Getting back to “me”

The past few months I’ve been really distracted; I started a new job, I’m planning a wedding, we’ve had issues with our rental apartment and a myriad of other first world problems. This distraction has meant I haven’t done a proper blog post in ages, I haven’t been taking care of myself the way I like to and I haven’t been appreciating all of the little things I like to take time for.

When I moved to Vancouver two years ago, I walked to work every morning and found myself humbled by the fact that I had the privilege of living in such a beautiful city. I promised myself my walk to work along the seawall would be just me and my thoughts – no phone unless I was taking a photo. I looked forward to the views every morning and although they didn’t change, each day it felt like I was seeing it for the first time.

Somewhere along the way, my leisurely walk to work along the seawall was replaced by a route along a busy city street with significantly less scenery and a shorter commute time. I became so preoccupied with what was going on in my own life that I completely forgot to take step back  to enjoy what was going on around me. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

This morning, after realizing how long it had been since I had last taken that seawall route, I made a conscious choice to get back into my routine – and I’m so glad I did. The water was still, the air was crisp and the sand had been lightly dusted with frost; it was beautiful and peaceful and serene.

It took a few minutes longer than the other way – and even moreso this morning as I stopped to take it all in – but it really helped me feel back at home and made me realize I need to do “me” more often.

So, back to the morning routine, back to the gym on a regular basis and back writing again. Because, y’know, what’s the point of having a blog if you never use it?




60 days to a new body – or higher wine tolerance

Ever have one of those moments where you catch your reflection in a store window or mirror in a store and you do a double-take, but not  in a good way?
That was me on Thursday. I caught a glimpse of myself in a suit I used to love to wear that made me feel like I could take on the world. But instead of taking on the world, I felt like my ass was taking it over.
I know we are our own worst critics – I think my ass is the size of Texas most days, although my boyfriend insists it’s never exceeded a small town. (Thanks, love.)
Since I’ve moved out, I’ve slowly let go of my work out routine. I have more responsibility. I live further from the gym now. The summer came and it was too nice to spend time inside working out. I could make every excuse in the book but the reality is, I just didn’t make exercising a priority. Going out with friends, sleeping in, wine nights and House of Cards happened instead of boot camp, regular seawall runs and lunchtime salads.
So, after crying for 20 minutes in my car in The Bay parkade, I pulled myself together and did what any normal person would do when they need to change something: I consoled myself in wine, crummy food, and over-priced vodka all weekend. Hey, it was my birthday.
I made myself a promise that I’d start something, although I wasn’t sure what.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting I need to lose 100 pounds or become some body building babe, I just want to feel and look healthy.
Gone are the days when I can run a 5K on a Wednesday and Thursday, still eat pop tarts for breakfast and manage to lose a few pounds for a Friday night party. Now, if I even so much as look at a slice of cheesecake, I feel my pants getting tight.
 So, when times get tough and age wreaks havoc on your metabolism, it’s time to find a workout that’s tougher. I’m calling on Shaun T and Insanity to kick my butt into shape. He did it once two years ago and I know he’ll do it again.
The program is 60 days and to say its crazy intense is as much of an understatement as Vancouver is kind of a nice place to live. It’s seriously hard. You sweat buckets. Your muscles ache day after day. 
But it’s worth it. 
Right now, my behind has more dimples than a golf ball and I couldn’t do more than four push ups if my life depended on it. No, really – I’m that weak. But everyone has to start somewhere.
My goal is in 60 days, my booty will rival a smooth bowling ball and I will lift my own body weight without moaning like an amateur female tennis player. Or, at the very least, I will just feel stronger.

I can see this going one of two ways: either I’ll become a workout demon and stick to the plan, or I’ll start to see results, let workouts slide and become more committed to drinking wine than doing squats.

I suppose either way I’ll have built up a tolerance – either for strength or wine. I’m inclined to argue they’re both equally important.

Synchronized skating: Passion or obsession?

It’s great to have a passion for something, be it volunteering, binge watching Orange is the new Black on Netflix, cooking or knitting. For me, it’s synchronized skating. (What?)
For those of you who don’t know, synchronized skating is a team of gals (and sometimes guys) who perform a routine together. Teams can be as small as eight and as large as 20.
Over the course of 13 or so seasons as a synchronized skater, I’ve had the privilege of skating with many different gals from all different walks of life.And while we are all very different, we share a love of skating.
For us, it’s not just a fun thing to do – it’s a passion, it’s a way to embrace our inner competitive beast without feeling like a complete Neanderthal. A way to bring our inner goddess through carnival make up. A way to deliver a performance worthy of an Oscar without making the millions that usually comes with being an actress. Some might call it obsessed but for us, it’s merely dedication.
So, just how far does this obsession go? If you’ve dated a synchronized skater, have one in your family or you are one, you might recognize some of these behaviours.   

We love talking about synchro. Nonstop.
Whether it’s a colleague asking about a weekend competition or a new friend asking what the hell the sport is all about, we love to talk about it. I, for one, love when people don’t know what it is and I get the opportunity to explain it to them. I’ve mastered the art of telling them it’s like synchronized swimming, but on the ice and without the high cut bathing suits, nose plugs and gelatin.

We also love watching synchro, over and over again.
Whether we’re at a competition or sitting at home in our pjs drinking wine searching YouTube, we love watching synchro videos. Programs from previous years are constantly brought up at practice, we post videos to our Facebook of other teams and share videos of our competitors amongst team members on the regular. To the untrained, un-synchro-obsessed eye, the programs may all look the same but to us, they couldn’t be more different.

We love playing detective and researching steps, moves, lifts, arm holds and transitions. For the parts we really love, don’t be surprised if we pause, restart or screen shot the video just so we can make sure we fully understand how something was executed. It’s a beautiful competitive sport, we can’t help ourselves.

We’re really, really committed to practicing our moves.
 When we hear our program music at a grocery store, friend’s party or a club, we’re not afraid to bust out our moves – arms, heads, chassés  and spirals included. Because, the program looks just as good off the ice as on, right?

A bit of advice: if your friend is a synchronized skater and begins doing program moves at a party, be sure to give her a few feet of space either way or you may end up with her foot in your face while she stumbles across the floor practicing her 135.

When it comes to our old program, we’re like elephants – we never forget.
You think we’ve got good memories for practicing our current routines? You should see us bust out the moves from our juvenile years when our skirts were shorter than Rebecca Black’s career, our scrunchies were the accessory of the decade and  we were thrilled to leave grade three gym class early on a Friday to head to a competition.

I doubt I’d find a synchronized skater on the planet who hasn’t skated to either a disco routine, Sweet Caroline or Pirates of the Caribbean who can’t recite, at the very least, circle steps or an intersection move.

We secretly love competition hair and make-up.
Back in the day as young synchro stars, it took hours to wash the craft sparkles from our hair. We’d complain and whine about finding them for days after yet happily put them in again the following weekend for the next competition.
As adults, layering on sparkly make up, adding fake eyelashes, cheap earrings and offensively bright lipstick is all par for the course. While we may half-kid about the number of showers or bottles of shampoo it’ll take to scrub ourselves clean of the competition evidence, we secretly love it.
And don’t forget the helmet hair. If we all knew then what we knew now, I’m sure many of us would have been more diligent in buying stock in Dippity Do gel.

We’re sticklers for details… when it comes to skating.
Should our arms be on a 45 degree angle or straight up? Is it open palm or closed fist? Should our spirals aim to be 45 degrees higher than our bodies or 48? Does the arm change happen on five, six, or between the two counts?

We constantly ask questions and clarify arm placements, holds, under cuts and counts of music. We can tell you exactly what direction our heads should be facing at each beat in the program, whether  stretch or tuck on our mohawks and the exact moment in the program our expression changes from over-the-top happiness to dark and mysterious. 

But ask me where I saved that all important file at work or who starred in the recent James Bond movie? Pfft. I haven’t  a friggin’ clue.

We bitch about skating, but at the end of the day, we really, really do love it.
Sometimes, we like to complain. Be it a bad practice, a snarky comment from a tired team mate, a fall during competition or unfair judging, we sometimes let our emotions get the better of us and end up in a full-fledged rant to whoever is willing to listen.

While we can sometimes complain about the sport, deep down many of us feel more at home on the ice than anywhere else. 

It’s a place to exercise, connect with people who truly understand why you’re crazy enough to get up at 4:50 a.m. for a Saturday morning practice and a way of feeling as though you’ve accomplished something. For me, there’s no greater feeling than stepping off of the ice after a great skate knowing we laid out everything we had. Well, except winning a gold medal.

Oh, for those of you who are still trying to figure out what the hell this synchronized skating is all about, here’s one of the best teams in Canada at a recent competition. Happy watching!

The Glory Days Are (Officially) Back!

At around 9:30 last night, after refreshing my inbox over 500 times during the course of the day, the email from Ice Fyre finally arrived. When I opened it and read the second line, I nearly cried from excitement:

The Ice Fyre Coaching staff are proud to offer you a position on the Ice Fyre Adult II Team for the 2013-2014 season.
After an eight-year break and having convinced myself I’d never be able to skate again, I’m officially on a synchronized skating team. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning.
Given how many people were at the second try out, I was worried about my chances – there were only 20 spots and many of the skaters were really talented. The email itself said the decisions were difficult. I certainly didn’t envy the position the coaches were in.  
That being said, I can’t begin to describe how elated I am to be part of the skating world again.
The past two weeks have reignited a flame I thought had long burnt out and it really does feel amazing.
I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the girls I skated with before and meeting the new members of our team.
With three competitions planned for the 2013/2014 season not including nationals, we have a lot of work ahead of us and I can’t wait to get started. Our practices begin in August so that gives me plenty of time to come back down to earth from cloud nine and get myself in shape.
Bring on the skating tights, blisters, Sunday night practices, run-throughs of the program just “one more time”, competition buns, sparkles, and Peterborough Petes hockey parties memories.
Look out synchro world – Whitby Ice Fyre’s Adult Team is ready to top the podium!

Reliving The Glory Days: Round 2

Last night, we had our second of two skating try outs for Whitby Ice Fyre’s adult team.
Since our first session last week, I’ve been thinking nonstop about the possibility of skating again. I’m borderline obsessed.
On Saturday, I went to a figure skating store to buy tights and gel socks. I’m a serious figure skater after all – tights and gel socks are necessities.  
Although I knew exactly what I was looking for, I found myself wandering around the store touching the skating dresses, fiddling with the sparkles, playing with scrunchies, and trying out the skating 
After 15 minutes, I finally went up to the cash and word vomited all over the poor cashier about how excited I was to skate again “because, like, it’d been so long”. He politely nodded while he rang me through but the look in his eyes said it all – this woman is I-N-S-A-N-E.
All day before the try out, I had nervous butterflies. I thought about what I was going to wear, what time I should leave, I Google-mapped my route even though I’d been there 100 times, and set my skating bag by the door.
I tried on two different outfits and I hummed to myself while I did my make-up – yes you read that correctly. 
As I brushed my hair, I began to laugh uncontrollably. Tears streaming down my face and my make-up essentially ruined, I realized I just did my make up before a skating practice. I barely have time to do my hair and make-up before work but here I am applying mascara and eye liner before a work out. Apparently my inner poptart isn’t totally gone. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed or proud.  
(Photo credit: Britta)
When I arrived at the arena, I felt at home again. Even the sight of the Zamboni resurfacing the ice gave me goosebumps. (what?!)
The cool, crisp air was almost intoxicating and this time, I felt more in control and more confident in my ability. 
Although I struggled with some of the movements we were asked to do, I felt like I was on a high. In fact, skating last night almost made me delusional.

It wasn’t until this morning that I thought about some of the things we were asked to practice and realized that I probably didn’t execute them as well as I thought I did in my mind. Field moves like Ina Bauers and spirals were much more challenging than I ever remember them being.

In my mind, my spiral looked something like this:
From everyone else’s perspective, this was probably more accurate:

… But less canine and more human. You get the idea.
I think there must have been something in the air. Or perhaps I’ve just become a full blown addict.
As soon as I got off the ice, my muscles began to ache and fatigue started to set in – I loved every second of it. With my 2003 Gold Medallion competition CD cranked the entire way home, I realized how badly I wanted to make the team. 
I know I have a long way to go to reach even half of the level I was at before in terms of flexibility, confidence, skills and strength but I’m committed to doing it and know I can bring myself to reach a level of ability that would allow me to a great member of the team. Let’s hope the coaches agree.
We were told offers will be emailed over the next day or so I’ve been patiently waiting for mine and haven’t given it a second thought. 
Who am I kidding, I’m (nearly) pulling my hair out. I hate waiting for things. In fact, I may or may not have refreshed my inbox 276 times already waiting for the message….
Stay tuned!

Reliving The Glory Days

Last night, I had a chance to relive the glory days. 
No, I’m not talking about the “high-school Alyshia” glory days. I’m talking about reconnecting with my first love: skating. 
France 2004
Back in the day, I was a competitive synchronized skater with Whitby Ice Fyre. A member of Team Canada for two years, our junior competitive synchronized skating team competed both locally and internationally, representing Canada at two competitions in Europe. 
Our 20-member team was like a sorority – minus the Greek letters and secret handshake. We were all very different but were united by the one thing we all had a passion for: synchronized skating. (Well, that and hockey players.)
We partied together, we cried together, we succeeded together, we lost together. I formed lasting friendships with many of the girls I skated with – one of them was even a bridesmaid in my wedding. 
Just another practice circa 2005
The year I stopped skating to pursue college, the fees were several thousand dollars and the time commitment had reached upwards of 20 hours a week. I never thought I’d be crazy enough to skate again have the opportunity to be part of a team again.  But when I found out a few girls I used to skate with were hosting an open session to gauge interest in a potential adult team, I was more excited than I expected.
It took me a few days to locate my skates and after sharpening the rust off of them (literally), I was ready to go. I hadn’t been on the ice in over six years, but somehow convinced myself I’d be able to do it.
Last night, reality began to sink in. When I walked into the arena, my cheeks flushed and my heart raced. What the hell was I doing here? What if I made a total fool of myself? I wasn’t even sure I’d remember how to stand on the ice, let alone skate.
The second I stepped on the ice, my anxiety and fear disappeared – I felt at home. The cool air nipped at my cheeks as I began warming up and I realized how good it felt to just skate.
Our signatures are still in our old change room
Standing on the ice with some of the girls I skated with eight years ago, it was like no time had passed at all. As we worked through different warm ups and skills, my mind wandered to memories of three-hour practices, the competitions, sneaking out to buy alcohol in Paris, and sharing secrets, tears and laughs.  
It felt like nothing had changed…. until I woke up this morning and realized time had changed one thing: my body’s ability to bounce back after a skating session.
I could barely swing my legs over the side of my bed. I’m sore in places I didn’t realize I had muscles. Evidently over the past eight years, my body has taken a bit of a turn for the worse and doesn’t recover from a work out like it used to when I was 18. I feel like I have a skating hangover. The crazy part is I can’t wait to do it again.  
I was proud I managed to make it through the hour-long session with only four blisters and without falling – on the ice at least. I did take a tumble (read: face plant) in the change room afterwards – evidently I need to get used to my toe picks again.
So, I’m looking forward to the session again next week, joining the team in August and making new memories…. Unless of course I don’t make the cut, in which case I’ll just tell everyone I decided against skating after all. 
Stay tuned!