I have mentioned this previously, in my very long posting about my trip to Hawaii, but I wanted to officially count it in my list of things that I learned this year! The most important things that I learned about surfing were that it’s really important to paddle like hell once you see the wave you want to go for to get up enough speed that when you jump up, your board is going fast enough, that you jump up at just the right time (too late or too soon and you are going to go for a swim!), and that jumping up to standing actually isn’t that hard.
Same goes for snorkeling, Prior to my trip to Hawaii, I’d never snorkeled before. Turns out, snorkeling is pretty easy (made even easier by the fact that we bought snorkels that have a value that prevents you from breathing in water when you dive down so that your snorkel is below the surface), but it’s still something that I learned.
Last year I took a couple of sewing classes, making a tote bag and some fabric buckets. This year, my friends and I decided to kick it up a notch and sew zipper pouches – which meant we had to learn how to sew a zipper!
I made them with the leftover fabric from my tote bag, which is cool because (a) they match my tote bags, and (b) I managed to not lose the leftover fabric from my tote bag, which I made nearly a year before!
Mostly because my blog is my outsourced memory – if it’s not on the blog, I’ll never remember that it happened! [↩]
Another thing I’m behind on blogging about is my gymiversary! March 3 was my one year anniversary of having joined Strong Side. I’ve blogged a fewtimesabout my gym experience and it’s mostly for lack of time to blog that you haven’t been subjected to me talking about how much I love my gym.1 I remember thinking when I signed up “am I really going to be able to do this gym thing on the regular for six whole months??” (I signed up for the 6 month commitment to start because it gets you a better monthly rate than if you just sign up for a three month commitment). And now here is it more than a year later and not only have I regularly gone to the gym three times a week for an entire year, but I actually really love it.
As I’ve mentioned before, part of what I love about it, in addition to the more obvious I-am-getting-stronger reason, is that it’s an easy way for me to be mindful. It really helps me disconnect from my work and all the other things that one has to deal with in life as I focus intently on my form and my breathing. In fact, Friday evenings are one of my favourite times to work out – I find it really helps me to separate from my busy workweek and get ready for my weekend! I love to hit the weights on Friday after work and just work out all the stress of the politics, emails, and deadlines.
Another part of what I like is the social nature of the gym. I’ve gotten to know a fair number of people there – and there are people that I knew before I started going that I’ve discovered go there too (or have joined since I joined) – and everyone is really down-to-earth and supportive of each other. You’ll regularly hear people catching up and joking around and cheering each other on when someone is doing something really tough. It’s a nice feeling to walk in and see friendly faces and people who know your name.
The other day I was there and a person I didn’t recognize came up to me and said, “I don’t want to sound creepy, but I just wanted to tell you that you look really strong! I saw you lifting and I thought “I want to look like that!” Honestly, it was so out-of-the-blue and such a lovely compliment! We chatted for a bit – she’s relatively new to the gym and I told her that I’d been coming there for a year and that it really does work! If you’d told me when I started that I’d be able to lift what I can now, I’d have said you were crazy. But it’s amazing what you can do with consistent work and a program tailored by people who know what they are doing!
When I started going to the gym, I was just getting past my year of injuries and I’d put on some weight from not having been able to run (which was how I’d been keeping somewhat in shape for the past decade) and I wasn’t feeling too great about that. But now, despite the fact that I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my life, I’m actually a lot happier with how I look and feel, because the weight gain has been muscle. I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that I have to get rid of some of the clothes that I haven’t been able to fit into for quite some time but had been hanging on to because I was sure I’d someday get back down to my pre-MBA weight, because even I manage to bring down my body fat % a bit, my quads won’t let me get into those pants and my shoulders and back mean those shirts won’t comfortably fit – and I don’t have any intention of losing these muscles, so I’m OK with that.
As you may recall, one of my goals for this year was to deadlift my own body weight, and I actually managed to do that on January 30. I decided on wanted to capture it on video and since in my current program I’m doing deadlifts where I do 6 reps, then up the weight and do 5 reps, and so on until I’m down to just 1 rep. So I got this on video the other day where I deadlifted 68.5 kg (or 151 lbs), which is more than my body weight for 2 reps2
My other goal for this year is to do a full pull up or chin up without the assistance of any resistance bands (basically, you hang a resistance band off the bar you are hanging from and step into it and the band takes off some of your weight so you do the pull up or chin up motion, but without having to lift your entire body weight). When I first started going to the gym, I needed three different bands to do pull ups, but I’m slowly but surely working my way towards fewer bands. Like with the deadlifts, my current program has me doing 6 pull ups with a couple of bands, then 5 with fewer/smaller bands, and so on until I reach 1 rep. I tried to do my last rep with the second smallest resistance band, but couldn’t quite manage it, so had to do it with a slightly bigger band, but I was still pretty happy to be able to do that. Definitely made progress, but still have a ways to go. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have done one on my own!
If you’ve had the misfortune of seeing me in person in the past 12 months, you’ve likely been subjected to me waxing poetic about this at length. My apologies. [↩]
I decided not to video my 1 rep, because I wanted to see how heavy I could go and I knew there was a good chance I’d fail. I tried to do 70 kg, but I couldn’t, so I was glad I didn’t try to video that one. I backed it off to 69 kg and did that for 1 rep. Maybe I’ll be able to do 70 kg this week! [↩]
You know that thing where you go on vacation and then you come back and not only did all the work that you didn’t do while you were away not get done, but it seems to have made some new friends while you were gone so you now have about eleventy billion emails to deal with and decisions to make and meetings to present at and assignments to grade? That is officially my excuse for why this blogposting about my trip to Hawaii is coming 25 days after we arrived back how!
Anyhoo, I’ve managed to mostly catch up so now I’m just back to my baseline level of crazy busy, plus it is a 4 day weekend, so I have found some time to sit down and tell you all about our trip to Hawaii. Spoiler alert: it’s amazing and I didn’t want to come home.
We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday, after an uneventful flight from YVR to Seattle and another uneventful flight from Seattle to Honolulu. We’d booked our trip through Costco1, as it was the best deal we found, and the package came with transportation to and from the airport. The person greeting us also had leis for all, so here’s a selfie of us at the airport”
In what would become a theme for the trip, after a day of flying, my hair looks like crap.
The rest of Sunday was basically just getting checked into the hotel (the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel) and then wandering around to get the lay of the land. Since we got in around 2pm, which meant we didn’t have much time to see stuff before the sunset because omg, the sun sets early. I knew that Hawaii was near the equator, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of that in terms of sunrise and sunset – it’s pretty much sun from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every day, all year long. I’m used to living quite far north of the equator and so my brain thinks summer weather = suns sets at 9 pm, so it was kind of trippy for it to be 27°C and have the sun set at dinner time! Fortunately, it stays warm even after the sunset, so it’s still nice to wander around even after the sun goes down. If you’ve never been to Honolulu, it’s basically just all beach and open air malls, with an ABC store every 12 feet.
We decided to start the holiday off with a bang by taking a surfing lesson. As long time readers may recall, I have been surfing only two times in my life and had only managed to get to a standing position for about half a second on one of those two surfing days. And that was more than a decade ago. So I figured that an actual surfing lesson, which I didn’t do the last time, was in order. We found a Groupon for lessons through Moku Hawaii Surf Shop, which was close to our hotel, so we decided to take our lessons with them. And I’m happy to report that having a surfing lesson resulted in a much more success in the amount of standing on the surfboard! We had a fantastic instructor named Jennifer, who was the only female instructor we saw in Waikiki. She went over the safety basics and the basics of how to surf, and told us that the hardest part of surfing isn’t getting up on your feet – it’s all about timing – picking the right wave and then figuring out when to start paddling and when to jump up. We headed out to the beach and then Scott and I basically took turns getting some help from Jennifer – she helped us pick a good wave, helped us with timing when to start paddling, gave us a little push to get going, and yelled “up” to let us know when to pop up. Once we got the hang of that, she helped us with timing but without the push (which made me realize how much the push helped!). She also had a GoPro camera that was on my surfboard for the first half of the lesson and on Scott’s surfboard for the second half. She also remembered part way through my time with the Go-Pro to tell me to turn the camera off when I was just walking/paddling back out to the waves, which meant that there were a million photos of me walking/paddling back out from before she told me that, but no photos of Scott like that. We got footage of a few of our runs each, but of course none of my really good runs were captured on video!
Waiting for a good wave:
Starting to paddle – you have to make sure you get up enough speed before the wave gets there so you can catch the wave:
Then you have to pop up:
First up on your knees:
Then pop up to your feet:
Then you are surfing like a pro:
Until you fall off:
We had an absolute blast! Jennifer said that most people don’t last the full two hours, but Scott and I did. I credit all the hard workouts we did leading up to our trip2.
The water was pretty shallow and the reef was very sharp and what with all the falling off and getting knocked about by the waves, I managed to rip up my foot pretty badly:
It looked worse in person than that photo, if you can believe that.
Also, this picture is awesome:
After our lesson ended, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. It was at some point on this day that I said “Let’s send for the cats! I want to stay here forever!” Sadly, the reality of not having jobs there or a place to live there or the necessary citizenship to do that quickly quashed my dream, so I had to just make do with 6 more days.
Here’s a video of me surfing (you really only need to watch the first couple of minutes – after that it’s just me sloooooowly walking back out to sea as I didn’t know I was supposed to turn off the camera!):
And here’s Scott – this video actually includes him surfing twice:
We had so much fun surfing that we decided to do it again the next day. Since we’d taken lessons from Moku, we were able to get a discount on renting boards the next day. We were just going to rent for a few hours, but they gave us the whole day, so we spent the day surfing, then lounging on the beach, then surfing, and repeat.
We also tested ou snorkelling gear3 in the hotel pool.
We rented a car for a couple of days because we knew we wanted to check out more of the island – and because I wanted to go swimming with sharks and you have to go to the North Shore to do that. So Wednesday we drove around the island, including stopping by the beach at the Turtle Bay resort to do some snorkelling. The water was pretty murky, but we still managed to see some cool looking fish. Sadly, there were no turtles!
We also managed to find Ted’s Bakery, which my friend Heather had recommended that we check out. They make some pretty fantastic pie:
Thursday was the day I’d been waiting for since we’d decided to go to Hawaii – swimming with sharks! When my sister went to Hawaii ages ago, she did this and it sounded so cool that I wanted to do it too! We found a Groupon4 for a trip with North Shore Shark Adventures, but then I discovered that if you book directly with them online, you get the same price as the Groupon, so I just booked directly. The concept is simple – you get on a boat, go out to a place where there are sharks, and then jump in a cage that’s floating off the side of the boat and snorkel while you watch the sharks swim all around you. Apparently the sharks are attracted by the sound of the boat because they go out to an area where people fish for crabs and the sharks have become accustomed to the crab fishers dumping their used bait out of the crab traps there, so the sharks hear a boat and think “dinner time!”5. The sharks in the area are mostly Galapagos sharks, with some sandbar sharks. I totally thought that Great White sharks were common in Hawaii, but the crew told us they are not.
We were supposed to be on a 10 am trip, but we got a call from the company a day before saying that forecast was for really choppy water so they were going to cancel the 10 am trip, but we could go on the 7 am one instead. Despite this meaning we had to get up at like 5 am to make the drive from Waikiki to the North Shore, we decided to do it ‘cuz we really wanted to swim with the sharks!
Here I am on the boat:
Here’s the cage:
And here are some of the freaking sharks, as seen from the deck of the boat:
There were 12 people on the boat who wanted to go in the cage, along with some crew members, and a few people who were just along for the ride. So one group of six went first while the rest of us watched and then the second group of six took a turn after. Here’s the other group after the ropes had been loosened to allow the cage to float a bit away from the boat:
While the other group was in the cage, one of the women popped her head up and asked the crew “What’s the little shiny silver shark?” One of the crew members said “Is it about this big [holding his hands about a foot apart] and kind of pointy?” When she replied “Yes”, he said “That’s a barracuda. You should watch out for that. It can get inside cage and it will bite”.
After the first group’s turn was up, we got to go into the cage. I was the first one in our group to get in the cage. It was such a cool experience! The sharks were so beautiful – so graceful swimming by, all around and beneath us. Some of the Galapagos sharks were quite big – the biggest one we saw was probably 10 ft long. I really, really wished I had a Go Pro camera of my own as it would have been amazing to capture it! I wasn’t scared of the sharks at all – there was no way they could have gotten into our cage and they really seemed pretty docile. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to stick my hand in their mouth or anything, but being in the cage felt totally safe. The barracuda showed up while we were in there and honestly, I was more afraid of him, because he could totally have swam into the cage and taken a bite! And he just sat their next to the cage, staring at us with his cold dead eye. I found this photo of a barracuda on Wikipedia and this is just what he looked like:
Scary barracuda is scary!
As I mentioned, the water was pretty choppy and eventually it got the better of me and I totally puked from sea sickness right in the cage! So gross! But I did feel better after losing my breakfast, so at least there’s that. (I also found out that several other people also got sea sick while we were in the cage – they were just puking off the side of the boat!) As much as I hate puking, it was totally worth it to see those sharks!
Also, while I didn’t have a Go Pro to capture this, some other random people who did the same dive as us on a different day did and put it up on Youtube. So check out this video and imagine that Scott and I are in that cage, because this is exactly what it was like:
After we finished with the sharks, we decided to head back to Turtle Bay for more snorkelling and lounging on the beach. Still no turtles!
Later that day, we hit the Dole plantation. We decided to go on the aptly named “Pineapple Express” train that goes around the plantation and features a narration that tells you about how the Dole Food Company is the most successful and generous company on the planet, pineapples are the greatest food ever to have existed and probably can cure cancer, and James Drummond Dole could walk on water6.
We did get to see some cool stuff, like how pineapples actually grow on bushes on the ground – I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’d kind of assumed they grew in trees, like coconuts!
In addition to pineapple, the Dole plantation had a bunch of other stuff – sugar cane, lemons, limes, avocados, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, bananas, etc.
After we finished our Pineapple Express trip, featuring the musical stylings of a band that was willing to record a song called “Pineapple Express”, we checked out the shop to get some delicious Dole whip, which is basically like ice cream except that it’s made of pineapple instead of cream. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. We also stayed for a pineapple cutting demonstration, during which the demonstrator took about 20 minutes using a special pineapple cutting knife while repeating “So easy!” over and over and over again. I will admit that it looked pretty cool when she was done, but I don’t think I’ll be adjusting my pineapple cutting ways.
Scott is a pineapple
After we were full of Dole whip and indoctrinated into the cult of Dole, we decided to try to find a waterfall that you can hike to at the Waimano Public Hunting Area. I was a wee bit concerned to start a hike that starts with a sign that says I might be hunted with a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, a knife, a spear, and/or a bow and arrow (should I be mistaken for a pig or goat of either sex).
Also concerning were the angry looking clouds in the sky and, not fancying the idea of driving all the way back to Waikiki in soaking wet clothing, we decided to just snap this pic of us with the scenic background and head back to the car without getting to our destination. I guess this is why they say don’t go chasing waterfalls.
As usual on this trip, my hair is a mess. But I had to fight off sharks and a barracuda earlier that day, so I guess it is to be expected.
On Friday we jumped on the city bus and headed to hike Diamond Head, which is a 300,000 year old crater.
It’s not a super tough hike, thought these stairs at the top were not my favourite:
but they get you to pretty cool views;
I don’t know what that lighthouse is called, but I’m totally adding it to my upcoming blog posting “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”7
Since we’d already paid for a day pass for the bus8, we decided to head to the other side of town after our hike and checked out what was going on over there. Highlights included, this turtle who was hanging out in a fake pond by a restaurant:
these beautiful birds that live at the Hilton:
and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten:
It was surprisingly difficult to find ice cream in Waikiki. You’d think there would be an ice cream shop on every street corner. But you’d be wrong. We had to go all the way to the other side of Waikiki to find it.
Another reason we had decided to go to that side of town was that every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has a fireworks show. So after strolling around to see the various sights and eat the various ice cream that was on the side of town, we strolled over to the beach to watch the fireworks.
Yet again, my hair is craptacular! Given how much time we’d spent in the ocean on this trip, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could do anything with my hair by this point.
We followed up the fireworks display with a meal at Morton’s steakhouse, which was super freaking delicious. We were also somewhat amazed that we could walk into a restaurant on a Friday night without a reservation9.
On the advice of my uncle Harry and my friend Sarah, neither of whom have actually been10, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona is one of the ships that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbour and it still sits where it sank, with the 1,177 who died that day still on the ship. In addition, some of the survivors of the USS Arizona have decided to have the ship as the final resting place of their remains when they subsequently died, making it both a memorial to those who died in the attack and an active military cemetery. When you visit, you first watch a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbour, complete with footage of the attack and some explanation of how and why the attack happened. Then you go on a navy boat to the memorial, which is basically a platform that sits astride the remains of the ship.
The white structure in the background is the memorial, as seen from our boat as we headed towards the memorial.
Parts of the remains of the ship.
Oil still leaks from the ship, more than 75 years later.
There were some divers going into the water near the ship. I’m not sure what they were doing.
Divers in the water near the oil leaks.
Names of the men who died on the USS Arizona are written instead the memorial
It was very sobering to see so many names – 1,177 men died just on this ship, let alone all the others who died in various other parts of Pearl Harbor that day – and to think about how young they all were – just boys, really, and their ship was sinking, and then exploding, before they even knew what happened. Today, there are only five remaining survivors, ranging in age from 94-96 years old.
After the navy boat brought us back, we wandered around a bit to see the other things that were around, like this nuclear torpedo:
And read the various signs with more information about the event:
After that, we headed back to Waikiki to do more wandering around, eventually hitting Duke’s for dinner:
Delicious drinks at Duke’s
and then stumbling upon a hula show that was going on at the beach:
Sunday was our last full day on Oahu and we decided to spent it at Hanauma Bay, a beach on a bay that was formed by volcanic activity about 32,000 years ago, It became a very popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beach and amazing marine life, with about 400 different species of fish living there. They state has turned it into a nature preserve and when you first get there you have to watch a movie that basically just says “Don’t touch any of the living creatures, including the coral. Hey, did you know coral is alive? Well, you do now, so don’t touch it!” Then you are allowed to head down the hill to enjoy the beach.
Hanumba Bay was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, which is saying something because I loved pretty much everything about this trip. But the snorkelling here was amazing! The water was so clear and there were so many different kinds of beautiful fish! I was really regretting not having a GoPro while snorkeling here. You can see some of the types of fish that we saw on this Hanauma Bay Education Program Fish Identification Card – ones we saw included Bluespine Unicornfish, Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Sergeant, female Spotted Boxfish, male Christmas Wrasse, Moorish Idol, many types of Parrotfish and tonnes of Reef Triggerfish and Convict Tang. There was also a giant purple fish that I think was a type of Parrotfish and it was so big that you could actual hear it eating when you were underwater with it!
I found this video on Youtube from someone who had a similar experience – it’s a different colour of fish, but you can see what I mean about hearing the fish eating:
Apparently there are sometimes reef sharks in the bay, but we didn’t see any. I would kind of loved to have seen one because sharks are awesome, but even knowing that there has never been a shark attack in the bay and reef sharks don’t feed on humans, I may have freaked out if I’d actually seen one because OMG SHARK!
We basically spent the whole day there, alternating between snorkelling and lounging on the beach. On one of our later times out snorkelling that day we finally saw the second thing (other than sharks) that I wanted to see in the wild: a turtle! We were just snorkelling around on the opposite side of the bay than we’d been before and Scott called me over to where he was and pointed down into the reef. And there was a beautiful green sea turtle, just swimming around and eating from the reef! Again, I was kicking myself for not having a GoPro! I did find this photo on Flickr of a turtle that looks just like the one we saw:
I spent a bunch of time just swimming around following the turtle – he was just so cute11!
Here’s a video from someone who was smart enough to bring a GoPro with them while snorkelling there (this is pretty much exactly what my day was like, except for the soundtrack):
Also at the beach were a whole bunch of cats, who apparently live, feasting on garbage and having somewhat of an uneasy truce with a bunch of mongooses.
At one point, Scott was petting the kitties and a little kid who was probably three or four years old and had clearly paid attention in the “don’t touch the wildlife” video admonished him “Don’t touch them!!!!!” Of course, not touching the feral cats is probably more of a safety rule for you rather than the cats, but he didn’t end up getting bitten or scratched, so I suppose we’ll call that a win for all.
And just like that, the trip was over! We got one last morning in Honolulu, where I snapped what is probably the nicest photo I took on the whole trip, and from the restaurant in our hotel, of all places!
On top of being a super amazing awesome fun time, my trip also allowed me to knock two items off my 101 list: #1 – Cage dive with sharks and #91 – Go to Hawaii. And as soon as I hit publish on this posting, it will put me 1/6th of the way towards achieving my 2018 goal of having “published at least six [blog postings] that are long form (minimum of 3000 words).”
In conclusion: A++, would Hawaii again.
Image and Video Credits: The barracuda photo is from Wikipedia and the Green Sea Turtle photo posted by FHKE on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. All the other photos are mine or Scott’s. The two surfing videos are mine and Scott’s and for sources of the other videos, follow the links to YouTube.
I’m reasonably sure that I’m slowly drifting towards an entirely Costco-based life. First it was just for food… then clothing… and now travel! [↩]
I told my trainer for January & February to give me a training program that would help me with surfing and/or looking good on the beach. So she gave me some crazy tough workouts and I think it really helped! [↩]
Which we bought at Costco (of course) before we left Vancouver. [↩]
Apparently some companies will chum the water to attack sharks, but it’s controversial as it can affect shark behaviour and even lead to sharks equating humans with food, which is not a good thing. [↩]
Honestly, the whole time I kept thinking that the narration should have been done by Troy McClure. [↩]
Note to self: write that blog posting that you’ve been meaning to write since forever called “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”. [↩]
As a day pass is the same price as going somewhere on the bus and then returning, we decided just to get the pass to get to the hike and back, and then use it to travel around town some more. Because frugality. [↩]
Though Sarah did plan a visit for her parents when they were in Hawaii and thus was able to give me detailed instructions of how to get there, get tickets, etc. [↩]
I’d also stalked some fish throughout the day – I’d find an interesting looking fish and then just follow it around to see where it would go. It got me wondering what the fish and turtle think about all these snorkelers – do they just think we are some weird looking fish? [↩]
So remember like eleventy billion years ago when I did that mindfulness course? I haven’t really done any mindfulness practice since then, but it’s always been in the back of my mind that I probably should1.
Well, it sort of hit me one day when I was at the gym that doing strength training is a mindful practice. Being mindful is all about being present in the moment and being aware of your sensations, thoughts, and emotions. When you are doing strength training – if you are doing it right, that is – you are paying very careful attention to your body in the moment. You are setting your stance just so – maybe it’s shoulders packed down, abs and gluts engaged, knees slightly bent, and then you are doing a very deliberate action – lifting in a certain way, focusing on feeling it in a particular muscle(s), focusing on breathing out as you do a particular movement. Sometimes as you go through your sets, you start to get a little lazy with your form – in my case, it’s often that my shoulders start to creep up and/or that I forget to breath. But then you’ll notice that you’ve slipped away and bring yourself back into the right form (or start breathing again!) and it’s much like when you are doing a meditation and notice your mind start to wander, so you come back to your focus on the present.
I’d been going to the gym for a few months when I realized how mindful this practice was. My focus was very squarely in the present moment – very aware of my body and not really thinking of anything else. I wasn’t worried about the future or dwelling on this past. I was just there, just being, just breathing, just lifting. And I wasn’t even trying to be mindful – it just happened. I remembered the times that I’ve done meditation and how extremely difficult it is some days to quite the mind and just pay attention. I still think it would be useful for me to do some other forms of meditation as well, as there is benefit to the act of being still and observing your thoughts as they arrive, but I think that becoming aware of the mindful nature of my strength training has not only been beneficial in and of itself, but also because it’s reminded me about being mindful. It’s made me more mindful of mindfulness.
There is a link between physical activity and mental health. Mindfulness practice has also been shown to be beneficial to mental health. While there are likely many mechanisms for how physical activity improves mental health, I wonder if any of the benefits of physical activity on mental health are linked to it being an easy way to become more mindful?
Which is quite possibly the least mindful thing a person has ever said! It’s in the back of my mind that I should do that at some point in the future! [↩]
A few weeks back, I had to play defence in my hockey game. I usually play forward and haven’t really ever played defence1 and quite honestly, I find the notion of it a bit scary. It’s too much pressure! You are responsible for stopping the people on the other team from taking shots! And if they score, you feel bad. Playing forward, on the other hand, is all about the glory. Scoring goals or making a beautiful pass so that your linemate can score a goal – all about the glory.
Of course, I realize that hockey is a team game and even when I’m playing forward, I can screw up and feel like it’s my fault if the other team scores2. When the defence3 from the other team that you are supposed to be checking gets away from you and scores a goal – you feel bad! When you can’t get the puck out of your own end and the other team scores, you feel bad! But overall, I feel like the pressure is more on the D. So I’ve always steered clear of it.
However, one of my teams this year is a bit short on players who play D on the roster, so, depending on who shows up for a given game, occasionally some of us forwards have to go back on D for a game. And a few weeks ago, it was my turn. It was against a really strong team (they got moved up a division a few games later because they were winning so much in our div) and someone suggested I should play D because I’m a strong skater (which was a really great compliment! I feel like I’ve worked a fair bit on my skating over the past few years, so it’s nice to know that it’s helped!) and I knew I was going to have to work my butt off! And also have to figure a lot of things out on the fly – when I play my usual position (left wing or centre), I can go a lot on instinct since I’ve done it for so many years. But as D I really have to think about where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing! So much pressure!
Anyway, I actually thought it was a good experience, because playing defence gave me a totally different perspective on the game. I was able to experience the game from the D’s point of view and it helped me see how I can be a better forward. Often defence will tell us that in our own end, when the D get control of the puck, make sure to get open, keep moving, give them someone to pass to. It’s no use passing the puck to someone who is standing still, right next to an opposing player who is poised to swoop in and grab that puck, so the forwards need to get moving! And while that makes perfect sense, it’s one thing to hear someone say that, and it’s a totally different thing to experience being that D who has the puck and there’s no one to pass it to to get the play going in the other direction. And then to experience when the forwards are moving to the open ice, ready for the pass, and the you see how much of a difference it makes. It was so useful to see from the D’s point of view how the game unfolds when the forwards are doing different things and it really makes it real what you need to be doing as a forward. So in the end, I’m actually really glad I played that game as defence – I think I’m a better forward for having done it.
I’m pretty sure there’s an analogy in here to life – how it’s really worthwhile to see things from someone else’s perspective once in a while. Maybe even someone who is very different from you. How you can learn something about what their experience is like and maybe even learn something about yourself. But it’s past my bedtime and thus too late for me to get into such deep thoughts, so I’ll leave it up to you, dear readers, to give it some thought!
Image Credit: Posted by Guy Mayer on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.
Other than in the 10 day long hockey game when everyone just played wherever position because we only had one sub at any given time, but playing was more just like trying to survive on the ice for *another* four-hour shift. [↩]
As we like to say on the ice, the puck has to get past all 5 of us before it ever gets to the goalie! [↩]
So it has just occurred to me that we sometimes call the defensive players “defencemen” – I usually use just “defence” because I play in an all-womens’ league, but “defence women” just sounds weird to me. But it’s just occurred to me that we never say “forward men”. It’s just “forward”. You say “centremen” on occasion, but far more often you just say “centre.” But you never ever say “forwardmen.” I wonder why that is? [↩]
Two games ago, I got high sticked in the throat. It wasn’t intentional – we were playing hard and it was so fast I’m not even sure how it happened, but seemingly out of nowhere I felt a stick blade on my throat – but it was hard and down I went. All I could think was “Can I breathe? Ok, I can breathe now, but is my throat going to swell up and I’m going to suffocate to death right here on the ice?” My throat did swell up, but not so bad that it killed me (obviously, or I’d have a hard time writing this blog posting!). I couldn’t lie on my back and breath at the same time for two days (as the swelling in the front of my throat would sort of collapse down on itself), but I was OK if I lay on my side.
Old neck guard
Long story short, I decided that the neckguard I’d been wearing – because, yes, I was wearing a neck guard – was providing me with insufficient protection. I felt the stick blade on my skin, so I think the blade must have hit below the neck guard, or at least shifted the guard out of place when it hit. Imagine if that had been a skate blade instead of a stick blade! So off I went last weekend to the Hockey Shop to buy a new neck guard that provides more ample coverage.
New neck guard. My neck feels so much more guarded now!
As you can see from the photo, the new neck guard provides a lot more coverage in case of errant sticks, skates, or punches. Also, if someone challenges me to a duel on the ice, I’ll be ready for that too!
I wore it in my game on Wednesday night (and I scored a goal1!) It’s definitely warmer wearing this new guard compared to the old one, but I’m already sweating up a storm out there, so what’s a little more sweat? And it’s a small price to pay for an intact jugular and a non-collapsed trachea.
Stay safe out there, people!
Coincidence? Probably, but we can’t really know for sure! [↩]
Three weeks ago (three!), I hurt my thumb. I was playing hockey and I was in screening the goalie and making a pest of myself (as usual) and a defencewoman from the other team knocked me to the ground, catching me off guard and I guess just the way I was holding my stick resulted in my landing directly on the end of my right thumb and it hurt like a mofo. I mean, I continued playing the game, but I couldn’t really use my thumb. By the next day, it was swollen up quite badly and bruised1 and I thought it might be broken, so I called my doctor, whose office is conveniently a block from my office, who had a look at it and said that we should get it X-rayed as it could be a compression fracture (happily, it wasn’t twisted or bent funny, which would indicate a fracture that might need pins in it). So then I walked a few blocks to the X-ray place and within about 10 minutes I had some X-rays done2. The verdict came back the next day – it wasn’t fractured, so I must have (and I quote my doctor verbatim here) “jammed it real good.”
Anyway, that was three weeks ago (three!) and my thumb still freaking hurts. And it’s swollen:
As you can see, my right thumb is swollen. This photo was taken today.
Granted, while I took my next hockey game off (on the advice of my doctor), I did play the one after that and the one after that and then the one after that. And then I played five hockey games in three days3 – I had a weekend tournament, a regular season game, and then got called in as a spare for a friend’s team. And in the tournament I happened to get slashed *twice* directly on my thumb! Also, after the game, there seems to always be at least one person in the handshake lineup who won’t take off their glove to shake hands4 and so when I go to shake their hand they end up jamming their hockey glove directly into my thumb and it hurts like a mofo!
In other hockey news, I broke my hockey stick in my game yesterday. I was battling for the puck in the corner and as I was skating away afterwards, I thought my stick felt funny. I looked down and didn’t see anything odd, but after a few more strides it still felt funny and I looked again and heard a weird noise as I lifted my stick to try to look closer and then I saw it flop a bit. Yikes! I immediately dropped my stick – as a player must drop a broken stick because it’s dangerous to skate around with one – and skated to the bench so someone else with a stick could jump on the ice. Fortunately I had brought a spare stick – as I’m a 5 ft tall person who plays left-handed, there’s not likely to be anyone else who has a stick that I can play with – so was able to jump back out on my next shift.
So today I headed out to the Hockey Shop in Surrey5 to buy a new stick. I’ve never bought a stick there before – the last sticks I bought (which were this broken one and an identical one like that – I bought two because they were on sale for half price and my then-back up stick was an old wooden monstrosity) were from Cyclone Taylor in Coquitlam – but I was glad that I did this time because I found out that they have a shooting room in the basement where you can actually test out the stick, which is much better than just flexing it against the ground to see how it flexes (which is what you typically do in a store). The guy in the shop helped me select a few to test out – and also informed me that the stick that I had (as I brought in my spare so that I could get them to cut my stick down to the right size for me) was one that has its flex near the middle, which is more for slapshots. But I don’t really take slapshots6! So he got me one where the flex is near the bottom, which is better for wrist shots and snap shots, which is more what I want to do! I tested out the sticks and the one with the flex near the bottom (which is also a bit lighter) was waaaaay better for me. And so now I’m the proud owner of this Crosby stick:
So I’m going to blame my *terrible* statistics for the last few years on my inappropriate stick and I am confident I’ll now be scoring like gangbusters. Playoffs, here I come!
And unbelievably, I forgot to take a picture of it! [↩]
For people who are worried that single payer healthcare systems mean you don’t get to see your doctor and wait lists are years long, I would like to point out that I got a same day appointment and then got an X-ray within 20 minutes of seeing the doctor and that included me walking from my doctor’s office to the X-ray place. I realize that the Canadian healthcare system is not perfect and that this situation worked out so well for me because (a) it’s a pretty routine health problem and (b) I have a family doctor, which many people don’t since we have a shortage of them. But still, no wait time, great care by a doctor that I’ve chosen, and I didn’t have to co-pay or pay for my own X-ray or anything. [↩]
Before anyone goes and makes a comment (*cough* Kalev *cough*) that I shouldn’t play hockey until my thumb is totally healed, we already know that I make poor life choices, so that wasn’t going to happen. [↩]
What is the deal with people who won’t take their glove off to shake hands after the game. Are they seriously worried about the germs on my hand after they have just spent 60 minutes with their hand in a sweaty hockey glove? I hate to break it to you, people who won’t take their glove off to shake hands after the game, your hand is already covered in germs! And if they think that the germs in their smelly hockey glove are at least their own germs and other people’s germs might make them sick, all I have to say is “aren’t you going to wash your hands anyway, since they’ve just been in that smelly hockey glove??” /. [↩]
As per usual, this is an unsolicited mention of a business on my blog. I just like their business and want to give them a shout out! [↩]
so I’m not sure why the person at Cyclone Taylor suggested that stick to me! [↩]
Played my first (and second) game of hockey since my injury! As previously mentioned, my physio told me that once it felt OK to skate *and* it felt OK the next day after I skate, I was allowed to play hockey again. And since I felt OK on Friday after skating on Thursday night, I was approved to play today! My lower division team had a game at 2 pm, so I played that and it went fine – I’m definitely not as strong on my right leg as I’d like to be, but that will take some time and continued strengthening exercises to get to, and I wasn’t able to go as all out as I usually go, but I was actually surprised that I managed to have some jump in my step and didn’t suck wind too hard. My slightly higher division team had a game at 6 pm and since I felt OK after the first game, I stuck around and played that game too1. Game #2 also went well – I even got knocked down at one point and it didn’t hurt my hip (which was something that I worried might hurt). Afterwards, I came home, took some naproxen (an anti-inflammatory), took a long hot shower and did a bunch of stretching. I can feel that my back is definitely a bit tensed up, but that’s pretty typical when I haven’t played in a while – and it’s been three months since I last played!
Anyhoo, I’m going to see how I feel in the morning, but I’m cautiously optimistic that I might actually really be functional again!
I brought some work to the rink with me so I could get work done in between the two games.Wasn’t a long enough break to make it worth going all the way home and then all the way back to the rink, but was long enough to get something to eat and get a bit of work done. [↩]
So I ran a half marathon last Sunday. And despite it being my second worst finish time of the 14 half marathons that I have run, it turned out to be the one that required the most perseverance and I am actually proud to have finished, yet a bit mad at myself for even having run it. As I mentioned previously, I was suffering from a gluteus medius issue that was so bad it was causing me to limp and it hurt to run. And nothing I was doing was working – it was like it was too tight to even get it to stretch at all, no matter how much I tried. Then I went out for dinner with my friend Linda and she told me about a physiotherapy treatment called intramuscular stimulation (or dry needling1.). This technique uses acupuncture needles, but instead of poking the needles into things that have never been scientifically demonstrated to exist, they insert them into tight bits of muscle. It seems like the idea is that your muscle is confused and thinks it should be shortened into this tight piece of agony and isn’t getting your message to just chill the fuck out already, so you poke it to sort of reboot the system.
Have you tried turning my muscle off and then turning it back on again?2
I did a (very) quick look at the research literature and, unlike acupuncture which has definitely been shown not be any better than a placebo, there really isn’t much research on IMS to know if it’s effective or not (at least as far as I can tell from my quick look). So I figured that it at least has some biological plausibility and I was desperate, because I knew I couldn’t run the race if something didn’t give. So I decided to try it as a Hail Mary pass.
It’s a very interesting sensation to have someone poke a needle in your muscle. It doesn’t hurt, but it feels… unusual. Also, when I told the physio that I wanted to be able to run a half marathon in 3 days, he decided to do electrical stimulation with the needling. So in addition to stabbing the muscles, he also electrocuted them. That felt in some cases like he was just flicking my leg and at other times it just made the muscles twitch repeatedly. Oh yeah, and a lot more muscles were messed up than just the glut med. The TFL ((a.k.a., Tensor Fascia Latae.)) was solid like a rock (which my massage therapist had also noted) and the quads and hamstrings were too. So he stabbed and electrocuted a whole bunch of parts of all of those muscles.
After the treatment, I could immediately stretch my hip more than before the treatment3 and it continued to loosen up a bit more each day. Could it have been a placebo effect? Entirely possible. Would it have loosened up in those days even if I hadn’t had the IMS. Maybe they would have, been there’s no way to know!
The physiotherapist’s advice was to try a little 1-2 km jog on the Saturday and see if it was loose enough to run. So we made our way to Kelowna on Saturday and then I went for a 2km jog, which I was able to do, but with a shooting pain with every step. It would get a teensy bit better, but if I stopped, say, to catch a Pokémon, when I restarted, it would hurt as much as the start of the run. What to do? What to do? I was of two minds: the one that said “Maybe it just needs a bit more jogging to loosen it up4. If it loosens up as much over tonight as it has the last few days, I’ll be fine. What if that happens and I don’t do the race – I’ll be walking around all fine and then I’ll want to kick myself! I can’t miss another race this year!” And then the other one that said, “What if you injure yourself more by running on this injury? That’s how you got this injury – running on the not fully healed sprained ankle! Do you really want to jeopardize your upcoming trip to Australia? The race fee is a sunk cost!” So Andrew made me an offer – I’d start the race and if after 5km, I’m still in pain, I could call him and he’d come and pick me up. So that’s what I did.
Long story short: my hip was considerably looser the next day and combined with the race day adrenaline, the first 15 km were slower than I’d usually run a race, but faster than I’d expected given the circumstances. My hip didn’t hurt, it was more just uncomfortable. As I passed the 15 km marker, I thought “I’m glad I did this, I’m going to finish much sooner than I thought, maybe I should text Andrew to let him know as he might not go to the finish line in time to see me” and no sooner did I think that than a pain shoot through my hip – pain that would continue to shoot on every step of the remaining 6 km. Every volunteer I passed gave me a look of genuine sympathy and a kind encouraging word that I could do this. As I crossed the finish line, I was glad I was wearing sunglasses because maybe that would make the tears of pain streaming down my face less noticeable.
Me at the finish line. You can see the pain on my face.
Some thoughts on the race itself:
The route itself was gorgeous – it officially replaces Victoria as the most beautiful race route I’ve run. It started in the Vibrant Vine vineyard, ran through some wine country and farm lands, down a giant hill, through some neighbourhoods, and finished up in a park by the lake, where a wine festival awaited. I’d really like to run this race again when I’m not injured so I can more fully appreciate it.
This is me at some point before the 15 km mark, where I was only in mild discomfort. Or as I call it now “the good ole days”.
While the race as beautiful, the logistics weren’t the best thought out. For example, the website mentioned nothing about a shuttle bus taking runners to the start line, so we expected Andrew to be able to drop me off there, but then out of the blue the road was closed and they said I had to go wait for a shuttle bus. Since people weren’t expecting this, they didn’t allot time for it and they had to delay the race start to allow for more people to arrive on the shuttles. Even with that, I heard that some people didn’t get to the start line until after the race started because they had to wait for the bus they didn’t know they’d have to take.
Another example of poor planning was that the place to pick up your gear that you’d checked and your wine glass that was required for the wine festival tastings was at the very end of the festival compound, which meant you had to walk all the way to far end to pick up your stuff and then all the way back to the entrance to the festival to go to wine tastings. This was particularly bad for me since I was in a lot of pain and walking was not something I was wanting to do at that particular time.
It was different to run a race at the back of the pack. I mean, I’m not a top finisher by any stretch, but I’m used to being in the top half to the top quarter. Being at a slower pace meant I did have more time to look around and enjoy the scenery – though I guess that part of that was also the I chose to do that to try to distract myself from the pain.
I also had more time and attention to think about things. Who were my fellow runners? For how many of them was this their first half? Their 50th? Who else was running hurt, pushing through despite the pain? I thought about the saying that you should “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” What battles were my fellow runners fighting, physically or psychologically, that you just can’t see from the outside? What motivated them to run today? And conversely, who was having the best race of their life? And who else was in this for the wine?
I also thought about my dad. I find I do that often when I’m running, because I know he was a runner before I was born. Also, my dad was very stubborn and I was being stubborn too, by running this race.
The race medal was awesome. When I first saw it, I didn’t clue into what it was and just thought “It’s huge!” But it turns about that it’s a coaster for your wine! It’s easily detachable from the ribbon so you can actually use it! Though I’m sure I’ll just hang it on the wall with my collection5
I do love a good race medal.
I’ve spent the past week since the race limping around – I saw the physio on Wednesday and he said I have acute bursitis and maybe acute tendinitis – and I saw the massage therapist today. I had to skip my hockey game today because I can barely walk, let alone skate. Here’s hoping the 16 hours of flying I have coming up on Wednesday doesn’t kill me!
The one silver lining – well, in addition to the awesome race medal and all the wine – was that I finally caught the damn Mankey that had been eluding me in Pokémon Go. Mankey isn’t that rare of a Pokémon – I just could never seem to catch one, until now ((Of course, once I caught one, I ended up catching a few. Now I just need to keep catching them so that I can evolve one into a Primeape!)!
As opposed to “wet needling”, i.e., injecting you with stuff [↩]
Props to Kalev for coming up with this line in a convo we were having yesterday [↩]
By which I mean to say – I could then stretch it more than 1 mm. [↩]
I had some bad shin splints earlier this year that took about 5 km of jogging before they disappeared, so this wouldn’t have been unprecedented. [↩]
Speaking of which, my medal rack is too full – I need a new one. But I don’t have time to deal with that right now, so that is after-Australia Beth’s problem. [↩]
My exercise comes primarily in the form of cardio (i.e., running, hockey, skiing) and not so much in the form of strength training. I know that strength training is good for your health. I know that strength training would help me be better at my other sports. I know that toned muscles look good. Yet I generally don’t seem to be motivated to get down to the exercise room in my building1 to pump some iron. Or should I say, I haven’t been motivated until now.
Remember how I’m going to Australia next month2? And remember how I said I plan to do some surfing in Australia? Well, my traveling companion, Andrew, has pointed out that surfing – or more specifically getting from lying on the surfboard to standing on the surfboard – requires some upper body strength, so maybe, just maybe, I should do something about that. Hence this:
I’ve got 6 weeks until I leave for Australia – here’s hoping I can get strong enough to pop myself up to a standing position on my surfboard!
Yeah, my building has an exercise room with all the weights that I could ever need, open 24 hours a day, for free. So it’s not like I can say that inconvenience is a barrier! [↩]