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Bruce Poon-Tip: The giver


Usually in the Women’s Post our profiles focus on amazing women, but every now and then we make an exception by profiling men who go above and beyond in supporting women.

Did you ever have someone in your life who impacted it more than they will ever know?

Over 20 years ago I met Bruce Poon-Tip. We met backstage at an entrepreneurial awards event. As we were waiting to receive our awards,  he told me all about his company GAP (now G-Adventures) He explained that it was a social enterprise set up to do social good by offering adventure travellers the opportunity to explore countries and have a positive impact on the countries doing things like picking up garbage or helping small businesses. He explained it as doing a social good while making high returns for his investors. His concept fascinated me and we kept in touch over the years while he built G-Adventures into the largest adventure travel company in the world.

When I ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2010, he asked me to help with a team-building event at base-camp (his head office ). The event was high energy to say the least.  And I saw why Bruce was such a good leader. He moved around the crowded room with ease, knowing every employee by name (there were hundreds). He had a way of connecting with each of them, inspiring them to move out of their comfort zone, to step forward and step onto the stage. I still remember the way he made them feel – as if standing up and trying your best was all that mattered. I think even the shyest would have stepped onto the stage to dance or sing if he asked them to, heck had he asked me I know I would have!

I hadn’t seen Bruce since 2010 but in 2013 I read his book, Looptail,How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business and was surprised and honoured to see that he had mentioned my help back in 2010 with his team-building event.  In his book he wrote about the struggles he faced launching his business and the people who helped him along the way. I purchased a few dozen copies of his book and have since given it out to dozens of people hoping that I might in a small way help him give back to the world.

The significant impact Bruce had on my life occurred when I reached out to see if I might run a business idea past him.  When we met I told him about my dream to build a social enterprise – Canvas and Cave. It will be an eco-arts centre and hotel in Barbados with the mission to further creative education in the country and build the creative foundations needed to develop entrepreneurs.  I explained how I wanted to prove the concept in Barbados and then duplicate it on other islands that were also struggling to sustain themselves.

Most people in your life will tell you what you can’t do, but Bruce Poon-Tip is the kind of person who will tell you that you can do it.  

He told me that he believed in me and would support my idea. I went home and wrote a note in my journal that began “Bruce shook my hand, he believes in me!”

I wrote about all the ways we might provide another revenue stream for him.  How the experiences we would create for visitors would appeal to his customers who might be looking for unique experiences that didn’t involve as much physical travel.

The confidence Bruce instilled in me ignited my creative side. We needed a way to attract two different demographics – the local community that we hoped to serve at the arts centre, and international travellers staying at the hotel.  I began reaching out to famous artists, writers, actors and musicians with the idea of getting one a week to attend Canvas and Cave to speak or teach. And I think the confidence I exuded caused many of them to agree. The ideas keep coming but it all started with Bruce telling me that he believed in me.

An entrepreneur who is just launching her business needs the trust and support of friends and family who believe in her. The entrepreneurs in Barbados aren’t able to get support from friends and family simply because the culture hasn’t learned to support creativity. With the help of people like Bruce Poon-Tip we will build the creative education the community needs to recognise and empower entrepreneurial ideas. Bruce is a true giver.

RECIPE: Chickpea tacos!

There’s a good chance your first thought when you hear of chickpea tacos is “Ew, who’d want to eat that?” But trust me on this. They are amazing.

What you need:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 package of taco spice
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • Dash of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • Vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil (how much is up to you)
  • Hard taco shells (blue corn if possible)
  • taco fixings (lettuce, onion, tomato, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole)

Take a can of chickpeas, rinse them, then put them in a bowl.  Evenly coat the chickpeas with the taco spice, garlic, lime juice, water and oil. Bake them for 20 minutes. Cook the taco shells for 10 minutes.

Take them out of the oven, add your fixings.

I actually found these because I said chickpea to someone in an e-mail. Gmail picked up the word (as it scans your e-mails for keywords and directs ads at you based on these) and promoted a recipe link to me. For the record, this recipe is the only reason I am okay with Gmail reading my mail.

 

Woman of the Week: Kim Smiley

A look back at our Woman of the Week from 2013 …

Beneath its glittering surface, the jewelry world can be a pretty ugly place. From blood diamonds to ivory poachers, the history of jewelry is filled with examples of the darkness to which a person can descend in the pursuit of precious stones.

That’s why it is such a relief to see people like Kim Smiley, the creator of Sapphô by Kim Smiley, using jewelry to create a positive impact on the world and giving these baubles a reason to shine.

“The essence of my vision,” Kim says, “is to use fashion as a platform for empowering women with meaningful work.” By providing marginalized women the opportunity to work for Sapphô and earn a living wage, Kim is changing lives.

“I have always loved fine art and fashion, but my heart has always drawn me to the charitable sector. Sapphô marries my passion for social justice with my love of aesthetics and style.”

Sapphô, Kim’s jewelry collection, is named after the ancient Greek poet. Known for her lyrical odes to the beauty of women, she is a fitting namesake for a jewelry company that is aiming to use its pieces to introduce people to great poetry.

Each one-of-a-kind and handmade piece of jewelry in the collection is inspired by a poet, and comes with a poem from said poet’s collection.

“We juxtapose Nobel Laureates like Pablo Neruda with brilliant emerging poets like American Jessica McFarland, whom I met while a graduate student [at Harvard] in Boston,” Kim says.

This unique marketing scheme is one of the many ways Kim sets her company apart from the pack. However, this was not a decision made just to creatively market her collection. Kim really believes in the power of poetry.

“We’re using fashion as a portal to open people’s eyes to the beauty and wonder of poetry,” Kim explains. “Many people are turned off by poetry because they think it’s inaccessible or elitist. We want to turn them on. Who ever thought jewelry could get people to read Pablo Neruda? We’re feeling pretty optimistic.”

Drawing attention to beautiful poetry by linking it to stunning jewelry, the impact of Sapphô would be enough reason to laud Kim as a supreme businesswoman (as well as a fashionista). But she doesn’t stop there. Kim also has solid work experience in the non-profit sector.

Currently, she serves as the vice president of community capacity building at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. This role allows her to once again use her social consciousness to make a difference, but focuses it more on the Jewish community in the GTA.

Prior to her work with the UJA Federation, she served as vice president of marketing and development for Habitat for Humanity and assistant director for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre & Museum.

Clearly, Kim has spent much of her life striving to make the world a prettier place, both literally and metaphorically. What’s the next step for her?

“I’m joking with friends that maybe I should start a modest poetry library where people can check out books and try on jewelry,” she says.

All joking aside, such an endeavour would be a natural fit for a woman who has so adeptly combined the worlds of charity, literacy and jewelry.


*** Kim Smiley is doing even greater things to find out what she is up to now go to: https://www.kimsmiley.com/

The joy of Zumba

My daughter, Erin, loves Zumba.  A 21 year old engineering student, Erin talks about her fondness for the fitness / dancing phenomenon with unfettered, uncharacteristic enthusiasm.  Erin always returns from Zumba flushed, sweaty, and invigorated.

Every time, it’s the same.  I ask, “How was Zumba?”

“Great,” she says and it warms my heart she enjoys such an enriching, positive experience.

Recently, Erin got her Zumba Instructor certificate, so she can lead classes.  She’s lead 3, so far, and looking forward to more.  Erin is not alone in her affection for Zumba: although it is only 20 years old, it’s estimated more than 14 million people, from 180 countries, participate in Zumba classes, moving and meditating their way to a happier, healthier self.

A high-energy exercise program, Zumba is dance and aerobic movements, put to lively Sambo, Salsa, Mambo, Merengue, and Hip Hop music.  Listening to well-liked music is, of course, an affirming experience, on its own.  Adding dance to music is like putting gravy on fries and Smarties in the ice-cream.  Erin said, of the music and its variety, “I like all the styles used in Zumba, but Reggaeton is my favourite.” 

(I had to look it up.)  Reggaeton is a energetic genre, which started in Puerto Rico in the 1990s.  It is influenced by homegrown sounds, Caribbean music, and hip hop.  With the world at my fingertips, I went to the Internet and listened.  I can hear why Erin likes it. 

Alberto Perez started Zumba classes, in the 1990s, in his hometown of Cali, Columbia.  In pursuit of the American dream, he moved to the US in 1999.  Erin said, “Alberto couldn’t speak English, well, when he came to America, so Zumba only uses visual cues.  Anyone can take a class and follow along, no matter what language they speak.” 

Inclusivity is affirming.  

I believe, wholeheartedly, in, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”  Mindless, mindful, muted locomotion is therapy, beyond words.  Invigorating beats can enhance the experience and benefits of exercise. 

The lack of lyrics in Zumba music allows participants to write their own.  Zumba dancers think and figure life out, without interruption or input, while moving and grooving, to groovy tunes.  Zumba is meditation in motion. 

Zumba provides a nice slice of variety; the spice of life.  Erin said, “It’s fun, because the company (Zumba) is constantly coming out with new music and dances, on the instructor’s website, so it’s rarely the same class twice, for regulars.”

Inactivity is death: we are supposed to move, vigorously, and breathe hard.  According to what I’ve heard, vigorous exercise can restore brain cells.  As well, when the body burns fat, most of it is converted to CO2 and exhaled, so robust exertion is necessary to maintain optimum health.  No guff: huff and puff until buff.  It is important to find an enjoyable fitness program, in order to stick with it.  Dancing is fun.  Vigorous dancing is fun and aerobic. 

Public fitness facilities can be cesspools of judgment, resplendent with withering, derisive looks.  Passively hostile climates put, some, people off exercise, which is tragic: exercise is divine.  Erin said, “Zumba is a supportive, positive environment; there’s no judgment.  We’re all in this together.” 

People are social animals, so prolonged, hearty, heartfelt dancing, with a group of like-minded Zumba enthusiasts, is an enjoyable path to a happier self.   Erin said, “I met a lady, who is in her 60s, and has lost 50 pounds doing Zumba.  Her name is Erin, too.  She’s obsessed, and has been doing it almost every day for 2 years.”  Earned, accurate, and inviting, Zumba’s motto is, “Ditch the workout, join the party!”

A universal, international celebration, there are Zumba classes for seniors, children, beginners, differently abled…  Almost, everybody can Zumba.  Music, movement, meditation, and comradely: Zumba is joy. 

LOVE & TECH: Is Tinder the death of romance in the technological age?

With the rise of instant dating smartphone apps like Tinder is true romance really just one tap and swipe away?

Today’s young professionals have a rabid appetite for social fulfillment. The enticing and fast-paced social applications for today’s cellphones allow people to satisfy their social urges more rapidly than ever, producing a cult-like atmosphere of social media worshipers. As this industry grows, social media developers are continually finding more creative ways to indulge people’s fixation with social efficiency.

The rise of the social-media empire has even conquered the world of dating. Today’s singles have quickly caught on to the benefits of using social media for their Romantic pursuits. These applications offer people a quick, nonchalant way to pursue someone within a relaxed virtual environment. Consequently, social media is enabling society to court others technologically – but to what extent is technology tarnishing the natural dating process?

We are currently experiencing a battle between efficiency and romance. Alas, we have the rise of Tinder, the savior to quench society’ thirst for unabashedly shallow, yet quick routes toward courtship. It epitomizes the death of organic dating. Through this program, one can browse through dozens of local singles, separating desirable candidates from the undesirables. If two individuals are mutually attracted to each other, they are able to converse.  Essentially, this program permits the mass accumulation of potential dates via iPhone; it is a pathetic excuse for romance!

We have essentially become a romantically deactivated society. We are experiencing an epidemic where at least 2 out of 3 people you know have likely been courted via text as opposed to meeting organically through friends or a tasteful piano bar. Tinder is mercilessly plunging our society at hyper-speed into a new era of dating where romantic contenders have been diminished to a cold selection process on a mobile screen. Dating has officially become stale, flat and virtually effortless as technology creates these fast-paced dating platforms.

Nevertheless, this unapologetically superficial, hyper-speed dating style is appropriate for the needs of today’s busy young professionals. Tinder’s efficiency makes it the ideal contemporary dating tool. It is a convenient, yet non-threatening way to pursue others. People are able to protect their egos through this low-risk courtship style.  Therefore, people can feel more emotionally safe because their pursuits appear unintentional and casual; it is easier to toss a message into a virtual vacuum than to create a face-to-face opening line. However, this care-free approach to courtship has soured the vulnerability and beauty of the traditional high-risk dating process. I am not implying that people re-enter a world of classic chivalry with codified ways of offering greetings or lofty proclamations of eternal commitment (society’s dating habits are far too removed from these hyper-romanticized ideals).  But this does not mean today’s 20 and 30 somethings have to live in a romantic wasteland! People should try abandoning their technologically protected realms—their phones screens— and genuinely interact with each other. When courtship is accompanied with anxiety and fear of rejection, the thrill of dating is preserved in its most raw form.  There is a heated sense of risk and sensuality associated with face-to-face courtship .Thus, people need to set aside their feelings of machoism and embrace real romance once again.

As the rise of these speedy dating alternatives continues, the integrity of intimate, face-to-face courtships are relentlessly dying. Social media applications such as Tinder are decaying the spirit of traditional organic courtship. But with the growing starvation for quicker, more compelling ways to socialize through media, technology will continue to address society’s growing demands. Yet, I find it difficult to imagine the next big dating application when society has already seemed to reach he peak of romantic lethargy.

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

The Second City’s Walking on Bombshells ignited the room

Walking on Bombshells premiered at Toronto Second City on March 19. The 82nd revue at the iconic comedy club took us on a comic journey against the backdrop of a TTC subway station. This brand-new show is hysterically funny, fast-paced physical comedy with a wonderfully talented cast. After two hours, which felt like five minutes, I was left wanting more.

Whether riding the TTC or bike, or driving, the cast took us through different scenarios where we “walk on bombshells” in the minefield that has become modern society. The subway setting acts like a petri dish where humanity meets, chats, questions, exchanges views that strive to be more or less politically correct.

Sprinkled with politics, themes encompass modern life, relationships, technology, condo buying, bilingualism, cultural and ethnical divides, body shaming, politically correctness, prejudice, racism. Even the recent legalization of recreational marijuana has a spot in this comedic reflection.

One of the sketches sees a character going to the doctor for a sore throat. The doctor, noticing the body mass of his patient, orders him to lose weight as if the two things were remotely related.

“Is it warm or is it wet?” Is the question that a character in another scene sings to herself when sitting riding the subway. This hit a personal note as I too have a similar story. I was sitting in the train and throughout the journey I wondered what kind of holy liquid had my seat been blessed with. Unfortunately for me it wasn’t water, soda, or anything you drink.

Who doesn’t enjoy the email virtual assistant that makes suggestions and cuts out time and typos? However, in another routine the virtual assistant takes it too far, reading the comedian’s mind and finishing the sentences for him. It’s rather unsettling to know that Google can second guess you so much.

The stress of condo buying is a huge thing in Toronto. The character in question in one of the first sketches shows excitement about his new condo shouting “You know, I bought a condo!” Sadly, in a later sketch, he comes to the realization that he can’t afford it. Housing affordability is a sore spot for many Torontonians.

One of the most exhilarating scenes has the whole troupe debate while crucial words are left unsaid in an effort to avoid confrontation and make the interaction gender and racially neutral. However, minds speak for themselves and can’t help thinking thoughts that make us cringe to say the least.

A love cycling story in Toronto could not be missed. Boy meets girl and together cycle their way to his place to the tune of “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship. The cycling part is mimed and by the cyclists’ body language and gestures, we guess that the crazy drivers around are not making their trip an easy one.

A sketch set in a sauna features the two female protagonists in a I-show-you-mine-you-show-me-yours moment. By the end of it, they come to the conclusion that their vaginas are nice looking, which they both find reassuring and uplifting.

Probably one of my favourite scenes brings up the recent legalization of recreational marijuana. The protagonist is in prison for possession of a substance that is now perfectly legal and that everyone else in the country is freely enjoying. Singing to a reggae lilt, he tells the racially charged story of a black male in prison for an offence that is not an offence anymore.

Cultural divides is the theme of another hilarious routine where a Muslim and a Jewish fathers express their deep unhappiness about their son and daughter dating each other. They claim cultural difference, while they sound and gesture the same. Even the moustache makes them look alike.

Walking on Bombshells will make you laugh. It certainly blew the roof off on its opening night. Just a word of caution. You will be judging the show as much as the cast will be judging you. Because there are all kinds of laughs and not all laughs are created equal.

Lilly


Lilly, a beautiful, heroic, kind, creative, thoughtful, perfect, little girl is in MacMaster’s Children’s hospital, fighting.  I met Lilly, when she started attending The Writers’ Club, three years ago.  In a room of bright, shining stars, Lilly’s twinkle stood out.  

A sick child hits the family, just as hard.  Lilly’s younger sister, Scarlett, who is, only 10, is as brave, talented, and wonderful as her sister.  Their mother, Shelley, has been recording the family’s harrowing journey on Facebook.  The apples fell close to the tree: like her daughters, Shelley is a terrific writer.  Her prose are beautiful and gut wrenching.

https://www.facebook.com/Lillybear19/

In one of Shelley’s most uplifting Facebook posts, she shares the emotional experience of watching Scarlett and Lilly shave their heads, together.  

Sadly, visiting Lilly, at Mac, I knew the route.  My beautiful, wonderful niece, Julia, had been there, too.  Julia, who is now 18, is beyond a cousin to my daughter; they’re best friends.  The two quirky, funny, kind girls are blessed to have each other and it warms our hearts to see them, together.  Julia makes everything better.  

Words can’t express our gratitude for The McMaster Children’s Hospital and the people behind it.  Julia, my sister’s only child, is our family’s miracle.  

Julia has histiocytosis, a horrible, rare affliction, the treatments for which are in the early stages of development.  The disease was aggressive and life threatening, when Julia was a baby and small child.  Julia’s situation was bleak, so, in desperation, she was given cancer treatments and prayers were answered.  I can’t imagine parents, who deny their children the divine miracles of scientific discovery.

Unfair infliction upon an innocent, notwithstanding, David, Lilly’s father, Shelley and I talked about how fortunate we are to be right here, right now.  The people at Mac are saving one child at a time and we don’t know what the impacts will be.  Lilly might save the world.

Piggybacking on her success, Julia’s miraculous recovery enables and encourages further research.  Humans are genius and insatiably curious.  Someday, easily accessible cures and vaccines will be developed and no one will have to endure childhood disease.  Miracles happen.

Sometimes, it takes a child to raise a village.  When Julia was at Mac, the outpouring of support and sympathy was remarkable.  Friends, family, and strangers went out their way to encourage Julia and my sister.  It changed, everything.  

Lilly has had a similar experience.  One of Shelley’s post speaks to the love pouring into Lilly’s room and the impact it has on their (fighting) spirits.  Please, pray, hope, think of, or throw your arms around Lilly.

Deane Code: Building a body of work

A communications professional, fitness coach, and bodybuilder. It’s rare to meet someone with such a multifaceted range of expertise, passions, and skill set. Deane Code stood out to me for her enthusiasm, energy, and determination to put in practice what she believes in and loves. As Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” As a spokesperson and educator, Deane is often seen on CHCH as a wellness expert.

As founder and President of CodeDComm, Deane helps clients with their media strategy and execution, corporate communications, and event management. However, following her personal fitness journey, she has added nutritional coach and fitness expert to her portfolio. In her spare time, she helps people with their wellness goals, “A simple 30-day plan gets them on track” Deane says, “and depending on their goals, we work together on a maintenance plan.” Success comes down to mindset and commitment.

Her journey started 15 years ago as a university student; a runner and lifeguard, Deane was always an active person. She graduated in humanities and film studies before taking the public relations postgraduate program at Humber College. Deane views fitness as a physical as well as mental challenge. Last year, she worked closely with a coach and naturally progressed towards joining the competitive bodybuilding scene where she feels blessed to have crossed paths with so many inspiring women. “I wish I had known sooner” she comments.

Deane competed in the bikini level, achieving second and third place in two categories at her first competition. This level emphasizes a “fit, athletic appearance.”

For Deane this journey led to empowerment and confidence with more room for self-development along the way. “You know what your body is capable of, you challenge yourself physically and mentally, have a strong focus, mindset, and commitment to a healthy lifestyle” she stated.

When she is not preparing for a competition, she enjoys wine and dessert when out for dinner. During this “off season” she maintains a well-balanced regime that includes lean protein, whole grains, and cuts out overly processed food, dining at home to prepare meals herself as much as she can. She integrates with supplements daily to enhance her nutritional intake as “whole foods alone don’t contain all the nutrients our bodies need.” With the new food guide released by Canada Health and its emphasis on protein from plant-based produce as opposed to animal food such as meat and milk, Deane is more than happy to replace dairy products with coconut or almond milk. Outside of competitions, “bodybuilders don’t always display the same pronounced level of muscle definition as this is unrealistic to sustain year-round” Deane admits.

During competition prep time, Deane trains with Nichelle Laus to help her stay accountable and share photos with to measure results. Being part of a community of like-minded people helps to “keep you inspired and positive” she says, which is “hugely beneficial to your growth and progress.” When competing, she works out six days a week, gets regular massages, sees a chiropractor “to fix” the problem areas, gets enough rest, and sleeps well: all the above give the body time to regenerate and recover, especially when you exercise to that degree.

Born in Sudbury, this northern girl grew up with a passion for films. A regular TIFF-goer, she’s a devoted trend-spotter when it comes to film and food. “Working in PR, it’s part of our job to keep up with pop culture and what’s making headlines around us.” The daughter of immigrants from Indonesia who came to Canada in the 70s, she speaks very highly of her parents who did well and instilled in her the same resolve to succeed.

“Anyone who is considering a new route to get out of their comfort zone, may feel nervous about it, but that’s okay. This awareness only makes you stronger. When you’re able to conquer and master something new, it increases your arsenal of empowerment.” And I would add, it creates a powerful precedent in one’s life.

CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO

June 15, 2010

Change is never easy to bring about because most people prefer the safety of what they know to the uncertainty of what comes with change.

I’m not sure if it was the short time I spent couch surfing and sleeping on park benches as a teen, or the experiences I have had since, but I have learned that the one and only thing I can truly count on is change.

I remember hitting what I thought was rock bottom when I was just 15 years old. I was demoralized, alone, and realizing that I wasn’t the centre of the universe, and the people who passed by my huddled form in a doorway would go on despite me. It was then that I understood that change would happen with or without me, but the decisions I made would impact it. I could influence change, but I had to own the responsibility of making myself into the person I wanted to be.

I started pumping gas at the age of 16, and at 18 started my own company leasing service stations across Ontario. At 24, I won recognition as the top dealer in Canada and by the time I was 30 I had built a multi-million dollar company that focused on turning around failing service stations and making them successful.

The key to turning around each business came from changing the predominant attitude of failure to an attitude of success.

I wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo; to change the way things had always been done. I was one of the first to bring a retail component, to break from the traditional products like oil and windshield washer fluid and bring in different items like chips, chocolate bars, and juice. I was highly criticized for it and taunted by my counterparts for being a silly woman who didn’t know what I was doing.

I persisted and eventually others realized that by adding this additional retail component to my locations I was offering convenience to the local area residents and attracting them back. Combine this with cleaning up each location and motivating the staff to be friendly, and it seemed a simple recipe for success.

But the fact is that bringing about change is never simple. It is one of the most challenging tasks one can do, but also one of the most rewarding. Service stations with stores are now common and it is in part because of my desire to change the way that industry went about doing business.

I launched Women’s Post Media, a business publication – in newspaper format – designed specifically for women. I believed that businesswomen wanted and needed something to promote and unite them. I went to industry experts to get their backing, but was told that my venture was a long-shot and not likely to succeed because women were more interested in gardening and fashion.

Again I challenged the status quo, and despite having no experience in the industry, I managed to build a successful company turning the newspaper into a magazine and building a large online community of businesswomen. Today it is a highly sought after community and I am glad I did not listen to the “industry experts” and those who told me I wouldn’t succeed.

And yet, despite my desire to constantly challenge the status quo, in my early twenties I took up the hobby of restoring old homes and have never given up. Maybe it is the stability of returning an old home to its original beauty that attracts me to this hobby. The reassurance of knowing that despite the changes, what lies underneath – the strong foundations – will always remain. Having solid foundations is the key to navigating through the inevitable changes that life entails.

Marathon running? Ever heard of Philippides?

The inspiration for the marathon was a man named Philippides.  According to Greek myth, Philippides ran from the battlefield at Marathon all the way to Athens to announce Greece’s victory over Persia. He ran roughly 26 miles as fast as his legs could carry him – an amazing athletic achievement.

No one seems to remember though what happened next to Philippides: he collapsed and died on the spot.

Training for a marathon is an increasingly popular activity these days. For a lot of folks the marathon represents the absolute pinnacle of fitness. “If I can run a marathon,” the thinking goes, “then I’ll really be in shape.” Chances are you’ll wind up in some shape, it just might not be good shape.

I think that the volume that training for a marathon requires is far too much for the majority of us and leads to unnecessary wear and tear on the joints. There’s a certain point at which the exercise that we do ceases to be beneficial and actually becomes harmful. Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize this point because exercise is promoted as being good for us; so logically more of it must be better. Not so. Exercising too much can raise levels of stress hormones causing our bodies to break down muscle and store fat. Just take a look at a marathoner. Most don’t look at all like pictures of health; they look like they’re wasting away to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that running can be great for fitness. But there’s a sweet spot where we can get most of the benefit while avoiding much of the harm. (It varies from individual to individual.) Perhaps running briskly for 20 minutes doesn’t gives us the same bragging rights that running a marathon does, but it might do us better at the end of the day.