Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marathon Update - Lowestoft, Greenwich Park, Bloody nose, Bloody treadmill and a great day that reminded me of why...

My marathon training is starting to slowly ramp up and I thought that it was time to give an update.

While I was away in England during the first two weeks of January, I was pretty dedicated to my plan. I went for some awesome runs in Lowestoft (a few with my old coach, Tony Smith, until his busted back starting acting up) and got to see some beautiful scenery. Exploring a new place by foot is always the best way to uncover little treasures. It was also a great way to decompress after the intensity of being involved in a high stress situation with Olympic qualification on the line. 

The biggest issue for me while running in the UK was that I narrowly avoided being hit by a few cars. In fact, once I literally jumped out of the way with my hand on the hood of a car. I am so accustomed to look to the left while crossing the road that having to look the other way completely threw me off. I actually got to the point where I would stop at almost every street crossing and hold both of my arms out like a traffic cop and quickly tippy toe across the road while darting my head from side to side. It looked ridiculous, but seemed to give the cars ample warning that a dumbass Canadian was trying not to get nailed.

One thing I found to be super helpful with my running commitment and motivation was to do it right when we got back to our hotel after lunch. There were no ifs, ands or buts - I just walked in the door, changed into my running gear, grabbed my stuff (toque, mitts, ipod and GPS watch) and hit the road. I didn't give myself any time to talk myself out of it. I didn't allow a jet lag induced nap occur. I needed to run and I made it happen. Sure, some days it didn't feel perfect and it was hard to get going, but I always arrived back at the Broadland Holiday Village feeling energized and satisfied. 

London was definitely harder to fit in my runs as the days weren't quite as scheduled. I have to be honest; I missed a couple of them…and I could totally feel my entire being transform for the worse when I did.

What I realized in London was that exercise is essential for me to maintain a positive state of mind. As soon as I skip just one day, I can feel my optimism decline. Guilt sinks in, my gut starts to bloat, my saboteur starts to bark and people become more and more difficult to stand. My friend Kim once told me (while we were in Hawaii) that my energy and mood completely changes when I take care of myself and exercise. Kristin sometimes kicks me out of the house with my running shoes in tow. How is it that the people around me know that I am more tolerable when I've exercised, but I haven't quite put it into daily practice?? This is definitely something I need to keep in check for the rest of my life - an exercised Kyle is a happy Kyle. No excuses. If I don't have time for it, I need to make time. If I don't have the energy for it, I need to shut the hell up and just do it anyway. End of story.

The runs I had in London were incredible. One night I ran through Greenwich Park and found this awesome ass burning hill. I ran up it 6 times and then sat on a bench, crossed my legs and stared at the breathtaking view of the entire city. Another day I ran with the wonderful Karrie (physio for the men's team and my new buddy!) and we ended up on some random plot of land where more than 100,000 bodies were buried during the Great Plague of the 1600's. That was a little eerie feeling…

After having missed a few runs in London, I vowed to get right back into the running routine as soon as I got home. Sadly, the weather took a dip to the chilly side and Calgary became a deep freeze. The temperature was a bone chilling -35C. Brrrrrr. I was forced to hit the treadmill in our building's gym - and one thing you should know about me is that I am not a huge fan of running on treadmills. I'll do it when I have to, but that negative voice inside my head will do everything in it's power to try and detract me. Perhaps I should have thought it through more when I committed to running a May 6th Marathon. I knew I'd be running through January, February and March (Calgary's coldest and snowiest months), but I guess I didn't fully consider the ramifications. Oh well, it is what it is and I am in this for the duration, but treadmill running kills me. And it's even worse when the weather is cold and dry because I am prone to nose bleeds. 

For 3 days, I would run about 2 miles and then my nose would start to gush. In fact, one day it bled so hard and fast that nearly the entire treadmill running surface was covered in blood. Ick. That was not fun to clean up. I was beginning to think that the universe was trying to put a wrench in my marathon training plan…

Luckily, the weather started to warm up a bit and by Sunday I was able to hit the pavement again. Man, was that ever refreshing! I felt a total sense of joy and I instantly reconnected with my running goals. Cooper and Kristin came with me for the first few KM's and it was great to have them trotting along. After they were done and I had a few KM's left, I let my mind completely free-fall. I wasn't trying to solve or be attached to anything and I could feel ideas, motivation, understanding and creativity sloshing though my mind. It felt amazing and it made me excited about this upcoming week. There's nothing like a good run to feel grounded and alive.

So, the major lessons learned so far are:

1a. Run. Even when you think you don't have time or you don't feel like it. Just STFU and Run.
1b. Running (and exercise in general) always changes your mood for the better.
2. Run with cool people in cool places. 
3. The world is best discovered on foot.
4. Burn your ass off on hill runs and then sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
5. Stay committed and be patient. Around the corner from a few bad days is often a really great day. 
6. Bring kleenex and clotting apparatus when the air is dry ;)
7. Download some awesome tunes and podcasts to help make those deadly treadmill runs a little more managable…as much as I hate it, I can pretty much guarantee myself that there are a few more cold Calgary days to come.

105 more sleeps until I'm 30 years old and I run 42.2 KM's!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scratching my 2012 itch

Since returning from London on Saturday the 14th, I've felt really itchy about something…

This time of year, mid-January, has always been an interesting time in my world. I often feel compelled and inspired to dig deeper, grow and evolve. It's at this time of year when I feel like I really gravitate towards making change, taking risks and seeking out the missing parts of my perfect equation. I can look back on past journal entries from January of 2009, January 2010 and January 2011 and a very common theme emerges - I want to cut out the noise and start following the voice of that best version of myself.

I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes suffer from the 'grass is greener' syndrome. Things would be better if only…I try to be really aware of this and realize that discontentment is just part of my DNA. I have to work harder than a lot of people I know to be present in my life and to feel like life is fulfilling. I'm a perfectionist and I am often left feeling like I could have done more, been more, seen more and felt more. 

My personal life is A+++. I am gleamingly happy at home. Kristin and I become more solid each day. We are a team who are completely in tune with each other. We dance in our living room. We bake dog cookies. We snuggle on the couch. We call each other names like "porkchop face" and we talk about what we want for our future. Cooper is our greatest gift of 2011 and he brings us an incredible amount of joy, responsibility, balance and laughter.

I am blessed with close friends whom I adore and everyone in my family seems to floating through life with minimal amounts of 1st world problems. I am mostly committed to eating well, running, stretching, yoga-ing and meditating. I am making time to write (like right now!). The only thing I wish I was doing more of personally would be making more time for fun with friends. It feels like it's been a while since I've had one of those nights that you will remember forever, but wish you could pass on the hangover ;) One of those debaucherous nights needs to happen soon...

I do, however, feel like there is a very important piece of the puzzle missing in my professional life.

One area that I am really struggling with right now is the environment in which I work. It feels like it's the missing puzzle piece. My work environment often leaves me feeling frustrated and less than inspired. It makes me feel very curfuffled (is that a word?) and distracted. You see, I am one of those people who has a slim separation between work and home. And fittingly so as the line between the two often has me tripping over a dog or rinsing off the dishes. Work and home for me are the same place, and I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that, after 3 years of having it this way, I am NOT a big fan and it needs to change.

I have an incredibly difficult time spending my days working from home because there are so many distractions abound. I can unload the dishwasher, I can take Cooper for a walk, I can watch that episode of Modern Family I missed, I can check facebook, I can throw in a load of laundry etc, etc, etc. Hell, I can get away without showering until 5pm if I really want to. That's not cool. Not that I succumb to the distractions everyday, but I always feel procrastination pulling.  

I've also found myself really craving daily human interaction. People give me energy. I like having someone to compare my efforts to. I like having someone to bounce an idea off of. I like being able to ask a question and not having to open a new email message in order to do so. 

Having a place to be has always made me better. It infuses my willpower and helps me be way more productive. 

I remember back to being an athlete and realizing that willpower wasn't always my strongest suit. I needed to set myself up for success in this realm. Here's an example: If everyone was away on the weekend and I was the only guy left in town, I would do the right thing and get the key from my coach so I could go in for a weekend training session. I would make a plan, I would go to bed early, I would eat a solid breakfast, but still, no matter my efforts, if there wasn't someone else there, I always came up short of executing my plan. I just couldn't hold myself accountable to it. Now, on the contrary; If I had a coach there, even if they weren't in the gym with me the entire time, I would complete my plan and execute it diligently. I wouldn't leave until every 'i' was dotted and every 't' was crossed. I came to realize that a part of me craves validation. I need someone to notice when I am doing good work. I need someone to acknowledge my efforts. This fuels me and drives me - always has and always will. I thrive when I have accountability and a reward.

So, I feel like I need to inject some of this into the 2012 version of me. I need a place to go. I need a space where I can focus on my professional projects so that I can appreciate the time I have at home. I need to be around other people who are creative and trying to make an impact. I like having someone to compete against and someone to bounce ideas off of. I want to be a part of a team. I don't like to be micro-managed, but I do appreciate having someone check in on me from time to time and recognize my efforts. This helps me hold myself accountable and to stay committed to doing great work. 

In order to scratch this 'working environment' itch, I know it's up to me to create a new landscape. It needs to be made a priority and I'll have to make an investment of some kind - whether it be money or time or even discomfort for the first little while. I still need to investigate some options (I have a couple of very appealing opportunities in the works), but whatever it is, I'm prepared to do it. Stay tuned for developments ;)  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Exploring life through the lens of...

In Anusara yoga, there is a concept of focusing on a single phrase or word during your practice. Doing this allows you to stay centred and focused while on your mat. It also allows you to go on a path of self-discovery as you explore how things are affected when you approach them through the lens of __________.

My ________ word for this week is "kindness".

Not only will I be exploring my yoga practice through the lens of kindness, but I am also going to explore all aspects of my life through this lens. It will be as if I'm wearing a pair of magic sunglasses and the only attitude I can approach the world with is one of kindness.

  • When I send an email or converse on the phone, I am going to do it with kindness.
  • When I talk to myself inside my head, I am going to be kind (This will be a real challenge as I can be pretty harsh to myself inside my head…)
  • When I run, I am going to try and be conscious of taking each step with a sense of kindness.
  • When I eat my cereal in the morning, I am going to do it with kindness (Not too sure what that experience will look like, but I'm hoping it's meditative and enjoyable ;) )
  • When I walk Cooper, I am going to fully approach it through the lens of kindness. If he pulls a little bit; rather than get frustrated and try to gain control, I am going explore how I can be more kind in discipling him. Then I will move on.
  • When I interact with anyone, whether it's the grocery store clerk, the cashier at a coffee shop or with Kristin, I am going to open my heart to radiate kindness.

The reason I am doing this practice, this week in particular, is because I came to the realization that I can be quite controlling and when I get frustrated or stressed out. The anxiety that comes along with that can come across as anger and harshness. I don't like I'm projecting that and I want to change it. I want to be softer and more accepting. 

I think that this is an exercise that, for so many reasons, can be very beneficial to anyone. Firstly, a focal point allows us to feel centred. It's the whole philosophy surrounding meditation - always return to the breath. Having a blissful place to land when things begin to spin out of control is good for the heart and soul (and your blood pressure). Secondly, it's an exercise that can help develop self-awareness. I am firm believer that we, as humans, should always be aiming to learn, improve and evolve ourselves and this can help us reach a higher level of consciousness. Lastly, the world that surrounds you will be uplifted because of your choice to evoke something really positive into the air. Doing good things is always a good thing... 

So, now it's your turn: What lens will you explore this next hour, day or week through?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gym Revolution Video Challenge

Attention all Canadian Gymnastics Lovers: The Gym Revolution Video Challenge is officially open!!! Check out the video above and visit for more info on how to enter. 

I'm excited to see what kind of videos roll in!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An emotional roller coaster ride...

When I retired from gymnastics three-years ago, I thought that attending a gymnastics competition was going to be a stress free experience from that point forward. What my "already retired athlete" mentors forgot to inform me of was that I would still feel every ounce of the competitive emotion from the sidelines when the pressure was on. I'm blaming fellow Olympic analyst Marnie McBean for the complete exhaustion I'm suffering from right now. Come on Marnie, you could have at least given me a warning!
As I found out this week at the Olympic test event and final Olympic qualifier in London, apparently that "stress free" existence was wishful thinking. Watching the Canadian teams vie for the final team spots here launched me on an emotional rollercoaster ride that I may never recover from.
I experienced one end of the emotional spectrum on Tuesday when the Canadian men, in an absolute heartbreaker, failed to qualify a full team of five to the Olympics. Needless to say, everyone in the Canadian camp was devastated. It was a huge blow to the program that sideswiped everyone.
It was crushing to observe Team Canada slowly fall apart during the competition. It was even more painful as they had to watch "CANADA" drop down the leader board as the day progressed. I couldn't help but feel sick to my stomach because many of the members of the men's team here were former teammates of mine. I know how much they've invested into this dream. All of these guys have spent nearly their entire lifetimes dedicated to this moment. Earning a berth to London 2012 was the goal they all were chasing. It wasn't supposed to end this way…
The harsh reality of the situation here is that they blew it.
They had a phenomenal opportunity in their grasp and they didn't deliver on the one day it counted. The team could make up a million excuses about why they came just 0.5 shy of that coveted spot in the top four, but when all was said and done - they simply messed up too many times and that left them in fifth. There's no other way around it, the reality of that result just simply sucks.
Personally, I know that I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks afterwards so I can only imagine the sentiment they were experiencing. As they spent the afternoon watching, waiting and hoping that they would squeak through. When the inevitable occurred, you could the air come out of the room. Not even an afternoon pint (or two…) could ease the heartache.
It was an extremely quiet night that followed in the Canadian men's camp as everyone tried to process what happened, why it happened and what happens now. The only certainty is that the team had been relegated to one individual spot at the Olympics. Who takes that spot is yet to be determined. It makes me sick to think about all the Olympic dreams that are going to go unfulfilled because of a bad day at the office. Sport can be so unforgiving sometimes. I'm sure many of the guys are thinking, "Can we have a do-over?". Sadly, gymnastics is not a sport where you get a second chance.
The very next day, after a restless sleep and a million-and-one questions floating through my mind (surely, team replayed each routine over and over in their mind all night too); the Canadian women took to the floor for their chance to shine.
The women's competition was a completely different experience as the Canadians came out with guns-a-blazin' and looked ready to attack every single performance. They started on floor exercise and it was as if each routine provided them (and all of us watching) with energy and momentum – and in gymnastics, momentum is a nearly unstoppable force. I found myself tweeting live updates and bouncing up and down in my chair as I did it. I was willing on each athlete on each routine and each element, and generally reacting like a teenage girl who just met Justin Bieber any time they landed their dismounts. I'm sure I was annoying everyone around me on press row and for that, I apologize.
Nothing gets me more excited in this world than seeing a team come together and achieve their potential. I love it when athletes dig deep and fight for every single tenth of a point. I love it when you see determination and aggressiveness in the eyes of a competitor. I love it when you can feel the intensity in the air. With the Canadian women, there was plenty of this to go around.
It was a special treat to sit back and watch the reactions of everyone in the program when they surpassed their top team score by nearly six points and secure their spot as a team to the Olympics.
The girls spent the afternoon thinking about the wonderful possibilities these next seven months will hold. They were giddy with excitement. They did their job and they knew it. They were one step closer to being an Olympian! Their faces beamed with satisfaction and you couldn't help but to soak it up and feel it too. It was an infectious sense of joy that was so refreshing after the devastation the previous days' events brought.
At the end of the day, when the last of four subdivisions concluded, the Canadian women placed second overall and earned five spots to this summer's upcoming Olympics Games. In addition, I feel that this experience opened their eyes up to their true potential. This team is capable of a top eight finish at London 2012 and I have a feeling they all believe it now. If they don't, they should. They are that good.
I'm really looking forward to coming back to the O2 Arena this summer. It's been awesome to get a sneak peek into the gymnastics venue and to feel a hint of the craziness that will ensue. After going through emotional experiences that covered the entire spectrum here in London, I am, as the English say, completely knackered. Some fish and chips and a run through Greenwich Park should help that a bit, but who knew that being on the sidelines would be such an adventure? Marnie McBean sure didn't…or at least if she did, she sure didn't tell me!