No joy = goes.

It’s so true that you need to fill your life with things that bring you joy.  The older I get, the more I have learned to get rid of the “filler” and fill my life as much as possible with good.  Have you read Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” spark joyor “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”?  life changingYou should.  And while these books speak to a way to declutter your environment, and therefore your life, what they really did for me was to make me look through the lenses of importance and priorities.

Marie Kondo recommends that if you’re decluttering, you should hold the item and see if you feel joy.  No joy?  Get rid of it.  Joy?  It stays.  You can apply this principle to life in general.  Friends.  Obligations.  Career.  Living situation.  Lifestyle.

Joy = stays.  No joy = goes.

This is a short post for you today, but as I sat on my couch to write, my mind kept wandering back to joy.  I always try to write about what’s closest to my heart in the moment, and the purpose of this blog has always been to show you who I am, so that you can get to know me.  Because if you know me better, you’ll trust me more, and it makes sense to me that better doctor/patient relationships equal better treatment outcomes.  And what’s closest to my heart right now is joy.  You see, we have a family friend who is nearing the end of her life, and I can promise you that she’s not thinking about how big her house is or how clean her floors are or what her hair looks like.  I hope that she’s thinking about the things that brought her joy through her seventy-something years of life.

So, fill it up friends.  Fill up your lives with joy, whatever that joy may look like to you  (because psssst…… joy looks different to all of us).

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The Butterdome lesson.

It is amazing what our bodies can do.  In my work, I see injuries recover and people become healthier versions of themselves on the daily.  In my personal life, I am surrounded by runners and Crossfitters, and I see them push themselves to the limits.  And yet, after 12 years in practice and a few decades in sport, I still marvel at the anatomy, the physiology, and the ability of our bodies to adapt, to habituate, to endure.

Let me tell you a story:

This story is about a girl who loves to run.

It’s the early 90’s, in the small town of Sundre, Alberta, and this girl is running the finishing stretch of her County’s cross-country meet.  The meet is being held on her home course, on Sundre’s infamous Snake Hill, and the finishing stretch is along its most feared section, “The Scar.”  The Scar is a punishing portion of trail that traverses the entire side of the hill, complete with a gruelling incline and a bird’s eye view of the finish line.  This girl can hear the crowd below, this girl can feel the adrenaline surging, this girl’s happiness and fulfillment builds.  She can’t articulate it yet, but she can feel it, and she knows she’s found what she loves.

This girl is me.

You see, my high school English teacher was also the cross-country coach, and she took me under her wing.  I trained with a very small group of runners after school, usually just three or four of us running alongside Mrs. Leslie.  We’d head to Snake Hill and we’d run hill repeats, kilometre loops, strides along the trails.  We’d run in the cold Alberta snow and we’d run in the fading light of dusk.  She taught me the power of my legs and my lungs, the welcomed full-body fatigue of a workout, and the sense of accomplishment of a race well run.  It’s only now, as a teacher’s spouse, that I realize the commitment she had to us and the sacrifices she made to share her love of running.  If there’s one person to point to in my running career, it’s her.  She changed my world and burst open a decades-long love affair with a sport that has now become a part of my identity.

I went to the University of Calgary and became a member of the cross-country and track teams.  I was a red-shirt Dino, racing only occasionally, often choosing parties and late nights over the early-morning miles on my training schedule.  My lack of commitment was never more obvious than when I called my Dad in panicked tears, only minutes ahead of my 1000m heat at the University of Alberta’s iconic Butterdome.  “What if I’m last?” I cried, “I’ll be so humiliated.”  In fact, I was last.  But I learned a hard lesson that day: you can’t fake hard work.  There are no shortcuts in running, no cheats, no cutting corners, no easy results.

Then came marathons, and Boston, my coveted finisher’s gold medal at the Around the Bay 30K in 2004, and my third-place finish at the inaugural Mississauga half-marathon.  I was in my twenties, running 100km weeks and going to school, planning my life around my runs, instead of the opposite.  Real-life responsibilities hadn’t quite begun, and I was content to run unceremoniously in a pre-Garmin, pre-Strava, pre-Social Media world.

Running has shifted to more of a background role in my life over the last decade, as I’ve had my children and consistently chosen the convenience and efficiency of CrossFit workouts.  But over the past couple of years, as my kids have grown, so too have my freedom and flexibility, and my mileage has begun to increase once again.  I’ve joined a new running club, and for the past three months I’ve been training hard with them, aiming for some Spring races that I haven’t thought about in years.  I’ve been noticing big changes in my fitness lately and having some breakthrough workouts, and that’s what has prompted this post.  It’s the Butterdome lesson again: you can’t fake hard work.

The 5:30am hill repeats, that 4:45am wake-ups, the -20ºC long runs; it’s all coming together.  It is amazing what our bodies can do.

But you can’t fake hard work.

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The University of Alberta’s Butterdome track.


Goal Board

This is a New Year post of sorts.  One year ago, on January 1st, 2017, I wrote up a “Goal Board.”  Not a “vision board,” per se, as is the buzzword, but semantics do matter, and a “Goal Board” sits better with me.

Last year’s Goal Board was on a big piece of white bristol board, with lots of bullet points, arrows, and colours.  I wrote it at our dining room table, using fresh new markers that Santa brought my children, and it organized my ideas in a way that I was surprised I couldn’t experience through thought alone.  Then again, I’m a visual learner and I love to write, so getting ideas onto paper matches my personality.  This year, my kids wanted in on the action, so it was a family affair in the dining room, with fresh bristol board, new Santa markers (St. Nick is the practical sort around here), and lots of conversation.

My five year-old’s Goal Board looks like this:

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Not a traditional Goal Board perhaps, but she’s got a lot of what’s important to her on there, and she learned that 2081 is different than 2018.  She’s proudly hung her masterpiece on her bedroom wall.

My eight year-old, meanwhile, came up with this:

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He wants to save $25 (which he’s begun doing by shovelling driveways in our neighborhood), learn how to do a cartwheel and a trampoline front flip, get a shutout in hockey, and do a 360° roll with his drone.

Now, I’m not quite transparent enough to share my entire Goal Board with you here for all to see, but I will share with you this section, which focuses on an important part of my world: running.IMG_7902

These three goals all fly in the face of the fear that nitpicks at the back of my brain whenever I sign up for a race or set a lofty pace goal.  “You can’t run that fast,” it says, “what if you fail?”  In fact, let’s call a spade a spade, I had two big running “failures” in 2017:

But I also had some great successes, like running a several-minute Personal Best to win the Moon in June 10K, being awarded the Most Accomplished Runner award from the Burlington Runner’s Club, and watching 39-year-old Lyndsay Tessier come in second place at the Canadian Marathon Championships in Toronto.

Enough success to keep me determined and enough failure to keep me trying.  Enough limits being pushed and enough self-imposed barriers being broken. Enough early mornings and enough late nights, enough work put in, enough dreams being chased, enough shooting for the moon, and enough aiming higher and higher.

Be brave, my Goal Board screams to me.  Be brave.

And in case you didn’t notice, this post isn’t even about running after all.

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Be brave.