One year


, , , , ,

It was one year ago today that I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. And later that day at lunch with our CFO – a very fit, active guy – I said “that’s it. I’m making changes. I’m going to get fit.”

As of this morning (after I shoveled snow for a workout because the gym was closed!) that conversation was 366 days and 68 pounds ago. It hasn’t always been easy but the truth is, it’s not that hard, either. You just have to want it. And I did.

I started walking on the treadmill every night and as the weather improved I took it outside. In July I joined a gym. The last calendar year has been nothing but change for me and I have had moments of elation, despair, failure and success. But I know I’ve changed.

I was way overweight. My diet wasn’t horrible (at home it was quite good) but it wasn’t terrific overall. Like many people I had fallen into a rut of a couple of beers after work every day; some easy, comfortable snacks before dinner and on weekends and no exercise. Empty calories and bad, lazy habits, and generally self-destructive living.

I’m not trying to sound dramatic but candidly, I was on a path to something bad happening. (Something bad could still happen but now it’s more likely to be from a dumbbell falling on my foot or getting crushed by a truck on my bike. At least now I’m trying.)

For a lot of reasons it doesn’t feel like a stand up and cheer moment today but I’m sharing the anniversary for a couple reasons. Continue reading

It’s hockey, man


, ,

Watching the Leafs game last night – or at least the small portion of it I actually watched – brought back some interesting memories.

Those memories were not of the “brush-with-greatness” players on the Leafs roster whose careers intersected tangentially with my older son. One Leaf d-man was Pad’s defence partner in junior varsity high school tournament hockey for a couple games (Pad’s high school coach offered him “$100 and all the Quiznos sandwiches he could eat” to forgo junior and play high school hockey full-time); another forward was a player he played against for a couple of seasons in the OJHL.

No, my memories were triggered by watching all those AHL callups on the Leafs getting a shot at the Big Time and how exciting it must be not just for them, but their families too. And that made me recall when Pad got called up from midget AAA to play a few games of junior A. I was excited, too.

The OJHL is a long, long way from the NHL. And the Mississauga Chargers, in a universe of junior A hockey teams, would be the planetary equal of Pluto. Is it really a planet? Is it really a junior A team? Hard to tell from here.

But they called and asked him to suit up for his first junior A hockey game in November 2009. It was a home game for the Chargers at Port Credit Arena against the Aurora Tigers, which had in its lineup the tallest, beefiest free-standing hockey player I had ever seen in person. Continue reading

Andy Bathgate


, ,

I’ve been missing in action from here for so long I’m not sure it’s worth my while to even try, but I’m going to tell a story I’ve told before.

Andy Bathgate died a couple of days ago. He was a gentleman. A former captain of the New York Rangers, a Hart Trophy winner, a Leaf, a Penguin, and a Red Wing. And I’ll never forget the day he won me over.

In winter 2000, Toronto hosted the NHL all-star game and I took Patrick out of school for the afternoon to attend the fan festival. He was only seven and we had a ball. He got to play roller hockey, have his shot clocked, and lots of other cool stuff. And we lined up in a snaking, slow-moving queue to meet two hall of fame members.

We didn’t know who would be at the table when we got there because they were replacing them every 20 minutes or so. But when our turn came, it was Steve Shutt (certified dick) and Andy Bathgate. Continue reading

Super Bowl stuff, other stuff


, , , , , , , , , , ,

There wasn’t a whole lot “super” about Sunday’s Super Bowl, at least not from my perspective. The game was not exciting. It bordered on boring.

I’m not a hardcore NFL fan. I’m just a guy who likes watching elite athletes do their thing on a big stage. I’m also a journalist so I enjoy the stories within the stories as much as I enjoy the game line. I like the buzz, even if the Super Bowl has more manufactured buzz than any event outside of a manned Mars landing deserves.

It will not surprise you that I was hoping Denver would win. The aging quarterback going for something big perhaps for the final time, versus the brash up-and-comer. I will always tilt way more toward the Peyton Mannings of the world over the Cam Newtons. And lately, more towards the aging guy . . .

But off the field Sunday, both of their performances were not something I would commend my sons to emulate. Continue reading

You’ll miss us when we’re gone


, , , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , , , ,

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


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


, , , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , ,

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


, , , , , , , , ,

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