You’ll miss us when we’re gone

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I’m going to leave the health and hockey beat for a few minutes and talk about journalism and more specifically, local news. Local news coverage is dying in Canada and you should care.

Canadians read, watch and listen to more news in all its formats than ever before and they can find it more easily than ever. The problem is, few people are willing to pay for it via online subscriptions and the advertiser-supported models generally don’t come close to creating a sustainable revenue stream to support journalism.

So media companies – and I’m not going to apply “old media” and “new media” labels because, honestly, Yahoo! has been around for two decades so, when do they and MSN and Google become traditional vs. new? – cut costs by laying off people, including reporters.

And that means there are fewer different news sources covering city hall, or provincial court, or paying attention to your school board. And that’s when bad things start to happen.

My friends are well familiar with me saying things as I head to work, like, “just another day protecting our democracy.” Yes, I said stuff like that tongue in cheek. And yes, it’s actually true.

Strong local news coverage is the bedrock of democracy and journalism. Reporters in small towns create accountability in the system by reporting on town council and school boards and courts and chambers of commerce.

It’s like that old saying that integrity is what you do when you think no one is watching. It’s a good rule of thumb for assessing someone’s real character – and how much we need local reporting.

If you are comfortable with leaders who are lying and cheating and behaving badly because they think no one is watching, you will love where local reporting is headed right now. When they find out their bad behaviour was actually known? Sputtering indignation. Continue reading

Caution: men thinking

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Only 10 more weeks to go in the New Year challenge at ATC.

Only.

Week three of the eat-better, get fitter challenge is upon us. Assuming people stick with it, April 1 is an ocean away.

I’m not certain how success will be defined at the end of this and whether everyone who started out two weeks ago will still be involved at the end. Actually, I think I know the answer to the second part of that statement – not everyone is going to hit the tape at the finish line. Some are falling off already – or in fairness, perhaps they were never really volunteers to the cause.

But the group enthusiasm is there for now. The 6a class continues to bring in about 20 people on weekday mornings in spite of the cold and dark. And people are in a decent mood, considering the time of day. The tempo of the workouts has changed with much more focus on strength. We’re lifting heavier weights to build muscle, taking advantage of the new diet regime of less meat, more plants.

We still do cardio – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday still feature fairly intense spin sessions. But the emphasis is on strength. Some respond better than others but I feel it after a “lift” day. Today was front squats (barbell rest on front shoulders and then full squat with progressively more weight.) Wednesday is dead lift. Friday is bench.

I excel at precisely zero of these but that doesn’t stop me from showing up and doing what I can. Richard told me I’d be “shredded” by April 1 so, that’s the deal. Continue reading

…keeping the winter at bay

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On a winter’s Sunday I go
To clear away the snow and green the ground below
April, all an ocean away, is this the better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay

— January Hymn, The Decemberists

We really don’t have much to complain about this winter around the weather, but I’m not going to let that stop me.

Yesterday, for the third straight Monday since the end of the holiday break, the weather has been, well, winter-like. In each of these weeks, Monday has been the coldest, most miserable day of the week and frankly if you have to stand on a train platform to start your week, that’s cruel.

Well, at least until today. Which was colder and more miserable. Yay.

There’s a small blessing to be had that we actually use our garage for parking the cars, unlike most of the people on our street. The advantages are that I don’t actually have to go outside first thing in the morning (except today, for garbage day) and there’s never frost on the windows to be scraped off first thing in the morning.

But the garage is still plenty cold and (old man whine again) my car doesn’t have heated seats. Heated seats would make the start of a -14 day a lot better.

And on top of all that, yesterday was what pop culture calls Blue Monday. I assumed that it was invented by a bunch of psychologists who wanted to be interviewed by the CBC, but even better, it turns out it was invented by a travel company to remind us how much happier we would be somewhere warmer. Continue reading

Five for Friday: Vol IX

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The five for Friday lazy blog is back. As we hear at the gym, pitter-patter let’s get at ‘er.

We have a bunch of our out-of-Toronto managers in to head office for a couple days of meetings as we do annually. I was told this morning that in my absence from one gathering it was decided an intervention was needed to get me off my training regime.

All in jest of course, but it does highlight at least a little what is considered “normal” in our society and what isn’t. And a guy who takes a pass on drinking with co-workers (subbing Perrier for beer) or opts for the vegetable ragu over a steak and fully loaded baked potato is going to become a target.

I’ve been at this long enough now that my efforts are not news. But people now react with “are you STILL doing this?”

It’s mostly good natured but there’s no doubt it makes some people … well, uncomfortable isn’t the word, but it does leave them a little off centre.

Live and let live, say I. If people ask what I’m doing, I tell them. The physical changes in my appearance are significant enough that colleagues who haven’t seen me since July ask.

Otherwise, I just do my thing. Continue reading

Hey look! Progress

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A quick catch up for readers interested in my daily torment.

Wednesday was running, today was a spin preceded by hand weights and metabolic punishment. It was a grueling day today. We took a vote. We agreed. Challenging, which I guess is at least part of the point of the challenge.

Plans by our leader Wednesday to benchmark and record our efforts in the punishing 300×3 shuttle run suicides eventually were abandoned. But I did run my heat twice and proudly finished last (out of five runners) in each.

I don’t honestly care. A few short months ago I was not able to run a single 50-metre length of the indoor turf. So to run it six times in succession, twice, enduring the stopping and starting is progress even if my splits could be timed with a sundial. Continue reading

A spin for a winter’s day

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Every now and then a day at the gym turns out better than you imagined it would and today was a day like that. And that’s saying something because I really like working out and I like the people at my gym, so most days are good ones.

Today is Day Two of the 81-Day Challenge. And today’s benchmark test was a 25-kilometre ride in the spin room. No one was looking forward to this. The race was strictly against the clock. It wasn’t so much a race at all as it was – for me at least – a benchmarking of modest progress over the preceding months.

But spinning is hard work, if you’re trying. You stop spinning, you slow then stop and you’re trapped in the spin room that much longer. And today, no one was allowed to leave until you did 25 kilometres. So go fast, leave fast.

Do the math. If you peddle at a 25 km-per-hour pace, it will take you an hour. I wanted to be out of the room by 7a so I would have time to shower and catch my usual train. Plus the weather made driving slow. So, add on another 10 minutes for that mess.

We went in the spin room about 620a and were quickly at it. I needed to be sub-40 minutes to make my train. Continue reading

The challenge and the challenged

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We started a new challenge at ATC this morning that is intended to change the way we think about and manage our diets as much as address our fitness.

I won’t bore you with endless details but the highlights are it’s a team concept – Coach Dave and I co-captain one of the five teams – and each of the seven members of the team can contribute points by adhering to rules like filling out a diet diary, not drinking alcohol (at all), only eating meat four times a week, eating no dairy products at all and showing up at the gym and working out, among other things.

You can get bonus points for doing extra challenges – which might be additional pullups or pushups or a long spin. We don’t know yet.

Most of the first two days this week are devoted to benchmarking where we all are so we can (hopefully) see how far we have come by March 31. Weight loss is not a vital component but it should be an inevitable result of working out regularly, eating lower fat diets and more vegetables, and cutting out beer/wine/etc.

March 31 is a long way off but I will declare some goals that can be mocked later if I don’t reach them (I will make them, trust me) – first, I’m going to weigh 214 pounds on or before March 31, and I’m going to be able to do 35 pushups, and I will move my visceral (belly) fat to 5 (from 7).

I have no clue what life is like in your world but I have tendinitis in my elbows so getting to 35 pushups will be some work — about double where I am now. I tried to do pullups today and it was ugly after the first one. I did one (1) in textbook fashion. After that, searing pain and I hung on the rack like so much meat on a hook. Continue reading

Five for Friday, Vol VIII

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The first five for Friday of 2016. Save your noise makers for something more worthy.

We have started the post-holiday period by getting back to eating better at home. By better, I mean healthier. And normally I add that by “we” I mean “me.” But in this case, it’s “us, mostly me.”

Laura is being patient with me while I move to more plants and less meat, which she is all for — it’s all a challenge for me, really.

You can’t just eat a lot of fruit – too much sugar if you overdo it. And prepping healthy stuff to keep handy at work may only seem like a little bit of work but it’s the organizational effort that grinds me down. Typically I’m not home from work until close to 7p – after leaving the house for the gym at 530a to start my day.

That’s a long day. When I get home I have to do my laundry from the gym, organize my clothes for the next day (trust me, this is not a task to be done on the fly at 515a unless you’re indifferent about having underwear, socks or a shirt or belt), make sure my water bottle is filled and my pre-workout snack is ready to eat in the car.

Leaving any of these things to be done in the morning risks it not being done at all. Actually, what it does is ensure disaster. So, adding snack prep to that list … I’m not there yet. Continue reading

The Red Zone

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When I revived this blog last year my intention was to share more about my personal journey to fitness and less about the minor sports/family stuff that fed most of the first eight years of this space.

To use the vernacular of the craft, I’m still trying to find my voice. Writing about coaching and minor sports came easily given nearly two decades of standing behind benches and raising two boys into young men who enjoyed varying successes and failures as athletes but have emerged (in my humble opinion) as solid citizens.

It also lent itself to more humour and flights of rhetorical fancy which people enjoyed.

When I talk about learning to get fit or embracing the personal challenges it brings, I’m wary of sounding like an expert, because I’m not. This is not a space for advice beyond advising you to talk to experts in the field.

And I’m wary of sounding like a braggart – whatever successes I may have toward becoming fitter are rooted in those who support, pointed/led the way, or push. I just show up and try to do the work. Not to demean that effort by me or anyone else, but it’s really as simple as that. Continue reading

Welcome to 2016

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Happy New Year. At least, I’m hoping.

We all went in separate directions for New Year’s Eve but Laura and I did something we never do on Dec 31 and had a nice dinner out. Then we barely made the counting in of the new year before we crashed because we are a wild party. Chris was out with friends, Pad was out with the hockey team in Halifax. And now it’s 2016.

Some people will make resolutions for 2016. I’d like to start the 2016 work year by being warmer than I am today. Everything else should fall happily into place after that. The -25 windchill was a bit jarring this morning when I left the house at 530a for the gym. It was my first early-morning outing since before Christmas and I did not enjoy the sensation.

Back to work after two weeks is tough enough. Back to work preceded by a 6a return to the gym is tougher. And the temperature, darkness and Monday malaise piled on top of me like a blizzard.

But the workout was fun. It almost always is – even at 6a. Continue reading

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