Michelle’s Guide to Turning 30

Michelle’s Guide to Turning 30

 

Congratulations, I made it to 30!

 

Turning 30 has elicited a whirlwind of emotions for me.  First of all, I am in complete disbelief that time passes so quickly.  I’ve heard rumours about this time warping phenomenon the older folk speak of however, until now they have been just that: rumours.  Now here I am, a certified adult…30.

How did this happen? I am still a child who knows nothing about life, how can I be turning thirty?  Where did all that time go?  Shouldn’t I have a better grasp on things by now?

When I look back on the past 30 years, I guess I could say I have put my time to good use.  The proof being in the multiple lifetimes I have lived.  I was once a creative, tom-boyish child, a champion baton twirler, a professional dancer, a teacher, a writer.  I’ve pursued my dreams and built myself a career in a cut throat industry.  I travelled the world, I worked in the movies, I worked for the circus. I once got paid to put on a purple unitard, slap on a mask and pretend to be a seahorse…in a forest.  There was even a time I was chased by feral monkeys in Hong Kong.  This past year not with standing, I guess you could say, I have lived my life and especially my 20’s to the fullest!

My last year and a half has been a well documented exploration into my truth and soul.  A process that would have never happened if it weren’t for all of these past experiences.  I have had many victories but I have also had many failures and it has only been through a commitment to complete self honesty that I have discovered what I else I can include.

 

And the conclusion that I have come to:  I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON AND THAT’S OK BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE HAS ANY IDEA EITHER!

 

Here is what I do know, purely through trial and error:

1. Pay your taxes.

This is an important and unfortunate truth.  You’ll have to find a way to “Stick it to the man” some other way.

2. Get a hair cut.

It’s a new decade and it deserves a new do!

 

3. Take Inventory.

An honest evaluation of what is and isn’t working is always a good road map, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it makes you.

 

4. Think about your health.

Let’s face it, you aren’t on warranty anymore.  You require a little more maintenance.

 

5. Tell people how you feel.

People can’t read your mind and many challenging situations could be avoided if you would just say what’s on your mind rather than burying it.

 

6. Stop worrying so much about things you cannot change.

You can’t go back in time and we have yet to discover how to bend the space/time continuum to go forwards.  Let it go!

 

7. Stop worrying so much about things you apparently won’t change.

Chances are if you aren’t willing to do the work to change bad habits than it’s going to stick around for a while.  Stop stressing about it until you are ready to make that change.

 

8. If you are willing to make a change, stop talking about it, DO IT!

So you are willing to do the work? Great, now get to work!

 

9. Stop caring what people think.

Seriously, they’re just thinking about themselves anyway.  Aren’t you?

 

10. Commit to living in the moment.

Because it’s got to be clear to you by now that that is all you have.

 

11. Go to bed at a decent hour.

Sleeping is good for you and you are so much more productive when you are well rested.

 

12. Get up early.

There is a whole day of life for you to live!

 

13. Make you bed.

Just do it, it takes 30 seconds and it looks nice when you get home.

 

14. Be bold.

That thing you have always wanted to do but hesitated because of any number of reasons?  Just do it and be proud that you are trying something new!

 

15. Face your self.

Funny, we have lost touch with who we truly are and are afraid of who is actually underneath.

 

16. Face you fears.

Fear is there for a reason, it’s actually a good thing.  Explore it, challenge it and conquer it!  You may just surprise yourself.

 

17. Listen!

To yourself, your intuition, to your friends, family, that guy on the bus, to the wind.  Just listen.

 

18. Being willing to admit you have no idea what’s going on.

Apparently nobody does.  Just go with it.

 

19. Being willing to admit when you are wrong.

Goes along with facing yourself but admitting you are wrong when you actually are, is a strength.

 

20. Go for walks.

Long ones if you need too.

 

21. Put your phone/computer/TV away.

For at least an hour everyday.  This may be hard to believe but you don’t need it.

 

22. Meditate.

It has been proven that people who meditate have less injuries, stress and health problems than those who do not.  Food for thought.

 

23. Travel more.

There is nothing more worthwhile to spend your money on.

 

24. Open your heart.

All you need is love.

 

25. Say thank you.

For everything.

 

Bottom line:

The wonderful thing about 30 is, I may not have everything figured out but I do have some experience under my belt now!  I know it will not always be smooth sailing but I endeavour to use each and every experience as an opportunity to grow.  Each day is a new chance to invite more wisdom, light, peace and love into my life.

 

Here’s to a new decade of adventures through life!

 

NEW! Acrobatic Conditioning Website!

Hello everyone!

I created a site for posting my various workshops and classes I am currently running.   Take a look!
If you have a class or workshop in mind, something you have always wanted to learn or just a story you want to share please feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions, comments or suggestions!

Acrobatic Conditioning with Michelle C. Smith

 

Stay gold!

Michelle

Doing Whatever It Takes: A Dangerous Habit

Doing Whatever It Takes: A Dangerous Habit

By Michelle Smith

 

In response to an article I posted on my Facebook wall:

http://skepchick.org/2014/02/the-female-athlete-triad-not-as-fun-as-it-sounds/

 

Disclaimer:  What you are about to read my anger you, upset you or affect you in some way, shape or form.  Please be advised.

 

Hi, my name is Michelle and I work in film…

I also think I might have disordered eating.

When I saw the headline of this article show up in my news feed I clicked on it unconsciously.  The subject caught my attention immediately because it speaks of the alarming hazards of female athletes trying to remain thin by under-eating, causing havoc to their metabolisms and psyches.  The author spoke of the dangerous side effects of a calorie deficient diet that cause Anemorrhea, metabolic disorders and all the disordered eating habits involved.  This really hit home with me because recently, I have been struggling with some very real consequences of some actions I took in order to be, as we like to say in the film industry, “doing whatever it takes.”

My weight has always been a source of concern to me.  I have long wished for a ripping 6-pack and felt for many years that my fitness level and strength does not match my physique.  In short, for most of my adult life, I have believed myself to be fat!  In the last 10 years, after much research and experience I have cleaned up my diet from what I deem “junk food junky” to “extremely health conscious.”  Almost by accident I became gluten and dairy free by just focusing on what foods fuelled my precious body most efficiently.  Harmless as that may seem, especially for a professional athlete, I continued to be dissatisfied with my weight.  Most people would lose 5-10lbs upon adopting a gluten-free or dairy free diet, I however, did not.  I found this extremely frustrating.

It is no secret that with this world, we are constantly being bombarded by unrealistic expectations of what women should look like.  In my line of work which is basically the industry that supplies those images, it is a very common place conversation to talk about a performer’s weight and size.  It is a visual industry after all. The stunt industry it is especially prevalent  because finding the best match for actor can be very challenging at times.  It is not uncommon, for stunt performers, especially women, to be expected to drastically drop or gain weight in a very short amount of time in order to fit the bill of doubling an actor.

Let me tell you a story:

 

Towards the middle of summer in 2012, I had begun to reach a burn out point in my career. I had invested every ounce of my energy, blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul into playing the game of Stunts.  I trained extremely hard to learn how to fight, fall, wield weapons, take a hit and everything in between.  I networked, showed up at the right places, said the right things, all of it.  I was tried, both physically and emotionally.   I was upset that I was not working as much as some of the other girls and very desperately wanted to be accepted by my peers. I felt that I had basically given everything I had to this stunt career and received nothing in return.

 

The one thing I hadn’t done though, that I had seen many other performers do, was drop an exorbitant amount of weight for a role.  In July of 2012, I watched my friend, Lori (who also wrote a post about this: http://pacificwavejiujitsu.com/blog/the-skinny-on-stunt-work-the-conundrum-of-the-female-performer), prepare herself to double an actress for a movie.  Lori was extremely fit already and a skilled martial artist, I didn’t think she had any weight to lose.  But, as the industry standard goes, her actress was stick thin and it was Lori’s job as the stunt double to match her size.  I remember a conversation we had where Lori described how trying it was to do such a thing.  I remarked at how I could never allow myself to go there.  My body was just not made to be ‘actress skinny.’  I’m a strong German woman after all!

 

Funny how things change in only a matter of weeks.

 

About 2 weeks later, I was 30 seconds away from taking a bite from a freshly BBQ’d medium rare steak when I received a phone call.  “There was is a new series in town, they had a character who happened to wield a staff, you’re the first and only one I thought of, send your weapons reel asap and lose some weight FAST! “ (Key word: FAST)

 

How fast?  “2 weeks, 3 weeks tops.”

 

I can remember exactly what went on in my head that night, there was a strange mix of elation to dread to fear to anxiety.  I was excited for the opportunity for sure!  Finally, something had come along with my specialty and strength. They hadn’t officially cast the actress I would potentially be doubling yet but the producers were hovering around a girl who was 138 lbs.   It looked like it was my gig to get!

 

Problem was, having tried almost everything to cut weight, my body seemed adamant at remaining at 150lbs, actually closer to 155lbs at the time.  If I have already cut gluten, dairy, tried paleo, tried juicing, tried cutting carbs, how in the world was I supposed to drop 15 pounds in 2 weeks.

 

Is that even healthy?  I wondered.

 

The rational in my head was as followed: 

 

If it’s only 2 weeks, then when it’s over I can just go back to eating normally.

Success is my only mother fuckin’ option, failure’s not!  (Thanks again Marshall Mathers)

I guess my next step to cut my animal protein.

And if that doesn’t work than it may have to be a calorie and portion chopping deal.

I have never done this for my career before, and this may be the last effort I have been missing.

Oh god, I am going to have to do so much cardio!

 

In that bittersweet moment, I put down my uneaten steak and as a symbol of what I was about to do to myself, I walked away from the food.

 

**I think back to this moment now and I am sick to my stomach.  It makes me so upset that I did this.  I am not proud of what happened next.**

 

Immediately in the days that followed, I reached out to some peers and coaches I respected greatly for some advice on how to go about this challenge I was about to face.  Of course, my intention was to do this as healthily as possible making sure I was getting enough food to sustain me but also restricting as much as possible for the best possible outcome.  It surprised me how conflicting and different everyone’s advice was.

 

Since I had the opportunity of a lifetime riding on my back, I was not about to let myself fail.  I had to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to drop weight, however after about a week and a half, I had barely noticed any sort of results.  I had replaced all my animal protein with tofu or lentils, I replaced my carbs with brown rice only and restricted even that.  I never ate after 8pm.  I cut all sugar except fresh fruit, which I only ate on an empty stomach.  I rode my bike everywhere, I was at Circus 2.5 hours a day and did yoga almost every day.

 

WHATEVER IT TAKES.

 

Around the 2 week mark, I was beginning to feel the pressure of the task I had been assigned.  My potential employers were checking in on my progress, assuring me it would only be a few more weeks.  I began fretting over whether I was doing enough.  Could I be doing more?

 

WHATEVER IT TAKES.

 

Most of you who know me know that I am a work horse to the core.  I work hard and will always give 110%, every single time.  I take my job seriously, so when I am being asked to do whatever it takes, I will follow through.  However, what was developing in me in the weeks that followed was a strong, anxious feeling that I may be harming my body in a way that I am essentially not comfortable with.  I knew that I was not giving my body adequate amount of calories for the amount of training I was doing.  It was evident by the headaches, sluggishness, irritability and sheer hunger but I was on a mission that I could not/would not fail.

 

I grew desperate.  I cut fruit right out.  I left the brown rice behind, opting for yams and veggies instead.  I developed an OCD like tendency over my portion sizes and meal timing.  I began hiding away from the world.  After about 3 weeks, I started noticing weight coming off, after 4, I still hadn’t been brought in for the job.  I was beginning to hover around my phone, waiting for that inevitable phone call.  Instead, all I got were vague “soon, keep going.” instructions.

How much longer was I expected to maintain this?

 

By the beginning of September, I had fallen into a groove.  I ate the same things, at the same time, rode my bike to training, worked hard at circus, went to yoga, rode home, went for a run, did arts and crafts, watched Netflix, read books.  Whatever I could do to distract myself from not eating, I did.  I didn’t go out to hang with friends because socializing entailed food and that wouldn’t work.  I also didn’t have friends over because well, who would really want to do cross-stitching with me and not eat?!  I couldn’t ask that of anybody.  I was also ashamed of how I looked.

 

In my seclusion, I waged a bloody war within myself.  I knew that what I was doing was unhealthy and wrong for me, but the lure of finally achieving my career goals kept drawing me deeper and deeper into a hole.  I believed that by getting this job, all of my past efforts, including this one, would be justified and finally, I might feel successful and worthy of being a stunt woman.

 

Two months passed, any news or notifications of what was going on had completely stopped.  I was in limbo, unsure of what to do next.  That phone call to come in could happen at any moment. I had to be prepared so I kept going.

 

By the beginning of October, I had reached the 140 lbs mark.  I was often startled when I looked in the mirror, not recognizing the person I was seeing.  I saw someone who by movie standards looked beautiful but by my standards, I saw an ugly, old, gaunt woman.  I looked grey.  My clothes hung off me, my arms and legs boney and thin.  Ironically, I had a ripping 6 pack, complete with prominent transverse muscles.  Isn’t that what I have always wanted?

My peers remarked at how good I looked and how I looked like a leading actress, I smiled and thanked them, assuring everyone who might be concerned that I was indeed eating and healthy.

Many coordinators congratulated me on finally taking my career seriously.  I felt guilty and undeserving of their praise.

 

What I didn’t tell people was how meticulous I was about keeping my meals below 200 calories for fear that I might gain a pound.  In truth, I was barely eating 1200 calories a day.

 

I didn’t tell anyone that I didn’t get my period last month.

 

I didn’t tell anyone because in my mind,  I was doing WHATEVER IT TOOK.

 

I never could comprehend the danger and severity of developing an eating disorder until I realized one day that I had become a walking example of one.  I was shocked and angry at myself having defied my better judgment and intuition.  Never, ever, in my life, did I think it would be possible for me, lover of food, to get to this point.  I was just so incredibly paranoid about failing and gaining weight by this point that I couldn’t imagine going back to what I was before.  (As if that were a bad thing.)

Outwardly, I was bright and confident, ready to take on the world with my new 6-pack but inwardly, I was so ashamed of myself.  I turned my beautiful, muscular body into this wiry, emaciated creature that went against everything I used to stand for.  I sold out to the film industry devil, and went from being a strong role model for my students to another statistic and example of what the media portrays as beautiful to young girls.  I was disgusted with myself.

 

At my lowest weight, around 12% body fat, I weighed 137 lbs.  By the time November and December rolled around, I was in maintenance mode.  I knew that I needed to stop losing after I had woken up and realized I had become anorexic.  I hovered around 137-142 lbs for the next 6 months.  Waiting…

 

And I never did get that phone call.

 

What did end up happening was I started booking work.  A lot of work.  Turns out, my weight was “holding me back” in my career.  I dove into it head first, as graciously as possible. This is what I wanted after all, right?  I really took a lot of strides in my career in 2013.  It felt like I was unstoppable, a budding stunt actor career in the works.  I was poised to take over the world, Catwoman, not far from my reach.  I just couldn’t believe the stark contrast between my career pre weight loss to post weight loss.

 

I maintained as long as I could but I simply could not remain at 137 lbs.  Slowly over the next few months my weight float up towards 142-144 lbs.  Every pound striking a dagger of shame and fear into my soul.  I was gaining weight, therefore I was failing.  I was anxious that someone might call me out on my stumble up the scale.

 

However, I still had not gotten my period. I was still stressed and anxious about eating anything ‘bad’ as well.  That shadow is self-loathing and disappointment hanging in the distant corner of my mind.  My stress becoming so unbearable sometime that I would have moments of extreme binging.  Throwing my hands up in the air, saying “I can’t take it anymore!” while I scarfed down the whole bulk section at Wholefoods.  This was immediately followed by great remorse and a few extra hours training, which became my way of purging.

 

In approximately May, I simply could not handle anymore, the diet, the stress, the anxiety of trying to maintain a certain physique was starting to weight on me.  I began questioning my reasons and motives for pursuing the work I was doing.  I began to disconnect from everything I had known about myself until then.  I questioned myself about my priorities. Yes I was working but did the work justify the sacrifice I was taking?  Was all of this worth it?  Do I love this career?  Who the hell am I?

 

I couldn’t find an answer.  I was having trouble getting past the fact that I had actually harmed my physical body in order to achieve my career goals, something I promised myself I would never do.  It’s one thing to willing risk your bone, muscles and joints for the physicality of stunts but when we are asked to sacrifice the health of our internal body, I wonder if there might be something fundamentally wrong.

 

I can’t blame anybody but myself for the hell I endured the last year and a half.  It was my choice to drop the weight, I could have declined.  However, I got so trapped in trying to accommodate and bend myself to get the work that I lost track of what is really important.  In hindsight, I could have sought professional advice to help me reach the goal I had in mind, but I didn’t.  I was intimidated and afraid that I would run out of time and lose the gig.  The irony was that I never got it in the first place!

I dropped close to 20 lbs for a show and never got hired.

Then I proceeded with my caloric deprivation for almost a full year, just in case because, I was doing whatever it took to have a successful film career.

 

“It’s just what you are supposed to do.”  I would often hear.

 

It took me almost a full year to really understand the severity of the damage I had done to my body.  When I started seeing a doctor in June, for my now diagnosed Anemorrhea, I was shocked at how concerned she was.  Yes, I knew I was doing something very wrong but it wasn’t until the doctor looked at me in the eyes and said “I strongly suggest you gain weight and eat more.” This wasn’t a game anymore.  This is my life and my well being. It was clear that if I kept doing this, I will have neither of those.

 

In a way, I felt like I was meant to go through this tragedy and heart break because, if it weren’t for not getting hired on that show, I would have never been spurred into questioning my life and therefore, never would have been propelled to the Camino de Santiago in August 2013.  Almost a full year later to the date!   Also, it made everything unbelievably real for me. It gave me space and perspective on this career I have been trying to build for so long.

 

And the conclusion I came to (while walking in Spain) was that: hard work, I can handle.  Disappointment, I can deal with that.  But when I am asked to sacrifice my health in such a way that my body stops functioning, I cannot accept that as an acceptable risk.  This job, this industry, does NOT mean that much to me.  It is NOT worth dying for.   Harsh truth, from a harsh inward journey.

 

I realize for many of us in the industry, our opinions may differ and while this is perfectly ok, at the end of the day, I have to do what is best for me.

 

Currently, I am heavier than I have ever been, not by much but in all honesty, I am.  I gained close to 25 lbs while in Spain eating whatever and whenever I felt like it.  It was like escaping from the prison in my mind.  I made a point of not caring while I was away, no matter what the consequences were when I returned.  Reckless abandon.  I assumed that when I returned to Vancouver, and got back to a much healthier diet than wine, bread and digestive cookies that I would return to my healthy weight of 150 lbs.  Combine that with my training and exercise, it should be no problem, right?

WRONG!

 

I came home with the intention of eating like a normal person, focusing on well balanced, organic, whole foods with no stress and anxiety surrounding them.  I allowed myself space to be heavier, but still carried around the expectation that I would drop back into my pervious healthy range.  I was also dealing with adrenal fatigue after having trained so hard on so little food, so I made a point of reducing my training to allow my body time to heal.

All in all, I was eating much more mindfully, healthier than I ever had in my whole life.  However, my body was refusing to change.  My hormones still were unbalanced and that anxiety was beginning to creep back into my life.  Even after all the soul searching and priority rearranging, I still found myself preoccupied with the question :”What if a coordinator called me, asked my availability for work and I have to tell them I got fat?”

 

That situation did indeed happen, a few times, and I was honest with my responses and size, assuring them in a few months I would be back to a more acceptable range.

 

Wait!  What?  Do you hear yourself, Michelle?!  Didn’t you just walk 800 km across Spain, to remember that your health is number one priority?

 

I waged an inner battle between giving my body the space it needed to heal, accepting that this is where it was at and fretting over the fact that I still hadn’t lost any weight.  By mid-January, it was clear that I had a long road to recovery ahead of me, but I was determined to get back on track.

I went back to my doctor and told her I was finally ready to do whatever it takes to get my healthy body back.  She promptly ordered more blood tests, prescribed me progesterone and referred me to the endocrinologist at VGH.  One step at a time I was on my way there.  I found myself finally being able to let go of worrying about what my stunt peers and superiors would think of me.  I had my priority.

 

I learned a lot about myself in Spain (for a complete run-down please refer to my Camino posts) and I’ve learned even more about myself while I applied all my lessons back in Vancouver.  I finally feel like I am on my true path in life and it’s a lot different than what I expected.  I am truly getting to know myself and learning to love who that woman is.  So, the ironic twist of fate that came at the end of January really surprised me and through me for a loop.

 

That show that I never got to work on, that opportunity that this whole process started for, came straight back to me when I least expected it.  I was gifted a second chance to do the work that alluded me at the beginning of this timultuous journey.  However, this time I had the wisdom to see it differently.  I chose to act mindfully.  This time I was determined to do it right!

 

What I can say is that the entire situation was extremely enlightening and a huge tesitment to the journey that I have been on.  I was lucky to recieve this gift and took it as an amazing opportunity to impart my new found knowledge.  What I learned was, even though this job was cause for so much turmoil for me, I could come into work with the intention of offering love and compassion.  No drama, no hurt, just acceptance and gratitude.

 

For me personally, I got my closure on a very painful chapter in my life.  Since those last days on set, I truly felt at peace with the decisions I made and I fully own them as part of journey in my life.  If I had not gone through this whole experience, I would not be in this truly wonderful place I am in today.

 

However, I feel compelled to share my story becasue I believe this attitude we have towards “doing whatever it takes,” is extremely dangerous.

 

I am all for maintaining a physique and fitness level that is within the strength requirements of each individual.  We are athletes, after all, most of us since childhood.  But I feel like we are treading into shark infested water by performing such drastic measures to get the work.  It’s a personal choice.

Above all, I learned that for me, I cannot accept that “DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES” attitude is in fact what it takes.  I will not accept this as a necessary sacrifice in my career and it took me a long, hard road to come to this decision.  I have battled myself on both sides of the coin, I can only stand behind my choice and offer a story of my experience.  This is what happened to me when I “did what it takes.”

 

It is encouraging that there have been many health and safety issues in the industry that have been brought up as of late.  Everything from working hours, conditions, concussions and many more.  I believe that these are important conversations and that they directly translate to the quality of work being produced.  Our health and well-being is directly related to our success as performers in this industry, and if we don’t have that, than what do we have?

 

 

Currently, I am seeing an endocrinologist and a dietitian in an effort to rememdy the physiologic and pyscholic damage I have done to my body.  I am on the mend and prepared to face myself, my habits and my disillusions.  I intend to heal my broken relationship with my body and food, one day at a time with self love, patience and maturity.

 

I call it “doing whatever it takes” to be healthy.

 

Thank you for reading.  I wish you health, happiness and love on your way.

Extracurricular Reading:

My Camino Blog: http://lifeexperimentsbymichelle.wordpress.com/category/camino-de-santiago-2/

Lori’s Post: http://pacificwavejiujitsu.com/blog/the-skinny-on-stunt-work-the-conundrum-of-the-female-performer

 

 

 

 

On Why the Olympics Really Get to Me…

It happens every 4 years.   

For as long as I was able to comprehend the massive scale of the Olympic Games, I have been enthralled with the happenings of this grande competition.  Truth, I cry a lot during the Olympics.  I cry when athletes, of any country, win gold medals, lose out on medals, when they hug their families, when they are standing there waiting to perform, or when they finish and take their final bow.  It’s safe to say, I just cry the whole damn time.

During the 2010 Olympics here in Vancouver, I was so lucky to be apart of the celebration, and it was just that, a celebration.  I performed, along with with my circus counterparts at The Underground Circus, in the Samsung pavilion at LiveCity Yaletown, one of the major event centres downtown for Olympic festivities.  The complex was huge, holding many large pavilions like Coke, Panasonic, along with Samsung.  There was a main stage that hosted huge Canadian bands like Arcade Fire, 2 huge screens that played events live, fireworks every night, great food.  It had everything, you name it!  The security was tight and usually fans were lined up for blocks just to get in.  Luckily for me, I was shuffled through the employees entrance every morning and free to take in the sights as I chose if I wasn’t working.  My crew and I did 5 circus shows a day for all 17 days of the Games.  It sounds like hard work, but I can safely say that the 2010 Olympics were some of the best days of my life.  I was so proud to be a part of such an amazing event.

Every morning, I would skytrain downtown and start my 20 min walk to the venue that allowed me to really get a grasp of the Olympic vibes going on in the city.  Vancouver transformed during that time.  No longer was it a secular, rainy, introverted city, it changed into this immensely positive, cheerful and sunny city that I have rarely seen since then.  (The Stanley Cup Playoffs being the other time that city emerged and then quickly disappeared again.)  I am 100% certain that part of the reason our athletes did so well that year was because the attitude of the city, and therefore the venues, was so light and bright.  What a magical time!  I will never ever forget it, and speaking of it 4 years later still gives me chills.

But speaking of emotional Olympics moments, I had what one can only described as Olympic withdrawal in the days following the games.  I was exhausted and so very emotional because it finally hit me that the last month I had spend emerged in this incredible event would never ever happen  to me again.  It was joy mixed with heartbreak mixed with pride mixed with fatigue.  I literally had a melt down and it took me almost a week to recover.

The Olympics also hold somewhat of a sore spot for me.  I would so badly love to compete.

So badly.  

The glory and the esteem of simply being an Olympian pulls at me.  In someways, I am really sad that I dedicated my life to a sport that is not even close to being represented at the Olympic Games.  It’s even more sad to know that I would have made multiple Olympic teams, hell I might even still be competing if baton were in the Olympics.  My chance at Olympic glory will never be there.  Sure, I could learn a new sport but there is nothing there that I feel passionate enough to dedicate my life to again.  Another lifetime, I suppose.

But can you imagine, standing up there, on the Olympic podium with a gold medal in your hand?!  What a gratifying and unique experience it must be.  The pinnacle of sport and achievement!!

Then there are those moments when you see the athletes who simply were not able to pull through on their Olympic day.  My heart breaks for them.  Dreams shattered in an instant.  I can only relate by way of my own experiences of training all year for Worlds, only to crash and burn due to my own anxiety.  But these athletes, they trained for this moment for 4 years!  4 years is a long time, a lot can happen in that time and then to have their hopes just stolen from them in that moment.  I’m gutted for them.

I often wonder how I would respond to Olympic pressure.  I am not afraid to admit that I did have my moments of disaster in my competition days, even some moments of nerves in my professional work.  I am only human after all.  But I wonder what would become of me if I, like those figure skaters or gymnasts do, took the floor and had the eyes of the entire world watching me.  Would I rise to occasion or falter?  I may never ever know.

I admire all of these athletes for the hard work, dedication and sacrifice it took to get them to the Olympics whether they placed first or last.  I am in awe of the people who are able to bring their ‘A’ game at the moment they needed it most and I am inspired by the courage it takes for those who ‘failed’ to pick them selves up and keep going.  And those ‘failures’ are certainly not failures in my eyes, in a way they are the true heroes.

For me, the Olympics are a huge mishmash of emotions, fears, hopes and dreams.  I live my Olympic dream through these athletes in their glory and defeat.  I am immensely proud of all of them and I will continue to cry, cheer and encourage them from afar.

I send well wishes to all the athletes of these Sochi Olympics and future Olympics to come.  To Canada, I am so proud to be cheering you all on and I hope, like in years past, we can remain the same humble, gracious and humorous nation we have always been.

And Sidney Crosby, I will always remember where I was for that Golden Goal.  I hope I this next one is just as memorable.

Go Canada Go!  We are winter!

Fitness Experiment #2: The Evil That is Cardio!

The Evil That is CARDIO!
For my own program, cardio is a big element. Strength and flexibility has always come quite easy to me. Yes, there is a lot of hard work involved but my body adapts to the conditioning quickly. Cardio on the other hand, has been my mortal enemy!
In Years past, I have had many great intentions to improve my cardio but usually dropped them after about a week. A week full of wheezing, coughing and achy legs. Yuck!  It was only about a year and a half ago that I really commited to including cardio in all of my work outs.
For me, it started with my bicycle. Good ole Kona.
I’ve loved bike riding since I was about 3 years old when I first learned to ride. And one of first purchases I made when I moved to Vancouver was my bike, which, I only rode off and on for about 8 years.
Then, one day, I sold my car and started using transit…
Transit as we all know, while inexpensive, is not the quickest way to get around.  It occured to me then, probably while I was on a bus, that I am an athlete, I have 2 legs and I have a bike!
That settles it then!  From August 2012 on I have been for the most part a commuting cyclist. Rain or shine, I got on that bike and pedalled away. I called it Operation: Suck It Up Princess.   (#suckitupprincess)
For me, finding a way to enjoy that burning in my lungs was key to cardio success!
Days, weeks, months went by and I was slowly but surely improving my cardiorespiratory capacity. Soon I was pushing myself harder, going faster and taking the more difficult routes. This transferred into everything I did. I had way more stamina and endurance. I even started trail running!
(I have always loathed running!)
It was such a glorious feeling to finally be conquoring that cardio mountain!
Fast forward to my Camino, the first day was 20km up hill…I was a rock star that day…but slower than a snail everyday after that…
Believe it or not, my fitness level dropped during my walk.  I was gaining endurance to do only one thing and that was walking. I had to be ok with this, it was all part if the adventure.  Plus, I could always get back into it when I was back in reality.
I let my body rest for almost a month after I returned. My only activity was yoga.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend so much time caring for my fitness anymore…
Long story short…my body is made to move.  So move I did!
Starting slowly, the program I was building needed to be low impact and focused on rehabilitating muscle imbalnces because I sure had a lot of them! Hense, my last post about stability.
Since I was starting at the beginning again, which was actually very refreshing, I included cardio in my gym days right away.
Giving myself only 1 hour maximum (compared to the 6 I used to do), I was determined to reshape my idea of fitness.
The program looked a little like this:
Elliptical (easy on my knees)
Warm Up 5 min
Intervals High 1 min
Low 1 min
Repeat 3 times each.
Cool down 3 min.
Stability
Core (Will Discuss later.)
Ball exercise
Abs
15 min.
Light resistance training.
Arms/Legs split
I would not normally perscribe intervals to a beginner however I chose to do intervals as my cardio conditioning because even in my weaker state, I still had some physical conditioning in me.
Don’t get me wrong, that 15 min was pretty tough!
My goal is/was is to make it to 20 sets of intervals for a total of 40 conditioning mins. Add 10 min of warm up cool down for a nice 50min of cardio all together.
Sounds like a lot, because it is!
I am proud to report that I am at 15 sets!
What what!
To me, cardio is a mind game.  There is a certain amount of metal calmness involved and I believe that my time with yoga has really helped with that aspect.  Clearing my mind, concentrating on breathing and not allowing myself to make up stories while I do it, really clears a lot of my anxiety about it out.   It is indeed just that, anxiety.
I also find that doing the intervals really helps to pass the time.  Along with the tension I have always had about cardio, getting bored after 10 min was another huge roadblock for me.  Keeping myself occupied with push hard for 1 min on and off, makes it easier to lose yourself in the exercise.
And lastly, cardio is all about attitude…just like everything else.  If you hate it, it sucks balls.  If you love it, you’ll do it everyday!
I love stretching.  I love lifting.  Why can’t I learn to love cardio?
Dear Cardio,
Let’s be friends!
Love, 
Michelle