapes from the top of locations like St. Peter's and the Duomo. It was worth the climb, but all that climbing and trekking combined with jet-lag left my motivation to lace up my sneaks at an all time low. So I just spent the time we had in Varenna relaxing - guilt-free!


Climbing St. Peter's  with gritted teeth
I didn't end up busting out the sneakers until Florence, and I have to admit when I finally did I really enjoyed it. Florence is actually an ideal running location and the running culture is really prevalent. Traffic is pretty minimal, the city is easier navigated, and the sights are amazing!  Runners were a regular fixture on the narrow cobblestone streets at all times during the day. The roads next to the river were popular routes for running, and it was great to join the all the local runners out early in the morning, taking in the views as the sun came up over the river. Running in Florence was a whole other animal. As I ran past the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi gallery, and the countless awe-inspiring churches I was taken aback by these unconventional views. These were not the views I was used to taking in on my morning runs in Toronto. It was amazing, and it inspired me to keep going. Pushing on to see more sights and keep running. These runs were worth the wait, and I am so glad I made space in my little backpack for my running gear!

Biking around Lucca
 I think between trekking around our 3 Italian locations, climbing to the top of several basilicas, interspersed with a few runs, and a bike riding tour around Lucca I definitely got my fitness quota in while I was away. While it was not my typically hyper-scheduled kind of exercise I was able to sneakily get my fitness in while still enjoying the sights and time with my husband. My tight guess "jeggings" still fit when I hopped on a plane to return to Canada, which I took as a positive sign because they are the pair I dub my "skinny jeans". And while I am not real big on being a slave to the scale; I was pleasantly surprised to find I returned weighing the same as when I left. So despite taking in extra calories with all of the delicious Italian treats readily at my fingertips over the two weeks I was away, it came out in the wash. And I was able to return feeling refreshed, restored, and relatively fit. Its a win, win! 

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten

Friday, 7 October 2011

Italian Expose Part 1: Food


 Hello Blog-o-sphere! I am back! And after a couple of days back on Canadian-time I am now also less jet-lagged. So I am finally feeling mentally able to tackle Part One of my Italian Escape Expose - Food!

I want to start off by saying that all aspects of my trip will be getting glowing reviews, because everything went swimmingly and it was all endlessly enjoyable. But the food was definitely on a whole other level. I like to consider myself a bit of a foodie, mostly because I like to eat, and Italy is definitely a foodie's paradise. I have returned full of excess amounts of cheese, refined carbs, culture, and happiness. In other words I can't complain!

The one big difference I noticed about Italian food culture is emphasis on FRESH food. There is a clearly a strong emphasis on locally grown and organic ingredients. In fact if a restaurant has to resort to using frozen ingredients (not to mention the sacrilege of something pre-made) to provide a particular menu item they note it on the menu. And many restaurants and shops regularly trumpet the fact that they only use fresh, locally grown ingredients, and that everything is made from scratch.You can definitely taste the difference! And to be honest for me it probably made it easier to indulge, because I could rest assured that I was only indulging in fresh, wholesome ingredients - something I think is really key to a healthy lifestyle. Things taste lighter, fresher, just generally tastier. Although I admit I definitely ate too many heavy diary products (aka cheese, gelato, and milk-laden lattes) and way too many refined carbs (whole wheat is not something they do over there) it was all DELICIOUS and well worth it!

The one food oddity I discovered while in Italy was their Breakfast Habits. So the typical Italian breakfast means squeezing up to the large coffee bar in one of the cafes, shouting your coffee and pastry order, inhaling them respectively with 3 gulps and 3 bites and then hitting the road. No one sits down for breakfast and certainly no one savours it. And don't be fooled by the fact that some cafes have table; those are strictly for tourists. They charge you extra for those seats, in some cases up to 3x what it would cost you at the bar. For the country that started the slow food movement; it clearly does not apply to their breakfasts. Now this is not at all my style. I a) like to start my mornings slowly and b) I am probably the slowest coffee drinker on the planet. So the hustle and bustle of Italian breakfasts did not suit me. Nor did the excess of breakfast pastries and lack of light breakfast alternatives. I missed my yogurt and granola like no body's business. So when I finally found a cafe in Varenna on the beautiful Lake Como that sold a variety of yogurt an granola combos I was more than willing to pay the expensive 8 Euro price tag for it.   

So Worth It!
 Breakfast aside, I very much enjoyed my Italian food experience.  Although I have to admit I have also be happy to return to normal dietary routine this week as well. As good as all the food was, I can't say it is the kind of stuff I normally indulge in, or at least don't indulge in quite so often. Eating out everyday for every meal for two weeks is certainly not part my usual routine. And if I were to do anything slightly different it would be to consider renting some apartments while vacationing and making some of my own meals, just to help balance out some of the heavy meals with some lighter fare. As I already mentioned the basic ingredients are amazing, so whipping up something delicious wouldn't actually be too difficult. To sum up my tummy and taste buds are happy, and my waistline is probably happy that am back to my routine again.

This trip, however, was more about balance and restoring my mental health, than it was a die hard fitness trip. And I do feel like lots of good eating helped restore my soul. (I know I know eating can't fix your problems, don't be an emotional eater, blah, blah, blah). But I think it was more the act of just taking that time out eat, enjoying really well prepared food created by happy chefs, sharing a bottle of wine with my husband, and relaxing that really did the trick. Enjoying a meal is about being the moment, and enjoying all of the amazing things you have right in front of you. So many things get rushed through, meals included, and aspects of your life are so often get taken for granted. But being away and taking time to enjoy all the little things reminds me that although there are tough times ahead there are so many things I have to enjoy and be grateful for right now.

One that note, Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends!
And stay tuned for Part 2 of my Italiam Expose - Fitness!

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,
Krysten