Getting On The Wagon With Tone It Up

I signed up for Tone It Up last week. I’ve been following the daily workouts for seven days now. And I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

 Tone It Up: I have no idea what I'm doing

Okay, let me provide some background here.

Exercise has never been a priority of mine. Unlike many young professionals, I’m not saying that I “fell off the wagon” when I graduated. I was never on the wagon to begin with. In fact, here’s a rundown of my fitness history:

  • Took ballet at the age of five. Was horrible. Never went back.
  • Passed swimming lessons up to Level 12, when they had that — basically, the one before official lifeguard training — then stopped. Never went back.
  • Tried out for exactly zero sports in high school.
  • Stopped taking gym class after Grade Nine. (Swapped it out for science or music courses…)
  • Basically hated all things related to exercise.

Recently, I’ve participated in Zumba, done some hiking, and practiced yoga (including some month-long challenges). I even did a bit of circuit training, sort of… But the frequency and/or intensity of these activities don’t constitute a healthy lifestyle by anyone’s standards, including my own.

So I realized recently that it’s probably in my best interest to take care of my body. You know, so I can live longer, feel better, not get winded when I go up a flight of stairs… That kind of thing. Plus, I want to avoid a midlife epiphany that getting in shape would have been so much easier if I had only started earlier. Right now, for example.

Except I’m not the type of person that can motivate myself to do something brand new, and then commit to it from the get-go. Plus, gyms are scary for newbies like me. Like I said, I really don’t know what I’m doing.

Enter Tone It Up.

Tone It Up: Karena & KatrinaIf you haven’t heard of it, Tone It Up (or TIU) is a website, a YouTube channel, and a massive social media presence run by Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, two (extremely) peppy fitness trainers. Their site has workouts, recipes, an online store, and a community forum. The Tone It Up videos are pretty tough for me, though it’s clear how to modify the difficulty up or down with weights, duration, etc. They are also bright, musical, beach-y, and usually very feminine. A decent portion of their videos and a few of their recipes are available for free, but their famous “Nutrition Plan” and video series are for sale in the shop. So far, I haven’t personally purchased anything from TIU.

I’ll post a bit later on why I chose this program over the countless others out there, but here’s a quick update on how it’s going.

I’ve probably exercised more this week than ever before. (That’s not saying much… but still!) Everything on me has been sore at some point. I haven’t bought into the social media component yet, and I think that will be a long time coming. I’m getting used to waking up early to complete at least some of the daily workout first thing in the morning. That’s one of the requirements, known as the “Bootycall”. Also, I have never heard or used the word “booty” as often in my entire life — and it’s getting kind of weird, to be honest.

Will I stick with it? No idea. The ultimate goal of this experience for me is to normalize exercise in my everyday life. Having a video series and daily challenges gives it some structure and external motivation, which is helpful in this (very) early stage!

How do you stay fit — or get fit in the first place?

Goal Check-In for 2016

I don’t mean to scare you, but there are only 70 days left in 2016! Boy, does time fly!

This year has been jam-packed for me so far, and I’ve undergone quite a bit of change. When I first started blogging last December, I had no idea whether I would be able to stick it out for longer than a couple of weeks. But hey — here we are!

One of the first posts I wrote back in January was a list of goals I wanted to achieve this year. I’ll be honest: I had forgotten almost all of them before starting to write this post. In the interest of transparency, let’s take a look back at the goals I decided were so important at the beginning of this year, and see where they stand so far.

1. More Steps per Day on my Fitbit

I have a confession to make. I lost the charger for my Fitbit back in August…and I haven’t used it since.

Yes, I know, it’s awful. I fully intended to buy a new charger and get back into it, but I got so used to life without it. Plus, having a more demanding work schedule was making it much more challenging to stick to step-count goals. Still, though, I should probably go buy a new charger.

However, the intention behind this goal was to focus on a healthy lifestyle. I’ve been practicing yoga fairly regularly, which is a step in the right direction, at least.

2. 8 Hours of Sleep

This goal is still a priority for me, though I haven’t been very successful with it. Heading to bed as early as is necessary for 8 hours of sleep (i.e. 10pm) is a huge transition. I think I’ve made improvements — but I guess I don’t really know without my Fitbit tracking my sleep. Hm.

3. Read More

I’ve read a bit more this year than last year, I would say. I’m currently in the middle of three non-fiction books, and bouncing between them depending on what I’m in the mood for. I haven’t found time for fiction recently, though, thanks to a little friend called Netflix…

4. Knit a Pair of Socks

In January, I was really into knitting. Like, a lot. But almost immediately after writing my list of goals, I basically stopped knitting altogether and moved onto something else. I daresay it has joined the Hobby Graveyard. I think I would be amenable to retiring this goal altogether for this year. Maybe some other time!

5. Improve my Technical Skillset

My progress in regards to this goal has gone in an entirely different direction than I had anticipated. While I didn’t end up taking a course in programming, which was the original idea, my transition to a new department at my company has led to the development of some bomb Excel skills. Plus, I wrote the book on using our database interface for standard queries. (Literally — I made a training guide. It’s only 30 pages, but still.) So while it’s a little off-track compared to the January intent, I’d say this goal could be counted as a success.

6. Keep Blogging

I’ve made it this far. Only 70 days to go! Obviously my post frequency has decreased a tad, but that’s just a product of a busy life and blogging authenticity.

7. Identify my Dream Job?

The real purpose of this goal was to do some soul-searching and try out some new things. I made a change to my career path this year, and it was definitely a valuable decision. Beyond that is still a work in progress.

8. Track and Plan my Goals

I was pretty good about this early in the year, but I fell off the wagon over the summer. Honestly, I think that’s okay at this stage in the game. I have some vague targets and I’m not letting everything in my life go wild, but I don’t think the rigid goal structure I’d originally conceived would be very helpful for me right now. Keeping track of these goals (or what’s left of them) for the next 70 days should be good enough for 2016!


What goals did you set for 2016 — and how will you achieve them in the next 70 days?

30 Days of Yoga: Lessons Learned

A few days ago, I finished the final video session of 30 Days of Yoga on the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. It was an empowering and enlightening experience that taught me quite a bit about yoga — and myself.

I mentioned in an earlier post back in the spring that I was just beginning to practice yoga regularly, so I definitely classify myself as a newcomer. After taking a weekly class at work for a couple of months, I realized that my yoga practice was hindered by the length of time between classes, and the amount of stress endured during that time. I felt like any progress made was superficial and I wanted to take things to the next level. In the interest of a healthy lifestyle, I decided to undertake a 30-day home practice video series.

30 Days of Yoga — in 44 Days

With my highly variable weeknight schedule, I knew it would be more reasonable to commit to a morning yoga practice. I took “days off” from the videos in order to attend my usual morning yoga class on Wednesdays. Plus, after the first full week of the program, I went camping and delayed my progress until I returned. So all in all, it took me 44 days to complete 30 videos.

A Private Undertaking

Since I started this blog, I’ve taken on a number of “challenges”. I wrote a post a day back in April for the A to Z Challenge; I basically invented my No Buy July to save money (but mostly so that I could blog about it); and I committed to a number of monthly goals that I posted for the world to see. It’s helpful for me to use this blog as a form of accountability. But when I decided to begin 30 Days of Yoga, I kept it to myself, with the exception of a handful of close friends and family.

Why didn’t I declare my intentions online? There were two reasons in this case.

First, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to commit. Waking up at 6 is quite the adjustment when you’re used to 6:45 — especially when you know you don’t need to be up that early.

And second, I felt that using an external form of motivation would defeat the purpose of the commitment. If I really wanted to use this time to deepen my practice and create a ritual, the drive would need to come from within. And while it took two weeks longer than intended, I think the decision to keep my 30 Days of Yoga to myself was a good one.

“Find What Feels Good”

One of the things I love about yoga is that its main focus is not on the poses themselves. Many sequences are physically demanding, and can be out of reach for some people, depending on their practice and development. From what I’ve learned on this so-called 30 Days of Yoga journey, there are two priorities in yoga that overshadow the quest to “achieve” a certain pose: mental/emotional/spiritual connection with the body, and physical alignment.

Without a focus on the first priority, you may as well be exercising in a boot camp class rather than taking yoga. And without a focus on the second, you may cause yourself unnecessary injury and stress. There are ways to modify essentially every pose to allow for a positive, yet challenging, experience. Adriene provided a lot of direction on this topic in the video series, which I found very helpful. She summarizes this concept in the slogan “Find What Feels Good”. The self-love aspect of yoga feels very authentic, even at the beginner stages, especially when compared to other health and wellness trends that are popular online.

Spoiler Alert: Day 30

Note: I’m going to spoil the ending here. Only read this section if you have completed 30 Days of Yoga, or if you have no intention of ever doing so, for whatever reason.

Or maybe you’re the kind of person that reads the last page of the book first. In that case, read on.

It’s easy enough to follow along with a yoga video. Sure, there are tricky poses and pranayama techniques, but you learn the tips, the tricks, the physical alignment “checklists”, and the lingo along the way. But as I neared the end of the sessions, I started to panic. What would I do once it was all over? Would I stop practicing daily? Would I find a new series of videos to follow? Or would I have to — gasp — make up my own routines?

As the series neared its conclusion, Adriene’s instructions tended to be more open-ended. At a given point, I could take on a challenging flow, use the time for rest, or anything in between. She was building up my confidence in directing my own practice. She convinced me that I could, in fact, have a self-directed practice.

I made grand plans to do my research. I’d develop some sort of weekly plan for the types of poses for which I would prepare each day. I wanted to create the perfect playlist that would ease me into each portion of the practice. Maybe I would set goals for developing my endurance, strength, or patience. I procrastinated on all of this. I figured it could wait until the evening on the day I completed my 30 Days of Yoga.

But then, a twist!

Adriene intro’ed the 30th day video as a self-directed practice!

If I had been really paying attention, I would have known that each of the previous 29 videos had been leading up to this one. Without my intense preparation, though, was I really up to the task?

Turns out, yes, of course I was. (Plus, the video provided the playlist.) It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The important thing, though, was realizing that my preparations would have defeated the entire purpose of the exercise. There is a whole lot of yoga I have left to learn, but when it comes to making the most of a home practice, as Adriene says, it’s all about finding what feels good.


Now that my 30 Days of Yoga are complete, I intend to continue with yoga at home, with a blend of both personal and video-led practice. If you haven’t tried 30 Days of Yoga for yourself, I would definitely encourage you to try it out, whether you’re brand new to yoga or a little further along. The videos are light-hearted and instructive, and Adriene is hilarious and awesome. I really believe you’ll get a lot out of the experience, like I did!

What has been your favourite yoga experience?

No Buy July (+ June Review)

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians! I’m so glad Canada Day falls on a Friday this year so we can all enjoy a nice, relaxing long weekend. (That goes for those of you Americans that are off on Monday as well!) Now that July is here and summer is in full swing, it’s time to recap my successes and failures with my June goals, and tell you a little bit about my goal for this month: a No Buy July!

But first, let’s check in on my goals for June:

  1. Continue going to the gym: Check! I’ve been attending the weekly Zumba and yoga classes at my office gym that I mentioned last month. That means I’ve been heading in to work at 7am on Wednesdays for 9 weeks now!
  2. Pack 5+ meals per week: …Almost. If I average it out over the four weeks, I’m short by about half a meal per week. But it was definitely an improvement from my habits this past spring.
  3. Run (once): 200% accomplished! That’s right, folks, I went to the gym for a run TWO WHOLE TIMES! (This is a big deal for me.) Okay, so I didn’t run very far or very fast, but it HAPPENED.
  4. Garden: Success! Stay tuned for my garden update, coming this weekend!
  5. Keep up with blogging: My pace slowed way down this month in terms of blogging, but at least it didn’t grind to an absolute halt. And I’ll be honest, it would have been easier to just lay on the couch watching Netflix and not blog at all, so I’ll count this as a success.

I’d call that a pretty successful month, wouldn’t you say? The best part is that none of these goals feel like a stretch anymore, and they feel more like a routine, which is awesome. I figure I’ll work to maintain most of these goals in the background for the coming month, and focus on more of a stretch goal for July. Which brings us to…

No Buy July!

What is No Buy July?

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: it’s a July in which you don’t buy anything. It’s not really an official thing, but I’ve seen it pop up on other blogs and forums, and it can mean different things to different people. My definition will be:

  • No unnecessary expenditures.
  • Necessary expenditures include:
    • Bills
    • Food and sundries
    • Gas, or alternate transportation (if necessary)
    • My movie ticket if my dad decides he is super adamant about going to see Independence Day 2 even though it’s probably terrible
  • Unnecessary expenditures include:
    • All other movie tickets
    • Expenses for entertainment
    • Material products, i.e.
      • Clothing
      • Makeup
      • Home stuff
      • Cat stuff
      • David’s Tea tins (don’t let me pretend that counts as groceries…)
    • Dining out (I’m going to exclude lunch at work, and a coffee now and then. I don’t want to starve. Or get cranky.)

Whew. Listing it out makes it sound like a really boring July. But there are lots of things to do that don’t cost money! (Plus, with my new position at work, I have less free time to spend worrying about not having enough stuff… Silver linings, right?)

So why am I doing this? There are a couple of reasons.

  1. My credit card bill this past month hurt my heart.
  2. My spending this past month was basically a bunch of little stuff that all added up. My guess is that it’s a systemic issue.
  3. I’d love to beef up my savings.
  4. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I don’t have that I haven’t left time to focus on what I do have. It feels like an unhealthy mindset, and I want to detox from it for a while.
  5. I was thinking about doing a No Buy June. But it didn’t rhyme. July it is!

That’s the plan in a nutshell! I hope to post some updates throughout the month if I face any particular challenges or develop any meaningful insights. It’s time to get saving!

What are your goals this month? Will you be joining me for No Buy July?

The Monthly Goals Link-Up

Welcome to June! This past month has been a bit of a roller coaster for me, with highs and lows, boring days and exciting days. I felt the same way about my progress towards my goals for the month. Those goals were:

  1. Comment More Frequently: Nope. I got off to a bad start with my blog-reading habits this past month, and never really got back into the swing of things. Plus, I started watching Game of Thrones from the beginning, so that ate up a lot of my would-be blog-commenting time…
  2. Go to the Gym: Done! I’ve been attending morning yoga and circuit training classes for the past month, and I’m still going strong! (Well, not strong. I guess that’s the point of going to the gym.)
  3. Organize our Files: Not done. Honestly, I totally forgot that I had wanted to do this. Oops.
  4. Visit 3 Conservation Halton Parks: Not quite. We did visit twice, to Rattlesnake Point and Mount Nemo, but this past weekend was too busy to fit that last one in we were planning. However, I was busy because I was volunteering at the Run for the Camps for the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation, which was held in Bronte Creek Provincial Park… So maybe that can count as a visit? Maybe?

    June Goals and May Review — Hiking

    Can I just point out that these photos were taken one week apart? Canadian weather, man. (Don’t mind my super-non-candid photo.)

  5. Garden: Done! Check out this post for an update as of last weekend.
  6. Write my “30 Before 30” List: Done! I posted that list here.

3.5 out of 6 ain’t bad! Okay, no, it’s pretty bad. I’m thinking 6 “focus” goals was too many for one month. My June goals are a little easier to track.

And what are those goals?

Goal #1: Continue Going to the Gym

It’s one thing to attend a handful of classes. It’s another thing to stick with it and make it a habit. I can feel myself getting complacent about waking up for yoga or packing my gym bag for a lunchtime class, so I need to nip that laziness in the bud!

Goal #2: Pack 5+ Meals per Week

I usually eat both breakfast and lunch at work. And because I’m often lazy and usually rushed, I end up purchasing both of those meals, for a grand total of about $11 per day. Yuck. While I’d love to quit the cafeteria cold turkey, I’m finding it difficult to meal plan and pack lunches for one (since a certain someone buys lunch every day as well). So I’ll try an average of one purchased meal a day, rather than two, and see how that goes.

Goal #3: Run (Once)

My 30 Before 30 List included running a 5k. I know that’s not a very lofty goal, but for me, it’s an infinite increase from the distance I currently run. So sometime in June, I have to go for a run. Maybe not a long run, but a run.

Goal #4: Garden

Now that all the plants are planted, I want them to thrive! But that means taking care of them, and not being too passive or forgetful about it.

Goal #5: Keep Up with Blogging

Later this month, I’ll be transferring to a new department within my company, which means more challenges and longer hours — hence less time for blogging. My goal from that point on is essentially to not drop the ball on the blog altogether. Here’s hoping I can create a reasonable balance!


That’s it for June! What are your goals this month?

 The Monthly Goals Link-Up

Accidental Adventures in Circuit Training

I mentioned in a couple of previous posts that I finally signed up for my office gym! It’s actually a pretty great facility, with diverse equipment, plenty of space for the number of members, and regular classes included in a membership, such as bootcamp,  circuit training, and indoor cycling.

If you know anything about me (or if you read those previous posts on this topic) , you’ll know that none of those things were ever going to get me to go to the gym. But a recent shake-up to the gym schedule was what gave me the motivation to finally sign up: they replaced one of the bootcamp-style classes with morning yoga, and the circuit training class with Zumba.

Admittedly, signing up for these classes wasn’t exactly outside my comfort zone. I’ve attended both before in other settings. In fact, these classes were the cheapest and most convenient option in terms of getting some exercise in a setting I would actually enjoy. What could possibly go wrong?

Well.

I went to the first Zumba class last week. The instructor was feeling under the weather, but that was no reason to cancel the class. Especially considering she taught the previously-scheduled class as well.

So I waltzed into my first circuit training class completely by accident.

 

And it killed me.

Everything — my arms, neck, shoulders, chest, back, butt, legs, everything — hurt for days. And what I thought was a thirty minute class ended up being and hour long instead. I wish I could say that I had magically found my calling by accidentally attending this class, but no, unfortunately not. Once was enough. At least next week was finally Zumba!

But as the saying goes:

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Yup, I did it again yesterday. I got all ready and headed into Zumba, only to discover that it was yet another week of circuit training. I died a little less this time, but probably only because I exerted myself slightly less. I know, I’m a slacker.

I think the funniest part of all of this was listening to the instructor giving advice on what exercises would help you build muscle and shape. And I’m just like, “I just need to be in shape enough to not collapse every time I exercise, thank you very much.”

So am I going to attend next week? Yes. Will it be Zumba? Maybe. Will I tell myself that it will definitely be Zumba so that I can convince myself to go, even if it ends up being circuit training again? Yeah, that sounds about right.

What are your favourite fitness activities? Have you ever had an accidental gym adventure like mine?

Morning Yoga

Yesterday marked a few firsts for me in the realm of fitness. I attended a morning yoga class at my gym at work for the first time, which also means, for the first time:

  • I actually went to the gym at work.
  • I went to the gym in the morning.
  • I went to yoga by myself. That’s right, not with my mom, my sister, or a friend — just me!

All of these things sound like no big deal. But for someone as adverse to gyms, and new fitness things in general, this was a huge step for me. And the best part is that it was a great experience! Not only that, but I’m actually planning to go back every week!

So what was so great about it, that made me want to (gasp) do it again?

A Real Reason to Wake Up Early

I always feel like my day will be more productive and fulfilling when I wake up early. Unfortunately, that reason in itself is never quite enough motivation for me to actually do it. But having a scheduled commitment at 7 AM was the exact kick in the butt I needed to get up and make the most of my morning.

Small Class Size

This won’t be true of large gyms with hugely popular morning classes, but because many people work out after work or on their lunch break, our gym is largely empty in the mornings. A small class size originally intimidated me. To be honest, walking into a class with only two other people had me feeling very self-conscious. It meant the instructor was actually correcting my posture and paying attention to my exertion level! The horror! But because the class was already so small, I didn’t feel singled out by the instructor’s comments or corrections. Because everyone got a similar level of feedback, I was actually energized by the 1-on-1 interaction, rather than embarrassed. This was a huge surprise for me, and I’m glad I discovered it.

Morning Yoga is a Great Warm-Up for the Day

I’ve been worried about morning exercise classes because I didn’t want to get sweaty and tuckered out first thing in the morning. However, every morning needs a bit of a warm-up, whether that’s in the form of dancing to the radio, a big cup of coffee, or some stretches. Morning yoga was a perfect warm-up: just the right amount of stretching, strength-building, alignment, and relaxation.

Plus, something unexpected happened — can you guess?

I didn’t drink my morning cup of coffee.

And I didn’t even notice.


So there you have it: my first impressions of morning yoga. Looking forward to next week!

Have you tried morning yoga? How well does it suit your lifestyle?

3 Reasons Hiking is my Favourite Hobby for Exercise

Today I took what feels like a big step towards a balanced lifestyle: I officially purchased my Conservation Halton membership for the coming year. It covers admission to 7 large parks in my area, which are all great for hiking. The cost was just under 50 bucks, and it actually included a discount for new members that I hadn’t anticipated. It’s also good for a full year from the date of purchase, so my trip to Hilton Falls last week was just an added bonus!

It may not seem like much, but for me, it’s part of a journey to find a healthy hobby that I can stick to (maybe, sometimes). As you may know, when it comes to how I spend my personal time, I am both picky and a flake. It is extremely hard for me to motivate myself to do something “fun” when I no longer find it fun. The problem is that I will then gravitate towards the hobbies of lowest effort — namely, Netflix and eating. That’s not good, for obvious reasons. I’ve put some thought into why hiking is a great option for exercise and adventure.

Reason 1: Concrete Goals and Achievement

Now, I’ve mentioned that I do have a Fitbit, and while I have been making a conscious effort to get more steps in a given day, I’ve really struggled with getting out there and walking when there’s no destination in mind. Sure, I could walk around the block, but where’s the fun in that? For a while, I started coming up with actual errands I could run. That soon devolved into long walks for shopping and Tim Hortons. I do get exercise on those walks, but these destinations derail my other goals in terms of spending and eating habits, respectively. It comes down to my need for a real, tangible goal.

Luckily, I’ve found that hiking specified trails actually meets that need. Unlike neighbourhood walks, with their many routes and shortcuts and undefined length, trails are colour-coded and measured for you with ranges of difficulty. There’s also often a reward at the other end, such as a waterfall, in the case of my visit to Hilton Falls last weekend. This type of goal-setting is a lot healthier, I think, than going for a long walk to get a Pulled Pork sandwich from Tims. (I’m addicted, can you tell?)

Reason 2: No Expectations

Gyms scare me. I’ve been to the gym a grand total of, what, four times in my life, and I have no clue what to do there. Not only that, but honestly, the fear of comparison and judgment is crippling. The fact that you have to pay for them is an added barrier that helps me justify not going. I’ll admit, I do regret not taking advantage of the free gym membership that came with my tuition at Queen’s. Maybe someday I’ll conquer this fear…

 

I love that there is such a broad spectrum of people that go hiking. All ages, all levels of fitness, all walks of life. Of course, there are the hardcore hikers with their brand-name outfits and equipment, but I’ve never noticed a hierarchy in the Halton parks, especially with the numbers of families and young children out there every weekend. It’s immediately comfortable for anyone to start anywhere.

Reason 3: The Great Outdoors

First of all, there are the perks from being outside in general: sunshine, fresh air, relief from your stir-craziness. When you head a little further north (from the GTA, anyway) and check out a conservation area, you get the added benefits of exposure to wildlife, tranquil bodies of water, huge thriving forests, and other experiences you’re just not going to get at home. I mean, being able to feed a chickadee out of my hand at Hilton Falls made my weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing more, doing more, and learning more at Halton’s parks over the coming year.


I used my membership for the first time today by visiting Mountsberg Conservation Area, and, weather permitting, I’ll check out Crawford Lake next weekend.

How do you stay active?

hiking at hilton falls

One of my favourite things about living in Oakville, just west of Toronto, is the wide variety of outdoor spaces. Not only is Lake Ontario a literal five-minute walk from my house, but there are also a dozen parks and green spaces surrounding the suburbs, including seven Conservation Halton parks along the Niagara Escarpment. Up until today, I had only visited one of those seven parks. But today, Joe and I worked up the courage to get outdoors (for once) and go hiking at Hilton Falls!

hiking at hilton falls - breakfast

Tim Hortons = non-negotiable first stop.

It’s a pretty straightforward drive up to the park. And by straightforward, I mean that the directions are simple, not that the roads themselves are straight. Because they’re not, especially going up the Escarpment. If you’ve ever been up the side of a moderately big cliff, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

hiking at hilton falls - curve ahead

Yeah, no kidding.

Hilton Falls, like the rest of Conservation Halton’s parks, has a reasonable entrance fee. To our surprise, though, the fee included a little Ziploc bag of birdseed! Whatever could it be for? (Heavy foreshadowing.)

The park features a number of trails of varying lengths. We chose the one that led to the titular Hilton Falls, about 2 kilometers in. Piece of cake, right? Well… it seemed to have slipped my mind that while Oakville has no snow whatsoever in today’s 8ºC weather, other locations might not be so fortunate. In short, the paths were covered in slush and I was wearing the wrong shoes.

hiking at hilton falls - wet feet

Very sneaker. Many puddle. Wow.

My soaking wet feet put a damper on things, but not for long. Once we reached the top of the first ridge, Joe and I decided to test out the birdseed, first on the ground, and then even from our hands. And wouldn’t you know – it worked!

 hiking at hilton falls - joe's chickadee hiking at hilton falls - chickadee

Needless to say, I was quite thrilled by this discovery. It turns out that feeding the birds is one of the hallmarks of a visit to Hilton Falls. We even met a man halfway down the trail that had been feeding the birds and educating hikers about them for over a decade. He let us know that the birds are most active in winter, so if you want to experience this for yourself, keep that in mind.

Another highlight from our walk was another animal, though not the kind you would expect in a forest: the domestic rabbit! Who knew people take their rabbits hiking?

hiking at hilton falls - Emma the Rabbit

Friends, I’d like you to meet Emma the Rabbit! That’s one of her owners in the background.

The falls themselves ended up being mostly obscured by a layer of snow and ice, but you could still see and hear the water flowing beneath. It wasn’t that spectacular, truth be told, but the overall atmosphere was nice. The nearby picnic area and fire pit was a good place to kick back and relax before hiking back to the entrance of the park.

 hiking at hilton falls - waterfall hiking at hilton falls - fire

There were also a couple of water features that we saw on our way out, which, I imagine, would be very nice in the spring or summer.

 hiking at hilton falls - reservoir  hiking at hilton falls - creek

In all, we got two hours of fun, exercise, and new experiences for about the cost of a single movie ticket! It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Our next step will be to buy the Conservation Halton membership — and to get me some hiking boots…

What are your favourite hiking spots?

 

Last night my sister took me to a drop-in Zumba class. I’ve tried Zumba once before – and trust me, I was no better this time than I was last time. For context, my sister has been dancing for, what, twelve years now? And I’ve been dancing for a total of zero. (Unless you count ballet in Kindergarten. Which I don’t.) Here are some of my thoughts from the experience.

I have no coordination whatsoever.

I knew that going in, but for some reason I figured I would get better as the class progressed. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to do any moves that involved my arms and my legs moving in different directions. I was less winded by the end than I was at the beginning, but no less awkward.

I’m convinced my sister and I can’t be related.

If you overlook all the other ways my sister and I are basically identical… Okay, fine, we’re related. I guess I’m okay with her being the athletic one. I’m the smart one. (I’ll keep telling myself that…)

I got my daily steps! Or did I?

My Fitbit buzzed during the class to congratulate me on reaching 10,000 steps today. But I have to wonder, how many of those “steps” were actually just from shaking my wrist?

I wish I could control the colour of my face.

Am I the only one whose face turns bright red whenever I exercise? It stays like that for almost an hour! It probably has something to do with the fact that I never exercise, but maybe I’m not alone in this.

I enjoy Zumba more when I recognize the songs.

Out of the hour-long class, I knew one of the songs. It was Pitbull, obviously. I found it a lot easier to engage and follow the instructor when I was able to anticipate the music and sing along in my head when I knew the words. I imagine that if I were to join a Zumba class and attend regularly, I would probably get to know a number of the songs in other languages. I noticed my sister had learned the words to some of them. Maybe this could be a minor motivation to make this a regular thing?

It was pretty fun!

Would I go again? Probably. Will I go weekly? Maybe not. We’ll see what the new year will bring!

Have you tried Zumba? What was your experience?