Sweat it Out

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man-running-outsideSummers used to be filled with sleeping in, hanging out with friends, no school, and some time for relaxing. As an adult, summers have changed. Even so, there is always something wondering about the summer months that makes us want to grab on and get the most out of them.

The weather is nicer, and it feels like the time to do fun things. It is a great time for vacations, stay-cations, and sitting by the pool, but it also a great time to change up your fitness routine.

The change summertime brings can help you decide what type of workout you want to do.

  • Yoga in the Park (or on the beach – anywhere really) is a great summer workout. It can be difficult at first since the ground doesn’t qualify as smooth or flat, but it is quite relaxing and helps to calm your body down.
  • Biking or hiking are great workouts this time of year.
  • Running or an evening walk outside can be a great option.
  • Something else – consider something like horseback riding– it is great for balance and building up your core. Then there’s swimming, paddle boarding, soccer, flag football … options abound!

There are some great benefits to working out outside too:

  • tree-poseIt’s good for your mind and your body: Getting outdoors is associated with decreased confusion, anger, depression, and tension. Outdoor activities have been found to lower stress, and have a positive impact on your mental health.
  • Boosts your self-esteem: Somehow not having someone right next to you while you are on running down the road (running buddies excluded) is a lot less pressure than running on the treadmill at the gym with someone going twice as fast as you right next to you while looking like they are barely trying.
  • Soak up the sunshine: Overexposure in the sun can be harmful, but getting some rays does have benefits (just don’t forget the sunscreen!)— it can help improve sleep quality, improve immune function and increase endorphin production.

Have fun with it!

Regardless of what type of workout, you should try to make it fun. In general, exercise is great when it is fun, but particularly in the summer when you can do it outside.

  • Turn up the tunes: Music can help your workouts seem shorter, but can also add some fun to them. Just make sure you are paying attention to your surroundings.
  • Work out with a friend: This can be a great time to catch up with friends, but can also serve as some great motivation!
  • Change up your location: nothing like a little bit of distraction. Pick a different path to run or another park to work on your yoga practice. You can even go on holidays and still manage to get a workout in.

Fitness is important for your mind and body, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative about how you work it into your summer routine. Have fun and sweat it out!


Going Against the Grain

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different colour - going against the grainSometimes it is hard to have your own opinion. People don’t like it when they see someone straying away from the norm because, in some way, it threatens how they perceive the world. Often times, people become defensive and criticize people who decide to challenge the norm in order to preserve what they are comfortable with.

Blindly following likely isn’t a good plan. Despite its risk, standing up for what you believe in against adversity is crucial to being true to yourself and achieving happiness. You never know, it could even land you ahead.

Never wanting to risk looking like a fool, some people never go against the grain. They don’t like feeling out of place, so they repress their individuality in order to “fit in” – perhaps to just ride the wave of “majority rules”. While this means that they may superficially fit in, the actual result is that they likely will also never feel like they truly belong. The truth is, there are many times, when there is no “right answer” – and I’m not talking about breaking the law but rather options: your choice in from the mundane to the extraordinary.

You are your own person. You are in charge of what you do. You get to decide what you want and what you like. You are a living breathing human being with your own goals, your own desires, and your own dreams – not some robot. That is the beauty of free will. It’s up to you to decide who and what is worth it. You (and only you) can decide who you are and what you do.

Do not willingly give up your personal freedom by simply being a faceless nobody in the crowd. Be yourself. Stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing by yourself. You might be surprised to discover that you aren’t alone.  Or, even if you are standing alone (and in a smaller setting, you could be), you’ll know for a fact that it was your choice, so take pride in that.


The Life Plan vs The Life Adventure

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At the end of my final year in high school, a classmate floated the question: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? You can bet that very same question resurfaced 4 years later at the end of university.

Some of us had dream careers; others wanted to go work and live in Europe; others had dreams of training and doing an Ironman Triathlon.  Some of us did not even want to think that far ahead. We had plans, although most were vague. We all had ideas of what we wanted and where we wanted to end up, but none of us knew exactly how we would get there. For some, ‘the future’ gets planned out with checkpoints and milestones.  For others, it’s a laissez faire approach that is sure to be filled with adventure.

To a certain extent, I think we are conditioned to create and measure success by ‘The Life Plan’.  We’re asked as children what we want to be when we grow up, what we want to study in university, and where we see ourselves in 10 years.

Planners know what they want, and they often know what they need to do to get there. They’re the ones that knew they would be doctors, detectives, or firemen (or women!) since they were children, and they spend their entire lives working towards that goal.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Life Adventurers. They take life in by the moment, knowing that everything can change tomorrow. Their lives are made up of unexpected event after unexpected event, and they often don’t know what they want to do or where they will be in the next few years or even the next few months. They take opportunities as they come, and they roll with the punches. They are often difficult to keep up with because their lives are constantly changing.

Neither is wrong, and neither is better than the other. There is logic and downsides to both. The Plan is safe, secure and predictable, but can be inflexible and restrictive. Meanwhile, the Adventure is daring, exhilarating, and flexible, but unpredictable and uncertain.  I suspect that most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum.

It’s good to have an idea of what you want from life, but ideas and goals are constantly moving targets. None of us will really know where we will end up until we’re there.  As we grow, our ideals change and The Plan needs to accommodate for that if we are going to find happiness in our successes.  That dream job you’ve aspired to might not be everything that you hoped or thought it would be.  An opportunity you’re not expecting might force you to choose between the life you’ve always dreamed of and the life you never imagined. One person can crash into your life and change everything.

Life was meant to be an adventure. We aren’t meant to know what the future holds. We plan because uncertainty scares us. Anything can happen. But that’s also the beauty of it: anything can happen. Life happens in heartbeats, and that creates change. For some people, that means sticking to a well-defined Plan. But even the Plan will entail Adventures.

No matter which end of the spectrum you lean towards, remember that life happens in moments. Whether you’re a Planner or Adventurer, take life one step at a time. Planners, don’t be afraid to have an adventure. Adventurers, don’t be afraid to make plans. You both may be surprised at what you find. Either way, you will learn something valuable along the way.

Take life as it was meant to be lived: one moment and one step at a time.

The Memorial Cup Tournament

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2016-Mastercard-Memorial-Cup-logoEvery once in a while, the best player in junior hockey makes it to the Memorial Cup tournament.

It doesn’t happen as often as you would think.  Just ask the good folks in Quebec City how different they think the event would have been like a year ago if Connor McDavid and his Erie Otters found a way to beat the eventual champion Oshawa Generals in the OHL final.

But this year is special. Red Deer, holding Alberta’s first Cup in 42 years, lucked out. The best player is here.  London’s Mitch Marner, whose every move is dissected and discussed by obsessive Maple Leafs fans, is the top teen-aged junior player in the country.

Marner’s regular-season numbers the past two years have been amazing – 44 points in 18 playoff games this spring is something for the record books.  He also happens to play on the best forward line in the junior game, alongside Arizona property Christian Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk, a perfect blend of grit-and-skill.

But that’s not all.  You won’t only get to witness the top skater and elite line at this moment. You will also get to see the best of what’s to come.  Brandon’s Nolan Patrick is the kid every big-league scout will be lining up to watch next fall.

The 17-year-old from Winnipeg, with hockey blood in his veins, was the Western Hockey League playoff MVP in the Wheat Kings’ championship run. He also racked up over 100 points during the regular season.  He’s not eligible for the NHL draft until next year.

It’s a reminder of what happened at the Cup in Rimouski in 2009. Many locals were a tad displeased that Windsor made history by roaring back from an 0-2 start to win it all, but they raved about Spitfires star forward Taylor Hall.  Hall, the future Oiler, did return to the Cup a year later, this time in Brandon, and dominated again to become the only player in history to win back-to-back tourney MVPs.

But this time, it’s not simply about the players.  Every team in Red Deer deserves to be here.

Quebec champ Rouyn-Noranda ended the season as the Canadian Hockey League’s top-ranked club and will make their first appearance at the Memorial Cup. The host Rebels were knocked out in the third round, but it was to the Wheat Kings, so they lost to the best in the West.

The Knights reeled off 13 straight playoff wins to earn the franchise’s fourth trip in five years. But the Cup can be cruel. They sent three good teams to the event from 2012-14 and came up empty.  “You can’t look at anything you did before,” said Marner, the 19-year-old Knights co-captain. “Whatever your record was in the past, that’s gone now. You’re going into a tournament that has all the best teams in it.”

Here’s to an exciting weekend of hockey.  There might be a lot of big names attending, but every player comes to play.  There are 4 teams, and they all want to hoist the Memorial Cup.  Personally, because there is no limit to the test of time when it comes to hometown loyalties, I’m hoping for Marner and the Knights to prevail.  May the best team win!

Charlotte’s Web

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PrintEvery once in a while, I’m convinced that calling children’s literature by that name means that we forget some of the lessons that it imparted when we were young and reading it for the first time.

Whether you read the book or saw one of the movies, chances are you’ve had some experience with this bittersweet tale about the unlikely friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider.  He’s unsure at first whether he wants to befriend her at all, given her penchant for trapping and eating living things. But they come to a beautiful understanding, and it’s her gift for words that saves Wilbur from being turned into a plate of bacon in the end.

This is a story that brought me to tears when I was younger, reading about Charlotte’s death and about the 514 children she left behind.  Now, as I look back, I still get a little teary, but I’m also reminded of two things: (1) friendship is one of the most precious, strongest gifts you can give, and (2) every end brings a new beginning.

Charlotte’s life comes to an end, but Wilbur’s will carry on, and he’ll come to know her children and her grandchildren, even if “none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart.  She was in a class by herself.  It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  Charlotte was both.”

In other words: treasure your friendships.  When a friend needs a boost, or someone to stand up for them, be there, and do what you can.  Cherish their place in your life.