Forgetting to think

I’ve got a weak right leg.  I’m left-handed so it’s normal that the right side is weaker but just how much weaker has been something of a revelation that comes from trying to hold a yoga warrior 3 pose.

Warrior 3
Warrior 3

I can’t do it at all.  It seems to take a lot of muscles to hold this one but the real trouble is the muscle on my upper back thigh, right under my butt.  Have I ever used this muscle?  It appears not.  It makes me wonder, how many other muscles have been ignored over the course of 5 decades?  What the hell have I been doing with myself?  And if there are muscles in and around this body that have remained largely untouched, what of my brain?  How many compartments and capabilities have laid largely dormant for most of my life?  To name a few:

  1. Math – anything much beyond calculating a tip is pretty much asleep
  2. Science – basic chemistry outside of water and oil not mixing has been wholly ignored
  3. Drawing – largely a skill based on objectively observing and studying lines and how these come together to form a whole
  4. Music – haven’t a clue about notes, rhythm and honestly know so little I can hardly write about what I don’t know
  5. Philosophy – that whole area of arguing around pure ideas – I took a philosophy course in first year university and it completely eluded me

That’s just the list off the top of my head. So hardly a renaissance woman.  I think of what Leonardo Da Vinci tackled, carrying his notebook and wandering the streets of Florence allowing ideas and curiosity to guide him and am appalled at my own limitations.  The sitting that I’ve become so good at over the years is the equivalent of the content consumption that has been made so much easier by the internet and access to so many bite size bits of reading and watching.  Like that sad little muscle sitting at the back of my leg, I’ve got to light a fire into those flabby bits of brain.  But the real problem is that I forget to think – I swipe the ignorance the screen inside my head and turn to something I can speculate on with ease, or flip to Pinterest.

Forgetting how to think has got to be truly the worst form of lethargy, and so easy to succumb to as you get older.  I’m not great at new year resolutions but I do think it might be time to push myself into another new routine, one that challenges my brain as much as my body.

If you’re interested in how I’m pushing my body have a look at the videos from Boho Beautiful.  You will need to come to terms with her general gorgeousness, which is difficult, trust me.  But once you do, I think you’ll find these are fantastically balanced workouts which will help you discover muscles you never new you had.

To get there, big, audacious goals are just plain trouble.  I’m a proponent of the Kaizen method – 1% daily improvements – setting micro goals achieves more than those big hairy goals ever will.  A short read here on the Kaizen method, or listen to this Art of Manliness podcast that summarizes the approach.



Waiting for Wonder Woman

wonder woman
Glorious – Wonder Woman

After seeing the trailer for the new Wonder Woman movie I’m pretty darned pumped and extremely disappointed that it’s not being released until June 2017.   Why should I care?  Because we all need heroes and the great woman needs an action heroine just as much as your average great man.  I cut my reading teeth on my brother’s extensive collection of superhero comic books and I still hold out dreams of creating my own crime-fighting superheroine.  The genre is alive and well – I’ve just brought home a Batwoman graphic novel with a feature role for Wonder Woman.  They are decidedly muscular clearly the gym culture has influenced the illustrator.  The glimpse I had from the new Wonder Woman trailer was an entirely different species than the Lynda Carter tv version of the ‘70s whose bustier  always looked like it was about to fall down which I believe was most of the appeal of the show.  In this new version she looks like she could take just about anyone down and more to the point, really wants to.

A thigh worth owning – Batwoman

Kathy Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, was first introduced in the ‘50s to counter any notion that with the introduction of Robin to the Batman storyline that the twosome might be mistaken for being gay.  She had a strong start and then disappeared until 2006, coming back as lesbian this time around.  A nice way to close the homophobic chapter.

Normally, I would be turned-off by the over-sexualization of the female body, which just about drives me crazy in every other circumstance, but in this realm the extreme physical perfection of the human species is entirely right.  The male counterparts couldn’t be more perfect – they all look like Olympic swimmers and it doesn’t get better than that.  A super-buff, perfectly proportioned, long-haired beauty who can kickass is just what we readers want to see.

When Angelina Jolie launched Lara Croft into the movie world I still remember women talking about her buff look and how that was the new ideal.  At the time, and if I remember correctly, actresses seemed to be in a battle to the bottom of the weight scale and so Lara Croft was a welcome relief.  Kick boxing took off just after that movie and isn’t that a nice counterpoint to pole dancing.  I believe Lara is returning to the silver screen soon – we will hope for a worthy version.

Best outfit of all – Lara Croft

A superheroine post would not be complete without a modern incarnation – Helen Parr, stay-at-home superheroine/mom – Elastigirl.  With Holly Hunter’s confident voice bringing Helen to life she’s the most relatable with her wide hips and practical bob.  Her family-first motto and fearlessness in the face of danger, coaching her kids to be just as fearless is lesson in good parenting.  We have to wait until 2019 for the next instillation.

Give ’em hell, Helen – I mean Elastigirl

Are there any other superheroines out there that I don’t know about?  Please let me know.  There aren’t nearly enough and I can only hope there are some clever young graphic artists out there who are madly crafting the next generation of superwomen.

Why you should be standing right now


For those of us not working at tech startup the standing desk may yet be a novelty, but the movement is on the rise.  In Deskbound, Standing up in a sitting world, Dr. Kelly Starrett makes a compelling argument in support of standing for the larger part of your day and an absolute minimum of two hours per day.  Exercise – meaning going to the gym –  is not sufficient to counteract the insidious health issues triggered by hours of sitting.  He references Dr. James Levine on the difference in calorie burning by someone who sits at a desk for eight hours a day – 300 calories – compared to someone who is not deskbound (like a waiter) who clocks around 1300 calories per day.  ‘Non-exercise activity’ is what you do when you’re not at the gym and includes things like standing, walking, cooking, gardening, and even fidgeting.  Ever know someone with restless leg syndrome? Are they uncommonly thin?  NEA or NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is the reason.

I can’t imagine the difference it would make in the school system if kids with all their natural energy, might stand for a good part of the day.  Consider the impact on childhood obesity if we assigned every student a standing desk.

I recently converted, or should I say, added a standing desk to my office routine.  In my case, I’ve opted for a raised table with stacks of copy paper to make the necessary ergonomic adjustments:  Arms at 90 degrees, monitor centred at eye level, mouse stacked up on my right.  My routine is to stand until I get into the office, meaning a standing breakfast, cycle/walk to the subway, standing in the subway (easily done since there are rarely seats available), once in I place my laptop in the docking station and sit for about 1.5 hours and then switch to my standing desk. Because I can’t be bothered to unplug and move my docking station when I shift to standing, I work on wifi for 2.5 hours and until my battery runs out and then switch back to sitting.  And repeat.  The better option is to go for the Oristand, a nifty $25 standing desk that is collapsible, lightweight, strong and ergonomic for most.  The Oristand is the invention of Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite fame along with two clever designers who took on the challenge of designing an affordable, storage-friendly folding desk.  I will be adding one to my home office in place of the current step stool which is absolutely better than nothing.

Importantly, you need to keep moving at your standing desk.  Raising a foot on a book or step stool, shifting weight and even lifting one foot after the other.  I am amazed at the muscles required just to lift one foot for a minute.  It activates your brain and keeps the blood flowing.  It’s amazing the difference a small change like a standing desk can make to your fitness, focus and energy.  As women doing the double if not triple shift on any given day, this easy hack helps integrate mobility into our regular scheduleOristand without a second thought.

If you don’t want to shell out the US$25 then stack some books, grab a step stool and get standing.



Deskbound, Standing up in a sitting world, Dr. Kelly Starrett

Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, Dr. James Levine

7 Exercises to undo the damage of sitting:  Art of Manliness

Nails – a beautiful obsession


I love beautifully manicured nails.  I marvel at the idiosyncratic expression of personality – green with a blue ring finger; pale pink and perfectly oval; short with the delicate white tips and pink nailbed of the classic French manicure.  So much thought, planning and creativity woven into 10 tiny chards.  It is a marvel and one that seems to be almost ubiquitous.  Doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing, dressed up, dressed down, the nails are the thing.  But why?

Since the early 2000s nail salons have proliferated and I can’t find a good reason why though I’ve come up with a theory:  First, it’s a treat – regardless of where we are on the corporate ladder we’re working long days, and then going home to the second shift.  It’s exhausting so going to a nail salon is good for a little ‘me time’ followed by the pleasure of those perfectly groomed nails.  Secondly, could it be that we’re looking at our hands like never before?  Hard to avoid when we’re all madly typing all day and so there they are right in front of us.  Finally, nails are the great equalizer for women across the economic spectrum.  I may not be able to afford that handbag but I can certainly have the same finger tips as my more affluent sisters. It’s a bit like living at home with your parents while owning a BMW.  The world sees your BMW, they don’t see you still sleeping in your childhood bedroom.

Clearly, we have diverted funds to support this nail obsession, not to mention time.  About an hour in total, depending upon your travel distance and, let’s face it, most neighbourhoods now have a couple of nail salons in close proximity.  So, let’s say an hour a week and then about $30 a pop – I think that’s reasonable for hands and then double it for a pedicure.  A manicure lasts nicely for about a week (with plastic gloves or don’t do any housework which is fine with me) and you can push it to two if you touch up on your own.  To be conservative, $780 every year (twice monthly) and an hour each time, and fair to say a rather fleeting investment.  It gives me pause to consider what this money and time might be invested in that would have lasting effects.  What if with that $780 you bought a simple and classic navy suit.  Something loosely cut (even from the men’s department if you dare like me) that you have altered a bit (a few darts at the back to nip in the waist, raise the sleeves a tad) and can you imagine how powerful and commanding you would look in the subway, the office?  It’s the simple deception men have going for them – and don’t we know it – the suit does make the man, of course, it’s no promise that the man is up to the suit but the impression has been made.  And as we all know in marketing, perception is almost everything. I would go so far as to say it’s one of the reasons we are inevitably put in the position of having to be twice as competent to counteract it.  If not a suit, then how about a pair of leather oxfords (black or brown) to wear with a plain pair of trousers, or an a-line skirt (I love that look), so that you’re comfortable and effortlessly grounded, doing no damage to your plantar fascia – now that’s an investment in your present and future.

And then let’s tackle the time issue.  With most of us doing the second shift whether we have children or not, exercise time is often last on the list, considered something of a luxury.  What if you split that bi-weekly hour at the nail salon into two focused walks – by that I mean, you go for a walk by yourself – or add that half an hour to another and go for a solid 5 km walk every week.  The health benefits are crazy since walking is the new running (I think there’s lots of evidence on that and more to say in another post on the extraordinary benefits of walking).

The question is – how ingrained is the nail obsession and are we willing to break in favour of something more active and potentially more rewarding?

10 things to start my day

  1. Fill a water glass and head to the basement for 30 minutes of morning exercise – Right now that’s either a Mary Helen Bowers workout or a stretch routine
  2. To the kitchen – Make an omelette – mushrooms and bacon at a bare minimum, happy to add leftover potatoes, grilled vegetables and throw in some herbs. I focus on protein and fat in the morning.
  3. A quick scan of my calendar to frame up the day and get my head into the day’s priorities.
  4. To the bedroom – make the bed. The proverbial first win of the day.
  5. I don’t shower everyday but if it is a shower day then quick in and out of a cool (not icy) shower. Touch of coconut oil/shea butter mash-up on my face and neck, a few quick strokes of brow pencil and eye liner, brush teeth and then the bathroom is done.
  6. To the closet – a menswear wardrobe makes dressing quick as a … well, quick as a man. Socks and underwear on, grab a shirt and suit off the rack (pant legs double wrapped over the hanging bar). Think about the shoe du jour (always a lace-up, always low-heeled and leather) and then unfurl the matching belt (no knickknacks, studs, fake gemstones), on goes the watch, in goes a pair of studs, and I’m heading to the door.
  7. Fill jacket pockets with subway pass, glasses, iPod.
  8. Bike to subway.
  9. Scan podcasts (often the best part of my day) with current favourites being Tim Ferris of 4 hour work week fame or Art of Manliness. Start anywhere on both and then prepare to be entertained and improved.
  10. Arrive at destination and head outside for the last leg of the journey and enjoy the final hit of fresh air before the day begins in earnest.