Just me

I don’t know if it is something that happens to every one, or even every woman, but at some point in this last bit of my 20’s, I’ve really grown to like me.

Just me, as I am. Right now.

I know it sounds silly, or like I am boasting, but I’m not. I have lots of demons and areas of myself that I know need a shit ton of work and things about my being that I would rather not have to face. But I do. And I am.

Constantly.

What I mean by really liking me, is that I really like who I am growing into. I really enjoy my own company and find myself craving more time alone. I am really comfortable with myself today, even more so than yesterday and even more so than the day before that.

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It’s an evolution I am enjoying the more and more I learn and understand about life from a spiritual perspective, a topic which is sometimes met with eye rolls and sighs. A few that are closest to me have started to referring to me as a hippie when I speak about being more conscious and awake or the adventures I get up to – a title I am fine with because I know what they mean and that they mean it with love. I have come to the realization that people can only meet you as far as they have grown themselves and that is okay. I have also noted on this journey that when some people cannot accept you for who you are or struggle with who you’ve grown into, it is okay to know their time in your story might be coming to an end.

I am okay with not being normal or what is expected. I am aware that I am a bit different and it feels good to me. I am enjoying being in a place where I can look back and say, I have come so far from who I was and I’m getting even closer to who I really am.

In fact, if you met me last year and then met me again today, I would bet you would say, “You’ve changed”, and I bet I would laugh and say “Thank you”. It would be even more apparent if we were close in a past life and you met me today…if you’ve not been here for the past few years, you definitely do not have a clue who I am anymore. And I am pretty cool with that.

This whole idea began spinning in my head this past holiday Monday. A last minute change in Michael’s schedule meant our plans for a few nights away were no longer an option, leaving me to find my own entertainment for what should have been a holiday Monday for him too. The let down of Michael not hanging out with me definitely bummed me out, but I was not against a day alone.

Now, early 20’s Toni, I will admit, would have panicked a bit about not having anything planned to fill my day with or people to hang out with and it would have been a scramble to try to fill the space with shenanigans with a girlfriend or sister. Late 20’s Toni though, she’s got this. Instantly I began to think of all of the places I have been wanting to explore but either hadn’t made the time or had a willing partner.

Michael started work at noon, so we spent a lazy morning together in bed, had breakfast and coffee and then off to work for him and upstairs to pack a bag for me.

I had no idea where I was going to head, so I threw in a sweater, a sports bra, shorts and extra tank, a bikini, book, towel, earphones, some water and snacks. I grabbed my hiking boots, a pair of sneakers and threw on my flip-flops.

Instead of worrying about directions or a GPS, I just got in the Runner and drove.

I drove myself straight to the coast of Lake Huron and parked there for hours. I read, wandered, laid out in the sun and grabbed a beer by myself in a small town along the way. I didn’t pay attention to my phone, I didn’t take a single picture to capture the beauty of my day and I barely spoke a word to another soul all day.

It was perfect and peaceful and my soul felt full by the end.

During the drive home I started to think of how many other people I know would do such a thing on a day of freedom. I also started to think about how much I had enjoyed my day. How much I needed my day, and my very own company.

Just me.

It made me very aware that while I do love the companionship of my man, my friends and especially my sisters, there are just some days when you need to sit alone with yourself for a bit and be comfortable with whatever you find, good or bad.

As I was finishing up with this post, the most suitable email from Elephant Journal floated across my screen and it read:

“No matter where you go or what you do you are always yourself.
There is nothing you can ever do, nothing you can wear,
no story you can tell that will change the basic fact of who you are.
Instead of running from it, accept it, trust it, embrace it,
love it because it’s all you’ve got.
” ~ Kino MacGregor

I am okay with me.

Just me, as I am. Right now.

~ Toni

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Hiking Ontario

If you know me personally, you know that it is quite hard for me to stay still. And by this I do not mean that I fidget and fuss, but that I crave adventure and movement on a scale that most people just don’t understand.

While up to and including this point in my life, travel on a grandeur scale has not been possible – whether monetary tightness or family obligations or school requirements, or, or, or, there has always been something trumping my wild heart’s need to run.

That being said, I have not let that stop me from getting my fix when I can and instead, has made me quite the well-rounded guide for trails and destinations within our beautiful province that just have to be tackled. On a weekend or day off I am often up before the sun and off – solo or with company – hitting the open road with a destination in mind, ready to feed my soul the nourishment she craves of nature, adventure and exploration.

Wanting to get your feet wet with some of the best treasures I’ve found so far? Here are a few to get you started:

1. Spencer Gorge Conservation Area: This location contains some of the best hiking within a 30 minute drive of Cambridge, Ontario and boasts gorgeous views of the escarpment.

upper tews

Overlooking the gorge toward Tews Falls side

There are well traveled paths already available for the less crazy than me type (which lead up to the peak, featured in the above photo), or if you are willing to be a little more daring, (and slightly…illegal), then you should prepare for a 6 hour hike down the basin into the gorge itself where you can meander your way to the bottom of both sets of falls. This area can be reached through a gated off access point on the Webster’s Falls side of the trail, or near the rail way tracks at the bottom of the hill heading into Dundas. Come prepared with proper, sturdy footwear, some water, snacks and enjoy a day playing at the base of waterfall giants. Michael and I did this hike last in the winter and while incredibly challenging in full snow gear, totally worth it to stand in awe of this:

Feeling so small at Tews base January 2015

Feeling so small at Tews base January 2015

2. Beamer Memorial Conservation Area: This beauty of a spot was first visited on a fall day where I was feeling particularly restless and needed a new perspective. Not knowing where I wanted to head, I Googled ‘best Escarpment vantage points’ and this beauty popped up in the search results. It really is something to take in.

Lake Ontario for days

Lake Ontario for days

Roughly an hour’s drive from Cambridge, this trail is located in Grimsby Ontario and is part of the Bruce Trail system that runs along the Niagara Escarpment. There are multiple access points (I have found 3 so far) boasting views of the escarpment cliffs, terraces, Lake Ontario as well as the upper and lower falls. If you’re a bird fanatic, try to visit during the spring Hawk migration (roughly March 1 – May 15) where you can catch these stunning birds of prey on warm sunny days between 10:00am and 3:00pm.
New to hiking? From the main gate the trail is fairly flat, roughly 1.9km and easy to navigate for even the most novice hikers. With multiple lookout points and even more challenging trails leading into the basin, this area needs a whole day’s dedication if you can manage. If you’re able and wanting a little more challenge, climb your way down from the back entrance or end of the top trail from the front; here you will find the upper and lower falls just waiting for you to explore them.

Linda and I reaching the top of the lower fall deck

Linda and I reaching the top of the lower fall deck

3. The Bruce Peninsula National Park: While the furthest of my favourites, clocking in the drive at just over 3 hours from Cambridge, this breathtaking wonder located in Georgian Bay is well worth the drive. A part of the 885km of Bruce Trail, this section offers hikers the unique Northern landscape, incredible turquoise waters and four trails within the park to choose from.

That really is the colour of the water

That really is the colour of the water

As it’s located in the heart of a biosphere reserve, you’re sure to see your fair share of wildlife and interesting vegetation, massive rugged cliffs and limestone barrens. Make sure you make your way down to the Grotto – a natural cave on the shoreline that was formed from the waves from the Bay washing in over thousands of years.

Dancers pose over the Grotto #yogaeverydamnday

Dancers pose over the Grotto #yogaeverydamnday

If you’re feeling extra adventurous and the park just isn’t enough for you (ha, yeah right), head over to Flowerpot island via boat and spend the day on an additional 6.5 km of trail, admiring the natural sea stacks, navigating massive caves and touring the historic light station.

Kelso: Located in Milton, just a 40 minute drive from Cambridge and easily accessable from the 401, Kelso is a location I would consider when I am looking for a slower pace, less challenging climb.

From the mid-point, overlooking the top

From the mid-point, overlooking the top

Still providing great heights for views, it also houses 22 km of hiking terrain which is also suitable for mountain bikers looking for a challenge, 396 hectares of camping, and a network of incredible caves to explore. With the perfect Western views, Kelso is a great place to head with a picnic, your favourite person and find a spot to perch while the sky gives you an incredible show at sunset.

Sunset at Kelso

Sunset at Kelso

If you’re wanting the same proximity to home as Kelso but a little more adventure, on the alternate side of the escarpment you’ll find Rattlesnake Point, accessible from Kelso or a short drive, which hosts three rock-climbing areas and an additional 12.7 km of looping trails.

These are just a few of my favourite spots in our gorgeous province of Ontario – I’ll have to write a few posts to fit them all in as there are still plenty of places in Muskoka, Niagara, through Huron and Bruce Counties, Sarnia, etc. to be shared. What are some of yours? Any different ones you might recommend for me?

~ Toni

 

Fitting in fitness

With my life in the fast-lane and no slow down in sight, I have had to rejig a few things in order to fight my way back to balance.

One of the areas I promised myself and my sanity that I would work on was attempting to fit in my workouts more often then I had been. After a few (mostly failed) attempts at fitting in my usual full hour long workouts, I soon realized that this very real struggle was not as easy to overcome as writing a post pointing out a lack of my balance-providing routine. I soon began to think of creative ways in which I could fit in enough effort to get the momentum going and help build back up my dedication to fitness.

While I am clearly struggling to hit my stride, a few of my favourite tricks to offset not being able to dedicate a complete hour or two a day to my workouts and working overtime to keep me sane have been:

1. Mini-challenges:  In order to make sure I at least maintain my current level of fitness, I give myself little mini-challenges that run for week or month long periods.  As I will openly admit to anyone who asks, my favourite muscle grouping to work out and work on has to be my glutes and quads. Not only do leg/butt exercises burn the most calories, they also allow me to personally feel the most powerful. As an avid runner, knowing my legs are strong enough to help prevent injury is important to me – especially as I already have one knee that requires extra care. And let’s not forget to mention that a squat booty is the best booty!

Truth.

Truth.

My favourite mini challenge is giving myself a set number of squats to perform every time I go to the washroom (after I have gone pee of course), with 25 usually being the the amount I aim for. This type of challenge allows me to break down my goal of staying healthy during chaos into manageable, digestible pieces that I know are realistic to achieve during a hectic day. The best part is that mini-challenges can be applied in many different ways – elevated pushups off the counter every time you enter the kitchen or even calf raises while pumping gas for example.

Try this one - mark it in your daily calendar to increase chances of success

Try this one – mark it in your daily calendar to increase chances of success

2. Keep a must make date with yourself: Saturday mornings are mine. Knowing that I have a standing date with myself a minimum of once a week, helps me to keep the stress of not being active enough during the week, at bay. Whether I am lucky enough to spend a gorgeous morning hiking at sunrise with some of my favourite ladies, fitting in a solid run on one of my favourite trails, or adding in sprints while on my walk with the fur-babies (their favourite), the first item on the agenda for my Saturday has to be something active.

Be the BOSS.

Be the BOSS.

As long as I do everything in my power to make that date weekly, I don’t beat myself up if it ends up being the only activity I am able to fit in during the week. It also gives me something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel, the pick-me up to give me some energy.

3. Ask for help: The one fitness lesson that has taken the longest for me to accept, asking for help/support from the people around you can often be the lifesavers you require, right when you require them.

Still a struggle some days

Still a struggle some days

Personally, I have asked for some of the women I work out with to push me a little, get me to commit some more me-time by planning workout dates in advance. They’ve already got me feeling more motivated and determined then I have in quite some time. Seriously, nothing can replace the support your sisters in fitness (in my case by blood as well) provide when you’re struggling or stumbling in your journey.

4. Self-talk: Controlling my internal talk-track can be a struggle on a good day, let alone a day – or pile of them – that seem to have more things added to the to-do list then checked off, but it is so very necessary. However, becoming my own worst enemy mentally will do me no good and only add to my stress level. Some days it is hard to, but I am more calm if I am able to control my thoughts, keeping them as positive as possible and provide myself gentle reminders as to why I started my fitness journey in the first place. When I’m really struggling, I simply activate tip number 3 and reach out to someone I know has the power to be my cheerleader when I need it most.

I really cannot wait to get back into a routine that allows me time to continue on this lifelong journey I am so desperately missing and so determined to maintain. Until then, I’m counting my current reality as part of the dance and doing my best to follow my own advice.

~ Toni

Uphill mantras

Confession: I’m struggling lately.

Struggling to find and keep balance.

Struggling to be happy for no reason.

Struggling to maintain my peace.

Struggling to stay fulfilled.

A sometimes seemingly uphill battle that I just can’t win – the constant pull of my attention in too many directions with just not enough actual time provided in the 24 hours ahead of me. Sometimes the struggle is so real that my heart starts to race, my temperature spikes and I feel like I may not catch my breath as I think about the ‘To Dos’ that keep mounting, the increasing number of people I feel like I am letting down and all of the things I am forgetting or not getting to.

I find myself easily flustered, easily riled up and too quick to stress.

After noticing this behaviour in me, and being bothered by it, I had to wonder: what am I not doing that I normally would to de-stress and gain my balance?

It seems to me that forgetting my mother’s signature parting sentiment of “remember who you are” would be a good place to begin. I keep forgetting that I have faced adversity before and I have come out the other side fairly well equipped with a couple new lessons and the bragging rights that I have survived 100% of the not so desirable situations I have faced.

Mufasa stole it from mama for sure...

Mufasa stole it from mama for sure…

I may have changed in some way or another, but the survival record is the thing to note.

The difference in how easy these situations are to face however, is in the active belief that I ultimately have nothing to worry about, as God has got me and more importantly, God has got this. The worry wouldn’t be as pressing if I remembered this when feeling myself ready to boil over. If I know one thing, it is that all I can do is my very best, whatever the situation may be, and if that is not enough, then it is out of my control. Accepting that is half the battle.

I recognize that taking time for me has taken a bit of a back burner to almost everything else going on right now – cardinal rule of survival, broken. How can you take care of other people if you aren’t taking care of yourself? I don’t mean this in the fact that my hair could use a trim, my piglets a pedicure and my aching back a nice, relaxing massage.

Finally sneaking in some time for me this past Saturday morning.

Finally sneaking in some time for me this past Saturday morning.

I mean I have not actively taken time to go for my runs, or take in a hike, or workout with my sisters or girlfriends. It burns me because I KNOW the ability to handle stress improves with an increase in endorphins on the regular. I know this firsthand as the benefits of exercise having carried me through some pretty intense and high pressure times in the past few years. Stupidly, it has been one of the first things I have cut out of my schedule. Even worse is I tell people this is a key to overall health and increased energy all the time – so hypocritical! (Side note to my #TLT ladies – seriously, let’s get back to it on the regular!) I also am missing out on my quality time boosting my energy alone, where it’s more than just a workout and it is often to work something out with the pace of my feet, rhythm of my breathing, and beat of my music as the only things I consciously have to focus on.

The key kicker from my careful analysis to my inability to keep perspective in this chaos has to be my failure of a diet.

While I wish I just meant what types of foods I have been eating, I also have been inconsistent in timing between meals, failing my daily goal for water intake, drinking entirely too much coffee, forgetting that I need to eat breakfast, eating far too close to bedtime…breaking all of the rules really. When my diet is off, my energy is lacking, my sleep pattern is impacted and I find stress unmanageable.

I have to remember that saying “no” is always acceptable and sometimes absolutely necessary, that this present day challenge will not matter in 5 years from now in the grand scheme of things, that all relationships have ebbs, flows and are most importantly fluid, and that there is always room for improvement in every situation, but it has to come in small steps.

It usually never will...

It usually never will…

I’m hoping this post serves as a public, virtual way of giving my head a shake and getting myself back to my centre. It really is almost worse once you know better to revert back to old habits and old patterns.

Here’s to moving on up this hill a little further and attempting to tackle it with a little more balance.

~ Toni

I have a ‘thing’

You get one shot. One chance in this life to reach your goals, achieve your dreams, to overcome obstacles, and to better yourself – mind, body and spirit. 

I am nothing special, out of the ordinary or exceptional by any means. I am a normal (well…fairly normal), girl-next-door type of woman. I do not have an expansive bank account, or talents that set me a part from the crowd.  I do not foresee my story being one of fame (outside of my inner circle of course) or fortune (although, according to Julia I am a future millionairess).

I do however have a ‘thing’.

My ‘thing’ makes me happy, helps me sleep better, aids in clearing my head (sometimes it just won’t shut up!), gives me the energy to help Julia with my INSANELY energetic nieces and equally as curious nephew and care for my own family, grants me patience when stressed and the determination to reach my goals, has improved my confidence, helps me keep up with my two large dogs that require a ton of exercise… and it certainly hasn’t hurt in the bedroom. 😉

My ‘thing’ is working out, in any capacity. Whether it is hiking, strength training, running the track, biking a trail, playing ‘horsey’ with Sophie or swimming laps, I want in.

Hiking in Blue Mountain for Shelby's Bachelorette

Hiking in Blue Mountain for Shelby’s Bachelorette

Two years ago, you would have never pegged me for someone who loves (yes, you read that right, LOVES) to work out. While I have always been conscious about my body, I was never one who ‘hated’ on it or complained about it. I had curves, an average waist line and overall I was happy with how I felt.

Then Jacqui suggested that we should try out a local bootcamp she had heard about through work (which is where I met Julie, my amazing trainer and now good friend). Our readers should know that at the time of this suggestion the sisters had been trying to get together at least once a week, which had resulted in A LOT of baking and in turn a little over indulgence.  Jacqui’s suggestion was a welcomed hit.

After an initial fitness test, weigh in and measurements recorded, we started Julie’s class. The first one did me in.

I was sweaty, I was tired, I felt weak, I smelled, I had struggled the whole way through.

I  loved it.

I was hooked. I loved how I felt during and even more so when I was SO sore and couldn’t convince my legs to climb the stairs the next day.

At first, bootcamp was a twice to three times a week activity that I did with my sisters. Then I added in running on my own time and hiking with a few girlfriends.

Running The Grand River Trail

Running the Grand River Trail

I would work out in parks, in basement studios, on ‘Mount Trashmore’ in Kitchener, in my backyard, the track at Benny’s, on the Grand River Trail – anywhere I could find space.

Hiking Tewes Falls, Dundas ON

Hiking Tewes Falls, Dundas, ON

I still do. I am blessed with friends that also share in my passion for fitness and drive me to keep pushing myself. My fiancé is trying to remember not to mess with me when I haven’t made a workout or didn’t push myself hard enough. (Come to think of it, this rule also applies for food and sleep…poor guy.)

I hope I never lose my fire for fitness. It has enriched my life in more ways then one. I feel balanced, happy and at peace… It also gave me the confidence to do this:

The 'Mike approved' blog shot - photo credit: Close Your Eyes Photography

The ‘Mike approved’ blog shot – photo credit: Close Your Eyes Photography

Something I never thought I’d have the guts to do. It also doesn’t hurt that I worked with one of the most amazing photographers EVER. (Seriously, the bomb – check Heather out here).

As I am lucky enough to have an extended sisterhood that includes many beautiful women (I mean this in the truest sense of the word), I have been cheered on by every humbling reminder that I am making them proud and even inspiring a few.

I hope you’re having a beautiful Tuesday.

~ Toni