Saturday, October 30, 2010

Positive Vibes

Life brings us messages that are received if we are open enough to pay attention. I happened upon the above three wonderful, positive, little messages in my travels around the world in the last few months and I thought I would share them with you guys. The first photo is so full of love and totally made my morning when I was half asleep walking to a course I took at Harvard University. The second photo was taken today at my local organic market .. it made me giggle! The last was taken in Cabbagetown this summer .. there is nothing like defacing a stop sign with a beautiful message of empowerment! Love it!! Enjoy the rest of your weekend you guys: take time to see the messages .. smile with others and with life! :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Breaking the Athlete's Heart

Breaking some one's heart is easy. There are the typical ways often seen in relationships: cheating, saying hurtful things, being neglectful .. but, although popular, these are not specific to athletes. So how, exactly, do you break an athletes heart?
I once dated a competitive cyclist. Although a wonderful man with beautiful legs, he was one of the athletes I'm referencing who's heart had broken. At the age of 36, while racing, his heart went from about 180 beats/minute to about 30 beats/minute in a matter of seconds. This resulted in a crash off the bike, unconsciousness, a few weeks in the ICU and an operation to install a pace maker that re-activates his heart if it plummets below a certain value. Interestingly, he is one of three competitive cyclist men that I know with heart conditions. So what's up with this? Isn't exercise supposed to make you healthier?!
A friend recently sent me a link written by researcher Dr. Andre La Gerche. I'm not sure that this was sent to me for the actual reading, or due to my dating a broken hearted athlete or simply because there is a picture of Dr. La Gerche and he's really hot (see above)! Regardless, I'll take the opportunity to summarize the article and its insightful points.
This is what happens when you are active: your heart beats faster and harder to accommodate for the muscles' demands for oxygen. Over time, with regular exercise, the heart gets bigger (like any muscle that is exercised). This growth increases efficiency. Studies have shown that if the exercise ceases, the heart muscle in a normal individual (verses an elite athlete) returns to its original size over time. In the elite athlete, things are different: the heart muscle does not return to normal. It is speculated that this change in size may interfere with co-ordination of electrical impulses that move through the heart that initiate contraction: this disruption can cause arrhythmia or irregular heart contraction.
So, we know that the heart gets bigger but is this growth normal muscle growth? Any muscle under trauma, including the heart, can develop scar tissue (or fibrotic tissue hypertrophy). Scar tissue does not have the flexibility and structure of normal muscle tissue. It is projected that the presence of scar tissue within the heart muscle may inhibit normal function of the heart. In order to determine this, a scope of the heart would have to be preformed in order to properly assess fibrotic tissue development and its impact .. this is a difficult procedure if the athlete is actually alive.
On the dead, elite athlete Ryan Shay, however, a post-2008 marathon trial autopsy WAS done. Interestingly, it revealed a over sized heart with fibrotic (scar) tissue development. There is no real physiology to explain this occurrence. All we really know is that it is not normal, it likely had an impact on how his heart functioned and it may be happening in other well conditioned athletes.
How does this information translate to the recreational athlete? In short, it doesn't! The physiological implications of training at more than 50% of your maximum output as a seasoned athlete has not been adequately studied .. this is where the hot Dr. La Gerche comes in!
What we do know is that moderate exercise is really good for you. Jogging, cycling and swimming at 50% of your maximum output improves blood sugar levels, cardiovascular conditioning, lung capacity, mood and body composition. Exerting yourself regularly on hard rides that push your limits may be causing heart damage rather than heart health. However, be consoled: you are more likely to get hit by a car than die of a heart attack on your ride! As for me, at this point, I like to think that I am more likely to experience heart break from love than from athletics!

The Col de Roselend, France ..

OK peeps: you guys have been harassing me about not seeing pictures of my trip. Let me start with these .. this is the Col de Roseland, the day #2 of my crazy, mountain adventure in France. Oh, how I long for the mountains!!! Enjoy .. more to come ..

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hey Blue-Legs ...

Date after winter date with a variety of men would illicit the same eventual question, "So, what exactly is wrong with your hands .. I mean, why are they blue"?
I have Raynaud's Disease. I know, it sounds serious .. but its really not; it's merely a spasm of arterioles (small capillaries) usually in the digits (fingers) which causes intermittent pallour (paleness) and cyanosis (the blue hue that appears when tissue is oxygen deprived). The most serious consequence I have experienced of having Raynaud's Disease is being forced to adopt the nick-name "blue-legs" throughout high school, coined after changing into shorts in preparation for gym class!
I'm not going to bore you with the pathophysiology, diagnostics and treatment of Raynaud's Disease. Instead, this blog entry is one that encourages absolute acceptance of the self: fully and completely. Raynaud's is a very small one of the many shortcomings that I have had to come to terms with in my life. Being teased about my discoloured hands and legs wasn't always easy, but it did remind me that, although I look like a smurf every time the temperature drops below 30 degrees Celsius, at least I have hands and legs that work.
Life is full of opportunities and challenges for self acceptance: from who we are genetically to who we become by the decisions we make, from the few pounds we gain over the winter, to the hasty comments we make that hurt the people we love, from our undesirable toes to the undesirable patterns we repeat. As unfavourable as they are, all of these have the potential for absolute self-love.
So what's the magic recipe to snap out of self loathing and into self-adoration?
Considering the following:
1) Do something you're really good at: it's hard to hate yourself when you think you're totally awesome!
2) Put some fantastic clothes on and accentuate your assets. If you're a woman, take the time to curl your eyelashes and powder your nose. When you're feeling not so great on the inside, sometimes the outside pretending becomes your new reality.
3) If the things you're having a hard time accepting are things you can change, then start the process. If it's weight you have to lose, commit to better food choices. Until the weight is gone, be sure to thank every last pound for facilitating a self love that has helped you make necessary lifestyle changes.
4) Try the Buddhist approach of compassion: whenever you notice condemning self judgement creeping into your thoughts, soften your tone and treat yourself like you would your own small child. Talk yourself out of judgement and into compassion and encouragement. You wouldn't condemn and criticize a child that you love, you why would you do it to yourself?
5) Try not to take yourself so seriously. Learn to laugh: it is kind of funny that that I look like a smurf after all! Eyelashes curled and nose powdered, that's Smurfette to you! :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In the midst of change ...

"The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress".
~Charles F. Kettering~

In the Native Indian tradition, the seasons initiate the flow of life: in the spring, new ideas are born; in the summer, those ideas are fed to flourish; in the fall, the ideas that have thrived are kept, those that have struggled are discarded; in the winter, the limited energy we have goes into the ideas that have been selectively kept. It is a flow of spreading energy into a vast space of potential and allowing that potential to expand. And then, suddenly and oppositely, cutting that very potential back mercilessly into a pinpoint focus in which to truly create.

This is the season of discarding stagnant ideas in favour of those which are continuing to bloom. In looking around my social network, I see my my walking buddy who has decided to suddenly quit her job in favour of exploring a new, professional direction. I see one of my soul sisters considering a move to a different country, giving up all that she knows here and taking a risk on another, more spiritually fulfilling life. One couple I know has just gotten pregnant and is looking forward to moving into an entirely new realm of their dynamic; another set of close friends are moving to a tropical country and starting a business there; my teacher friend and his partner are moving into a house they never thought they could afford and buying chic, new furniture to decorate their new lives. I could go on .. and I will to say that I am also experiencing a post-1-month-vacation, re-evaluation of my life.

I haven't written in my blog for almost 2 weeks now. In this two weeks, I have made decisions that are throwing me into the whirl-wind of shifting my life. These decisions feel like a big, huge step back that will eventually facilitate a gigantic, catapult ahead. In this perceived step back, I find myself in a place of "instability"; a place of unbelievably, undeniable fear that all that I know to be my life is going to metamorphose into an entirely different reality - a reality that may be no better that what I have now and, even worse, a reality that I might totally not like!

Change is hard. The fear associated with change is even harder. There are always bad days in the process that make you question whether taking a risk has been worth the difficulty. Then there will be days in which the entirety of your vision comes together before your eyes and all the fear, the angst, the apprehension will fall away. Creating our lives is an experience that will push us beyond living in the comfort of day-to-day: it is an experience that will help us see our true potential and force us to step up and forage ahead when the obstacles seem insurmountable. It will provide an excitement and a personal satisfaction that is only found through facing and over coming hardship.

So, to all those people that are looking major life change straight in the eye, allow yourself to welcome it, without fear! After all, the best part of changing things in your life is that if you don't like the result, you can keep changing them until you do!