January 2014


Running hills training 101

By Christine Blanchette

I used to avoid hills like the plague. My legs turned to rubber while gasping like a fish out of water to the summit of what could only be described as Mount Everest II. It was far from an enjoyable experience but as I got used to running hills I began to appreciate what they were doing for my body. I developed stronger legs and became a stronger runner. Now, I run for the hills and enjoy it. Everest II, it turned out, was just about 600 meters long and not really that steep.

In a recent email interview with Dr. Jack Scaff, the Honolulu resident known as “The Father of Running” in Hawaii, he shared his expertise on hill training. In his book, Your First Marathon, the Last Chapter in Long Distance Running, hill training is covered extensively.

“Hill running is good strength training; however, it tends to be anaerobic,” Dr. Scaff said, “When one approaches a hill, run perpendicular to the horizon, shorten their stride and come off the backside of the hill or downhill using the same type of stride ―short steps going up the hill, the same short steps coming down, longer strides on the flat and no pounding at any time. While going up hill also remain upright and lean as little as possible into a hill. Swing your arms parallel to your body and not cross.”

He further comments, “Running downhill is a paradox since all the muscle can do is contract. As you run downhill, the muscle must relax at the same time while it is trying to contract. And of course this decreases recruitment as well as subjects the muscle to a greater potential for injury. There is another style of downhill running known as out-of-control or windmill running (which is what the arms look like) in which the individual runs downhill with terribly long strides, simply following through with longer and longer strides while going faster and faster. It’s effective but difficult to stop, dangerous and road rash is a certainty.”

More Tips:

1. How to run a hill: head up, pump your arms, lean slightly forward and run about 80% effort and jog or walk on the way down. Repeat six to 10 times.

2. Pick a hill suitable for your training. For average runners choose a hill that is about 90 seconds long.

“Jump… and the net will appear”

By Ashley Comeau

My English teacher from college ends all of his email correspondences with “Leap… and the net appears”. It is a proverb type saying from the Sufi doctrine, and though I may not know much of their practices, these words have inspired many of my decisions.

Upon further research of the quote many people have claimed it to be their own, including American John Burroughs and the Zen Leadership. (What is the Zen Leadership? I thought Zen was about rearranging furniture.)  In any case, these words are inspirational and wise and it is no wonder that many people want to be credited with saying them.

Humour me for a second while I deconstruct this adage in a way that illuminates my self worth, okay? After the “leap” there is an ellipsis. What does the “…” mean? The dot dot dot, as it were, is the good stuff.  The life stuff. The make-your-heart-swoon, cry-your-eyes-out, lose-a-limb, on-top-of-the-world, mistaken-for-your-twin-sister-in-Tallahassee, bottom-of-the-barrel, world-is-against-you, feel-like-a- million-bucks stuff. It is the goings on that defines our characters.

You can also look at the expression and decipher that if you take a risk and leap, you will be caught safely after your decision, which is so lovely and positive. Disclaimer: Please do not leap literally, especially if it is out of a moving car, high window or if you have weak ankles like myself, I will not be held liable for the literal leapings of women Nationwide.  However, leaping metaphorically is just divine.

When one “leaps” they take the essential risk that propels them into a flurry of the unknown, thus garnering them life experience, lessons learned and, in the end, confidence.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go strengthen my ankles. I’ve got some leaping in Tallahassee to do.

Diane Baker Mason: Riding to wellness

Every woman has her preferred holiday. Some like to lounge at a resort, sipping a mojita and watching the poolboy skim leaves from the water. Others like a trip to a glittering city – Manhattan, or Paris – where they buy uncomfortable shoes and teeter around an opera-house lobby. Others like a spiritual retreat, featuring vegan breakfasts, hot yoga, and mud facials. Me, I like something a little different.

How different? I like to fly to Calgary, then drive three hours (alone) into the middle of nowhere, where I meet up with a half-dozen other middle-aged women of similar tastes. There, we toss our gear into the communal rustic cabins, pull on our boots, and head like a gaggle of overgrown teenyboppers over to the corral – and the horses. Because that’s what we’re here for: riding. Not just ordinary riding, but riding in the Rockies.

Okay, so we’re not exactly girls. We’re in our 50s and 60s, experienced riders of various shapes and sizes. We bond like Crazy Glue: horse-mad, post-menopausal women, overjoyed to be playing horsie. There is a great deal of mutual mockery over our graceless attempts to mount up, and over our horses’ looks and personalities, and their inevitable groaning, farting, and mooching of trail mix. When we run out of jokes to make about each other and the horses, we turn our attention to our outfitter and his teenage son, the long-suffering Dave and Cody. We remind Cody periodically that he should never repeat any of the bad words we’re using, or the songs, or the jokes. Particularly not the jokes.

We ride for five, six, even seven hours, single file up the mountainsides, across cold deep rivers, through meadows of wild grass and forests of scorched pine. We see eagles and deer; we catch trout and eat them for dinner, along with steaks and corn-on-the-cob cooked by Jackie and Cheyenne, the wrangler’s wife and daughter. We all fall in love with our horses. Mine is a big bruiser called Lucky Buck, who has a butt like a truck and a head like a dinosaur’s. By the end of four days, I’ve got a teenage-girl horse-crush on the big goof.

There are not a lot of creature comforts, or even much personal hygiene, on a ranch trip in the Rockies. The cabins have bunkbeds, and no lights or heat. The outhouse isn’t that bad, as outhouses go, and there’s a pyjama-party feeling to chatting in the darkness of the cabin. When the dawn comes up, there’s frost on the ground, and snow on the mountain peaks. I walk through the pines down to the river – a cold storm of water, roaring past a cliff three storeys high. I pick up a river stone, one of millions. Its surface feels as smooth as human skin.

Yes, I like resorts and cities and operas. They’re fun distractions. But for healing? For restoration? For that, I need the mountains, the women, the air and the wind. I need the quiet of the forest as the horses pick their way along the track. I need to hear my heart beating in the dark. Then I know I am alive. Then I know: I’m well.

Valentine’s Day pressure: Why go for roses when a night on the couch is all you need?

We were at a party recently with a bunch of friends and someone asked Boyfriend and I what our Valentine’s Day plans were; which is funny because it’s not even close and why are you trying to stress me out? Except that it’s closer than I thought and to be honest we do have plans.

Here’s our plan, we’re going to watch House of Cards on Netflix while cuddling the dog, we’re going to order Chinese food, I’m going to drink wine and he’s going to have a Coca-Cola. It all sounds so terribly lame, except that to me it sounds perfect. After telling our friend what the plan was he joked that Boyfriend’s smile was a ‘I’m winning’ smile and I guess he probably is winning but so am I.

Tomorrow night we’re going to go out to a big dinner and celebrate some huge news for Boyfriend in his career, we’ll have a lovely dinner and then we’ll go see a movie. We always make a big deal out of personal wins, anniversaries or real-life-genuine holidays but making a big deal out of Valentine’s Day means making a reservation weeks in advance to pay for a prixe fixe meal that I’ll probably hate while being surrounded by the kind of couples who insist on sitting on the same side of the table. I hate those couples. Do you know how hard it is to talk to someone while they’re sitting on the same side of the table as you? You’re going to get a crick in your neck and at least one of you will spill something on the other; you are the height of forced romance and awkwardness wrapped together in a giant pink and red bow.

I love Boyfriend but I don’t know why I have to show him on one day more than any other that my feelings are real. The way we celebrate Valentine’s Day goes back to the agreement we made when we first started dating, neither of us ever do something just because the the other wants to. Boyfriend doesn’t watch hockey games with me and I don’t play D&D with him; we have things that we love to do together but we never force the other to do something as a trade off for some future activity. So on Valentine’s Day what do we both want to do? Sit at home and enjoy each other’s company. To be honest I wouldn’t mind going to dinner, but I have a loud voice and I don’t think the same-side-of-the-table-couples would like my witty diatribe with their duck confit.

So this year my Valentine’s Day will be all about diving into the sick and twisted minds of Francis and Claire Underwood while downing glasses of red and making out with Boyfriend. It’s perfect and I recommend you try it. Find the thing that you love doing together and do it; don’t just go out because you have to and don’t force your man into a monkey suit because Cosmo told you that Valentine’s Day is the most important and romantical holiday of them all.

Online money management

By: Chellie Mejia, B.Sc.

A true lovechild of the 21st century, one of the things that really changed my financial life, and made me feel like I was in control of my financial future, was the onset of managing my money safely and securely online.

I’ll be completely honest with you. If you mail me something, I’ll lose it. I will. Guaranteed. Within days sometimes, but usually, within hours. Paper statements rarely get opened and build up into scary, intimidating little piles on top of my microwave before I just close my eyes and shred them. I own a cheque book, but I can’t find it, let alone a stamp to mail —well anything, really. I use my envelopes to collect my receipts, but then I lose those envelopes, and it’s always a sad day when that happens.

I should probably learn to curb all of these bad habits, but truth be told, I’ve learnt that I really don’t have to. I go paperless with all my accounts so that bills and statements are emailed directly to me and accessible from pretty much anywhere. I can find them when I need them, use the little arrows in the top menu to sort them how I want them, and since I check my email every 10-15 seconds on my smartphone (and that’s only a slight exaggeration), I haven’t run into a situation yet where I’ve missed a bill payment due date. Plus, I get the added incentive of being “environmentally friendly and green”. Bonus!

I pay my bills online by setting up pre-authorized payments with any service provider that will allow me to do so. Then, I put a recurring reminder into my calendar just to make sure I download and reconcile all my bills monthly, making sure everything is accurate and good to go. My banking institutions allow me to download every transaction into Microsoft Money, which makes for a pretty easy and quick analysis of my current financial position and makes planning or catching inadequacies a lot easier as well.

Online money management has even made a difference in managing my investment strategies. I can see at a glance, and from different perspectives, how my investment accounts are doing and decide pretty quickly whether it’s time to relocate assets if they’re not earning what I thought they would.

So, while I may eventually have to backtrack my 21st century inadequacies for things like handwritten thank you notes and human interaction (and I am trying, I promise!), for now, managing my personal finances has never been easier, more cost effective, or more green (which is always a great bonus).

Returning to work after your maternity leave

By Allan M. Kaufman

Most employers are aware that the right of a woman employee to return to her job at the end of her maternity leave is protected by law. The government has strong societal reasons for wanting to ensure that working women are encouraged to have children, without fear of losing their jobs.

I have encountered many situations in which the employer advises the woman – just prior to her anticipated return from maternity leave – that she will not have a job to return to. I have also encountered situations in which the same employer, under pressure from the woman’s lawyer, has reconsidered its decision and reluctantly agreed to return the woman to her previous job or to a comparable job. However, I have recently encountered a situation in Ontario in which the employer who has taken the woman back to her job under legal pressure from her lawyer has plotted to “get even”.

In other words, the employer calculated that it might lose the legal fight that would ensue if it carried through with its announcement to dismiss the woman from her job at the conclusion of her maternity leave. While it appeared on the surface that the employer had backed down by allowing the woman to return to work, the employer had done so with the calculated but concealed intent to terminate her employment only a few weeks after her return.

What advantage would the employer gain from such a course of conduct? The employer would be able to assert that it had complied with its legal obligation to reinstate the woman after maternity leave. Therefore, the employer would assert that it would only be liable for one thing when it dismissed her a few weeks later, namely to pay her severance pay for terminating her employment. Had the employer carried out its first intention to dismiss her at the end of her maternity leave, thereby denying her the right to return to work at all, the employer might be legal liable for two things: (1) monetary damages for violating the woman’s legal right to return to work following maternity leave; plus (2) severance pay for terminating her employment.

If your employer dismisses you only a few weeks after your return from maternity leave, first ascertain whether the employer had valid reasons to justify the dismissal. If the reason offered is that the employer “no longer has sufficient work” for you to perform, check whether the lack of work actually occurred from the date you were  re-hired after your maternity leave to the date of your dismissal. If the reason for the dismissal is that you “failed to meet performance targets,” consider whether you were  given sufficient time after your return to work to comply with those targets, or whether the targets were set so high upon your return that you were bound to fail.

There will not usually be direct proof that the employer plannedto dismiss the woman from the first day that it reinstated her after maternity leave. You will not usually uncover an e-mail from the employer to another senior person that set out the plot. Rather, inferences will have to be drawn from the fact that the employer was initially very reluctant to bring the employee back after maternity leave, and from the lack of valid reasons given by the employer when it ultimately dismissed her a few weeks following her return to work. If those inferences are strong enough to suggest that the woman’s dismissal may have been pre-planned, the law in most Canadian provinces would still allow that woman to file a legal claim against her employer alleging:

(a) failure to properly reinstate her after her maternity leave; and (b) retaliation against her for having brought legal pressure upon the employer to take her back to work after maternity leave.

While I do not pretend that this will be an easy case for a woman to win, she does in fact have a legal remedy.

Do not be reluctant about asserting your legal rights in such a situation. Women have fought for many decades to obtain the legal right to return to their jobs at the end of maternity leave. You should not allow your employer to deprive you of that right.

New video shows Rob Ford with Sandro Lisi

Rob Ford’s night out to Steak Queen didn’t end (or begin) with his incoherent rambling in a put-on Jamaican accent.

Another patron of the restaurant captured footage of the crack smoking mayor sitting casually at a table with his old friend Sandro Lisi, the man at the centre of the investiagtion of drug dealing, extortion, and criminal activity with roots in the mayor’s office.

This raises some important questions:

What are these two talking about?

Considering the intricate history that the two have it is possible they may have been discussing Lisi’s ongoing court case for which he is currently out on bail. Ethically should the mayor who has vowed to clean up his act be in late night meetings with a man believed to be a criminal?

Were drugs being consumed?

If the video showing Ford speaking unintelligibly and cursing at the counter of Rexdale eatery Steak Queen was shot after this meeting took place, is it possible that Ford and Lisi were taking part in a drug deal? It would make Ford quite the stupid man to buy drugs from the man who is currently facing charges associated with his drug dealing in quite the public light, but then again this is a man who has made many poor decisions.

Where are the police in all of this?

The police have admitted that they refrained from involving themselves with the ongoing saga of Ford and Lisi over the course of last summer, but with all the warrants associated with Project Traveler out in the open how can they possibly justify having no police surveillance on these two men as they meet in public once more?


Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

New Rob Ford video shows him intoxicated, rambling, cursing

Rob Ford videos are a little like road kill — every time another one comes out I think it can’t be worse than the last, so I hit that youtube button and watch. But it’s now at the point where I just feel sad.

Sad that this man I debated in the 2010 Toronto mayoral race is wrestling addiction issues on a stage his family relentlessly pushes him to.

Sad that this man who would seem to have everything, needs to use alcohol and/or drugs to face the world he’s been handed.

Sad about what might happen to Rob should his family continue to push him onto this very public stage while he wrestles with addiction issues.

It is time for his family to realize the role they play in this tragedy, their denial of his addiction issues only serves to enable Rob. It is time for them to face the fact that addicts lie in order to carry on their behaviour, time to admit the weight issue is just a small aspect of Rob Ford’s overall addiction issue.

It is time for us all to care about the man, not the Mayor.

Seize the desk: For some of us our homemaking skills are best used on office supplies

by Sue Sutherland Wood

Although I enjoy the magazine and many of her ideas, I have to say that I do not consider myself to be a Martha Stewart acolyte – I’ve never seen a pyramid of size 11 Nikes in her foyer for example and our cat litter will never be housed in a decorative Grecian urn; however, I must confess that I frequently turn to the comfort of flipping pages that depict storage organization: baskets of tightly rolled white towels, cobalt-blue bottles full of vinegars, those round orbs fashioned from twigs often on a coffee table (why, I wonder — what are they for?), and I’d especially like a willow-pattern umbrella stand for my shooting sticks whilst I toe off my riding boots in the front hall. (You know, right in the front of the empty pizza boxes spilling out of the recycle …)

But I digress. I pride myself on being a realist so rather than try and convince teenage boys to roll towels, I seize the only power available to me – my office.

Office supply stores have long been exciting to me – I know it’s a bit sad, but there’s a hopefulness that comes with purchasing the perfect gel-tip pen or the ideal new, notebook. (Moleskine or Hilroy? Vintage or ironic? Blank? Lined?) On my last pilgrimage I bought a stapler (purple, since you ask) that stands upright and a box of red staples to feed it. I also organized the surface of my desk with the eye of a minimalist. There are now stamps, envelopes, some cut-price Easter eggs (who knows how long I’ll be in here?), and I gave an old retro-typewriter a place of honour to inspire me as I work. Elastics live in an old tea caddy, paper clips in a “curiously strong” peppermint tin. The cats have a soft round nest under the window perfect for assuming the shape of a cat donut.  I have also positioned my shredder so I can lean over and whoosh away any junk mail as it arrives. (A recent purging session was halted when I realized that in my zeal to shred some old dog license documentation, I had failed to remove the tags, still attached …)

There’s probably no hydrangea – dried or otherwise – billowing over an antique pitcher in my future. But, at least for now I can feel calm and organized at my desk and to me, this is a good thing.

WATCH: This music video shows just how much EVERYTHING is photoshopped

We all know that, unfortunately, in this day and age almost everything we see in the media has been retouched in some way shape or form. But how much is too much?

Take a look at this new music video by French singer Boggie that shows us how much retouching goes into something as short as a music video.

What do you think, does all this photoshopping take away from our self-esteem?