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The people who show up for 6a workouts on weekdays aren’t special, but they are motivated.

Where I sweat, there is a core of about a dozen men and women — give or take — who make it at least four days out of five. Saturday is an optional throw in, but I understand that people with young families need to actually spend time being a dad on weekends. At my age it’s easy to forget the whirl of birthday parties, play dates, minor sports, and general hanging out that comes with that territory.

Monday to Friday has to occasionally suffer the intrusion of early meetings, GO train schedules, work travel, illness and family commitments, late business dinners, and more. No one in our group is being paid to train; everyone has to figure out a way to be there.

It’s commitment, but it’s only a commitment to yourself. No one is going to call if you don’t show up. If you sleep in and don’t train, the only one who loses is you. Continue reading



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Yes, I notice a difference.

About a week into using my new orthotics when I work out I still hate running as much as ever, but it is more comfortable than before. I’ll call that progress for now.

Today during our morning jog – the usual start to our hour simply to get the heart rates up and blood moving, which is harder than it sounds at 6a – I made a concerted effort to be faster. Not a lot faster. Let’s not go crazy here.

But just a little. Honestly, the way I run it wouldn’t take much.

For context you can review a previous post on my hate-hate relationship with running. Typically everyone passes me during the morning run, some people pass me more than once as we loop the short turf field.

Today, I thought, let’s push it a little and see what happens. I benchmarked myself off of two or three people who I know are not great runners but are still better than me. I positioned myself a stride or two back and then vowed no matter what, I would keep pace.

Two things happened. Continue reading

These dark days


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My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

 – Robert Frost, My November Guest

It may be that autumn will bless us with a few more warm sunny days – days like yesterday and this morning — before the next month falls by with the dizzying pace of life these days. But I doubt it.

I got home last night and it wasn’t just warm, it was humid and sticky. It wasn’t my imagination – the humidex was 28, the outside temperature was 23 at 630p, and if not for the horizon’s relentless early pull on the sun it could have been July again.

But darkness at this time of year seems to come like the flicking of a switch, not summer’s slow fade through the spectrum’s colours until the sky eventually turns deep purple. By 730p it is all but dark, and the path to the barbeque for my evening ritual of grilled chicken is an accident of stubbed toes waiting to happen.

I had no sooner put dinner on last night when Laura called, a nice surprise and earlier than usual for when she is away. Visiting with her family in Cape Breton she was enjoying scallops – the favored seafood takeout place was out of our cherished clams. She was content to rough it and happy to be with her sister and dad.

I settled in inside the family room. The light timers need to be adjusted, so the room was dark, save for the glow of the television; the room was quiet, save for Buck Martinez’s ubiquitous excitement/optimism over the Blue Jays. Continue reading

Can technology make a better me?


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My quest for fitness – imagine Don Quixote in Under Armour tilting not at windmills but dumbbells — has introduced me to interesting intersections of health and technology.

There was a time when thinking about fitness started with an advertisement in the Archie comic book you were holding, where the skinny kid was getting sand kicked in his face by the local buff bully. (Kids note: comic books are what you call graphic novels, rebranded today to trick you into thinking you’re consuming literature.)

And because you were skinny and knew a buff bully, you could relate and maybe you sent money off to Charles Atlas or Joe Weider but probably, like me, you didn’t. (You don’t see ads like that anymore because that would be considered bad for the self-esteem of skinny teenage boys and a promotion of the upside of buff bullying — getting the hot babes — and because this is Canada there would likely be a judicial inquiry into youth and body image or something.)

So instead most of us just grew up and filled out naturally, like me. And at some point in time most of us enjoyed a magical 43 days of near perfect BMI and body fat percentage and looked good in skinny acid-washed blue jeans or white painter pants or rugby pants or whatever other fashion abomination was being pushed on us while we listened to Duran Duran.

And then – like me – on Day 44 and beyond we all filled out more and kept on going until we were fat. Continue reading

Flat like me


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There’s a long checklist of things you need to confront when you think about trying to get fit.

And just as an aside, could I possibly have written a more conditional sentence than that first one? The phrase “think about trying” conjures an image of someone perhaps lying on a couch with a bag of chips marvelling at the athletic prowess of people on the screen.

It’s sort like getting the urge to run and lying down until the urge passes.

But that’s not actually my story. Incredibly, I’ve actually taken some steps and so can you.

And one thing I have had to confront head on is the wonder of nature that are my feet.

Some people have fallen arches. And some people have flat feet. And then there’s me. Continue reading

Fifty minutes


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Lately I’ve been thinking about sports and kids and why we go to the rink. It’s no surprise that it’s on my mind – minor hockey has started again (does it ever stop?) and I’m fortunate to be part of that familiar parade.

I’ve got a son on the east coast playing Canadian university hockey; the son of one of my best friends is on a top junior A team. And I’ve got 16 house league kids to help coach this weekend in peewee for 50 minutes that mean more to them than I allow myself to remember sometimes. So I have lots of exposure to the hockey development spectrum.

We adults should never, ever lose sight of the importance of those 50 minutes, ever. One hour, less 10 minutes to flood the ice. Fifty minutes.

Way back in the last century, I took my first coaching clinic and something the instructor said to us has stuck with me through nearly two decades, dozens of teams, hundreds of players, and moments of punishing heartbreak and soaring, screaming triumph.

He said that the time those house league kids get on the ice each week is, with very few exceptions, the highlight of their week. It is the most important hour, or two, in their lives for seven days. They may not look or act engaged but they are looking at you as the most important voice they hear outside of home. Continue reading

Take me out to the ball game


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It’s hard not to be a cynic when it comes to major league sports in Toronto. We have lived here more than 15 years and the current Blue Jays run is the first time any of the Big Three – Leafs, Jays, Raptors – have legitimately contended for a championship run.

Sure, in 1999 and again in 2002, the Leafs made the conference finals: losing both times. But there was no genuine sense that those were championship teams. This year’s edition of the Blue Jays feels different.

It kind of sucks to live in a major-league city for this long without experiencing the excitement of a meaningful playoff run, and I mean that from the perspective of a dad with two sports-loving sons whose rooms were generously adorned with every manner of Toronto team swag, such as to assure Richard Peddie has a long and prosperous retirement.

As a family, we’ve endured more sporting rebuilding projects than Habitat for Humanity with precious little to show for it other than Mats Sundin posters and now-anonymous Raptors bobbleheads.

Until now. And now, we have Blue Jays Fever. Continue reading

The Accidental Fundraiser


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You never know when a good day is going to jump out and grab you.

Laura had to leave town but Chris came home Saturday, which was great because I don’t enjoy endless stretches of time in that empty house. And when Chris is around you generally know you’re not alone – in a good way.

After working out and doing spin class Saturday morning, I lingered at the gym a bit eventually emerging to a series of texts from Chris asking when I was going to pick him up. So I rolled right from the gym to beautiful north Etobicoke and picked him up and then we headed out for lunch and a grocery run.

Earlier in the day – much earlier – Laura had to be at the airport to get a 630a flight to Vancouver. She graciously said she didn’t want me to drive and would bill a cab to her company. Wonderful. Except the car didn’t show and rather than call for another car at 415a, I drove. I was up anyway and didn’t mind.

But the point is by the time I worked out, did spin class, had lunch at Boston Pizza (with literally every girls’ hockey team in southern Ontario – a big Hornets’ tournament I’d guess) and bought groceries, I was ready for a break. Continue reading

Call it democracy


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Kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
Open for business like a cheap bordello
— Bruce Cockburn, They Call it Democracy

In almost exactly a calendar month from today, election-weary Canadians will vote to elect a new government.

If it feels like the election has been going on forever, that’s because effectively, it has. Partisan politics have evolved into something in Canada that is akin to a 24-7 election cycle — the advertising never stops; the bombardment of commentary on social media — informed and otherwise — is ceaseless, often mean spirited, generally anonymous and frequently without redeeming value.

Against that backdrop we have the longest federal election in Canadian history — 11 weeks. In an age where communication is instantaneous and video and images can be relayed and shared in real time, many wonder what’s the purpose of such a long campaign.

The cynical will say the well-fund Conservatives want to make the other parties spend money they don’t have, accumulating huge debt and crippling them for subsequent elections, that may come sooner than we think if this vote spits out a minority.

The less cynical might argue that a longer election gives the masses more time to sift through the noise of social media and learn an understanding of issues at a more comfortable pace, especially in summer.

Continue reading

Darkness on the Edge of Town


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When I first started going to work out on a regular basis, it was the last week of June. That means it was barely summer and rolling out of bed meant a bright sky and warm temperatures.  Before that I had been walking since early March – first on the treadmill, then outside. Then I joined the gym.

I would hop in the car, drive to the gym that is almost literally on the eastern edge of Oakville and start my day by learning all the things I didn’t know (and still don’t) about achieving fitness.

And then, oh yeah. Canada happened. Is it just me, or is darkness demotivating?

I like darkness just fine for a winter’s night with a fire on while we watch a movie or something. But at 530a in the morning when I’m getting ready to head out the door to sweat and move, I’m thinking more and more that maybe just staying in bed could be a better idea. Continue reading


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