Thursday, 25 June 2015

Father's Day

I clean when I am stressed. And I bake when I am happy.

Last week I was a bit of both, so my home got the best of both worlds - clean floors and fresh baked goods.

Sunday was Father's Day. And for me, this holiday is hard. We still celebrate Father's Day with Jamie's family, and I feel incredibly lucky to have such an amazing Father-In-Law in my life. But every time I buy just one card, pick out just one gift - it is a difficult reminder that my Dad isn't here.

Last year, the whole year felt like a bit of a whirlwind. It was my first everything without my Dad, and the grief was ever present. Last year I was home visiting my Nana who was in hospital battling cancer, and it was the day I said my final good-bye. With a year so full of loss, it felt like almost more than I could bare to say goodbye on that day of all days.

So this year as Father's Day approached, I struggled.

This year I am in a very different place then I was last year - a much better place. But in some ways that makes it harder. So many things have happened. So many great and exciting things. And I wish he was here so I could tell him all about it.

I want to show him my house. I want to hear him laugh, cheer, and maybe get a little teary eyed when my commercial comes on during the hockey game. I want to tell him all about the travel I am going to be doing for work. More than anything I wish I could just talk to him about life and say "I love you" one more time.

These feelings are always there. But I chose to put them away most days.

There are days when I just can't go there. I cannot think about the loss. It hurts to much.  And it can't consume every happy moment - I know he would not want that. So I focus on being present and being grateful for all the little blessings I have. There is a lot to be thankful for right now.

But this week I couldn't do it. I couldn't stay positive. I couldn't ignore the loss.

I missed my Dad.

The truth about grief is that it will always be a part of my life.

For each happy moment, there will always be that nagging feeling that he is missing. And there are always going to be days that are harder than others.

Sunday was a hard day.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Inexpensive Ways to Start Your Yoga Practice

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I am striving to incorporate more yoga into my routine. I have been trying to attend weekly Hot Yoga class at my local Goodlife. And it feels great to be practicing regularly again.

The barrier that a lot of people face when wanting to incorporate a regular yoga routine is the extra expense. The cost is one of the questions I get asked about most often.

When I was first getting started, I started testing out studios and styles by targeting Karma Classes. These classes are typically offered at unusual times (ie. early in the morning, Friday evenings, etc.). They ask that you donate a small amount of money, anywhere from $5-$10 dollars, to take the class. And then the studio gives your donation to a specific charity - for Good Karma (*get it?!*). The money goes to a good cause, it is less expensive then a typical drop-in fee, and it gives you a chance to try out different studios to see which style/class works best for you.

Throughout the Summer months there are also often free Yoga events happening around the city.

And I was contacted by Leon's and asked to promote their upcoming #LeonsZen Event.

This Saturday, June 27th they will be holding 3 Free Yoga classes at the LEED Certified Leon’s Roundhouse downtown Toronto location (255 Bremner Blvd.) They are offering 3 different yoga sessions at 9:00am, 10:15am, and 11:30am. And they are also offering 1-on-1 Feng Shui consultations. If you bring along your home décor photos and you can consult with celebrity Feng Shui expert, Helen Peacock. (All of the Details can be found on Facebook)

You will also get fresh pressed juice and a free yoga mat for attending. So it's a pretty nice way to kick off your weekend!

I unfortunately won't be in the city this weekend - it is the Wonderful Truly Jess's Bachelorette Party. But if you are you should definitely take advantage! And have an extra glass of juice for me!

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail

*Please note I was compensated to promote this event, but all opinions are my own***

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Race Recap: Vitality Run 8km

In typical Krysten fashion, immediately after saying I wasn't going to race this summer, I found myself up early Sunday to race an 8km.

Admittedly, this was a last minute spur of the moment kind of event. A couple of my running/tri friends mentioned they would be heading to the Vitality Run to run or volunteer. It is a local event, and the start line was literally 5 minutes from my front door. So I figured, "why not!"

They had a 3km or an 8km option. I flipped back and forth about which event to run, but ultimately decided on the 8km when I arrived to sign up Sunday morning.

Since I was running this on a bit of a whim and following a pretty heavy training week - I decided I would just think of it more as a speed workout, rather than a race. I have never run an 8km before so I didn't really know how I should pace myself, or what I should expect time-wise.

The course was rolling, so my goal was to just try to keep my pace between 5:00/km-5:15/km (8:00-8:25/mile)

It was a smaller event, so there were no corrals, everyone just got themselves lined up. There was a pretty large youth track team in attendance. And I had watched a few of the members run the 3km. The first guy crossed the line in a little over 9 minutes, and barely looked like he had broken a sweat. So I made sure I lined up behind all of them.

We set out along the waterfront trail.

I often run or ride this route, and I knew it was hilly. I purposely don't do my speed work along here, because of the big rollers. So I knew it was going to be a good workout.

I felt good out there, and held my pace pretty steady even with the the hills. My goal was to finish strong with a solid kick at the end.

I crossed the line at 43:50 and finished 11th out of 42 runners.

I was happy with that.

I think realistically I could have kicked sooner, and ran it a little harder. But I am also just trying to be accepting about where I am right now.

Getting back into racing this year has been difficult.

Each time I have surgery and rebuild, I always think I am so much wiser and better prepared for the process. But the truth is, it is so easy to fall back into the same old struggles time and time again. You always want to push yourself to run strong and hard. And you always want your body to heal faster and bounce back quicker than it actually does. So it can be easy to get frustrated with the process.

I was running my fastest time last year March-May. I had more than full year of recovery, rebuilding, and training. Then things went down hill again, when I experienced another setback with the wire from my ICD. I slowed my training way down for 6 months while I scheduled my surgery. And I am now just 6 months post-op from surgery #7. I know I can't compare where I am right now at the half way point, to where I was more than a full year after surgery. But it is hard not to.

As runner we thrive on Personal Bests and Race Results. And I know I have that competitive drive in me.

But at the end of the day I run to be healthy.

I run to remind myself that 7 surgeries later - scars, robot heart, fake ta-tas, and all - I have a body that strong, capable, and pretty darn wonderful. So crossing the finish line smiling and strong should always be the goal.

It can be easy to lose sight of that when you are looking at the clock. So sometimes I need to set back and recognize what it is really all about.

It is still a work progress
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 12 June 2015

5 Running Tips for the Newbie Runner

A lot of people have been emailing lately to ask how to start running. And now that the weather is finally nice, people are ready to get out there and enjoy it!

Most people assume that because I run now, that must mean I have always run. But that is definitely not the case.

In fact as a kid, I really hated running. I dreaded cross country and track and field. I was always one of the slowest ones out there. Running was not fun - it was hard and kind of boring.

I always admired runners. It was always something secretly wished I could do. But it wasn't something I thought I was built for.

But a few months after starting my journey towards a healthy lifestyle - I found myself embracing the run.

That summer I stayed at school to take a summer course and to work. I bought a bike to get around, and stuck to my new vegetarian diet. I started going to the gym 4-5x a week. 

Most of the machines scared me, and I didn't really know what I was doing. So I spent my time on the elliptical. I worked my way up from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, but adding 5 extra minutes to my sessions each week. And slowly weight started to come off.

But one fateful Holiday Monday I found myself with a day off and no access to my trusty elliptical. 
The gym was closed! 

I didn't want to skip my workout, especially when I just started to build momentum. So I begrudgingly laced up my sneakers - after procrastinating for several hours - and then hit the streets. I did a short loop downtown, and didn't totally hate it. 

When describing my run later that night over drinks with some friends, one of the girls (re: a real runner) informed me that I had actually conquered a fairly good distance, likely 4 km! What? Me?! 

I was hooked, and started regularly running a 10km loop she helped me map out. I couldn't run the whole distance at first, walks breaks were required. But every week I ran I a little more. And then a little more. And eventually I could run the whole thing.

The rest is history. 
I have been running ever since.

So if running is something you are interested in, but aren't quite sure where to start, I have my top 5 tips for any new runner.

1. If you want to start running... Just start running! 

Okay so that sounds silly right? But it's true. In a lot of ways there is no big secret. If you want to run - run and stick with it. It might not be easy to start. And you might not go very fast. But all that comes with practice and logging time with those sneakers. 

There is a lot of research that shows it is possible to train for any race and any distance by committing to running 3x/week. Commit to run 3 days a week and you will see progress in no time!

2. Break it up 

Don't go out and try to run 5km straight right off the bat. Pick a manageable distance - that could be anything from 1 mile to 5 km - and head out. Remember breaks are allowed! 

I started by mapping out 10km and running as far as I could, and then taking a walk break, running as far as I could, and then taking another walk break. I used landmarks to keep track of my progress. Last week I made to the stoplight before I needed a break. This week I made it to playground. And so on, until I could eventually run the whole loop continuously.

A lot of other programs recommend  more formal break strategies like 5:1 or 10:1 (aka 5 min running 1 min walking or 10 min running and 1 min walking) And I think it all works! It just depends which one you are most comfortable with.

3. Make a Goal/Sign Up for a Race 

A goal without a deadline is just a dream - so set a deadline and make it happen. Signing up for a run/race is the easiest way to ensure you stick to a program. 

If your goal is to run your first 5k - find a local run approx 8-10 weeks away and sign up. You know you have to get out there and train for it. It helps give those training runs a focus and an event to look forward to.

4. Tell Everyone You Know What You Are Up To!

You are signed up, you are training, so now just tell everyone you know what you are up to. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Post it on Facebook. Let everyone know what you are planning and how your training is going. 

It will help you stay accountable and they can also be there to support you along the way. 

5. Remember to Respect Your Progress and Thank Yourself for all Your Hard Work 

Keep a log. Post your progress on your fridge and be proud of each step you take! 

Sometimes progress can feel slow and a bit discouraging, but every time you head out the door and doing a training run you are doing something amazing for yourself and for your body. Remember to be proud of each milestone and thank yourself for making your health a priority. 

You can do it! 
Happy Running! 
Love your Favorite Darwinian Fail

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Real Talk about Emotional Eating

If you have been following along over the years, then you know diet-wise I have really the run the gambit. But one eating habit has always remained the same - I am a self-described Emotional Eater

Emotional Eating is how I gained almost 60 lbs many moons ago. It is also how I rapidly lost +10 lbs after losing my Dad. For me, my stress levels and food go hand in hand, on both ends of the spectrum.

Food is that perfect easy form of comfort. A delicious relaxing dinner out with friends/family is categorically one of life's simple pleasures.

And on the flip side, high levels of stress send my stomach into a tail spin. Acid reflux, nausea, loss of appetite - are all side effects I experience when my anxiety levels are high.

Last year when Jamie and I went away to France, I suddenly felt like I had turned a bit of corner. I relaxed. I enjoyed myself. My anxiety decreased. And I spent many days eating some of the BEST food in the world.

I was still battling my grief, but I had come to a more peaceful place. The overwhelming feeling I experienced was true exhaustion. 

I was tired. I was tired of fighting. And a big part of me was tired of caring. I didn't care about healthy meal prep. I didn't really care about racing or training. I needed a break. 

So my training slowed down significantly. And my junk food intake increased exponentially. 

It is not something I feel guilty about. It was what I needed for a little while. I needed that simple comfort. I needed that easy win.

But I am finally back at a place where I know I know I need to prioritize a healthy diet. I know I need to do a better job of taking care of my body and my overall health. So I am recommitting to Clean Eating.

My 3 Clean-Eating Principles are simple 
1. Focus on eating whole foods (ie. not processed things that come from a package or a box)
2. Strive to eat 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day
3. Limit processed sugar and saturated fat 

It all sounds so simple, but getting off the junk food train is always easier said then done. Sometimes you need a healthy substitute to help take the edge off. 

And while I was out Halifax for the Bluenose they had a healthy chef whipping up delicious cups of Avocado Chocolate Mousse, which sounded ideal to me. So I decided to whip up my own when I got back.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Makes 6x half cup servings

1/2 cup of Giddy Yoyo 76% Dark Chocolate
4 very ripe avocados
1/2 cup of raw honey
1 scoop of Vega Chocolate Protein + Greens
1/3 cup of almond milk
1 tbsp of vanilla
1/4 tsp of salt

1. Melt the dark chocolate in a small bowl via double boil.
2. Place melted chocolate, avocados, honey, protein power, almond milk, vanilla, and all into a food processor.
3. Blend until smooth.
4. Refrigerate for 3 hours, top with your favourite fruit and enjoy!!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Summer Plans

Up here in Canada we tend to have some pretty wonky weather. In the winter it is freezing cold and we are regularly pelted with ice and snow. And then in the summer the climate does a complete 180 and it is hot and humid. Which means around here there are only two seasons that are appropriate for racing - Spring and Fall.

My Spring season ended up being a busy one. I ran a disasterous trail race, two half marathons (Mississauga and Bluenose), and I also cheered my face off while running 17km as a pacer at the Toronto Women's Half. It was an action packed 5 weeks.

The Summer months are a busy time for me work-wise. It also tends to be fairly hectic life wise - weddings, BBQs, family time, cottage weekends, etc. So while normally I would be squeezing in a race every available weekend, I have decided to do things a little differently this year.

Racing has always helped ramp up my motivation. But too much racing changes the way I train. I am tapering. I am recovering. And then before you know it is time to race again. So this year I am leaving my Summer Race schedule open-ended. If there are races that work well with my schedule I will sign-up. But my goal for the summer is focus on Strong Consistent Training.

I noticed 2 things during my Spring Race Season,
           1. My endurance is not where I want it to be post-op.
           2. The last few years have done a number on my over-all strength, especially my upper-body
So these are the things I really want to target over the coming months all while striving to stay present.

1. Cycle Regularly
I was riding my bike 2x a week this winter with my Triathlon Group and it was making a big difference to my overall endurance. It was also strengthening my core and my upper-body. In other words - it does all the things I am trying to achieve.

But I have had a mental block about cycling outdoors. I had a couple of scary moments/close calls on the bike while clipped in last year. And ever since, I have been too nervous to ride.

Much to my serious Tri-Friends' chagrin I have replaced my clips for flats. I need to get my confidence back on the bike, and that is not going to happen unless I actually start riding. So I need to remove the piece of the puzzle that is tripping me up. My goal is start 3-4x days a week with a morning ride over the next few months and really embrace all of the benefits cycling has to offer.

2. Strength Train
I feel like I write about a desire to start strength training 3 times every year. But I never do it. I always start doing some form of strength training, but then racing and running take over, and I am too tired to fit in any kind of proper strength routine.

This summer it will be different. My goal is incorporate strength training 3x/week. My many trips to the OR have caused a weak upper body and my glutes/quads could also use some work. So I want to alternate targeting these key areas.

I recently discovered the Kettlebells at Goodlife and have been working on an upper body routine. And I am using Tamara Grand's Ultimate Booty Workout to target my lower body.

3. Yoga Once a Week
Yoga has always helped calm my mind, balance my body, and ground my training. But it is an area that I often skip when race season hits. So this summer I want to make it a priority. 

One of the Goodlife locations in my area offers regular Hot Yoga classes. So my goal is attend 1 class/week to help me rest, reset, and improve my flexibility.

4. 60 Day Meditation Challenge
In the interest of prioritizing being present and more relaxed I am challenging myself to a 60 Day Meditation Challenge.

I got a Muse Headband a couple of months ago. And I got myself into a really good rhythm of mediating each night for 10 minutes before bed. It was helping me sleep better. I was more relaxed. And then when my travel schedule for work ramped up, I got out of my routine.

So I have recommitted as of last Thursday (June 4th). And my goal is to meditate for 12 minutes daily until August 3rd.

I will still be running regularly as well, but I am taking my speed/hill training out of the equation. The goal is to continue to get mileage in my legs, but to run comfortably and allow myself the chance to put extra energy into some of these other areas.

Do you ever take a season off? 
Do you find racing motivates your training or distracts you from it?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Life Lately and Learning How to be Present

Life lately has been strange for me. And I have found myself a little lost for words.

Life lately has been GOOD.

Things have been peaceful. I am embarrassed to admit, it has taken me by surprise. I have been struggling to embrace it and stay present.

April was probably the moment where everything hit me.

We were finally all settled in our new home, and actually enjoying our new routine. I was training again and feeling strong. I was given a promotion at work, which has been keeping me really busy, but also provided me with a lot of new challenges that I am really enjoying. My husband was also offered a new job and promotion, all without his lengthy commute into the city. And if that all wasn't enough, Sportchek called to ask me to shoot a commercial.

I should have been over the moon, but my stomach was twisted in knots. And I found myself sobbing at the kitchen table.

It was all too much. It was too many nice things.

And that is not how my life works. So I founds myself completely panic stricken that life would immediately pull the rug out from under me at any moment.

Rational Krysten knows that this is no way to live. But Real Slightly Emotionally Damaged Krysten has used a healthy dose of pessimism to ground herself are steady her heart against the next great life disaster.

So here I am - feeling completely relaxed and happy. But also just that little bit vulnerable.

And I find myself wondering, where do I go from here?

There are no disasters to navigate. And I don't have any summer races planned at the moment. So my focus right now is to...

simply be present.

This is something I know how to do really well when life is tumultuous.

But being fully and completely relaxed is not something I have been for a very long time.

So as simple as it all sounds, that is my goal for this summer. (*more on my full summer game plan in my next post*)

What do you do to relax and harness a peaceful heart? 
How do you embrace where you are right now?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Fun Facts from Behind the Scenes

I am honestly floored at everyone's support for the Launch of my #SweatingForThis Campaign. (<--Click here to see my full video)

The whole thing was a bit of whirlwind, and I am still trying to process it all and put everything into words. This was not something I ever saw coming and I am so honoured to be asked to be a part of it all. So I wanted to be able to give you all a glimpse of what it was like behind the scenes. Due to the confidential nature of the shoot I wasn't allowed to take any pictures. But I do have some fun fact for you!

1. The timeline for this was extremely quick. They asked me to shoot the commercial about 10 days before we actually shot it. I was mid-Easter Chocolate Bonanza, and was slightly panicked about the minimal prep time.

2. Even though it looks like we shot this in the middle of winter. It was actually the last Friday in April. I was decked out in Spring Gear expecting typically Spring weather, but it ended up being -5 and snowing. (*gotta love Canada*)

3. In between shots I had to wrap myself up in 2 blankets and a winter coat.

4. We did different running shots for about 5 hours. I ended up running 11km in total.

5. There was a special camera rig that followed me while I ran. The last time they used it it was used to film Kathleen Wynne (*she is the Premier of Ontario for my American friends*).

6. Even after moving inside I could not stop shaking. I didn't warm up again after the shoot wrapped and I could have a shower...15 hours later.

7. This was the 15 hour day that preceded my disastrous 5 Peaks Trail Race. I think a combination of the cold and a long day meant my body was not up for racing the next morning haha.

8. To make it look like I am sweating they painted my face with glops of lip gloss and sprayed me with a mixture of water and vegetable oil. My eyelashes almost froze together a couple of times.

9. The commercial was shot at my house and in my neighbourhood. So this is where I really train and run.

10. Yes, that is the one and only Clark. He refused to leave the scene, and for whatever reason he decided he would sit there calmly and watch me tie my shoes. He is not normally quite so obedient.

11. The whole block received notices about the shoot in the mail. And sections of our street were blocked off during production. ("Hi new neighbours. I am just going to shoot a commercial over here!"). Talk about making an impression...

12. I got in trouble for trying to smile way too much throughout filming. I am not normally that serious. But by the end I was so cold I didn't really feel like smiling much anymore, so that kind of worked to my advantage.

13. My husband is referring to my voice over as my "Batman Voice" - again I am not normally that serious

14. I cried the night they called to tell me about the commercial. The last few years have been tough, and this year has been a complete 180. I don't really know how to handle all this nice stuff.

This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
Thank you for letting me share it with you.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,